I have my share of insecurities, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. It’s a hell of a paradox for me to admit, on a public blog no less, that I’m insecure, but i need to get it out. For as long as I had Megan, i was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. There was a constant self-loathing that I wasn’t good enough to deserve her, or that someone better would come along, and I wouldn’t lose her by death, but by my own anxiety.
Like every couple, we had some ups and downs over twelve years. It is very rare in any marriage that something doesn’t aggravate or annoy the other party, at least a little. We had entered a “rocky patch” the year before she died. It wasn’t a total falling out; it never got to that. I recognized that she had a problem with me, and we talked. We talked for hours. We argued. We cried. We promised one another that we would work on things. We started “dating” again, sending Shelby to stay with grandparents while we had a night on the town. We were more affectionate to one another. We communicated much more. We found shared interests again, and started doing them together. Things were starting to improve...
...then she died.
That has tortured me since November 19, 2014. While things were going well when she got admitted six months before that, I would still never say we were back to 100 percent. We were happy, mind you. There was no sleeping on the couch, or arguments, or “breaks” from each other, but the constant “I’ve got to improve or I’ll lose her” mantra was going through my head every single day. I was consumed by my tendency to over-analyze every single facial expression, word she said, or activity she did for signs of discord.
But I really don’t know how she felt at that point. Once we put our collective mind to something, we simply executed, and didn’t talk much about it unless one or the other wasn’t doing something for the good of the team. When she was admitted and listed for her second lung transplant, our life was put on hold. Taking an ICU patient to a dinner and a movie can be difficult, at best.
All I could do at that point was be there for her. I was there as much as I could be, making sure she had whatever food she craved and could stomach, that her meds were all being given on schedule, that her vital signs weren’t being ignored by the nurses, and that her friends and family were updated and informed on a daily basis. I drove 45 minutes each way, every night after work, and still made sure Shelby got to bed on time and fed. For six months, I didn’t think about any of the stress that we had went through, or the ways we were resolving it. My entire focus was on her being able to live longer. During this time, I was neither happy nor dejected...I was just putting in the work needed to take care of my family.
I’ve told the the story. She was admitted to ICU, and fought hard. We were hopeful when she was listed as a high-scoring candidate, but lungs never came. Her rejection worsened, to the point that she was put on full support and de-listed for transplant, with no real hope for being placed back on the list. A day later, I had to make the decision to end her life with as much dignity as we could salvage. As I watched her heart rate fall to 3 beats per minute, it felt at that very moment as if I’d failed. It still feels that way. No amount of “it was a disease” or “it’s not your fault” will ever temper that feeling.
Worse though, within a day after her death, the rest of the emotions hit like a freight train. We never got to fully resolve any issues, and just be in love again and have our family. We hadn’t gotten to the point yet where our decisions as a couple weren't consciously calculated as “for the team”. Any outward hint of disagreement or stress would still send me into a tailspin, thinking that I had suddenly short-circuited the entire thing. Again though, even the decision to be open about how it made me feel was suppressed because I felt it would add more fuel to the fire I had supposedly ignited.
For all of the good lessons Megan taught me about parenthood, struggle, loving, and seizing every breath we have on this earth, there is also one that pains me. Prior to that day in the fall of 2013 that we laid it all out, i never had any confidence or anxiety issues. Sure, I had my worries about her health, but I never worried too much about myself. I wasn’t arrogant or cocky, but I did not have any high level of self-doubt. I was grumpy, generally angered more easily over inconsequential things, but never once did I feel that I had a problem. Megan kept to her emotions bottled up pretty tightly. When I would note some abnormal quietness, I would ask what was wrong, and if the response was “nothing, I just don’t have anything to talk about”, I would treat it as such and go about my day.
But I know now that there were many, many times when there was something wrong, and it was a result of my actions. I learned from that that “nothing” doesn’t always mean as such. I learned to read her facial expressions and mannerisms more closely, because I totally overanalyzed everything. Because she didn’t exactly wear her emotions on her sleeve, I somehow learned to think that every bad mood or quiet moment meant she was unhappy with me.
I never learned to fully trust that she was happy with me after that, because we didn’t have enough time. She would express it, certainly, and she would show it, but my own self-doubt crept in and told me that she was “just being nice” or “felt sorry for me”. Given even a few more months on the track we were on towards renewing our love (and vows) to one another, I would be a totally different person now.
So, it remains unresolved as to whether or not we would have totally rekindled everything. I’m confident that we would have been happier people as a couple, as there isn’t any reason to think otherwise, but I don’t know if it would have been back to how we were at 23 years old.
The reason this has come on full force? Sarah has been away for just a short trip to Texas the past weekend. I have had a series of bad dreams the past few weeks, and I’ve proceeded to let my self-doubt reappear in Sarah’s absence. She’s visiting family. She’s seeing friends she hasn’t seen in months, all while dealing with her own triggers and stress of just being in that place. What did I do? I took her quietness throughout the days as being mad or bored with me. I had a tailspin moment on Sunday morning, where all I wanted was total reassurance that I hadn’t screwed something up. Because the rebuilding of the relationship with Megan was unresolved, I was guilty of projecting that to Sarah, then realizing it, then feeling even worse that I did so.
I don’t like things being unresolved, but I feel like the only way this will ever be so is to resolve it. I haven’t sat down and really thought about it until I started writing this. It is resolved. Megan did love me. She loved me until the day she died. As headstrong as she was, she wouldn’t have tried to work it out with me if she didn’t. Sarah loves me as well. I have nothing to worry about.
I never will be able to ask Megan how she felt about us as she started the process of rejection, so I guess it is resolved. But I still need to self-improve. I’m strongly considering counseling. I’m resolving to stop over analyzing every little thing. I resolving to take the traits that Megan loved about me, and nurture them. I’m resolving to take the habits that caused the problems, and work on them.
Megan, unfortunately, won't get to physically see the benefits of this, and that will always bother me. But Shelby will, and Sarah will. It’s going to take a counselor and work, but instead of thinking that something is wrong with me, I’m choosing to look at it as simply improving upon a good foundation.
And I’m thankful that Megan knew that the foundation was still in there, but was buried. She was working on digging it out, and her death handed me the shovel.