When Red Twin died, my world collapsed. It wasn’t that she was my whole world, but that grief was so encompassing, it touched everything in my world.
You know how in Inside Out there are the ‘personality islands’, the things that make up who Riley is and energise her personality?
When Riley experiences loss, one island goes down and one by one the others follow. That’s how it felt when Red Twin died. Her island went down and the others started collapsing too: I felt incapacitated as a parent; I could not write anything or learn; Jesus was distant. I wasn’t just dealing with one loss, but multiple.
Now as life starts to re-normalise, the other islands are starting to power up again, and that makes the contrast with Red Twin Island’s rubble even more painful. They are springing to life, and she is not. However, I’m learning that rubble might not be the best way to think about Red Twin Island. Collapsing islands make for a good movie, but I’m told personality is more constant over time than that. Influences in personality shift throughout our lives, but they’re all still part of the story. You can take Red Twin away, but that doesn’t mean Red Twin Island no longer feeds into my personality.
The Red Twin part of my life is not over. It might just look a bit different.
The image I’ve been playing with is of a fairground, because we were happiest together, and the ferris wheel isn’t spinning anymore. When you first look at it, it appears empty and dormant, but if you look a little closer, there are little signs of life.
There’s a seedling in one of the ferris wheel carriages. The seedling spreads and its tendrils gradually wrap up around the poles of the ferris wheel and one day the whole circumference will be covered. The ferris wheel is not spinning and turning like a ferris wheel is supposed to. There’s an unnatural stillness to it. But there’s something else too.
It’s budding. One day it might even bloom.
The rose vine-covered ferris wheel is still a sad image, because ferris wheel should be turning not motionless, but it’s also still a fairground, and it’s not dead. It’s now alive in a different way. As I look down at my side where she used to be, I’m learning to look with a different lens, and to see her in a different way.
Red Twin island doesn’t die, because even though Red Twin has died, her influence and impact continues. The language of ‘moving on’ is unhelpful, because it’s pretty much impossible to leave behind a person who has been so much a part of you.
My boys are into musicals and one of the soundtracks we’ve been listening to is Wicked.
When ‘For Good’ comes on, I turn into a puddle every time. I’ve recently worked out that’s because it captures the idea that we still carry something of others with us because they shaped us. It’s about how the hardwiring of my brain has taken the shape it has because of her. We are formed by those around us.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes the sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
I found it hard to think of ways that Red Twin had shaped me. We were such twindividuals, that it was hard to say what was my opinion and what was hers. So I didn’t feel like I was a river diverted by a boulder; in fact, her death feels more like the boulder, changing the course of what should have been my life.
But that just points to how profound her influence was on me, that it so permeated me it was indistinguishable from me. You can’t unpick that any more than you can separate out the blue or yellow from the green.
It’s the ‘I have been changed for good’ that resonates: I will always be who I am because of her. The Tamie that exists today wouldn’t be there without her; there is no way to exist that isn’t influenced by her, so there’s no sense in which I can move on from her. She is inescapable and that is a comfort. I am who I am because of her; anything I do carries her with me.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.