Loss, Faith, Chaos

Christy Scott

Christy Scott


When you lose a spouse it does not happen all at once. After the tissue is cut and the other person is gone, the place where they used to be throbs. One has to relearn everything—how to tie shoes, drive a car, sip a cup of coffee.

When my husband first left, I would wake from dreams disoriented and jump out of bed calling for him. His name would echo off the walls, off the objects in our room that he would never reclaim, and make its way back into my chest to nestle in the hollow chamber where it came from. His name held a power for me. It was the name of a part of who’d I’d become that no longer had a place to settle.

Getting divorced changed me. I was the girl who could curl up on the bathroom floor and cry while someone else’s dog licked her face and survive the knowledge that two thousand miles away her family was out bowling with the husband that just left her. Her whole support system was out together, and she was still alive, still breathing, still doing what she set out to do.

The ghost that remains with me the most is the hollowness. When I was newly cleaved from my husband I was little more than a corpse alone. Sundays were the days that I could not get out of bed. The feelings I had when lying alone in my room were a mixture of physical sensations and states of mind. At times I could not move my body, and my limbs tingled and stayed useless next to me. Other times there was a powerful suction pulling my chest inside, until the only parts of me that I could feel were my toes. The most intense sensation was numbness. I imagine it to be like the few seconds after an accident, when you see the lower half of your body across the motorway and have yet to experience the pain.

The world presented itself to me as the size of the room I hid in, but I knew that it was much bigger than that. I knew that everything I had based reality on was gone and that I could remake myself any way I chose. This realization was also crippling. Before that point, I always wanted to be controlled. I enjoyed being checked up on, I liked my husband to make all the calls for me, and I went home several times a week to say hi to my parents. And when we moved across the country I started to understand that the world was not what I thought it was. From there I had no gravity, and I was full of the knowledge that I could decide to remake the world upside down, and walk on the walls instead of the floor.

Through all of it the urge to not exist was crippling.

This is where loss becomes about faith.



My faith starts at a very young age. My parents—both Episcopalian priests— defined my spirituality. They owned it, in a sense.

What I knew of church at ten years old involved reading a book in a room down the hall from my mother’s office while she led the Saturday night service. I would pick the room I read in based on the time of day. If it was morning or afternoon I could venture downstairs, where the middle school bible study rooms dwelled. They were large and held desks, and had chalkboards on one end. Sometimes I would leave messages for people to find in the morning. By night I would move upstairs, into one of several rooms off the long hallway that held my mother’s office.

The idea of being alone and reading amongst dusty books in an empty church made me feel special, like I lived there. But there were times when this quiet was disturbing, when I felt abandoned, left after all others had families to go home to, dinners to make, friends to hang out with. I was the daughter of God’s custodian, and I could fall asleep reading while my mother cleaned God’s metaphorical floor and no one would check up on me.

The faith I had at ten years old didn’t change much until I moved away to graduate school. My faith was the creation of my parents, and I never developed a sense of it outside the confines of their definitions. I don’t know what I believe now, and the Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian artifacts on my book shelf will testify to this fact.

All I can think about now is that God is spatial. God is a personal concept, one that has no real permanent face to it. God is individual. And I believe a person can have faith without having a religion. I believe faith is a sign that we are sentient creatures. It is the byproduct of processes that—if the spirit did not exist—would yield no variation. And I believe sentience is a form of joy.

This comes from a cynic, a person who has depression so deep she cannot get out of bed. I don’t know why I believe this, why it seems true. I wish I did. When I look at other people all I see is potential, and when they open their mouths I am not alone; I am connected in a way I did not think possible. I am not the only creature that exists—I have kindreds. This is the greatest form of joy—knowing there is more to learn in the universe, that whatever I believed about myself could be false, that the world can change and I could be something different, or part of something I never knew I was a part of. The mystery is the joy. The mystery is the surrender to that part of myself that cannot be described spatially.

Because of this obsession with the spatial and God, I have grown fascinated with trees. Trees, once they are formed, have a permanent place to dwell. They don’t move, or try to conquer the tree down the valley from them.  A tree can alter its environment by the kind of animals it attracts, so that its seed can be carried where the tree cannot go. But the basic existence—staying in one place your whole life, while water shoots up and down a large part of your body, and you are literally fed by light—this seems a more pure existence than what I’ve encountered as a human being. I cannot speak for trees, or even prove they have any form of sentience. The idea of a tree—that is what makes me think that faith can have nothing to do with how we present ourselves to others or ourselves. Trees are forever what they were made to be. At least while they are alive.



Until recently I have never been able to find my keys. My room used to be a sediment pile of the last few months and years, strewn in random patterns across a floor I hadn’t seen in recent memory.

Falling in love is chaos. It is the complete hijacking of reason. You act in ways that you would never consider doing if you were not in love.

Faith is chaos.  You find yourself caring about people you barely know, you see connections between what you used to be and are and will be, and the word “change” feels like a blessing.

Loss is chaos. Loss changes the chemistry of your brain; it breaks down the very cells that used to tell you who you were. When a world built over months and years disintegrates in a fraction of the time it took to build there is little in way of reason. It’s acid in the face—you will never see the world the same, and the world will see you deformed. To live you must remove the remnants of what you used to be, and like a forensic reconstructionist mold a new skull, new lips, new eyes. And as you mold you know that whatever you build, however exquisite it is when it is done, may melt away just as easily, that anyone can throw the acid that will eat away your identity.

Moving on from loss is chaos. There is no trust in people, no benefit of a doubt. The firm handshake is sexual harassment, a gentle kiss from a new lover indicates a short relationship, and a dozen long-stemmed roses delivered to your door is just an example of killing things.

The new lover is the problem. He will take you from the place your mind has dwelled, the fall-out shelter in the back of your psyche where you’ve huddled and eaten expired chickpeas from rusted cans. You don’t want to trust anyone ever again, and your misery is painful but familiar, a lover you don’t have to feed. The new lover sees your acid-pocked face and discerns the underlying structure. He’ll stroke what remains of your cheekbone and call you beautiful. But it is not enough. You don’t know if anything will ever be enough again. You cry when you think he loves you. You cry when he kisses you goodnight. You cry when he holds you to his chest in comfort because he sees your tears falling.

The threshold for pain you thought couldn’t be reached is used now for recreational walks in your mind. You place pets and loved ones in the space between the old pain and the new pain and are confident the ground won’t give out.

Being happy is chaos. It requires dedication to change, to becoming a better person. It is picking out meaning in a pile of excrement and rejoicing. It is madness that other people envy. It is something you may never achieve. You wonder if there is such a thing, and in the brief moments when it seems to exist you can’t enjoy it because you’re tensed and waiting for it to stop existing. Sometimes it seems that being sad is the closest you will get to feeling stable. Sadness is realistic, achievable, tactile. Happiness is a teddy bear dancing in a field of flowers and sneezing gumdrops. Happiness is for fools. Halfwits. Those who can’t handle the chaos.

The ego is chaos. It tells you how entitled you are to your misery. It tells you how special that misery is, how individual, how insurmountable. It is the misery that paupers and victims of the plague envy, and your ego dresses that misery in entitlement and lets you walk around like you deserve to feel sad. It tells you no one will ever understand, that your brain is the extent of the known world and there is no way light will ever penetrate the darkness. You are alone, you are tragic.

Acceptance is chaos.