For my daughter: What I learned about love from the a-holes I dated before your father

For my daughter:

A few weeks ago I wrote about what I learned about love from your father.  I actually learned a lot more about love than just that so I will most likely write more about those lessons.  But I also decided that I wanted to share some life lessons from before I met your father.   This is a compilations of the life lessons I learned from the boys I dated before I started dating your father.  I do think these experiences were valuable.  These experiences led me to your father.  Without these mistakes, I wouldn’t have been ready to let your father into my heart.  

Who knows, if I start dating again, I might write about “the things I learned about love from the a-holes I dated after your father died” but let’s hope that I have learned to weed out the a-holes.

It might not seem possible but yes, your mother dated a few guys before she met your father.  Not a lot.  Remember, your mother has a hard time letting her guard down.  But these lessons sum up my experiences and what I had learned from them.  

Some people may be reading this and thinking, well what if she grows up and doesn’t like boys.  That might happen.  And I will love you no matter what.    But I won’t be any help.  If you should grow up and prefer the company women, we will find someone that is better qualified to give you advice.  Because I can’t.  I don’t even really have men figured out.  I had your father figured out but he was not an ordinary man.

  1. Don’t be on someone’s hook.  There is a whole episode of How I Met Your Mother about it. It’s when you aren’t in a relationship but you almost find yourself in some sort of pseudo relationship.  I found myself in more of these than I can count.  I would form a close relationship with a guy but I could never let on how I truly feel because I was too proud for that.  I was sure that if I told these guys how I felt that I would be rejected and no one wants to be rejected.  So I settled on friendship.  These guys would come to me for emotional support and I gave it out.  But almost inevitably, they would find another girl to give their affection too.  I would be left baffled.  It wasn’t fair.  I had put in all these hours of emotional support and I was overlooked.  Who knows? Maybe some of these guys were into me but we convinced that I only saw them as a friend.  It’s fine to be friends with guys.  But if you find yourself giving way than you are receiving, distance yourself.  If he wants you, he will come to you.  You are too amazing to waste your time on unreturned love.
  2. You are worth a nice dinner.  This was also something I learned from your father.  I put it here because the a-holes I dated before your father support this claim, just on the negative side.  Be wary if you are brought to a chain restaurant on a first date.  Well, your first real date.  As I write this in 2017, coffee dates are apparently the thing.  Most people meet online and meet up for coffee where they size each other up.  They decide if the other is worth the cost of an expensive meal and, in my case, I would be deciding if this guy is worth the cost of a babysitter to watch you.  Sounds depressing, right?  At the very least, not romantic yet honest.  By the time you read this, I have no idea what the modern dating rituals will be.  Some really cool fad that doesn’t exist yet could be all the rage.  But remember this for your first sit down, dinner date.
  3. It’s In His Kiss.  It is a song by Betty Everett that was popular when your Grammy and Pappy where young.  The concept was elaborated on in the movie 2005 romantic comedy Hitch. Will Smith plays a dating doctor and he is coaching Kevin James (who I have a bit of a crush on, though I forgot to put him in my list of celebrity crushes) and he tell Kevin James’s character that woman judge the whole relationship by the first kiss.  Based on my experience, I think that is valid.  Your father was a good kisser.  The a-holes that I dated before your father…not so much.  Does that mean if a guy isn’t a good kisser that there isn’t a chance?  I wouldn’t say yes but you need to ask yourself if you think you can teach the guy to be a good kisser and do you want to do that.  Also, while some kissing is skill, most of it is passion and chemistry and you can’t teach that.
  4. If you say you love him and he just says that was “random”, he’s not for you.  Your mother may have not worn her heart on her sleeve but when she loved, she loved hard.  Combine this with the fact that she is hyper-verbal at times.  When your mother is in love, she likes to express it verbally and she will whenever she feels it whether it’s over a romantic dinner or doing something mundane like sitting in front of the TV and watching 20/20.  Your father never once got annoyed with me saying “I love you.”  He said it a lot too.  And randomly.
  5. Never give up your dreams for a guy.  A long, long time ago (1999, which is 18 years ago as I write this but by the time you are ready to date, it will likely be over 30 years ago)  I studied for a semester in England.  It was one of the best experiences in my life.  I had found out about a program where I could return to England for six month after my college graduation on a student visa. I could sleep on the floor of my friends flat and pour pints for six months but who cared?  I would be in England.  And then I started dating a man that would become my ex-boyfriend and I didn’t apply.  I was too caught up with this guy and his mediocrity that I didn’t do an experience where I would shine. They say it’s never the things you do that you regret, it’s the things you didn’t do.  This is one of my biggest regrets. No guy is worth extinguishing your dreams.  The right guy will wait for you.   
  6. If something doesn’t feel right, just stay away.  If you feel like you are being told lies, this isn’t a good sign.  Stay away from the guy who has baby mama’s calling him for child support despite his claims that he’s sterile and only has one testicle.  This would also apply to anyone with a criminal record or belongs to any groups that could be described as hate groups.  If the stories don’t add up and your gut is telling you something, stay away.  You are smart and you need to trust yourself.
  7. If you feel like you are settling, you probably are.  It’s not always passion and fireworks but if you feel like you can’t be yourself and that you are missing out on life then run.  I knew it was time to quit when I was dating a guy who like stay in on Friday night and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos. Granted it was before YouTube (which probably will be antiquated by the time you start dating) but it was after the Bob Saget  years.  Life is too short to be with someone who kills your spirit.

All these a-holes were good for something. They made me into the person I needed to be to let your father into my heart. So even if you wind dating your fair share of a-holes, they will shape you into the person you need to be for that special someone.

How Bad Is It, Really? — The Wandering Widow

I used to be a worrier.  Bryon told me that I looked for things to worry about.  Now I find that I rarely worry.  Because one of the two worst case scenarios that could possibly happen did happen.  After surviving that, most of the things I used to worry about seem insignificant.  Lisa does a great job at describing this.  Definitely worth a read.

A Wondering Widow Post I recently had a conversation with someone (an acquaintance whom I hadn’t heard from in over a year) who was freaking out over something full of drama at work. She was spooled up, and I don’t want to diminish her concerns, but if you call me for advice you need to […]

via How Bad Is It, Really? — The Wandering Widow

I so wanted him to be a motivational speaker

 

Written on my Facebook wall one year ago.

Names have been edited out.

Last night when I went to sleep on the little couch in Bryon’s room, I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the night. He did but he was in rough shape. Then I wasn’t sure he was going to make it through the day. But Bryon is a fighter. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be but we all know that Bryon isn’t going down without a fight and he is going to give his all. This morning I told him that if he still had fight in him to please keep fighting. I want our daughter to grow up knowing firsthand how amazing her father is. But I told Bryon that I would love him no matter what even if he couldn’t win this fight. And thank God he is still fighting.

Bryon’s current health status is very critical at this point and we are pretty much back where we started. It was a miracle that kept him alive back in March and I don’t know if double miracles happen. However his labs and blood pressure have improved since this morning. But my friend says if the double miracle does happen it will be awesome because Bryon can become a motivational speaker and he would be funny.

 

*  *  *

The minutes crept at an unnaturally slow pace.

I will never forget how I felt as he clung onto his life.

Desperation.  Exhaustion. Frustration.  Helplessness.  Hopefulness.  Anger.  Betrayal. Gratitude.

And love.

 

 

The day I lost my faith in God

Alternate title: The post that is most likely to get me defriended on Facebook.  #sorrynotsorry

In some ways, July 12, 2016 was the hardest day for me during Bryon’s crisis.  

March 29, 2016 was the day that the sh*t hit the proverbial fan.  The day he went into septic shock and his organs started failing.  My life had been turned upside in an instant.  I was stunned.  I was consumed with fear and was struggling just to process what had happened.

August 20, 2016  was the day I learned that Bryon was not going to survive.  The resident had told me that his heart was going to stop beating that day.  He ended up holding out until the next morning.  At this point, I knew that this was the reality.  I had seen a lot in the past five months and I knew that this was the end so I was able to process it.  It was the ending I was desperately trying to prevent but at least the days of hell sitting in the ICU were going to be over.  

Little did I know that the hell would continue for the months that followed. #widowhood #grief

July 12, 2016.  

One year ago today.

The day that Bryon had gone into septic shock for a second time.  Until that point, I didn’t think there was a chance he could die.  He survived septic shock in March. He was stable and recovering very slowly.  But here I was again, staring at his vitals, desperately trying to will his blood pressure to stay up.  I couldn’t believe we were back where we were in March.  Except in March, Bryon had been strong going into this.  Now he was back to square one but with a body that had been weakened after three and a half months in the ICU.  

July 12, 2016.

The day I lost my faith in God.

No, I am not an atheist. I believe He exists.  I just know that He doesn’t give a damn about me.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many Rosaries I said or how many Novenas I said.  He didn’t care that I put the Novenas on Facebook either.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many church prayers lists Bryon was on.  

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many candles were lit for Bryon.

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care how many convents I had submitted online prayer requests too.  

(In case you are wondering, submissions were made to every convent that accepted online requests in the English speaking world.  About ten pages of Google results.)

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care that the Rabbi’s in Bangor, Maine were praying for him.  

It was the day that I realized that God didn’t care that Bryon’s name was whispered into the Dalai Lama’s ear.

It was the day that I realized God was going to do whatever God was going to do.  While He’s off performing miracles for other people, He wanted Bryon to suffer for months in the hospital.  He wanted me to have to watch it.  Doesn’t sound like the loving God I heard about throughout my childhood in C.C.D.

People are so quick to defend God to me.  I get it. People like Him.  But it makes me feel more alone in my grief when people do that.  Like my grief isn’t taken seriously.  Like I am a teenager rebelling against her parents because she didn’t want to go to her confirmation class. (That may have happened.)

C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed described it best:

… Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And that seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

There has been a lot of buzz in the “widow world” about the engagement of Patton Oswalt.  People are so quick to judge him even though they haven’t walked in his shoes.  People are so quick to project their ideals and standards onto other people.  I belong to many online widow groups, most of which consist of young widows and widowers and so many of them share stories about how they found love again…but those in their life (parents, in-laws, friends, children, etc)  aren’t comfortable with it.  They get told that it is “too soon” and will be told that they are still healing.  

It is no one’s place to dictate when someone is healed or healed enough.  Never.

(For additional reading on this topic, please see Kerry Phillips, John Polo and Erica Roman.  They say everything so much more eloquently than I can.)  

I am closing in on 11 months of widowhood and I am not ready to date again.  So I have no experience with being judged about that.  Who knows what kind of reaction I will get when that time comes.  Though I know if anyone tries to stand in the way of any future happiness, my best friend Kimmy Gibbler will shut them down.

I have been judged about my relationship with God.  And it’s frustrating as hell to be told what my relationship with God should be by people who have never been in my situation.  It demeans my grief and what I have been through.  I am hurting in a way that most have never felt.  It is insulting to be told that I have to love a God that took my husband from me and my daughter’s father away from her from people who never had to feel this kind of pain.

My grief is mine.  My relationship, no matter how strained, with God is mine.   Not yours. No one has the right to project onto me how I should feel.  And as far as I am concerned, He slammed the door on me and the ball is in his court.

So much weekend: New Kids on the Block!

I am going to get a little Sophia Petrillo on you.

Picture it: Billerica, Massachusetts.  1989.  Or 1990 depending on which half of the school year it was.

A young girl sits in her fifth grade class at Eugene C. Vining Elementary School.  Her female classmates have a whole bunch of boy band paraphernalia on their desk, including those large pins that you could stand up.  Like a picture frame. Her male classmates would snicker and lodge pencils at these large picture pins, trying to knock them down.

This girl thought the boy band was stupid.  That girl was me and that band was New Kids on the Block.

I wanted nothing to do with them.  I wanted nothing to do with those large stand up pins, or the t-shirts, or the plastic water bottles or the bed sheets.

My mother, who was a Beatles fan back in the day, encouraged me to like them but I wouldn’t give in.  In fact, that might have fed into my resolve not to like them.  (Sorry Mom!)

So I have no stories about going to their concerts when I was a middle schooler.  Because I just didn’t care. I have always had a streak in me that didn’t want to do what was popular.  To this day, I have never read a Harry Potter book or seen a Harry Potter movie.  So leave it me to be 25 years late for the New Kids Party.  But better late than never, right?

My friend had won tickets and four of us went.  We were so excited.  We had dinner and margaritas at El Miriachi before the show.

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Oh no!  I admit, I was more excited about seeing Boyz II Men than I was about New Kids but I wasn’t going to let it ruin a great night.

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My friend and I joked that Bryon was behind it.  Bryon liked Boyz II Men though I wasn’t allowed to talk about it when he was alive.   He was embarrassed.  Though when we were planning my daughters Baptism, he made me watch the scenes from the Fresh Prince of Bel-air with Nicky’s Christening.

Our daughters Christening was the Sunday of Epiphany and Bryon said it would be cool to get Boyz II Men to come.  I didn’t put any more thought into it until a few days later when Bryon says that Boyz II Men won’t be playing at our daughters Christening because they were not in our budget.  Leave it to him to actually look into it.

So my friend was saying that because Bryon couldn’t see them, then none of us could.

We will have to catch them next time.

My daughter’s Godmother and I were talking about how my daughter will like some band that doesn’t exist yet and she won’t want to go with us.   Because we will embarrass her.  Her Godmother’s stepdaughter will probably take her.

And one life lesson: don’t spend too much time on social media during the concert.  You might miss the dancer that rips off his shirt.  True story.

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In the past, I didn’t enjoy my life fully.  I never lived in the moment.  I was always worried about other things all the time.  So I made sure to really just embrace being at the concert with my friends.  There may have been some adult beverages.

But being a widow always has some level of sadness. It shows up even at the happiest times.  Even though Bryon wouldn’t have gone to this concert if he were alive, I did miss him.  I missed the fact that he would have been making fun of me.  I missed the fact that I didn’t have him to come home to.  I came home all excited and he wasn’t here to listen to my stories.

There is also some level of guilt.  Guilt that I am having fun without him.  Guilt that I am here to enjoy events like this and he is not.

I carry close to my heart the fact that Bryon embraced life.  He didn’t hold back.  And when he was in the ICU for five months, he fought.  He fought even though he would likely have permanent damage to his body.  He wanted to live.  So I must continue to live my life fully.  I owe it to him.

How Did I Get Here?

I have not at reached Bryon’s one year deathaversary but it was interesting to read Lisa’s thoughts as she reached her one year anniversary of widowhood. In my 10.5 months of widowhood, I have seen so much of what she writes about. Interesting and worth a read.

The Wandering Widow

A Wondering Widow Post

It’s surreal. How did I get here? How can it possibly have been a whole year? How can it have been 365 days since that horrible morning when I watched Dan die? How have I survived 8760 hours of being broken wide open? Shattered? How can 525,600 minuteshave passed without him in a single one? It doesn’t seem real. It doesn’t seem right.

And yet here we are, at his one-year deathiversary. I know some people hate that word. No judgment here if you are one of those who prefers angelversary. While I do like to look for the positive in every situation, I also refuse to sugar coat a turd. To-may-to, to-mah-to, we all cope in our own way. But I digress.

The last year has been a journey that often left me feeling like a refugee from my own life. I have at times…

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Sunshine Blogger Award

I want to thank James for nominating me for the Sunshine Award.  It is an honor!

And check out his blog.  It is inspiring!

This is an award for those blogs which bring sunshine into your life… interpret it any way you feel is appropriate, but follow these guidelines:

Rules

1.) Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
2.) Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
3.) Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4.) List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Questions Asked of Me:

  • Where is the best place to watch the sunrise or sunset?
    Mount Cadillac in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine.
  • What color do you wear the most often?
    Blue. (I wear a lot of Red Sox shirts) 
  • How many siblings do you have?
    I have one older brother who is 4 years older than me.
  • Which charity would you leave all your money to in the future?
    I would leave all my money to the Bryon C McKim Foundation.  We are working to create scholarships for his college (Siena College) and law school (Albany Law School)
  • If you lived in another country, what would it be?
    I have lived in England. I did a semester of college (or term of uni as my English friends would say) in Winchester.
  • What are your favorite and least favorite candy bars?
    Favorite-Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Twix
    Least Favorite- Butterfinger and Three Muskateers
  • What is you favorite time of day?
    Anytime that is not morning.  I hate the morning.
  • What is the least favorite part of your own blog?
    My least favorite parts would be the posts that I spend a lot of time on and no one reads lol.
  • What food causes you to pig out the most?
    Chips and dip.
  • What actress would you want to meet for coffee?
    Reese Witherspoon
  • Where is your most ticklish spot?
    Do I have to tell?  My armpits.  And if anyone I know reaches for them, I will smack you.

I nominate:

I am usually a rule follower, but I am going to do a cop out and nominate no one and every one.  I feel like the blogging world has been saturated with awards lately and that everyone I know has been nominated.  It’s probably a sign that I need to grow my network of blogging friends.  So if you feel like playing- then you are nominated!

My Questions For You (Most are summer themed):

  • What are your thoughts on camping? Fun or total nightmare?
  • Would you rather go swimming in a pool, lake or ocean?
  • What is your favorite summer memory?
  • Are you going on a vacation this summer?
  • What is your idea of a perfect summer night?
  • What is your favorite type of ice cream?  Flavor?  Soft serve or hard ice cream?
  • What temperature is too hot?
  • What is your favorite food to eat at a BBQ?
  • Do you like flavored coffee? If so, what kind?
  • What is your most favorite thing about Autumn?

A Widow’s Rage Defense of Patton Oswalt’s Engagement — Erica Roman Blog

I have never shared another blog on my blog but this is a must read.  While I myself am not ready to give my heart to someone else, I hope I will someday.  NO ONE has the right to judge a widow or widower when they choose to love again.  Erica nails it.

Yesterday I was very excited to see that the comedian Patton Oswalt had announced his engagement to Meredith Salenger. Now, anyone who know’s me knows that I don’t follow the lives of celebrities at all. I’ve made an exception for him. Our spouses both unexpectedly died within 3 days of each other and both of […]

via A Widow’s Rage Defense of Patton Oswalt’s Engagement — Erica Roman Blog

Dear American Healthcare System- You fail.

Dear American Healthcare System- You fail.

This isn’t about a single payer system.  Those type of systems have their own set of issues.  But while the political parties argue about the costs and accessibility, your failure runs deeper than that.  What good is a healthcare system that is cost efficient or accessible if it does not provide quality care?

You have failed so many people.

You fail those who get misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.  

You fail those who go to the doctor to get their symptoms checked out and those systems get brushed off.  Then those patients find out months later that they have Stage IV cancer.

You fail those who need psychiatric care, but don’t get it and end up being a danger to themselves or others.

You fail those who have progressive diseases and have to pay $20k a year on their medicine.

You fail all those patients who fall through the cracks because doctors are too busy looking at their one system of expertise instead of the patient as a whole person.

You fail every patient that has had their drugs mismanaged.

You fail to provide support to the families.  They may not be the patients, but having family members who are sick is stressful and they need support too.  There need to be crisis counselors.  

You fail those who get admitted to the hospital for a procedure and while in the hospital, the patient develops an infection.  Deadly infections such as C. Diff (costridium difficile colitis), MRSA (Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococcus).  These infections have the potential to turn into sepsis, which can be deadly.  

Hospitals need to be held accountable for infections acquired in the hospital.  People should be able to be treated without the fear that they will develop a life threatening infection.  

This is not acceptable.

Bryon fought many infections during his stay in the ICU.  I had to learn the names of antibiotics that I never knew existed and should not have had to know existed.  

Hearing about Rep. Steve Scalise being readmitted to the ICU for infection brings out many emotions for me.  A sort of PTSD where I relive parts of the nightmare.  I can still feel the fear and helplessness I had when Bryon was fighting the infections.  For months I sat by his bedside, just waiting.  Staring at the machines that displayed his vitals and trying to will them to be stable.

I feel for Rep Scalise’s wife.  I don’t want to be arrogant and say I know exactly how she feels because everyone handles crisis differently, but I have a better idea than most as to what she is feeling.  She should not have to be dealing with this, especially after the trauma of her husband getting shot.  I just hope she gets the support she needs and that her husband gets well again.  I hope that the outcome is different than Bryon’s outcome.  

Sincerely-

One pissed off widow.

Living without an agenda

I am a girl of a lot of contradictions.  I am part city girl and I am part small town girl.  I am a quiet introvert but I am also social.  I am part girly girl and I am part tomboy.  I am part homebody and part world traveler.  I attributed my contradictions to the fact that I spent part of my childhood near Boston and part in rural Maine.  But I have also learned that it is typical of my INFJ personality type.

Due to the contradicting nature of my personality, I found that I clung to the aspects of my personality that were more absolute.  I might not know if I am a city girl or a country girl, but I am a New England Girl. I love the Boston Red Sox and fried clams. My heritage and religion stayed the same so I clung to the fact that I am an Irish Catholic. I created an identity for myself and I stayed strong and true to this identity.  I have seen this referred to as a fixed identity.

I also liked to live within my comfort zone.  I did not take risks in my personal or professional life.  I worked hard and moved up in my career, but I never pushed myself to try something unknown.  I never was one to let my guard down in my love life and I would never dream of telling anyone how I felt.  I never would have wound up with Bryon if he didn’t take a risk on me.  

I lived my life with my strong fixed identity in my comfort zone.  I never challenged why I believed certain things.  I never left my comfort zone and therefore I inhibited my own personal growth.  I clung to my likes and dislikes without revisiting them to see if they changed.  I also chose friendships based on how they fit into my fixed identity.

I was a wife and mother.  I worked in healthcare data.  I was an Irish Catholic.  I knew there was a God and that God was loving.  I knew where I stood on the political spectrum.  I knew who my friends were.  Bryon and I lived a life where we had a modern view of traditional gender roles where we both worked, but Bryon did the work around the house and the yard and killed bugs and I changed diapers, made sure there was milk in the fridge and unsuccessfully tried to keep up with the laundry.  Bryon was a proud husband and father.  He worked hard to provide and he didn’t want me to worry about anything.   I worried about things that weren’t really problems, but Bryon always assured me that everything was going to be okay.  I lived a very safe and secure life.  I was happy with my life and felt no need to question my identity or push myself out of my comfort zone.

Then the crisis hit.

In a five day period my husband went from recovering from a minimally invasive surgery to clinging for his life in the ICU.  I was not prepared for this outcome.  We were at a large regional medical center.  Up until this point, I believed in the healthcare system and that it worked.  This wasn’t supposed to be happening.  

I didn’t know what to do. Bryon always made sure everything was alright and now I had to be the strong one.  I wanted to curl up and pretend it was all a bad dream because it didn’t feel real.  But I had to stay strong for him. How could I expect him to survive if I gave up on him?  I felt helpless.  I was at the mercy of the doctors and God, both of which failed us.  

I vowed to myself that if Bryon had survived, I was going to be a better wife.  I wasn’t going to take him for granted.  I knew that if Bryon was to survive that he would likely have some permanent damage to his body.  I started to think research who the best doctors were in Boston and New York.  Life wasn’t going to be how we envisioned, but that didn’t matter.  All that mattered was Bryon surviving.

For five months, I was at Bryon’s side while trying to make our daughter’s life as normal as possible.  The latter I was able to do with the help of my parents, the staff at my daughter’s daycare and my friends who filled in any child care gaps. For five months, I prayed for a miracle that wouldn’t happen and I watched him slowly die.

Enter widowhood.  

Widowhood is an ultimate game changer.

For five months, my life was mostly spent in an ICU room. For five months I listened to beeping machines and heard medical terms and jargon thrown around.  When Bryon died, I had to get re-acquainted to living in the world again.  It was a combination of widow fog and the re-entry shock that was similar to when I returned to the United States after studying in England for three months.

My life was permanently altered.  I had held out hope that Bryon was going to survive and now that hope was crushed.  It wasn’t like I went back to my old life.  I couldn’t go back to my old life.  Bryon wasn’t there.  He wasn’t just a detail in my life. He was my rock and our life was built around that rock.  The core of my life wasn’t just shattered, it was completely gone.  All our hopes and dreams were gone.  Bryon had spent years working on a career that would never progress past where he was in March 2016.  We were never going to have our second child or buy a bigger house.  We weren’t going to take the cruises we were planning.  Our life was gone.  My life was gone.

When Bryon was in the hospital, my only semblance of normalcy was my daughter.  I still got up with her in the morning, I still took her to daycare, and when my parents would return to Maine periodically, I put her to bed at night.  And after Bryon died, the only thing that kept me going was my daughter.  I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed all day, but I had to get up and take care of my daughter.  She gave me a purpose to live.

When you go through this kind of loss, it changes you.  I learned that I was much, much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.  I learned that I am smarter and more resourceful than I thought I was.  I also learned that my threshold for bull sh*t is lot lower than I thought it was.

I learned what it meant to have courage.  Courage to wake up in the morning.  Courage to move forward with my career with a new company.  Courage to let people into my life.  Courage to let go of negative people who were self serving and tore others down.  Courage to share my story.

I have always been an introvert, but I learned that I needed people, more than I ever could have imagined.  I am lucky because I learned that I had a strong support system who continues to be there for me.  Before widowhood happened, I was content in my own thoughts.  But since Bryon died, I can’t be left in my own thoughts for too long or they become dark and intensely sad.  I need my relationships to keep me positive and hopeful of the future.  I still think a lot and I read a lot but chatting with my friends keeps me balanced.

After a crisis such as this one, every core belief you had is questioned.  How can I believe that a loving God would do this to me?  I believe in God, or a higher power at the very least, but I no longer believe that He is a loving God.  That opinion always upsets people but it upsets me that people don’t sincerely try to understand my point of view before defending God.   I am beginning to read up on Buddhism and it makes a lot of sense to me.  But I don’t think I will ever completely give up my title as Catholic girl.  

While I don’t think I am going to switch political parties anytime soon, I get frustrated on my party’s view of healthcare.  But I also get frustrated with the other party’s view too.  Both parties play a proverbial tug of war.  But the problems in healthcare are not on a linear spectrum.  The problems run deeper than just access and cost.  Who cares about if it’s accessible or how much it costs if there is no quality?  But people can’t understand that unless they live through something like this.

I’ve stopped worrying about the small things.  I take more risks.  One of the worst possible things that could have happened to me did happen and I survived.  The small things don’t matter.  You can change your mind.  Most decisions don’t have a lasting impact. Most things can be reversed or fixed.  

My identity is not fixed.  If I remain open, I might learn new things.  I may meet new people who could change my life.  I could open myself up to new experiences, new hobbies and new ideas.  I could have undeveloped dimensions of my personality that I never would have developed before I was convinced I knew who I was and what my plan was.  I was so concerned about the next five steps that I wasn’t truly living in the present.

Now there are very few things I can say with certainty.  That I will live my life in the present and focus on what matters:

I need to live my life to the fullest.  I owe Bryon that much.  He gave me so much during his short time here and I need to learn from him.  

I am going to make positive changes as the result of Bryon’s death.

And that I am going to be the best mother I can be and help my daughter be the best version of herself.  

And I am going to love those around me as hard as possible.