I’ve somehow made it through the past week without hitting critical mass. I won’t say I’ve had my moments, but rather, that the past seven days or so have been one big moment, with little instances of calm peppered in. Simply put, it was just a rough, overwhelming, busy, tiring week, the kind where you feel both accomplished and exhausted, and it’s hard to allow yourself into a calm state of mind.
It was the kind of week I had quite frequently through the years with Megan, generally it was the weeks she was admitted to the hospital, and our routine suddenly got turned on it’s head.
As you may have read, Sarah is moving in with Shelby and I. With that comes a big push to clear space in our home for the incoming items. My week started with sitting down and doing one of the tasks that most widows and widowers dread...going through their person’s possessions. Everything from random keychains or old wallets, to letters and pictures from our lives together had to be gone through, sorted, organized, and stored in the proper place. Decisions have to be made. “Do I throw this out, donate it, sell it, or store it?” Constant reminders that this person that I spent over a third of my life with was no longer here.
That alone would be overwhelming enough on any given week, but there’s more.
It’s been the hottest week in the past three or four years here in Ohio. I don’t deal well with heat. I would much rather have 20 degrees and cloudy than 95 and sunny any way you slice it. Heat and humidity actually noticeably induces anxiety in me. Normally, I would simply retreat indoors, in the air conditioning that we spent over $6000 having installed 11 years ago. Murphy's law struck though, and our air conditioning failed, beyond repair, six days ago...just as the “heat wave” (for Ohio at least) was starting.
Those two things alone would be overwhelming enough, but there’s more.
I allowed myself to stop paying so much attention to my finances awhile back, and as last week rolled around, things got very tight. I realize that it could be far worse...the bills are all paid, nothing is behind, and there’s food on the table. Regardless, reality smacked me in the face last week that even with a steady, well-paying job, I’m still “stuck” there for the foreseeable future, because I simply can’t afford to quit. I don’t enjoy my job, but it’s good solid work in my chosen career field, and I’m thankful to have it.
Sprinkle in what I consider “oppressive” heat and some emotional house work to those suddenly tight finances, and you have quite the recipe for a breakdown. But wait...there’s more!
My parents are currently having their own troubles. My mother was let go from her job, and is struggling now with unemployment and health insurance. My father has lost 50 or so pounds in the past year. Neither of them are in the best of health right now, and both of them should be able to sit back and enjoy their later years of life without having to worry about finding another job or medical bills. I do what I can to help them, but please reference exhibit C above, where money is currently tight.
All of the above occurring in a one week span is more than enough for any one person to have to deal with.
Did I mention it was Megan’s birthday on Sunday? She would have been 35. It’s all I could think about when I had any free time last week.
The takeaway from all this though, is that I didn’t break down. I didn’t explode, or scream, or curse god, the president, or the flying spaghetti monster for bringing me all these troubles. I dealt with it. Sure, there were times when I became visibly frazzled, having to leave the room or go outside to compose myself, but the day went on. I carried boxes to the garage to be stored, or the truck to be donated. We moved Sarah’s entire art studio here to the house. I went and bought a portable air conditioner, installed it, cooled the house down to bearable levels, and scheduled an appointment with an HVAC company for an estimate on a new system. I didn’t spend extraneous money on anything, and come pay-day, I made sure that all bills for the next few weeks were fully paid. I offered help to my parents, and arranged for them to have Shelby for a few days, if only to allow them to enjoy her presence, rather than worrying about things. We got three little cakes, put a candle in one of them, and had Shelby blow it out for Megan, followed by treating Megan’s parents and brother to a "birthday" dinner. We even somehow managed to hike, kayak, and take a few enjoyable car rides amidst all the overwhelming things that were going on.
Megan would have been proud. I can easily remember a time where I would have just thrown my hands up and said “screw it all”, or worse still, let my anger take over and blown up. I’ve changed, since her death. Maybe, subconsciously, I’m always processing that “it could be worse” thought in my head. Even if the bills couldn’t be paid, the thermometer soared past 100, and I kept every single thing Megan ever touched, right down to old gum wrappers, it could be worse. If I had never met Sarah, my parents were bankrupt, and I forgot Megan’s birthday until the next day, it could be worse. None of those “issues” were worse than losing Megan. They’re “small stuff”, and you know you’re not supposed to sweat the small stuff.
That thought is what allowed me to enjoy those little moments of calm. It’s what pushed me through last week, into this one, with momentum rather than exhaustion. It hasn’t slowed down. We’re still moving boxes and organizing, it’s still hot, I still have no air conditioning, it’s going to take a while to get back on budget, I still have to go to work, my mom is still unemployed, and my dad is still uncharacteristically thin. It’s not like stress just turns itself off and the end of a week. I’m sure there will be a few more things that go ahead and insert themselves into my life soon that I’ll have to deal with.
Bring it on...it could be worse.