I am really good at hiding. Both hiding in plain sight and literally hiding, like in a closet. As I type these statements, I can’t help but wonder why. What lead to this ability to hide? In some ways, I think it has been a survival mechanism.
Growing up, my family moved pretty regularly. Because of those moves, I got good at meeting people and being able to find my place on the outskirts of the social circles, but I also learned not to invest too much into those relationships because within a few years, we’d be off to another state. We didn’t have social media, so staying connected required good old fashion pen / paper letters or long-distance phone calls (remember those days when the phone call cost different amounts based on how far away you were?).
In most cases, the relationships I’d developed weren’t strong enough to withstand the extended effort required to maintain them. So I cultivated the skills that allowed me to seem like part of the group, without actually being part of the group - hiding in plain sight.
When I was younger, I also developed the habit of hiding, literally hiding, in my closet when things were tough. I have no idea what led to this habit, but it’s one that I still revert to. When things get really hard, when I don’t understand the emotions I’m feeling, or when I’m embarrassed about something that I’m experiencing, I revert to this tactic. I find comfort in the dark corners of the closet with the clothes hanging over my head. I curl in close and attempt to hide everything, even from myself.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed another hiding tactic. I hide by immersing myself in ‘work’. At times, it has truly been by immersing myself in my job. Other times, it’s hiding behind a to do list or checklist so long, it would take weeks to even make a dent.
There have been times in my life that this survival mechanism of hiding in plain sight, on the fringes of social circles, or under a pile of work, have served me well. However, I’m realizing, this week especially, that although it is easier to do this - it’s not necessarily the right thing to do.
The twenty-eight days between April 29 and May 26 have changed for me forever. They are hard days - reminders of what could have been. I don’t know that they’ll always be as hard as they feel right now, but I think they’ll always be a challenge in some way shape or form.
It’s really no coincidence that Rylie’s Run falls right smack dab in the middle of those 28 days. Initially, it was planned that way because it made sense. It was the first anniversary of the accident and Rylie’s death. Mother’s Day would be a tough day for me. We wanted to do something to commemorate Rylie and all that she was and still is. It gave us a purpose for those days - something to focus on besides the loss.
Underneath all that though, I think subconsciously, it also gave me a place to hide. The busyness of planning and holding an event seemed like a good use of energy that would often feel erratic or misplaced. Last year, it served me well.
This year, it also served me well, but I’m feeling it differently. This past week has been tough. We’re a little over half-way through the 28 days, but up to this point, I have been so busy with the event that I haven’t given this time period much thought.
You see, I was successfully ‘hiding’ behind the tasks associated with Rylie’s Run and avoiding feeling the emotions that go with this month. Now I’m left with this stretch of days before a big ‘anniversary’ and I have nothing to hide behind. Not even a plan for that day.
Last year, I was planning the run and wrapping up a school year. So when the run was done, I shifted my focus to grading and finals - hiding once again. This year, that is not the case. I’ve been blessed with time off, but that means this year I’m faced with time and nowhere to hide.
I can see the date looming in front of me and I don’t have a plan. There’s no to do list, there’s no ‘work’ that has to be done. I find myself thinking up imaginary ‘work’ projects around the house, or real ‘work’ like all of the wrap up tasks associated with the run - but there’s not the same urgency as an event with a specific date, or final grades being due.
In a way, I am glad. If there was that level of urgency, then I know I would run and hide in that busyness. But since there’s not, I just find myself just looking at those things and not moving towards them at all. This all feels very unnatural for me. While I know in my head that this is okay, even healthy, I feel as though I am moments away from running into the closet to hide in the corner beneath the clothes.
I don’t want to revert to hiding, but it’s also really hard to face this weird emotional place - especially when I’m so used to hiding.
I’m not sure what to do, or how to do it, but I guess I’ll take it one moment at a time.
Perhaps the point, this year, is to allow myself moments - moments to feel the enormity of our loss. To peek out from underneath the clothes in the back of the closet, maybe even crack the door and chance being seen - really be seen.
Meghann and Ziggy Guentensberger are Rylie's parents. During their time in the hospital with Rylie and after her death, they began writing about their experiences. What started as a way to keep people informed of Rylie's condition, turned into a way for them to process all that was happening. After she died on May 26, 2017 they both continued to write as a way to process and heal themselves and occasionally inspire others. These writings are housed on the Rylie's ARK Facebook page.