I often find myself picking up my phone or physically turning wanting to say, "Hey, did you know..." and realizing she's not there.
It's crushing to not have the same avenues of enjoying life, so I have to find new ones. My dog Gobi's presence sometimes isn't enough during the heart-wrenching nights. By the way, that was Kalpna's favorite photo of Gobi because Kalpna said it made Gobi look like a girl (ever the feminist). What follows is an intensely personal reflection that normally would be held between Kalpna and myself. I find sharing my thoughts more than just helpful or theraputic--it's essential because otherwise I feel I have no handle on reality. This is just my way of living--I have no judgements on myself or others. Being more open is the least of my recent transformations, it's only the start. Frankly, it's a coping mechanism as I am unable to handle this alone. Every phone call, card, email, text, hug, smile, and thought, all has helped me and everyone involved grapple with this. Life's too important and too short to be private. Besides transparency as a motivating factor for this entry, I might also feel a bit misunderstood--being married to someone who literally gave her heart to the rest of the world was not without it's paradoxical issues. At least I, surprisingly, have no regrets. They made me who I am and her who she was--imperfect, but real.
With social interactions as a positive constant, the journey so far involved first having less-fitful sleep, then an appetite, and finally, the desire to exercise and move around. Now is the unintuitive desire to be ultra-positive. Part of that rests with Kalpna's attitude--her smile was just a window. Though, despite being more positive than I cynically could have ever imagined, there's the ugly side. Joe Biden wrote that when his wife died tragically, he "kept walking the dark streets to try to exhaust the rage." I know exactly what he means. I have felt anger towards old people, smokers, the obese, corporate gimps, myself, and even Kalpna. I have no spouse, no home, and no job. And now I see death everywhere--in the news, and in our routine conversations ("My cell phone died."). The best analogy I could think of as to how I feel sometimes is that it's like waking up in the morning everyday with your dominant arm missing. There's pain, loss of function, but not completely because you can still walk, speak, eat, and do nearly everything you used to.
I keep turning and wanting to tell her that she passed away. And I know exactly what her reaction would be. I know that she would be thinking about her relationship with each and every one of us and the potential left unrealized. I know what went through her mind, what she was trying to do in those last minutes. I didn't have to be there to know this. It's burdensomely clear in my mind.
But, I've learned to be more resilient than I would like to be. Part of that is instinctually being positive now. Life's not all boring, drab, and sad--there are the light-hearted moments, moments that I would never have expected to make me smile.
At Cafe La Taza in the Mission District, while studying for a job interview, Mariah Carey's "I Can't Live" started to play and instantly I teared up and grinned. Earlier this year, me and millions of my internet friends came across a video of an American Idol clone in Bulgaria. I shared the video with Kalpna and she thought it was an amazing example of cultural diffusion that she could show her class. She pointed out the Paula Abdul-look alike and just started laughing. I sang "Ken Lee" everyday for an entire week. I never paid attention to the lyrics, even after watching the video too many times. But now, they are relevant on a whole other level.
In watching the only known video of her teaching this year, what evoked the most emotion was her wrapping her computer powercord at the end of the clip. Everyday, she would come home, open up her laptop, plug it in, and there would be this tangled mass on our floor getting in the way of chairs, dogs, and movement. Gobi even chewed it up a little because it reminded her of a hard string ball. When I needed to power my laptop, I had to sometimes fight with the gnarled growth and made sure Kalpna knew about it. Now, it's what evokes the largest response in a poignant video.
Besides these hidden gems that pop up occasionally, one thing that's kept me going in the down moments is a sort of pocket manifesto of lessons I learned from Kalpna. It's a reduction of who she was that makes sense for me, maybe not you, but that doesn't matter, because I am on my own path and not bitter about it.