It’s okay to not be okay

I have always enjoyed hanging my clothes out to dry.

I don’t know why.

It takes longer to hang them up than it takes to put them into the dryer.

The towels aren’t fluffy when they line dry.

You only save pennies on the electric bill.

And you have to worry if one of the forecasted thunderstorms is actually going to come to fruition. (I’m looking at you, Accuweather).

But this week I took the time to hang my clothes out.

It felt like a metaphor of my life.

All the trauma surrounding Bryon’s illness and death happened around three years ago.

Some days it feels like a lifetime ago.

The memories feel like it was yesterday, though I try not to remember because it’s painful.

But there us danger in “trying not to remember”.

I find that along with the painful memories, the happy memories go along with it.

Even happy memories are too painful to think about.

Because it hurts to think about everything I lost.

Because when you lose your spouse…you don’t just lose your spouse.

When Bryon died, I lost more than my husband.

I lost my identity.

I lost my sense of security.

I lost my faith.

I lost any sense of normalcy.

I don’t even know what “normal” feels like or what “normal” is supposed to feel like.

As I have been going through the grieving and rebuilding processes, I have had to deal with people who took advantage of me (or tried to) at my most vulnerable.

Yes, there are people who tried to benefit from my life’s biggest tragedy.

I have been trying navigating the world of being a single mother.

I live my life trying to put the past behind me.

I am trying to embrace the next chapter.

It’s so much easier in theory versus the application.

Yeah…it’s been three years. I should be over it. He’s dead.

But I have spent three years having to re-learn life.

I am not just talking about re-learning all the tasks that Bryon had performed though that is a large part of the re-learning curve.

I have had to learn how to be a parent by myself. Now it’s second nature as I have been a single parent longer than a married parent.

I have had to tear down every belief I have ever had, question everything I have ever believed and reformulate my belief system.

I have had to deal with living in a society that is clueless on how to treat the traumatized and grieving. It’s like being a square peg in a world of round holes.

I have spent three years trying to adapt to this learning curve.

And I am tired.

The best analogy I can think of is from this week. My best friend was visiting from Michigan and the cell phone reception was not great at her camp. My phone kept trying to get a 4G signal. My phone was unsuccessful at obtaining the 4G signal and the battery was depleted.

I feel like my cell phone battery. I have been working so hard to “be strong” but I feel depleted.

I realized that in my grieving, I was focusing a large part of my energy on appearing okay.

I am such a people pleaser. 🙄

This week I felt so tired that my bones ached.

I had developed heat rash on my arm but I was worried I had hives. I got hives once in high school because I waited until the night before to do a ten page paper.

Right now my life is on the cusp of a new chapter which is exciting but exhausting. For every item I check off my to-do list, I feel like 2 pr 3 more appear.

And then I look back at the trauma and Bryon’s death and everything that has happened in my life since then.

No wonder why I am exhausted.

People are so quick to make their judgments.

So quick to tell me how I am supposed to interpret my life.

What the f*ck do they know?

They haven’t walked on my shoes. 99% of people haven’t even come close to walking in my shoes.

And right now I am stuck in a dichotomy of trying to move forward and looking back and finally admitting to myself that I went through something traumatic.

Until I finally acknowledge just how traumatic Bryon’s illness and death were, then I can’t move forward.

I have felt stuck.

My emotions feel like the equivalent of that proverbial cup of water that all the paint brushes have been dipped into.

I needed a break

I have tried to take it slow this week.

To rest.

To do the simple things.

Spend time with my daughter and cuddle with my cat.

And hanging out the clothes.

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Why Father’s Day can be painful.

For along time after Bryon died, I felt like I had to be both a Mother and Father to my daughter.

And if there is anything I can tell you from personal experience-

Being a parent is hard. Even if you have an active co-parent.

Being both a mother and a father is harder.

Being both a mother and father while grieving is super hard.

“Super hard” might be a lame adjective. I am sure my seventh grade English teacher would be pissed if she read that.

But on this morning, two days before the third Father’s Day without my daughter’s Father, I am grumpy.

“Super Hard” is the best descriptor I can think of in this comparison.

Other adjectives can include-

Exhausting- Being two parents is exhausting.

Lonely- Bryon isn’t here to share my daughters moments with.

Unfair- That feeling I try to ignore when I see other kids with their Dad’s and I know my daughter doesn’t have that.

Empty- That feeling I have when I had to write “deceased” next to her Father’s name on her kindergarten registration forms.

Annoyance: Every time I have to explain that her father is dead. My life used to be so f*cking normal and now it’s not. Now I am a square peg in a world full of round holes. And I didn’t ask for any of this.

Resentment- For the fact that I have to brush off other’s insensitivity. Why is that my job? Why can’t people just take a few seconds and think and be a little more considerate?

Maybe “pissy” might be a better descriptor.

Most days I don’t dwell on it, but I can’t ignore any of this on Father’s Day weekend.

For some reason Father’s Day bothers me much more than Mother’s Day.

Bryon was the one who bought me gifts but he made it clear that they were from my daughter, not him. Bryon liked to add they were not from him because I wasn’t his mother. Though I know he said it because it annoyed me.

It seems kind of ironic.

By Bryon’s logic, Father’s Day shouldn’t bother me.

After all, he wasn’t MY father. My father is alive. And my Dad is awesome too.

My daughter doesn’t seem fazed. But maybe she will when she gets older and reflects. Or maybe not. I can’t dictate how her father’s death may or may not affect her.

Father’s day stirs up so many emotions for me.

It reminds me of Bryon’s absence.

It reminds me of all the dreams we didn’t accomplish as a family.

It reminds me that my daughter was supposed to have a sibling.

It reminds me that Bryon will never get to see his daughter grow up. He won’t see her get on the school bus when she goes to kindergarten or see her walk across the stage at her high school and college graduations. He won’t get to walk her down the aisle when she get’s married.

It reminds me that my daughter was cheated out of her years with her Father. She was cheated out of the one of the most important relationships a girl ever has.

Since Bryon died, I felt I had to be both parents for my daughter.

To be her mother and to fill the void left by her father.

But I came to the realization that I can’t be both her mother and father.

I am just her mother.

I can try to be an awesome, kick ass mother.

But I am not, nor will I ever be her Father.

It is one of my parenting goals for my daughter to grow up and think that despite her Father dying, she had a good childhood. I hope that is what she thinks though I can’t control what she thinks about her childhood.

I can only try to be the best Mother I can and help my daughter realize her authentic self.

I can spend time with her.

I can read to her and encourage her to read books.

I can do fun activities with her.

I can travel with her.

I can play with her.

I can teach her things.

I can cook with her.

I can provide her with the best opportunities available.

I can take her to sports practices and go to her games.

I can take her shoe shopping. She loves shoe shopping.

One day I will have to teach her about all the things that come with being a woman.

But the one thing I can’t do is be her father.

Bryon gave her life and he loved her very much.

There will always be a hole there.

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #45

Today is 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 are 5 things I am grateful for this week.

  1. The fact that I can say geeky things to Kimmy Gibbler and she finds them funny.

    Last week for Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday, I wrote that I was grateful for President George H.W. Bush.

    I thought about how he was #41.

    As I wrote my post, I thought about how it was my 44th Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday post.

    I thought to myself, “I guess this is the President Obama of Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday posts.”

    I was amused.

    I share my amusement with Kimmy Gibbler.

    She was amused.

    Though she is also amused that I tend to mark the passage of time by Presidential Administrations.  For example, I might realize I hadn’t done something since college and say “I haven’t done that since the Clinton Administration.”

    I’m old.

    I guess this week (#45) is the President Trump of Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday posts.

    I guess people are going to really love this blog post or really hate this blog post.

    I am only kidding.  Though I am just going to leave that topic now and move onto number two.

  2. Dance class.

    We took a week off from dance after our last class.  I was nervous about returning but I also realize that I need to give my daughter a chance to redeem herself.  She needs those chances to learn and grow.  If public tantrums becomes a pattern, then I will reconsider our participation in activities.  Since there is no alarming pattern, I am going to treat it like an isolated incident.

    My daughter paid attention and was polite to her teacher and classmates.

    I am also grateful for her dance teacher for being understanding.  We chatted before class and she was encouraging about the situation.

  3. Disney on Ice.

    My friend blogs for Macaroni Kid Albany and she invited us along to Disney on Ice tonight. I am grateful she invited us.  My daughter had a great time.  I did too, of course.  And it was good to catch up since we both busy moms and that is hard to do.

  4. The maintenance guy at Times Union Center.

    On my way to Disney on Ice, I needed to meet my friend at the Box Office.  I was trying to remember how to get there and I said that to my daughter.  The maintenance worker heard me and stopped what he was doing and politely gave me directions.  He could have kept on walking.  I appreciate him taking the time to direct me and for being nice and helpful.

  5. Timing.

    I was originally going to say Hummus.  Don’t ask me why, but I am on a hummus kick this week.  I always thought it was overrated but I am liking it lately.

    classic-hummus

    My daughter and I left Disney on Ice, walked to a nearby parking garage, paid for our parking and left.  I missed my entrance onto 787 and had to loop back around.  As I looped back around near the Times Union Center and saw tons of blue and red lights.  This had happened.

    I am grateful that we didn’t linger and that we missed the excitement. I am grateful we missed it.

    I hope everyone is okay.

What are you grateful for this week?

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #43

Today is 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 are 5 things I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Dinner with Kimmy Gibbler I see her less since she moved up to the North Country.  I miss seeing her as often but this means our time together is even more special.  Love you Gibbler.

    20181128_174728
    Swifty’s- Colonie, NY
  2. Those who remember BryonWe had great neighbors when we lived in Albany.  We hung out.  We watched each other’s cats on vacation.

    Our townhouses shared an attached wall.  I am sure they heard Bryon and I when we argued.  When I shared the news I was pregnant, my neighbor said she thought she had heard me throwing up.

    We both moved to our current houses in the same month.  My daughter was born and life just took over.  I am sad to say I haven’t seen them in awhile.

    They were in New York City celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary.

    Happy Anniversary!!!!!

    They had shared their plans on social media.  On one of the days, they decided to visit the five oldest bars in NYC.  (Which sounds totally awesome to this history buff. Maybe my cousin H-Bomb will do it with me).

    I had commented that Bryon took me to McSorley’s (4th oldest bar).


    It was one of his favorite bars in New York City.
    My friends had shared that they shared a drink in Bryon’s memory at McSorley’s.

    46846532_10161080815650023_1386755046212894720_o
    Facebook Photo Courtesy of Frances Esposito

    It still makes me happy when people remember him.  I can accept that he is gone but I don’t want him to be forgotten.  Especially since my daughter will only know him from stories.

  3. Getting three runs in this weekIt finally clicked in my brain that the only way I was going to be able to run another half-marathon was if I started running again.  Funny how that works.

    images
    Get it?  Christmas Humor…
  4. Encouragement and friendshipI appreciate everyone who commented their support and sent messages about my post last night where I felt like a failure as a mother.  It feels better to know I am not alone but at the same time, I am sad other mothers feel this way too.

    images (1)

  5. My daughter’s Pre-K teacherI talked to my daughter Pre-K teacher and I am grateful I did.  She was very positive about the situation.  My daughter has had trouble being quiet during naptime.  Her teacher assured me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and that my daughter isn’t doomed.  She just has a strong personality and she is in a phase where she is testing her limits.  Her teacher said it is very common at this age.

    She agreed with me that having a strong personality isn’t bad, we just need to funnel her energy differently.  I don’t want to take my daughter’s fun away but she needs to learn that she has to respect adults.

    Her teacher also told me it doesn’t matter how small my daughter is in her physical stature, she will be able to hold her own.  As someone who was bullied as a kid, I know it is a good thing that my daughter has no problem standing up for herself.

    I do feel better because I feel like we now have a plan in place that will hopefully correct her behavior before kindergarten.  I am grateful her teacher is positive.  She doesn’t view my daughter as a problem.  She seems the good in her.  I had some hyperactivity issues as a kid and from what I have been told, my teachers were negative about the situation.

What are you grateful for this week?

encouraging-quote-positive.jpg

 

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.

Super Daniel and the McDonald’s Drive Thru

The following story is based on an actual event.

I pull up at a local McDonald’s Drive-thru after gymnastics class.

Don’t judge. I don’t claim to be the perfect mother. Just a widowed, single mother trying to make it through the day.

Drive Thru Person: Hello, may I take your order?

My daughter (age 4): SUPER DANIEL!!!

Me: Sorry about that. I would like-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: A 4 piece chicken McNugget Happy Meal-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: (to my daughter) Be quiet, I’m trying to order your dinner)

Me: (To drive thru person) Sorry about that. Four piece chicken McNugget happy meal, no sauce-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: Apple slices and a chocolate milk. For a girl.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Drive Thru person: A 4 piece chicken McNugget Happy meal-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: No sauce, Apple slices-

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: chocolate milk for a girl?

Me: Yes.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

DTP: That will be $X.XX. Please pull up.

Me: Thank you.

MD: SUPER DANIEL!!!!

Me: (To my daughter) Really?

MD: Mommy, I love you.

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