So I am experiencing that familiar bottled-up, tense, need to purge. I can’t really pinpoint what it is, and I feel like it is a multitude of things, so while I am in the mood and have the backup fortitude of my ‘old days’ Pandora channel and our old favorite drink, I’m going to fall back on my old friend stream-of-consciousness. Nothing quite helps like a good longwinded unedited writing session.
I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I had a good handle on it all.
But I’m missing him so much these days. Tonight has been hard, and I stupidly decided to turn on some old music I usually avoid, and now I’m all down memory lane. Yellowcard and Senses Fail and all of our old stuff keeps coming on and for once it’s actually choking me up, and I’m letting it.
These days, I actually feel teary, which is unheard of for me. I don’t know how much I’ve written about it, but I don’t cry. I didn’t cry when I found out. I tried to make myself, and I made myself almost throw up instead (but still couldn’t even actually give myself the satisfaction of throwing up…) I didn’t cry at the funeral, didn’t cry when I met his body at Dover…the closest I did come to emotion was there though, when I told my brother, his brother, that I didn’t think I could do it…and I actually handed my 8 month old baby to someone else, I can’t even remember who. I almost had a panic attack…I couldn’t feel my feet and I was hyperventilating. But I didn’t cry, and I actually had the nerve to ask my mother in law to not cry in front of me…what kind of person does that????? I didn’t cry when I met his body here at home, or when I planned the funeral, or when I went home to my mom for the first time (I also told my sister to tell my mom not to show emotion either…what a dick I was…). I didn’t cry at the funeral, or at the memorial at base after, or anything. I had to ask a friend to make me cry…he sat me in the back of a car, and showed me a video of The Hubs on a laptop, and played it over and over until I finally started to break down at seeing his face…but even then, I still felt like I was forcing myself to cry. I just couldn’t do it spontaneously. And since then, it’s been very rare and far between that I cry on my own.
But lately I’m actually feeling teary. It almost feels good, and I want to let it out, and then I start to let it, and it goes away.
Anyway, tonight it’s right there. I’m remembering that laugh that is seared in my memory but yet I can’t quite remember how it sounded…and I’m picturing certain memories, those few ones I have that are actually clear as day, and they seem like they were yesterday, and all of the sudden I am overcome with that absolutely gut-punching feeling that I can’t describe and no one understands unless they’ve felt it…that sheer disbelief that hits you like a smack in the face, that this is real and that person is really gone.
It has been almost five years, and in so very many ways, it feels like he’s been gone so long that I can’t remember the most important things. Exactly what his laugh sounded like, his smell, the way his particular unique hug felt, the way it felt like to just sit next to him on the couch at night, what it looked like when he would change the channel on the radio, the boring mundane daily life stuff that so many people take for granted but is what is really so special, because it is the stuff that not everyone sees, that only you are privy to. It’s been absent for so long that I can’t easily recall it any of it anymore…that in itself is a loss that hurts so much.
Yet, in so many ways, it feels like he is still just right there. Like he is just over my shoulder, just in the other room. Like it was just yesterday that he was asking for Twizzlers in his next box, that I was washing his undies and fussing over his daily coins and wallet and crap he would dump on the counters and leave there for me to clean up. Sometimes I still find myself wanting to tell him about the money I saved on something, or funny new reference I heard about something that I know he could explain to me, or a memory I spontaneously just had of a time we shared that I can’t tell anyone else because they weren’t there and no one else would know… Songs come on the radio and references come up in conversation and so many things are linked to him that I say his name five hundred times a day and he is still so very relevant that it can’t possibly be that he is no longer in this world…
And when it really hits me again, that stark harsh reality of his cold body and that casket and the swirling tidbits of memories of those shitty days that remind me that he is really gone, I just don’t understand, still after all this time, that such a PRESENCE, not just a person but FORCE like he was, can just be here one day and then be gone the next.
Call me naive before, and maybe his loss was my first real exposure to the severity and reality of death, but it still gets to me sometimes how something so magnanimous can just CEASE TO BE.
If someone so much more amazing and out there and influential than me or anything I knew before can just STOP, what does it mean for everyone else?
Why does anything really matter after that?
So, as you can see, I’m slumping again. And instead of retaining my progress, instead of continuing to think I’m doing well, I am dooms-daying as usual and thinking I am regressing.
Actually… typing this now, I don’t think I actually am regressing. The intelligent, logical part of me knows this is a normal thing. I am just experiencing one of those absolutely normal low points on the lifelong roller coaster ride of the life of a widow. I just need to keep reminding myself of that, that this is okay, this is to be expected and it doesn’t mean I am not okay or am effed up. It doesn’t mean that other things aren’t going well for me or that I am not still moving forward. It’s just part of my new normal.
I guess in a way, the more I think about it, I’m actually quite proud of myself for recognizing now that this is what is going on. I have been slowly slipping over the past few weeks. Getting grumpier, more easily annoyed, withdrawing, snapping at people (sorry Mama!), pushing things away (sorry my sweets!). But this time, this time I am seeing it. This time, I am saying NO. This time, I am trying, really trying, to be gentle with myself and allow it…but not feed it, give it the space it needs and acknowledge it, yet without succumbing to it. That is where the writing comes in, like this. I know it’s my healing, so why haven’t I been doing it?
Because, to be brutally honest, in the past my coping mechanisms have sucked. I don’t like to admit that myself, much less anyone else, especially publicly…my coping mechanisms tend to be all the worst forms. Eating too much, drinking too much, seeking people’s approval, defaulting to the guidance of others…essentially trying to fill that aching void with other things. The wrong things. Instead of acknowledging the void, letting it be, and giving it the space it needs to breathe and heal, I try to bandage it with everything else. But nothing sticks to that festering wound…
Until therapy. Therapy has helped so much. I can’t even really tell you how, I’m not even really sure what exactly I’ve done in there, or what she or I have done or said, that has helped. It just has. As soon as I started funneling energy in that constructive way, the universe responded favorably. Other things began falling into place, I accomplished goals, love found me, I stretched myself in new ways, I settled into myself.
And then this anniversary came around and shook it all up again.
In a way, I think I’ve been looking at it like a test lately. Like, ‘are you going to let this do this to you every year? How much do you really have your shit together? How much action do you have to back up your words?’
But then that bigger part of me is telling myself that this way of thinking is what contributed to the problem before, and I need to shut up.
What is the real problem here?
There is no problem.
I am a widow. An important anniversary is approaching. My grief is renewed.
That is normal.
I need to stop being so hard on myself.
And all of the other things I am dealing with? Well, honestly, they have nothing to do with the grief wave. They were there before and they will be there after. They just feel magnified right now, but I shouldn’t let that make me throw them out of proportion.
So I guess the real question is, what are the other things?
In a nutshell: Feeling like I am not giving enough as a mommy, feeling stuck and guilty because I haven’t figured out ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ and I’m not working or doing anything constructive or challenging myself or feeling passionate about anything right now, feeling lonely while missing my new love and anxious to get our next chapter started, and generally just finally feeling very very tired of this ‘treading water’ phase of life and ready to DO SOMETHING but not knowing what.
There. I labeled it all.
So what now?
I’m a planner. An organizer. A binder queen, a list maker, a doer. But I have absolutely zero motivation to get up and make any of these things happen right now. I’m in a rut. My tires are flat, my engine is bone dry. I’m overheated, overcooked, lacking any ounce of energy to become anything more than what I am right now. If I could just get the ball rolling, I would take off. I know that. I feel that, deep in my bones. The ball of rubber bands is pulled taut, it’s ready to spring, waiting for something to set it off.
I just need something to set it off.
And I can’t seem to do it myself.
And stuck has never been a good place for me. It enables me, gives me permission to let the worse sides of me come out: the procrastinator, the second-guesser, the people-pleaser, the routine-doer, the others-before-selfer, the lazy bones. The preteen kid who smiles and nods and is not allowed to have an opinion and lets everyone else make the decisions. Sure, she does an amazing bang-up job when given instructions, but she can’t give herself a set of instructions to save her life.
Combine that with the yearly tidal wave of grief and I’m fighting to keep my head above water each day these days, all while refusing to acknowledge it or ask the lifeguard for help because it means admitting weakness, it means admitting I am struggling when I know there are others out there who are struggling with worse and honestly I should be better equipped to deal and just buck up and do it. I should be helping my loved ones who are also struggling with this anniversary, my loved ones who are in dangers path every day on the other side of the country, my loved ones who are struggling with relationship problems or money problems or friend problems, my loved ones who are planning major important life events like weddings and births and illnesses. I should be strong enough to buck up and do it.
But how do you do “IT”, when “IT” is a million things at once, and you are all alone and all you really have the energy for is to get yourself up in the morning and take care of your child and meet your obligations? When all of that is not even being done to the best you know you could do it and you feel like shit for not being good enough even there? When you don’t really have an ounce of extra beyond the minimums? Where do you get the extras from?
I know my answer should be God. Everything comes from Him, I know He can give me the extras I need. He can be that for me, I know in it in my core. All I have to do is tell Him my shortcomings and stop trying so hard and submit, and He will fill in the gaps.
But how do you do that when you are still struggling there too? When, alongside of all this crap, you are so crippled with the very guilt that you AREN’T giving it all to Him, that you can’t even wrap your head around even beginning to call out to Him?
Sometimes, in those moments when I am longing for my old life, I wonder how much of that is really the old life I am longing for and how much of that is the old innocence I am longing for. That time when I didn’t know what I know now, when things were easier, when I was oblivious to what it is like. Sometimes I catch myself becoming envious of people I know and see who have a charmed life, a life like I used to have. The people who are getting engaged, who are celebrating the marriage anniversaries I should be, who are having new babies, who are enjoying family vacations and daily family dinners and washing their husbands clothes and fussing over the shit I used to get upset over. They don’t know how wonderful it is. Well, maybe I’m assuming, maybe they do get it, but they only do in the capacity that they can…that capacity that I used to know and appreciate my life. That capacity is different now that I know what it is like without it, and I wish I could tell them…tell them to soak it in, to appreciate even the shit that bothers them and annoys them to the point where they think they could scream. But a bigger part of me doesn’t fault them (thankfully, because that means I can genuinely be happy for other people and not be bitter). They don’t know, just like I didn’t, and can’t know unless they have lost a spouse…and I genuinely honestly hope they never do. Maybe in a way I am not only mourning the loss of a person and an old life, but also the loss of an old part of myself, the last bit of innocence, the last bit of un-jaded optimism.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still optimistic. I always will be, perhaps even in a way that annoys other people. I’ve seen people’s reactions, even people close to me going through losses too. I know they don’t understand how I can still be optimistic and hopeful. But I am…because if I wasn’t, I would be nothing, absolutely nothing.
But that doesn’t mean my optimism is as pure as it used to be. It’s jaded, it’s tainted. I’m tainted. Tinted. Dinged. Damaged.
But dings make character. Scars make things more beautiful, give them meaning. Ragged edges are more interesting that smooth ones. Texture gives meaning, beauty, depth. I know this. And in a way I’m okay with my ugly edges. My imbalances. My angst, my drama, my fickleness. My ugly all-over-the-place words like these. It’s real. It’s not fabricated, not thought out, not planned. It’s not passive, not easy, not one-size-fits-all or make-everyone-happy.
But in these ambiguous murky waters, where I am struggling with grief and life questions and uncertainties, it’s hard to balance accepting your quirky not-okays, yet not enabling your destructive behaviors.
How do I juggle dealing with the 5 year anniversary of my husband and best friend dying, while realizing that, while I’ve progressed enough to not fall apart and should be proud of that, I’ve also not made any real advances in these five years and I’m actually grappling with bigger life questions now than I was at the time of his death?
How do I deal with the fact that I am not the same person I was then, and if he suddenly materialized in front of me, he might not even recognize me or like me? That I am not even sure I like myself now as much as I liked myself then?
How do I come to terms with such a huge reminder that this will ALWAYS be there and I’ll never ‘get over it’, while also finally making big decisions about finally doing something for ME, all while still fulfilling everything for everyone else and being a full-time life and house and responsibility manager and mother all by myself?
I thought I had it all together.
There, I said it. HEY EVERYONE. I DON”T HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER, EVEN IF YOU THINK I DO.
And I don’t like admitting that.
I’m the one people come to. The one people call strong, the one that has ‘all the advice, the one that always helps, the one they say has it ‘all together’ and understands and is the rock. The one that has been called the ‘queen example’ (yes, I’ve heard that exact phrase from three people) of how to keep it all together and make it all work, with grace.
What if I’m just a big fraud?
On nights like tonight I feel like one.
The woman who does this all with grace doesn’t need to “stream of consciousness.”
I wish I could have just one conversation. Just one night, just one hour even. Maybe I’d even settle for 10 minutes…is that so much to ask?! Is it so much to need one more time to talk to the person who had such an influence in shaping who I am, who helped make me into the person I am today? If I could just have one more chance to talk to him, to tell him a few things, to ask him a few questions, to get one more hug, to even just say goodbye…I never got that chance….
And now the real tears are starting…thank you Pandora, for playing Rascall Flatts ‘What Hurts the Most’ right this very fucking second. How cruel is life, to pair you with a soul mate then rip them away without even the decency of a proper ‘see you later’? It was so abrupt. No wonder I have a hard time putting stock in anyone or anything.
I’m calling this done. I didn’t expect this stream of consciousness to go in this direction. I’m torn. On one hand, it feels so, SO good to let some of this out. On the other hand, I am embarrassed beyond belief, enough to question posting this. This is vulnerability at its core.