Day 148: relearning the art of self reliance

I have been sick this week and it frankly sucks. My usual routine when I got sick in the past was to come home, lay on the couch like a pathetic lump of fever and phlegm and proclaim loudly and pitifully “I’m siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!!!!” With the quickness, my husband would provide me with hot theraflu with some sugar added (it really does help the medicine go down), extra blankets and pillows, and my pajamas. Now when I come home it is all on me. Those days really throw the ever present loss right in my face. There is no distraction or putting it on the back burner.

Miraculously, I do have actual medicine in the house, which is a major score. Also, immediately after becoming widowed people just showed up with boxes of tissues. Seriously, I have so many I could probably build a fort. On the downside, I have run out of coffee creamer and food. I am feeling a bit better today and know I should run to the store, but the idea of facing Saturday crowds when both my emotional state and health are much less than 100% is not an ideal scenario. I really miss having a partner here that can share the load with me.

I know there are millions of people that live alone and take care of themselves just fine, but I think much like the period of adaption required to co-habitate with someone, there is also quite the learning curve as to how to do things for yourself. The confident women on TV shows and movies that don’t need a man and would probably scoff at my need to be taken care of probably don’t recall the years spent getting to that place of self reliance and confidence. When the widow tornado tears through your home, there is a lot of rebuilding to be done. I feel I am making positive progress, but some days it is really in my face just how ridiculously far I have to go.

Good thing for today: New guy’s daughter talked to me on Skype for the first time ever. Progress?

Day 144: honesty

So, I have been a bit absent for the past several weeks. I am sorry if it worried anyone. I assure you that everything is fine. More than fine, really, but I will get that in a little bit. I am someone that values honesty. Sometimes, honesty can be a trait that is hard to maintain, especially when honesty could result in confusion, hurt feelings, or fallout. Since there are a small handful of people in my every day life that know about this blog and follow it, I found it difficult to write for a little because I wasn’t prepared to be honest about a certain aspect of my life right now. So, here it goes. I have met someone wonderful that makes me very happy.

When I set out to record my struggle with grief, I never really imagined part of my story would involve such a thing. New loves were for other widows, not for me. What my husband and I shared was too close, too wonderful, too powerful to ever consider letting anyone else into my heart ever. What I have learned in recent days is that there is no replacing my husband, but my heart has grown to accept someone new and completely different, which is really a great thing. So, here’s the story.

Very soon after being widowed, I joined an online forum for young widows. It took several days for my account to be activated but it finally was on August 6th. I immediately jumped in and posted. The very first person to reply to me was a man whose account had also just barely been activated who had just made his first post eleven minutes prior to mine. Like me, his spouse had also died very suddenly and unexpectedly and it had happened just 18 days prior to me losing my husband. I felt an instant kinship, which I couldn’t really explain but it was certainly not anywhere near any sort of romantic feelings at all. There was no reason to think it would become that. Over the next couple months, we exchanged some private messages that at times would get ridiculously lengthy, but there was no flirtation in them. It was just two friends connecting through a shared experience. I did however find myself trusting him and being happy any time I saw he had reached out to me, but it didn’t strike me as anything more than that. While he was mainly the only person I would communicate with outside of my normal posts, I knew that wasn’t the case for him so there was nothing to read into at all.

At the end of October, he sent me a message that asked if I would be interested in talking on the phone and giving me his number. He explained he had talked on the phone to several people from the board and he felt “that it is high time you and I have a chat, but only if you are up to it.” I felt no pressure or threat so we scheduled a time to talk that coming Sunday, November 2nd. The talk was very nice and completely platonic, but I found myself surprised about two things: 1. I felt a twinge of jealousy when he told me about someone telling him they had a “music crush” on him due to his taste in music, and 2. I was really sad to get off of the phone with him. I decided I wouldn’t analyze it because clearly I was being silly.

The next day was a really bad day for me. I was on my way to work and just couldn’t stop crying so I called in and turned around. I sat with my grief for a while and then started thinking about how he had said I could text any time I needed someone. So, I sat not sending a simple text  that said “How is your day going?” or something like that for about 30 minutes. Finally, I hit send and set the phone down, determined not to stare at it waiting for a response. I got a response about 5 minutes later. I admitted to having a terrible day. He proceeded to text with me for the next 6.5 hours and making me smile and laugh so my day did a complete 180. The next morning, he texted me again and we spent the whole day and night texting back and forth on and off. When it repeated the next day, I started getting the feeling that there was maybe more developing than I had first thought and I started really thinking about it and realizing I had a twinge of something that was not bad, it was exciting. However, that night he solidly friend-zoned me by telling me he felt so close to him that I was like his sister. I wondered how my compass could be so off, but decided it was for the best anyways, I was not ready for anything of what as going through my head to occur.

The texting continued throughout the week and then changed to also being night time phone calls. Late that Friday night, after a few beers in on both of our parts, he admitted he was feeling more than a close friendship or sibling relationship. It caught me off guard a little because I had been actively pushing such thoughts from my head and accepting any friendship he had to offer because I thought he was so great. To be honest, the admission on his part also scared the crap out of me. I knew my feelings but having them actually returned meant this wasn’t in my head and that it was actually real, and how was it possible for me to have those kind of feelings so soon after the shocking, unexpected death of who I considered my life’s one great love? Would people think I wasn’t as happy and in love in my marriage as I truly was? Would they think that I’d been pretending? Would the perception be that I was failing to honor his memory? I allowed these thoughts to quiet and gave myself permission to say “You are not the only one that is feeling that.” And that one little sentence changed everything. I could hear the relief in his voice. We talked about it being so early, but for him it was not something he could ignore or deny. It wasn’t something I could ignore or deny either. So, we decided to see where it would lead us.

He had some friends scheduled to take a trip out to Phoenix in February and that seemed pretty far off, but a convenient cover if one was needed for his 16 year old daughter so she wasn’t hurt or confused about his grief for his wife and her mother. However, following some advice from some other widows, it was decided that was too long to wait. He was honest with his daughter about me and she is trying to adjust to the idea. Thus, on December 5th, he flew out from his home in Kentucky to meet me. I was surprised to be greeted with an immediate kiss. Not just any kiss, but one that really would not be appropriate for the venue of baggage claim at the airport. I didn’t care. It all felt right. We had an amazing weekend together and it very much confirmed that there is something deep between us beyond our shared grief experience. We hope to get something scheduled for January for him to come back out, maybe with his daughter if she agrees to join him so she doesn’t feel left behind by him.

So there you have it. I have a huge bright spot of happiness in my life I didn’t expect at all. I am grateful for it. I am continuing to grieve for my husband. I miss him so deeply every single day, but this is something completely different and new. We are open with each other about our grief and how long we have to go to get to a good place, which makes the distance between us a bit of a blessing so we aren’t tempted to avoid the pain and get lost in each other. It wouldn’t be healthy. It was both difficult and easy to put this story out there to be read. It was easy because it is the truth of where I am at right now. It was hard because I am so worried it could be construed that I somehow didn’t love my husband or am not committed to honoring him. Those things are not true, but I still don’t want that perception.

Good thing for today: I found the courage to be open.

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.

Day 96: Halloween

Tomorrow is the day I have been DREADING. Halloween. My husband loved that day. He liked to sit outside and greet all of the kids in their costumes. He would recoil in faux terror from the goblins and witches, act shocked that he got to see a superhero in person, and always gave little princesses royal respect. He was so good at Halloween.

I had convinced myself I was going to hand out candy and was worried that I would cry through the whole thing. Luckily, instead I got saved from that by getting an invitation from a friend to come hang out with her. Thank freaking goodness. I think as the night would have gone on, my cheeks would get wetter and I would get, well, drunker.

I even have come up with a costume for myself. It is a subtle sort of inside joke only I will get. I will be wearing all black tomorrow. Black widow? Get it? Ha. It is kind of sick what amuses me these days, but laughing about anything is a good thing.

Good thing for today: It was tear filled day of wallowing today, but I did manage to put together a proposal at work that I think was pretty good!