Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Wow, yesterday was brutal. I felt like I was back in those terrible early months after T's death, where I couldn't think straight for the emotional pain I was feeling. It wasn't the same pain of loss, exactly; it was more like the hopelessness of seeing no way out of a nightmare. Of course, my job is nowhere near a real nightmare -- I have a wonderful supportive boss, all the flexibility and freedom I need, and the opportunity to use my brain every day. So what is so bad? What triggered yesterday's melt-down? (All is not exactly hunky-dory today, but I do feel much better, and capable of slogging through the work for at least a few more months.)
PMS aside, I think it might have been a combination of things. Last week I was given a new project to take on, ironically the type of project I've been asking for for a very long time (years!). But I was already so far gone in my disengagement that having to commit to something new, summoning all the needed energy, motivation and focus, felt beyond my abilities. I don't doubt my skills and capabilities to do the job, I told my boss, I doubt my motivation. (See? I am so fortunate to have a boss I can say that to, and not feel at risk for my job!) Committing to something that just doesn't feel in line with my life's purpose anymore felt so wrong. My essential self was screaming "NO!"
Of course, it probably didn't help to have spent so much time in spreadsheets, planning and plotting how I'll be able to afford not working. Knowing it's possible for some period of time makes it very seductive to imagine quitting when the going gets tough.
And on the "quitting, doing something new" side of the equation, I've been a software professional my whole career, pretty much all my adult life. That's more than 25 years of identity I'm considering stepping away from. What am I, if not a program manager? Will I be able to add enough value to the world if I don't leverage the experience and knowledge I've gained over these 25 years? Not knowing where I'm pointing yet, and contemplating jumping anyway, was really scary.
So I have reassured my essential self that I am serious about doing something different. I just need to get to know her better, to understand all of what is meaningful and energizing to me, before making any significant moves.
If you have gone through a career transition, what was it like for you? How did you know what the right next step was?
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I spend hours in the evenings with spreadsheets and budgets, estimates and what-if scenarios, trying to find a way to feel comfortable walking away from my job. How long can I be unemployed? Do I downsize the house, and if so, how much? I feel unwilling to give up the luxury of this house, but I can cut my expenses in half if I downsize and do after-school care for B instead of have the nanny. Why don't I just do it?
I spent much of today crying on the job. Is that grounds for termination? I talked with HR, I talked with my boss. I met with a good friend tonight to review my many spreadsheets. The prudent thing to do is stay at this job until the next step becomes clear. When will that be? My boss and I agreed that with a new project, you need a couple months under your belt before even knowing if it's got the potential for being satisfying and/or engaging. Can I get through the next 2 1/2 months, until January? I have a small stock grant that vests at the beginning of February, and the final class in a certification program is held in March. Can I make it that far? Do I even care about professional certification in a profession I don't know that I'll remain in? Oh, I can't wait to be on the other side of this turmoil and see how it all turns out.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Since the Grief and Growing weekend in August, I've felt like I've turned another significant corner in my grieving. I feel done with active grieving, and my life feels normal again. I don't automatically cringe when seeing a happy family together, or feel the urge to share my story with new acquaintances. I am more sensitive to how that story makes others feel, and I just don't need to be heard so much anymore. Sure, my life is not what I want it to be, but it is what it is, and I'm comfortable in it. There are many positive things about it, including being able to make my own decisions, having quiet evenings to do my own thing, and being able to develop a really strong and secure bond with B. Of course, it's lonely, and I don't want to be in this situation forever. B has taken to asking "Why are we all alone?" and I think it comes from a need to hear me say again "because Daddy died".
Our anniversary was on September 21, and I just so happened to be having dinner with T's sister, father and father's wife that night. We toasted to the event, ruefully and with a smile. A few weeks later I set aside an evening and pulled out the wedding album and video, and reminisced about that happiest day of my life in 2002. Interestingly, I also was reminded of one or two things I didn't like about the wedding -- how T frowned and gestured to me as I came down the isle (OK, so the bouquet was bouncing somewhat dramatically), how I forgot to get a photo of our hands together in our wedding rings (I loved T's hands and have no real pictures of them). How our life together wasn't always what I had wanted or hoped it would be. But it was what it was, and I still sometimes miss him so much it aches.
So if my active grieving is complete, what's next? Well, the work issue has really come to a head. I have such a hard time going to work, focusing on work, caring about anything I do. The only thing that motivates me is helping others, not letting others down. My boss's requests keep me productive, otherwise I would just drift away and forget all my commitments. What am I going to do?
I've engaged a life coach to help me through this crisis. It's painful and difficult to live in the moment, but exciting and energizing to visualize doing something with my time that matters to the world and brings me joy. And I know it's out there -- I just have to do the work to find it.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This weekend, B and I went to a camp for grieving families. There were a number of people there mourning the loss of a parent, a few who had lost siblings, a reasonable group of those who had lost a husband (no widowers, of course), and one family who had lost a teenager. B and I had gone last year, when it was an intense, painful, exhausting experience, though also incredibly supportive, loving and nurturing. This time, I wasn't expecting such intensity, and my intention was to work on bringing T forward into my life now and into the future. And it wasn't nearly as intense, though the love and support was still very evident.
Driving home, I found myself thinking a lot about the differences and similarities in various types of losses. In a sad coincidence, the stepmother of the teenager who died was a high school classmate of mine, which brought into sharper focus what it must feel like to wake up every morning knowing that your child is gone. Maybe I'm comparing to make myself feel better, but it seems to me that my loss is easier to "get over". T and I were together 8 years, married 5. I loved him with all my heart, but I'm not sure I would have described him as my best friend, or my soul mate. That saddened me, but it may make it easier for me to imagine being with someone else, perhaps finding what I felt was missing with T. What brings me to tears these days is the loss that B suffers -- the loss of a parent, and especially before she ever really knew him. He can't be replaced in her life, nor can his role in my life as the co-parent of a child.
For the loss of a child, and the loss of a parent, no matter what you do, you can't replace that person. You can have more children, but they will never be that particular child, with that child's future. And you can develop a close relationship with an in-law or other parent-aged person, but he or she won't be the one who taught you to ride a bike, or fed you soup when you were sick. They won't ever know you like your parent did.
Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I believe that I can "replace" or recreate major parts of my relationship with T. Yes, T and I had history together, but really, was it that much? We knew each other for most of my thirties, but as activity companions for the first half of our time together, rather than in any very deep way. We didn't grow up together, make many major life decisions (other than to have a child!) together. Our lives were intertwined, but not our deepest identities.
T's death leaves a huge hole in B's life that can never be completely filled by any new husband of mine. T's death also brought me to a close, personal relationship with loss and the eternal questions of life and death. And his death leaves me lonely and struggling as a sole parent. But it does not leave me unable to find another life partner, another person to BE my husband.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Tomorrow B and I leave for 11 days on the beach in Rhode Island. Hurray! We have no agenda, no schedule -- just bathing suits, seafood, and a stack of books.
The genesis of this now annual trek across the country is a silver lining story. As I have mentioned, T had a son, D, from a previous relationship. D's mother grew up in Philadelphia, and her family owned property across the street from the beach in Rhode Island. (As I'm getting tired of using a single letter naming convention, let me call her Tall Blonde, or TB, because she is in fact quite tall, and blonde.) TB and I were always friendly when T was alive, but T was the primary conduit for planning and execution of all things related to D, so I didn't have much of a relationship with her. She was always very gracious and thoughtful, though, saving D's baby things in case T and I had a child, then welcoming B with open arms and no apparent jealousy.
Then T died. Instantly, TB and I were alone in the world, as it were, raising the children of T without him. We quickly formed a bond not unlike close family, helping each other out, celebrating holidays and birthdays together, ensuring the kids have a strong sibling relationship because each was the only sibling the other would have. Admittedly it's a little weird, and I wouldn't have necessarily picked her as a close friend in other circumstances, but I so appreciate TB's straightforwardness, lack of drama and emotional baggage, and open-hearted generosity. (What do I call her? My parallel parent? Co-parent or parenting partner sound too intimate. I haven't found the right terminology to properly explain our relationship.)
That first summer after T died, TB invited B and me to join her and D at the family place in Rhode Island. Sure, I said, feeling like it wouldn't matter if I were on the moon, I was so numb. But I had a very pleasant time, being pampered a little by her family, people who had met T a few times but didn't have the same experience of loss that TB and I did. Last year we went again, since it worked so well the first time. By this year, it's become an annual event, and one I am very grateful for.
I can't help but wonder, though, what will happen when I'm in a relationship again. I imagine we'll stop going ... and I'll be a bit sad. But in a strange way, I can imagine I might be glad, too, to have something else to do with a new love, putting the haven I needed after T died behind me. But I'll cross that bridge when I get there.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
This weekend I attended my 30th high school reunion. I had a very nice time catching up with people, but as expected, I felt a little let down and blue driving home this afternoon. At the party Saturday night I talked about losing T, but not exclusively. I found myself leading with it, then changing the subject after a sentence or two. With people I hadn't known well in high school, I sometimes didn't even feel compelled to share it at all. I was envious of the married couples, but there were plenty of divorced and a few never-married people to help remind me that not everyone is in a perfect relationship. I guess what made the weekend bittersweet was the reminder that the last time I really knew these people, I had my whole life in front of me, and I was full of optimism and certainty that it would be a grant adventure. And yes, it has been a grant adventure for the most part, but darn it, it's half over now! And on that subject...
Tomorrow is my 48th birthday. I don't like celebrating my birthday alone. Luckily, D's mother is throwing me a birthday dinner, bless her heart. I love being a little pampered, and she does a nice job. She's bringing dinner over, and we'll have wine and there will be presents and I will miss T but not unbearably so. I haven't decided what to get for myself for my birthday; it may be permission to buy nothing, since I don't NEED anything and I'm becoming less and less of a consumer over the years. What I really want is for someone else to organize a party for me with all my friends, or to take B for the weekend so I can go away for solitude and spa pampering. Maybe I'll get myself organized enough to make the party happen next year, and come to think of it, the nanny is standing ready to take B for a weekend any time. If I pick a date, I can make that wish come true!
T was 48 when he died. Next year I'll be older than he ever was.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Tonight, I am happy. Unreasonably happy, perhaps. I'm not entirely sure why, other than having pulled off a successful birthday party for B and an evening BBQ with dear friends. Apparently, I love entertaining, and when things go well it fills me with contentment.
First, the birthday party. B turns four on Wednesday, and I have always tried to keep her birthday parties low-key. This is the third year without her Daddy, and I guess I've gotten used to him not being around. The first year, with him, was family. The second year, raw without him, a very close friend brought cupcakes and her family and carried me through the ordeal. The third year, I had a little more resilience but still asked our wonderful nanny to plan and purchase for the event. She brilliantly came up with a beach theme, and we had a wading pool and shells and visors and beach balls. And 3 friends, since B was turning 3.
This year, I was able to carry it on my own. We ended up inviting 5 friends even though 4 was the limit, because I really wanted to include B's best friend from preschool along with B's closest friends (really, MY closest friends!) from two of my moms' groups. We are fortunate enough to have a nice pool in the back yard, so I hired the daughter of a good friend, a certified life guard, and the party was a smashing success. What's not to enjoy about warm sun, a cool pool, pizza, and cupcakes?
Of course, the day was not without its challenges. B woke up complaining of a tummy ache, and after consuming half an English muffin and listening to a story, proceeded to lose the muffin on the hall carpet. Then she lay down and fell asleep. What to do? Cancel the party and attempt to reschedule? I called several of the invited guests, and got wonderful, thoughtful advice. I cried a little, too, thinking that if T were here, I would have someone to share the decision-making process with. In the end, B woke up from her short morning nap as chipper as a sandpiper, and off we went. Must have been something she ate, because she had no trouble enjoying her friends and the pool and two cupcakes.
She had a late nap by the time the last guests left (helping me clean up first -- what wonderful friends!). Then we zipped to the store for some fresh Alaskan salmon, and I BBQed salmon, sliced sweet potatoes and asparagus for the friends who introduced me to T. A warm evening on the patio, good food and company, wine and ice cream, and I'm overflowing with happy feelings. I made it through another milestone event unscathed, perhaps even with joy, and I sit here at my desk looking out the window at the half moon and counting my blessings.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Even though, as I mentioned in the prior post, I'm mostly feeling "back to normal" these days, whatever that may be, I still had a bit of a bumpy reentry coming back from vacation. Last year, arriving home from our annual Montana trip triggered a long, difficult sad period. We had missed our flight (yikes!) and rather than having the nanny pick us up at a reasonable time mid-day and keep B occupied and me company while I unpacked and she prepared us dinner, I had to call in a big favor from a friend to collect us from the airport late at night. We arrived home to a dark, very empty house, and my heart and soul felt dark and empty for what seemed like a long time afterwards.
This year, the effect was much lessened, but I still feel blah-ish. Our flight was delayed an hour or so, on the ground in Missoula while we waited for SFO visibility to improve, and I was fine. A dear friend who lives near the airport picked us up in our car, and I took her back to her place before heading home. No problem. The nanny had done the grocery shopping and was preparing a crock pot dinner as we arrived. Great! But it wasn't going to be ready in time for dinner. Huh. OK, I'll make quesadillas. Nope, we are out of refried beans and the nanny didn't pick up the shopping list before going to the store today. There was nothing else fresh in the house for dinner -- I had to thaw some leftovers. And that was enough to send me over the edge into testiness. What's the big deal? We'll have the crock pot meal tomorrow, and the leftovers were tasty and easy. But it was the disappointment, the mismatch of reality to expectation, that got to me. I had a grand vision of being taken care of, of not having to think or manage for a few short hours after being ON for nine days. It was painful to arrive in the kitchen 10 minutes before dinner time (and nanny quiting time) to discover that I had to take care of myself and B after all, that I had to manage. It was a trivial but recognizable echo of losing T suddenly and unexpectedly, after marriage and baby and the expectation of having a partner to share the care and management with. I am just hopeful that the after-effects won't linger this time.
Monday, July 5, 2010
B and I just returned from nine days in Montana, where much of T's extended family lives. I am very fortunate that B is such a great traveler, because I like nothing more than planning a trip, throwing a few things in a suitcase, and heading off to new adventures. This was a great trip, and I am very glad to be able to continue building our relationships with T's aunt, cousins, and their families. In some small way, I think I was responsible for the family reunion that occurred on a beautiful Montana lake last week, where 24 people ranging in age from 76 years to 3 weeks, all related by blood or marriage, spent time enjoying each other's company. It sometimes takes an outsider as catalyst to bring the blood relatives together. (Photo credit: Robin Spielberg)
While on the trip, I had a small but nice reminder of how far I've come on this grief journey. Sure I had moments of deep sadness when I reflected on T's absence, my loneliness, or the challenges of sole parenting, especially while traveling. But in the parking lot of our hotel early in our visit, there was a truck (this is Montana, after all) with "Just Married" messages decorating the windows. "How sweet", I thought. And went about my day. Later in the week, another Just Married vehicle appeared in the parking lot, and it was then that I realized I didn't get that zinger of pain, that visceral reminder of my widowed state. I'm not a fresh bruise, sensitive to everything. The wound is mostly healed, and I'm so thankful to have arrived at this state.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
I shared with my boss the other day my recent job interview experience. As I have said, I love my boss, and knew there would be no unpleasant consequences if she learned I was open to a new job. In fact I believe, as does she, that it's important for a boss to know when an employee isn't getting what she needs, so the boss can adjust the role as appropriate, and help find a new role if necessary.
I learned that my boss has identified me in the upcoming review cycle as ready for a new role within the company. That was comforting to hear, as I would like to stay at the company if I can. (It's easier, and I get lots of vacation for my tenure -- two important considerations!) But more importantly, I suddenly stopped feeling trapped, victimized by my job. Suddenly I felt like I was there by choice, not by necessity, and that gave me a whole new level of patience and resilience in the face of difficulty. "I can handle this! I know I won't have to do it forever, so it's OK for now." seemed to be my thought process. How powerful, how valuable! A lesson well worth remembering, that reframing a situation in terms of choice can make it much more bearable.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
It struck me recently that I'm really much more emotionally fragile at work than I used to be. I guess I was always emotionally invested in my job -- how well I felt I did, how I perceived others as valuing my contribution, how much I enjoyed my day-to-day tasks. But in the early days after T died, I really didn't care much about work. It was something to fill my days, it wasn't too taxing (luckily a lull at work coincided with my world falling apart), and I had no emotional energy left to worry about my career. Recently, though, I've started taking more of an interest, as I face the thought of spending most of my waking hours at work, doing something that doesn't really thrill me.
So I've been dissecting what isn't working for me. And a big piece seems to be related to partnership, collaboration, and engagement with a peer (or several) who cares like I do about what we're working on. Being the only one out in front leading the charge, or more commonly pushing a rope, just isn't satisfying for me. It's in fact exhausting. I know I could handle the rope-pushing better if there were one or more people pushing it right along with me, to strategize and sympathize and celebrate with. And that insight leads me to wonder if I'm looking to work to try and fill the partnership void in the rest of my life. It's not the only place I have relationships with adults, but it is the only place where those relationships are expected to produce something; where there is a commitment to see things through even if it gets tough (not unlike a marriage). Hmm, I guess that also says something about my orientation toward friends. I have a number of wonderful friends, but I think I always expect in the back of my mind to have them just disappear one day -- there's no formal commitment in friendship like there is in marriage, or a job title.
My boss recently gave me some positive feedback on how well I drive organizational change, and hearing that helped my attitude quite a bit. Knowing that what I'm doing is really hard, and valued, and recognized, makes a big difference. But why should it? I'm a grown-up. I should be able to take pride in my work knowing that I'm doing my best, whether others recognize it or not. Is this another symptom of the aftermath of grieving? Or a more fundamental need for validation?
I guess I was expecting a silver lining side effect of grief and loss to be a more inwardly-focused sense of accomplishment, and less worry about what others think. Life is short, after all, sometimes too short. Do what's right for you, and forget about what others think. If that is indeed a result of great loss, I'm still waiting for it to manifest for me.
Monday, June 21, 2010
And then the hiring manager called and said they weren't going to be making an offer.
Oh well, it means I don't have to make the hard decision. But it was disappointing not to be wanted. He gave me two reasons: first, my hands-on software project management experience is a little stale (which is one of the reasons I want to make a change), and second, the environment is more high-stress and difficult than he thought I could be happy in. I value his feedback, and accept his assessment of the degree of challenge, but still would have liked my first job interview in 13 years to have resulted in an offer. Now my confidence in the desirability and applicability of my skills and experience is a little less firm, and I'm tired already, imagining the effort involved in mounting a full-on job search. But I've started -- I reached out to another old boss for any referrals (he'll keep his eyes open) and a LinkedIn recommendation (he committed to posting one in the next week).
On a side note, I purchased a deck of oracle cards after I got back from Sedona, to have fun while exploring various avenues of spirituality. Twice during this job interview process I did readings asking "Should I take this job?" The first time, I got the "Practice, practice, practice" card. The second time, it was "Autumn". At the time, I didn't really understand how to interpret the readings, but in retrospect, it's very clear -- this was a practice round, expect to practice more, and be ready for a new job in the fall. Whether one believes in the magic of the cards themselves or not, the message is pretty obvious: I've got to work for what I want (practice) and the outcome will eventually be positive. Which is no different than what I've always known, and always experienced. But it was fun to get to that place again through a new path!
What do you think of oracle card readings?
Friday, June 18, 2010
I got to thinking the other day about how, while I'm not living the life I wanted to or expected to be living, I also probably wouldn't have gotten what I wanted even if T hadn't died, at least specifically around shared parenting and balanced personal time. Sure, it's an old story, and just about all women struggle with it. I would do well to remember, when I fantasize about other women's happy, intact families, that I would probably still have had a lot of weekend time with just me and B. T was a very active dad to his son D, which I was very much in favor of. I was proud of his dedication and commitment, and pleased to support him. Except when I wasn't... because there were occasions when I resented the time he spent on D, away from me and B. He mentioned once that it wasn't really fair -- if D were our child, instead of just his, he would be getting all sorts of brownie points from me for coaching basketball and baseball, going on cub scout camp-outs, taking D to birthday parties, and the like. Instead, as much as I wanted to be gracious and generous, it sometimes felt like he parented D and I parented B, and I didn't like it. In the very early days after B was born, I felt like we started developing a family identity, but somehow the coming and going of D (we had him every other weekday, and every other weekend) diluted the sense of wholeness, the sense of all being focused on the same thing together.
It also meant that often enough, on the weekend, T would be off coaching, or camping, and I would be home alone with B. Or at a mom's group play date -- I belonged to several because having company in the new world of parenting ended up being very important to me. And when we vacationed, it was the four of us. Other than those very early days and weeks when T was a very hands-on, equal partner in figuring out the newborn stuff, I don't remember much that involved just the three of us. Maybe things would have changed as B grew, and D's needs evolved as well, and again, I wouldn't have wanted T to have been a less involved parent. I guess it seemed to me at the time that he was more involved with D than with B, because he counted on me to carry the load with B, and as a much older child, D's needs were more time-consuming, or at least time-specific.
I raised the issue not long before T died. I felt a little petty doing so, because I was asking T to be more of an equal partner knowing that he had a whole additional responsibility in D. Maybe if I hadn't felt somewhat under-appreciated by T in general, I would have had more capacity to be OK with the lopsided situation. However, after that conversation, T started getting up in the mornings while I was showering to start B's morning routine. I would take over, usually during or just after the diaper change. It was a small thing, but it helped. I don't know what would have helped with the weekend situation; and it doesn't matter now.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
My job interview on Friday went fine, but not great. I liked most of the people I interviewed with, and believe I could enjoy working with them. The company is poised to do great things. With the first few people I talked to in particular, I felt I was less than compelling in my answers to the now-standard questions that start with "Tell me about a time when you..." I need to brush up on past projects, remind myself of what I did, how I did it, and what I learned. I got better at it by mid-way through, though for some of the questions it was hard to come up with positive answers. I feel like so many of my projects haven't end well, for various reasons (none of them my fault, of course).
I didn't feel the pull, the excitement to dig in and get started, that I want to feel when choosing a new job. Now I'm second-guessing my expectation to feel that ... is it still too soon to have that level of positive energy in response to a job? When I took my current role, 5 years ago after my then-current position was eliminated, I was SO not excited to do the job. I had been burned out by that previous position, my confidence shaken and my professional worth bruised, and all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock, or at least do something easy where the resulting value was clear.
In some ways I feel similarly now. My confidence isn't as badly shaken, but I'm not happy with my track record these last few years, even before T died. Too many projects that started and then fizzled; too much pushing a rock up hill only to watch it roll right back down when I paused to take a breath.
I know I should write thank you notes to the people who interviewed me, and call the hiring manager to ask all the questions I didn't have a chance to cover with him during our hour together. But I'm lazy, or mildly depressed, or just not interested enough right now. And I'm not sure they're going to want to pursue me, given my mixed performance during the interview.
I did reach out to one person at my current company today to ask for career move advice. He has a broad purview of the company, to know what might be available, and also a good perspective to help me clarify what I really want. Ready or not, willing or not, the job search begins in earnest.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I had a bad day at work today. I got so upset at one point that I had to take a walk outside or I would have burst into tears or exploded. I imagined my escape, considered just quiting, thought about the steps necessary to do a thorough, effective job search. Change is coming. It must -- I'll make it happen.
I've gotten several messages from the universe today that what is required will be provided. The title of this post came in my fortune cookie tonight. Unpacking a bag of hand-me-downs for B from a neighbor, an identical but one-size-larger Hana Andersen dress appeared; just the one B and I decided we needed to replace with a larger size. I just need to trust that the right opportunity will come along, and I will recognize it.
But I really hate being so emotional. Tears yesterday, big upset today; I'm usually on a more even keel than this. Maybe it's PMS.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
My dad has a good friend from college who he is still in close contact with. Avid skiers, Paul and his wife Marla retired to Wyoming 15 years ago or so. Before I started dating T, and in the early years after, I would visit Paul and Marla every winter, staying with them for a week of skiing and relaxation. They are wonderful people -- quirky, maybe even a little eccentric, but warm and generous. Paul in particular is a bit of curmudgeon, but I just really like him anyway. He's got a quick, almost bouncy energy, and he really seems to like me, which never hurts.
T and I had a very small wedding, but we had to invite Paul and Marla. It turned out our wedding day was their anniversary, so I've always felt a special kinship with their marriage.
Paul and Marla were in town this week for a mini-reunion of the college gang, and they asked if they could come see me and meet B. We arranged a rendezvous at my house at lunchtime today. I was excited to see them, but thinking about their visit this morning, I burst into tears in the shower. They are still married, still enjoying each other into old age, and I'm alone. They were our future, but no longer. On our joint wedding anniversary they have joy, and I have sorrow. Etc. etc. etc...
Sunday, June 6, 2010
This afternoon B and I met some friends at a local park, then headed to a pizza restaurant for dinner. These friends are from a new moms class I took when B was just a few weeks old, when we bonded over the challenges of nursing, napping, and whether or not to sleep train. We used to have a fairly frequent park play date on Friday afternoons, and I would always call T as B and I were driving home, letting him know we were on our way. After he died, I still went to those play dates, as I NEEDED the companionship, but heading home anticipating an empty house, having no one to call, knowing no one cared where we were and when we'd be home, was excruciating.
Tonight I felt an echo of that pain. It was great to spend time with my friends, I'm happy to see B getting more interested in other kids and start developing some rudimentary social skills, and it didn't even bother me when the conversation drifted into "how my husband does/doesn't help with the kids/house". But heading home to an empty house still stinks.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Things continue to be touch-and-go at work. The good days are enjoyable enough, but they're not as frequent as I would like. I've been quite busy lately, working on projects that are important in the grand scheme of things, but aren't big, sexy, meaty projects with stimulating, committed co-workers to collaborate with. As best as I and my boss can tell, our team will continue to run these important but focused, small-scale projects in the near term. And this kind of work just isn't doing it for me. I so want to be part of a team where everyone is in it together, pulling in the same direction, dedicated to project success, rather than often feeling like I'm pushing a rock up hill. Sure, it's a very important rock, and my boss and her boss really care about it, but no one else involved in the project would notice if I just stopped calling meetings, or asking for data, or checking up on status. Sigh.
So I've started looking for other opportunities at the company, as much as I would hate to leave my boss and co-workers. And even bolder than that, when an old boss looked me up a couple weeks ago, I said yes to an interview next week.
It's exciting to contemplate a change. I just don't know whether my lack of mojo is situational -- i.e. I'll feel better in a different role or company -- or systemic, as in nothing will help except time (I'm still healing) or a new career (I'm a different person now). Leaving my current role and company, where I have a solid reputation, an understanding boss, lots of seniority (read vacation time) and a 4-day-a-week schedule for something that may end up being no better and perhaps much worse, is frightening. How do I make a good decision, when there are so many unknowns?
Obviously, this change isn't driven by ambitions or career aspirations. So I plan to make the call on whether to jump ship (assuming I'm given the opportunity) entirely on gut instinct. How I feel inside, how much excitement and pull I feel toward the role, the company, and my potential new co-workers will be my guide. Leaving my current company at this time of year is a bad financial move because stock vests and bonuses pay out in late August; if I find that I don't care that much about the money it's a good move. I have loved my 32-hour work week and feel like I would break down if I couldn't have Fridays to do my own thing; if I can't get that schedule at the new company and I find I don't care that much, it's the right move. If the money or the schedule get in the way, I will take that as a sign to keep looking, or hunker down and wait a bit more.
I realize I am amazingly fortunate to have the job I do, and even that much more fortunate to have the luxury to contemplate my career navel at length, as I am doing. A part of me says I should just suck it up and make the best of it. But a bigger part reminds me that life is short, and doing something that doesn't excite me more days than not is a waste of my time, and unfair to the company too. It's funny (ironic, I suppose) that the same event that gave me a more urgent appreciation for living has also at least temporarily made it difficult to get much enjoyment out of some parts of my life.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
I'm in this funny state with respect to dating. I want to be in a stable, committed relationship -- I can't imagine not being married again -- but I just don't have it in me right now to do the Match/eHarmony Thing. I did just unhide my profile and turn on matching, so we'll see what happens, but I'm lacking the energy to put myself out there actively.
I love my quiet evenings alone, the total control I have over what I do and where I go, the freedom to dream about the perfect relationship that's waiting for me in the future. If I actually find someone I like, it would mean giving up dreams for a certain-to-be-flawed reality. Yeah, yeah, when it happens I know I will say goodbye to the dream without a backward glance, but right now it's enough to keep me from making "find a mate" a real project.
That said, I do have a plan to get out and meet new people this summer. I MUST get some exercise, and the only thing that has ever really worked for me as an on-going physical activity is cycling. There's a local bike group that rides every Thursday evening, and I'll get a babysitter for Thursday nights through the summer so I can kill two birds with one stone: get back into some sort of shape, and maybe get a date.
Monday, May 31, 2010
I hate shopping, especially for clothes. Unless I know exactly what I'm looking for, it's easy to find, there are no crowds, and the parking is easy, I would just as soon make do with what I've got. However, I do enjoy looking nice. So a long time ago, I availed myself of the personal shopping service at Nordstrom. Doing a big spree once every 18 or 30 months was my way of attempting to stay relatively fashionable while avoiding having to pay much attention to clothes most of the time. Wow, how great to arrive at a dressing room full of clothes selected just for you that fit, in styles and colors you like, with someone there to give unbiased input on what works best!
The personal shopper I used at Nordstrom all these years struck out on her own a while back, but I still use her once every several years. Now that she's not affiliated with any store, we can go anywhere, and she can come to me, also. A couple weeks ago, she helped me sort through my closet, and this past Friday we did a minor shopping trip. How fun! I'm all excited about what I wear again. I haven't completely turned over a new leaf, but I do try to be a little more "put together" when I leave the house. I feel like I'm crawling out of my shell a bit, putting behind me the look, the person I was when married to T. I'm finding out who I am now, who I want to be in the future.
And I can't wait for next fall, when I'll do a major closet purge of the batch of clothes I bought six months before T died. I still remember the outfit I was wearing when I found him in our bed -- and I won't be sorry to send it and its cohorts off to Goodwill.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I took my daughter B and my step-son D to a party this afternoon, a picnic in a grassy field on the nearby college campus. It was a spectacular afternoon, and I was really looking forward to relaxing in the sun, watching the kids run around, and enjoying some adult time with friends. I was counting on someone with kids D's age (10) being there. Unfortunately, the next oldest kids were only 6. No good. D was bored, Bored, BORED. He sat in the car. He pleaded to be taken home. He ate only sweets, all the while complaining of being hungry. Finally I gave up trying to enjoy myself, took pity on him, and tossed him in the car to zip him home. Except it's 20 minutes one way, so I missed a good chunk of the party to chauffeur him.
Then upon my return, B needed to go to the bathroom, and there wasn't a close restroom, so she watered a nearby bush. But she still needed to go poop, she said, so we trekked off to find an open bathroom. Eventually we came upon an open building with a restroom, but the restroom was out of order (and had water all over the floor, otherwise I might have risked it). Wandering through the bowels of the building led to another restroom, hallelujah. And then B didn't need to go after all. Sigh.
So I didn't get all that much time to relax, and now I'm home with a bunch of picnic supplies and half-eaten food to deal with. I think I'll just leave it for the morning. It's times like these that I really hate being on my own.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
It is so comforting to be with other people who are living much the same experience. We all laughed at our automatic reaction to seeing a man with children: check the ring finger! We commiserated over the pain of school Open Houses, with all those couples enjoying their children's work together. We talked about how our kids request a new Daddy (B continues to ask). And we shed a few tears over those who had planned to have more children.
There were several women whom I really enjoyed meeting, and I would really like to have more friends in my situation. The challenge will be making the time to reach out and nurture these new relationships. It's so easy to just stay in my shell, going from work to home to social events with familiar friends. And I notice with great dismay some hesitation in getting close to someone who might be needy. Ouch, what's that all about? Maybe I can rationalize it as protecting myself, since I barely have enough resources to keep my own head above water, let alone support someone else. I hope that's what it is -- I don't want to imagine that I'm not a generous, compassionate person.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I just realized today that B has been alive without her Daddy longer than she was alive with him. I have been a single parent longer than I was parenting with a partner. The realization was like a dagger in the heart. And simultaneously, it felt about right. I've worked hard for my sense of competence and independence in parenting, and B is certainly a very different child from when T was alive. As our lives continue to unfold, and we share new experiences, grow and change, we move further away from the wife and child that T knew. That part is OK. The part that hurts is that it feels like we move further away from T, too.
But we still talk about Daddy often, and read stories about grief and loss. B has several times now said, "I'm going to die when you die." What can I say to that? I know that it's just an expression of dawning awareness of what death really is, and how loss feels. I respond with, "Well, no one knows when they're going to die, but I think you'll probably live a lot longer than I will. And I don't plan to die until you're a grown up woman, maybe with children of your own. We'll be together for a very long time."
"I want a new Daddy," she said tonight. Yeah, I want you to have one, too.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Mother's Day was not a big deal for me this year. I don't actually remember it being a terribly big deal last year, and the first year was so close on the heals of T's death that I don't think it made any difference that it was supposed to be a special day. This year I got an invitation to Mother's Day brunch at my older brother's house, a "Happy Mother's Day" phone call from my younger brother, a Facebook greeting from my dad's wife (she's pretty savvy on the computer!), and an email from my mother-in-law. A dear friend sent me a sampler of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, and B and I had Mother's Day dinner (complete with cards and flowers) at my step-son's mother's house.
It wasn't all rosy -- I woke Sunday morning with a scratchy sore throat, and stayed home in the morning instead of subjecting my brother and his family to my germs -- and I did feel sorry for myself. "Poor me, all alone with a cold and a 3-year-old", I thought more than once during the day. But then B and I played with the old baby sling I used to carry her in as an infant, and we learned that I can still hoist her around in it for 30 seconds or so until my back and shoulder give out. We found old photos of her as an infant being carried around in it, and we took pictures of ourselves with the timer, proving that I still can carry her "hands free".
She is my joy and my delight. She made me a mother, and just spending silly time with her on Mother's Day is about the best thing I can imagine.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Since T died, I've been sleeping on his side of the bed. It's the side next to the door, and the clock radio is there too, but probably most importantly, the bed feels less empty with me sleeping there. And I still go to bed on that side. But interestingly, recently I've been waking up in the morning to find myself on the other side of the bed, my head on the other pillow and everything, as if I'm making room for someone.
I feel both content in my life as it is today, and ready and open for a new relationship. So I'm on the lookout for something exciting around the corner!
Friday, May 7, 2010
The other day as I was delivering B to preschool, I was asked if I was planning to attend the upcoming school fund-raiser concert and live auction. "No", I said, "Unfortunately I've got other plans". It didn't strike me until I was getting into the car that I said "I" and not "we", even though the "you" the questioner meant was most likely plural -- me and my husband. Did he notice? Did it seem odd to him that I answered as if there were no partner in the picture? At one time I would have been acutely aware of my change in status, of no longer being able to refer, even very indirectly, to a husband who shares my life with me. It seems that I'm used to this new life, where the unit of measure is one. Saying "I" instead of "we" no longer engenders heartache. Heck, I don't even notice. I guess I've internalized the single lifestyle.
That's not to say that I would have enjoyed going to the event, where everyone is there with a partner, in a happy intact nuclear family. I've also learned on this journey that discretion is the better part of valor -- I stay away from situations that accentuate my single status, that remind me of what I had and lost.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I had a vivid dream about T last night. He was alive, having been resurrected somehow. We were not married, though -- our marriage had ended when we thought he was dead. For whatever reason, he and I hadn't remarried when he returned, though we were together and I was quite happy that he wasn't dead. We were in a car, T in the passenger's seat and me in the back, and we were talking to the driver, a pregnant woman who was having a hard time in her marriage. I asked T's permission to share with her our situation, which was somehow relevant for her.
I wonder where we were going? And who the woman represented? The aspect of not remarrying is easy: I didn't want to remarry T because I'm a different person now. I am happy to be with him (feel his spirit with me), but I wouldn't want to return to the place and person I was when we were married. I'm moving on.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Saturday's two year milestone went pretty well. B and I were visiting my wonderful in-laws in Arizona last week, and I spent an amazing three days in Sedona while B had a "sleepover" with Papa and Grandma. I had the opportunity to release a lot of emotions in Sedona, so Saturday was quite peaceful. I created a small memorial in the family room, with a Yahrzeit candle, a picture of T, a small bag of his ashes, flowers from the garden, and several small items with emotional value. Before breakfast, B and I said a few words (well, I did the speaking) and I lit the candle. Throughout the day, coming upon the collection of symbols of T's life and the small flickering light brought me peace and comfort.
Late in the afternoon, B and I, along with my stepson D and his mother, headed up to the cemetery laden with flowers, camp chairs, a portable table, paper plates and cups, lemonade, bbq'ed tri-tip, potato salad, cole slaw... a picnic with Daddy. I brought the two poster-board photo collages I made for the kids back on the first Father's Day -- the best pictures of each of them with T. Some close friends joined us, and we sat in the afternoon sun, ran around on the grass with the kids, ate and relaxed and enjoyed being together. T would have really enjoyed it, and was with us in spirit.
Then on Sunday, I sold T's dining table and chairs. Though neither of us had much in the way of living room furniture, we both had beautiful dining sets. His was a Skovby rosewood oval pedestal table with six chairs, lovely but a bit too formal for the room and my taste. I'd been trying to sell it on craigslist sporadically since before the holidays, and each time I posted the ad, I got 1-2 inquiries, but no real action. And maybe it would have hurt more to have sold it sooner. Other than T's car and all the wine he collected, his dining set was the one material possession that had any real value, and it was loaded with sentimental value as well. We ate some of our first meals together as a couple at that table; we entertained countless times around its dark shiny surface. So the timing of letting it go, on the first day of the third year after T's death, seemed appropriate. Another small letting go, another small ending, making room for a new beginning (even if it is just the beginning of a less cluttered dining room).
On Sunday night, I initiated another ending. I told Guy that the spark just wasn't there for me, and I just wanted to be friends. Maybe by getting to know him more, the spark will reignite -- I do really like him. But I was starting to feel insincere when talk and action turned to romance, and that was my signal to stop. I'm too old and experienced to let things drag on past this point; it gets more unpleasant for all concerned. Guy was not happy, but did appreciate the honesty. And I will always appreciate his sweetness, gentleness, and kindness, as the first one after T.
So the first two years of my widowhood are at an end, as is my first post-loss relationship. I am comfortable where I am, and open to new beginnings. Who knows what will come in year three?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
T loved the beauty of nature: a sunset, the crashing surf, redwoods, the peaks and lakes of Glacier and the waterfalls and stillness of Yosemite. He loved blooming fruit trees and the climbing roses in our yard. He would see a brightly flowering tree or plant and point it out to me and say “why don’t we have that in our yard?” He always tried to watch the sun set when we were on vacation, and often pointed out the moon above our back yard.
T loved to swim in our pool on hot summer evenings, and lay on the grass drying off with D. Cold water never bothered him. When snorkeling in the cool ocean of the Galapagos, he never wore anything but his swim trunks. He didn’t like our pool to get warmer than about 80 degrees, because he said it wasn’t “refreshing”.
He loved to travel and stay in luxurious hotels in beautiful surroundings: Napa and Sonoma, Big Sur, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, The Galapagos, Belize. He had a knack for finding wonderful places to stay and great restaurants.
He loved his friends, and always made time for them. He loved fine wine and fine food, and loved sharing them with his friends and family. He always did the dishes after a dinner party, sending me off to bed.
For one who enjoyed gourmet meals, he surprisingly preferred meat-and-potatoes menus at home. Salmon, red potatoes and asparagus was a perennial favorite of his. Fred steak, and burgers and Zinfandel were popular, too.
T loved his family: his father, his mother, his sister; his son, wife, daughter, niece and nephew. He loved to wrestle with D and kiss B good night.
He could wiggle his ears and pick small objects up with his toes. His laugh was loud and infectious; unmistakable even across a crowded room.
He was a bit of a worrier with D and B, and didn’t like to see evidence of their growing older. He didn’t want to move B from her baby bathtub to the big tub, and wanted to keep the heat on fairly high at night in case she got cold. From the earliest days, he thought D was bigger than expected. He never got a changing table for D, but always changed him on the floor or the futon. There was a period of time in which he would check on B as he came to bed around 10:30, and she would be wide awake and wiggle and smile at him, like she’d been waiting to say good night to him.
T wasn’t interested in fancy technology or gadgets, never using the PDA his dad got him, or his work laptop, or his own login on our computer. But he could find any email sent or received weeks or months (sometimes years) in the past, just by remembering when.
Thank you, T, for sharing your love with me. It lives forever in my heart.