Friday, December 31, 2010

Ringing in the New Year: What A Difference A Year Can Make

I’m not much of a New Year’s Eve person.  I have friends who can’t wait to party and live it up...but since I’ve never been much for following the rules, I choose more low key holidays to party like a rock star. 

Like Flag Day.

New Year’s Eve has always been pretty quiet for me.  I don’t even like going out.  I’ve always favored ringing in the New Year with my fat ass on my own couch, in my own warm house...rather than freezing my giblets off outside with a bunch of strangers clutching a rum and coke from the local bar that will keep me up all night because it has no rum in it. 

I think my need to just stay home came right about the time that I realized that I was going to have to drive home using the same highway as all of those “revelers.”  And as much as I like the idea of living life to the fullest...dodging them all on the way home like some sort of drunk adult version of “Frogger” has never really sounded that appealing.

So I don’t.

Back in the day, when my husband and I were living in our first house, we were fortunate enough to have neighbors who partied “like it was 1999” whether it was 1994 or 2006.  We could just pop across the street for a fresh beer from the kegerator (I just had to Google that to find out if I spelled it right) and no driving or standing next to drunk strangers, whose gag reflex could introduce itself at any time, was involved.  We could welcome the New Year in a grown up, civilized way...which usually meant t.p.-ing the one neighbor’s house who didn’t show up.

Ahhhh...good times.  And, needless to say...my house never got t.p.-ed.

After we moved into the next house...our neighbors were decidedly more subdued.  So that was when the “fat ass on the couch” phase started and it’s served me pretty well ever since.  It’s also important to note that that’s also when I realized that it doesn’t matter if it’s New Year’s Day and you’ve been up until 2 AM the night before...the kids still get up at the same time.  That tends to slow down the reveling just a bit.

Because my New Year’s Eves since then have pretty much consisted of a bottle of champagne so sweet I don’t even want to finish it, a fire, and a movie I usually regret wasting 2 hours of my life on...they have pretty much run together for me.  There really hasn’t been a whole lot of memory-making going on.

Except for one year.

I know I’m the weird griever of the group...that’s okay...I know it...I own it...but the year my husband died...I couldn’t wait for the New Year.

I still remember being so excited to see 2007 go.  Let’s face it...it hadn’t been much of a friend to me and I was thinking that 2008 had a lot more potential.  And even though, by December 31st, my husband had only been gone for about 5 months...I was looking forward to being able to say, “My husband died last year.”  In my newly formed “widda brain” I was hoping that would be less shocking to people than saying, “My husband died 6 months ago.”

I know it doesn’t make any sense.  But surely by this point you don’t read these blogs because you think I’m going to tell you the way you should do things, do you?

I hated 2007.  That was the year I found out what I wasn’t made of.  That was the year of avoiding breakdowns, fake smiles, and false strength.  That was the year of the last pictures I’ll ever have of my husband, the last “have a good day I love you” I would see for quite awhile, and the end of security as I knew it.

I couldn’t wait to stop writing that year on all of my checks.

So on the evening of December 31st, 2007, I sat alone on my couch, sugary sweet champagne in hand, watching my clock and, waiting for it to turn.  Like a child waiting for Santa to pop down the chimney, New Year’s Day was my big present.  I sat there, utterly sure that 2008 would be so much better.  It had to be, right?  No more husbands dying.  No more telling the kids for the first time that Daddy wasn’t coming home.  No more funerals where I was the one everyone was looking at.

I think the main thing that I seemed to have forgotten was the fact that in 2008...I would still be widowed.  I looked at the beginning of that year as the beginning of a new life, a new outlook, a new me. 

I had forgotten that in order to make that happen...the old me still had to come along for the ride.

Now, I didn’t go to bed that night expecting to be completely transformed the next day.  But I did expect something.  And since I’m a little slow on the up-take, it was around February 1st when I realized that a new life doesn’t just appear because you want it to.  I mean, don’t get me wrong...wanting it is a pretty damn good start.  But it was a good month later when I realized that in order to make that happen I was actually going to have to work at it.  And I really didn’t think I had it in me to make it happen.

And so...I started crying.

I mean...come on.  I had slid out of 2007, gripping hope and a bottle of chardonnay...and now I have to figure things out in 2008?  What kind of crap is that???

I cried the entire month of February.  After months of looking forward to a “new beginning” in the new year...I suddenly realized that if that was what I wanted...it wouldn’t just happen by changing calendars.  I had to change along with it.

Since my husband has been gone, I can almost give titles to the years.  The year 2008 was the “Year of Change.”  I tested myself and who I was.  I took chances so that I could figure out what I really wanted.  I stopped diving into things without thinking what would happen next.   I proactively went out and met new people who would know me as me...not just an extension of “us.”  It really was a turning point in my life.

It led to 2009 which was “The Year I Started Remembering The Day Before” and instead of living my life in a complete blur, I seemed to be able to recall what had happened even the week before. 

Believe me...that was a huge milestone.

The year 2010 will forever be “The Year I Started Getting My Kids To School On Time.”  I actually remembered back-to-school night and seemed to acquire organizational skills that had abandoned me the 2 years before.  For the first time that year, I didn’t get 20 texts from different friends saying, “You know the kids don’t have school tomorrow, right?”  I could, with confidence say, “I think I have that marked on the calendar."

So...now what?  2011.  Old habits die hard and I find myself, today, anticipating what will happen tomorrow.  I refuse to wish for the “best year ever” because...where’s the fun in that?  I would hate to say when I’m 80 that my best year was when I was 34.  But once again, on New Year’s Eve, I feel like I’m on the verge of a change.  That 2011 will bring unexpected joys and (hopefully) minimal sorrows.  That maybe theWiddahood.com, the site that I worked so hard on in 2010, will finally start helping people and making a difference in 2011.  Who knows who I’ll meet, what I’ll do, and how I’ll grow.

I know I constantly confuse you all with my pessimistic optimism, but today all I can say is...

...there is a lot to be said for the anticipation of a fresh start.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010: The Holiday Hangover



I used to always joke with my parents, after visiting them in Louisiana, that I would come back to Colorado with a food hangover.  I’d feel bloated (I know...TMI), a little headachy, and the phrase, “I will never do that again” would roll through my mind over and over.

Of course, about 6 months later, I’d find myself in a restaurant below sea level once again, trying to set the world record for fried shrimp consumption.

I’m kind of like that with the holidays.  I swear I won’t over do, but I’ve come to realize that that’s pretty much impossible.  So today, I’m wearing jeans that I promise fit me 5 days ago, downing TUMS, and sitting on my couch as if it might levitate if I don’t.

And swearing I won’t let myself get this exhausted next year.

I don’t care what your expectations are...the holidays are exhausting.  If you’ve been wondering for the last few weeks how you are going to get through them...the anticipation and the climax of what you think could be the worst day of the year...well...I’m betting you’re kind of pooped today.  And if you were expecting something amazing and have been working your tail off trying to make it a Christmas that no one will ever forget...I’m betting you’re still in your PJs.

We all put so much pressure on ourselves during the holidays.  As a kid, I don’t remember being as crazed as we make ourselves now.  And honestly...this year...I really tried to not commit to very much.  I tried to be responsible.  I even ate a Lean Cuisine every now and then.

And today...I’m freakin’ wiped out.

I heard something this year that I had never heard before.  And that is how even kids today are affected by the stress of the holidays.

What?  Kids?  Christmas?  Stress?????

I thought they just blissfully made us crazy asking how many days?  How many minutes? Is it possible that Santa could be late?  Why did she get 557 presents and I only got 556?

But for the first time this year, I understood how this constant running around, noise, blinking lights, and forced fun can really drive our kids a little crazy.

Thank God...it’s not just me.

Here’s a pretty good example.

My nephew, one of my favorite people in the world, has what doctors call “autistic tendencies.”  He’s never been diagnosed with autism, he just does a few things that some of the rest of us don’t do.

Actually...what I should say...is that he does some things that the rest of us wish we did.  For example:  When there are a million things going on and “over stimulation” is an understatement, he’ll put his hands over his ears and sometimes hide.

I would love to tell you how many times in the last few weeks I have wanted to do that.  A TV on while 4 other children are running around and someone is carving a massive roast with an electric knife...I would love nothing more than to hide under a heavy set of curtains until things calm down.

The absolute best thing about my nephew is that he’s really smart.  You don’t always know immediately why he’s connected point A to point D but once he explains B and C, it makes complete sense.  He comes up with the best questions.  He’s always good for a zinger (even when he doesn’t know it).  And he tells it like it is.

The perfect example of this was last year, after an entire summer of not watering his front lawn, my sister’s neighbor started a sprinkler one August morning.  And my nephew walked outside and said, “Mr. Dan?  Why are you watering your dirt?”

Thanks, kiddo.  We’d all been wondering the same thing.

Now, my sister had been warned that not only could my nephew get a little overwhelmed with the holidays...he could actually regress little.  That the stress and craziness could temporarily set him back a few months with this therapy.

Oh boy.  Do I get that.

So on Christmas Eve, when we were all in the middle of complete mayhem...wrapping paper flying, kids screaming, everyone exclaiming that what they had opened was just what they wanted...he had had enough.  And he had no problem saying it.

I watched my 5 year old nephew with complete admiration.  I had had enough too.  I was tired.  I was cranky.  Why am I getting a book when what I wanted was a train set?

How come I can’t just say it too?

After a month of “being okay” I’d finally had enough holiday magic and I just wanted to be in a nice quiet room covered in my favorite blanket, taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.  I wanted the craziness of Christmas to be gone and to be back on my normal schedule.  I wanted so badly to have things back the way they were supposed to be...a completed family that hadn’t been touched by tragedy yet.

And most of all...I wanted so badly to sit down with my nephew and say, “It's okay, sweetie.  I’m regressing too.” 

Monday, December 20, 2010

I Got Your Bah Humbug Right Here



I’ve never really had this happen before, but today I could actually feel when the Christmas spirit left my body.

It happened...as many of my near breakdown experiences do...at Wal-Mart.

Now, you all know that I have been trying to jolly not only myself but my kids through the holidays this year.  And to be honest...I feel like I’ve done a pretty damn good job of it so far.

But good ol’ Wal-Mart just sucked the Christmas spirit out right of me.  While I was standing next to the chicken broth.

First of all...let me just say...and this goes for any time of the year...widows should have reserved parking at any store they frequent.  At the time of death of our loved ones, we should be handed a form of the top 10 stores we go to the most and then have someone say, “Very well then.  You will have slot number 20 at all of these stores.”

Nothing makes you feel like you have “widda brain” more than when you walk into a store while it’s still daylight and then walk out when it’s dark, slamming your thumb on the panic button of your key thingy trying to find your car, wondering, “Did I park on the grocery side or the maxi pad side?”

If you’re a guy...that’s the dog food side.

Anyway, I made it in okay.  Got my cotton balls and my lotion and then headed over to the grocery section of the store.  I’d like to be able to say that we looked like ants at a picnic...that would have been an upgrade.  What we really looked like was...well...a bunch of people at Wal-Mart the Monday before Christmas.

The second I looked at that madhouse I felt drained.  But I gripped my cart, took a deep breath, and dove in.  The only thing that made me feel better was the poor girl who had a toddler who I think was training to be the world’s youngest stunt double and a baby strapped to the front of her peacefully sleeping.

On a side note...I often wonder...where in the hell is her husband?  Why does she have both kids with her???  And then I automatically think...

...I wonder if she’s widowed.  Weird, huh?

So.  Got my sponges.  A little butter.  Some cheese.  I’m feeling pretty good right about now.

Then it hits.  That’s right.

The bakery aisle.

Of course...at this point...I make a total rookie mistake.  I get everything I think I need only to get all the way down to the end of the aisle and realize I forgot something at the other end.

I know.  Really?  How long have I been doing this?

I started to wonder...what happened to the magic of the holidays?  I remember loving Christmas as a kid!  When December 26th hit, I’d start making my list for the next year.  Christmas was such a magical time.  The days went way too slowly and it seemed like Christmas would never get here.  Unlike now, when I realize it’s the middle of November and I haven’t bought a damn thing and “anxiety” isn’t a strong enough word for what I’ve got.

Then for some reason, while I was contemplating the chicken broth, I realized.

Crap.  I’m an adult.

Christmases past where my mom would be sitting on a couch in a red sweater with a glazed-over look on her face and her complexion some odd mixture of green and yellow...suddenly came into focus for me.  And the fact that she would have short term Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome until about March and really not remember much about Christmas day...really made sense.

All of the sudden...I wanted out.  Out of the holidays.  Out of the responsibilities.  And ultimately...out of Wal-Mart.

I was D-U-N...DONE.  And that’s when my attitude took an evil turn.

To that woman who had her cart parked sideways in the middle of the condiment aisle...you’re lucky you didn’t get t-boned.

To the woman in front of me checking out who decided to tell her entire life story to the 17-year-old checker who could really give a crap about the name her 2-year-old calls her 4-year-old (while she had to have her cart totaled in 3 different transactions)...move along.  Some of us have wine to drink when we get home.

To all of those magazines staring at me while I waited behind that woman to check out for 30 minutes...I know you’re mocking me.  I can’t make the perfect gingerbread house.  You know what Rachel?  I’d like to tell you what to do with that perfect smile.  And to my buddy Oprah...can’t you see I’m trying to live my best life?  Stop pressuring me!

And to Mr. Holiday in general...I will beat you.  Today was just an off day.  I will wake up tomorrow with a slight headache and the Christmas spirit in my heart once again.

I’ll see you next to the chicken broth again, buddy.  You.  Me.  Christmas...2011.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Something Widda This Way Comes....

I know, I know...I've been teasing you.  Oh c'mon...you've enjoyed it, right?  What're the holidays without a few surprises??

I'm not engaged.  I'm not having a baby (I can actually hear my parents breathing a sigh of relief from across town).  And as flattering as it is that you think someone might want to make a movie about my life...I assure you my life is just not that interesting.

The news I'm about to give you....it's actually about you.



Welcome to a FREE social support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other.


Now, I'm going to keep this blog short and sweet, because I really want you to be able to check out http://www.thewiddahood.com/.  I'll soon share with you how this came to be and the special people who helped me make this happen.  But for right now...I’m just so excited to see what happens when we all connect in theWiddahood...I’ll just touch on a few things.

This website has been created for anyone who has suffered this loss to finally be able to connect with others.  This is for ANYONE regardless of age, gender, religious beliefs, or gender preference.  You are welcome here if you were "officially" married, an unwedded widow, or a committed partner.  If you lost someone 30 years ago or last month...we are here for you.

TheWiddahood.com is your place to find comfort and peer support...whenever you need it. 

When you register, you will find 24-hour chat available, chatrooms that you can start whenever you want to, discussion forums, and a place to list where physical groups are meeting.  You will have your own private inbox so that you don’t have to share any personal information if you don’t want to.  Like Facebook, you will be able to share your status and comment on what your friends are up to, but in this case...you will have complete freedom to say what’s on your mind without worrying about offending an outside friend who might see it.

I know a lot of people, over the last few months, have started to worry about privacy issues on Facebook.  They worry about their comments showing up in their Newsfeed, their mother-in-law checking out what they’re saying, and other concerns that have people hesitating to participate.

This is YOUR site.  Create a username that is as anonymous as you need it to be.  Create several usernames...one for when you’re in a good mood and one for when you’re in a bad one.  It doesn’t matter.  You do whatever feels comfortable for you.  And I want to make sure that you know that I have NO interest in selling or distributing your information. That is outlined in the Privacy Policy on theWiddahood.com. 

And it’s also my personal promise to you.

A special Profile Builder has been created specifically so that we can find each other based on common experiences and location.  You do not have to fill out any fields you don’t want to...the only thing you need to get started on theWiddahood.com is an email address (that is not published) and a username.  But keep in mind...the more information you are willing to give, the better your chances are of hearing from others you can truly connect with...both online and locally.

Again...that's entirely up to you.

There are 2 open pages on theWiddahood.com that you don’t have to be a user to see:  One is a Resources page that lists national and local organizations (and if you have resources in your area that you think should be listed, I would love to know).  The second is The Widdahood Post, an area for writers to be able to publish their pieces about grief and coping so that others may find the support they need.  If you are a writer and would like to have access to publishing in The Widdahood Post, feel free to email me at catherine@thewiddahood.com.  We will in no way “edit” what you have to say...we just need to give you the ability to publish whenever you feel like it!

All of the other pages are private so that only those who have registered with the site can see them.

You all know that safety has always been a big concern to me.  I want all of us to feel safe and comfortable...especially when we are trying to work through our grief.  The Internet is a huge place filled with a lot of good people...and a few bad ones we wish would leave us alone.  We have done our best to set theWiddahood.com up so that spammers will have a pretty tough time getting in.  HOWEVER, should you see something strange or be approached by someone you think should not be on the site, I urge you to email me immediately (catherine@thewiddahood.com).  TheWiddahood.com has NO tolerance for predatory behavior.

With that said...please be watchful and take care of your friends.  I promise to do the same.

I can’t believe this day is finally here.  My hands are shaking as I hit “post” and my overthinking-brain is on overload, wondering what is going to happen next.  You have to understand...I think my life has been circling around this project ever since I lost my husband, when I was desperate to find support and felt that I had no place to go.  I just didn't know it until I met you all.  To see it finally happen...I’ve never been so nervous and excited at the same time. 

I guess you could call me “excervous.”

This is just the beginning.  There are so many other things I am anxious to do with this site.  And I encourage you to tell me what you would like to see.  It may take me awhile to get it all done, but I have so much hope and faith in this site.  And you.

So, click on over to http://www.thewiddahood.com/

We can't wait to meet you.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Something Big Is Coming Your Way. Just Thought I'd Give You A Hint....

You know...it’s funny.  In all the time we’ve spent together...I’ve never really shared with you how the Widow Chick Facebook page and blog came to be.  And now I feel like it’s time to share this story with you because it’s getting ready to take a turn.  One that I hope you’re ready to take with me.

So.  I’ll tell ya.

Once upon a time, there was a young widow who managed to get her head out of the stormy clouds of grief long enough to start working on a book.  Not just any book...a funny book about her journey as a young widow.  Her goal was to give other widows a “friend on a page” and instead of churning out another grief book that said, “It’s okay.  Take a deep breath.  You’ll be successfully through the stages of grief in about 6 months to a year,” she wanted to give readers a hug and say, “You feel like you’re going crazy?  Good news!  You are!  Can I uncork that for you or is it a twist cap?”

Now, this book began with her journey in the hospital and the shock of the death of her husband and took the reader (yes...the ONE reader...and that would be me, the author.  Don’t laugh...we’re very close) through the first year or so of widowhood.  It contained memories, witty little stories, and had many of her family members quaking in their boots, worried that it might actually be published some day.

(Don’t worry, y’all.  It’s still safely tucked away on my hard drive.  Where, chances are, it will probably stay.)

Okay...enough of the 3rd person.  It’s starting to confuse me.

Anyway...back in May of 2010, I started reading about how to get a book published, and one of the main things it said to do was to start blogging.  Truth be told...I don’t know if I’d ever actually read a blog before, and if I had it was mainly a family page that let everyone know what they were up to.  I had no idea if there was a certain way to do it or what.  All I knew was that I had successfully managed to create a free page on Blogspot that would let me write whatever I wanted.

So I did.

Now, I was not in any way naive enough to think that I was or would be the only widow blogger.  There are many widow writers out there, far better than I am who can articulate what we go through on this journey with more pizzazz than I can.  But I was tunnel-visioned enough to just do my own thing.  Honestly...I had no idea anyone would read it other than my mom.

And that made me really worry about my grammar.

The Facebook page came about kind of the same way.  I was literally playing around on Facebook and noticed, “Hey!  I can start a page!  What does this button do?” and just started messing with it.  Once I realized it had actually posted something I thought, “Crap.  Now what?”

And the answer came to me.  Fill the void that I was missing.

It was selfish really.  I was a little familiar with the usual support pages on Facebook, but in a sense...I felt like I’d kind of outgrown them.  I mean, sure.  I could still get on there drunk as a skunk and vent to my heart’s content (hey...that rhymes).  But a lot of the time...no one would respond.  No one would say anything. 

And that sometimes made me feel worse than if I hadn’t said anything at all.

So I thought...what if I created this page that kept things as positive as possible and a few people could get on there, post their blogs and stories, I could post mine, and we could just support each other?

Never, ever did I think that eventually over 800 people would be on that page.

I remember waking up one morning and realizing that 2 people (other than my college roommates) were there.  From that day forward, I made a point to be on the page every day.  To post my thoughts and really read what others had posted.  To get new ideas on how to cope with my own grief from the others who were willing to share.  And to never, ever let someone’s comment or question go unanswered.  If I didn’t know the answer, I would be honest...but everyone would be acknowledged.

That Facebook page turned into a labor of love I never knew was possible.  I think there has been one day, since I started the page, that I haven’t been on it.  And it’s not because I have to.  I just can’t stand letting a day go by, not knowing what everyone is up to.  I’m very nosy by nature, if you haven’t guessed.

And then something changed for me.  Big time.

About mid-way through the summer...I ran into a problem.  I started getting frustrated about the way we seemed to be forced to communicate.  I would see comments people had left on the page at 2 AM and realize...they were up all night, couldn’t sleep, and had no one to talk to.  Others would ask me how to find other widows and resources in their area and, just like when I was first widowed...the sources seemed to be scattered and hard to find.  People started getting worried about privacy on Facebook and if their comments could be read by others who didn’t “get it.” 

Our group started getting so big that, even though we all have the common bond of loss...we seemed to be having a hard time connecting with people who really shared our experience.  The people who didn’t have children had a hard time figuring out who the other people were who didn’t have children and talk to them one-on-one.  The older widows who were embarking on a new phase in their lives couldn’t always connect with the others who were on the same path.  The different types of losses seemed to blend until those who had lost their spouses to cancer or suicide...had a harder time finding each other.

Until now.

In the next few days, I will be telling you the rest of this story.  It’s something that involves you and our entire widow family.  Because that’s what we are at this point.  We’re a family.  We’re together in good times and in bad.  For better, for worse.  We’ve connected and there’s just no changing that.

It’s just time we found each other.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Relationships: No One Can Push Them Away Like A Widow Can

Someone posted something on the Facebook page the other day and back then I had no idea how “timely” it would be for me.  But now I’m thinking back to that comment with a complete understanding of what she was talking about.

The fear of investing myself in someone else.  And then going through this loss all over again.

After 3 ½ years, believe me...I’ve wrestled with this fear.  And by now I thought I was over it.  But something happened last night to let me know...I’ve still got a ways to go.

Now, I’ve never been afraid of dating.  Some would say that I started early and that’s okay...we all do these things at our own pace.  I’ve learned by now to really not worry about what other people think.  Back then...anything that gave me something to look forward to on a Friday night and just got me through my week was worth any judgment that may have been passed.

I’ve been through different stages of dating.  When my husband first died, I do think I was trying to replace him in a sense.  I hated having that hole in my life.  It wasn’t necessarily that I was afraid of being alone...I just didn’t know how to do it.  I had never done it.  And then loneliness was there, staring me in the face, daring me to do something about it.

The truth is...I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t marry the first guy who came along.  I was definitely in that mindset.  And for me, that would have been a huge mistake.  I still had a lot of things I needed to learn about myself.

Then I went through a phase of just wanting company.  I wasn’t interested in getting married at all.  I didn’t want to be “casual” about it, but a long-term relationship where we met for dinner about twice a week sounded pretty darn good.  The relationship I dreamed about was with a faceless pilot who had an overseas route and was only home a couple of weeks out of the month.

But that seemed impossible to find.

It seemed like most men were either looking for something really casual or to get married within the first few months of dating.  There was really no middle ground.

As everyone says (and I’m not entirely certain of the validity of this claim), I met someone when I was least expecting it.  I met someone who, little did I know, was exactly who I needed, but on paper...was nothing like I was looking for.

This sent me into a new stage of dating in The Widowhood...the TESTING stage.

I had no idea I was doing it at the time, but now I can see that I’m damn lucky that my behavior didn’t just send this person running for the hills.  I would let him in, just enough...and then get completely terrified and push him away as hard as I could.

Now, this, of course, caused arguments and confusion for the both of us.  For me...I had no idea that I was doing it.  And for him...he had no idea why.  I mean, how confusing would it be to have things going really well...only to have the other person just suddenly on a Tuesday morning say, “I’m not sure if this is going to work out.”  To say to someone one minute, “I need you to be here and comfort me now,” only to have him show up and you say, “Wait...I’m not ready.”  To say to someone, “Yes!  I’m completely ready to commit,” and then have an anxiety attack so bad he doesn’t hear from you for a week.

In the battlefield of love...this man has earned his stripes.

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of soul searching to get past this point.  To get to the point where I know that no matter what I do...this person just wants to be with me.  So, now I’m someplace I never thought I would be again.

Completely comfortable in a relationship.

You have no idea what a...well...relief that has been.  And yet terrifying to me at the same time.  I’ve spent the last few years wondering if I would ever be capable of being that open to someone.  I wondered if I would ever be able to invest myself again (not for lack of trying) and know that someone else wanted to be around me...even during the ugly cry.  To come to the realization that I haven’t been holding anything back...this person knows me...the complete me.  And still wants to hang around anyway. 

So this brings me to last night.

Last night I found out that he had a toothache.  A pretty bad one.  He knew he needed to go to the dentist first thing this morning and, at the very least, probably get medicated if not have major dental work done.

After I heard this news, I literally sat up in my bed, worrying about what was getting ready to happen.

Let me ask you this...who else but a widow would get a call from someone about a toothache and 5 minutes later envision that infection running through his body and know, without a doubt, that he would be dead by morning?

In the calm that comes with daylight...I can now recognize how crazy that was.  But in the fearful dark...all I could think was....

He’s never going to make it.

Now, this is a person who actually has a semi-dangerous job.  So any rational person would probably be a little more worried about that and not a toothache.  But my own personal widow experience has had me so afraid of the “every day.”  Because that’s when bad things can happen too.  And when you least expect it.

I know this is because of how my husband died.  I mean...we’re talking about a man who once launched a rocket that had 75 pounds of plutonium on it.  And how did he die?  On his commute to work on a Monday morning when I didn’t see it coming at all.

The truth is...it is a reality.  It could happen.  I could lose all over again.  But I wouldn’t trade any of the time I had with my husband...even if it meant skipping the pain of losing him.  When I think of it that way...why would it make sense for me to shut myself away from possible happiness again...when what I fear may or may not happen?  Where would that leave me?

I know that this is something I will continue to struggle with.  I can’t just make the decision and the fear and anxiety will magically disappear.  It could very well be something I worry about a little for the rest of my life.

But right now I’m just trying to concentrate on what’s here.  In front of me.  Today.

So I guess I should go.  I’ve got to go pick him up at the dentist.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Ramble

I’m just going to warn you now that this blog will probably make no sense.  To be honest...at this point, I’m too tired to even try.

I know a lot of us probably don’t remember this...but the holidays have always been exhausting, even before our loss.  Everything gets packed into about 3 weeks of holiday madness and on a good year we never really see daylight until about mid-January when the shock wore off.

Add on top of that the pure exhaustion of grief.  As I posted on my personal Facebook page the other day...I’m so tense I can’t move my neck and I think I’m one good sneeze away from throwing my entire back out. 

Now we are constantly wondering what to do in our state as WIDOW.  Do we have to see the in-laws?  What’s expected of us?  What’s expected of everyone else?  When is it okay to “just say no” without offending anyone?

What does it mean if I don’t decorate?  Does that mean I’m too depressed and I need to seek help?  What does it mean if I do?  Does that mean I’ve “gotten over it” or will it say to everyone else that I have?  Do I even care?

Gifts.  To send or not to send?  What if someone sends me something and I don’t send them anything?  Can I pull a George Costanza and send them a slip of paper saying I’ve donated money in their name to the “People Fund” and be done with it?

I’m wiped out just typing about it.

Wrapping gifts has been weird for me this year.  This is my 4th Christmas without my husband, but for some reason, I have come across more gift boxes and bags with tags on them for him.  It’s been jarring every time and I can’t figure out why that has happened more this year than in years past.  It can’t be that those have been stashed on the bottom of the pile...they should have been at the top that first year.  I’ve never made a conscious decision not to use them but this year they keep turning up (about every other bag...I’m telling you, it’s a lot) and seem to be shouting at me, “HE’S NOT HERE!  What?  Did you forget?”

No.  I didn’t.

All of these family activities.  All of these things that my husband would have griped about.  But that was his job and he took it seriously.  Like, the first year we took him to “The Nutcracker” when he was in his 30s...that was the first time he had ever seen it.  He spent the entire day at work, complaining to his co-workers that I was taking him to see “The Nutbuster” that night.

Gawd.  I miss that guy.

Then of course we got there and he was completely and utterly confused.  Now, I had been brought up seeing “The Nutcracker” just about every year since my grandmother taught ballet.  But seeing it through his eyes, as an adult and a stranger to the story...it did seem a little odd. 

I finally heard him lean over to my sister and say, “Who’s the guy in the cape?”

And she leaned back and a little too loudly said, “That’s the weird psycho uncle.  Every family has one.”

Ahhhh...good times.

To tell you the truth...this year, I’m trying to do my best and make a conscious effort to have a good Christmas myself.  I’ve always concentrated on the kids and made sure that they were okay, but this year I want to enjoy it a little too.

I tried last year.  At the 3rd Christmas, I finally felt like I was coming out of my fog a little and like it was possible.  It seemed to have sunk in that there would be no big surprise for me from my own “Santa” in my stocking, but for the first time...I was okay with it.  I felt like I could finally appreciate just being.  Being with my family.  Being here and watching the holidays unfold.  Being appreciative of what I do have instead of focusing the entire day on what I don’t.  I made this decision early on, right after Thanksgiving, and really went at it at full throttle.

And then my sister called on December 8th and told me my dad was in the hospital.

My dad, my absolute favorite guy in the whole world (tied with my son), had had a knee replacement a year and half earlier.  And on December 8th had suddenly developed a staph infection in it.

What’re the odds of that???

He spent 8 days in the hospital (that’s when you know it’s bad...they won’t keep you for a week for anything) and had to have the knee removed.  Then he had to go in every day (Christmas day included) for IV antibiotics.  Months later, he had to have the whole thing done over again.

Now, as most of you can probably guess...after being through what I’ve been through...I’m not really your “go to gal” for hospital needs.  The beeping noises, the smells...and every hospital seems to have the same damn carpet...have you ever noticed that?

But I put on my big girl panties and did my part.  My sister and I got to the hospital as much as we could (but I’ll admit that she did more than her share).  I hoped and prayed that it would all turn out okay, while the doctors assured us that he would be fine.

In my case...I’d had that assurance once before and ended up coming home alone.

In the days following my dad’s diagnosis (and while he was still in the hospital), I lost a college friend of mine on December 11th.  One of the sweetest souls you could ever know with an infectious laugh that could never be duplicated.

So now my fear of hospitals had a partner...my fear of funerals.

My last “surprise” of the season (these things come in threes) came when my husband’s family called 2 days before Christmas and said they were driving out.  Now, I had already completely changed our plans from spending Christmas at my house to Christmas at my parents’ house since my dad couldn’t do stairs (which meant packing up “Santa” and getting it over to their house.  No small thing).  The possibility of company arriving on Christmas Day sent me into a frenzy of activity and, unfortunately, leaving my mother mid-day to cope with a gimpy husband, cooking, and dealing with 3 kids hopped up on Christmas so that I could get home, wash sheets, and rearrange some furniture to make sure we had room for everyone.

This year, thankfully, I have had no unexpected “events” (who would have thought that during the holidays I would be wishing for no surprises?).  Everyone is healthy (my dad has even played a few rounds of golf).  Everyone is remembering Christmases past...some good...some we’re still trying to figure out if we can laugh about them.  For the most part...other than the exhaustion I’ve just come to expect...things seem to be pretty quiet.

I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grieving Through The Holidays: Finding The New Normal In All Of Those Decorations

I know I’m not the only one who is feeling the effects of the season.

Grieving during “normal” times is a full-time job.  Throw in 2 or 3 holidays back to back and whatever milestones we might have in the middle...well...we’re all working on nervous breakdowns of epic proportions.

I think one of the cruelest things about the holidays (and this may just be me) is that we’re dealing with something we used to look forward to so much...and it’s turned into something we can barely get through. 

My first Christmas without my husband was definitely the hardest.  I know...that should come as no surprise.  It came about 4 months after his death and the truth is...I was still in such a fog that I really hadn’t given much thought as to how exactly I would get through it (that worry came the second year when I was actually with-it enough to worry).

To tell you the truth, memories of that first Christmas are just now starting to resurface.  Everything was so crazy at that point...I really don’t remember much.  I would say that that first Christmas really came at the peak of my “manic” phase.  I was running around like the Tasmanian Devil with a cocaine problem right after he died in July.  And then I completely crashed the February after. 

That was my first valuable Grief Lesson...you can’t outrun it.  It’s within you and will find its way out somehow.

I couldn’t sit still.  I didn’t want to think about what had happened or exactly how I was going to make this new life work.  I actually think I was too crazy for therapy at that point. 

Yikes.

I was delusional enough that I had completely tricked myself into thinking I was the same person I had always been.  I wanted to assure everyone around me that nothing had changed!  You don’t have to be uncomfortable around me!  Sure...our family was missing one person, but heck...we can do this!  I don’t need anyone to feel sorry for us...we’re fine!

Webster’s just called recently and asked if they could put my 2007 picture next the word “denial.”  I told them no.  That really wasn’t my best hair year.

As I was getting ready to decorate my house this year, feeling a little less overwhelmed and a little more hopeful than I have in Christmases past, I talked to my sister and said, “Do you remember that first Christmas and that party I gave?  Was I crazy or what???”

And her response was, “Yup.  You pretty much were.”

Don’t ask a question you don’t want to know the answer to.

I got it into my head, somewhere around the middle of November, that I was going to have a party.  None of this widowing stuff for me!  I was going to invite every single person I knew over and throw a shindig like they had never seen before.

Not only that, but I decided to invite people over I knew to sell stuff.  I had a different vendor in every room of the main floor of my house.  Pampered Chef in the kitchen, jewelry in the living room, purses in the TV room, chocolate in the dining room...if I could have figured out someone appropriate for the bathroom I would have booked them.

I decorated every square inch.  And when I ran out of decorations...I went and bought more.  Greenery on every surface I could think of.  White lights everywhere.  I didn’t stop until it looked like Christmas threw up in my house.

Of course, manic decorating has to end at some point.  The guests come and then they leave.  And then I was stuck with a whole bunch of Christmas cheer and no one to share it with.

Kind of made me want to torch the whole thing.

Now...this story may strike some people as odd.  Most of the emails and comments I see are from people who can’t seem to rouse themselves out of their grief-induced stupor to put any decorations up.  And I get that...that was year 2 for me (I’ve always told you guys I’m a weird griever). 

Of course...the reason why I’m probably not hearing from the more manic people is because they’re running around too fast trying to make a grid with Christmas lights on their lawn.  The more relaxed grievers have more time to write in.

Coming up on Christmas number four I think I’ve figured a few things out.  I have had to reverse my thinking about this time of year.  Instead of expecting to whoop it up at a bunch of parties and see every single person from my past within a 2 week time period, I’m looking forward to just being in my house with my Netflix subscription and endless cups of hot tea.  Instead of trying to hit every Christmas program I can find, I’ve told my kids to choose one and we’ll make an event out of it.  Instead of expecting myself to jolly everyone else along for the next few weeks, I’ll celebrate the fact that I’m just getting through it.

This year...I’ve learned to say “no” a little more and commit myself to less which leads to me feeling not quite so overwhelmed and exhausted.

I’ve learned to change my expectations a little.  Just temporarily.  There comes a point when you have to realize that you can’t completely recreate the magic of Christmases past.  Actually, you’ve already probably had to make that kind of transition before.  Holidays as an adult are really not the same as they are as a child.  As you’ve grown, you’ve had to change how you celebrate and make your own magic.  When you got married, you had to blend your traditions together to create something new.  If you had children, you had to change again...from letting the wine flow on Christmas Eve to drinking coffee so you didn’t completely screw up Barbie’s Dreamhouse.  And now that you’ve lost your partner in crime...those traditions have to be changed yet again.

But coming from someone who is working her way out the other side into a new life she wasn’t expecting...it will get better.  There is still joy to be had.  Miracles still find a way into our lives.  At some point...the lights will twinkle again and you’ll find yourself gazing at a house with really hideous decorations with a little grin on your face.

And if you hit your manic phase later than I did...be aware...it could be your house.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010


Thursday, December 2, 2010

"Come with me where you'll never, never have to worry about grown up things again." --Peter Pan

I can’t remember growing up.

I don’t mean that the way it sounds.  That sounds like I had some horrific childhood experience that blocked my entire youth from my mind.

What I mean is...I don’t remember the exact time I became a grown up.

I remember times when I thought I had grown up.  When I married my husband at twenty, I expected to wake up the next day transformed (a la Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles), when in reality I woke up to find that I was twenty years old and suddenly a wife.  There were 2 words involved (“I do”) but growing up didn’t seem to be required.

When I had my first child, I thought surely the fact that I was that responsible for another human being made me an adult.  Little did I know that I would make so many mistakes...I would sometimes feel like she was the more mature of the two of us.

When my husband died, I was confident that that would fast forward my growth and put me at a level of wisdom that would surpass my peers.  Little did I know that that experience would leave me floundering and that I would regress right back into infancy...when all I could handle was curling up in the most comfortable position I could find and hope someone would take care of me when I couldn’t express what I really needed.

There was no defining moment when a whiny “why can’t I” became a whiny “how can I.”  It came, as most important moments do, when I wasn’t paying attention.

All of these “important” moments, those “milestones,” have been just stepping stones.  And in between them I’ve been leaping into adulthood.

I know that in reality I’m kidding myself right now.  I think that I know that what’s really happening is that I am becoming who I’m supposed to be.  And I will be doing that until the day I die.  There never be a moment when I sit back and say, “Ahhhh...I’m perfect.  Finally...it’s happened.” 

I’m assuming that when I’m 85, I’ll be laughing about the things I didn’t know in my 70s.

We all try to do what’s best.  We have all had moments that have been posed and preserved.  And as we get older, we understand that it’s the moments that sneak up on us...those are what we will really remember.  There is magic in spontaneity.  There is true laughter in many of the mistakes we make.  There is growth in the times we defy what’s expected of us.

When I think of life that way...I hope I never grow up.  Being a grown up seems to sometimes block what’s still magic inside.  It seems to admit defeat and acknowledge that an ordinary life is okay.  And whatever we do in life...whatever moves us...it should be extraordinary.  To us.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Widow Attention Span. Or Lack Of.



I recently saw a “conversation” going back and forth through some comments on the Widow Chick  Facebook page, and I so related to them.  I know that for those people who were writing back and forth...they got a glimpse that they were not alone in this, but for the people who didn’t see it...I thought I would write a little about it.  Because really...I think we all do this at some point or another.

So this is the official Widow Chick study on how our lack of attention span leads to monumental decision making issues.  This causes us to think that something sounds good one minute, and (literally) the next we start wondering, “What was I thinking?  I don’t want to do that!!!”

And by “study” I mean I’m just going to talk about it and not have any official documentation to back it up.

I’ve always had a short attention span.  Even before my husband died, I had a hard time connecting point A to point B without going some round about way through points W and M and ½.  I have always told myself that this is one of the things that people like about me, but the truth is...I can understand how this little issue can make me an exhausting person to hang out with.

And drinking wine, for some reason, never seems to slow down this process.  I tend to move at attention-defying warp speed.  That is, until I crash and burn and start blubbering about how I can’t get anything done...what’s wrong with me...hey is there any left over pizza?

I’m never short on conversation changes...even if they make absolutely no sense.  In my family...I’m kind of known for it.  One minute we can be talking about climate changes, the next we could be talking about the latest action on As the World Turns (wait...is that even on anymore?  See!  I did it again!).  By the end of the conversation we’re talking about my dad’s golf game and how the economy is doing in Central America.

What can I say?  I keep people on their toes.

My lack of attention span had me wondering the entire year that I was engaged if I should even get married at all.  I mean...if I can’t even decide on what sandwich I’m getting at Subway without changing my mind 7 times...who was I to commit to something for the rest of my life?

I found out quickly that my mind’s need for constant change and my husband’s desire to live on the edge a little were perfect companions.

However, when he died...it seemed like my inability to commit to a single idea went into overdrive. 

I’m going to sell my house!  Right now!  Today!  Wait...where do I want to live?  Do I really want to pack all of this shit up now?  Maybe I should just go to the mall.

I’m going to date!  That’s it!  I’m going to get back into a relationship, stabilize this bad boy we call Life, and get this show back on the road!  But who should I pick?  Should I marry for money like I always swore I would the second time around?  Do I want someone just like my husband?  Do I want someone completely different?  Too many choices and not enough sanity in my head!  I think I’ll take a bath instead.

New job!  I’m going to get a new job!  I’m going to show everyone this widow thing hasn’t gotten me down!  I can do this!  I don’t care if I’m not sleeping!  I can get up at 5 AM and have a productive day saving the world!

Oh look...something shiny!

I realize that those are the biggies we all struggle with, right?  Aren’t those the 3 main things that have us confused for a good 3...4...10 years?  House, Dating, and Work:  The Bermuda Triangle of Widow Confusion.

After awhile, we either have these things figured out or we have come to terms with the fact that we never will.  We delude ourselves into thinking we’re kind of in the clear because we start to understand that we will never really be able to make decisions like we used to.  We convince our Attention Spans that we’re the boss and if he doesn’t like it...he can just leave.

So he does.

Part of the problem is that for the most part...we’re doing a little better.  We’re feeling more and more like we can take things on.  We’re getting our bearings a little and realizing that we can walk and chew gum at the same time.  We start taking baby-steps in the decision-making department and for the most part...things turn out okay.

And that’s when we get blind-sided.

We all talk about understanding how to live in our “new normal” and most of us, who have come to terms with that, will also talk about how when we have bad days years later...it completely shocks the hell out of us.  For me, my inability to commit to anything usually coincides with my “bad days” and I should know better than to try and make any decisions (good, bad, or otherwise) when I’m feeling this way.  Because what tends to happen is that, not only do I feel bad about life in general...I feel bad because I can’t commit to anything, even if it’s something that might make me feel better.

Argh.

Simple, positive, life-affirming decisions even become victims to our lack of follow-through.  For example, we can think one minute, “You know what?  I should take a cruise!  I’ve never taken one and I should have something to look forward to!”

And by the time we’ve hit “Charge” on Travelocity...we’re second guessing ourselves.

“What was I thinking?  Being on a boat?  By myself?  I hate water!  I burn easily!  They never mix their drinks right!  Why can’t I just stay home?  Whose bright idea was this anyway????”

I personally have a great example of this.

As some of you may recall, I was having a really hard time a couple of weeks ago, dealing with my husband’s birthday and the week before, I got one of those Groupon coupons for a Denver holiday wine tour.  It was a smokin’ deal...bus ride to look at the lights downtown, wine tasting, snacks and sangria on the bus...I immediately felt this charge go through me and couldn’t wait to call my sister and sign us up.

I’m not kidding you...midway through dialing I changed my mind.  She answered the phone and I said, “I just saw a coupon for a wine tasting a few minutes ago and thought you might want to go.  But now...I just don’t think I’m up for it.  So now I don’t know why I called.”

I know I need to wrap this up because it’s gotten a little long and I’ve probably lost you already.  My main point is...don’t sweat it.  We all go through it.  And usually, if it’s something little like a wine tour or a cruise...once I get my short-attention-spanned butt there...I have a good time. 

I just try to recognize this little idiosyncrasy for what it is and be aware of what I’m doing.  For example...it’s okay if I want to get engaged and I'm making an informed decision.  I just have to remember that it's not okay to meet a gladiator at Caesar’s Palace and run to the Little White Chapel.  ‘Cause chances are...about 30 minutes later...I'll  probably be thinking it wasn't such a good idea.

My other point is...

....wait.

What was I saying?


© Catherine Tidd 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Decorating: My Own Personal 12 Step Program

I’m going to admit something to you that is rather shocking.

I do not, nor have I ever since entering Widowdom, felt guilty about decorating for the holidays.

I know.  Pick yourself up off of the floor.

Since the first holiday my husband was gone...I haven’t minded decorating on my own.  Oh sure...I miss the memories of putting the tree up together and making sure it’s not at a 45 degree angle.  Getting out the ornaments that we bought when we were young and had no money.  Fearfully watching my husband skate across an icy roof to put up twinkle lights (why in the hell do we do that???  It seems so important at the time, but do you ever just think about how silly and freaking dangerous that is???).

Good times.

But as far as actually picking out the decorations and getting the house ready...I’m okay with doing it on my own.

Now, this is something that I haven’t said to anyone.  I thought that if I ever admitted this...it might get me kicked out of the club.  Like I wouldn’t be considered a real widow if I admitted that I liked decorating for Christmas on my own. I feel like in the last 4 years I’ve been in my own “12 Step Program For Decorating Unguiltiness.” 

This is step 10...admitting to my friends and family that I don’t have a problem.

My husband and I never agreed on holiday decorating.  I didn’t realize how bad it was until after we got married.  I stupidly assumed that I was marrying a man, much like my own father, who could give a shit about what lights I had on the tree or what wreath I chose for the outside.  I had no idea that the first Christmas we were married would be a true test of our relationship. 

We actually did without some key decorations because we couldn’t agree on them.

Like ornaments.

In retrospect, I can understand that those fights were stupid.  Arguing about whether or not you should have an angel on the top of the tree or a star...in the grand scheme of things doesn’t mean too much.

But back in the first year of marriage, it seemed like if I gave in and let him have that star...well...there would be no end to the things he would take advantage of! 

Oh c’mon.  You have to stand your ground early.  And what better time to do that than the holidays?

Anyway.

The first year he was gone, I will admit...I didn’t mind decorating the house myself.  Yes, I TOTALLY missed him sitting on the couch and sleeping while the kids and I decorated the tree.  But for the first time...I could finally have the lights I had always wanted.  I could decorate the mantel like something out of Country Living...instead of implementing the dream decoration he had seen in Sports Illustrated that inspired a whole Steelers/Baby Jesus theme.  I could listen to the old 1950s classic Christmas carols...instead of “White Snake Wishes You A Merry D%$* Christmas.”

Okay...before you go clicking on Amazon...they never made that album.  But you get my drift.

In all seriousness...did I miss my husband?  YES. I have missed him every holiday, every birthday, and everyday that ends in “day” since he’s been gone.  But the truth is...this desire to create my own Christmas...actually wasn’t such a bad thing.  I have so many things around that are still ours.  They’re just rearranged in a way that I like.  They will always be ours...that’s the miracle of a $1 decoration from 12 years ago.   But I’ve changed them...just a little...so that the way my house looks...it’s me...with him mixed in for magic.

Every ornament has a memory...and they’re right in there with the new ones.  There are old cookie tins in a new place that remind me of his favorite sweets.  There are his old decorations on the mantel...with some new ones thrown in that are all me.

I even have a star at the top of the tree.  Instead of an angel.  

You win, sweetie.


For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at www.theWiddahood.com!  


© Catherine Tidd 2010