I’m ready for my life to begin...
I went to watch a play a little while ago called “Bright Star,” and one of the song’s lyrics really spoke to me. The song opens with these lines, “I’m ready for my life to begin. I’m ready for it all to start.” This is how I’ve been feeling for awhile now. I feel like I’m literally at the cusp of my life beginning again. I’m standing at the threshold, looking out, and telling myself, “You’ll take that step forward when you’re ready.” So, that’s what I’ve been doing these last few months; standing at the threshold, looking out, willing myself to be mentally and emotionally prepared for when that little voice inside says, “You’re ready!” But, all I’ve been doing is standing at the threshold and waiting. I feel like I’ve been waiting for something to happen. I’m not sure exactly what I’m waiting for, maybe a bolt of lightning to strike me; something to make me feel like I’m ready for whatever lays ahead. But nothing happened. No bolt of lightning, no sign, no message from the universe...nothing! Nothing at all. If anything, I’ve grown more and more frustrated with myself; with my inability to move, to take the next step forward. I feel stuck. Imprisoned. Confined by my widowhood. I feel ready for a change but I’m still not ready to let go either. It’s like a constant tug of war raging inside of me.
I’ve been trying to not make any big decisions in my life until I’m ready and better. Ready and Better, these words seem so elusive to me. For the last six months, I feel like I’ve been waiting to be ready and better before making any big changes in my life. But, it’s been almost 2 years since you passed and nothing has changed. I still feel unsure, scared, stuck, and unsure of where my place in the world is. I still feel like a wife without a husband. I feel like a 20-something person stuck in a 40-something body. I still live a life so familiar and comforting but at the same time so painful and bittersweet. There are days where I want to hold you, to kiss you, and to hear your voice that it hurts so much while there are other days where I can’t even remember what it’s like to have you around, to hear your voice, or to feel your touch.
Right now, my life feels like a coin. It’s the same coin, but each side is so different. Some days, I’m living our life while other days, I’m living a widow’s life. I’ve made some changes that signifies you’re never coming home...
Some days, I feel like I’m a champion against widowhood while other days (okay, in all honesty, most days), I feel like widowhood is a gangster that busted both my kneecaps and left me crippled and in agonizing pain. #widowhoodstruggles
It never ends...
This last month has been rough. Most of the time, I feel like I’m okay, but then there will be a moment, a trigger, a memory, a longing, or a yearning so deep and vast that it hits me like a ton of bricks from left field, and suddenly, I’m reminded that there’s nothing okay with me. This last month (actually, probably more like the last four or five months), I feel like I’ve been tested over and over again. Maybe when life doesn’t happen the way you hoped or planned, it hits you even harder when you realize you’re so very alone in this world. Like no one is on your side or in your court rooting for you. You feel like it’s just you against the world. It makes this new normal feel even more unreal and impossible to live in when you’re used to always having a fan club of one on your side, even if he doesn’t always root for you and puts you in your place when you need it, but he is always there, ever so present, with lots of love, support, and encouragement to keep your spirits lifted, even on the worst days.
When I have one of these rough days now, I feel so alone and broken; immobile and confined. Like the shackles around my wrists and ankles are so tight and strong that I can’t break free, let alone breathe. I know what I need to do, but I can’t. I’m too scared and frightened. I feel unprepared, ill-equipped, and incapable of taking a step forward, even the smallest step forward is hard. I look all around me, and everything feels the same and familiar, but there’s nothing the same or familiar about my life. My world has turned upside down, and most of the time, I feel like I’m trapped in the worst nightmare possible, in an alternate universe where you don’t exist and I don’t know how to live or move forward without you. Everything around me is very dark, cloudy, and hazy. I never know is around the corner, and I’m always unsure of what to do next and everything ahead of me seems unattainable. I feel like I’m always stumbling around in the dark, trying to find the switch to turn the light on. Trying to find my bearings. Trying to find some glimmer of hope. Trying to find something, anything, that I can hold onto to guide me through the haze and fog. There are times where I feel like I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but when I think I’ve finally arrived, I realize it’s far from over and it continues to get harder and harder, and the light at the end of the tunnel is even further and further away.
I still have moments, even ~20 months later, where I wonder:
Where’s my Prince Charming?!
Lately, I’ve been going through the wringer and being tested in all aspects of my life (work and personal). For awhile now, I realized I could either be a victim or a heroine in my story. The choice was mine and whichever one I picked would set the stage for what I would do next. There are days where I feel like a heroine in my story, but most of the time, I feel like a victim trapped in the worst imaginable storyline!! (Yes Babe, I know, I’m so dramatic and I’d probably win the Oscar for best dramatic performance!!!) Whether I decide to be a victim or a heroine in my story, one thing that I do know beyond a reasonable doubt is that there’s no Prince Charming coming to save me anymore (and this is coming from the self-proclaimed independent woman of the millennia who always thought she didn’t depend on her husband that much!!), so I better WOMEN UP!! I’ve had to learn how to “fend for myself” (and not just what to eat for dinner on Fridays when you don’t cook, but for everything for the rest of my life). This required a complete shift in mindset and perspective (whether I was ready for it or not, it was going to come hard and fast at some point!!)
Looking back, I've often wondered at what point did I finally realize it was time to learn how to “fend for myself.” After you passed, I always knew I was going to continue the tradition of sending out holiday cards, so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to convey on my first holiday card as a widow. I always thought it would be an image of the backside of the animals and myself sitting on a bench in the backyard watching the sunset. But, when it came time to decide, I changed my mind at the last minute and opted for a profile image of me sitting on the bench in the backyard watching the animals play with the sun setting to my left. (As you know, the sun setting has always represented you!!) I decided I wanted my first holiday card as a widow to convey hope instead of sadness and yearning. I wanted the image to depict where I was going and where I wanted to be instead of where I was in my grief process. I guess it was my way of willing myself to believe that the animals and I could survive without you. That one day, we will find joy and happiness in our lives again; that the thought of you will bring a smile to our lips instead of a tear to our eyes. That one day, I will really be okay instead of just thinking I’m okay!
When I was in my 20’s, someone told me, “You will never reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going!” (Isn’t it always the simplest advice that is the most profound?!) I guess, without realizing it, deciding to change the holiday card image at the last minute to where I wanted to go and be at in my grief process was a way of setting my destination. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but at least I knew where I was going and wanted to be. This shift in mindset really set the stage for everything else that came next. We generally decorated the house for the holidays every other year (I know it’s very odd but that’s been the trend for as long as I could remember). Last year was the holiday decoration year, so of course, I was determined to decorate the house for the holidays. (I refused to let grief take more than it should from me!!) But, I decorated the house the way I wanted to and not the way you would approve. Nope, the Christmas tree was not color coordinated and the only reason there were ornaments on the back of the tree was because it was visible from the backyard since it was against the glass wall in the living room. Yup, I just threw ornaments on the tree willy nilly, and I refused to use any of your sports logo ornaments. (I know these things would have made you cringe, and if you were still alive, you would tell me to stop, give me the biggest hug and smile before you fired me from tree decoration duty, and make me sit on the sofa and watch you decorate the tree by yourself. I know for sure, you would be rolling over in your grave if you were buried!!! I’m surprised you didn’t haunt me!! Maybe you did and I just didn’t know it!!) I guess it was my way of getting back at you for all those years you wouldn’t let me decorate the Christmas tree because I didn’t follow your tree decoration rules!! (Yeah, payback is a B****, isn’t it?!) I also consciously decided to not put your stocking up, I removed your name from the holiday card and gift tags, and I used the return address stamp that I made after you passed with just my name. (Remember, the one my therapist made me order to just have for when I was ready to use it. Besides eating pork and eggs every week, that was literally one of the first and biggest things I did early in my grief process that signified I was alone in this world.) Looking back now, I realized I did these things not because I was ready but because I knew where I was going and where I wanted to be. I had a destination, and these conscious and deliberate actions were the directions I had to take to get closer to my destination. I’m still pretty far from reaching my destination, but at least I know where I’m going and where I want to be. Some turns are easier to make than others, and then there are times where I make a wrong turn and end up lost and stranded in the middle of nowhere. When this happens, I just have to be patient and forgiving of myself while I’m trying to find my bearings, recalibrate, and figure out how to course correct.
You know, while writing this entry, I was curious when I purchased my big girl ladder, so I looked back in the blog and discovered it was in early December, which can’t be a coincidence. I remember standing in front of the ladder section at Home Depot asking myself, “Am I really ready for this?!” Was I really ready to change the light bulbs and smoke detector batteries by myself? Was I really ready to accept you were no longer on an extended business trip?! Was I really ready to accept you were never ever going to come home again?! Was I really ready to accept my “new” reality?! Was I really ready to “fend for myself?!” The answer to all these questions was no, and I was literally on the verge of a massive meltdown in front of the all the ladders, so I was going to admit defeat and walk out of Home Depot as quickly as I could. But, I couldn’t leave because I knew where I wanted to go and where I wanted to be. Whether I was ready or not, I was determined and I refused to leave the Home Depot until I could walk out with a ladder in my hand. Honestly, I have no clue where I even found the strength and courage to grab a ladder and leave. I guess, at the end of the day, I just closed my eyes and jumped off the cliff, whether I was ready or not; hoping I will land on my two feet instead of crashing and burning.
Looking back, I realize, I didn’t find the strength and courage to do any of these things because I felt strong or confident or ready. Instead, I found the strength and courage to do these things when I hit rock bottom, at a very low and dark moment in my grief process; having a major meltdown in a hotel room thousands of miles away in Kyoto, Japan because I didn’t know how I was going to survive the rest of my life without you. I didn’t know how I was going to go on with you. I didn’t even know how to breathe without you. I guess, without realizing it, at that moment, when I hit rock bottom, it occurred to me, I could keep crying and feeling sorry for myself or I could put on my big girl pants and save myself. I guess at that moment, I decided to be a heroine in my story, whether I knew it or not. I was determined to save myself and make it. I was going to survive, even if I didn’t know how I was going to do this, but I refused to let fear be my boundary.
And the inspiration for this moment came when I happened to stumble on a recording of the eulogy given by former VP Biden at Senator Mc Cain’s funeral when he said,
“But I make you a promise. I promise you, the time will come when what's going to happen is six months will go by, and everybody is going to think, “well, it's passed.” But you are going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image, and you are going to feel like you did the day you got the news. But you know you are going to make it. When the image of your dad, your husband, your friend, it crosses your mind and a smile comes to your lips before a tear to your eye. That's who you know. I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know. That day will come. That day will come.”
Hey Babe -
So, I’ve kept myself very “un-busy” these last couple of months! I guess I was exhausted from all the “running” and “avoiding” I was doing the last few months and just need a break to recharge for the next sprint...J/K!! But in all seriousness, I’ve taken this downtime to really reflect on where I am, how I got here, and where I want to go next.
Where am I?
I’m a 40 year old widow (some might even call me a renegade widow since I refuse to fit into the widow stereotype, but then again, when did I ever let myself conform to any of societal labels, so I guess this is just me being me!!), who is trying to find herself and her place in the world after the most tragic and traumatic experience she has ever had to experience in her life. Although I’ve been touched and moved by the kindness, love, and support I’ve received on this incredibly hard and shitty ass journey, I also know it’s a journey I have to walk alone in order to come out the other end...I want to say unscathed but we both know that is definitely not going to happen! If anything, I’ve been scathed and banged up and down multiple times over already, wondering if the wound and pain will ever heal and end (that’s still a question that remains unanswered, but I’m also guessing I already know the answer to that question even if I don’t want to admit it).
How did I get here?
I fell in love with a tall, dark, and charming prince who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the ripe age of 49 and left me widowed at the age of 39. I didn’t even get to say goodbye, except for in my dreams. I was swimming (or at least trying to swim and stay afloat, which proved to be a lot harder than it would appear most of the time) in the ocean of grief. Most of the time, I was stuck out in the deep end without a life jacket, drowning and fighting for dear life. When I thought I finally found some bearing and footing in the ocean of grief and able to finally come up for air, my grandmother passed after a very long and excruciating battle with old age. I was unable to feel the magnitude of this pain and loss because I was still coping and struggling with such a larger pain and loss that was swallowing me up. When I finally felt the sand beneath my feet, I thought I finally made it out alive, but only to find out that even though I was in the shallow end of the ocean of grief, I still had to mourn the death of yet another person, your wife. She held your hand and laid down besides you in the hospital bed. I may have walked out of the hospital that day, but she never left your side. She died that same day also, even if I didn’t know it yet (and it’s still something that I’m grappling with on a daily basis). Slowly but surely, I eventually made it to shore and I finally thought to myself, “I’ve made it. I’m a survivor and my journey on this trail of grief is finally over (I mean, how much more can anyone take, right?!).” But, what I didn’t realize is that grief was only the first step on this very long and shitty ass journey. Come to think of it, it’s actually the easiest part of this journey.
I look around, and everything looks and feels exactly the same, but I know nothing will ever be the same again. No matter how hard I try to glue back the broken pieces, there will be some pieces that will never fit back the same way again and other pieces that just won’t fit anymore. Even after all the hard work of trying to put back together all the broken pieces, there’s still the cracks. Although the cracks will fade and become less visible over time, they will never ever go away. They will always be there, a constant reminder of a life broken, shattered, and irreplaceable.
Let me tell you, widowhood tests every part of your being; emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. It’s not for the faint of heart!! Even when you think you’re done, you quickly realize you’ve barely scratched the surface and there’s still so many more hurdles to overcome, and grief, unfortunately, is only the first step on this journey. And so far, I would have to say, it’s a lot easier than the rebuilding stage (which is the current stage I’m on).
Where am I going next?!
Who eff’in knows where I’m going next!! I think this question has caused so much anxiety in my life that I’ve been running at lightning speed; somehow thinking if I run fast enough, I can outrun widowhood. But, it always catches up to you. Let me tell you, you can never outrun widowhood!! Trust me! I know!! I’ve tried and failed many times already. I know I just have to learn how to sit with it, to be comfortable with it, to accept it. But, who would ever want to be comfortable with widowhood. Let me just say loud and clear, “NOT I!!!”
At the end of the day, what I realize is that I'm writing my story each day I live. It’s uncovering and being written everyday as I continue to fight and survive, to pick up the broken pieces and rebuild, to “move forward” and learn how to “expand my heart.” I can choose to be a victim or a heroine in my story. Whatever I decide, it’s up to me, and only me, and nobody else.
P.S. Happy Birthday Babe!! I love you very much, so much it hurts!!
The house is on fire...
Man - these last few weeks have been rough. It’s just life in general. When you’re “unmoored,” as my therapist likes to call it, anything that is unsettling (even when it’s not pertaining to your life) becomes very hard to navigate, manage, and grapple. I drove home the other day in tears because I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders and I had no one to share the burden with. I guess this is the “growing pains” of learning how to “fly solo” when you’re used to being a party of 2. It’s a lot harder than I thought (even for an independent person like myself). I’ve gotten so accustomed to sharing my life with you that it’s hard when I have no one to share my life, stories, and “gossip” with. Even if I call all my family and friends and “share” with them what’s going on, it still doesn’t really help that much. Don’t get me wrong, it helps, but it’s not the same. I still feel like something is missing when I can’t tell you about it. The bad days are hard since I have no one to comfort me or make me feel better, but ironically, the good days are even harder. They bring me to tears faster and worse than the bad days. Every accomplishment or achievement feels like a slap in the face; a constant reminder of the big hole in my life. It makes me think about all the things you’re missing out on and aren’t here to witness anymore. I still have days where the thought of you never coming home makes my heart skip a beat or two. Then there are other days where I feel like our life was the fantasy, like it never happened, and it was just a dream, a figment of my imagination.
For awhile now, I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. A life that is no longer mine. A life that I no longer fit in or feel comfortable in. I think I’ve sense this for awhile now, but I wasn’t willing or ready to admit or accept it yet, so I kept myself super busy and distracted. I traveled a lot and made lots of plans on the weekends, so I wouldn’t have to be home by myself the entire day. If I didn’t have plans on the weekend, I would get anxiety that I would have to stay home the entire day by myself with nothing to do (even though there’s plenty to do at home, like clean out your closet and konmari my stuff) so I would start calling people to fill up my calendar. I also kept myself really busy at work (with extracurricular activities from the women’s group) so I would have things to do when I got home in the evenings.
I guess “avoidance” was my way of dealing and coping with the realization that I was mentally ready to step outside of the “middle room.” But, I guess my heart wasn’t ready for me to leave the “middle room,” so it found ways to keep me distracted so I wouldn’t have to deal with the tug of war. Remember, the tug of war that was raging inside of me when I was getting ready to leave “grief” and enter the “middle room”?? That period was rough!! I guess I didn’t want to have to go through that mental and emotional turmoil again, so without realizing, I closed my eyes and made a mad dash through the door and out of the “middle room” (I guess, subconsciously, this was a “rip the bandaid” kind of step for me). I just closed my eyes and sprinted out of the “middle room” as fast as I could. Maybe my subconscious knew it was the only way I could survive and get through this part of the journey. But, in my mad dash to get out of the “middle room,” I didn’t do the relevant or necessary work I needed to prepare myself for the next part of this journey. I didn’t pack or put forth any thought into figuring out what I wanted to bring with me. I just ran out of the house frantically like it was a 5 alarm fire. I didn’t have time to grab anything but the clothes on my back.
I literally closed my eyes and jumped off the cliff. Now that I’ve landed, I realize I’m naked, exposed, and ill equipped for the next phase of this journey. I don’t have the proper gear to keep going. I guess I have to do some backtracking (ain’t this journey a B****!!). I guess this is where you would say, “SY, haste makes waste!!” I know I keep trying to sprint to the finish line even though I know there’s no finish line on this journey, it still hasn’t stopped me from wanting to reach that non-existent finish line as quickly as possible. This isn’t a marathon either, so pacing myself isn’t going to work either. I keep wanting to outrun my widowhood status, but what I really need to do is learn to how to sit and be comfortable with it. I need to learn how to embrace it and accept it because it’s never going away. It’s a part of me. It’s a part of who I am now. It’s a part of my story, BUT it doesn’t have to define me.
P.S. Do you remember how you would sometime introduce me as “your other half” or “your better half”?? I always hated when you did that. It really bothered me to the point where I would always ask you “Why must you always introduce me as only half a person?!” It never really sat well with me and it always bothered and annoyed me to the point where I literally had to tell you to stop doing that?! I always thought it was something you did because you saw it on TV, but maybe you knew something that I hadn’t quite grasp or understand until now. Yes, I’m all grown up now, I’m able to admit when you’re right! I love you babe...I miss you so much it hurts!
It’s your 16th month deathversary!! 16 months ago, I could barely breathe, let alone ever think that I would survive this trauma and be able to function in a world where you didn’t exist. Before, everything seemed like it was standing still and time was passing by at a painstakingly slow speed. Now, everything feels like it’s whirling by and moving at the speed of light. There are times, where I feel like I’m chasing after time and can’t keep up. But, as we all know, time moves at the same speed. It never changes. It's constant.
I’m sure you’re wondering what I’ve been up to lately since I barely write. Well, to be quite honest, I’ve written you pages and pages of letters in my head. The words and stories have never stopped. We’re chatting everyday, but now our conversations are in my head. I try to write, but the words just don’t want to come out anymore. I remember reading Option B where Sheryl Sandberg says that you write until you are done, and you will know when you are done! I don’t know if I’m done. I just think it’s progressed to a different level where the grief process has extended beyond just the pain and sadness, so it’s more difficult to write when you have no clue how you’re feeling or what’s going on in your life. I’m in the part of the grief process where I’m trying to figure out who I am without you and where I want to go next without all the eyes staring and watching me, even though I know more than ever, I’m still living in a fishbowl. Even if people want me to think they’re not watching anymore, they are. Everybody is still watching and even more curious with what’s going on with me. Is she “really” okay? Will she be able to move on? When is she going to start dating? (Even your mom was curious about the last question. Apparently, so is my mom. She told my sister that she hopes I start dating soon so I’m not so lonely by myself up there were her exact words.)
I think people want some sort of marker or sign that I’m better and ready to move on with my life, and somehow that marker for widow(er)s is dating. But, what people don’t understand is that there’s no such thing as “better” or “moving on” from widowhood. Your death isn’t ever going to leave me or go away. To my dismay, I’m starting to learn there’s never really going to be a “better” and I’m never going to “move on” with my life. There’s no such thing, even if I’m dating or get remarried. I don’t think people really understand that there's no finish line in this journey unless they’re a widow(er) themselves. Even I have a hard time accepting that there’s no finish line in this journey. If anything, I feel like I'm always trying to rush to the finish line myself. Your death and my widowhood journey has essentially become a part of who I am. It's my story now. It’s in every breath I take. It’s forever changed who I am and all the relationships around me, even the ones that started out without you and / or didn’t even involve you. There are even friends who will be changed forever as a result of your passing. We have all forever changed, whether they know it or not and even if they all go through their lives as if nothing has happened. We’re different. Our perspectives have changed. Our value system has been disrupted, turned upside down, and changed. Who I am now is not who I was when you were alive. I will never be the person that I was when you were alive. I know I’m still far from “becoming” the person I’m meant to be and I’m still undergoing my metamorphosis, but even the person that stands before me in the mirror is drastically different from the person I was when you were alive. I don’t know, maybe you might like this SY better!! 🤣😂🤣😂 She’s finally becoming the person you’ve always wanted her to be. She may have resisted when you were alive, but now she has surrendered to it. Sometimes, it takes a traumatic and earth shattering event to put things in perspective and truly understand and see what’s important in life.
To a certain extent, I am “better” but not in the way people think. Better in that the pain and sadness no longer consumes my life, even if it hurts the same today as it did 16 months ago. I’ve gotten better at coping and managing the grief and not letting it take me down or slow me down. With anything else in life, there’s a learning curve with coping and managing pain and grief. It doesn’t get better with time, you just get better at managing it and not letting it affect you the way it used to when it first happened. You get better at putting on a show for the world to see and gracing the world with this “I’m okay” and “grief ain’t got nothing on me” persona, but when the curtain goes down and you’re at home in the quiet of the night, there’s a different persona that emerges; one where there’s still great pain and sadness in your heart. Where you still long and ache for your dying husband to come home. Where you still sleep on your side of the bed and stare at his side, wondering when he will come back. Where every moment of happiness you experience is even harder, sadder, and more painful than the pain and grief you’re going through because you’re not able to share it with your person. You feel even sadder and more alone than before because the world thinks you’re doing better than you really are and you can’t really tell anybody that you’re really not that “better” since you’ve worked so hard to make sure the world thinks and believe you’re better, so they would stop staring at you, but later you figured out that even if they’re not staring at you like they did before, they still haven’t really taken you out of their line of sight yet. Instead, they’re watching you from afar and at their peripheral. They’re still watching and curious to see what you will do next and whether you’ve really landed on your feet or not.
I wish I can say I’ve picked up the pieces of my broken life and somehow put them back together. I wish I can say with confidence that I am “better” or “strong” or “so put together after such a tragic experience,” but, in all honesty, nothing has been picked up or put back together. I am not better and I’m definitely not strong. And obviously, I’m very good at faking it until I make it. If anything, I’ve been distracting myself and closing my eyes to all the pieces that lay broken and scattered all over the floor around me. (I’ve come to learn that avoidance is one of my best coping mechanisms.) I don’t even know where to begin or how to start picking up the broken pieces of my life around me; let alone sorting them into logical piles so I can start making sense of it all and put them back together. So, the broken pieces lay scattered all over the floor while I carry on with my life. I've been closing my eyes and walking over them on a daily basis. I figure when I'm ready, I will know and there’s no need to force myself or set some sort of timeline or schedule of when they need to be done or in what order they should be done, especially since the timeline and schedule just adds undue and unwarranted stress and pressure. So, let’s see what still needs to be sorted and “catalogued” in my life:
Even though most of my life is still one big fat question mark...there are a few things that I know definitely to be true so far on my journey.
Well - it looks like I’m taking a last minute trip to China for work! I guess being home for five consecutive weeks was getting antsy for me that I didn’t mind going last minute! Literally purchased my ticket today and leaving on Sunday! **SIGH** Sometimes it’s so hard to be home but in all honestly grief has followed me on my travels, so it’s not like I’m taking a break or vacation from grief anymore when I’m away! It feels the same as if I was home or anywhere in the world now. I feel just being on the move gives me solace that I’m somehow moving and not just standing still. I don’t know if the antsiness will ever go away or if I will ever settle into widowhood, but I guess this antsiness was always a part of me before I met you. I’m not sure if I ever mentioned that some of the traits I didn’t like about myself before meeting you has started to resurface again. But, they have, much to my dismay, and it’s been a struggle to fight or suppress these unwanted traits. There are times where I can’t believe how much of myself and identity has become so wrapped up with you! When you pride yourself on being an independent woman of the millennium, you can’t help but be so shocked when you are going through an identity crisis after your husband drops dead on you suddenly and unexpectedly, with almost no rhyme or reason. I feel like all I’ve been doing the last year or so is mourn your death and mourn the loss of my identity as a wife and partner while trying to figure who I am and what my life should look like now that I’m by myself. It hasn’t been easy, and some days, I feel like I’m trapped in hell or a really bad nightmare that I’m struggling to wake up from but cannot. Over time, it has gotten easier to manage the pain and it no longer monopolizes my life anymore, but it never really feels better and the pain never really goes away either. If anything, I still go through days where I’m still in disbelief and shock that you are not here anymore, while other days, it’s like our life is what feels distant and imaginary; like it never even happened; like it was just a figment of my imagination; a dream that I finally woke up from. A fairytale that doesn't exist in real life.
I feel like I’m constantly straddling two worlds where neither life makes sense nor feels right. It’s almost like I’m just going through the motions of living this life, while I’m waiting for something to happen. What?! I have no clue, but I always feel like I’m in a holding pattern. Like I’m just chillin’ in purgatory until I can get reincarnated or something. Although the struggles have become less frequent and more manageable, the pain and emotions still hasn’t changed. Things that used to be hard or was a struggle has started to become more second nature now. I no longer feel the immense pain or longing or emptiness but I also know that the pain, longing, and emptiness will never ever go away either. Even though I see the same person staring at me in the mirror, I know she’s not the same person anymore. Even if I have no clue who she is just yet, I know she is different, and she will never ever be the same again. There are moments where I still can’t believe this is my life, but then there are other moments where I’m fully aware that this is my life and situation. It’s been hard to live with so much unknown and uncertainty when all I knew before seemed to be so sure and definite. When “‘til death do us part” seemed so far away, yet came way too early.
Last night was quite an ordeal with the animals. I let the dogs out like normal at around midnight for about fifteen minutes and when it was time to come back in, Pebbles was MIA. I kept calling her and she didn’t come back. I even went to the backyard and yelled over the fence (you know how she loves hopping the fence and running around in the slope area) but there was no response, which is totally not like her at all. This went on for about 15-20 minutes. So, I started to get worried that maybe she got attacked by a wild animal or something. I went to get a flashlight to see if I can see something since it was so dark back there. When I shined the light in the direction she likes to run at, I see these two glowing eyeballs staring at me. I call her name but still nothing. The glowing eyeballs just keep staring at me, and I’m not sure if it’s her or a wild animal staring at me. I know it’s not a fixture cause it’s moving and blinking but always staring directly at me. I didn’t know what to do, as it’s kind of scary back there.. It dark, and those glowing eyeballs staring at me could be anything, and we do live in the woods. I’m scared to even hop the fence in broad daylight, so imagine the fear I had to quell to contemplate hopping the fence in the pitch dark at like 12:30 at night!! I wouldn’t even hop that fence in broad daylight to chase after Jesse when he goes back there. But, I decided that I had to hop the fence and go find her, even if it scared me shitless to think about it, just in case she was hurt since this was definitely not like her to not come back when I call her after 30 mins and also be radio silent (not even a bark or any signs of her even being anywhere nearby except for those glowing eyeballs staring back at me.) As you know, if something like this happened when you were still alive, it would be you with the headlamp on your head who would hop the fence and venture out on these types of rescue / reconnaissance missions while I stay in the house and say, “Be careful Babe!!”) So, I went back inside the house to put on my tennis shoes (yes, you trained me well since the old SYC would have just hopped the fence with her flip flops on and probably lose traction and rolled down the hillside and break something), grabbed a broom (because you always tell me I should never go out at night without some sort of protection to ward off the mountain lions), and I put the headlamp on so I can have at least one hand free to hold on to something as I walk around so I don’t fall and roll down the slope and break something. Yes, I know you’re probably thinking, “SY, why didn’t you bring your phone with you, just in case you needed to call for reinforcement. I know I trained you better than this!!” In all honesty, I did looked at my phone when I was about to head out, and thought to myself, “I really should bring my phone with me just in case I roll down the hill and need to call for help,” but I decided against it since I needed one hand free to hold myself steady while walking around the slopey area so I don’t fall, and I had no pockets to put the phone in and didn’t want to drop it while I’m trekking along a hillside slope in the middle of the night (one less problem to solve...because you know me, it would happen since I’m such a klutz!!). So, I reluctantly hop the fence and walk towards those glowing eyes, not sure what to expect. As I’m getting close, I still can’t make out whether it’s Pebbles or not since it was so dark back there. As I get closer, I see the shape of an animal that doesn’t seem scared or alarmed that I’m approaching, so I’m hopeful it’s Pebbles but still not sure why she is just standing there staring at me with those glowing eyes and not come or even bark when I call her. When I finally approach her, she is just standing there staring at me and it turns out she got the clasp part of her collar that holds her name tag stuck on some chicken wire (why there is chicken wire back there is an anomaly to me also!). The poor baby was probably scared shitless, which is probably why she wouldn’t bark or make a peep when I called her. She only stared at me with those frightened glowing eyes in hopes that mommy knew she was in danger and would come save her. I couldn’t get the clasp free from the chicken wire and I didn’t want to roll down the hill, since Pebbles would be the only one who could probably survive the fall and be able to get back up while I would be stuck at the bottom with a broken bone or something like that, so I had to take the collar of of her. Once I freed her, she took off towards the house but she did wait to make sure I was safe and behind her before she hopped back into our backyard (I know, so nice of her right?!) I was able to finally get the collar off the chicken wire when she wasn’t wearing it anymore.
Overall, I thought it was quite a successful mission. I didn’t even breakdown or have an emotional meltdown before, during, or after the ordeal. I didn’t curse you for leaving me behind to deal with this kind of stuff by myself, and I didn’t even think about you until I got back inside the house and went to go bed. I just took care of business and powered through it. When I was laying in bed, I thought to myself, “Sean would be proud of me today!” and I fell asleep. It didn’t occur to me until this morning that this event can be considered a #widowhoodmilestone moment since this was the first time I was able to “manage” a difficult situation that you would normally take care of without incident or some sort of mental and / or emotional breakdown. It must mean I’m starting to get accustomed to “life without you,” which is so awesome yet so sad and painful at the same time. There are so many times where I feel like I’m living in two completely different worlds but I’ve always known, with any major shift or change in a person’s life, the two different worlds will eventually collide and start to merge and align until it becomes the same reality. It’s always something I wanted to come as quickly as possible, but now that it’s slowly start to surface, it’s also a very sad and painful realization as well that I can actually forge this world alone, without you in my life.
This incident was completely different from the “flat tire” incident I had after I got back from Spain in late January. I don’t even know if I ever told you about it, but let’s just say it did not end as well. I tried to be as calm, cool, rational, independent and self-sufficient as I could be and was determined to handle it all by myself. Even when LH offered to help, I told him, “I’m a big girl now and I can take care of this by myself.” But the ordeal ended up being a lot harder and more complicated than I had expected and took over a week to resolve. Yes, I know it was just a flat tire right?! Well it turns out, the technical term for my “flat tire” was not only a “blowout” since the tire was in shreds, but I also damaged two of the wheels to the point they needed to be replaced completely, and damaged the other two that it also needed repair. Mind you, I didn’t even know the difference between the tire and the wheel when I first started on this venture and what it meant when the technician said “the inner lip of the wheel is bent and needs to be replaced!!” (In my mind, what is the lip of the wheel and why would it being bent mean I have to replace the entire thing?!) I also lost it and yelled at the triple A representative in the middle of the night while standing in the parking lot of Wheel Works in my PJ’s when the tow truck driver refused to tow the car to the BMW dealership unless I ride with him all the way to Pleasanton after being 2 hours late for the third time. (Yup, the car had to be towed multiple times between Wheel Works and the dealership.) By this time, the whole ordeal had gone on for about 3 or 4 days already between Wheel Works, the BMW dealership, and Triple A. I drove off that night in tears all the way home. I was so frustrated with the whole incident, with Triple A for being 2-3 hours late on multiple occasions, with the tow truck driver for being an A**HOLE, with myself for not being able to maintain my “cool” and being able to solve this on my own, and with you for leaving me here all alone to deal with S*** like this. I was so mad at you when I was driving home and I was cursing the universe and wondered when I will ever stop feeling like S*** all the time. I even had a spat with the Lyft driver who picked me up to take me to the dealership to pick up the car a week later. The whole ordeal took almost two weeks to resolve, and it made me realized how lucky I was to have a partner who took of these types of things for me that I had no clue how to deal with it myself at all.
Oh yeah, another thing I have to quickly learn how to do is a smog check!! Your mini needs a smog check this year!! I don’t even remember the last time I did a smog check! Probably 20 years ago at the very least!! I guess I better figure it out since the registration is due next week!! eekkkk….
The journey is never-ending...
The other day, I had a dream I was falling back and someone caught me from behind, but I didn’t know who it was. It felt so real that it woke me up. I could feel the person’s hand on my back as I fell into their hand and chest, but I never turned around to look at who it was, I just woke up. I didn’t need to look because because I already know who it was you. You were trying to tell me that you will always catch me whenever I fall, whether you are here or not.
It’s been hard lately Babe. I feel like I’m falling, spiraling out of control, unraveling, and there’s nothing I can do to make it stop. I just keep falling, spiraling, and unraveling. I feel like I’m watching a movie where the audience is saying, “OMG, What is she doing?! Why can’t she just grab the life and happiness that’s right in front of her. Why does she keep torturing herself like that?!” That’s the thing, I realize that I don’t know how to grab what’s right in front of me. I don’t know how to move forward. I’ve concluded that “moving forward” is a lot harder than moving on since there was no finality to the relationship. There was no break-up, no argument or fight, no agreement to separate or end the relationship. There was no “ending” or “conclusion” to our parting. We didn’t choose it or want it. It was forced upon us and decided without our consent. We had no control over it and it’s so hard to fathom and accept at times, especially when it was something you didn’t choose or having any control over and it seems so senseless and untimely at the same time. So, moving forward has been a lot harder than I expected. It’s not because I don’t want to move forward; it’s because I just don’t know how to. I don’t know how to stick out my hand and reach for it. I don’t even know where to start or what I’m supposed to do. I don’t even know how to be “single” or live a “single” life. I don’t even know how to #adulting without you since I’ve never “adulted” without you. It’s hard to believe that I’ve spent my entire adult life with you. I was in grad school when we met, so I was just living an extension of “college life.” I never really had to be an adult until I left grad school, so all of my “adulting” life was with you by my side.
I feel like I’ve been trying to get comfortable and settled into my widowhood skin, but whenever I start to feel comfortable or settled, I realize I don’t ever want to be comfortable or settle. I never want to be comfortable or settled in widowhood. All I want to do is to rip it off, piece by piece. I want nothing to do with it. I just want you back. So, I start getting antsy and anxious when I’m still (aka “comfortable” or “settled”) for too long. All I want to do is just keep moving since “moving” makes me feel like I’m somehow going forward on this journey, even if I’m deluding myself, since all I’m doing is actually running in circles or in one place and not really going anywhere. At times, I feel like if I stop, everything will fall apart and break into a million pieces again. So, I have to keep going; running, moving, trying to get ahead of grief so it can’t catch up to me and take over my life again. I refuse to stop running because I can’t bear the pain anymore. The pain can be so unbearable at times that all I want to do is scream and yell at the universe, but all that comes out is tears. Tears of pain and sorrow, so deep that I’ve yet to hit bottom. Tears of loss and grief, so great it’s literally unbearable. Tears for all the lost memories and unfulfilled plans. Tears for all the yearning and desire that nothing in the world can satisfy. Tears for the wife that is husbandless but doesn’t know how to be anything else but a wife. Tears for the 40-something person who’s relegated back to her 20-something unsure and insecure self. I feel like all I do now is cry. I cry for myself. I cry for your mom. I cry for all your family and friends. I cry for all the people who lost their spouse too early, when “til death do us part” came way too early. I cry for all the parents who lost their child. I feel like all I do is cry and it never ends. The tears never stop coming. I can’t even remember a day where my life feels complete anymore. Most days, I feel stuck and drifting at the same time. How can someone be stuck and drifting at the same time?! I don’t know but that’s how I feel.
Your mom and I had another MIL + DIL day! We went to watch Hamilton. Your mom loved it. I liked the second half better since I was struggling with the first part (I guess I should have brushed up on my US revolutionary history before the show!) It’s been awhile since I saw your mom that I can’t even remember the last time I saw her (it was probably November timeframe). At dinner, your mom asked me if I was ready to start dating. She said I had too much love to give to not think about it. I’m not sure what came over me, but I just started crying. I couldn’t utter a word and the tears wouldn’t stop flowing from my eyes. I realized later, I wasn’t crying because I was sad or grief-stricken over you or feeling sorry for myself since most days, I just feel stuck and adrift with my life, I was crying for your mom. I was crying for her because I knew how hard it was for her to say those words to me. I will never know the depth of her pain from losing you, but I can only imagine. Although I know your mom isn’t ready to hear or know whether I’m ready to date or whether I’m dating or not, I know she said those words because she strongly wants to believe and feel that she is at a certain place in her grief to be able to say those words to me. This is something I struggle with also. Always wanting to be “better” than I really am and putting myself on some grief timeline or benchmark. To be able to say or do something because somehow it feels like I should be at a certain place in my grief process because of the amount of time that has lapsed. But, there’s no timeline or benchmark for grief, even if I try and fail miserably to disprove this theory everyday.
At the beginning of this journey, I would look to your mom and hope that we could help each other get through this together. I so desperately wanted her to hold my hand, so we could walk through the fire together, but it never happened. I, eventually, had to put my big girl pants on and carry myself through the fire (well, I’m not sure if I’m even through the fire yet or if there will ever be an end to the fire, but let’s assume, figuratively speaking, I’m through the fire for the sake of being able to make my point). I figured we were the two women who loved you most and who knew you best, so why wouldn’t we help each other get through these darkest hours together and be each other’s support? In my mind, it made sense. I mean, a week before you passed, you admitted that you married someone who was very similar to your mom. But, she never let me in, no matter how hard I tried or so desperately needed her support and guidance. I was hurt and disappointed that your mom couldn’t be there for me and that she wouldn’t let me be there for her. But, now that I’m further along my grief process, I’ve come to realize that she couldn’t be there for me because she could barely be there for herself.
At the end of the day, we are all on this journey alone, even if we started at the same place and time. Although the beginning feels the same for everyone; dazed, confused, shocked, disbelief, pain, sadness, emptiness, anger, and the list goes on and on, eventually, when the cloud and fog lifts, how we cope, process, and deal with the pain and grief is as different as a person’s personality. People also move along the grief journey at different speeds and pace. Therefore, we can’t hold hands and walk together because, at some point, one person has to let go and keep going even when the other person isn’t able to keep up in order to save themselves. No one can save anyone else on this journey. We can only save ourselves. We can’t help or save anyone else if we can’t help or save ourselves first. This is the sad truth and reality of grief. It’s the epitome of “survival of the fittest.”
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.