Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Feeling normal also feels like shit

The Florida temperatures have been venturing into the 90s announcing that summer is on our doorstep. With that comes the knowledge that in about a month my kids will be leaving me for the summer to spend time with their father.  That realization brings with it a flurry of memories.

I’m dreading being without my girls. Since last summer they have been my driving force to waking up everyday with a smile on my face even if there’s a hole in my heart. Not having them here scares the hell out of me. But I’m also very much looking forward to the alone time.

Last summer Jon and I spent that time living life to the fullest. We ate out often. We went to the beach or camping or various other adventures almost every weekend. We took walks to get ice cream. We spent down time planning our wedding. We enjoyed countless memories with our best friends. It was the time of our lives. I missed my girls. He missed our girls. But we soaked in the rare opportunity to not have to worry about them and focus on just us. I am eternally grateful for that time.

Now that time is fastly approaching and I’m without him but left with all the memories of what I had and lost. The changing from one season to another hasn’t been much of an issue for me through this process, but this one is. Suddenly I see him everywhere. I hear him at night. I don’t cry over the memories anymore, I smile, but they still give me pause. What a cruel world to take something so special away from both of us.

With those memories comes the self loathing. Look at what I’m left with. 10 months ago I was the happiest I’ve ever been. I had a kind, intelligent, genuine person who excitedly shared in the stress of parenting. If I had an early morning at work, he took the reigns with the kids. If I had a stressful day, he urged me to hit the gym before coming home. If I was running late, he cooked dinner. If I was tired, he got the kids to bed. If I needed a drink, he poured it. Now I have not only an empty void where his love once was, but a burden I forgot how to endure. I did the single parent thing before Jon, but it seems an eternity ago. Now I don’t know how to do it. It’s causing problems at work. It makes me lose sleep. I don’t enjoy my time with my kids like I did before.

But with all that, I feel normal. I remember him. I get sad. I miss him. But this is my life now and I’ve learned to appreciate it. I’ve learned to like it. I’ve even learned to branch out and meet new people. I’ve done exactly what he asked me to do and figured out a way to still be happy, but that makes me feel like an asshole. The happier I get, the more I miss him.

I’m spending a weekend on the beach this weekend. It’s Mother’s Day weekend. It’s a belated birthday gift to myself. One purchased because he would have insisted. I’m immensely looking forward to some much needed time away from the massive stress of life that has become my life. But I can’t help but to feel guilty that not only am I doing it without him, I’m doing it with someone else. I know he’d give me a thumbs up so I don’t feel bad because of him, but rather because I’m struggling to balance the old memories with the new. I’m trying to figure out how to move on without letting go. How do you do both? I want to cherish our memories while embracing those in the making. I want to have fun without feeling guilty. I want to love him without feeling like I can’t admit it; talk about him without feeling like I somehow shouldn’t be. For just over three years of my life I made a life with an incredible and amazing man. He’s gone, but that part of my life is still very much real. It shaped me, changed me, grew me. It made me who I am today. I credit so much of what makes me great to him. I haven’t left that behind and I don’t intend to. I suppose there is no answer. Decades may pass, but that time will always be a part of who I am. It will always be a defining period of my life that taught me so much. But the balance is so hard to strike and it’s a quest I’m struggling to navigate.

This week has been filled with excessive memories. Today I drove past a cemetery and I was catapulted back to that night. Suddenly I was awash with what ifs. I should have said this or I should have said that. I should have stayed with his body longer. I should have forced him to take his medication. I should have focused more on CPR and less on being naked. I shouldn’t have taken my hands from his chest to verify that the noise I heard was in fact his bodily functions letting go of themselves. I should have kissed him as he took that last breath. Worse, I should have not woken him. Had I not woken him when I heard him gasping for breath he would have passed away peacefully in his sleep never knowing what was happening. He’d have gone to sleep to never wake up and he loved sleep. Instead he awoke to a jolt when I shook him and was terrified. He looked at me with pained, knowing eyes. He knew he was dying. He knew that was the last time he’d see me. And perhaps most painfully for him, he knew what was coming for me. He knew the pain I was about to feel and he would have endured anything in the world to avoid bestowing that on me. I should have just let him sleep.

And where am I now? I’m in this awkward limbo between letting go and holding on. How can I explain that just because I refuse to be 31 and miserable doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten what I had. And by that, mostly, I mean how do I convince myself? I know what I want. I know there is nothing wrong with moving on.  Whether that is by being alone and happy or paired off and happy, there’s nothing wrong with it. But I can’t shake the perception that comes with moving on before the firsts have been completed. My ex-mother in-law hasn’t moved on. My friend’s mom lost her husband a decade ago. She hasn’t moved on. But I am? Does that make it look like I loved less? I know it doesn’t, but I unfortunately care that it may seem that way to some. It’s a mess.

So, for my leave people with something positive spin, I don’t have a lot. But I do have something. In ten months I have grown more than in my entire life. I’ve learned to embrace every rainbow life offers. I’ve learned to give one more hug. I’ve learned to tell those closest to you how much they mean to you. I’ve learned to live every single day to the fullest. But most of all, I’ve learned to take all of those conflicting emotions and set them aside. Because when push comes to shove, only I know what is best for me. And Jon knows what he meant to me. What anyone else thinks is irrelevant. Even though I seem to weight it. Life is precious. Live it, even in the face of adversity. It’s not always easy, but I’m doing my best. I hope you, whoever you are, whatever your story is, do the same.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Inspiration from other widows, hope it helps

I haven't written in this blog in a while because I haven't felt like I needed to. I don't feel like I need to tonight. But after spending a decent amount of time today reading other people's blogs who are going through similar situations, I felt like I was neglecting something that was important to me.

This blog started out as my therapy - a way to get my thoughts out of my heart and onto something else entirely. In the back of my mind I took solace in knowing that somehow I may be making someone else feel less alone. Over the months the necessity of externalizing my feelings became less and less important and I lost sight of one of my main goals - to share my story to help other people. After reading those blogs today I realized several things.

The first thing I realized was that all of the things I've felt are not weird even though I thought they were. Two blogs stuck out to me. The first was a woman who found out her husband had been having an affair. The day after she learned this terrible news he committed suicide. She wrote that instead of getting divorced, she planned a funeral. And yet three years later she is still grieving his loss - adultery or not. The second was gut wrenching. I read every word of this woman's blog through tears. She and her husband had been trying for six months to get pregnant. They finally did. And then ten days after they learned the happy news, he passed away in his sleep from a heart complication. The death was eerily similar to Jon's and the way she handled it, as described in her blog, was too. But her path was so different. She spent the hardest part of her journey being pregnant with a child who would never know her father. She went to birthing classes with her sister instead of her husband. She had to battle with the fatigue of grief on top of the fatigue of pregnancy and then, one day, she had to have that little girl without him by her side and raise that child as a single parent.

Her story brought me to where I am tonight. The frustration. Not too long ago I had a partner to share all of life's burdens with me. My oldest daughter has been preparing for a play for months. The play finally went off this weekend and it was wonderful. But getting to this weekend has been a flurry of rushed evenings with peanut butter and jelly sandwich dinners. My youngest plays hockey and has practices and games constantly. My middle has been battling grief the hardest and has been regularly seeing a therapist. And I work full time in a career that doesn't lend well to bending. What does all this equal? One very stretched thin mom, that's what. And it wasn't until reading these two blogs that I remembered I was pissed. I had forgotten that ten months ago Jon would have shared in the responsibility. He would have coordinated with me on a daily basis. Who's picking up who? Who is going to the theater and who is going to hockey? Who will go to the honors ceremony at the end of the grading period at school? Who will stay home when one of them is sick? These questions used to be questions. Now they have a very simple and maddening answer. Me. Me. Me. Me. 

But I forgot that made me mad and I forgot because I've gotten used to it. That's a wonderful thing. It's a wonderful feeling. But it's also wretched. I know I haven't forgotten him and all he did for our family. My friends know I haven't forgotten. My family knows I haven't forgotten. But I did, to an extent. I became OK with his absence. I'm not remorseful that I have. I'm glad I have and I know he would be too. But it's another of the reasons I've been reluctant to blog. What does it look like to strangers that in less than a year I have found a way to live my life without constant misery? Sure there are moments. Tonight at my oldest daughter's play, I missed him. I missed him because I know he would have been proud. I missed him more because I know we would have made countless inappropriate comments before, during and after the show. Because the ride home would have been a flurry of jokes we all would have laughed at. Because I sat there without his hand to hold when my eyes teared up with pride. Because he wasn't there to slap me out of my mom overreaction that my little girl isn't a little girl. But I only thought about those things for a second before I found a seat next to parents I knew and enjoyed some of those things with them instead. I didn't just get through it, I enjoyed it. How do you explain that to people who think you should still be in shambles?

I want to talk about the shambles I'm still in, because that's still there. But I also want to talk about why I'm not in shambles. I'll lede with the good.

One more reason I haven't blogged is because I've been dating. My friends and family know this and are happy I am. HIS friends and family don't know and I didn't want them to. I'm alright with them knowing now. Dating again was never a question of if for me. It has always been a question of when. It lingered in the back of my mind within just days of Jon's death. I was 30. Of course I'd date again. But on top of that, he told me to. He literally, on more than one occasion, told me that if this ever happened (and he morbidly assured me it would) that I find a way to find happiness again. I think I started dating sooner than I would have had he not told me because I'm trying to fulfill a promise to him in some way. He wants me to be happy. So I ventured into that world with blind ambition that it would be all sunshine and rainbows. Oh, how wrong I was. I met guys who were out for only one thing. Jerks. I met guys who were out and out crazy. I met guys who were alright, but just not for me. I met guys who were great, but who freaked out when they found out I had three kids. Another freaked out when I told him about Jon. Yet another thought the world of me but didn't want the things I wanted. Dinners, drinks, cups of coffee. These are the things that have comprised my dating experience thus far and it hasn't been pretty. And, admittedly, these categories each contain one guy, not guys. I'm not that busy! But somewhere around a month and half ago I stopped caring. I stopped analyzing things over said cups of coffee. I decided, and I couldn't tell you at what point I decided it, that it didn't matter what happened after the cup of joe. Instead I figured, hey, just have fun. I don't know where that attitude will get me, but I can say, I have found myself again. Not through companionship like I had been searching for, but by just letting go of expectations and having fun. So far, that seems to be serving me well. I have more motivation. I smile more. I laugh more. I spend more quality time with my kids. And, I think, it's making this dating fiasco quite a bit more enjoyable.   I have never been happier or felt fuller than I have for the past few weeks. And that came not because I had someone on my arm, but because I could have someone on my arm if I wanted to, but I don't need them there.

And now for the lingering bad. Fucking panic attacks. I can be having the best day in the world. I can start off happy and laughing. I can feel like a million bucks. But regardless, I can still find myself in the throws of anxiety, trying to breathe, trying to push the panic from my thoughts, pacing, crying. And the shit kicker of it all is, I have no earthly idea what triggers it. People close to me have their theories. Memories they say. One person explained to me that something could trigger a memory without me even knowing it and that's what gets me going. I don't think so. I think it's much simpler than that. When I was still in the worst part of my grief I had several panic attacks. I would flash back to the night Jon died and I would remember every agonizing detail of that night. I would find myself short of breath, clutching my chest because it felt like it was collapsing. It felt like I was having a heart attack. It felt like I was going to die. Those attacks were the most terrifying things I had ever experienced. So my theory is, every time I get a weird tinge of pain - it can be the start of a headache, the jitters from too much coffee or even a sore chest from working out - I think it's happening again. That's when I think my mind takes over and things get out of control from there. My therapist told me once that people who have had panic attacks will probably have them for the rest of their lives. That's because they fear going through them so when something happens that seem like it could be the start of one, it turns into one. I'm trying to teach myself to talk myself off that ledge. 

There have been days when an ambulance soars past me and suddenly I'm right back to that horrible night. In those moments, I can't stop the flood of painful memories. The noises Jon made while he was gasping for breath. The jolt that washed over me as I rushed out of bed, phone in hand, after him. The shaking of my hands as I dialed 911. The sound of the voice on the other end of the phone walking me through what to do. The call to his parents. The call to my friends. The ambulance ride to the hospital. The words I dreaded hearing. All of it comes crashing down on me. That doesn't give me a panic attack, but one cup of coffee too many does. A hangover. A sore stomach. A headache. Those give me panic attacks. I am convinced that I have moved passed emotional triggers and am now just battling physical ones. 

So that brings me back to why I'm writing this in the first place. There are people I don't want to read this. Jon's family, first and foremost. I miss them so much it hurts. I watch his nephew grow through Facebook photos and see them all interacting with each other the way they once interacted with me and now don't and it hurts. I don't want them to think I've moved on because then I may really lose them. There's the person I'm seeing at the moment. I don't know if that will go anywhere or not, but I worry reading this would be, bad pun aside, a nail in the coffin for whatever chance there is. But I don't care. I'm not doing this for myself. I'm doing it because there has to be some sense out of what horrible thing our family endured. Somewhere someone will read this and take at least some comfort. I can't give anyone the answers to grief. I can't tell them what to do or when to do it. We all move at different speeds and in different ways. But I can serve as a reminder that shit happens and people move on. I'll never stop loving Jon. I will love him until the day I die. I will remember him forever and my kids will remember him forever. But we will still lead wonderful lives. My life with Jon is over. I didn't want it to be over, but it is. I can't change that and looking back wishing for it to be different will only keep me from happiness. All I can do is move forward and I have become very good at doing that. I embrace the new life I have. I look forward to the future and the possibilities it has. And I will keep doing that until the day comes when I have someone to share that with. And when that does happen, I'll start yet another chapter in my life. No one should have to go through what I and so many others in this situation have gone through, but it's not the end of the world. And I promise you, whoever may read this trying to navigate this unfamiliar world, people like us will be better and stronger for it. We were chosen for a reason. That may seem really shitty, it sure does to me, but the world doesn't give you more than you can handle. We are special people charged with showing the rest of the world how important it is to live. We have a finite time on this earth. We'd better damn well make the best of it.

My promise to myself and anyone reading this tonight is to not lag on writing anymore. I have a purpose, and I intend to fill it.

To you Jon, I'm still working on that promise. To some extent I've fulfilled it. You wanted me to be happy. I am happy. I miss you, but I'm happy. Perhaps happier than I knew I could be. Not because you're gone, but because you were here.

Here's to the next chapter and all the chapters to come. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A changed life that hasn’t really changed

A habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change. That’s the definition of rut and it’s what I’m in.

The loss of a partner is a life altering event. In the blink of an eye, everything that you once knew is gone and you are forced to “find a new normal.” The things you once had help with are now on your shoulders. The companionship you once took for granted goes away. The routines you once had are often no longer possible to maintain. But three months later, I am still clinging to the life I had and desperately trying not to let go of it. I still feel, for the most part, like I’m half of an amazing relationship. That’s, of course, despite the fact that I find myself thinking more and more about the possibility of being, maybe not half, but part of another amazing relationship.

I come home to the same house and the same things and not much has changed. My home still looks mostly the way it did when Jon was here. I say things that came from him. I talk about him like he were still here. I say to the kids, “what did Jon tell you about climbing on the furniture?” I think I should be able to come home and “hit the gym.” I think about calling him or texting him or sending him an IM on gmail. I think about the plans we would have made. A cold front rolled through our Florida town and, finally, it stopped feeling like summer. The air is dry and slightly cool. I’m almost, almost chilly outside and all I could think was, “it’s camping weather!”

But that’s not my life anymore. I’m not a fiancĂ© or a wife. Hell, I’m not even a widow even though that’s what I say. I’m a single mom. I’m back in the game, like it or not. But how do you embrace both the good and the bad that comes with that when you still feel like you’re simultaneously still living the old life?
There was no transition. No sickness to prepare me. It was just getting married one moment and then all alone the next. And I guess that’s the new conflict I’m facing; I want to hit the play button and get on with my life, but the old life was never paused. It leaves me in a place where, in one instant I can be caking on makeup because maybe, just maybe, there might be a suitable bachelor at that story I’m covering today and then the next I’m flooded with memories that feel like they’re going to lend to new memories.

I feel like a need a whole new life, a fresh start. A growing part of me wants to discard all the things that were and just start from scratch – a new place, a new job, a new life; one defined by me and not a collaboration. But that is scary and probably ill advised and more appropriately, not really an option.
I made the decision to move back to my dad’s house. It’s not far. I can still keep the same job and the kids can still stay in the same school. It’s a large-ish house that has plenty of room for us and it’s mutually beneficial for both my father and I. I’ll have a support network that I’m severely lacking at the moment. If I want to get out with some friends, there will be an adult in the house in case the kids need something. I have friends on the block who I can share a laugh or a drink or both with at the end of the day. It’s a good choice, a solid choice, but I want more than that.

I want to forget – not Jon’s life, but his death. I want to forget that I’m broken. I want to forget the pain. I want to replace it with happiness. I still can’t get past the fact that people like me deserve more than anyone to have happiness catapulted right into our lives. We, the widowers of the world, have had to endure the unthinkable and we do our best to not just survive it, but kick its ass. We shouldn’t have to wait for happy.  It’s a process they say. If you tell someone who hasn’t lost the way that I’ve lost that’s it’s been three months they automatically think, “wow, it’s so fresh, you’re still healing.” But to be in my shoes, they would know that three months of battling the emotional rollercoaster that is grief feels like an eternity. It’s time already. It’s my time. I’m not a religious person, quite the opposite really, but if I were I would think Jon is somewhere looking over me and making sure I’m OK. But that’s just one more reason to reject the spiritual claims that there is some purpose. If he had any control, if he were looking out for me from some heaven or various other spiritual realm, he’d have dropped something awesome in my lap. Maybe not a potential suitor, but something. A job opportunity. A winning lotto ticket. A surprise adventure. Something. But since the day he died my life has been nothing but one seemingly insurmountable challenge after another.

I’m in a rut and I’m grasping at straws to get out of it. The kicker is, I have found a new normal. It fucking sucks. My life now consists of nothing but responsibility. Time for fun is all but gone. Socialization has dwindled to depressing levels. Friends who were once around all the time are now moving on to other things and have become less and less frequent forces in my life. I wake up in the morning. I get my kids to school. I go to work. I come home. I cook dinner – not the culinary masterpieces I used to make. I sign homework. I read stories. I get the kids in bed. I do dishes. I make important phone calls and do laundry. I feed the dog. I maybe putts around on the computer for a bit or watch whatever looks mildly entertaining on Netflix. I go to bed. Rinse and repeat. What kind of life is that? It’s my depressingly dull new normal, that’s what it is.

But Janelle, you have to learn to be alone. What kind of lesson is that? Is that a joke? Shitty lessons are for my kids who are embarking on a process that will teach them to be reasonable adults not for the grown up who cares for them who’s already had to endure those shitty lessons and then some.  That’s like telling me I have to be miserable for a pre-determined amount of time before I’m allowed to be a normal thirty year old again. I guess I’ll never really be normal after all of this, but I can be close to it or, hell, better for it. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to come home to the same tired routines day in and day out with little help and then be mocked by the “well, at least you have your girls” spiel. Of course I’m glad I have my girls. I love them and they have saved me in so many ways. But it’s not the same.

These words of wisdom come from people who either have someone at home waiting for them, often as they’re sitting there hand in hand, or from people who have open doors all over the fucking place – people who can go out and explore their lonely life. Fuck the happy people. I want a jaded, lonely, miserable person to sit down on my couch with me to drink one glass of wine too many with me and tell me that I’m right, life is a bitch and for that person to not try to tell me why I should stop feeling sorry for myself. I don’t want anecdotes about how lucky I was and how much I still have. I want someone to acknowledge that they’re glad it’s me and not them because, who could ever handle this shit storm that is my life?

Don’t get me wrong, I have this amazing support network of people ready and willing to help me in any way they can. I’m so very grateful for that. But it’s not enough and I feel like I’m a burden always whining about the bad and neglecting the good. I say please and thank you and I try to reciprocate whenever possible. But at what point does the compassion turn into an annoying burden that no one wants? They all think I’m doing “surprisingly well.” They’re proud of me, but it’s fake because I’m fake. My level of OKness is fake. I just a new life. I want their lives. The lives where this terrible thing happened, but you forget it the same way you forget about it when a show you really like gets cancelled.

I have gotten fairly acquainted with the fact that I lost Jon and I’ve learned to live without him, but I can’t get over the level of suck that exists in the miserable loneliness that is being a single parent. I didn’t choose to be single the way that a woman who divorces her husband does. I’ve done that. It sucked, but not like this. In that example, there were still memories both fond and otherwise, but the otherwise feelings are what remind you that you’re working toward something better. In my current situation, there is not working toward something better because I was perfectly ecstatic about my old life.

I just want something good to happen. They say you can’t wait for good things to happen, you have to make them happen. But whoever they are also say you can’t force your way into happiness. So which is it? Do I sit around and wait for it or do I go out and look for it. I’m inclined to think the latter, but how the hell can you do that when you literally have no time to go out and get anything? The proverbial catch 22 in which I am currently trapped is my prison. I am and always have been a good person. Better than a good person, I’ve been a great person. I’m strong, smart, mildly funny and I’ve always treated people better than I expect to be treated. I don’t deserve this. It’s not fair, it’s cruel.

I said to a friend last night that Jon made me realize when he came along that I didn’t need rescuing. I’d like to think I don’t need rescuing now, but I suspect maybe I do. I’m trying really hard to rescue myself, but it would sure be nice if someone or several someones came along to do the rescuing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lonely is my new normal

Sometimes it’s not so bad, nice even. Some nights I lose myself in a book or a TV show or movie and a much needed glass of wine. Baths and music have become my friends. They’re  always there. I don’t have to call them. I don’t have to plead with them to come hang out with me because I can’t go to them.

But sometimes it really, really sucks.

Tonight seems to be one of those nights. I’m coming off a really great day. Yesterday I spent the afternoon running errands with my girls getting ready for Halloween and grocery shopping, and best, getting myself set up for my latest attempt at a hobby – cycling. After, I went for a long ride with music in my ear and wind in my face. It was liberating. I came home feeling like I could conquer the world. I cooked. I cleaned. I did laundry. I enjoyed myself. But today, that high is gone. I want so badly to hop on the bike again, despite my sore butt. I want to recapture that feeling of independence and the rush of adrenaline. But I can’t. I have to get the kids ready for bed and make sure their homework is done and signed. I suppose I could go for a ride after they’ve gone to bed, but leaving them in the house alone after dark seems both irresponsible and scary. Not to mention the fact that the idea of riding at night alone also doesn’t seem the safest move. So here I am, yet again, all alone in what has become a consistent solitude that weighs on me every single day.

Obviously I miss Jon. But more and more each day it’s not just him that I miss – it’s the life that comes with sharing your life. I no longer have anyone to share it with – not a grown up anyway. It used to be I’d come home and we had our rituals. There was always another grown up to talk to; always someone to watch a movie with and someone to share my bed. Now there’s just me and a heap of responsibility that drowns me more every day.

I have accepted that he’s not coming back and I’ve learned to be at least somewhat OK with that. I’ve learned to look forward to a future without him in it instead of dreading it. But I can’t get over the pain that comes with, in an instant, going from being half of a partnership to all of what should be a partnership. I loathe the fact that I have to take on responsibilities that were once someone else’s. I hate even more not being able to talk to someone about it at night. I hate not being able to share jokes he would have thought were funny. I miss being able to vent about my day at will without feeling like I’m burdening unwelcoming ears.

I find myself just wanting the companionship. I’ve discarded the longing for him and replaced it with a longing for just anyone at all. I cling to whatever person seems willing to offer an ear. I exploit those who show the slightest sign of offering company. I make more of new friendships than they should be. It seems terribly pathetic sometimes, but I just want someone to be here and I don’t want them to leave and I’ve suddenly taken this stance that it doesn’t matter who it is.

To put it simply, I want a boyfriend. But do I really? I can’t quite figure that out. I want to go to bed next to someone and wake up in the morning next to them. I want someone to just be around – gently brushing my hair out of my face when I least expect it, pecking me on the cheek just because, playing with my kids so we can all feel just a little normal again and offering to help when things get just a little too heavy for me. Jon was all those things and more. I don’t want to replace him, but I want those comforts back. I worked hard for them. I invested time into getting them and it just doesn’t seem fair that I should have to go through that process all over again.

I’m thirty years old and already I’ve been divorced twice and lost the man who was to be husband number three – the one who would actually work out. We were supposed to spend a lifetime together. His lifetime being snuffed short was not part of the equation and now I’m back to square one. Meanwhile, it seems like the world keeps spinning for everyone else. People my age are getting married or starting families. I had all that and then it was yanked away from me and I want it back. And I don’t want to have to work quite so hard for it again. I know that is unreasonable and I remind myself every single day. I try to take a step back and look at things logically – that what Jon and I had doesn’t just fall in your lap. But he did. I mean, it took two and a half years to get engaged, but it only took a couple of weeks for him to be that guy; the guy who wanted to be with me all the time and didn’t mind if it was shared time with my kids. Is it so much that I want another situation like that to fall in my lap again? Is it really so unhealthy? After everything I’ve been through, don’t I deserve that?

Hell, I don’t even want as much as Jon offered. I just want to feel close to someone again. I want to feel like there’s a person who can’t wait to see me or talk to me. I know it’s too soon to jump to the conclusion that that won’t exist for me, but it’s so hard to not think that. And what happened with Jon is not the norm. Most relationships take time to develop over time right? Or is the fact that we fast tracked everything a testament to why we worked so well? If it doesn’t take off like that, does it mean it’s not worth it? So many of the people I know well who are in loving, seemingly healthy relationships moved at a pace not all that different than Jon and I.

I just feel like I’m in a prison of solitude. I have so many things to be grateful for – my kids, my wonderful friends, my supportive family – but none of those things fills the hole that was once filled by being a part of an awesome freaking relationship. No matter how much I adapt to being just me, no amount of soul searching can fill that void.

What if Jon was the only man I was supposed to be with and this is my new life? I don’t like it and I don’t want it. I want there to be someone else out there that can make me feel whole the way he did. But what if there just isn’t anyone? Or what if they live in, like, France or something? Being single without kids lends to that search. Being single with kids doesn’t. You don’t meet people when you can barely leave your house. Everyone says to focus on my kids. Funny that many of those well-meaning advice givers don’t have kids and are in happy, healthy relationships with a partner who is, you know, not dead. Try that advice on in my shoes and it no longer makes much sense. Of course I’m going to focus on my kids. I always have and I always will. But that can’t be someone’s entire life. I have to have something outside of mom, housekeeper, chef, breadwinner and tutor. My kids are great and I love being with them, but it’s not the same when there isn’t anyone to share in the joys of raising them. 

If my life were a typical, forgettable movie or sitcom, I would be the sympathetic character. The girl who everyone knows deserves something awesome. The kind-hearted, funny, refreshing character that you want to find happiness. There’d be a period in the movie where that character struggled, but then everything would fall into place and what she wanted most in the world would happen.  So, when does that happen? Because I’m really fucking ready for the credits to roll.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Old words, new messages

I’ve been thinking about upcoming holidays and in thinking about them, one comes to mind as being particularly difficult: Thanksgiving.

It’s a day to give thanks for all of the blessings in your life. What’s difficult when you’ve only just recently lost someone important to you is to find much of anything to be thankful for. It’s easy to overlook that there are still things.

Not being a particularly religious person, my Thanksgiving rituals with my girls have focused less on religious affirmations and prayers and more on being thankful for the things that we have. Every year, I have everyone around the table say what they are thankful for; a tradition I’m sure is common on this particular day. I’ve tried to imagine what I will say and what my girls will say when we’ve lost so much and are drowning in a world filled with endless cruelty. What do we have to be thankful for when so much has been taken from us? And in thinking about that, I’ve realized that there is still so much. So, I’ve come up with some thoughts that I want to share now, so that I have the strength to share them then.

I know I’ve probably written about this before, but it’s worth repeating. There are a lot of memories I have of Jon and none of them is more important than another. But there is one that seems more significant in a scenario of giving thanks.

Before Jon, I was in a terribly abusive relationship. Not physically, but emotionally. It ended abruptly and painfully and I was lost in a new world of loneliness and rejection. Shortly after I started dating Jon he planned what was probably one of the most romantic nights I have ever had. He made a picnic on the rooftop of the apartment where he lived. He took me up there and I found two chairs at the edge of the roof overlooking the entire downtown skyline and you could just barely see the water a few blocks down the road. He had strawberries and cheese and crackers and beer and wine so I could have whatever I was in the mood for that night – you never knew. He didn’t know all of what I had been through, just that it was awful. I told him every detail even though I was ashamed and embarrassed. I felt like I could trust him. I felt like he’d understand that it didn’t make me a bad person that bad things were done to me. After hours talking on the roof that night, we climbed back down to go back to his apartment. As we were standing in front of his doorway, him fumbling for his keys to let us in, I said to him that I wished I could take it all back and make it so it never happened. He stopped fumbling with the keys to look at me, and with what seemed like arms growing out of his ears he said to me, “I don’t.”

More arms grew out of his ears and I scoffed, “why would you not want me to be able to take away such an awful experience?” His answer was endearing at the time, but eerily relevant now, “because it made you who you are now, the person that I’m falling in love with, and if it didn’t happen, maybe you wouldn’t be so perfect for me.”

I’ve thought about those words before; before he was gone. I’ve always thought of his wisdom and been impressed. But now, well, they seem even more wise. What happened to me before Jon did change me and in retrospect made me a better and stronger person. It made me want to be better. Now the terrible thing that happened isn’t the loss of an abusive relationship, it’s the loss of the best one I’ve ever had. The loss of a relationship that grew me as a person; one that helped my children be better people too. But the experience, once I’ve sufficiently survived, will have made me stronger, maybe even better. And it will do that for my girls too. There’s no arguing that Jon’s presence in our life was a powerful and bettering force, but to imagine his loss as being a similar force is hard to swallow. But if we don’t better ourselves for him, what is the point in his loss?

I used to believe that everything happens for a reason. Not necessarily that there is some grand purpose in our lives, but that in a holistic sense, we are all predestined to only be handed that which we can endure. All of our triumphs and challenges are part of a process. This, quite clearly, has become a part of our process – mine, my girls’, his parents and siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. His being here was part of that process too.

And already, I’ve found myself a different person. Things that once peeved me no longer do. Things that seemed burdensome seem mundane. Working late is welcomed now. I have a new sense of need to accomplish more – for me, but more so for Jon because it’s what he would want. My girls remind me sometimes that Jon told them and taught them certain things. Don’t try to put the whole ravioli in your mouth, cut it first. Don’t stall when it’s time to go to bed. And a common sentence has popped up in our house that always begins with the words, “what would Jon say?”

I carry the prayer card from his funeral in my purse and I look at it often. We joke about the typo – open your yes – but the first words on that card are so relevant, “you can shed a tear because I’m gone or you can smile because I was here.” What more is there to be thankful for to have had a soul like Jon’s in your life?

If anything, I’m left with regret that he didn’t get to see things through. He didn’t get to see me walk down the aisle. He didn’t get to see me in my wedding dress. He didn’t get to have that first fight as a married couple or enjoy all the things we had planned for retirement. He didn’t get to watch the girls grow up or teach them to drive a stick shift the way he so looked forward to. He won’t get to see them graduate from high school or college or know what it feels like to have grandchildren. He didn’t get to take that cross country cycling tour we planned for once the kids were all out of the house. These were all things we talked about late at night when we should have been sleeping and I’m pissed that the universe robbed him of those opportunities. But without me, without the girls, he wouldn’t have ever known what it was to really love. He wouldn’t have known what it was like to be a dad; to know that it can be simultaneously maddening and rewarding. He wouldn’t have known that he was better than answering phones and talking to morons all day long. He wouldn’t have known that there was a life for him outside of video games. He wouldn’t have known that he was the smartest, most capable man to ever walk the planet – at least in someone’s eyes. I gave him that. He died with love in his heart. He died proud of himself for probably the first time in his life. He went to sleep that night excited for our girls to come home and with the thought that we were going to immediately take them camping to show them all the things we had seen. He died knowing that, for the first time in his life, he could give the people closest to him the experiences that we once daydreamed about, but couldn’t afford. Hell, we even had a conversation about Lexi’s first car.

We gave him that. We gave him happiness. He gave us happiness. And he didn’t take it away when he left. He just postponed it a bit. It’s still there.

So, for all that rambling, here’s what I’m thankful for:

I’m thankful for the love I never thought I’d find

I’m thankful for the strength I never believed I had

I’m thankful for the lessons I never could have shared

I’m thankful for the memories I never thought I’d have

I’m thankful for the person I never thought I’d be

I’m thankful for the family I never knew existed

I’m thankful for being loved in a way I never knew I could

I’m thankful for the independence I never knew existed

Most of all I’m thankful for the future I know he’ll help me find.

I’m thankful for having three years of wisdom to guide me through all the times I forget I’m grateful.

I’m thankful for Jon.

Thank you baby, for leaving me with so many things to be thankful for and only one to regret, that I can’t tell you in person and that I never got the chance to realize just how much it meant to be a part of your life. I know you knew, but I never told you in so many words. You’re gone, but never forgotten.

I will always love you, but I will continue to live and give thanks. To you and to everything you left.