Friday, September 2, 2016

Kristen in Wonderland

I've been hesitant to answer the question "How has your summer been?" or "What did you do this summer?" I shrug people off by giving short, brief answers and then pointing to something shiny to distract them from the conversation. Honestly, if not for someone making the comment to me that "You seem to have your life put together!" I probably never would have sat down and wrote this entry. But the reason I write these posts is to provide some sort of comfort for those out there that may be struggling with their own issues and somehow I can give them a voice. This summer though, I didn't have much to say. Life on the other hand... Had plenty. 

Summertime has always been my favorite time of year. An almost magical time of year. The sun is out until almost bedtime every night. There is always something to do because there is always pool to be sitting next to or a lake to be jumping into. Baseball is in full swing and all other sports are on the back burner. I love the 4th of July and my birthday just happens to fall on the 7th. I'm a summer baby. A child of the sun. A lover of fireflies. And the owner of more sundresses than anyone could ever wear. But something about this summer was different. I could feel it. I didn't know what was coming or what to expect but I just knew: Things were never going to be the same again. 

And I was unfortunately correct. 

We all remember Alice from Alice in Wonderland. In the beginning Alice was bored listening to her sister read about British History and so when she saw the white rabbit run by her in a little coat holding a pocket watch she followed him down the rabbit hole. I don't exactly remember seeing it myself but I'm confident that right before midnight on my birthday, as the 6th of July turned into the 7th, I saw a white rabbit frantically run by wearing a little coat and holding a little pocket watch. And the only explanation I have for the next course of events that occurred: I followed him down that rabbit hole. Because within hours I would find myself scared, confused, heartbroken, and inconsolable. And within days I would be looking at my reflection and hoping it was all a dream.

When the rabbit jumped down the hole on July 7th and I made the unconscious decision to follow him he brought me to my birthday dinner. I sat around the table with my family, friends and boyfriend. The four men at the table were police officers. The four women at the table loved them all. I could tell though that something wasn't right. That the winds were shifting and this rabbit hole I had unknowingly jumped in to had taken me to some place I never wanted to be. And that night, after dinner, I watched horrified as the city we called home came under attack. And the victims of the attack were our own brothers and sisters in blue. I sobbed uncontrollably as the magnitude of what was happening in the city of Dallas began to sink in. Life as a police officer was officially never going to be the same again. But life as a loved one of a police officer? The damage was irreparable. When Alice realized she was lost she cried enough to flood the entire room with tears... If at all physically possible I could have done the same there in that living room.

There was little sleep that night. The next day I knew I had to watch the men I love walk out the door, in uniform, to go to work. And in that place you find yourself between asleep and awake I found myself carrying bags and bullet proof vests to the car. Hugging them goodbye but under my breath saying, "Please stay." Looking at their faces and seeing changed men. Men who didn't know what to expect when they got to work but men who knew they were entering Hell. And I saw their loved ones shaking with fear, putting on brave faces, smiling through tears, and saying "goodbye" as if it was the last time they would see each other. Because in reality, given the events of that night and this Wonderland I had found myself in... We didn't know. 

As I ventured further into the rabbit hole chasing this elusive white rabbit, I found myself in my living room. Sitting on the other end of the couch next to me was my boyfriend having finished a 12+ hour shift. We talked for almost five hours. When he walked out the door I was single. But not an angry word was spoken. Not a word of hate or ill-will was uttered. He simply walked in the man I was going to marry and walked out the best friend I could never live without. With a hug goodbye the man that had broken down all my walls held in his arms a woman in a million pieces. The tears were mutual. The love was evident. The friendship was strong. But the two people were broken. And there was no elixir, no cake, and no potion Alice could have let us borrow that would have put the pieces back together. 

The next several days were filled with mostly with the same colors: A red vest. A black hearse. A blue uniform. The day was different on the calendar but the activity was the same. And when life was supposed to go back "to normal" and I returned to work at the museum I learned yet another harsh reality amidst the chaos and confusion of this Wonderland. I learned that my time at the museum had come to an end and it was time to move on elsewhere. Like a bad riddle and every other aspect of this place there was no point in trying to make sense of it. Everything had fallen apart in just a matter of days. Every twist and turn I took through this new world that the rabbit hole had brought me into was filled with sadness. Every place he led me to was cluttered with heartache and darkness. 

Except one place. Somehow the white rabbit had shown me a magical hideaway where when I entered, I could hold my head up, wipe the tears away, and escape... If just for a little while.  

It's a big house on a little street and inside lives a special little character. He's about 20+ pounds and has a smile with two little teeth in the front. He lights up and giggles when he sees me and he never turns down cuddles. I never thought a six month old baby boy could have so much power but nothing else in the world seems to matter when he looks at me with his big eyes and laughs. There were stories that need to be read. Songs that needed to be sung. And games that needed to be played. He filled the deafening silence of the world around me with laughter. The heartbreak in Dallas, the pain of a breakup and the fear accompanied with unemployment were powerless against that little smile. 

But he wasn't alone in the cast of magical characters that found their way into this Wonderland I was living in. There was the best friend of almost 20 years in California who let me call every night and say, "Goodnight sweetheart. I love you." because I didn't know how to go to bed without saying that to someone. There was the brother who spent his days at funerals and his nights on patrol yet somehow still managed to say witty remarks to his "little sister" to make her chuckle. There was the other brother who sent hourly texts to make sure that even though I felt so alone I wasn't truly alone. There was the Dad that dropped by with a huge box of goldfish crackers and a mom who brought a beloved dog by for company. And there was a sister who, despite a heart so broken in the wake of the shooting and a fear for her husband's safety, gave her time, energy, love and company to a girl who didn't wear real pants for over a month. They were my Mad Hatters... My Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum... My March Hare... My Dormouse... My Caterpillar... and My Cheshire Cat. 

Days would go by this summer where leaving the apartment seemed impossible. Where staying awake until the sun came up and then sleeping throughout the day seemed the only way to avoid pain. If ever there were a dark place to be in this rabbit hole I had found it and the light pointing to the exit was anything but illuminated. But every day I tried. I tried to do something, just one thing, every day that would bring me closer to the Doorknob. Whether it was meeting an old friend for dinner or applying to a few jobs or even going to the grocery store there was something to do in this strange and incredibly un-magical new world that would eventually let me go home. And every day I made the vow that no matter what life had planned (broken air conditioners, erroneous eviction notices, or failed job interviews/rejection letters) I was going to leave this place that the white rabbit with the little jacket and the little pocket watch had led me to. There was a way out of this rabbit hole. But it was up to me to find it. So even though it took all the energy I had I made sure to make every day count. If for nothing more than to say, "It made me stronger." 

I know that Alice left Wonderland by realizing she wasn't really there in the first place. When she looks through the keyhole Alice sees herself asleep in the park. And after repeatedly telling herself to wake up she awakens from the dream and takes the time to look back on her adventures in Wonderland and analyze their purpose. The difference between me and Alice is I know I am not sleeping. I know that the "Misfortunes in Wonderland" that I have experienced are real. That Alice was a cartoon and a beautiful story. But that Kristen is a real person and a beautiful mess. I know the day will come when I will get to leave this place and I too will get the chance to look out a keyhole and see my exit. And then I will have the opportunity to reflect on why the events that occurred happened and how they shaped me as a person. But I'm not there yet. But today, for the first time in almost two months, I am able to say, "There is a way out." And for the first time in just as long I'm able to say, "And it's going to be ok." 

Alice said, "It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change." But she's also guilty of saying, "If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?" The way I see it here through my looking glass is that something will make a sense one day soon. And the world I want of my own will be filled with the perfect balance of happiness and heartbreak. An almost harmonious blend of nonsensical magical moments and rational logical lessons. Because without magic mixed with the logic nothing truly makes sense. 

We all need to have those birthdays that break us and the happy un-birthdays that rebuild us. And I'm ready to celebrate the latter.