Homeostasis

Have you ever had an event that kicked you on your ass?

Or at the very least, knocked you off-balance a bit? It could be a death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup or a job loss.

You may find yourself in a situation where you want to do whatever you can to get back to “normal.”


There is actually a scientific process that describes this.

Homeostasis

Ho * me * o * sta * sis /noun/ the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological process.

I had never heard of the concept of homeostasis until Spring of 2009. I had gone back to school for Health Information Technology and had to take the required Anatomy and Physiology courses. I had spent my 20s underemployed and I started working in a billing office at a local hospital. One of my bosses (and mentors) recommended I go back to school so I could advance my career.

So there I was, looking at an online bulletin board trying to come up with 3 discussion posts on Homeostasis.


After that course concluded, I did not think about homeostasis for a very long time.

Not for another 7 years and three months.

I remember seeing Bryon, critically ill and clinging to his life. Despite unfathomable injury and illness, I could see his body trying to heal.


Even in his fragile state, his body was trying it’s hardest to achieve homeostasis. Of course we know his body was not successful in that feat.


After Bryon died, I looked at the shattered remains of what had been my life and wondered what I needed to do to put those pieces together.


I desperately wanted my life to achieve a state of homeostasis.


Of course, my primary identity was that of wife and mother and without Bryon, homeostasis would not be possible.


I wondered what I needed to do to achieve homeostasis. This seems ridiculous to look back on because my life was in shambles.

At that time, I felt that homeostasis involved being a wife so I figured that after an acceptable amount of time, I would find the next love of my life.

This works for some people but raw, profound grief takes a lot out of you and takes longer than expected.

I was a mess for awhile and I believe that like attracts like so I didn’t want to attract a mess.


I was looking at my Facebook memories the other day. There was a memory from 2017 where I said that when I feel in love again that I wanted it to be at Christmas. While I would love for my life to be a Hallmark movie, it dawned on me that as time goes by, I believe in love a little less each day. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Bryon was my rock and he grounded me.

Bryon had a way of sizing up a situation and making sure things were okay.


If I were upset with people, Bryon would remind me that I was overestimating people and their intelligence and/or loyalty. Sometimes he said things people didn’t like to hear. At times I could find him harsh but he was usually correct. I miss his insight and his loyalty to me, our daughter and those closest to him.


So how could I stabilize my life when my rock was gone?


I am working towards it by making necessary life changes, removing toxic people from my life and doing inner work.


I have often reflected what Bryon would think about many situations going on from political scandals and other news as well as the shenanigans of people we knew.


It dawned on me recently that Bryon was the grounding force for many people. Many people sought his advice.


And it’s no wonder that in some circles I was in, things became off. Everyone is knocked off balance. Bryon isn’t here to ground things. To knock sense into people.


And most of us are probably going through life trying to achieve the elusive state of homeostasis.


But while we physically can achieve homeostasis (and even that is questionable because our bodies are always aging), we are not designed to achieve homeostasis in our psyche.

Our minds and hearts are meant to be expanding. We should be living our lives outside our comfort zones. We should be learning and growing.

True homeostasis is not possible.


So if you are struggling, remember that. You just need to find, as that cliche goes “your new normal.” And as long as you are trying to better yourself, then you will grow.


And you will wind up where you need to be.

Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

Embracing the Inner Light

 

I have only had one serious relationship before I was with Bryon. I have referred to him as the Anti-Bryon because he is pretty much the opposite of Bryon.

Like, a complete 180. I had often said that Bryon was the over correction of this relationship.

Whether Bryon was an over correction or not, he was the right guy for me. The Anti-Bryon was intimidated by my strong personality, Bryon wasn’t fazed. He had an equally strong, if not stronger personality.

Anti-Bryon does have an actual name but I do feel the need to protect his privacy though I highly doubt that he reads this blog.

The last time I spoke to him was during an AOL Instant Messenger Conversation while I was campaigning for George W Bush in 2004. The conversation was just like our relationship- one sided. I ended that  conversation thinking that if he and I were going to be friends, he could put in some effort.

And we haven’t spoken since.

The Anti-Bryon and I started dating at the end of Fall semester our senior year of college. Our relationship was not exciting and never progressed. Not even physically.

After two and a half years, I wanted that “je ne sais quoi” that was missing.

And I wanted a boyfriend who wanted to have sex with me. Or at least kissed open mouthed.

This might be TMI but this is my blog. If you don’t like it- don’t read it.

One night, two and a half years into our relationship, I had had enough. We were getting ready for bed and

I confronted the Anti-Bryon. Anti-Bryon wasn’t particularly religious but he said that the thought of having sex with me made him sick to his stomach.

We went to bed.  To go to sleep.  Just to be clear.

I regret not kicking him out but my self esteem was lacking during my early 20s.

The next day, he did his thing and I had a rare day off so I drove two hours to Boston to do some shopping and to see my Grandma.

As I drove down to Boston in my 1998 Saturn that did not have a tape deck or a CD player, I flipped through the radio stations and I kept hearing “All or Nothing” by O-Town.

It may have just been a coincidence since the song was popular at that time.

I went to the shops in Downtown Crossing despite the fact there were plenty of malls in suburbia. I wanted the distraction of being “in the city”.

And in each store, O-Town was playing.

At that stage of my life, I never thought much about the esoteric but it was clear that the Universe was trying to tell me something.

Usually when I ask for a sign, I get some sort of riddle in return. Or ignored completely. But this was one of the few times in my life that Universe, or God or whoever the *bleep* is in charge (Charles, maybe?) has sent me a clear sign that’s it’s oooooover, ooooooover.

We weren’t in love. We were just friends. And this is how it ends.

After I visited my Grandma that afternoon, I drove back to Maine and broke up with the Anti-Bryon. He wasn’t heartbroken.

And neither was I, though I felt that he led me on.  He had the best of me but he didn’t want the rest of me. He got a good deal but he had no intention of having a future with me. But I never took the initiative to question his intentions or lack thereof.

So why am I thinking about the Anti-Bryon?

I have zero attachment to him. I hope he is well and happy.  I hope he is living his best life possible.

I seldom think about those years and when I do, all I remember is boredom. I don’t remember the Anti-Bryon as being particularly funny. The only funny thing I remember was this one time we went to the Portland Museum of Art (free admission with a student ID from the University of Southern Maine) and he came up behind and whispered “I see naked people…”

Like that kid on Sixth Sense. You know…the one who saw dead people.

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That is the only funny thing I remember about the Anti-Bryon. But maybe he was funny but I spent 8 years with Bryon who was one of the funniest people I have ever met.

I am thinking about this because O-Town has been stuck in my head.

Except this time the phrase I am pondering is “I’ve had the rest of you now I want the best of you.”

I don’t think anyone has ever had the “best of me”.

I was a very hyper kid. I began to learn at a very young age that I had to dial it back a notch or two or twelve to appease people.

I was shamed for being too loud, too hyper, too dramatic, too talkative.

So I tried my best to scale it down to fit in and to please people.

I kept my light from shining as bright as it could, so I could fit in with others.

Because I was too much for people.

As a parent of a child with a bright light, it pains me to see her get scolded for being her.

It’s why I took her out of her dance class when she kept being in trouble for being too talkative and “overbearing”.

I wasn’t going to pay $65 a month to have my daughters light dimmed, especially when I am sure in the upcoming years, people will try to dim her light and they will probably do it for free. She has plenty of other activities she attends and if she wants to continue to dance, I’ll find another school that’s a better fit.

When I was dating the Anti-Bryon, I tried to fit whatever mold I thought would appease him. Looking back, he never tried to fit my mold. I loved to travel and the one time he went to Boston (the actual city, not just visiting my family in the suburbs) he was pissed at me because he didn’t want to ride on the T (that’s the subway for the non-Bostonians).

Instead of saying that this relationship was a two way street and sometimes he needed to do the things I wanted, I tried harder to please him.

But during all these acts to try to please the Anti-Bryon, I lost my authentic self.

Or I should say, my authentic self became more lost and obscured.

My authentic self had been lost since I was a child.

My authentic self continued to stay lost until I realized all my co-workers, most of whom were a little older than me, were still going out and having fun. Friday nights with the Anti-Bryon consisted of watching America’s Funniest Home Videos or AFV as it had been shortened. AFV circa 2002/2003 didn’t have Bob Saget as a host so watching it felt completely pointless. You can only watch a cat leap in the air or a guy get hit in the nuts so many times before it just isn’t funny anymore.

My coworkers taught me that being an adult was not synonymous with being boring. I remember my coworker MaryBeth (I don’t know what happened to her) told me that she thought there was a more fun version of me inside and maybe if I wasn’t dating the Anti-Bryon that that side of myself could express itself.

MaryBeth saw my authentic self.

She saw something in me that I didn’t see.

I took those words to heart. The day in Boston with O-Town happened shortly thereafter.

This all happened in summer 2003.

So I decided to move home (further up the Maine coast) and I got into politics.

Politics taught me social skills and I felt a little less socially awkward though politics in itself can be socially awkward at times. I met a lot of great people (including my husband) who are still in my life but I also had to weed through a lot of narcissistic toolbags.

I learned what I needed to learn during my political years. I made some friends that I am still friends with today. I got to travel around the country and I have had some cool experiences. It was through politics where the etiquette of fine dining and other formalities became second nature.

But I found it hard to be authentic. I couldn’t take the scheming and games. So I retired. Or at the very least, I went on an indefinite sabbatical.

Bryon came into my life and when I got my political fix by tagging along to his events.

Bryon was good for my authentic self. We spent most of our free time together, engaged in intelligent and witty conversations. We traveled. We ate good food whether it was fine dining or from takeout windows.

He encouraged me not to sell myself short and to grow career-wise.  He even made me read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

I definitely grew during our years together.

But I still feel like he never got the best of me.

He got the best version available at that time but it still wasn’t the best of me.

Bryon and I both had strong personalities and I would go along with whatever he wanted sometimes because it was easier.

During those years, it never dawned on me that there was a better version of myself lurking underneath.

I don’t know if it fair to myself to feel guilty for not expressing a side of personality that I didn’t know was there.

Plus we live in a society that does not foster authenticity. We care more about how we appear on social media.

I just remember sitting by his side in the ICU, mustering up strength I didn’t know I had, promising him I would be a better wife.

 Coming from a Boston Irish-Catholic family, guilt is one of the few emotions that I learned to express.

I wanted Bryon be proud of me but I never got that confirmation.

After Bryon’s death, I started to question everything. Why did Bryon have to die? What is God so cruel?

I questioned everything I believed or have ever believed. I questioned the meaning of life.

I believe this is what all the New Age Guru’s call “the Dark Night of the Soul”.

 I thought a lot about my life and Bryon’s life. He was his authentic self. He didn’t care if people got pissed off. He lived his truth.

He still exercised tact and decorum.

There were a few times when we were watching the Republican Presidential Primary debates and a certain candidate would say something inappropriate and Bryon would day “I can’t believe he said that.  You can’t say that!”

It took Bryon’s death for me to learn how to live.

It was a time of my life where I didn’t want to live. A part of me died that Sunday morning when Bryon died.

I made the decision to keep living.

And I hope no one read that in the literal sense. I never wanted to die. I just felt dead inside.

Even with these new revelations, I continued to try to please people.  People who took advantage of me. People who didn’t respect my privacy.  People who used me my life’s tragedy for their gain. People who took my love and friendship for granted.

I made sure to show up to every daycare function and do whatever a Pinterest mom needed to do because I didn’t want to be the single mom who dropped the ball. Just don’t look inside my car. I don’t have it together nearly as much as I seem like I do.

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The irony is, no one has openly judged me. Maybe behind my back but I don’t have the  information to tell you one way or the other.

Here I am, at the age of 41 and I am finally learning that I can’t dim my light for others. My light shining brightly doesn’t affect the brightness of other lights.

 We all have to live our truth.

At age 41, I finally realized that I am not going to be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay.

And I don’t have to drink tea I don’t like either.

And neither do you.

 Don’t let anyone blow out your light.

 And going forward, people can take me or leave. But I am done trying to please people.

You can take me or leave me.

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Since I’ve been gone

If you have followed my writing in any capacity, you may have noticed that I have taken a break.

Can I be totally honest for a minute?

I had to stop writing because I was just so sick of it.

I was sick of being a widow.

I was sick of feeling like I had to defend my feelings. It didn’t matter if those feelings were grief related or not.

I was sick of being put into situations where I felt like I had to defend my feelings.

I was sick of being defined by my grief and my widowed status

I was sick of all the projections and expections. From others and from myself.

I was sick of the grief. It’s not like I asked for any of this to happen to me or my daughter.

I was sick of people trying to take advantage of me. Plot twist: A few were successful. Ironically these people are usually the most vocally outraged when you set boundaries.

I was sick of the people who made me feel like less of a person because I had to accept their help.

I was sick of living a life full of empty dreams.

I was sick of people telling me how to grieve and how to widow.

I was sick of people thinking that they have a say on how I live my life. Everyone has a gosh darn opinion and most aren’t afraid to share it.

I was sick of people telling me that I needed to forgive God.

I had finally had enough.

I needed to retreat and recharge.

All my writing was private. For myself only.

I needed a break from y’all.

I don’t know why I said “y’all”. I am not a Southern girl at all. New England through and through.

And no, I am not dissing Southerners. My Southern friends will agree with me.

The reality is that when I created this blog, I wrote as an outlet to process my feelings.

A way to figure out my grief.

While I can’t say that I have totally figured this grief thing out, but it is much more manageable. Sure, grief still catches me off-guard at times but I know how to handle those emotions now.

I don’t need to write a 1200 word blog post every time the grief monster hits.

And even if I did write a blog post every time grief makes a visit, I do not feel like it would be beneficial to me or to you.

Unfortunately, life never goes back to normal. And how could it? I can’t go back to my life as a wife and mother with the absence of the husband and father.

There’s a gaping hole in what is now my former “normal life”.

And the only person who can fill that gaping hole is never coming back. At least not in any Earthly form.

So I need to figure out exactly what my new normal is.

I took this time of grief and emotional upheaval and purging to question everything I once believed.

I questioned all my relationships. I started to realize which relationships were real and which relationships were fake. Some were surprising.

Once you start seeing the truth, you can’t unsee it. Even if it’s inconvenient.

I now have no choice but to live my truth. At least, the parts of my truth that I have figured out.

I am still working on that.

But really, all of us should be searching for our own truths.

As I search for my truth, I don’t feel comfortable sharing everything.

But I will share what I can.

So what can be expected from my blog at this phase-

1) Any grief related material I feel a need to write about.

2) Aspects of soul searching that I feel called to share.

3) Race-recaps. I ran a race and I still need to write up a recap.

Couch to 5k: Week One

Running has always been a part of me though my participation in running is inconsistent.

Why does an activity I love always get pushed aside?

Sometimes it is because of illness. Illness combine with my asthma can derail any training.

Sometimes my anxiety and perfectionistic personality prevent me from even trying.

I ran a lot after Bryon died. I completed my first (and only) half marathon.

I was trying to outrun grief.

Then illness derailed me.

And grief caught up with me. I began a new job. I stopped running regularly and I began to eat my emotions.

But the thought of running never left me.

As part of my healing journey, I have been balancing between the concept growing and changing and the concept of knowing the real me.

I having been spending times with all the various “versions” of myself. I have been trying to remember who I have been in the past and I have lived running throughout the past. I had goals.

And that girl wants to come back.

I want to run another half marathon.

It hit me like an epiphany- if I have want to run a half marathon then I have to actually do training runs.

The fact that this common sense realization came to me like an epiphany is a little ridiculous.

I need to actually run to complete another half marathon.

So I am trying again.

I might fail.

In the past, I was afraid to fail.

I was afraid of what people would think if I failed.

Why do I even care what people think?

This is my journey, not theirs.

If someone is going to be less than supportive, then their opinion doesn’t matter.

So this week I laced up my running shoes and did week one of Couch to 5k. I have had success with this program in the past.

I am painfully slow.

That always embarrasses me but then I am reminded that it doesn’t matter.

I am still doing more than sitting on the couch.

And seriously, the running community is one of the most supportive communities out there. Some of my biggest supporters are fast and competitive runners.

So I need to stop feeling embarrassed.

I did my workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I ran in my neighborhood listening to podcasts.

The first day I listened to Chubby Jones podcast. It was recommended by my friend Jenni at That’s What Jenni Said.

I have used this blog with two other random times when I have tried to get back into shape. Since the workout is the same each day, there is only one podcast episode which is repeated three times.

Chubby Jones chats during her podcast. She seems really nice.

But I realized that I didn’t want to listen to the same small talk during all three workouts.

It reminds me about the times when Bryon and I used to go to Macaroni Grill often shortly after my daughter was born. There was a waiter who has a son who was about the same age. He never remembered us and we’d have the same conversation every time.

It drove Bryon nuts.

I’m actually a little confused about that since Groundhog Day was one of his favorite movies.

Mike the waiter was like his own real life Ned Ryerson.

So Chubby Jones podcasts episodes are a one time deal for me.

The following two workouts I used the week one workout from the NHS podcast.

Laurie is a pleasant British lady who is encouraging and doesn’t engage in small talk.

I found both podcasts effective.

Stay tuned for week two. Please let me know if you are participating in Couch to 5k or another running program.

Are there any different Couch to 5k podcasts you like to use?

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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If I can give you one piece of advice- this would be it

When one goes through a trauma and/or profound loss, it changes every aspect of your life.

It changes your daily routine.

It changes your sense of security.

It changes your health.

It changes you sense of identity.

Everything you have ever believed gets questioned and your life goes into turmoil.

During my time of turmoil, I have decided to question everything I have ever believed and there have been changes to my thought patterns.

I learned not to worry so much.  I can’t change my past so I no longer obsess about my past choices and regrets.  There is so much about the future that I can’t control, so I don’t worry about that.  There was no way I could foresee what would happen to Bryon and it happened.  I can’t control what happens tomorrow, next week, next month or next year.  I can just live my life and try to make the best decisions I can.

My tolerance for bullsh*t is so much lower, if it even exists at all.  I have learned that life is too short to deal with inauthentic people who have no regard for your feelings and are trying to make your life more difficult.

I had always been a rule follower.  Bryon used to give me hard time about it.  Some rules are meant to be bent, some broken and some are silly and shouldn’t be followed at all.

During this season of my life, I have thrown myself into a period of soul searching.  I have learned so much from reading books and blogs, from heart to heart talks with close friends and from watching YouTube.

I am always up for a conversation pondering the meaning of life and how to live one’s life to the fullest.

I am not a guru but if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be that you need to love yourself.

It might sound cheesy but you can never be happy if you don’t love yourself.

Too often, we are taught that the needs of others should be put above your own.  Any mother knows this.  Our kids come first and we neglect ourselves.

But we are actually doing our children a disservice by not allowing ourselves to be happy.

If my baseline is to be unhappy, my daughter will pick up on that. She will grow up learning that you are supposed to be unhappy.

People often think that I am a happy person because I have a cheerful disposition.

I had them fooled.

I was never truly happy.

I have always relied on others to make me happy.

Happiness was measured by how many friends I had and who I was friends with.  For someone focused on that, I never had many deep friendships.

And when I was married, I relied on Bryon to make me happy.

The whole part of Jerry McGuire where he says to Renee Zellweger “You complete me” is complete and utter bullsh*t.

No one can complete anyone.  We have to be happy and complete within ourselves.

I grew up with very low self-esteem.  I didn’t date much and I measured my self worth by this.

I had one long term relationship at the end of college.  I often refer to this guy as the “Anti-Bryon” because they were opposites on many things.  The “Anti-Bryon” did not appreciate me and tried to extinguish my spirit.  Though I don’t think he necessarily did that intentionally.  I think he just vibrated on a lower level of energy.  When we broke up my Grandma Sullivan expressed that she was disappointed that we had ended our relationship.  She had liked him.  I told her that the Anti-Bryon had no intention of marrying me.  My grandmother just said “You’re right.  He didn’t have enough zip for you.”

God, I miss my grandmother.

Needless to say, I let how the Anti-Bryon viewed me to affect my self-worth.  When I am in love, I like to express it verbally.  (Actually, I am told I express a lot of things verbally, not just love.)  I would tell the Anti-Bryon that I loved him and he would get annoyed and respond with “random.”

And it was random, but I was expressing my love.  Which I feel should be done when you feel it.

If you express your love, the recipient should appreciate it.  I mean, as long as you are doing it in a non-creepy manner.  If you express your love to a complete stranger in a public place then that recipient would be justified for not appreciating it.  But if you are in a committed relationship, then you should be able to tell your significant lover that you love them, gosh darn it!

I began to realize that the Anti-Bryon was with me for convenience.

Eventually, I decided that I deserved better.  I deserved to be loved.

The Anti-Bryon and I were supposed to stay friends but that didn’t last long.  Our friendship started to take after our relationship.  As in, I was doing all the work.  I remember chatting with him on Instant Messenger in Late October in 2004.  I told him I was volunteering on the 2004 Bush Campaign and that I had just been diagnosed with bronchitis but I was still going out to wave signs.  I was excited.  I was telling him because we were friends and he barely seemed interested.  I mean, he also was a Democrat so that may have played a little bit into it.  But it was at that moment that I realized he didn’t even deserve my friendship.  That was the last time we spoke.

I dated a little over the next 4-5 years.

Whenever I let my guard down, I was rejected.  This took a toll on my self-esteem.

I got strung along.  Like on How I Met Your Mother.  I was always on some guys hook.

Then one day I said “F*ck it.”

Inspired by one of my favorite movies of all time, Kate and Leopold, I decided to take Leopold’s Victorian dating advice and not give a man my time unless he made a “proper overture”.

Enter Bryon.

Bryon did not string me along.

Bryon did not keep me on his hook.

Bryon made a proper overture and made his intentions known.

And we should have lived happily ever after and in some respects we did.

We loved each other fiercely.  We were good for each other.

But no relationship is perfect.

Our relationship was not perfect for many reasons.

One of the reasons our relationship wasn’t perfect was because I did not love myself.

I recently read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book , The Mastery of Love: A Practical Guide to the Art of Relationship: A Toltec Wisdom Book.  It is a continuation of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book) which is based on Toltec Wisdom.  I highly recommend both.  (The link is an Amazon affiliate link which means if you click on it and decide buy it, I probably get, like, $0.04 or something.  Why not?)

In The Mastery of Love, Ruiz discusses how there are two people in every relationship and we are only responsible for our happiness.  The other person is responsible for their happiness.

In order to thrive in a relationship, one must look inward and be happy and complete with themselves first.  Ergo, Tom Cruise was full of sh*t in Jerry McGuire because no on can complete you.

So Bryon and I were in a marriage and I was expecting him to complete me.

I wasn’t happy with myself.

I relied on Bryon for my happiness.  This was not fair because he was not responsible for my happiness.  I was.

He definitely tried to make me happy.  He offered me the world and I still wasn’t happy with myself.

I know I frustrated him.

I was unhappy with myself and often, that unhappiness would spill over into our relationship.

Any other guy probably would have left me but Bryon made it clear that I was stuck with him.

I felt so poorly about myself that I never understood what Bryon saw in me.

I felt he could do better.

I can’t speak for Bryon’s half of the relationship and his thoughts.   Those thoughts died with him. It is easy to put your deceased spouse on a pedestal but I know he wasn’t perfect.  But I would love to be able to discuss this with him.

I wish he could see how much I have grown.

Though if he were still alive, I probably wouldn’t have grown.

But I can’t help but wonder how much stronger our marriage would have been if I had been happy with myself.

Bryon loved me at my worst.

My next husband will have the better version of me because now I love myself.

I just don’t want people to have to go through what I did to realize how important it is for you to love yourself first.

 

 

Don’t know where I am going

I have no idea where I am going.

I am still trying to figure out the person I want to reinvent myself to be.

I have no idea what the future entails.  I am not sure what I want from the future.  Bryon’s death has given me the opportunity to really think about how I want to spend the remainder of my days.

Because life is temporary after all.

If it were just me, I probably would have sold my house and would have had plans to go somewhere new.  Where I have never been before.  On my own.  But I probably would have wound up in Chicago or Florida because that is where one of my best friends and my cousin live, respectively.

But I have my daughter and it is important for her to have roots where her father and I had our lives.  And to be around those who loved her father and love her.

During my widowhood, I feel like I live in two different time dimensions.  The first dimension is the same dimension that we all live in where time moves forward in minutes, weeks, months, years, etc.  The second dimension of time is where the past is in the present.  The times that I try to cling to a memory for as long as I can because for that brief period of time, I can pretend that I am still in that moment and that Bryon is alive.

I have resigned myself to the fact that I live in this first dimension of time.  I am still here on Earth for an undetermined amount of time.  I want to make the best of my years here and do as much good in the world as I can.  I want to be the best version of myself I can be.

Because I can’t go back and be the older versions of myself.  And I don’t really want to either.

Even though my soul feels broken without Bryon, I don’t want to be the person I was before he got sick.  I didn’t know what was important.  I was selfish.  I worried about things that were insignificant.   I did not appreciate all that I had and I did not appreciate Bryon.  I let my fears rule my life.  And sometimes I just went along with things Bryon wanted because I didn’t want to risk an argument.  But in the process of not rocking the boat, I wasn’t always true to myself.

Going forward, I must always be true to myself.

Even if it means rocking every boat in the marina.

Death changes everything.  The timeline of my life has been broken into two very distinct pieces- the before and the after.

I can never go back to who I was when Bryon was alive or who I was before Bryon came into my life.

I can never go back and be the lonely shy child who grew up in the outskirts of the Boston suburbs.

I can never go back and be the restless teenager in rural Downeast Maine.  The girl who knew there was an exciting world out there and felt trapped in her small town.

I can never go back and be the girl who went to college but had no idea what she wanted to do.  The girl who had no confidence and was equally afraid of success and fear.

I can never go back and be the 21 year old who was spending a semester “studying” abroad in Winchester, UK.

I can never go back and be the 25 year old girl who had just broken up with her college boyfriend and who was working three jobs to get by.

I can never go back to the 27 year old girl who was involved in politics.

I can never go back to any of these versions of myself.  But I still carry something from each version.

The child version of myself represents my Boston Irish roots and my inner child who isn’t afraid to get creative.

The high school version of me represents my restless spirit that I will probably never outgrow and also reminds me that I love to run.

The college version of myself reminds me that I need to be more confident and not be afraid of my dreams like she was.

The 21 year old version of me was proud of herself that she went to England and got to visit London, Paris and Dublin.   She got to see places she had dreamed about for years and she got to experience a different culture.  Most importantly, she learned that “pants” don’t mean the same thing in the UK as they do in the US.

The 24 year old version of myself taught me that sometimes it is better to let go of something instead of chasing it.  You can’t make anyone love you.  It is best to wait for real love.

The 27 year old version of myself taught me ambition and how to get over my shyness.  This girl also represents who I was before I learned how to love.

And I think about everything I learned from Bryon.  He taught me how to love.  He taught me to believe to in myself and that I was worth nice things.  He taught me how to live life to the fullest.  He taught be to not be afraid.

It was because of him I got to be a wife and a mother.

I know that he is a part of me now.  But I still wish I could live in my memories with him and not in the present and future.