Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the Life I Have

I almost never live in the moment.

This is probably why I'm on anti-anxiety medication. I mean, if all you think about are the things that have happened in your past (and usually not the good stuff) or the things that could happen in the future (again, not usually happy thoughts)...chances are you're going to live a somewhat stressed existence.

I'm trying to get better about it, though. I don't think I'll ever be the kind of "mindful" person I'd like to be, but I have been trying to get a better grip on my current reality.

Maybe it's because I'm turning 41 next month and I'm beginning to realize that the horrible stuff I'm worried might happen almost never does and that the truly horrible stuff that has happened I never saw coming in the first place. So, what's the point?

Hey. I'm glad I thought of that. I'll have to remind myself of this epiphany at 3 AM.

One of my turning points lately is how I live my life and how I make decisions. Wait. I should back up.

I thought I'd be remarried by now.

I really did. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be alone this long. But that's what I am. And while I'm comfortable with it, there are certainly moments of loneliness that have me scrolling through or wondering, "If I were married right now what would we be doing?"

Chances are that answer involves turning off The Golden Girls. So I've remained single.

Anyway, I would say for the first...oh...let's years of widowhood, I've lived somewhat of a trapped existence; I've been caught between the past and how my husband and I lived our lives based on mutual decision-making and the future, worrying that the decisions I make would matter later to someone else.

I know that sounds weird, but I don't know how else to phrase it.

It's only been recently - almost 10 years into widowhood - that I've been making decisions based entirely upon my life now. And it really is such a bizarre feeling. I've had to stop myself from thinking, "Oh, Brad wouldn't like that" or "Would the future Mr. Catherine Tidd like this?"

That is the interesting thing about being unattached - making decisions that are solely your own. And, if I can be honest, I thought I'd been making pretty independent decisions for a while. But I just recently realized that I haven't. I have been trapped, completely paralyzed in my own life. Yes, I've made choices, but - and how crazy is this? - in the back of my mind I've been basing them on one of two things:

1. Someone who isn't here anymore.
2. And someone who might not even exist.

Oh, that makes me sad just to type it.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Dream a Little Dream

 A late night date with my dead husband.

I posted something on the Widow Chick Facebook page about having a dream about my husband. This subject was met with three different responses:

1. Those who've never had a dream about their spouses.
2. Those who have and love those dreams.
3. Those who have and sometimes have difficulty rebounding from them.

I fall into the third category. I (usually) LOVE the dream as it's happening. I'm sometimes just talking to my husband. Or he might just be there in the background.

Other times I found out that he's just been out of town and I immediately forgive him for letting me think he was dead (which, let me tell you, I would never do in real life).

Many times in my dream I'm thinking about all the explaining I'm going to need to do - the move, dating, buying furniture I know he'll hate - but I'm always falling over myself, forgiving him for taking off for the past 10 years.

I wake up disappointed. No, wait. That's the wrong word. Crushed. Sunk. I do everything I can to go back to sleep. And then face what I know will be an off day.

But usually I'm okay the day after. It's kind of like when you dream you've had a fight with someone. You're pissed when you wake up and then your subconscious shrugs it off and everything goes back to normal.

I don't know what it was about this particular dream, but I woke up shocked. Yes. SHOCKED. The first thing I thought was, "My God, I haven't seen him in 10 years." And the next thing I thought was, "I don't know when I'll see him again."

Which was a crushing blow.

10 Years.


I know what you're thinking. It's been 10 years. TEN YEARS. And this is just coming as a shock to me now?

I completely understand why you're confused. Because so am I. Am I really just now digesting the fact that I actually won't see him again?

I have no idea. But it does feel like that initial shock. So while I'm normally able to shake this off by the second day, today has me feeling more drained and weepy than I did yesterday. I feel like my soul has been pummeled and, the truth is, I'm really not sure when I'm going to snap out of this.

See, this is what most people don't understand. 

I'm really going to try and explain this. Just stick with me.

So, after I had that crazy realization ten years after my husband's death that I actually wouldn't be seeing him again, the next thought that popped into my brain is, "But I want to be with him RIGHT NOW."

Now, I've read posts by other widows who've said the same thing and my first thought is that they could be suicidal. I mean, when someone says they want to be with someone who is dead, what does that say to you?

But really for the first time yesterday morning, I kind of got it. I just wanted to be with him. I was so homesick for him that it was a physical ache. And if he can't be with me...why can't I be with him? I wasn't feeling like I wanted to leave this world; I have a great life, wonderful kids, friends I adore, and I'm having a new sofa delivered next week.

No, I don't want to die. I just want to be with my husband.

And I know there are many of you out there who will understand what I mean.

As if that wasn't enough.


This morning I got my kids off to school and I stretched out on my couch. I closed my eyes and I willed myself to go back to sleep, just for a few minutes.

Yes, I was tired (it takes me three hours to get all three kids going to school because of different start times. By the time they leave I already feel like I've put in a full day). But I realized that one of the main reasons why I was trying to get a little catnap in was to see if I could dream about my husband again.

Again, I know what you're thinking.

"She's saying she wants to be with her dead husband and now she's sleeping all of the time. Does anyone know the name of her therapist??"

I know, I know. And I'll call her in the next few days if I can't shake this off.

But it really doesn't come from a place of depression - I just figured if that's the only place I can see him, I might as well give it a try.

Of course, once I got a grip on what I was doing, I popped up, took my shower, and got on with my day. And when I started my car to run my errands, "our song" was on the radio.

I couldn't help but give myself a watery smile in the rearview mirror.

And then I said to the empty (?) car, "Thanks. But it's just not the same."

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I Worry About Worrying

 I'm worried that I'll always be worried.


I was in my car a couple of days ago, thinking about all that has been going on in the last few weeks. Let me give you a brief outline.

1. One daughter on antibiotics for a sinus infection.
2. One dog with a "hot spot" on his paw that he won't stop licking so he was sporting the cone of shame for a while.
3. One daughter with cysts in her ankle so bad she can barely walk.
4. One cat who had a cyst we didn't know about on her stomach burst (I'll spare you the details) and must now have surgery to the tune of several hundred dollars.

My son and I are fine (although I shouldn't have typed that - I'm pretty sure I've jinxed us), but I have thought about going ahead and taking our Christmas picture now with a kid in a boot, a daughter holding up her prescription bottle, and both pets in cones.

As I've told the kids, "If we were horses, they would have shot us by now."

Anyway, as you might imagine, I've been a little anxious lately as I carry this load (and the bills that come with it) on my own. And I was comforting myself as I was driving, thinking that at some point this will pass and things will be okay again.

And then I had this CRAZY realization that probably everyone else had the moment they discovered they were going to be parents, but it's taken me 15 years to really get.

I will never stop worrying. Because it doesn't matter how old my kids get...I will always be a parent.

Well, this sucks.

I'm one of those people who still can't get over the notion that there isn't some sort of end game to this thing called life. That there will be no point when I wake up and the bills will be paid, the family is healthy, the house is in perfect repair, and I'm generally happy with the state of the world.

And if that blessed moment ever does occur, it's hard for me to believe that it won't last.

So, I was sitting at this stoplight, realizing that I was always going to be worried about something.

And that has me worried.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

7:14 PM

I'm taking my youngest daughter in for an MRI tomorrow.

She's had pain in her ankle and two X-rays have proven inconclusive. There wasn't an incident that started the whole thing. She's been in pain for almost two months now - even though she's wearing the dreaded boot.

So tomorrow is the big day. And I've been okay with that. Until 7:14 this evening.

I was driving to pick her up from piano when I started thinking about what it could be. The doctor is fairly sure of what it is and that it can be resolved by wearing the boot or a cast, but she's not 100%. I could tell at the appointment that she waited until the last moment before she mentioned the word "tumor" and then quickly dismissed it as unlikely.

And that's what I thought, too. Until 7:14 tonight.

I had a flashback to about 12 years ago. My oldest daughter, then almost 4-years-old, had been complaining of back pain. When I mentioned it to her pediatrician during a routine check up, she immediately sat straight in her chair and said, "We don't often hear that from kids this age."

We did a urine test to make sure that it wasn't a kidney infection and then, on my 29th birthday, I landed with a thud on my living room chair - pregnant with my third and another toddler in a crib upstairs  - and listened to the doctor tell me that it wasn't a kidney infection.

"At this point, we will want to do a bone scan," she said.

"What are you looking for?" I asked. I hate asking questions I don't want to know the answer to.

"Arthritis or anything out of the ordinary," she replied. "And cancer."

I spent the next week - that's how long it took to get in for the scan - crippled with fear. I tried to imagine how this was going to work. How I would get a toddler to treatments with two babies. I envisioned our lives changing and couldn't even picture the outcome. I went to church and for the first time filled out a prayer card.

While my husband stayed irritatingly calm.

"They're not looking for something," he said. "They're just ruling everything out."

This is such a perfect example of us. How I saw things one way and he saw them another. He thought this was a good thing while all I could picture were heartbreaking scenes.

Until the scan happened, I made a huge effort to think the same way he did. But on the day of the test, I watched as they put my 4-year-old under and then cried in the bathroom for 15 minutes until I could make it into the waiting area.

That child is now 15-years-old and in perfect health. But I feel like I'm back in that situation...without my husband's balance to get me through.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I Was Wrong: An Apology to my Republican Friends

I think I can speak for many Americans when I say I'm exhausted.

My social media pages and so many of the personal conversations I have with my friends are so tainted with politics that it's hard to get away from at it all. I used to roll my eyes at videos of pets getting a bath, but now I crave them like a comforting peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

To the cat in the shower cap...thank you.

I'm always trying to look at the other side, but throughout the election, that was hard for me. I think that's because most of my friends believe the same things I do. So it was easy for me to assume that that was the case for the majority of the country.

Obviously it's not.

I don't know where to turn for my news anymore. I don't know who is reliable. At this point, I'm reading what my friends are posting on social media and then actively seeking articles that I know are "from the other side," hoping that somewhere in the middle is the truth. I've started "hiding" people from my feed that I feel will post anything that gets a reaction - and it doesn't matter what side you're on.

The last few days have had me thinking about the last 8 years. I think I've been living in this bubble with others who think the same way, and somehow I've completely missed the other side. I know what I believe in and I just assume that that's what's right.

But there's a person just like me on the opposite side.

And to her or him...I'd like to say I'm sorry.

I now know what you've been going through. No matter how your beliefs conflict with mine, you must have felt helpless and unheard...maybe even unwanted? You must have felt as though the country you thought you knew and loved was unraveling right before your eyes. Your stomach must have clenched with fear as each law passed and each "order" came to be. You couldn't watch the news. You couldn't bear to listen to the leader of your own country speak.

And now, knowing what you've been through, I'm so sorry.

I realize that there are some major things we might not agree on, but for the first time I'm truly understanding how divided we are. It's not like a president was elected and we can just roll our eyes and get on with our day. The last president really offended a lot of people, something that I'm learning for the first time. And the current one is doing the same...I know because I've never felt this way before.

So, while I might not understand exactly where you're coming from or support the same things you support...I now understand what you're saying.

And I'm sorry that I didn't take the time to understand it before.

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'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 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, 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.


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 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.