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Working On It

I had a conversation with my daughter today about my grief recovery journey; my consideration of what comes next, dating, career, etc. Some people move forward very quickly, and others can take decades to come back. It's 2 and half years now that my husband passed away, and she had a hard time understanding why, especially since I spoke so often and openly about being very unsure the marriage would go the distance. Had my husband lived, and we remained status quo, we would have been married 24 years just this past May.


My answer to her was short, but deep. And the setting wasn't quite right to really unpack my response, as we were sitting in the cafe at our local Costco. "I didn't agree to this and it wasn't on my terms."


If we had gotten divorced at some point, we both would have been part of the deconstruction. We would have made plans, and accommodations for things, we would have been able to mentally prepare for the changes and allow ourselves to leave on solid ground.


But it didn't happen that way. Though my husband had been ill for a long time, and I had been told many times over to get his affairs in order, he kept beating the odds. While the basics were in order, or so I thought, when he did actually pass away it was like someone had swiftly pulled the rug out from under my feet - but the rug wasn't covering floor. It was more like patching a hole, and I found myself falling down deep, at first in a freefall of disbelief and then desperately trying to grab hold of the roots and rocks in the walls of the dark shaft that had, and still doesn't seem to have a bottom.


There was a lot left undone.


And now, rather than working on it together, everything is now on my shoulders. I know I'm not the first widow to suddenly have bear the weight of the family alone. I know I'm not the first to be stuck and saddled with responsibilities I wasn't entirely prepared for. And I know I'm definitely not the first to be left bewildered and somewhat angry, confused, and mentally exhausted.


Being a caregiver to someone in decline is a complex state of being. You want to do everything you can to ease the pain of your partner, and to help them help themselves as that is part of their journey as well - surrendering your care totally can be pretty dehumanizing. At the same time, you have to balance losing yourself. Your life and plans go on hold and new things take priority. And sometimes,


you get pushed across a line you didn't expect, and you can't help but wonder...is this it? Is this what the rest of our lives will be? And then you feel guilty. And then you overaccomodate, and the cycle starts again.


There's also a quiet and insidious relief to being a caregiver though. For all the things you thought you'd get to, the goals you thought you'd achieve (or rather, didn't), they really don't matter so much anymore. You've got other things to worry about. No one will ever fault you for not showing up, for having to cancel, for backing away because they know your energies are needed elsewhere. It's like a hall-pass for your life for a while.


And now...it's just me. And while I do still have my children, my home, my job, and my responsibilities - just like everyone else, I have no "extra", no additional obligations, no reason to be on call anymore. The only thing holding me back is...me.


After so many years of being able to put "me" in a box on the shelf...well, that box is going to take a lot of unpacking. I'm now 53 years old and essentially starting over. I'm not sure if I have the luxury of decades and decades ahead of me - as much I'd like to believe so. Even if I do live another 50 years, will they be healthy ones? But maybe now the ramp up won't take as long. If this is my do-over, I need to move quickly and adeptly, not letting the experiences I've had and the wisdom I've gained over the past few decades go to waste.


It's a jump start opportunity - it's time to leap or be left behind. Good grief, it took me two years to pick out paint swatches and at least six months to select a new stove.


Someone may need to shove me off the ledge.

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