35

I’m 35 years old today.  Mid way through my thirties and rapidly approaching middle age.  Not a milestone birthday, per-say, but a marker in time. A number of significance.

Today, I’m officially older than Tim will ever be.  He died 3 weeks before 35, never quite making it to this particular age.  Birthdays were not a big deal to Tim.  As a twin, he was accustomed to sharing his birthday with his sister, Kelli.   He was elated to spend a long weekend with her in the days before his heart attack.  He and I had talked about planning a trip with her and her family to mark 35.  I was planning to make his peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting.  Things we thought we would do with the seemingly endless expanse of time that being a 30-something affords you.

Before his death, Tim was 1.5 years older than me.  An age difference that worked well in our coupling dynamic.  Developmentally, we were in similar places.  He had graduated high school and college before me.  He was slightly older, but the small space in time between our births left us in the same generation and experiencing cultural events around the same time.  I enjoyed our small age gap.  My slightly older husband.  I’m older now.  Tim will always be left at 34, and here I am at 35.

When I turned 34, people who did not know the significance of that age would remark “My, you are still so young”.  I would think of Tim dying at 34.  Yes, 34 is indeed SO young.

I am young, yet I am old.  Older than many living people.  Emotionally, I feel I’ve lived several lifetimes.  In other ways, I’m completely new to the world.  My experiences have aged me by decades, yet shrunk me down to a moody teen.  I don’t really fit in to normal society.  I can talk to anyone about anything.  I feel 85.  I feel 15.  I’ve seen and done things that the average person can not imagine.  I’m 35 with a lifetime behind and a lifetime ahead.

I feel thankful to have turned 35 at 1:11am this morning.  I’m thankful to be able to celebrate my birthday with my parents, the people who brought and raised me into this world.  To hug my mom and dad and share a meal with them.  I’m thankful to celebrate this birthday with my children, quite literally my reasons for being alive.  This weekend I will celebrate with my friends, the people who have helped me rediscover my sense of happiness in this life.  Another year has passed.  And I made it.  I’m older than Tim now, and I will continue to be older than him until the day I die.  I will continue to carry him with me in my mind a heart, and share his legacy in any ways I can.  The passing of time will continue on.  These milestones will continue on. And I will continue on.

35 and still alive.

Reflections on Foreverness.

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School was cancelled this morning due to the barrage of rain we have suddenly encountered after days in a deep-freeze.

While I am thankful to have these days with my children, I do not especially enjoy these unexpected, endless days of childhood needs and mind-melting toddler drama.

I’m struggling with my sense of motherhood, to be completely honest.  I adore my children.  I love them with every ounce of my being, but the relentless demands of single motherhood sucks every ounce of creative and intellectual energy from my being.  Reading, podcasts, moments of silence, creative outlets, cleaning and house projects, are luxuries I have to carve out in the smattered moments of solitude I get in bits and pieces through the week.  There is little time or space for me, my personhood, in this current phase of life.  My own dreams and interests have been filed away for some distant future where my children will have the independence I need to save my dwindling sanity.

I often think back to the days when Tim was alive and we functioned as a two-parent family.  I remember the stress I used to feel.  The sense of being overwhelmed by my children’s needs.  In retrospect, it was an easy time.  I had a partner to support me and co-parent by my side.  Weekends were a time to relax and connect, not just a 48 marathon of survival.  We thought we had a lifetime of weekends.  Then we didn’t.

I’m thankful for my children, of course.  Had Tim died before they were born, he would not have been able to fulfill his life-long dream of fatherhood.  I would likely not have had the opportunity to be mother and raise these beautiful beings into the world.  But there are still times that I dream of what life would have been like if it were just me, alone, with the time and space I need to fulfill my own wants and needs.  This is the dance of motherhood.  Neglecting your own humanity for the sake of launching well rounded, emotionally healthy, creative beings into the adult world.  We sacrifice, despite our feminism and progressive views on parenting.  We give all of ourselves because there is simply no other way to give children everything they need to thrive.  Because they need so. much.

I’m fortunate to have occasional breaks.  20 hours a week to sleep and socialize and stare into the middle distance while my children are in the care of my parents.  This is a luxury not afforded to all, and I am deeply thankful for the time.  But on days like today, when we are trapped by weather and circumstance and nap refusal, I’m pulled into the existential spiral of “forever”.  “THIS IS MY LIFE FOREVER.”

Even if it’s not.

Jack Byron is growing by the day.  His intellectual curiosity and creative expression are a beautiful convergence of Tim and I’s skills and capabilities.  He is slowly growing more independent, more emotionally mature.  He’s becoming an incredible little boy with a brain for engineering and art.  But first, he needs to learn to wipe his butt.

At 2.5, Claira Soleil is a powerhouse.  She bounces around with her intense dark brown eyes staring out under lengthening bangs.  Her energy and strength is endless.  A strong, independent  lady with limited sense of logic and zero emotional control.  She carries around my 10lb kettlebell like it’s a stuffed animal.  1/3 of her total body weight, lifted like a feather.  One day she will be a powerful force of change, love, intellect, compassion.  Maybe a body-builder.  Today she’s a pain in the ass.  Jesus Christ, I love that kid.

A tiny light I have found in the day is a Conor Oberst album that was released after Tim’s death (Salutations). Tim loved Conor.  He referred to him by his first name, like a good friend.  He once suggested we drive through a hurricane to make it to a concert we had bought tickets for on the other side of the state (it was cancelled).  We brought Jack Byron to a show in Milwaukee when he was just 2 months old.  Tim died to his “Cleanse Song”.  This man’s music was an integral part of Tim and our relationship.  So what a pleasure to come across a new album I had not yet heard.  To be able to play his music over our speakers and imagine how Tim would feel about his evolving style.  A little glimmer of emotional sunshine on a gloomy day.

There are five hours left until bedtime.  We will get through them through play and art and screen time and  fighting and crying, just as we do every other day.  We will get through today just like we get through every other day.  I will keep playing music and keeping myself stable.  And I will keep in my mind that this is not forever, even if it feels that way.  Today is just today. It may not be the best day I’ve had.  It’s not the worse either.

Dreams and Wonder Walls.

I had a vivid dream last night.  About Tim.  One of the few I’ve had of him since he died.

Once a week, my parents take my children for an overnight.  I use that night to socialize and clean, but mostly to sleep.  To sleep until my body tells me it is time to wake.  The kind of deep, refreshing sleep mothers are rarely afforded.  It is a gift and a privilege I appreciate deeply.

I can only clearly remember three dreams in which Tim appeared in my subconscious since his death.  This dream felt life-like.  To the point that when I woke up, it took me a full 30 minutes to process the sudden drop in my stomach that occurred when I realized that the dream was not my reality.  In my dream, it was Summer.  We were in a vacation rental with family and friends and a wide assortment of people I’m sure I’ve never met.  The sun was bright and warm, I could step barefoot out the sliding screen door onto soft grass.  Children were running wild, joyful in their freedom. And Tim was alive.  Not only was he alive, he had returned to life.  At some point in the early stages of loss, the terrible misunderstanding had been corrected, and Tim was, indeed ALIVE.  He looked healthy.  He was happy and content.  He was free of the anxiety that sometimes plagued him.  He was my Tim, his voice, his scent, his face with a small smile adorning the edges of his mouth and bright eyes filled with curiosity and love.

We spent the entire dream talking.  Talking about the heart attack, his hospitalization, his death, what he wanted with his new life.  Everything he may have felt and thought in that time.  All of the things I have ached to ask him, snuggled in him arms in a comfortable, sunlit room.  In dream time, it was hours, maybe days that I spent with him.  Just enjoying his company and feeling the sensation of happiness, lightness, security, that have eluded me since that Monday night in Brooklyn.  Feeling loved.

It’s the loss of Tim’s love that has been the most difficult for me to process in the 21 months that have passed since he left this realm.  While I continue to feel love for him, it is an unrequited hollowness that I carry in my core.  I can feel grateful for what I had.  12 years of love and connection to my person.  But the sudden loss of that love, that resonance and comfort, ripped away the illusions that many seem to effortlessly carry with them through the world.  I’m one of the broken people now.  And that might not necessarily be a bad thing.  It’s made me a much better therapist.  It’s given me that edge I longed for as an adolescent.  I’m stronger in myself and my own power than I ever thought imaginable.  I’m kind of a bad-ass bitch, if I do say so myself.  But, oh, does it sting.

I was told early in the grief process that I would have no difficulty finding another love.  It’s a well-meaning encouragement I can imagine myself telling someone else in another life.  I was not offended to hear it, but I’m not quite sure I believe it.  I’m a naturally loving person with giant steel walls barricading some deep part of myself.  I’d gladly sell the blueprints and materials to the US Government.  They are not easily broached.

Love is a risk.  Human connection, while vital to our survival, brings the terrifying threat of future hurt.  While I may be partially dead inside, there is a good part of me that is growing and thriving in beautiful ways.   I’m not sure I can risk the destruction that this garden I’m cultivating.

But does that mindset benefit the person I strive to be?  Probably not.  While the possibility of dying alone in Hopewell House, surrounded by beautiful things and the many cats I will likely adopt once my children are grown, it not the worst demise I can imagine, it’s not necessarily the end I would like to see to my life.

Time will tell.

My dream of Tim allowed me to exist in the alternate reality I have fantasized about since it ended.  It felt freeing to feel that brand of hope and happiness flooding my system.  The innocence of an existence in which everything works out as you had hoped.

This morning brings a grief hangover.  The biting harshness of a pre-dawn January morning.  The reminder of just how alone I truly feel without him.  It exposes the walls I have built up around myself.  The layers of protective materials, reinforced with trauma and fear.  But it allows me to see how and why the walls were constructed.  To get up-close and personal with these towering barricades that protect and isolate my heart.  My inner-therapist sees this as a good thing.  An opportunity.  My inner-human is pissed.

It may be time to start working on these walls.  Chipping away to expose their weaknesses.  They are not very good for my environment and create a hazard for the humans that may attempt to circumvent their boundaries.  They are built with fear and pain.  They may or may not truly be serving me in my path forward.

I don’t really believe in walls anyway.

Reflections on Another Year

 

The holidays can be a triggering time for anyone struggling with life’s realities.  Grief, poverty, addiction, abuse, divorce, mental illness, general malaise.  Whatever demons lurk in the periphery of your daily consciousness.

Coming into the trailing days of 2018 has had me thinking about the life I’m in now.  20 months out.  50 years away.  35 minutes ago.  However long it’s been in whatever time-space continuum we continue to inhabit.

With the aggressively merry season of joy and peace finally fading.  As the sun returns.  I’m feeling the weight of the many emotions I sit with.

Christmas is a difficult time of year for a solo-parent.  There is intense pressure to make it a magical, joyous time.  Not for any cultural and external force really, but just for these beautiful and pure little children who WANT to feel that sparkling excitement and embrace the light.  Christmas, for me, triggers the realities of what used to be and what is.  Our one-parent-two-child household and all the responsibilities that lie on me to make that function.  The memories of a time when the holidays did not contain this dragging grayness.  The person who should be with us through it all.

I’m working to stay in the present and focused on the potential ahead.  I’m thankful for my little place in the world.  I’m open to whatever this future may bring.  I’m broken and beaten and still a bit ragged around the edges. I know myself and my world on a deeper level than I’ve ever encountered.  I have a lot to learn.  I’m still figuring all of this out.

The changes I have already encountered in life #2, my home, professional identity, personal life, social circles, daily patterns and activities, have been a seismic shift for 20 months.  I’ve found my way into a new rhythm.  My kids are settled, contented, trusting of the existence we have drifted into.  New normal is in full swing and feeling comfortable and promising in many ways.  And dark and foreboding in others.  But that’s ok.

Things I have realized in the past year:

1. I don’t like IPAs.  Tim liked IPAs. I don’t have to buy IPAs anymore if I don’t want to.

2. I’m just bad at doing laundry.  I really don’t care about it very much.  It’s not because I have a coin-operated laundry room in the basement, I just don’t really like to do laundry.

3. While my genetics and hypothyroidism do contribute to my chronic struggle with weight, most of that has had to do with my own patterns and behaviors.  It’s on me to change that.   I have the capacity to do so.

4. I’m very snobby about sheets and I can accept that about myself.

5. I’m still 100% positive that there is no higher power controlling our existence.  Like, I’m CERTAIN, guys.*

*(but, you know, you have the right for feel and believe whatever is true for you because that’s totally your truth and I totally get that.)

6. Even more than his presence, personality, motivations, intellectual curiosity, and co-parenting, I miss the love I shared with Tim.  That’s been that hardest thing to process and one of the last doors I’ve opened up.  The loss of loving and being loved.  It’s a very achy wound.

7. I really truly am trying my hardest to be everything I need to be.

8.  I’m doing fine.

 

2019 will arrive in a week.  I’m not sure what it will bring, but I know it will bring new perennial beds.  I know it will bring opportunities.  It will bring whatever it will bring, and I’m strong enough to handle whatever that may be.

(ps, so are you.)

 

 

Thanksgiv….meh…whatever.

dead turkey

(I didn’t take this picture but I wish I did.  Content Warning: gratuitous whining.)

They always say the first holidays after the death of a loved one are the worst.  “They” being bloggers and Medium contributors and people offering unsolicited advice.  Last Thanksgiving was difficult.  I was still in the early battles of grief, alternating between numbness and despair and rage.  It was all I could do to get through the holidays, and I was deeply relieved to enter January and be able to pick myself out of the season of merriment and joy and land squarely in the season of isolation and death.  That was nice.

Having passed the one year mark and moved forward in life, I had hoped that this holiday season would be better.  I had hoped that the happiness that I spent the summer re-capturing would snowball forward into the holidays, and, for a while, it was.

Then I got sick.  Really sick.  Not, like, “Cancer sick” (that’s probably next year), but sick.  Flu symptoms hit me like a truck on Friday and on Monday I was diagnosed with not just Mononucleosis, but Strep too!  Happy Holidays everyone!

I’ve never really been one to do “sick”.  I’ve always taken after my father, and his father who joined the logging camps at the age of 15, and just buckled down in the face of a mild-moderate illness.  Fluids?  Rest?  Honey?  Sure, absolutely, that makes total sense.  Whining and self pity and cowering under the covers?  Fucking spare me.  Get over yourself.  Go knock down a tree and blow your nose.  I don’t want to hear about it.

In fact, in the past 18 months, I’ve only gotten sick once.  I’ve been running on pure adrenaline, cortisol and caffeine.

But not this time.  Time for the holidays?  Feeling hopeful?  Time to get really fucking sick.

So today I’m feeling very sorry for myself.  The irony of the situation is hilarious and rage-inducing.  While the Strep is slowly clearing with the miracle of penicillin, the Mono will require rest to heal.  Rest.  Hahahahahaha, “REST”!  I don’t “rest”, my friends.  As one daycare provider put it, I do not have “quiet children”.  I have run-nonstop-and-trash-the-house children.  I have brilliant, energetic, vibrant children with wild, sparking eyes.  I have children who will likely save the world and kill me in the process.

I’m also missing out on spending time with family and eating my incredible, homemade Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie, because even walking to the kitchen to make a smoothie completely drains me of any energy I have.  What. The. Shit.

On a deeper level, I’m experiencing some re-traumatization.  When Tim was dying and in the days after his death, my parents and friends took care of the children.  Claira was still nursing at the time, and our unexpected separation added another level of pain and despair to the situation.  So even though I have incredible parents and a wide network of friends to help me care for my wild ones, I’ve been having flashbacks of the long stretch of time I was unable to care for my children in the aftermath of tragedy.

And, of course, as always, I miss Tim.  I miss having a co-parent.  I miss having a partner. On the nights that I was waking with night-sweats and chills and fever dreams, I missed having another adult in the house just to make sure everything was ok.  I miss his body in my bed (the urn doesn’t do it for me).  I miss his comforting voice.  I miss snuggling against him and watching SNL on Sunday night, even when the writing is bad.  I miss his laugh.  I miss his presence.  I need him right now.  I NEED him.  But he’s not here.  And that hurts.

So fuck Thanksgiving this year.  Fuck everyone else’s happiness. Sure, I have plenty to be Thankful for.  Sure, it can always be worse.  But this sucks, and I’m just going to sit in it and wallow for a while.  Go enjoy your turkey, turkeys.

18 Months

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Today marks 18 months since the night that Tim slipped out of this world and into the realms of the unknown.  1.5 years since the last time I heard his voice and gazed into his occupied eyes.  It’s incredible to think of how much has changed in the past 18 months.  We live in a different state, in a home of our own.  I have a new career.  A different car.  The kids are older.  Claira has spent more of her life without her father than she did with him.  We have a new routine, a new normal that makes up our day-to-day existence.  We, the children and I, live a different life we would have never imagined with Tim.  New friends.  New experiences.  New plans.  The alternate reality that emerged from the darkest timeline.

There is something about these anniversaries, these marks in time, that force me to reflect on where we were and where we are.  Its strange to think of the person I have become in this short period of time.  The numerous transitions and rapid growth I have been forced to undergo.

At the same time, our lives have also started to settle at 18 months out.  The new normal is in full swing, with socks to find, and lunches to pack, and the tedious, predictable rhythms of life with kids.  I feel privileged to feel the boredom and restlessness of a mundane life in a white house in a quiet neighborhood.  While my stress may spike over toddler screams and missing mittens, I’m not being asked whether I should keep my husband on life support.  Nobody’s sick.   Nobody’s dying.  Life is mercifully dull.

The grief waves still come regularly.  Usually at night, after the kids have fallen asleep.  When I’m alone, on my couch, watching TV or folding laundry.  The loneliness will hit me like a wrecking ball, the re-realization that he really truly is gone.  My brain will turn inside out and the heaving sobs wreck my stomach and lungs.  For a moment, I’m drowning.  Unable to breathe.  Physical and emotional agony pulsing through like electrical currents.

Then it passes.  I return to the baseline low-grade depression I spend much of my existence paddling through.

Life is manageable.  Sometimes it’s good.  Great even.  Sometimes it’s difficult.  Most of the time it’s fine.

I keep pushing through, focusing on what can be done with what I have.

The kids are happy.  Byron talks about Papa regularly.  Claira struggles to understand what exactly a Papa is.  Her memories of Tim exist through pictures and stories.  As time rolls on there will be more to unpack, uncovered grief to process.  But for now, they are happy to snuggle and eat snacks and decorate our home for the holidays with construction paper cutouts.

Life goes on, and we keep living.

18 months and a lifetime.

 

Health

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Health and physical wellness has been something that I’ve always had some level of focus on.  My weight has been a challenge for me since childhood, and for as long as I can remember, I have engaged in regular physical exercise and eating healthy food.

When Tim was alive, I focused on my own health and constantly encouraged him to take care of his own.  Family walks on the weekends and healthy whole-food dinners.  I pestered him regularly to finally go get his yearly physical, which like most men his age, he brushed off as unnecessary.  I pestered him to go the gym, which seemed impossible with the crushing responsibility of his 60+ hour work week and the constant needs of our babies.  We assumed he was healthy.  I constantly pushed him to be more mindful of what he ate and exercise more.  In retrospect it likely would not have prevented the inevitable genetic build up of cholesterol that ultimately caused the 100% blockage of his LAD, but maybe.  I try not to spend too much time thinking about it.  It’s painful.

What I DO think about, however, is what will take me out.  Here is a comprehensive list of everything I have diagnosed in myself over the past 12 months and the actual causes of my “symptoms”:

Stomach Cancer (Stomach bug)

Colon Cancer (Same stomach bug)

Skin Cancer (normal mole cluster)

Breast Cancer (PMS)

Multiple Sclerosis (Sleep Deprivation)

Brain Cancer (2 day stress headache)

Enlarged Spleen (tweaked side muscle)

Pancreatic Cancer (no reason, it just seemed about right)

 

As you can see, I’m a bit paranoid that I’m going to die.  (Of cancer, specifically.  Don’t ask me why, it’s just what my brain always goes to).

When I told a friend about my list she looked at me and asked “Don’t you think it might be helpful to talk to a therapist about this?”  and I was like “lolololol. Probably.”

I should probably follow up on that.

But the problem is that I CAN’T die, because if I die, my kids would be orphans and nobody deserves that.  It would be too tragic for words.  Everyone would be sad forever.  So I can’t die.

So, guys, I’m trying really hard not to die.

And my current approach to this is to focus on my own health.

The thing is, there is no guarantee that I won’t die. I mean, I WILL die, I just would prefer to die a long time from now…so I’m doing what I can to take the steps within my control not to die young.  I started by cutting out refined sugar and alcohol entirely for a month.  I then began adjusting my diet to be comprised almost exclusively of vegetables, fruits, whole milk dairy, healthy fats, small amounts of whole grains, and lots of protein.  I’ve been working with a wellness coach to influence and motivate my choices.  I’ve also begun to include more cardiovascular and strength training into my weekly routines.  And it’s working.

I’m feeling more energetic and focused.  I’m losing fat and gaining muscle.  I’m feeling better in my skin.  I’m reducing the gravitational force against my joints.  I’m making it happen.

The thing is, raising young children by yourself is fucking exhausting.  And the best way for me to better care for them is to better care for myself.  So I’m doing that.  I’m focused, motivated, engaged, accountable.  I’m moving forward with intention.  I’m doing everything I can to live the long, healthy life that my children deserve.  I’m looking forward to what this process will bring.  It feels good to feel good.

I’m pretty sure I don’t have cancer.

For now at least.

I’ll take it.

Apple Hand Pies for When You Finally Get Your Shit Together

 

I haven’t been baking much lately.  Mostly because I rarely eat refined sugar now.  Isn’t that pretentious?  I don’t care, it’s working for me.

It’s officially fall.  The foliage is at it’s peak and our front porch is piled with festive orange pumpkins.  We’ve all settled into our new routines and responsibilities and you know what guys?  I’m finally getting my shit together.

Kind of.

So today, looking at the pile of apples in our refrigerator crisper drawer, I decided to make a festive seasonal treat.  I mean, might as well try.

 

Apple Hand Pies for When You Finally Get Your Shit Together

2 All Butter Pie Crusts

6-8 handpicked organic apples or whatever

1/3ish cup sugar

Cinnamon

Ground Ginger

 

Make a pie crust.  You can use this recipe.  Don’t use a store bought crust, you know it offends me.

Finely dice apples and mix in sugar and spices.  You can experiment with this.  Don’t live your life based on what random recipe blogs tell you to do, you are a grown adult now.

Use a *wide mouth* mason jar lid to cut rounds out of the rolled pie crust.  It’s so quirky!

Put a spoonful of apples in the center of each round.  Wet the edges of the crust and press another round of dough over the top.  I use a fork to seal it.  It’s kind of cute but also super lazy.  Also use the fork to stab some holes in the top.  Pretend they are the entitled white men of the Senate who have wronged you.  Kidding not kidding but kidding. (lololol, so funny, right FBI?)

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until browned on the bottom.

Cool and eat in reasonable single serving portions.

Or shove them all in your mouth.

I’m not here to judge you for your life choices.  We’re all trying.

 

 

 

Work and Life

It’s been a very busy few weeks with back to school.  Not just because Byron is now back in his pre-school routine, but because I have returned to work full time.

The last time I worked full time, I was a married, childless twenty-something living in Somerville, MA.  For four years I commuted an hour to the South Shore to work at a therapeutic school as a Clinician and Music Therapist.  I loved my job, but Tim and I were struggling to make ends meet as the price of living in the greater Boston area rose.  Tim got a job offer in WI, we moved a few months later, and I struggled to find my professional footing in the new city.

Because Jack Byron came so quickly and easily into our lives, I did not have a chance to establish a career path for myself before his birth.  So I focused on being a mother.

Being a stay-at-home mom was not something that I ever planned to be.  At Mount Holyoke, I was made to believe that such a path was a waste of my intellect and education.  My creative energy felt lost in the endless days of diapers and board books and stroller walks.  I established a small private practice, which kept a foot in the professional world and contributed to our family finances, but mothering my two children became my focus.

A big part of this choice was our situation.  Tim was working 60+ hours a week, and we shared one car.  Childcare in Madison was astronomical, and 40+ hours a week for two kids would have negated any pay I might have brought home.  I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to focus on my children and put hot dinners on the table every night, so that’s what I did.  I was a stay-at-home mom with a long line of letters after her name and a mountain of student loan debt.  And it was ok.

After Tim died, I had to stay home out of pure necessity.  I was not in a mental space to work as a therapist.  My mood was volatile and my trauma was easily triggered.  I didn’t have the energy or focus needed to sustain a clinical practice.  I wanted to make sure my kids were ok.  The finances allowed it.  So I continued to be a stay-at-home-single-mom.

 

This summer, though, life started to shift.  I started to feel grounded and motivated.  I had learned how to reclaim some sense of happiness and my post-traumatic stress responses decreased.  I began to feel suffocated in the endless day-to-day monotony of a child-centered existence.  Nobody appreciated the hot dinners I put on the table anymore.  I was left alone at night with my thoughts.  There was no adult in my home to share my day with, to ask me how I was, to care for me in any small way.  I started to feel that being alone with my children 24/7 was no longer beneficial to any of us.  So I sat down with a glass of wine and updated my resume.

 

I was not sure what kind of position I would find in this area, or what the pay might be.  I planned to focus on private practice, which would allow me the time and flexibility to continue working the other part-time job I’ve held since last August.  But one day a position fell out of the sky, and I went for it.

And I got it.

So here I am, several weeks later.  I work full time as a Guidance Counselor at the local elementary school my kids do/will attend.  I. Love. It.  While I do not have the degree or license normally expected of the position, my background and experience is a combination that lends itself perfectly to such a position.  I’m energized at the end of the day instead of mentally depleted.  I’m excited by the work that I’m doing.  Better yet, my KIDS are doing better.  We have a sense of routine and structure that was lacking before, we appreciate our time together more.  We are more whole.

I’m proud of myself for being able to support my family in this way.  For taking the scary step into the unknown territory of full-time-single-working-mom. For reestablishing myself socially and professionally.

It feels like a big step, and important step, a step that needed to happen.

Never would I have imagined in this position, in this town, in this job, in this life.

But here we are.

We are making it work.  It’s working for us.

8 Years

 

(Pictures from September 4th, 2010)

8 years ago Tim and I wed in a ceremony overlooking the green mountains of Vermont.  At our sides and around us were a collection of dear friends and family, each of whom ended playing a vital role in Tim’s hospitalization, death, and my recovery in the aftermath.  Matt called 911 the night of the heart attack, and sat by my side through the night at the hospital.  Kelli was the first to arrive at the Emergency room.  Dave was my confidant in the hospital.  Liz drove through the night to be with him on his last day.  Sam drove me out of Brooklyn the day after his death, then flew to Madison to help me pack away our life as we had known it.  Amanda met with me two mornings after to help me process when my shock left me detached and dissociative.  Hannah was with me after my move back to Vermont, with cider and lemon cakes and companionship.  Our family and friends surrounded me and our children with constant love and support.  The people there on that beautiful day were the people there on the worst days, and for that, for community, I am eternally grateful.

 

On our wedding day, two storm systems collided and evaporated in the night, leaving blue skies and only a gentle shower to wish us luck.  Our families and friends held stones gathered from rivers in New Jersey and Vermont, and blessed them with love and positive intention for our union.  We danced to Bob Marley’s “Is This Love” and ate the maple cake I had baked from scratch.  The event space was filled with flowers grown, collected, and arranged by loved ones.  Banners created by a selected few displayed words of intention for our marriage.  Love, Community, Honor, Hope, Joy, Friendship, Kindness, Growth.  Every detail of our wedding day reflected the beauty, connection, and love we were to bring into our marriage.

 

I have been struck lately by how fortunate I was to have the marriage I had with Tim.  We did not have a perfect connection all the time.  We both had strong personalities and wildly different backgrounds that sometimes caused disconnection and hardship in our partnership.  But we worked hard to work together, to be together.  We chose each other every day because we wanted to be with one another.  Our friendship, our mutual respect, the ways in which we pushed one another to be better people, to pursue our passions, to live a life we wanted, that was special.  We had a bond that not everyone, married or not, gets to experience.  I met a soul mate at 21 and shared 12 years of adventure, growth, and joy with him.  I’m lucky.

 

I often wonder how our relationship and marriage would have evolved over time.  What would we look like today?  20 years from now?  Where would we be and what would we be doing?  Would we still be happy?  When Tim died, it had been growing stronger for years.  We were in a great place.  In some ways, it makes the pain worse, to have lost that joy, that momentum.  In other ways it makes it easier.  He left on a high.  We had not yet peaked, but we were doing well in every way.  He died deeply and unconditionally loved.

I wonder if love will ever come my way again.  A different kind of love, likely, if it happens.  Regardless, I’m certain I will die loved.  Whenever that happens.  By the people who stood next to and before us on that glorious day.  By the people who have come into our/my life since.  I no longer have the love of companionship and partnership.  I no longer have that incredible man.  But I still have my people.

And people matter.