Survival Preparedness

The past few weeks I feel as if my life is flowing forward full throttle. This week was the 3 1/2 year mark of Mike’s death, on the 17th, and I can honestly say it has taken this long for me to be able to handle this kind of momentum and change. But I can also say that somehow, in some way, I feel more than ready for it, suddenly.


Surviving grief is just that: surviving. For three and a half years I’ve been wandering through unknown lands…alien worlds of hopelessness and devastation, surprising new friendships, unexpected shifts in relationships. The strange reality with the missing piece we all wake up to every day. It all seemed to happen gradually, but at the same time, I look back and can’t believe its been that long already, because that part of us that remembers the heart clenching shock of that terrible day will always remember it as yesterday. But it wasn’t. It was 42 months ago. That’s 182 weeks…1277 days…30,648 hours…1,838,880 minutes. 


1277 days. That seems like a lot of days I’ve already lived without him. I calculated after he died that I had had 5040 days with him. Which doesn't seem very long, for the entire lifetime of a marriage…I will always feel I didn't get enough time with him at all. We weren't even married 14 years when he died. And I know a lot of you had even less time with your loves.


But here I am. And change is happening all around me. Part of it I can’t stop. And part of it is because I am making the changes. Big ones.


I have to. I have to, to survive. To continue surviving…and not just surviving grief, but surviving the world I now reside in that does not include my husband. I have to protect myself against evil banks who want to take my house, and I have to protect my future with some kind of career and income. So the past two weeks I’ve massively downsized the amount of stuff I possess so I can jump ship at a moment’s notice if I have to…and…drumroll please…I have also enrolled in school. 


I’ve done a lot of things in my life, let me tell you. Someone recently called me a renaissance woman and I had to laugh. Maybe it’s more like jack of all trades and master of none. But now, despite all the many things I know I can do, I need to find what I really want to do. I need to find a way of life that is fulfilling, and one that I can use to support myself beyond a $10/hr “yob”, in this next chapter of my life.


So yes, everyone, this middle aged widow is going back to school.


I am so excited I feel like a little kid getting ready for her first day of kindergarten. And it is because of Mike that I find myself standing on this particular threshold. I am going to study nutrition to become a health coach. That is something I had done for him as best I could while he was here - and in fact, it’s what I find I do, informally, for a few friends too, because they see me as someone who knows stuff about it. I just know I don't have enough knowledge under my belt really, so now I’m going to fix that, and create a second career to boot.


I spent my entire marriage learning as much as I could about food, cooking and nutrition to try and fix my sick husband. The one addicted to bad foods; the one whose heart and weight eventually ended it all for him, and for us. And I’ve never lost the keen interest, obsession really, with the topic. I find myself constantly searching the internet for new studies and new articles; joining the wars against junk food and big companies who poison us every day. But now I’m making it official. In one year, I will become certified, and the credits I will receive will allow me the opportunity to go even further in my education if I want. I never, ever, thought I would want to go back to school at this age. But now I can’t wait. My classes start, online, in September.


A year from now as well it is highly likely I will have moved back to the east coast from my beautiful oasis in Hawaii. That is also a huge change that is causing ripples right now. My musician boyfriend, even though he has been aware of all of this coming down the road for me, even though he supports me and wants the best for me, is having a hard time with the idea. And for me too, the sadness of leaving him and a beautiful place behind is so hard that some days I wonder if I can even do it. Long distance relationship? Starting a life by myself in a place I only know one other person? He can’t afford to leave his career here, probably for a long time. But I can’t afford to stay. And we both know I need to be closer to my parents and other family during this period. So it’s been rough. He was gone the past few weeks and coming home to a massively cleared out house and a girlfriend who has essentially empowered herself on this new survivalist mission has been a little bit of a shock.


After I drove him to the airport a few weeks ago I walked around the house by myself for about an hour in a panic. I hadn’t been alone for any length of time since Mike died. But instead of collapsing into a heap, which I nearly did, my survivalist instinct kicked in. That self-sufficient, super-organized, strong, independent part of myself that I hadn’t seen in a long time took up the charge and dove head first into what needed to be done. What I knew I needed to do to provide the security I need…what I needed to do to protect myself. And it has indeed been incredibly empowering. Hard, yes, getting rid of pieces of my life, as I said last week…but also incredibly empowering. And officially embarking on this new career avenue in the midst? Just wow. There are no words.


I wouldn’t have been ready for this only a few short weeks or months ago. So maybe, timing is everything. Or maybe I’m just doing what needs to be done as the tasks appear. Either way, I feel as if a flicker of the old Stephanie is reappearing. And it’s scary, without Mike. But good. I think he’d be proud.


Showing 4 reactions

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  • Stephanie Vendrell
    commented 2016-08-21 20:43:04 -0700
    Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your support, ladies. It feels huge, what I’m doing now, and coming back and seeing your comments just made my day. It means a lot to know none of us are alone in this.
  • Cathy
    commented 2016-08-21 09:21:52 -0700
    We never know how strong we are until we need to be. Sounds like you’re making a life for yourself again, good to have a plan, isn’t it? And yes, that plan may change, but you’ll go with the flow and figure it out again. Good for you, best wishes that it all falls into place for you. You’ve been thru the hardest of times already, heres’ to hoping it only gets better.
  • Lisa Richardson
    commented 2016-08-19 00:23:51 -0700
    For years I have been a “caretaker”. Children (17 years apart….yes, I raised them one at a time), husband, aging parents. At times I’ve wondered when it would be my turn in life. Well just yesterday I realized maybe this is my turn. If I have to struggle on without him, I’m going to try to include as much as I can that I truly enjoy. Congrats on going back to school. You’re going to be great!
  • Dori Capano
    commented 2016-08-18 06:26:58 -0700
    Stephanie, we don’t know each other but I feel as though I know you from your writings. So it is with great warmth that I say “good for you” on everything you are doing right now to evolve your life into something for yourself. None of it is easy, and I have learned through the last 4 1/2 years that no one understands that better than other widows. I am a Hawaii transplant living on the East coast (moved here to be with my late husband) and I understand the uniqueness of the islands to anyone who has called them home. Look forward~