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.