One of the hardest things for me to accomplish in my adult life has been…well…being an adult. I feel like I kind of flowed from one somewhat dependent situation into another. By getting married so young I went straight from my parents’ house to my husband’s house. Oh, sure, I worked, but I always had other people to depend on.
I guess one could say that I finally grew up in my 30s. And believe me…I was a reluctant adult. I didn’t want to be a role model to three young, impressionable minds. And believe me…if you ever met me…you wouldn’t want me to either.
One of the most startling things for me to come to grips with, when I found myself husbandless, was how scared I was. I know we all go through the usual feelings of fear when we are thrown into the deep end of life, but I was really scared. There is something to be said for having someone you can depend on from birth and, until that point, I had been covered.
Not only did I grow up with a great family, I had the fortunate experience of being married to the smartest, handiest person I’ve ever known. I knew that if the world should come to a crashing halt, my husband would be out in the backyard with a trap he had fashioned out of curly ribbon and paperclips to catch us some dinner. I knew that if we faced a gas crises and we had an emergency, my husband would be in the garage making an alternate fuel source out of garbage like they did in “Back to the Future.” I knew that if I had a flat tire, I had someone I could call.
Now, we have all heard from our well-intentioned friends and family how we’re not alone and that they are there to support us. And I whole-heartedly agree with that…to a point.
But are our friends as worried about our mortgage as we are? Are our families going to make the decision for us to either put our children at respiratory risk from H1N1 or chance facial paralysis from a vaccine that hasn’t been completely tested yet? Is there anyone else around all the time to just hand us a roll of toilet paper when we need it in an emergency?
The realistic answer to these questions is no. It doesn’t make them bad friends. It doesn’t mean our families don’t care enough. And it doesn’t mean that you have to worry about drip-drying for the rest of you life. It means that we’re adults. As bad as that sucks. And in some situations…we’re kind of on our own.
Not long after my husband died, my fear got to the point where I had to stop watching the news. I just knew that the serial killer on the loose in Washington D.C. would somehow find his way to my little area in the suburbs of Colorado. I couldn’t figure out where in the world I would store all of the plastic and Duct Tape I would need in the event of chemical warfare. And I knew I would need more jars than Wal-Mart carried to bury my retirement fund in the backyard in case of a complete market collapse.
That was the peak of my paranoia. That’s also when I started subscribing to US Weekly instead of The Denver Post.
I can’t actually tell you the moment when my anxiety started to subside. Maybe it was when my kids made it through the school year without more than the common cold. Maybe it was when I realized that my brilliant Certified Financial Planner (my sister) wasn’t about to let me lose everything (probably because she knew I’d show up on her doorstep with sleeping bags and my three kids). And maybe it was when I started to comprehend that even though I may not be as smart or as handy as my husband, I could hold my own. I can even do some pretty nifty things with curly ribbon.
Knowing you can depend on yourself when the going gets tough is a great feeling. And it’s a feeling that has to be earned…it doesn’t just happen overnight. For those of you who have had it together a lot longer than I have, you know what I’m talking about. And it’s within us all to be the person we depend on the most. I’ve even gotten confident enough that I can read the paper every now and then.
Actually, the truth of it is, the stories in US about gargantuan boob jobs are starting to get a little scarier to me than the state of the market and the possibility of a chemical attack.
© Catherine Tidd 2010