Growing up, my dad always had a unique way of teaching us something. Trial by fire. He never had a lot of patience to sit down and teach us and show us something so he would quickly give directions and then yell at the top of his lungs when he found something you were doing wrong but he forgot to tell you about.
Case in point: Dad teaching me how to mow a lawn. Five minutes was devoted to teaching me. Of showing me how to make straight lines, go around edges and what the weed whacker and edger will cover. Showing me how to turn the mower on, off and where to put the gas. Showing me how to change the bag. Telling me to keep my feet and loose objects away from the blade of the mower. Then he sends me off and approximately two minutes later yells "What the [email protected][email protected] are you WEARING??? Um, flip flops. What EVERY kid in California wears in the summer. He then immediately sent me back inside to change out shoes. I had followed the rules. My feet were away from the blades. I was just never told no open toed shoes and didn't understand why.
And that pretty well sums up life lately. I feel like I'm thrown into the fire and the life and direction I need to take just seem a little muddled right now. Five months after my exes passing and I feel like I'm just flying by the seat of my pants. I don't know how I should "be." I don't have all the answers for the kids. I feel so inadequate most days that most people who see me running past probably see me brush tears off my face because it's the one place I can cry without the kids wondering what's wrong. It's also the one place I can feel like I'm running away from everything and everyone for an hour but then allow reality to come back when I start to get tired. I'm just bouncing from one fire to the next at work and at home. Somehow things are staying together but I feel like I'm always dropping the ball somewhere even though I'm not. the future isn't very clear right now either. I'm not sure what step I should take next and every time I take a step forward the next one isn't clear or I end up stepping back.
I can remember clearly getting up one day last week and in my morning moment of reflection and .242 seconds of quiet just wishing that there was SOMEONE alive on this freaking planet who could identify with what I was feeling lately and who could let me know if I was ever going to make it through this or if I was going to be living in a permanent state of worry, pseudo pregnancy brain and feeling like I never got enough sleep.
As I sat at the gym in between sets, I had some gymspiration. Through another website I fell across another website that took me to a website of a woman who had lost her husband in a plane crash several years ago. Her kids were eerily close to the ages mine were when her husband had passed away. She had even been the same age I was when she became a widow. I scrolled to the end of her blog and started to work my way back to the present day.
In those few pages I was flipping through, I found three things that I needed to know that day:
- I wasn't alone. In fact, I was part of a large army of equally strong woman who had raised families successfully as widows. And achieved great things as a result of it. From biblical to modern day woman, there were many women who had been asked to do incredibly hard things in life, and then do it without the aid of a husband and partner. I am grateful that shortly before my ex passed away i was given a best friend and partner by my side. He's patiently and quietly allowed me to work through the emotions, fears and heartaches alone or with the kids and myself when I need to, or with me when I need him. He observes and subtly takes over quietly to fill in the gaps that i can't do on my own. Like put together computers or install subwoofers. For now the burden still lies on me just like he has his but it's nice to have someone standing beside you.
- I was prepared for this. In her website, she shares a story of her children walking one night. Just her and the kids. The thought came to her that she could be comfortable with this. She found her husband died the next day. I think the man upstairs knew that I needed more time to prepare. I got to see my Dad get sick as a young child, and see the stresses that it put on my mom. Strangely those years before my ex passed away, doors opened and I was able to finish my bachelors and masters so I could feel prepared. When we divorced, I thought that was my answer as to why the doors had opened for me to get my education. When he passed away, I knew it was my answer to why those doors had opened. I walked for graduation for my masters degree ten days after he passed away. So many times I never thought I'd get through my education and everytime a door opened. I just spoke with another widow this morning who came in my office. We chatted after her child's appointment. Strangely my next appointment didn't show up giving us time to chat. Our stories were eerily similar as well. She and I had lived with a spouse/child who had a chronic illness. I knew the stresses of it, but I also knew that our time together was more precious than most. We prepared our kids for low blood sugars and how to help treat them, they knew and were educated on what could happen to Dad with his diabetes and why an ambulance was showing up at 4 in the morning to the house. Even with all of the preparation it's always in the back of your mind that our time was going to be more limited than most families. While it was a shock when he passed, I was also strangely prepared for this. I was reminded of that again when a dream woke me up the other night. It was a dream from many years ago. We were at one of our children's graduation, and I couldn't picture my ex there (then husband). I couldn't see him in the picture, but I could see everyone else. I couldn't see it back then, but the confirmation that I had been prepared for this moment for many years came to me. For many years I've taken the kids camping by myself and carried the burden while he traveled or was sick. It made the transition easier when he passed, but not easy. Now I cannot 'give up' some of my burden to someone else. A lot of times people talk about giving up our burdens to a higher power and while there is peace that can be felt, there are also bills, health insurance, retirement, taxes, and so many other things that you cannot just divvy up and divide and conquer with your partner anymore. And unfortunately the higher power doesn't have the ability to take over all the learning and reading of the new tax laws, retirement information and changes to my healthcare insurance for the new year and give me an abbreviated version like in the past when I had a spouse that would. Or when he had parent time.
- Those moments that I think that i can't answer the kids questions, or help with a homework problem, or get an answer for them to something they are struggling with...I can rest assured that he is struggling too. this quote from her website helped reassure me the other day that when I am struggling, he is too! "I think my husband feels that way too, watching, hurting for us, but having to let us go through it, and not being able to just fix it. Many times this week I have just wanted God, my husband or just someone to fix it. It seems like nothing goes smoothly or easily. Every step is an emotional, mental or physical struggle. I feel overburdened, and stretched too thin. But even as i feel that way, I cannot deny...I have felt his strengthening power every time i have asked for it." I have told my boyfriend that no matter how bad things got between my ex and I and how much I had to watch someone I loved deterioate into something i could no longer recognize, there were still moments in my exes struggle with whatever was going on with him that there were also moments of clarity. Sometimes he had those moments he could reach the kids in a way I couldn't or could answer my question with clarity and not confusion. I don't have anyone left on earth who knows our kids as well as my ex and I did. Who knows their personalities, has watched their strengths and weaknesses develop through the years and knows them as well as we do and did. That is so hard to feel like I am truly alone in this parenting thing without having someone here on earth to consult with that knows my kids like I do. I'm sure it is a struggle for my ex. No longer bound by the physical and mental limitations he had here on earth, I'm sure he is probably looking down and is 'watching, hurting for us but having to let us go through it, and not being able to just fix it' now that his body is finally free. But there are those strange moments when I think that I'm all alone in a room with my daughter as she wakes up from anesthesia from the dentist that I feel him there worrying for our daughter too. A strange feel and tension comes over the room and I don't feel I'm in there by myself. It could be my imagination, or maybe it is him. I don't know. The other day after driving home from an event with my boyfriend, his ex and her boyfriend, I just felt this huge void. They all came together for their little girl. For me, there will always be a void. There picture that day was the picture that I always hoped would be the same for my kids when we divorced. That we would continue to support and love our children. I got a good cry in on the way home, but also felt a comforting calm that life would work out the way that it should. I was going to be okay. Instead of getting home feeling my usual drained feeling I did after something like this, I felt...good. Reassured. I knew things would work out the way that they should in time.