Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let Aaron Be Aaron Again

And yes, if you're keeping score at home, I'm alluding to Langston Hughes's poem, "Let America Be America Again"--read it. And yes, I did do the proper thing by adding an apostrophe and "s" to the end of Hughes. Firefox spell check be damned!

Anyway, I feel the weight of too many expectations these days. I'm "that guy," the one whose wife died in April, the one who has three kids, the one we feel sorry for but don't talk to for long in the line at the store because, quite frankly, we don't know what to say to him and it makes us uncomfortable to try. I recognize there are expectations for a grieving husband, even though every single book on grief I've touched states each individual's grief is unique, not some perfect lock-step schedule. The books started sounding like a legion of broken records, so I set them aside in late April.

I'm taking two classes at the Lawrence Arts Center. The first, Silkscreen, met on Monday for the initial session. I've always enjoyed creative outlets--and once upon a time I spent a year as an art student on my way to a career as art therapist.

Here's what I enjoyed about the class:

I was just another dude in the room. I didn't recognize anyone, and if they knew me (or Aimee), I was none the wiser. How refreshing.

I'm tired of being "that guy." Aimee and I carried each other in many ways during our 10+ years of marriage. Any relationship has a public and private side--a good friend once told me, quite directly, that I am "that guy" whether I like it or not. He's right, but I still weary of it. I know I will always be "that guy," at least in a small sense. I will always be the guy who loved Aimee and tried to do the best by her, tried to care for her in her darkest times.

No--take out the "try". There's no space for "try". I did the best I could for her; I cared for her through some dark, dark days. It's a little red badge of courage and love and commitment and I'll wear those scars with pride until I fly away one day.

But part of me must eventually move forward from here. I need to be more than that guy--I am more than him.

The dream will never be what it used to be, but it can be more. It can grow, fertilized well by my time with Aimee.


Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Oh Aaron. You're so smart. Rooting for you, here.
Your writing is so wonderful - you have such a big career ahead of you. Glad to hear you're trying to find whoever it is you are, other than "that guy."

Pamela Gold said...

I bet being in that classroom felt amazing since your life has changed so drastically. All those strangers being able to chat with you, even if just about the weather, and not rush through it. A breath of sweeter air.

Anonymous said...

Aaron, you are so very right, let Aaron be Aaron again. Grief is so very different for everyone you are more than deserving of having your life back. Or actually starting a new chapter in your life. No one should judge you for wanting to have that. The new position at school and starting to take a few classes is probably a great thing right now so you can have some sort of beginning of this new chapter in your life. Yes, it will feel awkward at first, but all is possible. No one expects you to forget Aimee, but moving forward can be done. Thoughts are with you as you proceed with your life.

Martin Rose said...

I'll take "that guy" over anyone who's never known a deep wound or whose concerns have been shallow and capricious.

You go into a land with no rules, you are becoming a character of a different of kind of story. Right now, it sucks. Ten years from now I hope you reap all the triumph that survival affords. Cold comfort? Maybe. There's really no other kind, no how-to manual for this kind of trip, and while it doesn't make me any friends, the reason I'm really crap at offering consolation is because it feels too much like slapping a smiley face on tragedy and disrespecting the pain that follows in its wake; it undercuts the reality and sells a flimsy kind of lie. I recall days when I couldn't leave the house because too many people would stop me in the street to apologize for something they had no hand in and could not control. Sorry became the ugliest word I know. Getting away is good, getting away from the image others project upon you and their expectations for how they think you should be feeling or reacting.

Don't stop telling us the way you feel and to hell with anyone it makes uncomfortable. I, for one, won't stop reading any time soon.

Your blog is really stirring up a lot of things I thought I had forgotten; pardon the long winded comments... I really feel for you.

Daniel Powell said...

Hey Aaron,

Tragedy impacts us, but it doesn't define us.

For what it's worth, when I think "Aaron Polson," I think creepy, atmospheric fiction...

Be well, and good luck with the summer months. I hope you get some writing in with the classes!

Anonymous said...

You are right, people want to help but feel like they can't fathom the grief.
So glad you could have an anonymous class. That must be refreshing!

Anthony Rapino said...

Well, to me at least you're still just that awesome horror writer who took a chance on publishing my first chapbook, and gives me advice whenever I've needed it.

That class sounds like it will be hella-fun too.

K. Allen Wood said...


There is nothing wrong with being "that guy." You just never want to be that guy. That guy is the worst.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of a very large conference table at an accounting firm I had hired to settle my husbands estate, we were sitting there after hours of more of my nightmare that I wanted to wake up from after my husbands suicide. A woman directly across the table from me looked at me, smiled and asked "Now have you decided what you want to do with the rest of your life?" My reply was not what she wanted to hear so she got up from that big brown table and left the room. You are very right in taking that class. I moved to where no one knew what happened unless I told them. This week I watched the movie "We bought a Zoo" and the husband who lost his wife moved to the country and bought a zoo. He said I thought If I came out here it would stop. Back home every place reminded me of her and then he listed all the triggers and said "Funny thing is it turns out shes here too. I go to Home Depot, I go 9 miles away to Target and seriously I'm avoiding half the aisles. She loved red kites and blueberry pop tarts. Who doesn't right? If only I could talk to her, mainly getting over her. It's the kids, they're the biggest trigger. Dillion has her eyes, all the time he is looking back at me with her eyes and knowing her likeness but I found out when you love somebody that much, that hard, that long, you can never get away from them no matter where you go and that only comes once in a lifetime."
I am running from the end. I just cannot accept and don't even like to say the s______e word.

Anonymous said...

Suicide, suicide, suicide. It's you I hate. It's you I will never understand. Aaron, you know how to put your feelings into words. I have bought so many books about suicide and like you did with your books I started reading them and then laid them down never to open again.

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm glad you're able to take that step into the future, and I bet the class is awesome anyway. I still get occasional people at work who pull me aside and say (in that throbbing, 'I care' sort of voice), "HOW are you?" I know they mean well, but when I'm at work I don't want to focus on my grief. I want to do my job. It's been almost six months now for me though, and things are getting back to normal with the folks I see every day. Hopefully by fall when your new school year starts everyone will treat you like Aaron again.

Katey said...

Ha! I like K. Allen's comment.

But yeah, I mean, it's kind of sad how our society is focused on being completely... socially awkward. YOU aren't, but everyone else is. I mean, this should be about what you need, not the rest of the world. Christ.

Aaron Polson said...

Cheers, everyone. Thanks for your support. I'll keep blabbing, even without a reader. You make it that much better.