So I moved back to my home state of Massachusetts at the end of last year, after 26 years in NYC, to finish writing my book, live with my parents temporarily, and get back on track financially, after 5 years of struggling pretty hard following the sudden death of my dear husband Don.
Living with mom and dad at age 45 is sobering. It feels like going backwards. Going from my active and independent social life in NYC, to smalltown suburbia where your parents know your every move, is just strange. The first few months here, I had no car, no job, and not much of a life. I came here to write the book, and that is what Ive been doing. But you can only write so many hours in a day, and so many days in a week. After awhile, my eyes start to hurt, I lose focus, or Ive just had enough emotional toll for one day and cant do it anymore.
The past few months, things have started to brighten up some. I have started feeling more like an adult again. I started dating on the dating sites here, mostly so Id have something to do on weekends and have a social life. I picked up a small, part-time job working as the Social Media advisor for a local Real Estate Agent, I got myself on my parent's car insurance so that I could have access to driving a car, and I started a local Massachusetts Soaring Spirits Regional Group, planning 2x per month social gatherings for widowed people. And then, about 6 weeks ago, from one of my many dating experiences on the dating site, I found my person. My "next great love story." I fell in love.Read more
Imagine a tree. Any kind of tree you like. Oak, elm, evergreen, lemon, plumeria. That tree is your life.
It began when the seed was created by its parents, like you were. It began to sprout. It began to root. It made a small, tiny leaf, followed by another small, tiny leaf. It threw out one small tentative tendril of root, followed by another, and another.
You began to grow, adding cells, becoming a human. You grew slowly, like the tree. Each new branch, each new leaf, each new root, each new layer of bark. Each new memory, each new milestone, each new layer of skin, each new and stronger, longer bone.
I’m going to (try to) keep this short, simple, and to-the-point. Megan’s birthday was yesterday...the third since her death. She would have been 36, which, for someone born in the early 80’s with Cystic Fibrosis, is twice the normal life expectancy.
The first thing I thought of when I opened my eyes in the morning yesterday was Megan’s birthday. It was the last thing that went through my head as I closed them in the evening. Her birthday cycled through my head off-and-on all day, just as it had been doing for the past few weeks.
It is what it is. It’s white noise.
I do not know how to be a Dad.
I believe that most who know me would refer to me as “capable.” Since Ben died, I think I have adequately learned how to manage things I have never before needed to know how to do. I have learned how to bank online, get my vehicle repaired, hang a picture using a level and hammer instead of the heel of my shoe, use a drill, update the computer and now, as of tonight, I know how to re-hook up the Apple TV.
I did not have to do any of those things in my real life because, after 25 years together, Ben and I had come up with a division of labour that worked for us. Bills, banking, electronics and cars were Ben’s job. Appointments, sports scheduling, registrations, keeping an eye on the kids' social media, yard work … those were my jobs. We were good at our jobs, and that division of labour made us both happy. (Plus, I never had to worry about paying the bills after I spent the money.)
Since Ben died, I feel as though I slid as seamlessly as could reasonably be expected into those foreign roles that I never wanted, and I think I have done a fairly decent job for the most part. I haven’t yet lost all our money, I’ve managed to pay the bills on time, and currently everything in the house is in decent working condition, including this computer. I think Ben would be proud of me.
But here’s the thing ….Read more
I feel tired lately. In a subtle, general sort of way. I feel worn out by life. Something in a book I was reading this morning made me remember a person I used to be. The man described his wife as this energetic, vibrant, confident woman. And I wondered suddenly, where has that woman in me gone to? The one who was excited about life. Excited about new adventures and exploring and learning and growing. The one who always felt hopeful and - even in the midst of fresh widowhood - fucking determined to make a good life for herself still.
After five years of trying to figure out how to build a business with my art, and five years of crawling and fighting for this new life without Drew, I feel lately like the only place I have gotten after all of this effort is just more tired. And that’s where that woman has gone to… the one that used to be vibrant and energetic and hopeful. She has given every ounce of herself to trying to figure out this new life.
Endless amount of energy are spent daily trying to fulfill everyone's expectations of this new chapter of my life... expectations that my life is so happy and full and beautiful just because I have a new partner. Expectations that my business is flourishing and thriving and even some expectations that my artwork to be "happier" now because I am apparently happier (um, what!)
Then there is the enormous and completely new expectation of being a mother figure... and constantly trying to be "enough" in that role to make certain that everyone in Mike and his late wife's family are pleased with me being here. To make certain that no one ever doubts me being in this role in his daughter's life. There is even the expectation of being a good enough partner to Mike, and a good enough friends to all of my friends now that we live so far away from each other. With the exception of a few people's dumb comments, all of these are in my own head. But it's enough to leave me totally depleted after 2 years into this new life.
Somehow with all of that, I actually feel like I shouldn’t be this tired. I feel like I should have all of it more together. That things should all be running more smoothly than they are. That I should be more financially successful with my art business. And that I should have energy and be vibrant and alive like I used to be. But when I type that out… I realize how completely insane that expectation sounds.Read more
To be honest, nothing much rattles me these days. I think I used to get more wound up about things before Mike died. I was younger, and lacked perspective. And there is something to the idea that I have gone through such a difficult experience, losing him, that nothing much compares, so I take things more in stride.
Losing my house, planning a move to a place and on a timetable yet undecided, meager finances, starting a new career, going through the catastrophe of my dad’s condition last year…people often ask me how I am dealing with it all. I just shrug. What can I do? Why get twisted? It does no good. Grief is plenty enough. Worry is a completely wasted energy. That was something Mike was always trying to teach me. Well, I think I finally get it, at least for the big stuff.
I was just remembering that book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and chuckling to myself. This was a week of comparatively small stuff.
How did I widow this summer?
I was…I still am, til the middle of August…working at an opera camp in the Ozarks.
Students come from around the world to perfect their art. Orchestra comes from around the world to play for the students when they present their operas. Staff brings their talents/gifts to teach and guide the students.
Carmen. The Marriage of Figaro. Susannah.
These 3 operas will always ring through my mind and my heart now, as I connect them with a summer spent learning and doing things I never thought to learn or do.Read more
It’s not exactly a secret that sometimes, I just can’t foresee a good subject for my weekly writings here. I’ll pine over ideas to see if they spark something, thinking about if there were any milestones, anniversaries, or triggers in the past week. More often than not, I’ll find a nugget of something and expand upon it, and sometimes, a halfway decent writing comes out of it.
But sometimes there just isn’t a good inspiration. I’ll “pocket” some ideas for later, like Megan’s birthday (next week) and our anniversary (three weeks from today), knowing full well that the emotions, and subsequent words are going to flow easily at those times. Still though, it leaves me sitting here on some Tuesdays asking myself the following question.
“What should I be thinking and writing about right now?”Read more
I have struggled with this question since the moment Ben received his diagnosis. Those are usually the first words out of someone’s mouth when they see me, and then a look immediately crosses their face and I suspect they are thinking one of two things:
“God. That was a stupid question to ask. Why did I ask her that? How the Hell do I expect her to be doing? Dumb, dumb, dumb. I’m so embarrassed.”
“Please don’t answer me honestly. I was just asking out of habit. Please, please, just say “ok” and keep going. Maybe if I keep walking away she won’t really answer. God, I don’t want to hear her answer … it ‘s probably sad.”Read more