this is the story of 4 and all its multiples
When we look at the most formative and transformative periods in our life and more specifically our young adult lives, I have found that most things follow a connective rule of 4’s. And although experience is measured with a minimum of 2 and bad/good things occur in patterns containing 3, and 5 is the best number of years to earn you above an entry-level position. 4, like most even numbers seems to be the rule when it comes to things like balance, and education, and frankly, all the walls of all the boxes we allow ourselves to be put in.
And since patterns are mostly in our heads – and since this one is most definitely mine – let me open the door and invite you in for a bit…
My unspoken rule of 4
4, the number of years it takes to survive high school (barely).
4, the number of years in college (traditionally).
4, the number of wheels on your first car (hopefully).
4 the number of people in what was once considered an atomic family. 2 parents, 2 kids, and the promise of a picket fence. But for all the things that require 4 – why then is it that we more often think of 3 as the magic number? Which brings us to 3 –
3, the number of “adult” jobs I had after college before I found lucky number 4.
3, the number of medications I tried just to manage the depression that those years and those jobs cost me,
3 the number of members in my family since April of 2010 (excluding of course those with 4 legs).
and 3 the number of 4 year periods since my family became a party of 3.
Which brings us to 12. The number of days until the same number in years since my father lost his fight with cancer. (and no I didn’t think of that when I started writing this today.)
Loss is (you guessed it) a 4 letter word
Most often, when we talk about loss, it’s hard to keep our own selves out of it. “I – lost my dad,” “I – lost someone I loved” “I,” “I,” “I,”and after a while all the I’s make it less about the life they lived and more about the life that them being gone “took” from you. So it comes with a sense of entitlement more than what it actually is – grief and loss and a massive change in perception of what life and family should look like.
See perspective is a funny thing because if you take “I” out and replace it with someone else’s pronouns the narrative shifts and you get “He never got to walk me down the isle” “He wasn’t at my graduation” “He didn’t teach me how to drive” but the problem with that is that it wasn’t something he could do or controll. It wasn’t something he could be there for – and while that in itself is another loss – it places blame that, in most cases, that person doesn’t deserve. It sucks, yes – but at least in my case, it’s not his fault and its not my fault and it isn’t about him and it’s not about me. IT JUST IS.
Because in the grand scheme of things – things don’t happen to us, they just happen. and it’s really easy to make it about us and put ourselves at the center of it but that doesn’t mean that’s how it works. There’s no one keeping score, there’s no tit for tat, things just happen and you can spend all the time you want hating it and blaming others but at the end of the day – some things are just out of our controll.
Professionals will say 7
If you ask a professional they will tell you that there are 7 stages of grief. (and I have definitely felt all of them) That you can feel more than one at once or intermittently feel them etc etc etc. But if you google it the first thing you’ll get is a 7 bullet list with a whole bunch of synonyms crammed in. Which is fairly accurate because grief puts you and your emotions all over the damn place BUT since neither number is a multiple of 4, the reason I bring it up is that on a certain level and as the above heading (Loss…) suggests, most days I feel like I’ve done the work to accept things – and that doesn’t mean I 100% have or haven’t but that after 12 years I can confidently say that while it doesn’t hurt less it does hurt different. (Which is sometimes a good thing)
Maybe its not a rule but a suggestion
Ok so maybe the whole “rule of 4” thing was bs. Maybe I was just feeling poetic and feeling like patterns could heal me a bit because frankly, I have been feeling it a lot lately. And maybe in 2 years I will look back on this and pull something crazier out of my hat like “remember when I said ‘rule of 4? well 14 has a 4 in it!” and maybe then we can laugh. Or maybe we can just laugh now.
You know, because it’s kind of funny, every year on here or on instagram or on something I continue to tell some version of this story. It’s always true, it’s always from the heart and its always durring this month. And I used to think that I wrote it just to help some kid going through what I did and I used to think to myself that if it helped even one person that would be enough – but as much as I do still love the idea of helping others, I will never understand their loss or their story as I do my own. So maybe I was never writing for some random kid, and as predictable as it would be to say that I was writing it for me, to make my own sense of it, I can’t say that’s entirely true either. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t writing for some kid and I wasn’t writing to this version of me. But maybe I was writing to the kid I was then – the one that needed the most healing to get to where I am today; and maybe that’s progress because now, instead of being the sad, poor little girl that lost her dad at 14 – maybe I’m just me at 26, looking back with a smile and telling her that I will always fight for her (and her ludacris rule of 4)
So in honor of her victory and mine – I give you the now spoken rule of 4
4, the number of years in high school when I thought about giving up but didn’t
4, the number of years that I had with my 3 best friends making memories and learning how to heal.
4, the number of years since I graduated undergrad with my family by my side and my dad on my shoulder.
All leading to 12 –
12 days to 12 years without him.12, years I’ve grown and stumbled and somehow figured a bunch of things out about me and the world and my family.12, the number of years until I was able to realize that I didn’t have to walk away from that part of me to be happy – I just had to set a better pace to walk with it.