Last year, February was a deep sigh of relief.
Overnight, time leaped from the 28th to March 1st, which felt like an intentional kindness from the clock.
You see, each month since September 29, 2014, the 29th has marked another month of missing my brother.
Seventeen times, I’ve filled the day with distractions, excuses and numbness, staring at the date on my phone and waiting up for the ease that 30 brings.
It’s a useless cycle, really. The numbers are simply a benchmark for the grief marathon I didn’t sign up for; a reminder that the finish line is not near, and maybe doesn’t even exist. But one day each month, my jello-ed legs suggest I may never stop running.
The first time I realized this, I was getting my hair cut. The stylist pumped a bottle of shampoo as I lowered my head into the sink of warm water. Mid-lather, she smacked her gum and searched for a conversation starter, while I prayed it wouldn’t be the question I’d managed to avoid until then.
“Do you have any siblings?” she asked. I stared back at her, wondering if her fingertips had accidentally slipped into my brain through my ears or if she genuinely was well-intentioned and oblivious. I mumbled the response I’d rehearsed and immediately began to cry.
The only thing worse than sobbing in a shampoo bowl was realizing that I am now the kind of person that sobs in a shampoo bowl.
It’s somewhere in this sudsy mess I start to see that I am ashamed of my grief.
I don’t want to be the one who walks out of movie theaters during the previews.
I don’t want to be the one with the most complicated prayer request at Bible study.
I don’t want to be the one who remains quiet at parties to avoid hard questions.
I don’t want to be the one to explain that the emptiness of my loss is the heaviest thing I have to carry.
I don’t want to be the one to tell you that grief says I am both too much and never enough for normalcy.
And honestly, I don’t want to be the one to admit I felt this way before my story even contained grief and I started counting 29’s.
From cropping the unflattering parts of my life out of Instagram pictures to creating a default response of “I’m fine” no matter what, it’s creeped in much more than I noticed.
It wasn’t until I physically couldn’t pretend to be polished that I realized how long I’d been playing the game. I’d spent my life leaping over my imperfections, only pausing when absolutely necessary—which now, is the 29th.
I thought that dusting myself off and standing back up as if nothing had ever happened was the “Christian” thing to do, but now I’m realizing Jesus never did that. When I read that Jesus walks through weeping instead of around it and turns mourning into gladness instead of sustaining a strong persona, I see that sorrow and joy are equally important and necessary. And in the midst of them, He never asks us to stop being human.
Just as nighttime is half of the story, it’s okay for darkness to be an acknowledged part of ours.
So although this February 29th seems like a cruel addition to the 2016 calendar, I’m choosing to stand knee-deep in its purpose, allowing myself to stop running from the darkness. Maybe you can do the same?
Let us give ourselves permission to see our stories less as something forced upon us and more as hope displayed through us. May we live true stories today and always.
Cheering you on always,