Day 122: bachelor living

My house is a disaster area right now. I have boxes everywhere since I am making an attempt to keep battling my husband’s clutter that I inherited. There’s a weird smell in the fridge I have been trying to pinpoint but nothing is an obvious offender. I’ve been sniff testing way too many articles of clothing. The floors are atrocious and the carpets are littered in white fluff of a toy that the dogs decided simply no longer deserved to exist. See? I guess Christmas decorating has happened in the house as it resembles little patches of white snow. When I get the mail, I throw junk mail on the floor of the passenger seat since no one needs the legroom there anymore. I have pretty much accepted I have become a 20 year old male slob in the body of a 36 year old widow. And you know what? I don’t give a damn.

Life has become about survival. Every single day is a challenge in one way or another. If I am so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and staying the course to find a life worth living again, who cares if it gets messy along the way? It is an appropriate reflection of the state of my new life right now. But, I think a bit of me does care because I find myself almost wishing for a meth habit so I can straighten up this house and make it sparkle the way I like it to, but in all honesty I’m just too tired to handle it. Therefore, for now, I am okay with the mess. I’ll chip away at it bit by bit until I no longer am surrounded by squalor, much as I chip away at my grief and misery as I let light into my life. Right now, that light simply seems to illuminate just how far I have to go, but it is better than living in never ending darkness.

Good thing for today: I had a good week at work and got some positive recognition. It meant a lot to know I am getting back on track there.

Day 119: me – 1, underwear – 0

Now that title probably reads a bit more pervy than intended, but as I did win a major mental battle, it remains as the theme of today. Yesterday, I started getting sick. I had the shocking realization that this was the first time I have been sick since July, which is nothing short of a miracle considering my sporadic sleeping and eating habits I have adopted. By the time I got home, it was pretty clear there was no wishing away the phlegm building up in my chest or my raspy cough. Being sick and widowed sucks. I was used to having someone to whine to “take care of me!”. I looked at the dogs, but knew none of them would be of any help.

This morning, it wasn’t any better so I called into work sick. As the day wore on, I started feeling better. I started thinking about the state of the house with portions of it set aside as some sort of cluttered, perverse museum of his life- of our life together. I have been really focused on trying accept that no matter how much I may long for it, that time is over. So I grabbed a newly purchased storage bin and entered the bedroom.

I haven’t slept in that bed more than a couple times since he died, but I suddenly want to get back to it and reclaim it. I began piling his shirts into a bin and had an odd experience. I expected to cry and to have to give up with barely anything done. Instead, each shirt I touched brought back a happy memory of us and of him. I found myself smiling as I packed things away, wrapped in the warmth of my own thoughts. I then realized if I was in a good mindset, there was something I finally felt ready to do. I grabbed a bag, went into the bathroom, and gathered up the now almost four month old pile of his dirty underwear I’ve been unable to bring myself to clean up and put them inside the bag. My head buzzed momentarily as I tried to decide if this was really what I wanted to do. I realized it was.

You see, my husband loved things, but these things are not him. He is not simply a pile of underwear or a funny t-shirt or silly stuffed animal. He is not a wedding ring or video game or blanket. He is the biggest influence on the woman I am today, which means my choices to live, love, and laugh ARE him. Everything else is just details.

Good thing for today: I had a long talk with a friend who lets me laugh, cry, or say nothing- such a gift right now.

Day 114: the weight of emptiness

I just finished a really good, cleansing cry. It is funny how going through this has made me realize there are different kinds of tears. There are the silent tears that fall against your will, sliding down your cheeks undisturbed and somehow reaching the corners of your mouth, at which point you are reminded to rub them away from your face. There are the desperate tears that demand utter surrender and seem to come from the deepest pits of anguish like an unstoppable flow of lava. Then there are the cleansing tears. Like a cry of anguish, you have to give into it but after, somehow you feel a little bit better, if only just slightly.

I had a dinner tonight with friends tonight. I had been doing better with getting used to being just me, but tonight was hard. I felt really alone. The weight of my husband’s absence weighed on me so heavily I considered leaving several times. I didn’t leave. I tried to joke and smile and be the old me with old friends, but instead I was reminded I am not the old me any more. The old me would have had my husband to verbally spar with, to pick up on the punchlines of my jokes and lovingly squeeze my hand as though to congratulate me for being clever. Tonight, I didn’t feel clever. I felt like my thoughts were wading through a chest high pit of mud. My heart hurt.

As I struggled with trying to find my footing in this strange old world, I suddenly realized no one even mentioned him. I was sitting there picking at my spinach enchiladas feeling like I was screaming and pounding my fists against my carefully maintained calm expression, just daring someone to say his name- to acknowledge how wrong everything is. No one did. And that, ladies and gentleman, is how people let you know they have moved on from their pain. Sure, at the end of the night I got tight hugs which was nice, but time has clearly marched on. That is hard to accept.

When I got home, I let myself cry. It began as anguish but slowly turned into cleansing tears. I took a few deep breaths and realized people moving on is not such a bad thing. We can’t live in the past. The option to do so is not even on the table. All we have is right now, this moment, because there is no guarantee there are more moments to come. I have not accepted my loss, but I have accepted that no one, no matter how powerful or weak, has any control over their fate so it is all about making the choices that make us feel alive right now. That is what I plan to do.

Good thing for today: I stepped out of my comfort zone and actually interacted with my neighbors. It was pleasant.

Day 111: progress

I’ve had a few milestones that felt as insurmountable as the world’s highest peak but to most people were simply anthills. A few days ago, I finally turned the tv off. I hated the silence of solitude so much I had not turned it off since July 26th. It was on when I was awake, when I slept, when I was home, and when I was away. It was a constant distraction from what was missing, even if it was impossible to really forget.

I have also started sleeping with the lights off. Living alone with no warning it is going to happen is incredibly frightening. Each sound was unexplainable and somehow the light drove away at least a little bit of my fear. I am losing some of my fear.

Not everything is roses, though. I still have rooms to go through, piles to dispose of that I still simply cannot move, and ghosts to make peace with. I would like to say I am closer to being ready to deal with all of that, but truthfully I am not. There is some finality to the exercise of deciding the fate of his things. As much as I intellectually accept that things are as final as final can be, emotionally I can’t commit to doing things that would move me into that phase of acceptance.

Good thing for the day: I have learned to accept happiness when it comes and not question it.

Day 107: strange days indeed

No, I did not fall of the face of the Earth. I’ve just been really tied up lately. For once it’s mostly good stuff and not more weight on my shoulders. I have a lot of hope for the future right now. It is new and kind of scary, but I want that feeling to stick around. Typically, the thought of possibly decades alone is scary but I am starting to see there are a lot of possibilities. I wish I had a time machine to go back and stop this reality from ever coming to be, but the fact is this is my life now and I can either wallow, or I can pick myself up and let myself be open to opportunities. My husband died. That impossible, devastating truth is still so hard to grasp and I have such a long way to go for me to really come to terms with that. I know that my grief over his death will be lifelong companion that has replaced his physical presence, but I am going to make that companion someone I can live with and carry along with me in all of my future adventures. Some days that companion will demand I sit with it and offer seemingly endless tears as tribute. Some days it will stand idly by, quietly whispering “I’m still here”, but perhaps taking some satisfaction from me choosing life and to live… to thrive… to never forget.

Good thing for today: I had a few good talks with a friend that is a very positive influence on me in this journey.

Day 100: triple digits, triple sad

Lately I’ve felt like I was turning the corner a bit on my devastation. I still cry a few times a day, but the recovery is quicker. I still am alone a lot, but I have been putting myself out there. Today was not just three steps back, it felt like it was 100 steps back.

I woke up and felt like I did not want to go to work at all. It is not an unusual feeling but I usually power through and go and it all turns out okay. I figured today would be the same thing. I begrudgingly got dressed and headed out the door. I got in the car, backed out of the driveway, and noticed that the neighbors had already begun putting up Christmas decorations. I hate that. At least wait until after Thanksgiving! I took a picture, uploaded it to Facebook, and took off driving. I started thinking about how my husband and I would laugh at the craziness of their elaborate display. We learned early on there was no competing, so we instead decided to go the tacky route with our decorations. We have pink flamingos, pigs, and chickens all donning Santa hats. We always loved putting those out together and wondered what they thought of our meager tackiness. The more I thought about this, the sadder I got. The tears started but I kept on driving. It was not the first or last time I would cry on my way to work, I could do this.

As I pressed on, I started getting slapped with memories of the hospital and the doctor telling me he was gone. It was like I was trapped in that horrible moment and couldn’t claw my way out. My vision blurred with tears and I did something I hadn’t done before. I grabbed my phone and called my manager. I tried to control my voice as I said I needed to go home but couldn’t. I just sobbed. It was humiliating. She told me to go home and take the day and not to worry about it. Since then, I have been in ball of tears on the couch.

I know I am allowed to do this sometimes, but I still feel bad I couldn’t make myself get through the day. Let’s hope getting all of this crap out of my system today makes day 101 a better day.

Good thing for today: A friend managed to make me laugh and smile, which on a day like today, is a welcome gift.

Day 99: mine

Yesterday was eventful day. I had lunch with a friend at a local casino, won $400, went shopping, and then watched some other friends compete in a fitness competition. It was the direct opposite of last weekend when I got home Friday night, put my pajamas on, and then didn’t remove them until Monday morning for a, let’s face it, long overdue shower. It was a good day, even if I still cried in the morning, driving, and when I got home.

When I set out to leave yesterday, on a whim I decided to take my husband’s jeep. Friends have been helping with starting it and driving it around a little since it has been too hard for me to do it. He loved that jeep. It was his dream vehicle. He got it a couple years ago when I reviewed our financial situation and decided it was time to make his bucketlist goal of owning a jeep actually happen. He wasn’t one of those jeep owners that never risked it getting a scratch. Instead, he would go off roading every chance he got, There is desert terrain behind our house and he would go out there a few times a week and practice his skills. When we’d go camping, it was always someplace a normal car couldn’t go. I grew accustomed to random clumps of dried mud falling onto the driveway where it was parked, even if I did try to get him to sweep it up. The jeep was not just a jeep to him. It was the culmination of hard work. So, with all of these memories attached and knowing what it meant to him, it has been hard to get behind the wheel of it and take it anywhere. I don’t know what made me do it yesterday, but it lead to an epiphany.

I was on my way home, exhausted from so much activity when I’m used to none and I of course started to cry because that is what I do. I punched the accelerator, rolled down the windows, and let the wind blast my face and sweep my hair out of the way. It suddenly became fun. Then I said out loud “This is no longer his jeep, this is MY jeep.” I repeated “My jeep” a few times because talking to myself is also what I do now. For the first time, I thought about his hobby hoard at home and thought some day I will be able to get through sorting all of it because just because I didn’t make the mess doesn’t mean it is not now my mess- my things to decide what to do with. Nothing is his anymore, This is something I should have realized ages ago, but I wasn’t ready. Now I know I need to make decisions based off of my own needs. Everything is mine, nothing is his anymore… except my heart.

Good thing for today: This weekend has been alright. I may just get through the mess my life is in after all.