Wherever you go, there you are.

I’m not attaching myself too much to labels these days. I’ve discovered so many versions of my self over the last three years that I’ve suspended judgement of who I am or what I think, and instead have begun to just allow myself to simply feel my way through, even when it contradicts me 5 minutes ago. I am a walking contradiction. In some ways, I can see that I have always operated with my feelings informing me, but judgement of myself and the perception/fear of others opinions, usually distorts things.

Suicide obliterated any ideas I had about myself. Losing your child this way is just soul crushing and my heart aches for all the families out there who live with this ‘obesity of grief’— as Ellen Bass so poignantly wrote.

Eventually, the center finds you & you can start to see the remains of your life, begin to put things back together, find so many things don’t belong to who you are now. Curiously, I sometimes yearn for the chaos because it might anchor me to that desperation of not knowing what to do without Isaac, might anchor me to when I had not accepted his death as truth. An utterly awful feeling, and yet, finding myself ‘going on’ without him just doesn’t always feel that great— to be honest. Also curious—I’ve probably done a ‘better’ job putting my life together after the worst possibility than the life I had before— but I think that has more to do with all the love, support and encouragement I’ve received than anything I’ve done by myself. And maybe also because getting my shit together is a great distraction from the agony I feel when I slow down.

I feared going on vacation for 30 days nearly as much as I looked forward to it. When Joshua and I began planning this epic adventure after paying off our mortgage, it was always so far away, easy to dream up and leave alone. As soon as an official countdown began, I worried that I would not be able to outrun the haunting thoughts that stalk me whenever I let my guard down. I’ve become accomplished at organizing my days to ensure I don’t have too much time alone or too much time to think (things my old self loved very much). Yet occasionally I also feel a keen intuition that these great distractions are fanning flames of a fire I cannot contain by asserting so much control over the entirety of my life. Josh calls me his little monk, as I crank this wrench tighter and tighter on the things I can order; routines, habits, schedules, menus, behaviors. I find such comfort in them, yet I sense at times my life becoming smaller and smaller and I’m not sure if that’s my intention, while simply hoping to avoid thinking about the elephant in the living room of my mind, which is that Isaac is dead. He killed himself in the most violent way I know of. And all the good sweet beautiful moments we shared as mother and child did not tip the scales enough in the moment he needed them to protect him from the pain he was in.

Ugh…. so it’s no wonder that I’ve been feeling a lot of unsorted shit the last 5 days. Please don’t misunderstand me— I dip in and out of despair on the daily, driving down the road between his dads house and ours, looking at the sun rise or set, Seeing his photographs, saying his name, holding his Tommy, everything reminds me either of him or the loss of him. I vacillate between despair and resilience and try to keep my head down and my eyes looking onward—But out here on the open road, these spare landscapes get into my bones and peel back the layers I’ve built around myself in an attempt to be comfy— reminding me that I cannot outrun myself, the home of all these memories, the body that carried this child, the vessel that holds this emptiness.

We’ll spend Christmas in Tucson where it’s expected to be 77 degrees. We said we wanted to try something different this year, surely this is a giant step in that direction. Traveling beside people heading toward their families, stopping in for groceries to full parking lots of Christmas Day preppers, feeling a little numbness, missing my folks & sister who love Christmas as much as Isaac and I always used to, extra hard, and my sweet Moonie. Leaving home for the now sad holidays doesn’t come without some other sadness. But last night I tried to just visualize opening up our bins of Christmas decorations and holding Isaac’s stocking and I couldn’t bear it— just the thought sent me into a tailspin, 2,000 miles from the crawl space where they have remained untouched since Isaac and I put them away in 2013– his final Christmas.

It doesn’t end. It changes shape all the time. It comes back around and is never the same all at once. Sometimes I feel such hope and cheerfulness I am contagious— and sometimes I am aloof and unreachable and sometimes I am happy to reminisce and sometimes I cannot look at his beautiful face in all the photographs because I am Still Just So Fucking Sad.

When I’m sad I’m either clingy or cranky— or worse, both at the same time. I feel hard to love. I feel far away from my strength, like I can’t reach it or remember it. Sometimes I stay here— and other times I work my ass off to get the fuck out of the funk— and still other times, another option presents itself. I can honestly say that I feel so down-on-my-knees-in-genuflection-grateful that choices remain available to me— that I don’t have to subscribe to a locked in way of managing all the feelings— that I can trust myself to find my way through— THAT I CAN TRUST MYSELF TO FIND MY WAY THROUGH!!!That is something only surviving Isaac’s death showed me was true. And it is truly everything.

Published by: christinaryanstoltz

I write to touch the supple center of unguarded ache~ To release myself from the pressure of not knowing how to move forward from the unfathomable loss of my beloved son, my beautiful boy Isaac, to suicide, of not knowing how to release my grip on of the past, both the worshipping of it as well as the beating myself up for it, and letting go of the need to know what I could’ve done or what on earth I will do now. I write to heal.


6 thoughts on “Wherever you go, there you are.”

  1. Hi Christina,

    I am a close friend of Tracy’s and our mutual friend Anne Shoup connected me to your blog. I am beside myself at how much strength both you and Tracy are demonstrating and all that I am able to learn about love from the 2 of you. Thank you… 🙏🏼


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