“What’s on your mind?” asks Peter.
“What about Catie?”
“This just shouldn’t be our life.”
I swear, we’ve had this same conversation a dozen times in the last week as the anniversary of Cate’s passing approached. I’ve felt myself spiraling out of control again. I haven’t felt this deep sense of depression in a long time. In a year, I guess.
When I crawl into bed at night praying for respite from the swirling thoughts and the trying to hold back tears at my desk and the aching in my heart, all I feel is a giant boulder on my chest. The anxiety won’t let up, and it’s hard to breathe. All I want is a dreamless night’s sleep, but I don’t usually get that. It’s restless, full of longing or replaying the events or just generally not sleeping well because I can’t shut my mind off long enough.
There’s a lot going on in my life besides this terrible anniversary. I feel like I can’t catch a break, and it’s terrible timing. But as I texted my therapist when I had to miss a very needed appointment this week: life goes on, the world keeps spinning, even when I need it to stop for a bit.
This last year has been the most traumatic, rewarding, life-changing, trying year of my life. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” as Dickens wrote. A study in contradictions.
I spend a not-insignificant amount of time still feeling like this is all a dream; that I’m going to wake up one morning to find both my girls in their room and go about being a normal twin mom. It’s always a shock to the system when I remember that life doesn’t always work like that. There are some things you can’t talk your way out of or talk sense into. I can’t tell the universe enough times that this was unfair and have her go, “Oh, you know what? You’re right, and I’m so sorry. Let me fix this for you.”
Having Olivia and being a mom to her, and also losing Cate have both taught me so much more about myself than probably anything else ever could. People comment all the time about how strong I am. But I think we don’t know our own true strength until we’re tested. I’m not strong because I want to be but because I have to be. I can’t not get out of bed every day. I can’t not raise my daughter. So I get up and I raise her and I go about my day like everything is (mostly) okay. Not doing so wouldn’t change the fact that everything isn’t okay.
I think Olivia’s milestones have been the hardest on me. She’s learned so much, as babies are supposed to do. She’s rolling, babbling, sitting up, playing with her toys, starting to crawl, showing signs of wanting to pull herself up. Peter – probably most of our family – just sees Olivia rocking her milestones and thriving. I see this empty space beside her where her twin should be doing the same things. They should be stealing each other’s toys, crawling on top of each other, messing with each other, comforting one another when they cry. Twins have a bond from the womb, one that’s even deeper than what siblings share. Olivia doesn’t get to experience that, and we don’t get to watch our girls delight in each other. My heart aches for what we’re all missing out on.
Earlier this week, when I went to get Olivia from her crib one morning, she was rolling around and being adorable. She noticed the small blanket we have hanging on the back of it – pink with a purple butterfly stitched onto it. It’s Catie’s blanket. To me, it’s my way of feeling like Cate is watching over Olivia while she sleeps. Anyway, this was the first time I saw Olivia actually notice this blanket. She turned her little body to it, got up on all fours, looked up at it, and reached one little hand up to it. It’s too high up for her to reach, but she wanted it. It was as if, in her morning giddiness, she was reaching out for her sister to come play with her.