Age 26 in a Very Nonlinear life

Hello, bartender. I have a very important request for you. I’m going to need you to listen very carefully.

It seems that I currently have two tabs open. I don’t really know how that happened, but we’re going to need to fix it because both of them are getting really expensive, but only one is getting me tipsy.

So that one with the ever increasing orders of your most subpar Malbec… yeah, leave that one open.

The other one, the one labeled “Year Twenty-Five of Alycia Timm’s Life,” yeah…. Imma need ya to close that, pronto.

Holy smokes, guys, that was hard. Year twenty-five was a doozy, and I get to close it tomorrow. I get to move on to another age, another year where the dreamer in me has dared to pop back out just a little, and timidly… very timidly… dare to think, “Maybe it will get a little better now.”

Because that’s how I’m wired. That’s how we’re all wired. We live with a linear mindset in what we believe should be a linear world. That’s why the Bible baffles us. We can’t grasp that there is no beginning and no end, because in our life, in our time constrictions of this planet, there is and always will be. And instead of feeling restrained in that, we seek comfort. We say things like, “I just want to make it to 2021,” as if things will get better, even though when we dust off those logic glasses (some people have much more dust on theirs than others) we recognize that January 1, 2021 is looking just about as bonkers as December 31, 2020.

However, part of me, this human part, still looks for a clear defined stop to a collection of days that have been hurting me a lot, and this same part of me dares to say that day is tomorrow.

Because even if years are simply a collection of days and therefore really can’t be labeled as indefinitely good or bad, the collection of days that started 365 days ago and continued to now is, without a doubt, the most painful collection of 365 days I have ever lived. So surely, changing my age closes that door, right?

This need for closure, this need for a start and end date to everything in life, this is human, and in a sense, the optimism is beautiful. It’s just very restrictive. It’s restrictive on a life that is determined to ebb and flow as it pleases. It’s restrictive on grief which is also determined to ebb and flow as it pleases. It is restrictive on you, and on me.

I want an end to my agony. I want a set date on a calendar where I can breathe my sigh of relief without the fear that I will immediately need to suck it back in. I crave a set date where my shoulders relax and life feels just a little easier again, but in a sense, I get that every day. I get that paired with rage, paired with stress, paired with pain, paired with laughter, paired with everything else.

Because life isn’t linear.

My grief isn’t linear.

And though I want an end, though I want a clear, defined, grief calendar to tell me how to feel, and when it will all be better, I know that this is not an option.

I will never stop longing for my late husband, and I will never stop grieving amid the longing. There will never be a day where I won’t grieve the life that I planned with him, or the dreams that he and I both had to lay down when he inherited paradise, and I inherited this painful shift of the stars.

I will never have a set end date to this grief, because Andrew will never stop being dead. Our life together will never happen. I may grow old with someone, but never him. I may have kids, but never his. I may achieve every single dream, and I may have the loudest cheering section in the world while doing so, but he will not ever be in my victory circle, and that will always hurt.

He is irreplaceable. My dad is irreplaceable. And because of that fact, there will be grief in every achievement of my life. It will ebb and flow for as long as my heart beats, but there will still be victory, and there will still be joy, and that joy, and this life, it will never be my second choice, even if it comes after undesired loss.

That’s where the linear voice in our heads gets really confused with my grief process.

Everything that happens to me from now on will be built on the blocks of something unbearable. It will be built on the fact that I lost something I wanted desperately, but these things, this life, it will be no better nor worse than the life I was forced to lay down. Life resolves. That doesn’t take the pain in any sense, that doesn’t mean that if I could go back and change a thing that I wouldn’t. It just means that there is no sense comparing one life to another. My life now can still be good, even if different, and it in no way becomes a consolation prize.

It’s not linear. It’s not one or the other. It’s not a new plan following a failed attempt.

It’s just life, my life, and it rolls forward, but it scatters. Pain is pain. Beauty is beauty. There is no plan A or plan B in the midst of this kind of tragedy. There is just life.

Andrew was my plan A, and today and tomorrow, 25 or 26, whatever I do, wherever I go, that’s also my plan A. Because life isn’t linear, even if birthdays occur that way. You don’t cross off life with a man like Andrew and start over with plan B. You grind forward in life, and you pray that the good moments will continue to happen, and that you’ll never stop recognizing them.

You move forward and you grieve forever, that doesn’t stop. I’m not even convinced that it dims. But you keep living, and that’s a story worth telling.

Tomorrow, I will close a tab on a really hard year, and I find breath, relief, in that fact.

But I also grieve, because I will never be the same age as my husband again. Tomorrow, I will be 26. He is perpetually 25. He will never know age 26, and that kills me. He will never Alycia- age 26, and that kills me more.

Twenty-six looks so different for me than 25, and I know this will never stop happening. I will never stop changing in between these dates. I will never again be the exact girl that Andrew knew when he left this place. With every shift in life and age I leave her a bit. I grow out of her. Twenty-seven will look different. Twenty-eight will look different. On one of these shifts of my age, I may no longer be wearing the rings that Andrew slipped on my finger when we made vows that neither of us knew we would complete so soon. On one of these shifts in my age, I may even be wearing another ring. I may be in vows with someone else. On one of these shifts in my age, I may have a more rounded belly (don’t get too excited… I’m thinking carbs, not conception).

The point is, every year, December 19th will happen. Every year, I will continue to get older because age is truly one of the few linear things in this nonlinear life.

But he will always be 25.

This fact will never stop hurting.

So, bartender, yes, even with this heavy heart, I’m ready to close the tab. I want to open 26 and dare to believe that there is a chance that this year won’t force my hand into as many goodbyes that I am not prepared to give. I want to see the life that I am granted. I want to seek fervently for the next chapter, the continuation of my beautiful and painful plan A.

I want to see the dreams that will unfold, but I also want to feel the grief, and I want it to occur in spurts for the rest of my life. Because Andrew was here, and that matters. My dad was here, and that matters. And now they aren’t, and that fact also matters. I will never see another year that they exist in. Their humanity will forever stay in my life before 26.

But their spirits, those carry over with me. Because life isn’t always linear. Grief isn’t linear. Love isn’t linear.


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