Farewell 2018: Leaving the negativity behind

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2016 was the worst year of my life.

It will always be.

Only one thing could happen to me that could top that but I am not going to entertain that thought.

2017 was a fog.  I was surviving.

2018 was the year that I need to stop surviving and start to live again.

When 2018 started, I had a feeling that things were going to be very different by the end of the year.

I was right.

(Funny how that happens…)

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Was 2018 a bad year for me?

Yes and no.

There was a lot of death.  I lost my grandmother and two friends.

The year was full of hard lessons.

I had to learn that people and things are not always what they purport themselves to be.

I had to learn that I need to look for internal rewards and not to look externally.

I had to learn to release and let go.

I had to learn to live again and make decisions on the direction of my life.

I had shit thrown at me.

But I survived it.  And I am smarter for it.

I learned what was really important.

Seriously, I am 40-year-old woman, who has been to Hell and back and I have a small child dependent on me.  It was time for me to focus on what was important.

Last year I didn’t write much in December.  I was beginning to think this year was going to be the same.  However, I think over the next couple of weeks, as part of the releasing process, I am going to write posts about what I am leaving behind in 2018.

Kind of like a farewell rock tour but less cooler.  A lot less cooler.

I am going to take all the negativity that was thrown my way, put it on an imaginary Viking funeral Ship, light it on fire (again, imaginary.  I don’t want to blamed for starting any fires.) and send it off.

If you have anything you need to release before we begin 2019, I invite you to put them on the imaginary Viking funeral ship.

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Kerry McKim’s Half-Assed Hallmark Christmas, Episode 1

*This story is a satirical piece based on the real life events of Kerry McKim.  This written work is meant to be humorous. This story is not affiliated  in any way with  the Hallmark Channel though some may argue that it should be.  Currently there are no plans to be affiliated with the Hallmark Channel…yet.

While the shopping began weeks ago, this years Christmas Story began last weekend.  I was home visiting my parents and I decided that it was going to be the day where I get to live in a Hallmark movie.

All the enlightened guru’s say that we create our own realities.  Let’s face it, I am bouncing back from a shitty period of my life.  I always feel good when I watch Hallmark movies so why not make it my reality.

I have a lot going for me.  Let’s look at the facts.

I am a widow ✔

I have a cute kid ✔

I was  in my hometown, which is a small coastal Maine town ✔

It’s Christmastime ✔

Now I just to need find one of these single, good looking, successful, 
emotionally available middle aged  men that seem to be wandering around Small Town America.   

The “emotionally available” part if very important.  I know a lot of these Hallmark Christmas Men have chips on their shoulders.  I can handle that.  But he needs to be emotionally available.  I am the widow who needs someone to show me that love still does exist and it is all around.

This is my half-assed Hallmark story and I can add Love Actually references if I want to.

I will note that I did have a few things working against me-

❌ I was not there to save the Christmas parade. It seems like I was not needed.  The Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce seems to be handing it just fine.

❌ I was not here to save the family business. There is no family business. Unless you count the postal service and I don’t have have the super powers of Candice Cameron Bure or Lacey Chabert to go against that bureaucracy.  

❌ I came to realize that nothing needed to be saved.  My family home is safe and we don’t have a family farm to save.

❌ I don’t own a vintage red pickup truck.  I own a red Subaru Forester and a blue pickup and my father has a new red pickup truck.  But no vintage red pickup truck.  This is problematic because in addition to the cuteness factor of an old red pickup truck, many Hallmark movies involve a Hallmark Christmas Man rescuing a damsel in distress due to her unreliable vehicle.  My late husband made sure I had the safest winter car there is and I have been maintaining the vehicle.  Hallmark Christmas Man will have to find another way to help me.

❌ I also don’t have a high school ex-boyfriend. I wasn’t cool enough or pretty enough I guess.   

(I really need to get over this emotional block considering I am in my 40s now).

Since I didn’t need to save a business, a home, a farm or Christmas in general, I decided to go to the local Christmas parade.

I got to town about a half an hour before the parade.  My daughter is in that phase where any unit of time that isn’t “right now” is “a very long time” so I didn’t want to be standing there waiting.  

I was worried about parking.  I was having trouble locating a spot and then I see a man directing cars into a Baptist church parking lot.  I was excited.  I did not attend that church when I lived there because I am Catholic but I had cash in my pocket and my adopted New York ways just assumed I would to pay to park anyway.  I tried to hand the attendant some money and he seemed surprised and he declined the cash.  He did invite us to cookies and hot chocolate at the church after the parade.

Cookies and hot chocolate at a small town church did seem like something that would happen in a Hallmark Christmas movie.  But I am still mad at God and I didn’t want my Hallmark Christmas movie to be one where I find God.  Especially if that meant that I would have to convert to another form of Christianity to meet my Hallmark Christmas Man. 

My Hallmark Christmas Man is going to have to accept my “It’s Complicated” relationship status with Catholicism

I knew that my Hallmark Christmas Man could have been there eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate but I was willing to take that risk.

I went looking for a friend of mine.  She was convinced Hallmark Christmas Man and I were going to go after the same piece of candy that was thrown at the crowds.  Our eyes were going to meet.  I was going to blush.  He was going to say “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

Though that moment never happened.  Turns out my daughter is perfectly able to fend for herself when it comes to candy.

As I was looking for my local friend, I saw an old friend of mine.  She lives in Florida and I hadn’t seen her in about fifteen years.  We had lost contact.  She was in town because her father had passed away.  She has been on my mind a lot lately and I do believe we were meant to bump into each other.  I gave her my contact information and I do hope I hear from her.

I finally found my local friend right before the parade started.

My Dad was in the beginning.

My daughter on the lookout for candy.  

I thought I was smart because I grabbed a plastic grocery store bag to hold candy.  Turns out it had a hole.  Luckily there was enough freebies like a local newspaper and frisbees that I was able to plug up the hole and still be able to use the bag for candy.

There were lots of floats from the community. 

I told you, the parade didn’t need saving.

Since my father was at the beginning of the parade, he was able to make it back before the end of the parade.

Santa!  I know him!

After the parade, I took my daughter to the office of the local newspaper, The Ellsworth American because they give each kid a book.  They had tables set up by age group and each kid could choose a book.  My daughter chose a Snoopy book because her teacher likes Snoopy.

It is worth noting that the local newspaper didn’t need me to save it (though it did just get bought out by the Portland Press Herald) and Hallmark Christmas Man was not there.

My daughter had to use the bathroom so we stopped at the VFW Post that my father belongs to so we could use the facilities.  My daughter was hungry so my father and the other VFW members invited us to crash the cub scout pizza party they were hosting.

I felt a little awkward but my daughter made friends with the kids and I saw a few old friends of mine.  It was great to catch up.

Hallmark Christmas Man was not at the pizza party.  But my father, my daughter and I headed up to the Christmas Tree lot to look for the Perfect Sullivan Family Christmas Tree.  

And maybe Hallmark Christmas Man would be there.  Maybe we would both pick out the same Christmas Tree and fight over it.  That seems to happen a lot.

That didn’t happen.  

My father picked out the Christmas Tree, not me.  And there was no Hallmark Christmas Man fighting with my Dad for the tree.

I will say, it was nice to pick out the Sullivan Family Christmas Tree with my father.  (Think of these as flashback sequences in my Half-Assed Hallmark Christmas).  

The first reason was because we always had an artificial Christmas Tree growing up but my Sullivan grandparents always had a real tree.  My father would tell stories of going to every Christmas tree lot in town with his father (my grandfather).  Apparently my grandfather was very particular about his Christmas Trees.  Though I have memories from some Christmases of my childhood and I remember those trees.

I could tell my father enjoyed remembering his father during the process.

The second reason has to do with “das stand.”

The story of “das stand” started in 2010 when Bryon and I moved into a townhouse in Albany and we were planning on getting our first Christmas tree.  We both felt strongly that we wanted real trees.  On a trip to Maine that fall, I bought a $2 Christmas tree stand at Marden’s. 

What a bargain!

Only we couldn’t get our six foot Christmas tree to stand up in that stand.

We decided to cut our losses and we went to Wal-Mart and we invested in a $15 Christmas Tree stand.

We used that Christmas tree stand a couple of years.  

Bryon and I always left our tree up until Epiphany.  We were good Catholics like that.  Right before Epiphany in early 2014, two things happened.  The first was that I found out I was pregnant with our daughter and the second was that Bryon came down with H1N1.

Epiphany was on a Monday that year and between my early pregnancy exhaustion and Bryon’s flu, the tree didn’t come down.  Thursday of that week, we woke to a crash.  Our cat had got into my knitting and somehow wrapped the yarn around some tree branches and pulled the Christmas tree down.

By the following Christmas, in 2014, Bryon and I had moved to our house and our daughter had been born.  Between the cat and a future toddler, Bryon was adamant that the Christmas tree was not going to come down.

So he bought a Krinner XXL that he affectionately referred to as “Das Stand”. 

Bryon and “Das Stand” spent two Christmases together.  

The first Christmas after Bryon died, I didn’t feel like having a Christmas tree but I felt like my daughter still deserved one.  I got one up with the help of a friend.

The following year, I got the tree up all by myself. It was a “I am widow, hear me roar” moment.  I know that because it showed up in my Facebook memories.

Since I am travelling this Christmas, I got an artificial tree at my house (I know, so wrong and not Hallmark at all) and I brought “Das Stand” to Maine for the real Christmas Tree there.

(End of flashback scenes)

I hadn’t unpacked “Das Stand” from my car and my father asked me to go get it so he can have an idea how the 8 foot trees would stand in it.  I retrieve “Das Stand” from my car and the boy working (the Boy Scouts were running the Christmas Tree lot) says “Wow, I have never seen anyone actually bring a Christmas tree stand.”

I let the kid think we take our Christmas trees very seriously.

As my father and the actual adult working the lot put the Christmas Tree into the car, the man says “now THAT is a Christmas tree stand.”

I feel like wherever Bryon is now, he would be proud.  He might be dead and gone but “Das Stand” lives on.

When we get home, my father saws off the bottom.

And we prepare to get the Sullivan Family Christmas Tree into “Das Stand” while my daughter watches Fancy Nancy or Vampirina or something on Disney Junior.

I cringed as my father cut away the twine.  I was nervous that the branches were going to break through the living room window but my fear was for nothing.

I inspected the tree for squirrels but did not find any.

We were leaving the trimming until the next day because we wanted the branches to have a chance to fall.

I was heading out to an exciting night out in my small town.  I was excited to have dinner with my friend Charlotte.  

And maybe we would meet Hallmark Christmas Man. Maybe he would be out having a drink.

We went to a local favorite, Finn’s Irish Pub.

We had beverages, Irish Nachos and sandwiches.  I forgot to take pictures of the food.  But we saved room for dessert.  I love the Guiness Cake with Bailey’s Frosting.

I didn’t find Hallmark Christmas Man.

Or really…Hallmark Christmas Man did not find me.

But I got to spend time with one of my good friends.

I mean, as Leslie Knope says “Uteruses before Duderuses”.

The next day was freezing rain so I stayed at my parents house.  I knew the odds of Hallmark Christmas Man actually just showing up at my parents house were slim.

We watched the Patriots beat the Vikings.

My daughter made a gingerbread house.  It was from a kit.  It was standing and not all the icing made it into her mouth.

I consider it a success. 

We, I mean she, needs to bring her “A game” for her gingerbread contest, I mean, school assignment.  It’s not really a contest but a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies have gingerbread contests so a non-competitive school assignment might have to do.

Right now it looks like we need a Christmas Miracle to meet Hallmark Christmas Man.  Though Kimmy Gibbler reminded me that sometimes Christmas Magic begins to work closer to the holiday when there is a time crunch.

So where is Hallmark Christmas Man?

So far it seems like a Hallmark Christmas Mystery.

Will the widow’s daughter have an amazing gingerbread house for school? 

Will the widow’s daughter stay on Santa’s Nice List? 

Will the widow continue to be haunted by memories of “Christmas Past” and by the ponderings of “The Christmases That Should Have Been?”

Will Hallmark Christmas Man- in the biggest plot twist ever in Hallmark Christmas History- show up in Albany, thus confusing the widow since Hallmark love only happens in one’s hometown?

Will “Das Stand” continue to hold up the Sullivan Family Christmas Tree? 

Where will Charlotte and the widow go to dinner next time they see each other?

Stay Tuned for Part 2!

What it is really like to be a widowed parent

Being a widowed parent is definitely its’ own type of parenting.

First there are all the difficult questions I have to answer.

“Why is my Daddy in Heaven?

“How come I don’t have a Daddy here?”

“How come my friends have Daddies and I don’t?’

And then come the questions from my daughters preschool friends which are trickier to answer because I am aware that not all families follow the same belief system I do (which is somewhere between “Lasped Catholicism”and Agnostic with some Buddhist tendencies mixed in).  Most of her friends ask questions that are innocent enough though one classmate asked me about her absent father in a very accusatory tone.

Then there is the feeling of being inadequate and overcompensating.

Like I am not enough for her.

My daughter started out life with two whole parents.

And now my daughter is left with one parent.

One parent who has to be two whole parents while she is broken herself.

Because on top of having to be Mom and Dad, I was and still am dealing with grief.

When Bryon was alive, we were a team.  His job had more demanding hours so I usually did daycare drop off and pick up.  But every Tuesday, I had a late night meeting so Bryon picked our daughter up from daycare.

When our daughter was sick, we coordinated who took sick days based on our work schedules.

But now it’s just me.  All the sick days are mine.  All the daycare pick ups and drop offs are mine.  All the lessons, doctors appointments, school functions and birthday parties are completely my responsibility.

As hard as widowed parenting is, I do a pretty good job with that.  (Especially since I work remotely and my hours are flexible.  I am very grateful for my job.)

I like to think I rock this widowed parenting thing.

I am proud of it.

I work very hard at it.  My daughter might be growing up without her father but I am going to make sure she gets the same opportunities she would have had had Bryon  lived.

The price I pay is that I don’t get much “me” time but I will get that when my daughter goes off to college.

Or maybe sooner, like when she becomes a teenager and decides I am not cool anymore.

But despite rocking widowed parenthood, nights like last night still throw me off my widowed parenting game.

The night started out innocently enough.

My daughter was in dance class, learning a new ballet routine.  She was corrected by her dance teacher.  It was for something innocent enough like her stance.

She didn’t like being corrected by her teacher and verbalized that.

Her teacher told her she needed go sit with me.  My daughter let out another verbal statement of defiance toward her teacher and she flops on the ground.

This is not okay.

I go to pick her up because it isn’t fair to her classmates or her teacher to have her flopping on the floor like a two-year-old.

My daughter gets more upset.

I try to calm her down.

She begins to get even more upset that she is missing class.

I try to calm her down so she can return to class.

We leave the room.  We go to the bathroom and she washes her face.

She says she has boogers which is usually the sign that she has calmed down and just needs to blow her nose.

She blows her nose and we go back to class.

She gets more hysterical about the part of class that she had missed.

I decide it’s time to go home but her teacher wants to make another go at my daughter joining class.

I decide that if her teacher is up for it, then maybe we can salvage what little bit of time we had left in dance class.

My daughter calms down initially but she gets riled up again.

I decide it’s time to go home and try again next week and she goes into full melt down.

My daughter is generally a pretty easy going kid.  She does struggle with transitions, especially when I am picking her up from school during an activity she enjoys.  I get it.  She is having fun and doesn’t want to leave.  Her teacher is aware and prepares her for any early arrivals.

She struggles to sleep at nap time so maybe she was tired.

She has a cold so maybe that was it.  I know I am an emotional mess when I feel sick.

Maybe she was hungry but unlikely.  She is very good about vocalizing that need to me.

But I do know that when my daughter gets mad, she gets MAD.  I am very similar. I have a strong personality and Bryon had an even stronger personality.  So it makes sense that she has a strong personality.

Someday her strong personality will serve her well.  Especially when she is older and is aware of that personality trait and is able to use her strong personality to her benefit.

But at this particular moment, her strong personality was causing a major disruption to dance class.

At this point some of the other parents are glaring at me probably because, clearly, their kid has never had a public meltdown.

Some of the other mothers were trying to help me which stressed me out even more.

Because at that very moment, I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and cry.

I couldn’t just carry my daughter out to the car because it’s nearly December and we live in Upstate New York.

But she was melting down and there was no way I could get a coat on her.

I was so embarrassed.

Completely mortified really.

All the pride I feel about rocking widowed parenthood goes out the window and as well as my confidence in my parenting skills.

I am not sure I can show my face in the dance studio again.

In a room full of people, I never felt so alone.

Because that is what widowed parenting is.  Being alone.

I do not have Bryon to take over for me or run interference.

Granted, Bryon and I probably both wouldn’t have both been at dance class but he would’ve have been home, ready to take over when we returned.

And if it he had been out of town for work or at a late night meeting, I could call him and he would make me feel better.  And we could come up with some sort of plan to prevent this from happening again.

But Bryon is not longer here and I am all alone in this.

Sure, my friends who are mothers would be sympathetic but most of them are married and don’t know what it is like to be so frustrated and truly not having any backup.

There is no one else I can turn to.

Because I don’t want to be seen as weak.

When you are a widow, everybody (and their brother) has an opinion on how you live.  Sometimes these judgments are met with offers to help but after I am criticized by someone, the last thing I want to do is accept their help.  Eff that.

I almost didn’t write this blog post because of those people.  Because I am tired of the sh*t but I felt it was more important to share my feelings because there might be another mother (widowed or not) who feels the same way and needs to know she is not alone.

I can take criticism about most things but I don’t feel like opening up myself for criticism for being a widowed parent.  Especially by people who have no clue how hard widowed parenting is.

No one knows how hard it is to do this alone.

For example, I have been told I don’t do enough in relationships.

Seriously.

What do people expect from me?

I am doing the best I can.

I need to be the equivalent of two parents to a child, I work 40 hours a week plus I spent  the past two plus years dealing with grief and processing the loss of Bryon.   And the loss of having a sense of security and the loss of the future as I knew it.

I am only one person.

And I don’t get a day off.

Ball dropping is the norm because my daughter comes first. #sorrynotsorry

People just don’t have a clue.

And yet, for some reason, I feel the need to prove myself to these people.

I constantly feel the need to prove myself.

When Bryon died, several people stated that I wouldn’t be able to stay in New York and raise my daughter by myself.  Thanks for the vote of confidence, a-holes.

Despite what the future holds for me, I am doing okay.  Most days.

My daughter finally calms down enough to put on her coat.  We go outside and she cries because she missed the rest of her class.  Someone walks by and lets out an “awwwww” because she is crying.

I cringe and I am sure I gave that person a dirty look.  She had no clue what I had just gone through.  Though it was dark and I am sure that person did not see my dirty look.

On the drive home, my daughter seems to be back to her normal self but I am not my normal self.

I spend so much time with my daughter that sometimes I forget she is a four year old.

I tend to take her behavior personally.

As if her behavior is a reflection of my inadequacies as a mother- a single, widowed mother.

That her meltdown was because I did something wrong as a mother because if I was a good mother, my daughter wouldn’t have had that epic meltdown.

I find myself saying to her that I didn’t get dance lessons or gymnastics when I was a kid.  Is it even fair to expect a four year old to appreciate that?   And is it her job to validate me because I am overcompensating for things I had wanted in my own childhood?  I am sure the answer to both of those questions is “no”.

When we get home, I park the car and I had my own mini emotional meltdown.

I put my arms up on the steering wheel and I cry.  I bawl.  I hadn’t bawled like that in months. I get teary eyed frequently but I rarely bawl.    The last time I cried like that was last April when I donated my wedding dress.

I question if I should even be crying in front of my daughter.  This goes against my Boston-Irish sensibilities that tell me that the only two feelings I am allowed to express are happiness and anger.

But maybe my daughter should see me express emotion.  I don’t want her bottling up her emotions like I tend to.  Expressing emotions need to be normalized.

I start to feel anger.

I know a lot of widows get angry at their spouse for dying and leaving them.  I have never really gotten mad at Bryon for leaving me.  He didn’t want to die.  He had wanted to live.  I tend to reserve my anger for God and other factors.  If I get angry, it is at the situation.

Then I realize that my anger is really despair.

The despair where I am left just asking “why?”

Why did this have to happen?

Why am I doing this alone?

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

My daughter was supposed to have her mother and father.

I stop crying after a minute or two and my daughter and I go inside.

My daughter is back to normal and inquiring about normal activities.

I needed to sit down for a minute.

During that minute, my daughter manages to find a tube a glitter, opens it and spreads it all over the living room couch.

I feel defeated.

Then there comes the shame.

Shame that I somehow missed any signs of a pending tantrum.

Shame that I wasn’t able to calm her down.

Shame that I melted down.

Shame that even though I try so hard, I still feel like I fall short as a mother.

My daughter gives me a hug and tells me that she loves me.

I love her.

My life is what it is.

But sometimes I still feel broken.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Saturday #42

It’s Saturday…a day late. But the rest is still the same.

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 are 5 things I am grateful for this week.

1. Getting my car back

My car was in the shop for two week. I missed my Subaru. Nothing drives better in the snow. So happy to have my car back.

2. Pre-K Thanksgiving.

3. Rudolph Musical

A friend of mine had tickets she couldn’t use and generously offered them to my daughter and me. Luckily we got a great parking space, bumped into good friends and my daughter loved the performance. I am so appreciative that my friend provided us with the joy of theater.

4. New England Thanksgiving

I spent Thanksgiving with my family in New Hampshire. I’ll be blogging about my holiday in an upcoming post.

5. Experiencing a salt cave.

My brother and I went to Soleil’s Salt Cave in Exeter, NH. It was a cool experience. I did feel like it helped with congestion and my asthma, but I could probably use more sessions. Mayber I will do that locally.

I didn’t take any pictures because electronics are not allowed but here is a pic of the Mexica Mocha I had after at D Squared Java. However, I couldn’t taste it because of all the salt I inhaled. Oops.

What are you grateful for this week?

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?

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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