Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Refuse to be Crabby

I have several reasons to be crabby right now.

First of all, I am beginning what in years past has been my downward descent into emotional hell.  Or, more lightly put, "not a very fun month."

I got through Father's Day.  Cried a little, but for the most part came out unscathed.  My birthday is next week. Okay...not looking forward to that so much, but too busy to be truly dreading it.  Just a hop, skip, and a jump to the anniversary of my husband's death and our wedding anniversary and I'll be out the other side.  Just three weeks to go.

My kids have me crabby.  Only a couple of weeks into summer break and my two girls are at each other's throats almost constantly while my son finds reasons to be outside so that he can avoid both their sniping and my anger at the sniping.  I'm tired.  I'm annoyed.  And I feel kind of whiny, too.

All three of the kids are constantly on the go, which is great for them, but hard on me and my gas mileage (both the car's and my soul's).  At the end of the day I fall into bed, too exhausted to open my book, only to wake up the next morning and start all over again.

All of this combined with relationship ups and downs (friendships, not romantic.  Still too gun-shy to get back on that wagon) that have had me more than a little sad...and I'm SPENT.

I woke up this morning with the dread and - let's fact it - depression I've been feeling for about the past week.  I hate that feeling.  I hate waking up with it because then you're already starting out with a bad day and then everything else for the next 12-15 hours of wakeful activity seems harder than it should be and that much more annoying.

Anyway, I got one kid dropped off at day camp and went to the gym, hoping that the exercise would cheer me up (that actually does sometimes happen).  And then I got in the car and almost made it home before I started crying.  Again.

And that's when I realized that I not only found my melancholy annoying...I was, frankly, starting to annoy myself.

It's not like I don't have a reason to be sad, but not all the freaking time.  If what I'm going to do is wake up in the morning and think of all of the negative things I have going on...then what in the hell is the point?

It was as I was getting dressed that I snapped.  I'm not going to do this anymore.  I can't.  It's no way to live the life I want to have.  If I continue to be this way, I will ruin everything that comes my way - even the good stuff.  I won't recognize Happy if it comes up and slaps me on the face.  I will become the person that no one wants to call and hang out with but they feel like they have to.  I will be the Eeyore in my own little Hundred Acre Woods....

And I don't want to be that person.

Worst of all...I will look back on this time in my life and regret not enjoying it in the moment.  I will regret that I was so annoyed with the fact that my girls were fighting all morning that I didn't have fun swimming with them in the afternoon.  That I was so focused on the crap that's breaking around my house that I couldn't enjoy an entire day.  That I'm so messed up by what's happened in the past...there's no way I can enjoy my present.

Part of my "moment-of-snap" was thinking about what's ahead for me.  In the next few months, I'll be working on the launch of my first book, something that is so exciting because I've worked so damn hard for it.  Am I really going to let all of this little crap bother me so much that I can't enjoy this moment in my life?

Hell, no.

Some people agree with this rationale and some people don't:  That you can choose happiness and positivity over wallowing and self-pity.  And I will agree that there have been times in my life when that choice has seemed impossible.

But I won't let that be now.

I'm going to be cheerful.  I'm going to fake it 'til I make it.  I'm going to be so damn peppy that people will be begging me to be depressed again.

Yup.  That's my plan.

I'll let you know how it pans out.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Are You Getting Emotionally Steamrolled By Father's Day?

(Do you like my picture for this blog?  I totally have that outfit.)

I've been putting off my Father's Day blog because after six years, I know that I could write one thing one day and feel completely different the next.  So now that I'm an old, wise widow (okay...maybe just old), I know to procrastinate on this one a little.

Let me preface this by saying my usual - please don't read this or any other blog I've written (or any blog anyone else has written) and assume that you're on the same path.  Because while our circumstances might be similar, our experiences could be completely different.  So, as I've said before, don't assume that because I'm having a bad day, hour, year, or decade...that you are destined to do the same.

If this were radio I would have had someone read that really fast.

I'm doing okay this year.  Honestly, I am.  And the reason why I put this blog off is because I thought the same damn thing last year about a week before Father's Day...only to have a breakdown two days before and not recover until Labor Day.

I thought I had this widow thing in the bag.  Seriously, during year four...I was in the zone, slam dunking my widowness and "winning" like the female version of Charlie Sheen.  Only sober and without a one-man show.

So imagine my surprise when, during year five, my mind thought I had this completely figured out and my body went, "Waaaait a minute.  Back it up there, my friend.  Don't think you've got a handle on this.  And to make sure you really realize that I'm going to give you hives, make you sick, twist your ankle twice in a month, and stick something in your other foot that will make it completely impossible for you to walk for three months."

That's why, this year, I've kept my head down, worked on not making eye-contact with my grief, and refused to let my mind get too cocky.  Because...well...you just never know when your body is going to rebel.

But I'm good.  Year six.  Father's Day Eve.  I'm walking on both feet, my itchiness is at a minimum, and so far I'm not popping antihistamines like they're Tic Tacs.  And I can't tell you how grateful I am for that.

That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.  In some ways, each milestone is like another mini-death because I'm losing, yet again, an experience that I feel like I should be having.  I know that I will go up to the cemetery in the morning with my three kids and have that feeling yet again that can only be described as surreal-ly unfair.  Even after six years, I know that the moment I see that headstone with that name and those dates I will think, "What in the hell am I doing here?"  And by the time I go to bed tomorrow night, I will be breathing a sigh of relief that it's over and I have 365 days to dread the next one.

As some of you know, Father's Day begins my own cluster of crappy dates because immediately following it are my birthday, the anniversary of his death, and our wedding anniversary.  I don't know one widow(er) out there who doesn't have a cluster like this in some way - whether it involves the holidays or just important personal dates - and it truly sucks.  Sometimes I feel like one of those cartoons that gets steamrolled - only my steamroller is grief and I can only hope that I pop back to my original form sometime around the 21st of July.

But today I'm okay.  Who knows?  Maybe year six is the year I'll have it all figured out.  Or maybe I'll be a complete mess next year and realize that I'm destined to have a nervous breakdown on the odd-numbered years.

But I'm feeling good now.

And as we all know we have to grab on to that feeling when we can.  Because we're never guaranteed how long it will last.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Place Before

I'm just going to say it.

This weekend I feel a little like I'm wading knee deep in the muck of life.

You know that feeling.  Sluggish, even though you haven't been challenged physically.  Eyes at half-mast even though you've been getting enough sleep.  Brain not functioning even though...well...actually that's nothing new.

I knew this weekend had the potential to be difficult.  I have to give a speech tomorrow for the Donor Alliance, which I'm always happy and proud to do when they ask.  And then dread a little more as the event draws near.

I have no problem with public speaking, but sometimes saying the words out loud, telling the story of my husband's death and donation, can be hard.  And I never know how it's going to feel until I'm in the moment.

This weekend is a little different, too, because the Donor Alliance asked me to be the master of ceremonies at the Donor Family Tribute.  I was a speaker at that event years ago, but as I've gotten further down this widow path, I know now more than ever that I need to be careful about what I say.  After all, these people will have just lost someone in the last year and anyone who has had such a significant loss knows that what we all find comforting is very individual.

So, needless to say, it's been hard to come up with the right words that hundreds of individuals, raw with their grief, might find hope in.

Even though it's only Saturday afternoon, this weekend has already had its ups and downs.  Yesterday morning, I attended the funeral of a young man who I knew as a boy when my husband and I lived at our first house.  I didn't know him well, which is to say I remember him running around the block like all of the kids on our street and I'm sure my husband and I lived in the peripheral for him because our kids were too young to play with.  But my heart broke for his mother who lost her son when he was only 20-years-old.  When life should just been starting.

Funerals are sad.  I bet you didn't know that, huh?  Even if you don't know the deceased well, if you take a moment to let what has happened really sink in and think about the impact on the family...it's enough to bring anyone to tears.  I watched slides of him as a boy and thought about my own children.  I knew that, just as I was thinking - hoping - that something like this would never happen to my child, I'm sure that my friend never thought, when she took those pictures, that she would be sharing them with others at his funeral.

It's hard to think about what it is gone.  And in this case, for me, it wasn't just the person...but a time in my life that I had no idea I would look back on and think, "Wow.  We really had it good."

We never know that until it's gone, do we?  That the moment we're living in will become one of the best in our memory.  But as I looked at the slide show of just a regular kid who we'd never really see grow up, I couldn't help but tear up at the background - the houses and friends who helped make up some of the best years my husband and I had together.

That was back when all we needed to be happy was a keg of beer, the back of a truck, a loud stereo, and someone's driveway.  When everyone on the block was so close we would spend entire weekends together.  When it didn't even occur to us to make plans with outsiders because what more could we need than each other?

We didn't know it then, but those two years were almost perfect.  Not completely, but close.  And then, as some of us moved and life happened, we disconnected almost as if it never happened.

My former neighbor and I talked yesterday at the funeral about what we are speculating might be the curse of that block.  Because while we were happy at the time, after we parted...things were never the same.  Within four houses on either side of the street, we've endured cancer, seriously sick children, drug addiction with the most unlikely people, suicide attempts, my husband's death, an accidental shooting that left one man blind, and now this latest tragedy - the death of my neighbor's son.

"Don't drink the water!" we said at a lame attempt at a joke.  But really...I have never known such a small group of people to be so afflicted with just about anything you can imagine.

And while I can now look back on that time in our lives when things were just so damn simple and not realize how almost perfect they were - I'm kicking myself a little for not appreciating it more then.


I think my husband knew.  Or I should say...I think he knows.  He gave me a couple of signs yesterday that he was with me.  When I started the car for the funeral, the song that I've always thought is his way of showing me that he's with me, came on the radio.  And yesterday evening, as I stood outside Coors Field waiting to watch my son's choir sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the beginning of the Colorado Rockies game, I saw a man walk by in a jacket from a little cafe in Orlando that my husband loved.  And that made me smile a little.

Of course, what really made me smile yesterday afternoon was my youngest daughter.  Because as we were stuck in traffic for an hour and a half trying to get downtown, she suddenly said, "Hey!  Guess what I got at school today?"

"What?" I said, expecting her to produce a sucker or a certificate of achievement of some sort.

"This!" she said as she pulled something out of her school bag.

Now, with her right behind me, I couldn't see what she had.  But my oldest daughter's reaction almost had me slamming into the car in front of me.

"Wha...is that a bird's head?" my daughter screamed.

"It's fake!" my youngest insisted.  "Look...the beak is plastic."

"Uh...that looks real to me," said my son.

"Hold it up so that I can see it in the mirror," I said, certain that my daughter had not been carrying around a real bird's head all day.

I was wrong.

So, if you happened to be behind a black SUV on I-25 yesterday that was swerving around and then suddenly had a bird's head fly out the window...that was us.

After my heart stopped pounding and I silently thanked God for hand sanitizer, I could not stop laughing.  And even though the whole thing registered about a 9.8 on my Gross Meter, I knew enough, after the morning I'd had, to appreciate the laughter in that car in that moment with all of my children happy and healthy (unless we all come down with some weird bird disease).

What a roller coaster of a day.


Which brings me to this morning.  

All showered, pressed, and sanitized, the kids and I left for the girls' last piano recital of the year.  We sat in the church and listened to a group of kids of varying skill level playing everything from "a single note at a time" to "did that composer sneeze ink all over that page and how are those hands keeping up?"  My youngest, having lost a little momentum in the practicing department this last month, made a few mistakes but powered through.

"Sometimes that's what it's all about," I thought.  "Sometimes we fumble around a little, but just have to take a deep breath and keep going."

And then the next girl took her place at the piano.  Her first piece was complicated and she played it beautifully.  But as she started to play her second selection, she fumbled, tried to correct herself, and then abruptly stood up from the piano.

"I'm just going to let that one go," she said brightly and took her seat.

I chuckled a little to myself.

Sometimes that works too.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.