Good Vibrations Gratitude #41 (and a question for my readers)

It’s Friday! You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.

I am inviting you join me on Good Vibration Gratitude Fridays!

Exciting, right?

You are probably wondering how you get in on the action.

It’s easy! If you are grateful for something, please either comment below or share a pic of what you are grateful for on Instagram with the hashtag #goodvibrationsgratitude

Also feel free to follow me on Instragram at @kerrymckim

Here is what I am grateful for this week.

1. The leaf pile.
Every kid deserves to jump in a leaf pile.

2. My neighbors

I have great neighbors. They are nice people who are always willing to lend a hand. Make sure you get to know your neighbors!

3. Winter Boots

The northeast got a November snowstorm last night into today. My daughter didn’t have winter boots yet. I went to Target and was able to get the last pair in her size. Well, the size above but she will grow into them before the end of winter. I was relieved to get them.

4. No cavities!

5. My daughter

Who can resist this?

And onto a question…

If I am Facebook friends with you, this may seem redundant because I asked if I should retire this blog.

I was surprised by the amount of support I have.

Thank you to everyone who showed support

I started this blog to share my grief journey. I am not the kind of person who shares my feelings with the world and this was out of my comfort zone. But I needed to get the emotions out and I felt that I could help people by sharing my journey.

But lately I have been wondering if I have been helping people. Several friends have said that all that matters is if my writing is helping me. It is but I can write and not share it with the world.

And the truth is, lately I have gotten grief for my grief. When I began this blog, I wrote my feelings. It didn’t matter how raw they were. And I was supported.

But now, the rest of the world has moved on. And that’s fine. But as everyone moves on, there is an expectation that I am “over it.”

I am still trying to make sense of Bryon’s death. I probably never will.

In addition to making sense of Bryon’s death, I am trying to make sense of the aftermath. It’s like a secondary processing of the past couple of years.

I am trying to make sense of grief in our culture.

I am trying to make sense of how I have been treated by some people.

I am trying to make sense of why some people remember Bryon and other people seem to have forgotten him.

I am trying to anticipate my future as a widowed parent. Trying to be Mom and Dad.

I’m trying to make sense of being an independent woman again.

I’m also trying to make sense of the possibility of opening myself up to love. (Gulp.)

I also feel a need to help people heal. Hence why I put all my feelings on the internet.

Lately I feel like I can’t be authentic here. I feel the need to tell the truth but the reality is that most people can’t handle the truth.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

So I find myself watering down my posts. And I am not sure that is helpful to anyone.

Last time I was back home in Maine, I had dinner with a friend. She mentioned that I seemed to need to apologize and explain any happiness I feel. She said I should just be free to be happy.

I have been holding back.

I began this blog partly as a way to express and release my emotions and lately I found that I have to hold in my emotions. And all this does is increase resentment that stays inside me.

I have began questioning whether I should take my angst out in a more creative outlet. Like poetry or novel writing.

I’d love to know what my readers think.

Stick with it? Go back to writing my raw emotions? Retire the blog? Write about something different?

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Does Daddy love me? A conversation with my daughter.

In the car…

My daughter, age 4: My Daddy isn’t here.  He lives in Heaven.

Me: Yes he does.

MD: But he loves me?

Me:  Yes he does.  He send love from Heaven.

MD: Even when it’s dark?

Me:  Even when it’s dark.

MD: Even when it’s light?

Me: Even when it’s light.

MD: Even through the whole day?

Me:  Yes.  All the time.

MD: Even when I am at school?

Me: Even when you are school.

MD: Even when we are at home?

Me: Even when we are at home.

MD: Does Daddy love me when we are in Maine?

Me: Yes, Daddy loves you when you are in Maine.  He loves you everywhere.

MD: Even when we are at a friends house?

Me: Even when we are at a friend’s house.

MD: Does Daddy love me when I am at ‘nastics class?

Me: Yes, Daddy loves you when you are at ‘nastics class?

MD: Does Daddy love me even when we go to the shopping store?

Me:  Yes.  He loves you when we go to the shopping store.

MD: Even at birthday parties?

Me: Yes, even at birthday parties.

MD: Even when I dance with princesses?

Me: Yes, even when you dance with princesses.

MD: Even when we are apple picking?

Me: Yes, even when we are apple picking.

MD: Does Daddy love my stinky feet?

Me: Yes.

MD: Smell them.

Me: No

MD: Smell my stinky feet.

Me: No.

MD: Does Daddy love me when I am being funny.

Me: Yes, Daddy loves you when you are being funny.

MD: But what if he runs out?

Me: Runs out of love?

MD: Yeah.

Me: Daddy will never run out of love.  You don’t run out of love in Heaven.  It’s always there.

MD: Oh.  Can we listen to Rapunzel?

Me: Sure.

* * *
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

 

Only YOU know what’s best for YOU

“You can’t tell me what to do!”

That is the latest retort my daughter will tell me if she doesn’t agree with whatever instruction I am giving her at that moment.

She has also said it to her grandparents too so I know I am not special.

I know her teachers are working on independence and not being bossy in her Pre-K class and sometimes my daughter’s retort will be followed up with “You need to worry about yourself!”

I appreciate the fact that she is learning to set her own boundaries.  It is something I have struggled with my whole life.  But when I tell her to complete a simple yet essential task like “brush you teeth” or “put on your pants,” I tend to respond to her with “I am your mother and I can tell you what to do!”

My daughter is only four but I admire her ability to be true to herself.  I hope she never loses it.

Maybe we all need to be in touch with our inner 4 year old who doesn’t want to brush their teeth or wear pants.

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As far as I can remember, I have been the person who always sought approval of others.

It began with my parents.

I was concerned about having their approval on everything, even into adulthood.  While parental guidance is generally a good thing, it is not healthy for a grown adult to depend on their parents opinion to make every decision.

When I went off to college, I found another group of people to seek approval from- my friends.

My friends were good people but they obviously had a different level of emotional investment in me than my parents had.  My friends convinced me to get an eyebrow piercing.  This form of approval was much more exciting than my parents approval.  My parents never would have approved of an eyebrow ring.

I felt like a real bad-ass.  Me and all the other people on campus who had eyebrow rings in the late 1990’s.

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In my twenties, I got involved in politics and I had tons more people to seek approval from.  I had to seek approval from my political party leaders, the leaders of any political organizations I belonged to as well as my peers.

I had to seek approval from the people I was allied with in whatever organizational politics were going on. The dreaded “politics of politics”.

(Bryon referred to it as people fighting over who gets to become the mayor of Candy Land.)

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Oh and voters.

I had to seek the approval of voters.

I mean, they were the reason I got into politics in the first place.

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Bryon entered my life during my political years.

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One of the things that drew me to him was his intelligence.  I trusted his judgment.  And I sought his approval.

Bryon did help me boost my confidence and see my self worth, I still wasn’t confident enough to make my own decisions.

I had trouble making simple decisions without his input and approval.  He used to email me at lunchtime about what I wanted for dinner in hopes that we could come to a decision by dinnertime.

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Don’t get me wrong.  If you are in a marriage or a committed relationship, you do want to confer with one another about decisions that affect the both of you.  But a grown adult should possess the ability to make simple decisions.  The only decision I was capable of making was hot or iced coffee.  (Answer: Iced.  Almost always iced.)

But I needed Bryon’s opinion and approval on everything. The sad thing is, he spent years boosting me up and I was so co-dependent on him that he never got to see me soar.

Why have I always struggled with making decisions?

For me, I think it was due to the fact that I was indecisive and because I lacked confidence in myself.

The latter is silly because my gut is almost always right.  When I look back at things I regret, it usually starts with ignoring my intuition.  When I meet people, I usually feel good, bad or indifferent.  When someone who gives me that bad feeling befriends me, I will regret it.

It’s the price I pay for ignoring my intuition.

After Bryon died, I went through a personal metamorphosis.

When Bryon died, I wasn’t simply heartbroken.

My soul was completely shattered.

And when my soul was completely shattered, I questioned everything I believed or have ever believed.

I began to live my life more intentionally.

Life is a gift and I want to the rest of my years to be meaningful.

So far my widowhood can be split into three phases.

The first phase of widowhood was the “WTF happened to my life?” phase and can be equated to morning fog that is so thick that you can’t drive in it.  That lasted about three to six months and was full of sadness and anger.

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The second phase lasted until I was about 18 months to two years out.  It was still foggy but less so and it consisted of me actually getting used to the fact that Bryon was really gone.  This phase tended to be filled with sadness and emptiness.

Now I am two years into my widowhood “journey.” (Seriously, why do we call grief a journey?  A journey implies something pleasant and I would rather have a colonscopy than go on this “journey” again).

I am currently in the “Third Phase” which is the phase where I need to start living again.  It doesn’t suffice to just think about it.  I need to actually do it.

The Third Phase is lonely.  Everyone else has moved on and because I am not sitting on my couch, unshowered, and crying while drinking a box of wine and watching the Gilmore Girls on Netflix that that means everyone thinks that I have also moved on.

I am much better but I still have my moments.  Luckily those moments that cause me to tear up usually last for 2-5 minutes.  In the earlier phases, certain memories could have me crying for several days.

And a widow never “moves on”.  We move forward, but we do not move on.

But the Third Phase is also tricky because I have decided to move forward but I am trying to learn my way.  I am trying to figure out my new identity and acclimate to a life that is filled with just “my” goals, not “our” goals.  There is no “how-to” manual for navigating the Third Phase.

This process is very overwhelming.  My life has at least ten different paths I can take and I have to decide this on my own.  I have to decide which path is best for me and my for my daughter.

As I adjust to my new vision for the rest of my life.  I find myself falling into my old patterns.  I started to look externally for approval.

But that needs to stop.

Because I know very few widows.  At least “in real life.”  I am connected to thousands online but not many in my day to day life.

So that means most people, including my own parents, learn about widowhood from me.  Well me, and This is Us and the last fifteen minutes of the How I Met Your Mother finale.

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But even if someone has regular conversations with me and reads this blog, they don’t get the whole picture. I don’t talk or write about everything.

There is no way I can accurately portray the depths of grief in written or spoken word.  There is not way I can convey the emptiness and hopelessness I have felt.  And I don’t try because no one would understand.  And they can’t understand it because they haven’t gone through it.

Very few people know what I have gone through.  And that, in itself, is a good thing.  Even if I feel isolated and frustrated, I am glad so many people won’t have to experience this.  I am happy that most people get to grow old with their loves.

Therefore, when I think of all these life decisions, only I know whats best for me.  Sure, my friends and family care about me and want whats best for me and my daughter.

But they aren’t me.

And I am sure they aren’t seeking my approval on their lives.

Only I know what is best for me.

And that statement doesn’t just apply to widows.

It applies to everyone, including you.

Only you have lived your life.  Only you have felt what you have felt. Only you have felt the depths of your own experiences.

Only you know what is best for you.

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A Fall Saturday in Maine

This past weekend was probably an unremarkable weekend for most.  I know here in the Northeast, many people went apple picking or visited a pumpkin patch.

I love fall activities but I know I was not going to enjoy last weekend because last Saturday would have been Bryon and my 6th wedding anniversary.

The truth is, as more anniversaries pass, the more alienated I feel.  Not just from other, happily married, living people (i.e. NORMS, a term created by fellow widow Michelle Miller) but also from myself.  As time goes back, I feel detached even from myself.  Because I am no longer a happily married, living person.

So what does a formerly happily married, living person do on their wedding anniversary, particularly when the other half of their former happy union is a dead person?

Well last year, our anniversary fell on a Friday.  So I took Kimmy Gibbler out for a steak lunch at Black and Blue Steak and Crab.  The food was amazing.

This year our anniversary was on a Saturday.  Taking Kimmy Gibbler out for steak wouldn’t have worked because our kids would be home from school.

I am kidding, of course.

The truth was, I didn’t want to be in town that day.  I didn’t feel like sitting around my house or staying in the town where every place has some memory of Bryon.

So I drove home to Maine for the weekend.

That day my father, my daughter and I went on a day trip.

Our first stop was the scenic lookout at  Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick, Maine.


I don’t know what my hair was doing in that picture.  We were near the ocean so it was windy.

Then we crossed over the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge.

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We passed the Little Deer Isle, Maine post office.  This was the post office that my father worked at when he first became postmaster.   This also was the promotion that brought my family to Maine from the Boston area.

We drove down to Pumpkin Island Light.

It felt so good to feel the fresh air of the ocean.  The ocean has always been my happy place.  There is something about it that re-centers my soul and reminds me just how insignificant we really are.

We drove around Deer Isle but I didn’t get any pictures.

On the way home, we stopped at The Fish Net in Blue Hill to get fried clams for lunch and a chicken fingers lunch for my daughter.  I went to the takeout window while my father stayed in the car with my daughter, who was napping.

Being home and being around the ocean always makes me reflective.

Lately I have been taking a step back socially to focus on my daughter, to reflect on my life, to take care of myself and to prepare for the next chapter in my life.  I admit, it makes me a little uneasy to look towards the future and not know what to expect.  I have always been a person who liked to have a two year, five year and ten year plan.

Currently, I don’t even have a two month plan.

At times, I feel lost.

A little over two and a half years ago, I still had a husband.  We had just returned from a Caribbean cruise and we had our whole lives ahead of us.

And then that was taken away.

I may have gotten over the basic shock and I have accepted that this happened.  But now I am working on letting go and redefining myself and my dreams.

Please trust me when I say that it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

I was thinking about this as I stood at that clam shack on the Maine Coast when I looked up and saw this:

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Bryon with a “yo”.

At that moment, I realized that no matter where I go or how my dreams change, Bryon will be there with me.

I mean, seriously, if he can find a way to be with me while waiting for my lunch at a clam shack on the Maine Coast, then he will find a way to be with me anywhere.

And that was the best anniversary present I could have gotten.

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The cruel quandaries of widowhood

Alternate title: Slowly erasing my husbands presence on Earth.

Like when I had his name removed from our bank account.

I thought about the irony.  I had opened that bank account when I first moved to New York.  I was a single gal but when we got married, I added Bryon to the account.  We were a “one pot” kind of couple when it came to our finances.  We argued about money a lot less that way.  That account was our everyday account.

And now I am back to having the account to myself.  With a different last name though.

There is a good chance I will hang onto this account forever.

Because I am oddly sentimental like that.

Like the fact that I have lived in the 518 area code for almost a decade and I still have my Maine 207 number.  I have had my number since 2001.  I graduated from college that year and had a large Nokia phone that I used to play snake on.  It’s how we wasted time before Facebook.

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Those were the days.

Anyway, after I left the bank the day I removed him from our bank account, I sat in my car and cried.  Because it felt like his presence on Earth was being erased little by little.  Sure, his name is still on the checks.  The man at the bank told me it was okay to use them.  But those will run out.  It may take awhile because I pay most things electronically but it will eventually happen.

It is a cruel quandary of widowhood.

After a certain amount of time- time frame custom tailored for each widow- a widow realizes that she can’t keep living in the past.

She must move forward.

She knows she must do it.

But even thought she knows that she full-filled her wedding vows and that she deserves a chance to be happy again, it doesn’t make letting go of her deceased spouse any easier.

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Yes, you might be groaning but I was a freshman in college when Titanic was in the theaters.  It’s one of the few movies my broke self saw in the theater that year. (I already dated myself when I said I graduated from college in 2001 and played snake on a Nokia phone.)

And I am emotional right now, so we are just okay to go with it, okay?

Obviously I will never completely let go of Bryon.  I couldn’t even if I tried.  He is in my heart.  But there comes a time that you realize you can’t hold on to every item he owned.  Especially since he was a pack-rat.

Sure some items I will save for sentimental and utilitarian purposes and some will go live with friends for sentimental and utilitarian purposes.

But some items need to go because they serve no use.

Like Bryon’s clothes.

Shortly after Bryon died, I did clear out his side of the closet.  Our Master closet is small and I needed the precious real estate.  I bagged up about seven trash bags of clothes and put them in the garage where they sat for about a year before I brought them to Goodwill.

Apparently I put a bunch of his clothes in an upstairs closet and forgot about them.

So I got to relive the whole experience.

I saw the shirt he was wearing when he proposed to me.

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I cried.

Because as I held the shirt, for a brief couple of seconds, I felt like he was right there.

For a brief couple of seconds, I felt like I was still married.

And then…it was gone.

Back to reality.

And then for a brief couple of seconds, it was like the initial denial of his death came over me.

How did this happen?  How is this my life?  Why did he have to die?

I did put his button down shirts into a box to be saved to make a quilt for my daughter someday.

I do have Bryon’s hoodie sweatshirts.  Yes, they are rather large on me but I live in a cold climate.

And some days I wear them because I know it’s the closest thing I am going to get to getting a hug from him.

And I still managed to fill nine trash bags.

Granted, some of it was old suits and gala dresses of mine from my political days.

I decided that was ten years ago and if I were to be that size again, I deserve new suits and dresses.

I mean, we are constantly evolving, right?  New self, new dress.

(Though I hardly go to any events these days that require suits or gala dresses.)

I also bagged up some maternity clothes.

Widowed and 40…yeah…I am pretty sure that ship has sailed.

I saw his white suit jacket that he wore at the Young Republican National Convention Gala at the Indy Speedway in 2009.  I remember him telling me that he liked it because he was dressed up but still looked different and made a statement.

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Young Republican National Convention Gala at the Indy Speedway in 2009.

I looked at his suit jackets and thought about the times I wore them as a coat when I got cold.

Now I better remember to bring a shawl in case I get cold.

There are couple of pieces I couldn’t part with.

The first was his seer sucker.  He loved that.

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New York State Young Republicans Day at the Races- Saratoga, NY, 2010

The second item I couldn’t part with was his Albany Law School Rugby windbreaker.

The funny thing was, he rarely wore a winter coat.  He either wore his ALS Rugby windbreaker or his green fleece.  (He wore the green fleece to the hospital the last time so I donated it in the first round because I immediately associated it with the hospital).

For a man who rarely wore a winter coat, he sure had a lot of them.  Even a few I didn’t recognize.

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Continental Divide, 2010

The third item I couldn’t part with was his navy 1950’s Dad cardigan.

He almost didn’t buy it.  We were at DestinationXL and he saw it and liked it.  I told him to get it but he was concerned that people would mistake him for being a hipster.  I told him there was no way he could be mistaken for a hipster.  Then he expressed hesitation because he didn’t know what to wear with it.  So I ask the salesman on the floor and he and I have a 5 minute detailed discussion about options while Bryon looked a little dazed.

He loved the sweater.  I wish I had a better picture but the only one I could find was from Thanksgiving.

And he is wearing a dirty apron. (Though the things is permanently stained.  It’s hanging up.  I need to toss it.)

And a turkey hat (which my daughter now loves and calls “Hey-Hey Chicken”).

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Thanksgiving, 2015

And the fourth item I couldn’t part with was his Red Sox shirt.

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Tri-City Valley Cats Game, 2012

As I put the clothes on the bed in the spare room, this little guy laid on them.  I believe that animals are intelligent creatures and I think he sensed that they were his clothes.  I don’t think there would be any scent but I have no idea about a cat’s sense of smell.

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And then the final step to erasing my husbands presence on Earth…or my house at least was dropping the bags off.

I dropped them off at some drop boxes at a local church in my town.  I prefer to drop them at a local church as opposed to Goodwill because the CEO at Goodwill makes a sh*it ton of money.  I also prefer to drop off where there are bins because I am an introvert and prefer not to talk to people.

Especially when I might cry.

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I have heard that clutter is stagnant energy.  I have also heard that clutter is a form of depression.  I just know that as difficult as this task was, it had to be done.  I don’t think Bryon would want me to stay stuck in the past.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so much.

And then you were four.

When you were born, you turned my world upside down. But my life was suddenly complete.

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When you turned one, my world was content. Life was only going to get better.

When you were turned two, our world was turned upside down but this time it was tragic. You were my reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

When you were three, you were the absolute center of my world. You became my little co-pilot.

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And now that you are four, I think about the rest of the world and how it will be a better place because you are in it. The world is yours and I can’t wait to watch you grow into the person you are going to be.

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Birthday Eve ramblings

I begin this post 45 minutes before my 40th birthday. I am also typing on my phone as I lay in the guest bedroom of my brothers house in New Hampshire with my little cuddle bug lightly snoring next to me. This is not how I usually write so I am not sure how this will affect my writing process.

This evening on my birthday eve, I had an amazing dinner with my parents, my daughter, and my brother at Hawaiian Isle in Plaistow, NH.

Scorpion Bowl
The quintessential Boston Chinese Pupu Platter
Pineapple and fortune cookies
…in bed.

After dinner, my brother treated us for ice cream at Moo’s in Salem, NH.

Tomorrow I head off on an adventure with some of my besties and my daughter will spend the weekend with her grandparents.

As I write this, I have two major thoughts.

The first is that I am so happy to be done with my thirties. It had been the happiest and the most tragic decade of my life.

I started my 30s one month into my relationship with Bryon. We fell in love. I moved to New York. We adopted a cat. We got engaged and married and had a baby.

3.5 residences.

5 jobs through 3 employers

5 cruises.

5 countries. 8 if you count overseas territories….

20 States.

3 Canadian provinces.

4 cars (Mean Green, the Silver Bullet, the Bronze Bomber…and the Subaru).

I could go on but while this decade had a lot of happiness, but it still ended tragically.

Life was good and then Bryon died and I spent the last two years in deep, profound grief.

I am so ready for a new decade. I am ready for the next chapter of my story.

The second thought is that I can no longerf dread getting older. Afterf seeing Bryon die so young, I truly know each year is a gift.

Bryon will never be middle aged. If you are middle aged, you are lucky.

Bryon always joked that he was an old man in a young man’s body. He looked forward to being an old masn and he never will be.

One time when my daughter was an infant, the three of us went to have dinner at a local diner. We were seated near two grumpy old men. Bryon was amused by them and said that was going to be him and his best friend when they got old.

But know only one of them will become an old man. *knock on wood* because I am superstitious AF.

So I go into my 40th year embracing my age. My wisdom. My scars. My blessings.

But just not my gray hairs.