Circus in my head

Once again, I almost made this a private post, but I (apparently) stuck to my pact. Now it’s out there in all its glory. It makes me feel better to let it loose, but you are under no obligation to read it, no matter how much you love me. K?

Know what a calliope sounds like? (If you don’t, go here.) That joyful, slightly creepy, always manic music is how my brain feels.


I’m happy. I have a good life, a wonderful husband, good kids, adorable grandkids, a nice home. Lots of friends and family who love me. I’ve another book coming out in October. A fabulous literary agent shopping my masterpiece to publishers. I’m going to Europe in March with my parents and brothers. Day-to-day existence is full of writing and lunches with friends, floating in the pool. And laundry. I joke around on FB. I sparkle and shine and laugh. I seem fine. Like I’m adjusting. Processing. Living. And I am.

I know I’m obsessed with Stranger Things lately, but there is an Upside Down to the happiness. A world where all the light is dark, all the pure is tainted; a world where the monsters lurk. It squishes me, wrings every ounce of light out of me. It makes me feel like a fraud, because how in the hell can I, in any stretch of the imagination, even consider being happy when my son is gone? When I failed him so utterly? When he had it so hard and then died all alone? When he won’t get married and have children, a career. Such simple wants, my son had. It doesn’t matter if the choices I made, the things I did helped him to survive a few years more; it was all the things I did wrong that cost us him in the end.

My logical brain knows that’s all bullshit. It tells me I did all I could, his choices were on him, I fought harder for him than he did for himself. There isn’t a platitude I haven’t consoled myself with. It’s just when the Upside Down gets me, it gets me, and no amount of logic or love can set me free. Because no one knows how I feel. No one. Because I’m the one who who never gave up. I’m the one who took him to doctors and meetings and physical therapy sessions. I’m the one who brought him home again when the darkness fell so hard he couldn’t see. I’m the one who stood outside his door that morning, playful and hoping to make him smile, asking if he was alive in there. I’m the one who opened the door and found him. Me. Alone. I can’t unsee him lying there. I can’t unfeel that “NO!” ripped from my throat. The panicked 911. My son is dead. My son is dead. How did I miss the signs? How didn’t I know this was a possibility? I let down my guard. I got comfortable. “I got this. No problem. We’ve weathered worse.” There is nothing worse. Nothing.

And then there’s the no-feeling. That’s the worst of all. I’m happy, I guess. I’m sad, I guess. It all seems to have happened to someone else. “Oh, that’s a shame. Really sad.” It almost feels as if he was never here to begin with, as if he’s fading away and nothing I do can alter that. I can’t even cry. What am I crying for? I feel nothing.

These things hit me and sometimes last a moment, sometimes days. I’m exhausted. And really, that fucking calliope needs to shut the hell up, already.


Filed under Life's honest moments

21 responses to “Circus in my head

  1. I send you much love and hugs, and pray for comfort and peace for you.


  2. Justin Witt

    I love to read your posts. Because they are as raw, honest, and eloquently worded as anything I’ve read. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but your words have a lot of power in them and whether someone is struggling from depression, addiction, heartache, etc. I know that they can relate to bits and pieces of what you write. Nobody knows how you feel, but the sharing of your feelings definitely helps others.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Wow, Justin. Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. Sometimes I feel a bit like an exhibitionist, but it’s get it out or go mad, ya know?


  3. Dian Munoz Stewart

    Darling, I’m so sorry for your pain. Please know that I am here for you. I love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jamie

    To continue your metaphor…

    You didn’t fail anyone any more than Eleven did. You were put in a horrible situation over which there were too many malevolent puppeteers for you to fight against.

    In the upside down, you can be Barbara (destroyed by it), Will (try your best to survive there but ultimately be destroyed by it as well), the Demogorgon (try to bring people in with you), or Eleven, who is magic and powerful. Who knows and is haunted by the upside down but steals as many Eggos as she can. The Eggos are real, too.

    When you feel like Will I’ll try to be Joyce and get you out.



    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I’m not crazy about eggos, but I want to be Eleven. I think I am. Most of the time. You are amazing, and you’re right–very good at analogies. Just so you know, you’ve been my Joyce since the day you were born.


  5. Kelly Ramsdell

    I don’t know enough about Stranger Things to comment on it, but Jamie appears to know and it sounds right to me.

    I also think that Joe Biden knows a little something about loss, and he promises everyone that eventually, it becomes a little easier to carry. It doesn’t go away, but it does become less acutely painful.

    Many hugs to you, lovey.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Thank you, Kelly. I know it gets easier. I’ve been here before. Not exactly in the same spot, but near enough. And that makes me kind of sad too, you know? Knowing there will be a time it doesn’t hurt as much, as often. (Watch Stranger Things. It’s awesome.)


  6. Fran

    Your pain is real as is your happiness. They collide because you’re a loving mother. My heart goes out to you. Hugs and kisses to you and Frank.


  7. Mark Nelson

    The fact that yours is a double pain reveals a great deal. Breathe. You are getting better at it. Look at how productive you have been. You can argue the work is a dodge and grief constantly snares you in its riptide, but I don’t think so. I think the happiness you occasionally feel guilty about is Chris letting you have the space and time to process. You are his happiness now. Be.


  8. Lise-Marie

    It sucks big time. I wish i could wave my magic wand and give you some peace.Yet, I am not sure it would last very long.


  9. What a loving mother you are. Thank you for sharing your pain and your joy. You help all of us open our hearts to the whole of life. ❤


  10. Emotions are what makes us human. Remember the love. Love pulls us all through… {{hugs}}


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