Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trump Eve



It's the eve of Trump. It's Trump Eve.

I keep trying to console myself with the fact that the government is essentially just one big board of directors and if you've ever sat on a board, you know it takes forever to get anything done.

But the more I see...the scarier this all becomes. Because some of what's being proposed, the people being chosen to help lead this country...might actually happen.

Healthcare, education, defense, civil rights...it's like they're all being shaken in a giant Magic 8-ball and I don't know what the outcome is going to be.

And for all of you Republicans out there who've been saying, "It's our turn"...I get it and I would usually agree. I'm one of those voters who thinks that each party should get their turn. I do think it's the right way to balance and hope that the voices of all are heard and that this country doesn't just swing entirely one way.

But not this time.

I'm exhausted. And, if I can be honest, I feel like my exhaustion has made me complacent.

I swore I would never get this way again. When the school district I moved from (one that has been a "test case" and eerily like the scenario that a certain nominee would like to implement across the country) started going south, I promised myself that I would never just stand by and let that happen again. I foolishly watched a great school district sink, all the while thinking, "This can't be happening. This can't be happening."

It was. And it did. And like a coward I ran from it.

I feel that way again. Unheard. Unhappy. Unsure of what to do.

I keep seeing posts from friends saying, "Flood your senator's email and voicemail! Make sure they know this won't be tolerated!"

I think they know. But the depressing thing is I just don't feel like they care. It's like the government is this big uncontrollable machine that has to little to do with me. And how can that be? I LIVE HERE. I vote. I raise children. I pay taxes. I feel like I do all of these things blindly and pay people who really care more for their careers than they do about me.

It's disheartening to say the least.

I honestly can't figure out how this happened, this dawn of a newer, scarier age with a president who has exchanged the word "diplomacy" with "deal" (we're going to do great "deals" with other countries...what is that???). 

But I feel like in some ways I understand why. 

Last month I was going through all of the information I had for my current healthcare plan. I am a college educated woman. I have a degree in English. And damned if I could figure out what all of those forms were saying.

Really. I can't imagine what this might be like for someone who doesn't understand English or who just might not read and/or comprehend all that well. If I could have had someone sitting next to me, telling me what I wanted to hear, explaining everything in two syllables or less...that would have made all the difference.

But I didn't and I don't know if I understood what I read and, frankly, I picked an option just to get it done.

A lot of Americans didn't care when Trump used the word "bigly" because they still understood what he meant. It almost didn't matter that they believed in false promises (which, let's face it, all politicians feed us) because they could at least understand what he was saying.

Why go into diplomatic relations when "bomb the shit out of them" is easier to understand?

So, in a way I understand how this happened.

But the fact that it did says a lot about where we're headed.


Monday, January 9, 2017

You Don't Owe Your Dead Spouse Anything




I wasn't meant to be a widow.

Okay. I know - no one was. I mean, I have yet to meet someone who has lost a spouse and exclaims, "YES! I've finally found my calling!"

But there may be some of us who are better equipped than others.

Anyway, I was thinking in the car yesterday, where I do all of my best thinking, that I really do kind of suck at this. And there's a very specific reason why.

I feel guilty about everything. 

I really do and I always have. I bet on an average day I feel guilty about at least 20 things, most of which are completely beyond my control. This tends to be a problem in several areas.

First, as a mom...my kids can play that up all they want to. They don't usually, but they really could. I absolutely hate seeing my kids upset or sad and my natural instinct is to feel bad about it and then rush in and fix it. It takes a ton of effort on my part to absorb my own feelings of guilt in order to be the "tough love" they need in certain situations. What forces me to make my kids eat vegetables they hate and not buy them every little thing they want is that I don't want them to become grown-ups that I don't want to be around.

Relationships. Oh, Lord...my guilt has gotten me into a few pickles. Almost married to the wrong person and in a relationship far too long because that person knew how to play that guilt to his advantage. I want to fix everything that's wrong so the other person feels no pain. I want to be the person they want, otherwise I'll feel that I'm slighting them in some way. And don't even get me started on the break-up.

This is why I've been single for two years.

Back to widowhood.

I was in my car the other day and a song that my husband loved came on the radio. Now usually when a song he liked comes on, I'll actually apologize to him out loud before I turn it off.

I'm not kidding. Almost ten years in and I'm still doing this. Over SONGS ON THE RADIO. Imagine how I feel about big stuff, like getting rid of his tools (that I couldn't use), or dating (we've already covered that), or moving from the home we shared together (which I should have done long ago).

And almost every day I actually get consumed with guilt over changing the station from Def Leppard to the classical station.

So, I'm sitting at a stop sign and I started to feel bad as usual. And then I started feeling angry. Really good and pissed off.

Kind of at him, although I don't know why. I mean, it wasn't in his will that I had to listen 80s hair bands for the rest of my life. But like all of the areas in my life where I feel guilty I realized it's because I feel like I owe him something.

Why?

No, really. I'm asking...why do I feel this way? DO I owe him something? Because, call me crazy, I'm starting to feel like after ten years, I really don't. I do this less and less, but I have spent years doing things that I don't want to do because I felt like I owed it to him to do it.  At first, it was really bad. I was trying to learn about things that I didn't have any interest in (no, I still can't put my own lift kit on a Jeep) and doing all kinds of stuff that even if he was still here I wouldn't do because I didn't want to.

I guess there was a part of me that thought that if I didn't do these things, I was somehow completely letting him go which scared me. Or that I was saying I liked being alone, which meant I was glad he was dead. Kind of like saying, "F--- you. I guess I didn't like you in the first place."

Twisted, I know.


Somehow, I feel like that attitude is preventing me from living my life - my whole life for myself because myself is what I've got. I'm living for a ghost, for a person who's not here to even tell me what he thinks about it anyway. And it's got to stop.

Feeling as though I "owe it to my husband" has kept me in personal relationships I don't want to be in, sometimes doing things with my kids that we really don't have to do, and, yes, listening to songs on the radio because for some reason there's a part of me that thinks I'm actually being disloyal if I change it.

Even when it's put in a positive light - "You owe it to your husband  to be happy" - it still makes us feel as though if we don't carry on in a certain way, we should feel guilty about it.

Some of you might argue with this, but I don't think we owe them a damn thing. I'm not saying you should just put their ashes in an old plastic Wonder Bread bag and stuff them in the recycle bin under the cell phone you're not supposed to be throwing away. But beyond the obvious...you don't owe them anything.

If you don't want to be happy...don't be. I'm telling you right now to be miserable and to not feel guilty about it. (Wasn't that nice of me?)

If you want to paint the walls in your room Pepto Pink...go for it. It's yours.

Take over the entire closet, make dishes he didn't like to eat when he was alive, and get over it.

I realize that I'm making this sound easy. It's really not. I can even see, as I'm digesting this concept, that it's going to take a huge amount of effort for me to stop doing what I've been doing for the last 10 years. Each time I feel this way, I'm going to have to pause and flip that switch in my head that says, "You're being bad" to "It's all you, girl. Go forth and be yourself."  This is like quitting smoking or forcing yourself to do any number self-care things you should be doing for yourself.

But when I have those moments of clarity and consciously think, "Stop. You don't have to feel this way anymore" I have such a sense of freedom...I can't even describe it.

So I'm really going to try.

I owe it to myself.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

When There's No Answer At All



You may or may not believe this, but I hate writing about grief.

I know that sounds weird because I write about it a lot. But I don't write about things I'm not feeling so in order for me to write about grief, it's got to be something I'm experiencing in the moment.

And nobody likes that.

I don't know if more people die around the holidays or if it just seems that way because we're all trying hard to be so damn joyful. But after a losing a cousin and a friend in the last week, it just seems like Fate waits until we least expect it and then lets loose with a stream of cruelty.

I've been weepy today and I hate that. I've gotten pretty good at keeping that stuff in, but like my son (who is cool as a cucumber for weeks and then has a complete mental breakdown for 12 hours straight) I think I've hit my limit.

Now, I do feel as though I need to say that while I did know both this cousin and this friend, I do not claim to know them well. I can't stand it when the second someone dies it seems like people jump on the "I don't know how I can live without them" train when they haven't seen or talked to the person in years.

I'm not like that.

In fact, I feel like I go in the opposite direction. I see and hear so many things from loved ones who were close to the person who has passed and I feel as though I don't have a right to grieve for them because they might not have been a part of my everyday life.

But for right now...I'm going to forget that stupid notion. I'm sad and I have every right to be sad.

What I grieve the most is what's left behind. In my cousin's case, it's a young son, a husband, a huge network of family and friends and so many connections she had made through her organization Coming to the Table.

With my friend, who had endured so much grief in the last few years when both of her parents passed, I cry thinking of her family and the sisterhood of friendship that stood by her and comforted her.

I think about what's ahead on this road for them. Sadness. A new appreciation for those they have around them. Maybe life changes as they question their own path in the wake of what's happened. Days that will speed by and nights that seem endless. Laughter that feels amazing because it doesn't come as easily as it used to. And moments.

Just...moments.

As we all know, it is an utterly helpless feeling watching those you care about grieve. In fact, I would say that if the answer of what to do immediately comes to you...it's probably wrong. I know that sounds strange, but grief is so complicated for each person that there is just no right answer. It has to be carefully considered and completely thought through.

And sometimes there is no answer at all.


~

I don’t know why I went to her. I didn’t really know her. I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about. But the second we walked into one of the Sunday school rooms, I’m very much afraid that I exploded on this woman who, up until that point, had been almost a complete stranger to me.

“Why? Why?” I screamed. “Why did this happen? We did everything right! I don’t know a better person than Brad. Why did this happen? What am I going to do? How am I going to live? Why would God do this to us? You have to tell me! Why?

Teri led me to one of the hard plastic chairs that surrounded the school tables. She sat down with me as the tears flowed down my face and took my hand in hers. Her face was so full of concern, watching someone suffer…someone who was desperate to find an answer that she knew may never come.

“I don’t know, sweetie. I couldn’t explain it when my husband died of cancer when my daughter was ten, and I can’t explain it to you now. All I can do is pray with you now. And if you’re not ready to do that, I’ll pray for you.”

For the first time, I really started to digest how I was not in control of anything in life. None of us are. I looked at this woman who seemed to be so disciplined and who appeared to have all of the answers every Sunday at church and realized that none of us are running the show here. 

It was as I was looking at Teri’s face, filled with pain and sympathy, that I began to discover that the question of “why” may be vitally important…but it would never be answered. Men and women have been going through what I was about to face since the beginning of time and have never been able to answer the question, “How could this have happened?” 

And even if they could, it wouldn’t ease the pain.

I could ask, “Why was my husband taken away from his children when they were just babies?” and even if I got an answer, it would still be incomprehensible.

I could ask, “Why did my husband have to leave me to deal with this all on my own?” and even if I got an answer, I would still be angry.

I could ask, “How could this happen to a man who was just so damn good?” 

And even if I got an answer, it wouldn’t stop what I was about to feel. 

He would still be gone.

Death makes no sense. Brad had survived his dangerous teenage years, driving too fast and constantly testing fate, only to die on his commute to work. I’ve had family friends who have spent years with someone who was the picture of health, only to be shocked by their sudden heart attack. I know people whose husbands have been diagnosed with very “curable” forms of cancer and have followed the doctor’s instructions down to the letter…only to lose them two years later after countless rounds of treatment and false hope.

Our husbands are dead and Keith Richards is still alive?

Um…hello? Is this thing on? 

Everything that I thought was a “sure thing” in my life had suddenly been ripped out from under me. I’d always thought that if Brad and I worked hard, loved each other, and were just generally good people, we would be rewarded by a long, happy, boring life together. Bad things were what happened to other people. Bad things lived in the abstract in my life and were never within reaching distance. And even if bad things were to happen to us, the one thing, THE ONE THING I was sure of in life was that Brad and I would get through it together.

But then “together” was the one thing that had been taken away.

And although I didn’t completely understand it as I was sitting in the Sunday school room of my church, tears streaming down my face, looking at a woman who was a virtual stranger, but one I was sure up until that moment had all of the answers…the question of “why” would become something that I would struggle with for years.

And then it would become something that I would eventually have to let go of.