Top Secret

Top Secret

You don’t know it exists until you do. Until you’re in. Until you’ve got a membership you can’t ever revoke.

Cost of admission: one life lost too young.

Nothing more than acquaintances instantly reach out to bring you into the secret space. The alternate universe that you all live in now. They share stories of mothers and fathers, siblings and partners, all lives cut short. Some of those who confide in you are colleagues, people you might work with all the time. And it seems weird that you never knew. That such a significant part of life — part of who they are — never slipped into your conversations? They see a new recruit and want to help you. Because they know they’re the only ones who can.

But you’re not ready. Or you don’t know if you’re ready. You’re never ready. You don’t have a choice.

You live your life because it’s life and you have to get up and go to work and do your best to stay healthy and all of that. You go out sometimes because you’re young and single and think a distraction could help. (You soon realize the word distraction is meaningless but used endlessly nevertheless.) You go out with friends, good friends, who offer sincere sympathy smiles and hugs and tequila. You walk around with heartache.

You go in for an annual physical and the nurse asks for any history of disease, cancer, whatever, in your family. It’s a question with a new answer and you cry and you’re reminded of how much this sucks. You go on runs and think about life and death. It’s weird to think about death all the time all of a sudden. And you don’t know who to talk to about it. Because to your best friends, it feels so, so far away. The way it did for you not too long ago.

So you turn to that secret club where everyone has experienced loss in a similar way. You’re let in and it feels almost shameful. Like you’re all recovering addicts? Victims of what you can no longer control.

It’s like, you have a sort-of-friend who lost her father, and you started getting drinks or coffee every few weeks. It’s funny because you two were never that close and now you feel such a strong bond you can’t imagine life here on out without them. When you tear up at a thought about your own father, her eyes well up, too. You can actually feel her pain and she can feel yours.

Or the grumpy man always giving you attitude, giving everyone attitude. When he tells you that he lost a parent when he was young, about my age. He doesn’t say much more, but you know now, and he knows you know. And there’s a glance every so often when you bump into each other and through your eyes let him know everything’s OK, today.

There’s the college classmate who you knew had lost someone but didn’t really knew what that meant. You never even brought it up because it felt awkward. Or scary? Like death is contagious? Run away from the conversation, quick, run! But now there’s an understanding, a closeness without many words, that can’t be broken.

When you’re not ready for reality, you realize that’s because reality can’t be found anymore. At least the way you knew it to be true. It’s a new world with a new network of basically strangers that have suddenly, in a way, become your soulmates.

No one wants part of this club, but when you’re in it, you can’t imagine going through the next months, or days, without stopping in.

My dad and this one Thanksgiving

My dad and this one Thanksgiving

Therapy in New York City: An anxiety provider

Therapy in New York City: An anxiety provider