Monday, March 28, 2011

The State Of My Mental Health Can Be Seen In The State Of My Toes

I know I’ve made jokes about this in the past, but I could easily get addicted to pedicures.

Now, for you men who are reading this...don’t think this is just a girl thing.  Any guy who has had a pedicure before will tell you he’ll be back for more.  And any woman will tell you...we wish you would get them more often.

That sound of Velcro as your heels hit the sheets is not as endearing as you might think.

Before my husband died, I had had one pedicure in my entire life.  I am usually not embarrassed to say that I’m a late bloomer in most areas, but the fact that I hit my 30s without ever getting my feet buffed and polished is just shameful.  And even after I had that first one...I still don’t think I really got into them until after my husband died.

Once he was gone, if you listened closely, you could hear my tires screech to a halt at the sight of that one, magical word.


I’ve often said that I’m surprised that during that first year without him, my toenails didn’t just surrender and fall off.  If I had a spare 45 minutes without my kids, you would find me in a chair, feet soaking, contemplating if I just wanted to vibrate or if the day was bad enough that I needed the back roller.

In fact, I once joked during a speech that you could tell my mental state by the condition of my toes.  If they looked chipped and raggedy, you’d know that I was doing well.  If you could look at my feet and see your reflection, you’d know that my next call would be to my therapist.

I haven’t treated myself to a pedicure in the longest time.  I just haven’t had time.  But today, I finally went.  And with the first whiff of cuticle oil and suddenly hit me why I was there so often that first year.

Getting a pedicure is a luxury.  It’s not like when you go in to get your hair done...that’s necessary.  It’s not even like when you go in to get a massage because that usually indicates that you have a knot somewhere that won’t go away without some 100 lb. girl putting 200 lbs. of pressure on a spot that will have you biting that headrest you’re smearing your make-up all over.

A pedicure is, in most cases, completely unnecessary.  I used to think that my attraction to getting my feet “did” was because at a time in my life when I couldn’t make any decisions...I could choose a color for my toenails and feel like I’d accomplished something.  And if I didn’t like my decision, I could go back the very next day and get it changed.

There are very few decisions in life that can be changed with a cotton ball and some alcohol.  So that was a big comfort.

But today, after abstaining for way too long...I realized there is more to it than that.

When I walked into the nail salon, I almost teared up.  It was like I had finally made it back to the mothership.  No kids asking me for a cup of ice, no...crushed ice, Mom.  No email pinging.  And, thankfully (and who would ever have thought I would be thankful for this)...not one person in there cared about my day.

In most nail salons, they don’t talk to you.  They don’t ask you how you’re doing and if they do, I don’t think they really expect you to answer.  Any place else you go...the grocery store, the mall, even the hair salon...they’ll ask you how you’re doing and expect the perfunctory “I’m fine” and don’t want to hear, “Well, my dog shit all over my house, the school bus never showed up this morning, and I spent the better part of my day trying to get my dead husband’s name off my caller ID.”   

When you walk into the nail salon, you say what you want to have done, and all they say is “pick a color” while they fill up a warm basin of water.

Ohhhh...the colors.  I know that my dream job would be to write for the Onion some day, but on the weekends I’d like to moonlight as a Polish Namer for O.P.I.  Not-So-Bora-Bor-ing Pink.  I’m Not Really A Waitress.  Baby It’s Coal Outside.

What a risk-taker I feel like when I walk out with toes that have been temporarily named “Hooker in a Red Dress”! 

I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I once quit going to a very nice nail salon because the owners often had their 2-year-old wandering around.

Of anyone, I should understand the need for someone to bring their kid to work.  Seldom does a conference call go by at my house without someone in the back ground screaming, “MOM!  We’re out of toilet paper and I’ve been sitting here for like an hour!  I could’ve drip-dried by now!”

This is when I have to pause the conversation, grab a toilet roll that was completely within the reach of my child, and place it calmly on the roller.

But when I’m out for my 45 minutes of pretending I’m not a mom...actually pretending I’m not much of anybody...I don’t want to have to smile politely as a 2-year-old tries to show me his prize sippy cup.

So I had to make a change, even though my conscious has been bothering me ever since because I’m not helping to fund that child’s college eduation.

Now the place I go to has jewelry for sale everywhere, so I can look around and imagine what necklace would go perfectly with my new toes.  There is a chick-flick on the TV with subtitles so that the sound doesn’t interfere with the 80s music that’s playing.  No one talks to me.  No one even knows my name.  And not one person asks me to explain my current mental state.

Maybe that’s the OPI name I’ll come up with:  “I’m A Widow.  Look At My Toes And You’ll See I’m Fine.

I’m envisioning electric blue so no one will miss it.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hey! Where's the Fire?

Whew.  What a day yesterday. 

I hadn’t slept well the night before so I was pretty much operating in a fog anyway.  My kids had gone to stay with my parents the day before so that I could get some work done (they’re on spring break).  After finally falling asleep at 3 AM on Wednesday night, I was looking forward to picking up the kids and just spending a quiet day at home on Thursday.

That wasn’t meant to be. 

First of all, after the kids got home, I noticed a really strange man I’d never seen before, wandering around the neighborhood.  He was wearing a backpack and carrying a small camera and kept wandering around the streets around my house, stopping every once in awhile in someone’s driveway, looking, and then walking on.

If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn he was casing the neighborhood.

I talked to my neighbor across the street who was having a garage sale.  She said she hadn’t noticed him, but as we were talking, he came up the street again.  Her son said hi to him, but he didn’t make eye contact and just kept walking

I made the grown-up decision to call the non-emergency line at the police department and have them come out and take a look.

About 15 minutes after that, my neighbor called me and said, “You should step outside.  Do you smell smoke?”

I had noticed the faint smell when I was out talking with her a little earlier, but this time when I walked out...I could barely breathe.  It was obvious that it was blowing in from somewhere as the street kept getting foggier and foggier.

But from where?

She decided to pack up her garage sale and go drive around to see if she could find the source.  In the meantime, I got online to see if there was something going on around me.


About 10 minutes later, my neighbor called to inform me that a grass fire had broken out in the (very) dry land just to the south of our neighborhood.  She said that once she drove to the edge of the area...she couldn’t see anything through the smoke.  I wasn’t panicking quite yet because I kept thinking, “If we’re really in danger, surely they’ll do a reverse 911 or something.”

That changed when she told me the police had barricaded the entrance to the neighborhood and weren’t letting anyone come back in.

Screw the reverse 911.  I’m outta here.

I told the kids to dump the bags they had had packed the night before and put 3 days worth of clothes in them.  It was then that I really started to notice how full of smoke the inside of my house was.  I ran around and grabbed my computer (because it has pictures on it), my video camera bag (because it had the tapes in it), and my photo album of my husband that I keep next to my bed.  I threw clothes in a bag and pets in the car and we were bolting out of our house within about 10 minutes.

As we started getting out of our neighborhood, cars were flooding the main road, packed with dogs and boxes.  There was a line of cars trying to get in and the flashing emergency lights looked unusually bright through the fog of smoke.

And like a 5-year-old...I ran to my parents’ house.

By the time we got there, the news was reporting on the 5:00 news that the fire had burned 120 acres.

By the 6:00 news it had burned over 1200 acres. 

Forty mile an hour winds and hardly any moisture this winter has made the state of Colorado the ideal place for a beginner fire to really show what it’s made of.  I watched in utter disbelief, the live shots of the area surrounding my neighborhood turn black and charred.  I watched as the flames barreled through the dry grass to within feet of a home...where a firefighter would be spraying it down to spare it.

No homes were destroyed in this fire.  Unbelievable.

The news crews showed shots of it snowing...yes, snowing...because the fire had gotten so hot, it was like it was creating its own weather system.  I wanted to hug the meteorologist through the TV when she said the winds had shifted and would start dying down within the next few hours.

What happened yesterday has been a fear of mine since my husband died.  I mean a’s a very real fear for everyone.  But I always wondered what would happen if I was ever faced with an emergency like that.  I am one adult taking responsibility for three kids and, if I can manage it in an emergency situation, two pets.  I’ve always wondered if I had it in me to do what needed to be done.

As with many things in widowhood, we get tested and, most of the time, we exceed our own expectations.  Once the moment of panic is gone, there is usually a moment where we just feel...well...proud of ourselves for doing what needed to be done and stepping up to the challenge.  We all know that life can change in an instant and as I drove away from my house yesterday, I knew that if it should all go up in smoke...I would make sure that we would still be okay.

Today, I went to the ridge at the southern border of my neighborhood and took in the black landscape where a few spots are still smoking (the fire is 95% contained).  Until I saw it, about 2 miles from my house, I don’t think I realized how close to the “edge” we really were.  As scary as it was to look at, I took a deep breath of the smoky air and knew that I had done it.  The question “what would you pack if you only had 5 minutes to get out of your house?” had been asked and answered.

And as my 5-year-old reached for my hand in the dark last night while we fell asleep at my parents’ house...I knew I had gotten everything that I needed.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Not Feeling Like Myself. Guess I'll Go Talk To My...HORSE???

"There is something about the outside of a horse that's good for the inside of a man."
                 ~Winston Churchill

Yesterday the kids and I had a little family time and did something that most people have probably not even heard of.

We received grief therapy.  From a horse.

Well, not directly from a horse.  He didn’t have his diploma framed and mounted in the barn or an overstuffed couch right next to the trough.  He wasn’t like Mr. Ed with a PhD.  He required a little assistance from his buddy, Michael Dawson, a licensed grief therapist here in Colorado.  Michael has been using horses in his therapy for both children and adults for the past 10 years through his organization the Philippi Center.

I heard from Michael a couple of weeks ago after I sent him a letter, informing him that his organization was on the resources list for  He sent me an email, asking if I would be willing to come in and talk to him a little bit about what he does.

I felt an instant connection with Michael who admitted that he had never lost a spouse, but agreed with my theory that loss is really losing the life you thought you were going to have...which can mean many things to many people.  He explained to me that he understood that because he has a daughter who is physically limited in ways that most people aren’t. 

And he found a new way to connect with her.  Through horses.

We sat and talked for almost 2 hours about what he does, but that wasn’t enough for me.  I wanted to see it and experience for myself what it was like to have an unbiased and understanding horse, listen to me and take some of my problems away.  Since my kids are on Spring Break this week and I was so anxious to meet with Michael, I asked if my kids could come along as well.  He immediately agreed, telling me that he would structure a demonstration based around my family.

My kids were so excited when I told them we were going to spend the afternoon on a farm.  I told them, “We’re going to go talk to some horses about Daddy.”

Now, most people would give you a strange look if you announced that was going to be their Monday afternoon activity.  But my kids nodded like that was the most normal thing in the world.

Michael started us off slowly, in a room, sitting around in a circle saying our names, ages, and the special person who died.  Of course, since it was just my family, we all know these things about each other, but I had forgotten how powerful it can be just to say these basics out loud.

We then moved out to the ring and met Jazz and Charlie.  Michael seemed to know these horses completely, like they were old friends.

“Now, Charlie’s a worrier,” he said.  “Jazz is more easy-going.  But everyone responds differently to different personalities.” got that right.

We completed different exercises...some talking about feelings, some problem-solving with the horses (how DO you get a horse from point A to point B?).  With the quiet distraction of the horses, we talked about feelings that we have, some good and some bad, and at the end of our short session, we got out the brushes and started grooming the horses.

Now, I’m not a horse person, so I’ve never done this before.  But I hope it’s not the last time I do it.  It’s almost hypnotic and one of the most calming things I’ve ever done. 

“I once had a woman grooming the horse and start talking about her loss,” Michael said.  “By the end of the session, she didn’t even remember all that she had said.”

I can see how that might happen.

And as my oldest daughter and I gently brushed the horse together and talked to Michael about my husband, I could tell that Jazz was feeling it too. 

Because he almost fell asleep.

This was such an amazing and almost spiritual experience...I just can’t keep it to myself.  As we worked through the activities, I talked to Michael about how he would feel if I asked other widows if they could join us for a weekend of Horses Healing Grief this summer.

And he agreed.

In the next week, Michael and I are going to talk about dates for making this happen.  Depending on the interest, we are hoping that we can break this up into 2 different sessions:  One for widow(er)s and one for widow(er)s and their families, for those people who would like to participate with their children and make it a family weekend. 

During the family weekend, activities will be broken out so that widow(er)s will work together...and the kids will be in a separate group.  This gives the widow(er)s a chance to connect with each other (something that we all desperately need) and an opportunity for the kids to talk and chase that word “normal” once again.

I know that many of you have emailed me with your interest in a Widow’s Retreat weekend this summer as well.  And that’s still going to happen.  What we are talking about are three different weekends for you to choose from, depending on where your interest is.  And in the next week, I will be letting you know about the details of all of these weekends, hopefully giving you time to make your summer plans.

We’ve talked about this in widowhood seems to come from unexpected places.  Friends we’ve never considered “close” before have become the people we lean on the most.  Activities that never interested us before become something we look forward to.  And in trying to find anything that might help us fight the Grief Monster, we sometimes have to look in unexpected places.

But I will admit:  I never thought I’d find help, healing, and renewal in a barn.

For more information about this series of Widow’s Retreats, please email  Our goal is to keep these groups small so that we can truly connect, but we will do our best to accommodate all of those who are interested.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is It Time For You To TUNE OUT???

Is it just me...or does it seem like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket? 

Earthquakes, nuclear explosions, tsunamis, idiots in government.  I hear even that sweet, young man, Charlie Sheen, is having issues.

Everything that is going on in the world today is enough to overwhelm anyone if they really let it sink in.  And I really feel like, as widows, when we let something sink sinks.  We’ve had ring-side seats to the fragility of life and that little mental picture is something that will never go away.

When we see disaster...we’re picturing the family members who are lost and the family members who will somehow have to carry on without them.  When we watch how the government is functioning (or not, as the case may be)...we feel for everyone who is affected and wonder how we will keep going.  Even when we see Charlie Sheen...most of us are feeling true sympathy for the children who, let’s face it, have lost a father.

Bad news.  It’s EVERYWHERE.  We can’t escape it for the simple reason that it sells.  Gloom and Doom bring in more advertising bucks than Modern Family ever will.  Even if the news is good, it seems like there’s some Fox News reporter eagerly waiting their turn for the spotlight to criticize whatever is going on (has Bill O’Reilly ever agreed with anyone?).

Even my old safety net “The View” has let me down.  I know it’s up to them to talk about Hot Topics, but yesterday I watched it and was severely depressed.  I just can’t take it when Whoopi gets sad. 

So now I’m down to watching Fashion Police on E!  Joan Rivers will never let me down and speak about the medical outcome of a nuclear explosion while she’s bagging on what Justin Bieber wore to the Oscars.

Then again...Justin Bieber depresses me too.


Watching the news as widows...well...I’m just going to say it.  It’s NOT a good idea.  With the prevalence of sad stories, chances’re not going to see something that will make you turn off the TV with a sigh of contentment.

Watching the news makes you feel alone.  It makes you feel helpless.  It makes you feel like it’s you against a world that’s falling apart.  Even people who haven’t gone through what we’ve been through feel that way.  But being alone (especially as a new widow)’s TOO MUCH.

Now, I know I’m going to get some push-back from people who are going to tell me that it’s not a good idea to bury your head in the sand.  And I agree.  But if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed with life and “the big picture”...turn off your cable and pop in a mindless chick flick.

I’ll give you an example of how this works.

Right around the time my husband died, the recession happened.  Every night the news about the economy grew scarier and scarier.  The entire country was on the brink of financial ruin.  And I was sitting in my house every night with my 3 young children, petrified about how I would possibly get through this without my husband.

Yup.  Bring on the anxiety attacks.

I finally got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.  Everything about the economy, new outbreaks of viruses, violence in schools...I didn’t even want to leave my house.  So I did a very powerful thing to help myself.


I know some people don’t agree with the phrase “ignorance is bliss.”  But partial ignorance isn’t always a bad thing.  We can feel empathy for those suffering in Japan and donate or volunteer to help...without seeing the same unfortunate man floating by on the top of his house over and over again.  We can send prayers to families who have lost loved ones in accidents or tragedies in our own country...without seeing the gruesome scene on the news 5 nights in a row.  We can be helpful contributors to society without listening to someone who doesn’t even know us tell us what we should be thinking.

We can know what’s going on in the world without seeking out the bad news.

For those of you who are feeling just exhausted with the world, I have a suggestion.  Turn off.  Log out.  Give your mind and your heart a break.  Read news that feeds your soul and makes you want to get up in the morning.  Seek out positive places to find things that will occupy your mind.  Read the Arts & Entertainment section and recycle the rest. 

Give yourself a bad news break.

And please...whatever you not attend Charlie Sheen’s live show.  That will depress you more than anything.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

Widowhood: The Ultimate Workout

So the other night I was watching “The Proposal” (because you know I tend to get all of my blog inspiration either from chick flicks or “The View”) and I observed Sandra Bullock as she realized that everything she had ever wanted was in this little Alaskan town.  Nice family...good lookin’ guy...the freedom to chant “Balls” at the top of her lungs in the woods....

Then she took off running.

Now, this is just a small part of the movie, but her character did lose her parents and felt all alone in the world.  And then suddenly she was welcomed into a ready-made, good family.

And it scared the shit out of her.

I know I do it.  As soon as something good starts happening, my first instinct is to run away from it.  I really don’t believe that my subconscious thinks that I don’t deserve something good in my life.  Or maybe it does.  My subconscious and I haven’t been speaking since it made me have that dream last week that my husband was alive, but cheating on me.  So I’ll have to ask it when we’re on better terms.

I sometimes wonder if, in my case, when something good comes along, I run as fast as I can because it may mean that I have to invest myself again.  And if it’s really good...what happens if I lose it?

When it comes to good things in general, discovering something new and good opens up a TON of mixed emotions.  I’m grateful for the experience or the new relationship.  And then I realize that if I hadn’t lost him, I wouldn’t be having the experience.  I wonder if the experience is worth the pain of losing it.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

That tends to put a damper on whatever it is that I have going on.

In a previous blog, I wrote about how no one can push people away like a widow can.  In that case, I was talking about dating.  In my experience, as soon as I would meet a nice guy, my first instinct was to push, test, and ultimately drive them away.  Because even though a nice guy was exactly what I was looking for, once I found scared the ba-jeezus out of me.

So, never one to be comfortable with conflict, I would suddenly turn into a complete psycho so that they would break up with me first.  That way I wouldn’t have to be the bad guy and I could pin the whole failed relationship on them.

Pretty brilliant, eh?  (I know many women are sitting there nodding their heads, totally getting this post.  And the men are shaking their heads and thinking, “I knew you people were nuts!”)

I think the pushing and the running are all tied up with each other.  We push and we run from all of that good stuff, afraid to let it really sink in and mean something to us.  Because as soon as that happens...there is a chance it could get taken away.

I find this widow trait mildly annoying.  Weren’t we supposed to come out of this thing with a better appreciation for life, knowing that we should hold on to happiness if it should come our way again?  Aren’t we supposed to be the people who run around spewing platitudes about how life is short and you should take advantage of every moment?

How did the whole darn thing get so twisted around?  And how can I make it stop?

At least I have one question answer.  If I’m pushing and running at the same time, no wonder I’m so damn tired all the time.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Found Guilty by a Jury of One. Me.

How is it possible that when a spouse dies...guilt invades our bodies like a disease for which there is no cure?

Damned if we do and damned if we don' seems like we're cursed to feel guilty about countless things...many of which were completely beyond our control.

Take me for example.  My husband was in a motorcycle accident on his way to work.  He didn't die at the scene...he was actually pretty much okay.  He died 3 days later after suffering a stroke and brain swelling.

And months later I traced his death back to the moment I "allowed" him to buy the motorcycle 10 years earlier.

Of course, if I wasn't feeling guilty about letting him buy the motorcycle, I was feeling guilty about the many reckless things he wanted to do that I wouldn't "okay."  I felt like...if his life was going to be so short...why didn't I just let him do what he wanted to do?

This is probably when you decide I have some sort of multiple personality issue.  

Yeah...well.  Name one widow who doesn't.

That's what I thought.

I felt guilty in the hospital multiple times for multiple things.  I felt guilty when I left him for a few hours so that my in-laws could have some time alone with him.  Then I felt guilty about not giving them enough time alone with him.  I felt guilty about how upset everyone was (ummm...hello???) and that it was some how my fault.

I felt guilty when I couldn't make it all better.

My reaction to my husband's death is yet another area I seemed destined to feel guilty about, mainly because I think the way I am doesn't fall into someone's picture of a "widow."  As you all know, I tend to have a pretty warped sense of humor about the whole thing (which is something that many of us acquire) but I know it came from my need to make everyone more comfortable around me.

 But when it comes to "comfort" and "widow"...those two don't usually coexist in the same sentence.

 I can tell my husband's story without shedding a tear.  I can give speeches, talk to other widows, and tell strangers about what happened...and I'm totally okay.

"Hello, Guilt.  I'm right over here!"

I've spent so long with Guilt as a's like we're living in sin.  (Yet another thing to feel guilty about.)

Of course, you know that if I talked about it and openly started weeping in the baking aisle of Wal-Mart, I'd feel guilty about that too.  Because it would make someone else feel uncomfortable.

Ugh.  I'm ready to let it all go.  Guilt about the past is getting me no where.  And guilt about others reacting to my past is something I can't possibly control.  So why feel guilty about it?

Are there things I would have done differently?  Sure.  Would they have changed the outcome I'm living with?  Who the hell knows?

All I know is that I've done the best with what I've had to work with.  And if you could see the inside of my'd know that that's pretty damn good.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Had a Good Day...Wish You Were Here

One of the hardest things to get used to as a widow is how good days come with mixed emotions.  I’m having one of those moments.

Today was good, which really surprised me.  I was up most of the night with a sick little girl (who is still feeling pretty puny today) so I expected to be exhausted and get nothing done.

As we all know...sick kid + single parent = tired parent.

In spite of my exhaustion, I was able to get a few things done on and since writing code and working on “the back end” have never been my strengths...anything I can get accomplished accomplishment.

My afternoon was pretty normal...running around, picking everyone up, and getting them where they needed to go.  I had a parent/teacher conference this afternoon for my son, which I wasn’t worried about because he always seems to do pretty well.  But for some reason, I always forget how emotionally draining those conferences are...especially when they have to do with my son.

He’s like his dad in so many ways...just super, super smart (and I can promise you that he did not get that from me).  I was mid-way through listening to the teacher tell me that he is in not one, but two accelerated math groups and that he is already halfway into the next grade level in reading and writing when it hit me.

I have no one to tell.

I mean, I have people I can tell.  My parents will be excited.  I have friends who will say, “That’s great!”  But that person who is the other half of my son isn’t here.  So that great news...came with a little hurt.

I hate it when that happens.

I heard from a newspaper today that wants to do a story on, thanks to a friend of mine who put in a good word for me.  And by the time I had gotten home from the parent/teacher conference...I had heard from another newspaper, not only interested in doing a story on the website, but also praising my writing.

Believe one could possibly be more shocked about that than I am. 

I was so excited I could barely contain myself.  It was like getting an A in a class you thought you’d be lucky to get a C in.  And then I sat down in front of my computer with a thud and realized, once again...there’s nobody to tell.

I hate to say that the good things in life are tainted by one bad thing that happened...but it’s true.  I long for the days when I experienced “great”...without experiencing “loss.”  My disappointment in being forced to internalize good news is lessoning...but I doubt that it will ever go away.  Because even as a kid...I couldn’t wait to share everything that was going on my life.  And now I have no one to burst through the door and tell.

So I’m going to look on the positive side.  I can always tell you.

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

© Catherine Tidd 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right (my high school friends are LOVING this Rob Base reference)

I think widowhood should have an alternate name:  “The Great Friend Shakedown.”

You just don’t know who your friends are until something like this happens, do you?  It’s kind of like not knowing if you have a good dentist until you chip a vital front tooth.  Will you walk out with a matching set or will your dentist not be up to the challenge and make you look like Nanny McPhee?

I am a firm believer that friendships, even in good times, change, evolve, cycle, and sometimes just disappear altogether.  We’ve all seen it.  Those of us who have kids suddenly realize that the friends we were close to in college who decided they would rather travel and have a normal life than have kids...they haven’t called to have us over since our 2-year-old’s CD/DVD reorganization at their house.  Most of us are pressed for time with jobs, families, and life in general and realize that we haven’t seen the best friend we had in high school (who we used to watch TV with over the phone even though they lived next door) in about 3 years.  And some of us (and by that, I mean me) are just too damn lazy to check their voicemail.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become really picky about who I spend my time with.  In my case, that’s because if I actually want to have a conversation with someone, I need to get a babysitter.  So I am always asking myself, “Is this friendship worth $10 an hour?”

I’ve also somehow gotten myself into a semi-hermit state, thanks to my DVR and my need to be in bed by 9 PM.  So this has cut down on my social life quite a bit.

I thought, after my husband died, I would want to reconnect with everyone.  I thought I would want to check in with all of the people from my past just to let them know I was thinking about them and that they had played an important part in my life.

But I kind of went the opposite direction.

It became painfully obvious to me how precious life was and how limited our time here is.  I realized that if I had lost contact with someone...there was probably a reason for it.  And suddenly my circle of friends became smaller and more intimate while the less important friendships kind of slipped away.

I don’t think anyone was to blame.  It was a team effort.

The friends who have stuck with me...they’re the real deal.  And I think most of them will agree that I have done my best to stick with them too.  I didn’t realize it when I was doing it, but in my early days of widowhood...I was really training my friends.  I think this was an off-shoot of my own personal “denial” phase.  I was determined to make my life go on and still thought I could make everything normal.  And before my husband died...what was normal to me was socializing.

I didn’t wait for people to invite me over.  I invited them over.  I knew that going forward, there was a good chance I would be the 5th wheel for awhile (or forever) and I didn’t want to dwell on it...I wanted to get used to it. 

So I ripped of the big grief band-aid, as I like to call it, and made an effort to invite people over.

I never wanted my friends to feel like if we got together, their husbands or boyfriends weren’t invited because I was widowed.  In truth, I think getting together was a helluva lot more awkward for them than it ever was for me.  But I didn’t put the burden of easing the strain all on them...I had to meet them in the middle and let them know, as weird as it sounds, that it was okay to still be friends with me.  That there still was a “me” under all of this crap I was carrying around.

Most of my girlfriends were understanding and completely on board.  It was their husbands who were tough.  In fact, I had husbands who, weeks after my husband died, refused to come over.  I’m not entirely sure what made them so uncomfortable.  I think they were worried I would strap them to the couch and make them watch “Steel Magnolias” while I worked my way through a box of Kleenex and a Cost Co size bag of Snickers or something.

I swear that only happened once and I never liked that couple anyway.

The truth of the situation was that I needed to talk to the guys more than ever.  I needed to trouble-shoot the plumbing problem I’d been having or talk about the best deal on tires.  I needed to know the best tool for working on a sprinkler head (which as it turns out is either a hammer or your foot.  Who knew?).  For awhile there...I probably needed to have conversations with my friends’ husbands more than I needed to talk to my friends.

As a widow who was trying to “do it all”...I was probably one step away from scratching myself inappropriately in public.

I will admit that there were times when I pushed my friendships away, like most of us do.  But for the most part...I think I kind of forced my new life on them.  It would have been unrealistic to think that I could keep pushing away without pushing too far.  Even as a widow I knew that if I wanted to have friends...I couldn’t stop being one.

We all get to that scary point when our friends’ lives keep going while our own seems to have come to a complete stop.  It was heartbreaking for me to realize that people would still have babies, get married (and then divorced), struggle, and succeed...all while my husband wasn’t here.  But it was never something I blamed my friends for.  I never felt abandoned because they had their own lives.  Because if I did...that would mean I had become so wrapped up in myself that I had stopped becoming a friend.  And if that’s where I was headed...well...that’s a lonely place.

The truth is...being “a” friend is something you can do on your own.  Being “friends,” like any relationship...takes two.

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© Catherine Tidd 2011