The Choice

Author: Linda Ambard

For the past five years, I have learned to survive and to make it through the darkest nights. I have come to trust my decisions and discovered happiness through running, work, school, and the all too rare visits with my adult children. It a dull and predictable life that didn’t allow for dreams to creep in or for the wash of agony to take over. I closed myself off to any possibility of a life beyond that flat one dimensional plane. At 49, the spunky, warm, and loving person I was once shriveled and I could not entertain the idea of a life beyond business. Business it was until a friendship I have come to value started to spark into something I am not sure how to define. That spark has brought dreams back into my life. Many dreams are filled with promise and happiness, but the night terrors have also crept into my sleep. The unexpected sleeping thoughts literally knock me to my knees. My subconscious thoughts emerge woven into the dreams of warmth and promise. I am afraid. Very afraid.


I am afraid of losing again. I am afraid in the feeling and in the vulnerability of allowing someone in my life will implode again and I will lose it all again. To understand why I fear, one must know grief is a sneaky bastard. With Phil’s death, I could not envision a future. I no longer trusted the world I lived in. I no longer believed in myself or even in the prayers I had believed would carry my Phil home. I no longer believed my world was safe and was further reinforced when I was one stoplight away from the finish line at the Boston Marathon when terrorism struck again. Grief physically hurt my body and it aged me more than anything else could have aged me. Grief took so much from me.  When I started to emerge from fog and darkness, it was easier to keep everyone at bay and to numb my feelings as a safety net of sorts because it hurt less that way.  I believed it would make loss - due to relationships ending, moving, or death - easier.

This numbing and avoidance was never intentional. My heart had imploded and the shattered pieces sometimes don’t hold very well. I have come to value my many girl and military brothers and sister friendships, though, and in that gray area, something is sparking from a friendship. That spark is the catalyst to dreaming again—to living again– and it is more terrifying than anything I have ever faced.

Relationships do not grow overnight. There is a risk in the vulnerability. It scared me to think about investing in another person because I am afraid of additional holes in my heart if this relationship implodes. I second guess everything about myself from the story I wear and tell, to the weathered body I call mine. I second guess my worth and what I bring to the relationship not because I think I am so broken, but because of my fear and need for transparency. Most relationships don’t start this way. I just do not have the energy to figure out motives or games. I am either enough, or I am not enough. While I know this and I believe it with all I am, I have until now not been able to knock down my walls to let anyone close enough to discover if maybe, just maybe…

In the shadows of a blossoming friendship that holds promise is seeing the sparking of something beyond the fear of loss– loss brought from the normal end of a relationship, but more than that, loss through death. It literally feels like the air is being sucked out of my lungs sometimes. With the rush of dreams, I go from one extreme to another. I am like a giddy little girl when I think about how things are unfolding, and yet I have never felt older when I think about loss due to death. It isn’t logical, but it is a very real fear. I am fighting the fears, but sometimes, sometimes, the fear wins. Night descends and I want to hide.

I am toeing the line. My knees are shaking as I face the monsters of the night. Sometimes the monsters win. Most of the time I can take back my night from the cloud of fear, but not always. I may lose this one, but I know by allowing myself to move beyond the survival mode into a chosen path of vulnerability and possibility, I am thriving in a manner surpassing the surly bonds of survival. Afraid? I am afraid on many levels, but I recognize the choice is now and I will lose if I shrink in fear. Might I risk it all and lose? Yes, but isn’t anything worth having worth the risk? I might risk it all and win, too. Perhaps in time I will not be so afraid of the unthinkable, but even if that fear remains, I will take the learning to live beyond survival because I am indeed looking forward instead of looking to endure.