Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Widow Awards

I don't know about you, but when I make through certain milestones...I feel like I've accomplished something monumental.

I think I was prouder of myself when I got through the first anniversary of my husband's death than I was when I got my college diploma.  I want to jump up and down every year on the day after his birthday because I'm so excited to be on the other side.  And, frankly, I think I deserve a trophy every year on December 26th.

I'm actually cheating and writing this on Christmas Day.  But I can feel it mounting - that jubilation that only getting through the holidays can bring.  I've gotten through the build-up and what is sometimes the forced merriment of the holiday season.  Christmas Eve, and all of the stress that comes with it, is over.  I'm halfway through what I consider a successful Christmas Day (meaning nothing catastrophic has happened) and can already feel the relief that comes with getting closure on another December 25th.

I know that so many of us are sad that, not only are we missing our spouses, but some of the magic of the season is gone as well.  And I totally get that.  Even if you're fortunate to be with people during the holidays, there is still a loneliness that can't be explained to others.  The best way I can think of phrasing it is that even if you're with people you love...there is still a connection that's missing.  There's a separateness.  There is a caution that we didn't feel before, a worry that if we feel too much - whether it's sadness or happiness - that emotion might just be too overwhelming.

This is the reason why I love widow(er)s.  No one gets that like we do.  I can guarantee that tomorrow I will wake up to many messages from my comrades in loss, celebrating the fact that they've made it through yet another milestone (or maybe even their first).

How I wish we could get all together!  We need a big giant ballroom with an elaborate stage - even bigger than the Oscars!  We will all be nominated for different categories like Best Meltdown or Most Elaborate Comfort Food Creator or Most Realistic - Coping Category.  We will all applaud each other as we take the stage in our most comfortable sweats and each accept an award that we will proudly display in our homes that will remind us - and everyone we know - that we made it through another day.

Because it's big.  It's a huge accomplishment that most people don't understand.  I don't know one person in our situation who hasn't woken up one morning and thought, "I did it.  I made it through."  Others in our circles don't understand the energy, emotional control, and fierce concentration it takes to sometimes just live through a day.

But we do.

I read a quote the other day that I love (of course now I can't find it).  It went something like "I know I'm having a hard day, but so far my success rate at getting through tough moments is 100%."  And that's true.  I've done it before.  And I will have to do it again.  But I've proven to myself that I can.  And so have you.

So, I raise my glass you, my fellow widdas.  If you were here, I'd be handing you a tacky trophy probably made out of an abandoned Barbie doll and whatever craft supplies I have laying around.  But I would be giving it to you with pride, smiling at you, and congratulating you for making it through the day.

Because as we all know...that's huge.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Missing Santa Claus

So, I’ve seen this on the Widow Chick page, I’ve seen it on, and I’ve seen it pop up in my own writing.

“I know this sounds selfish, but I hate that there will be nothing under the tree this year for me.”

Many of us are thinking it, but very few people actually say it out loud.  It makes us sound petty.  It makes us sound immature.  And it makes us sound whiny.

But I get it.  I totally do.  Because my husband was the best about Christmas (I’m choosing to ignore the year that he gave me an Oral B toothbrush and focus on the year he gave me a car).  He might have screwed up my birthday every once in a while, our anniversary about every other year, and every Mother’s Day…but he made up for it at Christmas.

Probably hoping that he wouldn’t have to start the New Year off sleeping on the couch.

After giving it some thought, I’ve decided something:  We’re not whiny and we’re not immature.  We’re not selfish and we’re not petty.

We’re sad.

If you and your spouse were anything like me and mine, you know that it was that person who knew you best.  It was that person who knew exactly what you wanted for the holidays and tried their best to deliver.  It was that person you could be the most honest with and say, “This is great, but I really wanted a different color.  Do you mind if I exchange it?” without hurting their feelings.  It was that person who thought of you and your wants, needs, and wishes above anyone else.

And now they’re gone.

The truth is, it wasn’t about the present – it never was.  I mean, if I really wanted a piece of jewelry…I could go out and buy it.  It was the fact that someone else was thinking of me, wanting me to be happy, and putting so much thought into a gift (except that whole toothbrush debacle)…wanting nothing more than to see joy on my face Christmas morning.

I don’t think I truly felt like an adult at Christmas until after my husband died.  Sure, we had three small children and the focus was almost entirely on them, but I always knew that my husband would surprise me with something.  So in that way…I was still pretty child-like around the holidays until my early 30s.

Now I do feel like the Christmas season is entirely about the kids.  I’m just there to wrap the presents and cook the food.  I know that’s a pathetic thing to say, but it’s true.  And, yes, it does make me extremely happy when I see their anticipation build the weeks before Christmas and how excited they are on Christmas morning.

But the child in me misses that, too.

I have no solution to this – you know me, I always try and come up with one.  I can’t fix it and I can’t make it go away.  All I can think is that it’s part of the grieving process and since we only really deal with it once a year, it would make sense that it’s just going to take longer to work through it.  

But it’s not selfish of me to want those presents under the tree.

It doesn’t make me a bad person to want something special to unwrap.

And it doesn’t mean that I’m wallowing when I say I just miss my Santa Claus.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Totally Scrooged

Oh Woe, Is Me
(To be sung to the tune of O Christmas Tree)

Oh woe, is me
Oh woe, is me
My pipes are completely frozen
Oh woe, is me 
Oh woe, is me
I pray that they're not broken

The plumber says I have to wait
And there's a good chance there's a break

Oh woe, is me
Oh woe, is me
Lots of cursing spoken

Yup.  After a summer of too much water...I now have none.  I'm writing this in a house that is far too quiet on a Saturday because my kids have all been farmed out to various friends and family members while I wait for a plumber to come look at the problem tonight.  I have relied on the kindness of my neighbors for the use of their facilities (so that my kids won't wake up to the headline "Colorado Woman Arrested for Peeing in Backyard") and this morning I took a shower at my gym, marveling at the miracle of plumbing in a way that I've never done before.

As you can imagine...all of this is not helping my already wavering holiday spirit.

I'm hoping that as I write this, my humor will find its way in - because usually that's the only thing that keeps me from going completely insane.  I sent a holiday article to my agent yesterday only to have her respond (as I knew she would), "I was hoping this would be funnier."  

But let's face it.  These last couple of's been hard to find my "funny."

I've truly been practicing what I learned the year my husband died - to take each moment as it comes and only focus on the things I can control.  Take one problem at a time, one step at a time.  

The other thing I've learned is that I should never take flushing toilets for granted.

I've been doing everything I can to get things flowing, but unfortunately, the only thing that seems to be flowing is me.  As I told my neighbor yesterday, the umpteenth time I rang her doorbell to use her bathroom, "You have no idea how much you need to go until you can't."  And the need to plan my bathroom breaks has made me feel like I have to go all of the time.  

This doesn't leave much time to concentrate on the important stuff.

I allowed myself the luxury of a half hour nap today because, obviously, I didn't sleep very well last night.  I was awakened at precisely 12:20 AM by what sounded like a low, thundering noise and something cracking.  I immediately jumped out of my bed and ran around my house, looking at every exposed pipe under the sink and the faucets.  As I stood, sleepy-eyed, in the middle of my kitchen and saw my cat run through the room in a frenzy of midnight activity (why do cats do that?) I came to the conclusion that the noise was her, running up and down my upstairs hall as if possessed, only to pause occasionally at my laundry basket to sharpen her claws.  Which explained the cracking noise.

Damn cat.

No offense, but I was hoping to not be writing at all today.  I was hoping to be finally putting my basement back together this weekend so that I would finally have my office back after all of that summer flooding.  My husband's old pool table was supposed to be gone yesterday, new carpet installed, and I pictured myself finally wrapping the Christmas presents I desperately need to get started on so that my kids can start shaking them.

And then three things happened:  my carpet guy postponed, my pool table buyer backed out, and my pipes froze.

I will admit that when all of these things happened yesterday, I sat down and cried for about an hour straight.  I know that these are "classy" problems that I am ultimately fortunate to have...but they're still problems.  And they're still overwhelming when left on my own to deal with them.

I know that most people hate that phrase "there's a reason for everything" and most of the time I'm with you on that.  But I'll admit that part of me, when going through trying times such as these, does wonder if someday I'll figure out the lesson this was supposed to teach me.

Is it learning new things about home maintenance?

Is it so that I'll think back on a time when I had more strength than I knew possible?

Is it so that I'll know that I can actually get through these things without one drop of wine (which will make me have to knock on my neighbor's door at double the frequency)?

Is it my husband causing so many problems with the house from the great beyond, telling me that it's okay to move on?

Who the heck knows??

And so, I've decided to put my Christmas spirit on hold for a few days.  I'm giving myself permission to not have the jolly demeanor I try so hard to have this time of year for my kids.  Years from now, they might reminisce about the year I decided to play Scrooge for the holidays - and that's okay.  

I've earned it.