Archive for January, 2014

I’ve always had mixed feelings about the month of January.   There is a sense of relief that the holiday season is over and I can de-Christmas the house – box up the ornaments, throw out the non-working lights, and so on.  Along with that comes a mild sense of panic that the start of school is imminent and the five-days-a-week-routine is knocking on the door.   And then some resentment that chores and to-do-lists have taken the place of lazy vacation days and making new memories with family.

A year ago I was excited to begin a new job as a teaching assistant at N’s school, welcoming the start of a possible new career and looking forward with optimism. As I review the last twelve months, I have a lot to be proud of – riding a huge learning curve, working on my teaching certification by cranking out online courses over the summer and passing my test, stepping up to the plate in a number of ways in and out of the classroom.   N is blossoming, reading like a champion, loving school,  and acing her report cards;  we have a closeness that is supreme and we are both blessed in so many ways with family and friends near and far.

For this past week, though, I’ve been fighting off the blues, unsure if the direction I’m going in is the right one, and feeling adrift for the first time in years.   I tend to be a bit of a plodder sometimes, I like routine, I like safe choices, and sometimes I’ll stay in a situation for longer than needed just because I’m not comfortable rocking the boat (cue past relationships, past jobs soundtrack).

It’s no wonder that the enormous changes I’ve endured over the past two years or so have finally caught up with me.    Apparently, two of the most stressful life events are death of a spouse and loss of a job – check and check – September and November 2011.  Add to that a third – the illness of a close family member – fall 2012 – and I’m three for three.   Three of the things I took for granted and relied upon are gone, or changed.  My stable and somewhat boring predictable life came to a screeching halt, and not because of any conscious decisions I made myself.

There’s a scene in an episode of the current series of Downton Abbey where the great actress Maggie Smith, as the Dowager Countess, says to recently-widowed Lady Mary:  

“You have a straightforward choice before you.  You must choose either death or life.”  Somewhat surprised, Mary responds with a question: “And you think that I should choose life?”

Choosing life is hard.   Those first twelve months after we lost R weren’t too bad, actually.  Mostly because the adrenaline kicks in and you’re still in a state of disbelief, I guess.  Plus we traveled a lot, because it was better to be Anywhere but Here.  Here had too many reminders.   Year Two was a whole lot harder.  There were days after that first anniversary of R’s death when I had to force myself to get going and not spend my day moping about.  Not having a job became a concern instead of a relief.  Taking off my wedding ring, cleaning out his closet, shredding papers, sorting out endless boxes of stuff – it all sucked.

On the second anniversary last September, we scattered R’s  ashes on the Galveston coast.   It seemed like the right time to let him go.  Death can be a beginning for those of us left behind, as well as the end for those who are gone.

January 2014 marks the beginning of the third full year R won’t see.   For tax purposes, I’m not a “surviving widow” any more, just a “head of household”.   A household with a 7-year old first grader, a constantly-shedding dog, and boxes-of-old-job-and-marriage-things-still-to-be-sorted.    I’m not used to feeling blue, as I’m usually fairly even keeled emotionally.  Having N around helps, as it’s hard to feel sorry for yourself when someone so little depends on you so much.  But raising my daughter alone isn’t something I planned on, either.   Sometimes it’s all a bit much, this being  a working-single-mom thing.    Some days I am just tired of being strong and responsible – paying the bills, doing the grocery shop/laundry/house chores, putting on my happy face.    Some days I really miss having someone around who “gets” me, someone who shares the same vision for our daughter, someone who understands my bull-headed crabbiness and can make me laugh harder than anyone.    I shared all this in my grief group this week, and another widow told me she was in the same place emotionally and feeling overwhelmed too.  It’s good to know I’m not alone where I’m at.

I know that it’s normal to have those troughs of sadness mixed in with days of sunshine.   I know it won’t always be this hard to get through every day.  And I know that have a lot to be thankful for.   I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, I love working in a school environment, and I love my (dust-bunny-filled) home.  But I still have too much emotional and physical clutter in my life.

For a few years now, I’ve tried to use one little word for each year to refocus myself when I’m feeling unfunctionable.   Appreciate, Recharge, Simplify – 2011, 2012, 2013.   For 2014, it’s Balance.  Not just balancing Me, the Mom, and Me, the Teacher; but more importantly, Me, the soon-to-be-49-year old Woman. Realising that I have needs and wants, and if I don’t take care of them first, I won’t be much use to anyone.

So here’s to more balance for the next twelve months.   I choose Life.

2014 olw


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