“So I Kept Living”
I was walking down an unfamiliar street and saw the sign with the above words in a window of a juice place (ha! ironically-see previous post). I stopped in my tracks and stood there staring at it. Didn’t move for at least a minute. Four words that when put together that way were so powerful that I stood on the street for a full minute and processed them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I have taken some time to go back and re-read my old posts about how I navigate my world without Jake. There are numerous trends throughout my story, but one emotion stuck out for me. Whoa. I’ve been ANGRY. Like really, really angry. Not angry at Jake so much (although there was some of that), but just at people, places, things, ideas, dreams, rocks….. Somehow, in the past few years I arrived at a place where I was pissed at a rock.
It’s been almost three years. I have felt so incredibly low many times. I have spent days in bed (and sometimes still do, although those days are fewer now), had to make to do lists that included “take a shower” and “eat some food”, hated Wednesdays, then the 27th of each month, then holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid places that I had been to with Jake. I couldn’t even drive by them. I’ve gone through phases where I drank too much and didn’t eat enough. Even had times when I was tempted to shake the person in front of me in line at the grocery store because I was irritated that they were being too chatty with the cashier and scream “DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT MY HUSBAND DIED AND I AM VERY SAD AND ANGRY AND THIS IS NOT HOW I PICTURED MY LIFE SO CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT UP BECAUSE I WANT TO BUY THESE MICROWAVEABLE PANCAKES FOR MY KIDS AND GET MY DIRTY ASS BACK TO BED!”
It became very routine for me to wake up in the morning full of purpose and expectations. But, it usually took less than 20 minutes before I was back into “survival mode” and just looking forward to going to bed again that night. I blame a little of this on the weather since last September. In Seattle, the weather from September until this past week (late June!) has been miserable, nasty, rainy and gray all day everyday. Experiencing this weather for so many months has been rough on most people who live here. Like many others, my mental health depends on exercise, specifically, trail running. I used to run in downpours and freezing cold. But it has been so bad that all my trails became running water creeks and pretty much impossible to run without wearing giant fly fishing boots (which I haven’t actually tried to run in but I imagine it’s pretty tricky). The combination of sadness, anger at everything, grief, longing, depressing weather, and not being able to take care of myself physically was debilitating. In reality, although I thought I was angry at everything and everyone else, I was really most angry at myself. Angry at myself for not having more strength, patience, and energy. Angry at myself for not being the mom/daughter/sister/friend that I really wanted to be. Angry that I had to rely on help from others (every day) that I knew I would never be able to repay/reciprocate. REALLY angry at myself for not attempting my trail runs through raging rivers wearing fly fishing boots and a full on snow suit (because obviously I am such a wuss).
A shift in thinking crept up on me when I was so busy being angry. My cousin was having a fancy destination wedding in Turks & Caicos. When I first received the invitation, my immediate reaction was “No. Of course I can’t go”. As the weeks went by, I started wondering if I could actually do it. Little by little I realized there were ways I could overcome the “obstacles” to taking this trip of a lifetime. Rather than being bitter and resentful because life put me in this “position” where I obviously could not take trips or do anything fun–ever, I started planning. I started out by asking for help. (Unheard of–right?) HUGE pleas for help and months of planning/organizing/reorganizing led me to an incredible, stunning, beautiful, relaxing and SUPER FUN vacation-it was better than I had even imagined! One day during that vacation, I received some really upsetting news about an old friend who recently found out that he was very sick and undergoing treatment. Even though I was in the midst of all the beauty and fun, I plunged once again. A lot of crying and a lot of anger (including the urges to punch anybody who walked by me that I thought looked ‘douche-y’) led me to what I now refer to as “poor choice Monday”. (I won’t go into exact detail about the ultimate poor choice I made that day, but I will give you a hint. It involved rum drinks and did not end well.) The next morning though, I woke up with these thoughts: I don’t want to ever say “someday maybe“. I don’t want to keep waiting for “things” to fall into place so I can climb out of the darkness. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize I hadn’t danced around the kitchen with my kids before they became too cool to do that with me because it was vital that I got the laundry done. Most of all, I don’t ever want to say “It’s too late” ever again.
I started running again and going to my favorite gym ever in the history of gyms. After I was leaving my first class back, I was stopped short by that sign at the juice store. As I stood and stared (and to be honest I was probably talking out loud to myself), it struck me how profound those words were. I kept living, and because of that, I can keep living!By no means do I expect to find myself skipping happily through meadows and mountains whistling along with the birds or conversing with squirrels (although you never know…). I don’t expect that my feelings of being overwhelmed will completely go away (after all, we ALL get overwhelmed). I don’t foresee any time in my future when I won’t need help from others. But I’m really hopeful that I can be kinder to myself.
I have a lot to say–too much for one post! Stay tuned for future posts about:
- My feelings about “13 Reasons Why” and the Michelle Carter case
- Three Years
- Trying to stay “rooted in gratitude”
- How I am really doing with this developing hopeful attitude
- Future “poor choices” like trying a juice cleanse again