Am I dating?

I get asked this question a lot.  

Personally, I am perplexed as to why people think it is okay to ask me this question.  I know I have been very open about my grief journey.  I know that I write flippant messages on my Facebook particularly when there are bugs in my house or that there is snow to be shoveled.  But there is something about being bluntly asked about dating that feels a little too personal.

I don’t mind these questions from my closest friends because they are my confidants.  Maybe people see how I relate to my closest friends and they assume that since I open about so many things that I am open about my romantic life or lack thereof.  

But lately these questions seem to be coming more and more from people that don’t really need to know.  

It has only been a little over a year.

I understand that being a widow at my age is unusual.  I get that people are curious.   

Why can’t people just understand that I am still healing?  

Why can’t people just understand that I want to focus on myself and my daughter?  

Obviously, relationships can be a very good thing with the right partner.  You learn new things, you explore new interests and places, broaden your horizons.  The right person can make you become a better person and enrich your life.  I still believe that love exists even for the hurting and I sincerely look forward to when I am ready for that.  I don’t doubt that it will happen. It will when I am ready for it.  Maybe it will be like a Hallmark movie since widows have the most interesting love lives on that channel.

But a relationship involves two people and there they also require a lot of compromise.  I know that from being married.  I am not ready for that kind of compromise.  Especially when any relationship and any compromises that affect it will also affect my daughter.  And I want to do what I want to do before I enter a relationship again.  I don’t want to answer to anybody yet.

And while I am sitting here talking about relationships, that is assuming that dating would lead to a relationship.  Usually one has to date a lot before finding a relationship. I have never been good at dating.  I have zero intention of going online or going on dates with random men for the sake of just dating.  No desire for awkward coffee dates.  No desire to look at profiles.  

I get offers to help set up online profiles.  I have zero interest in online dating.  I personally don’t see any romance in that process.    

Plus there is a difference between being open to a relationship should it happen and actually being out there looking for a relationship.  I am not looking for a relationship.  

I had eight years of an amazing love story with an even more amazing man.  I still miss Bryon too much to date.  I will date someday, but to start dating again is not something any widow or widower takes lightly.  It is a major decision to decide you are ready to let someone into your heart again.  I am also I am aware that tomorrow I might meet the perfect man.  A man who is understanding of my widow status and the place Bryon has in my heart and that Bryon will always be a part of my life.  A perfect man would understand that a widow’s heart can grow to love another man.  I am fully resigned that I could meet this guy at any time and I would give that a chance.  

But until that time happens, please understand that I can be content just where I am.  If I want to talk about whether I am dating or not, I will bring it up.

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Double standards

I have a lot of pet peeves.

I don’t like it when people block intersections.

I don’t like people who stand too close.  I value my personal space and am big on people respecting each other’s “hula hoops”.

People who don’t cover their mouths when they cough.

People who rush into an elevator without waiting for people to exit the elevator.  I may have picked up that pet peeve from Bryon.

People who refuse to apologize when they are clearly in the wrong.  There are bonus pet peeve points if that person says something to the affect of “I am sorry that there was a misunderstanding” instead of saying they were sorry for what they did or “I am sorry you feel that way” because you may as well say “I am sorry you are mad”.

But the thing is probably my biggest pet peeve is the double standard.  You know, people who have one set of rules for themselves and another set for others.

I was thinking about a situation that illustrated this concept.  It consists of something that can be quite controversial- the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees Rivalry.

I am from New England.  I was born in Boston, lived in the suburbs until I started high school (though outside the 128 loop) and I lived in Maine from the ages of 15 to 30.  So I am unapologetically a Boston sports fan.  Because I am from there.  Duh.

Now I live in New York.  I am still a Boston sports fan because I am from there.  But the majority of my friends here root for the New York Yankees.  Some of the people I love the most root for the team I like the least.   Because they are from here.  Duh.

My Facebook newsfeed is pretty interesting when the teams play each other.  It’s actually pretty awesome.

Usually we joke back in forth, all in good jest.  It’s great.  Because the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry makes baseball fun.  We love to hate each others teams and I am sure there are no other teams we would rather hate than whatever team is opposite of you in this rivalry.  And I am sorry to all the other sports fans who don’t have the privilege to experience this rivalry.

But I have met people that could not handle the jest.  I would barely say anything and then get an earful about how horrible Red Sox fans are and how polite and courteous Yankees fans are.  While I have witnessed firsthand a Yankees fan getting heckled in Fenway (ironically we were playing the Baltimore Orioles that night) I was told that this would never happen at Yankee Stadium.

I am sorry at what I am about to say.  Actually I am not sorry.  I don’t care what team you root for or for what sport, every team has asshole fans.  I don’t believe for one second that I could go to Yankee Stadium wearing a Red Sox shirt and not get heckled.  I would expect it.  And as long as no one gets hurt, who really cares?

But the thing that was particularly frustrating was that if I even mentioned my team, I would get barraged with comments about how horrible my team and it’s fan are.  But I would get shut down when I tried to defend myself.  Personally it got very tiring being around this person. So I just dealt with it because I had nothing to prove and didn’t need to waste my energy.

Bryon was a Red Sox fan but while he had his teams that he loved, he was still able to look at all sports objectively.  Bryon was the first one to tell me if I was being oversensitive.  I was a homesick New England girl after all.  But in this situation, he pointed out that while this person was busy calling me a rude fan that that person was really displaying the behavior of a rude fan.  He also thought this person was insecure and would try to bully me on other occasions but that is another story for another time.

Why did I go through a long drawn out story that I am pretty sure is going to get me defriended on Facebook by a few people this morning?  Or at the very least, the recipient of a few rude comments? Because it this story is a good illustration of the double standard.  One rule applied to me, the Red Sox fan and another rule applied to this person, a Yankees fan.  At the time, it was incredibly frustrating and annoying but now I think it’s just silly.

After losing Bryon, there are more important things to worry about.  On Facebook I had several friends at the Yankees game the other night.  And I liked seeing those photos because I love seeing people out enjoying life and that is a beautiful thing.  Because life is too short.  Be passionate about your team.  Just don’t be too much of a dick about it.  (To my readers who never knew Bryon personally, “Don’t be a dick” was his catchphrase).

This story also reminds me of a Saturday Night Live skit from 1992 where Stuart Smalley says that when you point a finger, you have three pointing back at you and a thumb pointing up at God or something.  It inspired me to find a video of it which you can find here.

But double standards can be real problems in relationships.

Like the friend who takes another for granted.   It’s a problem when Bob never makes time for Bill but then expects Bill to drop everything when Bob wants Bill to tag along.

It’s also a problem in families where one child and one set of grandchildren is favored over the other.  I could write more about this but then I would be sitting here for hours.  That might be for another time.  Or maybe I will keep it in my personal journal.

And while I do ascribed to the theory that fair is not always equal, there should not be a clear discrepancy of treatment between two individuals.  And if you find yourself in that predicament with the shorter straw, just remember that there are no laws stating who you have to keep in your life.

And while playoff tensions may be high, don’t give up on your friend who may root for another team, whichever team that is.  Just grab a beer and enjoy the game.  Because that is what Bryon would do.

Turning a new page

I feel like I have just come off some sort of grief bender.

I thought I was in a good spot when I was coming up to Bryon’s deathaversary.  (My widow blog friend Lisa says it perfectly when she refused to call it an angelversary.  She said that even if you sugar coat a turd, it’s still a turd.)

But August 21st came and I was pulled into the strongest period of grief I had felt.  Sure, a year had passed but the fog had lifted. So the deathaversary made me relive those memories of Bryon’s death without having to fog to soften the pain.

The grief cycle was further exacerbated by the fact that his birthday was a week later, my birthday two days after that and our daughter’s birthday a month later.  

There also was our engagaversary and the excitement of my daughter starting her preschool year and a new year of gymnastics and dance. 
I tried hard to stay positive during these events because they are happy occasions. But it’s exhausting.  Grief is exhausting, period.  Especially raw grief.  It takes a lot of effort just to focus on life in front of you and not think about what happened.

For five weeks I have been in this deep form of grief. I haven’t written much in this blog because I didn’t know how to articulate this grief.  

September 29 would have been our fifth wedding anniversary.  It would have been our first milestone anniversary.  

I figured it was my anniversary and I still deserved steak.  So I took Kimmy Gibbler out for lunch.

Crab and Lobster Fondue
7 oz filet mignon. Side of Red Bliss Mashed Potatoes. Not pictured: Orzo Mac and Cheese and Haricot Verts
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean ice cream

The meal still looked pretty good in leftover toddler dinner form.

Now I want to spend the rest of year two focusing on myself and healing.  Not just healing from Bryon’s death but healing all of me. I have always suffered from low self esteem and have always hated myself. Bryon used to tell me that it hurt him to listen to me talk about myself the way I did.  But it was more important for me to keep hating myself than it was to stop talking about how much I hate myself in front of Bryon.

So it is going to stop.  I need to do this for me. For Bryon’s memory. For my daughter. I am her primary influence and I don’t want her to pick this up.

I do think I am off to a good start.   I have been surrounding myself with positive people who make me (and each other) feel good.  There is no law stating that if you have a negative person in your life that you need to keep those people in your life. If someone tears you apart- set them lose.  If you spend more time fuming about something a friend did than having positive experiences, then they may not be a friend after all.  Focus on your real friends. There is no room for toxicity in your life.

I am spending the rest of year two focusing on healing, gratitude and positivity.

I am also embarking on some physical goals.  I recently joined an amazing new gym.  Running was stressing me out so I am on sabbatical but will restart after I lose some weight and become stronger.  I also signed up for Macro (macronutrient) coaching.  I decided that in order to love myself, I need to take care of myself.  

So if you see annoying fitness posts here and on my Instagram and Facebook, I am sorry.  Actually I am not sorry. I need to be holding myself accountable.
I also need to do the things that I need to do to be happy. I need to learn new things, try new recipes, be creative, spend time with my friends and family and travel to at least one new place a year.

I need to do this.

Five years

5 years ago I woke up from a sleepless night.  I think I slept from 4:00 until 5:30.  I was too excited to sleep.  This day was going to be the first day of our happily ever after.

This was one of the happiest days of my life.  The other being when our daughter was born.  However, I think it is worth noting that I looked a lot better and felt a lot better on the day we got married as opposed to the day we became parents.

The weather was cool and a little dreary.  Father Mullen, the priest who had married us, had referred to it as a “soft Irish morning.”

I spent the morning in our bridal suite getting ready with my bridesmaids. My hairstylist said I was the calmest bride that she ever had.  The nerves didn’t hit me until it was time to board the trolley to the church.  It wasn’t nerves about getting married, just nerves that everything was going to go perfectly.

You spent the morning watching soccer at the Biergarten with some of the groomsman. You drank “das boot” even though I told you not to.

You always did what you wanted to do.

We had our whole lives together.

We bought our starter house.  Our daughter was born.  We bought a family car.  We made progress in our careers (you more than me).  We went on 5 cruises.

But our happily ever after only lasted 1422 days.  

151 of those days I was upholding my vow “to be true to you in sickness and in health.”

And now it is our fifth wedding anniversary and you are dead.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen.  We were supposed to grow old together.  We were supposed to have at least two kids.  We were going to buy a bigger house and take many more cruises. We were supposed to go to San Diego.  And Scotland.  And London.   And Branson, Missouri.  (I still don’t understand that one.  But I will make it there someday).

You were supposed to walk our daughter down the aisle.  You were supposed to hold your grandchildren.

You wanted to be an adjunct college professor and write a book on election law.

You weren’t ready to die.  You were taken too soon.

And I am here, still reeling from everything that happened.  The other morning, I drove to the cemetery and I wept.  My whole body was shaking and I was gasping for air.  I have never cried so hard where it affected me physically.  I just kept saying “Why?  Why?  Why?”   

404 days later and I am still asking why you have to die?

Maybe I will never know.

For the past 404 days I have thought about the 151 days you spent in the hospital, 149 of them in the ICU.

Every one of those 404 days, I have thought about what happened, how the events unfolded.

For 404 days, I have beat myself up which is ridiculous because I had no control over the situation.  That was up to God and the medical staff, both of which failed you.

For 404 days, I have felt empty.  An emptiness that felt like a deafening silence that echoed through my body.  The emptiness is both physical and emotional.  Your side of the bed is empty and you are not there to hear my stories.  

You were aware the whole time you were in hospital and I have no idea what was going through your mind.  The other morning I was driving and listening to some morning talk show.  The hosts were discussing the song “Seasons in the Sun” and of course I lost it when I heard “It’s so hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky”. Because you weren’t able to talk, I have no idea what was going through your mind before you died.  Or even if you knew you were dying.

One of the hardest parts about your death was that we didn’t get to talk about it.  You went from having back pain to being intubated in a matter of hours.  For the following 149 days, you could not speak.  You were my best friend and we talked about everything but we couldn’t talk about how sick you were or that you may be dying.  

We didn’t get any closure.  

Wherever you are right now and in whatever form you are, I am sure you understand what happened.  But for me, on Earth and in human form, I struggle to make sense of it.

You left me with amazing friends.  They are now my family, but unfortunately it took your illness and death for us to realize what we meant to each other.

I am so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.  When you were sick, I looked forward to when you were better.  I was hoping that you would be proud of me.  But you died before you got to see that.

At your funeral, your best friend gave your eulogy.  He said we were the lucky ones because we got to know you.  In some ways, I must have been the luckiest one of all.  You chose me to be by my side.  

You made such a big difference in my life.  You taught me so much.  You taught me my worth.  You believed in me and gave me confidence.  You told me I was beautiful.  One of my biggest regrets is not believing you.  I couldn’t just let you think I was beautiful.  I made it hard for you to love me.  I didn’t appreciate you. These things will always haunt me.

Our daughter was robbed because she was only 18 months when you went into the ICU and you left us a month before she turned 2.  But I am grateful that you left so many friends who love her. It makes my heart hurt to know what you won’t be taking her to any Father-Daughter dances, but you left many friends who would step up and take her.  I hesitate to use this analogy because I know how you feel about Hillary Clinton, but our daughter truly has a village.  That is one of your legacies to her.

I was talking to a friend of ours the other day.  I said that I wished you were here to weigh in on a problem one of us was having.  Because you would know how to handle it.  You knew how to handle everything.  I still need your advice.  Our friend said that while you were not here, at least you gave us a lot of advice when you were here that we can use.

But it is not the same.

Grieving your death has been exhausting.  Even though 404 days have passed, I still miss you so much that I literally feel physical pain.  I miss you so much that it literally takes my breath away.  I still go through the motions of life and I still feel dead inside.  

I still have moments where I curl up in the fetal position and I cry my eyes out.

I am in a weird place because sometimes I wonder when it won’t hurt so much.  But then I get scared.  I know that in order to get to the point where it doesn’t hurt so bad means that I have to let go to a certain extent.  The thought of letting go brings on those feelings of pain.  

Sheryl Sandberg says there is a one line Jewish prayer that states “Let me not die while I am still living.”  

I am trying.  Some days I do okay.  Other days I feel like I can barely stay afloat.  Some days I feel like I am drowning.

But I know deep down that I need to live again.  When I think about all that you had given me in our short time together, I owe it to you to try to make my remaining days on Earth matter.  

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

A third birthday fiesta

We celebrated my daughters third birthday this past weekend.  It was a small celebration with the Albany family, but we are still a pretty crazy bunch.  Celebrations like this are very bittersweet without Bryon, but we still had a good time.  I was tired, but very thankful for those in my daughters life.

 

For my daughter: your birth story

You were supposed to be born on or before September 14, 2014.  But you had other plans.

On Thursday, September 18, 2014 I woke up around 4 am and I was convinced I was in labor.  You father was too and he started to pack his bag.  He said we were having a baby that day.

I called the OB/Gyn.  They told me to come in which we did.

They hooked me up to the machine to measure contractions.

Your father tells me about how someone asked him how many centimeters dilated I was.  Your father said that he thought it was weird, that that person was asking about my vagina- his wife’s vagina.  I said that that person wasn’t asking in that way and it didn’t matter because I had heard that when you are delivering a baby, you don’t care.  Your father then said “Like that time on Saved by the Bell when Zack had to deliver Mr. Belding’s baby in an elevator.”  I said “Now that would have been awkward.”

We sat there for a half an hour and the contractions had stopped.  We weren’t having a baby that day.  But we scheduled an induction for Monday, September 22, 2014.

I was in a bad mood and I didn’t go back into work.  I was tired of people asking me where the baby was.

The next day, Friday, September 19, 2014 and it started out just like the day before except your father didn’t get excited pack a bag.  The morning passed but my contractions were still 10 minutes apart.  I took a nap.  I kept having to stand up.  I had back labor and it hurt.  I told your father that you were going to be an only child.

Your father had refused to take any childbirth classes.  He remembered seeing an episode of Murphy Brown where she took a childbirth class and the other parents were tools.  He didn’t want to be in a class with tools.  For an extremely intelligent man, he sure had times where he had trouble separating fictional TV scenarios and real life.

I was in the middle of a contraction and your father said “Maybe we should have taken that childbirth class…”

I look at him.  He told me that when I looked at him, he couldn’t tell if I was going to laugh or if I wanted to murder him.

Evening came and contractions were still 8-10 minutes apart.  I told your father that I heard walking helped with labor so we went to the mall.  So it was a busy Friday night at the mall and your father and I just slowly walked the perimeter of the mall.  We stopped every 8-10 minutes.

During the overnight, my contractions finally got closer together.  We went to the hospital around 3 am.  I had been in labor for about 24 hours at this point.

I got my epidural and like was good for several hours.  They thought I would be pushing around 3 pm.

Well 3 pm became 4 pm.  And then 5 pm.  And 6 pm.

You could say I was not a happy camper.

I just wanted you out of me.

It was decided that after 42 hours of labor, I was going to have a C-section.

They doctors were getting ready.  Your father put on scrubs.  The anethesiologist asked if anyone had a questions.  Your father said he did.  The anethesiologist is polite and said “okay…” and your father gestures toward the scrubs and asks “Does this make me look fat?”  The anethesiologist burst out laughing.

Your father also used that joke on the nurses and they thought he was hysterical.  Your father was proud.

So I will spare you the details of the c-section.  I do remember that once you were born, they asked your father to announce if you were a boy or girl as we didn’t find out.  He just stood there looking at you.  I couldn’t take the suspense and I said “Well, did we have a Maddy or a William?”  Your father just smiled in awe and said you were a girl.

The second you were out of me, I was given morphine.  I remember that I was suddenly transported from the operating room to a yellow foam fun house and I thought it was awesome.  Your father was there with me in the fun house wearing his scrubs.  And then as quickly as I was transported there, the fun house just melted away and I was back in the operating room.  But your father didn’t move.

I kept talking about the yellow foam fun house.  My obstetrician said that she was starting to get jealous because this yellow foam fun house sounded cool.  I kept alternating between being excited about the foam fun house and being excited about your birth.

Since I was too drugged up, your father held you first.  They placed you in his arms and the first thing he said was “Oh my God.  You are so cute.”

I stayed in the hospital for several days.  The highlights:

1)  You saw Top Gun with your father when you were a day old.

2) Your father watched the Bills with you on his laptop.

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3) At one point you were crying and he was holding you.  He started to sing to you but it wasn’t helping.  I was half asleep and said “She likes “Let’s Hear It For The Boy'”  (You did in utero).  Your father then sang the whole song, word for word.  I feel like I should be surprised that he knew the words but I am not.  And it worked.  You stopped crying.

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We celebrated your first birthday a day early on Saturday, September 19, 2015.  We didn’t want your party to be overshadowed by the Bills playing.  We had a Minnie Mouse theme and a taco bar.

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When we celebrated your first birthday, we had no idea that it was going to be your last birthday with your father.

As we celebrate your second birthday without him, it still feels unreal.  The only birthday he was at is the one you definitely won’t remember.

It is just so unfair.

At least once a day, I think about how you are going to grow up without him, without remembering him, without every knowing him in his earthly form.

And every time you do something new or funny, I am reminded that he won’t get to see you grow up.  He used to tell me that he couldn’t wait until he could talk because you would probably say the funniest things.

Every time you reach a new milestone, he won’t see that.

Every time you say something funny, he isn’t here to laugh.

He got robbed of that.

You got robbed.

Life can be so cruel.  And I know soon you are going to start asking questions.  I dread that but I won’t hide anything from you.

But I want you to know that your father loved you so much.  You were the center of his world when he was here.  And I know wherever he is, he loves you very much.  His death doesn’t change that.

And many of the people around you loved him too and they love you too.  And we all can’t wait to celebrate your third birthday.

Six dreams about my dead husband

I have had six dreams about Bryon since he passed away.  At least, six dreams that I have remembered.

The first dream was the night of my daughters second birthday party.  He looked normal and not sick.  He was wearing his navy sweater vest and a tie and his hair was combed back, off of his face.  (It always annoyed me when his hair got long, but I never nagged him because that would only strengthen his resolve to keep it long.  But I would tell him that he was no Tom Brady.)  We just stood there, several feet apart from each other, looking at each other.  I said “Hi Handsome” and he said “Hello Beautiful.”

The second dream was within the first couple of months.  He was sick, in the hospital and I was sitting next to him, waiting for him to die.  Then he burst out laughing.

The third dream was also within in those first couple of months.  I was in a dangerous situation.  Luckily, Bryon shows up in a car.  I had been waiting for him and while I was relieved he had showed up, I told him about all the bad things that almost just happened to me.

The fourth dream happened about 9 months after he passed.  I was at a Republican convention that was covering the Northeast.  I was sitting at a table on a patio with a group of  friends, but I only recognized two people.  One of them was my daughters Godmother.  I guess they were having presentations from different states and I hear that Maine’s presentation was about to begin in the auditorium and I begin to make my way over.  I wanted to see Senator Collins.  On my way, I get distracted by a stairwell.  Bryon is standing on a landing half way down the stairs.  He has lost a lot of weight and he is wearing a beige suit with an orange tie.  It was an interesting color combination.  We stop and just look at each other and smile.  We don’t talk.  We don’t get close to each other.

When I woke up, I remembered about the time we met.  It was during the Northeast Caucus of the Fall 2006 Young Republican National Federation Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.   The room was filled with a large New York delegation and I was the lone Maine representative.  I was trying to give my report on Maine and there was a New Yorker who kept interrupting me.  That was my first impression of Bryon.  Bryon always maintained that no one in the room cared about what was going on in Maine.  So after that dream, I just thought something along the lines of “of course he would interrupt me on the way to a Maine presentation.”

The fifth dream was three nights ago.   We were with a group of friends, but we were living separate lives and we were okay with that.  It was bizarre.  There was a lot more to it, but my daughter had woken me up and I didn’t get to think about the dream before I forgot most of it.

The sixth dream happened yesterday.  My daughter and I didn’t go anywhere.  It was one of those days where just existing had been too exhausting.  They still happen.  My daughter goes to take a nap. I knew I should be cleaning since her birthday is this week.  But instead, I sit on the couch and watch Pioneer Woman.  Three different chocolate desserts and cheesy corn chowder.  I fell asleep.  What can I say?  I caught onto the “sleep when the baby sleeps” about three years too late.

This sixth dream was really weird.  I am aware that Bryon is dead.  And then Bryon is there and he is alive and he tells me we need to do drop campaign literature in the next town over. Now if Bryon were to return from the dead, I really hope he doesn’t want our first date post resurrection to be dropping campaign literature but in the dream, I am okay with it.

So in the dream, we are on our way to meet up with the campaign and it dawns on me-  how can I be with Bryon right now?  He’s dead.  I was then confused, not knowing if Bryon was dead or not.  But I didn’t get to sort it out in the dream because my daughter woke me up.