I Am Not What I Feel

A few days ago, I returned from Camp Widow San Diego, where I attended and gave my 10th comedic presentation. Since 2013, I have been a presenter at Camp Widow in all three locations; Tampa, San Diego, and Toronto. Last weekend was my 10th time standing in front of over a hundred widowed people, and hearing them laugh. It is truly one of my favorite sounds. 

The week that I spent in San Diego was incredible. It was filled with friendships, old and new. I learned lessons, I experienced realizations about my grief and my process, I had moments of helping another person through their tough emotions. There was dancing and drinking and swimming and relaxing and healing and laughing and crying and loving. It was absolutely wonderful. 

And then I had to come home. 

There is this feeling that those of us who attend Camp Widow refer to as "Camp Crash." It is a very specific sort of deflated and depressed feeling that one gets, after having been in the supportive, loving, understanding "everyone here is just like me" bubble of a camp widow weekend. It is a very real and powerful set of emotions, and it can truly mess with your head. Well, my crash began the second I stepped outside of the Marriott Hotel in San Diego, about to get into the cab to the airport back to NYC. As I stepped into the taxi, my face felt the PERFECT weather of San Diego, and instantly I got very sad.

Then, on my red-eye/overnight flight home, the WiFi wasn't working. I was seated next to a couple who argued and fought with each other in a cruel manner, the entire 5 hours. The TV's weren't functioning either, so I had no way to escape my own panic and anxiety that comes with every single flight. I hate flying with a passion. It terrifies me.

Suddenly, in mid-air, and seemingly out of nowhere but not really, I started to miss my husband who is dead. I mean, I really started to miss him in that visceral, all-consuming, pit-of-your-stomach way, where you just want to find the nearest corner and sob your guts out. Except I was in mid-air, on a plane.

My husband Don was in the Air Force. Years before I met him. He was Flight Crew Chief and Mechanic, for the F-16. He made the planes safe, just like he did with everything else. His job in life was to make things safe, and he made me feel safer than anything, just by being near me. When we flew together, he would put his arm out and say: "Just hold onto my arm, Boo. I got you. Nothing's going to happen to you. Just squeeze my arm, or dig your nails into it. Whatever you need to do. And if something scares you, ask me about it and I'll explain it. Nothing is scary once you understand it better." 

But those days of grabbing my husband's arm and feeling safe were gone. This time, I grabbed at the arm-rest to my right in the aisle seat I was in, as I tried really hard not to cry out loud. The couple next to me kept arguing and screaming at each other with the attitude of two people who know nothing of the sudden shock of death, and I sat there, like a child, on the verge of a tantrum stemming from her life. Suddenly, I couldn't think of any other thought than how much I missed my husband, and how much I wanted him and only him back, right this minute. Suddenly, the unfairness of how HARD my life is now without him, how hard EVERY SINGLE THING is, and how exhausted I feel after doing every goddamn thing ALONE and by myself for 5 years, came rushing into me. Suddenly, I just wanted to run far away, except there is never anywhere to run when you are in mid-air on a plane, and your husband is forever dead. 

The last 90 minutes or so of the flight were awful. There was something like turbulance, but worse. I don't even know what it was really. The plane kept dipping over and over again, dropping really fast in altitude, and making my stomach do flips. Nobody else seemed to notice or care, and I was alone in my panic, holding onto the arm-rest for dear life. The plane shook and made weird noises - noises that my patient and loving husband would have explained to me in a calm and non-condescending voice, if he were alive. Noises that wouldn't stress me out, if he were still here to make sense of them. Nothing is scary once you understand it better. 

Once we finally landed, my luggage ended up on the wrong carousel for almost 2 hours, and when I finally retrieved it, I had to walk with it half a mile throughout the airport to find where the taxis were to get home. My phone was dead and not functioning right, and my brain was even worse. I plopped down in my bed, fixated on the picture of my beautiful husband in his EMS uniform that says "Everyday Hero" in the picture frame that his work gave him, and sobbed my guts out. Suddenly, and finally, I couldn't stop crying. This was more than just camp crash. This was life crash. I lost my Summer teaching job last month, so I have no job or income until September. I've been stressing out about this for the past month, and it finally came to a head the second I landed in NY. As did everything else. The reality of my situation. The exhaustion of living life without my husband for almost 5 years. The confusion of dating and finding love again, and being in situations that involve other people's fragile emotions, and that I have no control over. The frightening thought of hurting someone, or hurting myself, or trying to do everything right and still ending up alone anyway. The feeling of having absolutely no idea what Im doing, where I want to be in life, or what comes next for me. In life, I feel exactly as I did up in that plane - suspended in mid-air, and terrified. 

I feel like a failure. I feel scared. I feel like I should know what Im doing by now, or like I should have it more together than I do. I feel like a fraud - like someone that people look up to, and really they shouldn't , because I'm just as clueless as everybody else. I feel tired of making decisions, and I feel sick of struggling. When you don't know how you will pay your next bill or next month's rent, it is not a good feeling. I feel shaken up by life and trauma and grief, and I feel like that shaky feeling will never leave. I feel, I feel, I feel ....... 

And then I remind myself, I MUST remind myself, that I am not what I feel. I am not my feelings. They are just feelings, and they matter, and they are revealing, but they don't mean that is who or what I am. Just because I feel like a failure right now, does not mean I am a failure. Just because I feel terrified, does not mean I will be terrified my entire life. All of these feelings and thoughts are frightening for me right now, because I have never felt them before, and therefore, I dont understand them. And things that we don't understand are scary. Nothing is scary once you understand it better. 

I no longer have my husband here to make me feel safe in the world. And that sucks. Sometimes it REALLY sucks. And I don't have him to lean on when I'm scared, or to help me when I can't pay the bills, or to say: "Its okay, Boo. I'll pick up some extra shifts this month, and we'll get through this together." That is no longer a thing. But, my husband has sent me people. He has put other people into my life, that do their part to help make me feel that safe feeling again. He has sent people into my path that have my back, and I have theirs. And even though everything in my life is very confusing right now, and I'm not sure which direction to go in, I need to remind myself that I am not what I feel.

Maybe if I keep repeating it enough times, I will finally, actually believe it. Or, if anything, I will understand it better. And nothing is scary, once you understand it better. 

Showing 7 reactions

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  • commented 2016-06-29 21:31:23 -0700
    Even though I didn’t make it to Camp in San Diego – what you have said really hits home. I feel scared myself – wondering will I really ever work again and get a job I like even? I don’t have Justin to encourage me that we will be ok. Every blog that you write – gets better and so to my heart. Thank you for sharing your heart here. Know that you are not alone in this.
  • commented 2016-06-24 19:03:50 -0700
    If I were near you, I would give you the creepy stare and the awkward hug with the back massage. Bless your heart.

    I was at San Diego, and your talk was one of the highlights of my first time at Camp. I still giggle when I think about what you said. Sorry for your bout of CrapAss feelings and deep wrenching loss.
  • commented 2016-06-24 05:32:47 -0700
    Yes…there’s always that coming home to the reality of your life, alone. So sorry your travels ended this way, but at least you were surrounded by like minded people at Camp Widow. I at one time thought I would travel more, but after dealing with the hassle of travel, and then coming back to an empty house, I just don’t have as much interest in it as I thought I’d have. So hard to figure it all out, making decisions alone just sucks. But we can, and we do. Somehow things work out, not like we thought they would, but they do. Just keep going.
  • commented 2016-06-24 04:14:18 -0700
    ((hug)) … (((hug))) … ((((hug))))
  • commented 2016-06-23 23:25:53 -0700
    Keep writing Kelly. I feel them all. I like knowing that I’m not alone in the after life. The struggle is real. Day by day is how I have to live now. I miss him so bad.
  • commented 2016-06-23 18:48:48 -0700
    I hear you, and I get it… You are not alone! It sucks, and there’s not much we can do about having lost the love of our life. But we are here for each other. You are in my thoughts.
  • commented 2016-06-23 18:08:30 -0700
    Kelley, your words…. They so hit home for me. Thank you for sharing your deepest emotions. Everyone feels like a fake at some point- I’m sure of it. Thank you for making some of us feel not alone in these emotions. Sending you hugs and love, and prayers for a windfall so you don’t have to at least struggle financially. (((((Hugs)))))