According to a study I found, it takes people on average 66 days of doing something repetitively before it becomes a habit. 66 times for a behavior to become automatic. I can feel the truth in that. 66 days is just over two months. For the first two months, waking up in the morning was excruciating because I had to relive her death as soon as my eyes opened. I had to pull myself from the foggy haze of sleep and into the sharp and piercing reality of the day. My daughter was gone and was not coming back. Every day, the shock of it was a little bit less. The disbelief drifted further and further away from me. After the first few months, I no longer woke up in a state of denial. My habit had formed. I woke up knowing. I woke up accepting. She is gone. I am no longer stabbed in the heart anew. I wake up with the knife permanently embedded into my chest.
I have been told that when you are getting a tattoo, at first, it hurts a great deal, but after a while, you become numb to the needle jabbing into your flesh. Aware of the pain, but recoiling less from it. I feel that is an accurate comparison to what I have become. After 150 times of waking up as a mother without her child, my pain is no longer foreign to me. It is not surprising or shocking. It is familiar. After 150 mornings, I know exactly what I am opening my eyes to. An ache that my body and soul automatically shift themselves around. An emptiness that is just as much a part of me now as she used to be.
Every morning, I open my eyes and, by habit, I brace myself for the pain. I am prepared for the catch in my chest, the deep breath of sadness that shudders through me, the heaviness that wraps itself around me like a wet blanket. Every morning, I settle myself around the jagged pieces of my shattered heart like someone with too many packages may arrange themselves into a too-small subway seat. I wiggle myself into place, pushing the broken pieces automatically into a manageable location, and I get up and face my day. 150 times I have done this, some days more successfully than others. I will do it an estimated 21,900 more times if I live to be 95. 21,900 times (give or take) of waking up every morning without her.
And I will always have to do this. I will never again wake up and just face the world. I will always have to play this game of Tetris - arranging myself into someone that most closely resembles a whole person. The more I do it, the more efficient I will be. As time goes on, it will take me less time and effort to do it, but I will still have to do it. I am slowly coming to terms with this fact.
I miss her. Five months...150 days...3,600 hours....216,000 minutes....time does not change that. It never will.