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 fiancé 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.