I don't know if anyone else does this but me, but sometimes I think about my beginning weeks, months, and years as a widow and remember it almost like it happened to someone else.
Was that really me who got up and took care of three small children? Who stripped her entire bedroom of wallpaper just weeks after her husband died? Who worked out nonstop and lost about thirty pounds in two months?
I think that's why, when people say to me, "I don't know how you did it," I can honestly look at them and say with some surprise, "I don't know how I did either."
Because sometimes I really don't think that was me. That was a more put-together widow. Because this chick wouldn't mind staying in bed all day or only using her gym membership for the hot tub.
I got a phone call from a neighbor and close friend this morning who tearfully informed me that one of her close friends had just lost her husband. The message was left at 12:30 AM and I didn't get it until 7:00 AM, but it was obvious that my friend is heartbroken and, therefore, so am I.
To be honest, when I hear news like this, I'm less sad about the person who is gone and more upset knowing what someone is getting ready to go through. That may not make sense to some of you, but there you have it.
I don't know why, but after hearing the news this morning, I started remembering things I had totally forgotten about. I know I mentioned in Confessions of a Mediocre Widow my odd train of thought when my mother was driving me home from the hospital after Brad died...how I wondered if anyone had taken my daughter to ballet or if anyone had taken all three kids to the park recently. Just little things like that.
But this morning I started remembering all of the weird things I did right after he died - because they were so normal. And by acting so normal, I wonder if I seemed slightly crazy to everyone else.
Like keeping my dentist appointment the week after Brad died and telling my hygienist before she started cleaning my teeth, "I know Brad has an appointment next week, but he died, so could you cancel it?"
Going to my hairdresser less than a month after he died and saying, "My husband died so I need highlights."
I mean, how weird is that?
And then I thought about something I had totally forgotten: how I had called the teenager at the swimming pool the day after he died who had been giving my daughter lessons and said, "I don't think Haley will be in this week. Her dad died."
This all seemed so normal at the time, but when I think back on it, I can't believe how together I was! These days, I'm more likely to forget someone has a lesson and we miss it altogether, I'm overdue for my dentist appointment and I'm really not worried about it, and don't even get me started on my hair.
Who would have thought that the shock of a dead husband was what it would take for me to get shit done?
Actually, I don't know if that's true. I think my shock was somewhat delayed. When I look back on the last 6 1/2 years, I really think that the shock came about three years in - I don't think I was all that shocked in the moment. Or maybe I was TOO shocked to really know how shocked I was.
I don't if it was denial or just an overwhelming determination that life would go on that had me acting so normal in the face of insanity. All I know is that I look back on that time in my life and wonder, "Who in the hell was that?"
I actually told my therapist the other day how I kind of miss that new widow.
Now, that sounds crazy (that's why I can say these things to my therapist - crazy is a given), but it's a little bit true. Yes, that new widow had just had her life blown apart and didn't recognize any of the pieces that were left. But in the midst of her insanity, she was so positive that somehow she would build her life even better than it was before. She looked at the mountain of life before her - the kids, the house, relationships - and just knew that she could conquer them all.
As I said in the book, I've always felt I've grieved backwards (thus, the mediocre widow part) because it wasn't then that I questioned if I could build the life I wanted...it's now. I think there is a place I thought I would be by now and to be honest...I'm not.
Some things have gone better than I thought they would, others not so much. I think one of the reasons I was so manic, trying to change my life all those years ago, was so that I would be more settled now. And in many ways, that hasn't happened.
I'm not sure, but I think there was a moment around year two when I decided veer off what I thought was my chosen path. The other way would have been easier, I think, because I would have been able to slide right into another version of my old life - living my comfortable suburban existence with someone who was willing to take care of me so I didn't have to depend solely on myself anymore.
But in a split second, I decided I didn't want that. I wanted to try something else. And it was probably in that moment that I truly became a different person.
Now, I can see my life for what it is. I'm no longer that new widow who was determined to immediately "fix" her life and who could see the result of all of that manic hard work as some sort of happy ending. I know now that there is no "end result." There is life. And that determination comes in fits and spurts separated by...well...living.
I'm figuring out that there is no way for me to envision what life will be like in a year, two years, ten. Sure, it's okay to have goals, but that "new widow" way of thinking (I will be remarried, have a job, my kids will be 100% happy because I will make it so) is pretty unrealistic.
And it's okay that I chose a path I never thought I would. Even if I have no idea where it's leading.