Once I got to a more stable place in my life I decided to start this blog. I pretty much had two goals in mind. One was to help myself – I thought it might be cathartic to get out all of the “stuff” that’s been floating around in my mind for the past five years. The other was to possibly be of comfort to others who are going through a similar tragedy in their own lives. I was hoping that if someone could see that they are not alone – that I had been through the worst of it and now coming out the other side in a good place, it might be helpful.
Helping myself is definitely working. I absolutely love writing this. I hope people are reading it but even if they weren’t I would keep writing anyway. I am shocked at how these stories keep pouring out of me. Just when I think I am having “writer’s block” something new will pop into my head and I start writing again.
But what I am most excited about is that more than a few widows have reached out to me. Some were just a quick thank you or just to say that they like reading my blog. Some have written more and told me their stories. I have been communicating with a few of them and this truly makes me so happy. There are two that stand out in my mind. One is a woman in a totally different state who I only had one facebook connection with. Somehow one of her friends came across my blog and forwarded it to her because her husband had very recently passed away. She reached out to me and when I looked on her Facebook wall I noticed that her friend had posted my “Just Some Thoughts” blog there. When I saw this I had tears in my eyes. To see that this actually reached someone that I had never met and never heard of just touched me. We have been writing back and forth for the past couple of weeks. If I can say or write something that makes her feel less alone in this crappy situation – I feel like I helped just a little. When she tells me what is going on in her life, I see myself a few years ago. Everyone has their own journey but I feel like I know what she is going through.
The second woman that stands out in my mind has impacted me in a totally different way. Her husband passed away about a year ago and after reading my blog she reached out to me. We happen to live in the same town and have some mutual friends but had never heard about each other. We wrote back and forth a little and even spoke on the phone once. In that conversation she told me that what has helped her the most is hot yoga. She raved about a yoga studio in town and how much it has helped her mind as well as her body. She asked me if I would like to go to a class with her to try it. I had actually been looking for a new way to exercise. I had gotten pretty lazy over the past year. In the past I have worked out by walking/running on the treadmill and light weight lifting. I had also gotten into spin for a while a couple of years back. But I had never enjoyed any of it – I did it because I knew it was good for me but it really always felt like a chore. This is probably why I had gotten lazy recently – I disliked working out. So I thought yoga might be a good idea – even though I’m a bit of a clutz and have no sense of balance :). But HOT yoga??? I wouldn’t only be afraid of falling down but also passing out! But something in me told me to give it a try.
So I did. I met her on a Friday morning a few weeks ago and tried a hot yoga class. “Hot” is an understatement. I have never sweated so much in my entire life! And I definitely confirmed my clutziness – adding to the fact that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing! I just tried to follow along with what everyone else was doing. Plus the instructor knew that it was my first class so she was so nice and so helpful. I left there thinking that I didn’t hate it – which is a pretty good review for me regarding anything active. I decided that I could try it again and I did. And then again and again….it has only been a few weeks but I have taken a bunch of classes already – and I can’t believe I am saying this but I think I like it! I know it is a good thing when I constantly search the class schedule looking for one that somehow fits into my schedule – instead of looking for every reason why it doesn’t. I think it is an amazing workout and hopefully once I get used to the poses and don’t have to concentrate so hard on doing them correctly, it will become very relaxing. I even think I have gotten a LITTLE better already.
I don’t want to get too excited because I think there was one point when I thought I really liked spin until I decided I hated it. But this does feel different somehow. I don’t dread going at all – I want to go. I actually feel myself getting a little stronger, and all of a sudden I am very aware of my posture which is something I never pay attention to. I am hoping that I stick with this and continue to like it (you can all laugh at my blog in a couple of months when I write about how I hate yoga :)). I hope that it becomes part of my “moving forward”.
I think my blogging is starting to do what I had hoped it would in many ways – and even in one I didn’t expect at all. I never would have thought that through my blog I would end up doing yoga!! So for now I will keep blogging – I guess you never know what is going to happen. This I have learned in good ways as well as bad. Hoping for more of the good – for myself and others!
I remember back to that first night in the hospital thinking “how am I going to do this alone?”. I also remember crying to one of Howie’s friends and saying “who is going to help Amanda with her homework?”. It might seem strange for that to be one of my first thoughts but I think my fear was really about how the girls and I were going to get through life without him. It seemed impossible back then and honestly sometimes it still does.
Right now I am extremely stressed. A lot of it is normal parenting stress that I am sure many of us have. Lily is just getting over a stomach virus and I am sure will have a lot of schoolwork to make up which gives her stress. Amanda is very anxiously awaiting her final ACT scores and finishing up her college applications. I know that the waiting process on that will be unbearable. There are other issues that I am sure they would not appreciate me mentioning, so I won’t. And of course a million other little problems going on in all three of our lives.
About four years ago someone I am close with was upset with me for something. I remember saying to her “My only priority is making sure that my girls grow up to be healthy, happy, well adjusted, successful people. I just can’t handle more than that.”. At that point there really wasn’t room in my life for much else. Over time, and with a little guidance, I have slowly learned to make room for other things. I have learned coping skills that I did not have in the beginning. But when a lot of stress creeps up on me at once, I do still tend to get a bit overwhelmed. There are a lot of decisions to be made and issues to be handled that will be done by just me. This can be terrifying. What if I handle something incorrectly? What if I make the wrong decision? There will be no one to share the blame with. Of course I always have people that I can turn to and ask for advice and I definitely do that. My parents, my in-laws, my sister, my friends, and now my boyfriend (wow I actually wrote that). They are all super helpful and I always take their opinions into account. But as I said once a long time ago, there will never be another person in the world that will love my girls as much as I do. To me that is one of the saddest and scariest things about being a young(ish) widow.
I have discovered that I am a strong, capable woman. I have handled much more than I ever thought possible. But when I look into the future (which I try not to do) and think of things that might go wrong, I sometimes think I would not know how or be able to handle them. Something happened just the other day that made me think.about this. A very close friend of mine has a daughter who just moved into an off campus apartment at college. The craziest thing happened to her – the entire ceiling of her bedroom came crashing down – while she luckily wasn’t in it. Thankfully she was ok – which was most important. As soon as it happened her parents drove to the school to help her handle the situation. I am sure there were a million things to be done. Making sure she was truly ok, dealing with a landlord, finding a new apartment, her things being destroyed, etc. I adore her parents and I am sure they were able to handle the situation in the very best way – they are fabulous. But my mind goes to “What if something like that were to happen to one of my girls? How would I handle that alone?”. I always try to deal with the here and now and not look into “what if’s” but that is a challenge to do sometimes.
So in the here and now I am stressed. Believe me I have been a lot more stressed than this over much bigger things, but stress is stress nonetheless. I worry about my girls probably double than most because I feel like I need to worry for myself and their dad (I am not trying to compare – I know everyone worries about their kids – I’m just saying that I am not sharing the burden). But I will pull out my best coping skills and deal with what needs to be dealt with. I need to remember not to catastrophize (which I have been told I do) and put things into perspective. Lily will make up her schoolwork, and Amanda will go to college somewhere. The other issues will hopefully work out as well. I will “just breathe” and get through the stress the best way I can.
And I do have a few years before I need to worry about off campus housing and falling ceilings – just happy for now that my friend’s adorable daughter is ok!
“One Day at a Time” – I loooooved that show when I was a little girl. I’m dating myself but who didn’t want to be Valerie Bertinelli (Barbara) back then? I would have even been Mackenzie Phillips (Julie) – minus the drug problem of course. They looked like they had the best life in that little apartment. The girls shared a bedroom and the mom slept on the couch – but they were just so cool. Even the mother – everyone wanted Bonnie Franklin (Ann Romano) as their mom. Sorry Mom – even me!! They had their problems but they always seemed to work them out (yes I know it was TV). If I remember correctly the father was around a little in the first season or two but after that he just seemed to disappear.
So here I am – a single mom with two girls just like my favorite TV show. I certainly never imagined nor did I want to be here. And I did not get here the same way Ann Romano did. She was divorced. There are other differences between us of course. My girls and I are each lucky enough to have our own bedrooms. I think Ann was MUCH younger than I am. Thankfully neither of my girls are as troubled as Julie. And of course we do not have a Schneider!
But sometimes I do see similarities to the TV family. Obviously we are three girls just like they were. The mom was very close with her girls – they seemed to be able to talk to her about anything. I think that I am also close with Amanda and Lily – I hope they would say the same thing. My girls can certainly fight like Julie and Barbara did! We definitely have our problems and hard times like they did, but I have to admit that sometimes it’s fun living with just “us three girls”. We can talk about girl things without anyone getting uncomfortable, and we have gotten used to walking around dressed in a way that might not be appropriate with a man around. We can just be girls – it’s not such a bad thing – sometimes it’s a good thing!
But the words “One Day at a Time” mean more to me than just a TV show. That is how I have learned to survive. I try to take each day as it comes and not look too far into the future if I don’t have to. I was given this advice very early on and it has helped. I was even told to take one hour at a time if one day is too much. The future can look scary, especially right after your world falls apart. If you don’t have to look that far it’s a little less frightening. Of course it is a somewhat easier for me to look ahead than it was five years ago. Now I can plan ahead for certain things, but for others it still is easier to just deal with today and not think about what will come tomorrow or next week or next year. I know that this aggravates some people that are close to me and sometimes I do understand that. I can be difficult to make plans with, and don’t even think to ask me what I will be doing for a holiday that is months away! But this is what works best for me – it gives me less stress.
I know it was just a sitcom, not real life. But sometimes we can learn from TV even when we don’t realize it. I think “One Day at a Time” was trying to tell single moms that they can do it, although it may be difficult. Just take it slow, and deal with only as much as you can in that moment. That advice has helped me get through a lot of hard days. I hope Ann Romano would be proud ?.
This might not be the most popular post I have ever written…
I joined Facebook eight or nine years ago and it was fun! I posted pictures of my family, cute little anecdotes, and enjoyed looking at friends’ pictures etc. My favorite thing about Facebook was reconnecting with old friends. I have rekindled friendships with people I may have never gotten the chance to if it weren’t for Facebook. I love that! And who doesn’t love a Facebook birthday? It really is nice to hear from so many people. When Howie passed away, Facebook really did serve such a purpose. I know a lot of people found out about his death through Facebook, and it was a way that so many reached out to me, which was so nice.
I am not going to sit here and bash Facebook or say I don’t pay attention to it or that it’s ridiculous. It’s not – it is part of our world now and for the most part I do enjoy it. I don’t post all that much but I do admit to being somewhat of a silent stalker ?. Sometimes I like to check out what people are doing – it is interesting. Occasionally if I have something I would really like to share, I will post it. And honestly, it has been the best way to launch this blog. I wouldn’t have most of the readers that I do if it weren’t for Facebook (a little self promotion – hint – if you would like to share my page or blog I would be thrilled ?).
I do have some pet peeves about Facebook in general, but this is just me. I don’t get it sometimes. Why do people need to “check in” every time they leave their house? Does the whole world need to know where you are every minute of the day? And why 100 pictures or videos of every “event” that you or your child attend? Does anyone really look at all of them? I once watched a comedian do a whole bit on the fact that no one is really looking at your albums and videos. It was hysterical! And one more thing – there is nothing worse than someone’s constant negative thoughts – ugh. But to each their own and as long as it is not harming anyone – it is what it is – just a part of Facebook and it’s all good.
Getting to the point of this post – for a person in the same or similar situation to mine, Facebook can be depressing. When you are unhappy with the circumstances of your life, or going through a tragedy or just a hard time, it can be difficult to see everyone around you posting how deliriously happy they are all the time. It can make you feel very alone – like you are the only one whose life is sad or difficult. I am sure it is not anyone’s intention to be hurtful. I don’t think anyone even realizes that constantly posting their happiness might possibly make someone else feel bad. I am guilty of doing it myself sometimes. But it can be upsetting to some, including myself when I was having a particularly hard day (or week, or month). I know there is always the option not to look – and I have chosen that option often. I won’t even open Facebook up on a day like Father’s Day. The pictures and posts are way too hard to see. What is especially bothersome are those who declare on a holiday that they know how difficult it is for some and feel for them, but an hour later post a picture and announce how happy and loved they themselves are. Actions speak louder than words.
I am not at all suggesting that my friends or anyone’s stop posting their happiness. I am truly happy for everyone in my life when they are happy, as I know they are for me. My goal with this post is to hopefully help those who are in an unhappy situation and may find Facebook depressing. You are not the only one. I’ve been there and sometimes still am. And I’m pretty sure so many others have been also. Facebook can be fabulous and fun, but sometimes not for everyone.
Howie died in 2011. It seems to me that since then, so many celebrities have passed away. Maybe it isn’t an unusual amount but that is how it appears to me. It’s possible that I am just more cognizant of it than I was before.
Clarence Clemons passed away just a few months before Howie did and he was very upset by it (he was a huge Springsteen fan). I remember thinking it was sad but it didn’t really affect me. Very shortly after Howie passed away, Whitney Houston died. I got so upset about this. I obviously did not know Whitney Houston but I thought it was such a loss. I just didn’t understand why it was affecting me the way it was. Possibly because of the state I was in regarding my own loss? Or maybe just because her music was part of the soundtrack to so much of my life? Possibly both? Who knows.
Shortly after that, Donna Summer died. I reacted to this even worse than Whitney Houston. I think I actually cried! It was almost as if a little part of my past was gone. I loved my disco in the late 70’s and early 80’s and she was the queen. It was like the death of an era.
So many others after that – Robin Williams, James Gandolfini (and his death struck me as so similar to Howie’s), Joan Rivers, Dick Clark. Each one upset me to some extent. I am not one of those who posts on Facebook about it for days or take to my bed because a beloved celebrity dies. These are not friends or family members – I’m not that crazy! But the fact that this upsets me as much as it does is strange to me. Maybe other people react this way also but I do not remember reacting like this before Howie passed away. I do remember and still know that I have always been super-sensitive. Howie used to tease me that I would cry at a rough McDonald’s commercial! I think I became even more sensitive about the subject of death after Howie died – that might be where all of this is coming from.
More recently, Prince and David Bowie both passed away. Again, icons that I grew up with, music that is such a part of my life. I was sad about both. But David Bowie really hit me in a different way. I liked David Bowie but I certainly wasn’t his biggest fan (although one of my favorite memories is dancing at Studio 54 to “Let’s Dance” while the video played on the big screen, and when the line “put on your red shoes and dance” came on, my best friend and I pointed to the red pumps that we were both wearing and started laughing. Sorry – had to throw in a Studio 54 memory). But for some reason David Bowie’s death really disturbed me and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while.
So why David Bowie? I think it’s as simple as this – not only was it about his music, it was about his personal life. He was married to the same woman for years and they seemed very happy. He had two teenage children. Sound familiar? I guess they reminded me of my family – although Howie certainly had no musical talent and I certainly do not look like Iman! But I think I related them to me – that it must be such a loss for his wife and kids. It’s the same feeling I get when I hear that a friend of a friend (or someone like that) loses her husband and their kids lose their father – it’s empathy. I hate to hear about anyone going through this because it just sucks.
So now when I hear a Whitney Houston, or Prince, or Donna Summer, or David Bowie song, it’s sad to think that they are gone. But the music still makes me want to put on my red shoes and dance…
**P.S. – I wrote this a few days ago. Strangely coincidentally, the following morning I happened to catch Iman’s first interview since her husband’s death. It was just a short interview at the Tom Ford fashion show. The interviewer asked how she and her kids were doing, and then commented on what a strong woman she is. Her response was “I’m not as strong as I appear”. Those are my sentiments exactly. We do what we have to do – but it’s not easy.
Lily was away in camp when I started my blog in July. She came home in the middle of August and read all of them. When she read “Amanda’s Story” she asked me why I hadn’t written one about her. My response was “I don’t have much to write”. This is a good thing. From the minute she was born, Lily has always been a happy, easy girl. Things seem to come easy to her and she was always accepting and grateful for everything. I’m not saying she doesn’t have her moments, but they were always few and far between. She never really gives me too hard a time, except for the normal teenage girl stuff. Of course she was devastated when her father died, and it took her a long time to get through it. But thankfully there was no “major story” with her.
When I wrote about Amanda, I said that Howie had such patience for her. He did for Lily as well, especially when it came to schoolwork. He was amazing at helping both of them and getting them interested. This was sometimes difficult with Amanda but much easier with Lily. She actually enjoyed doing schoolwork when she was younger, and Howie enjoyed doing it with her. It was such a nice thing to see.
When Howie was gone, Lily just stepped up and did her work on her own. She is lucky in that she is very focused and always seemed to absorb the information in class, so that doing homework and studying was never too much of a challenge for her (she did not get this from me!). I took it for granted that she could handle it on her own and she usually did. It was one thing I never worried about.
She started her sophomore year in high school this week. She is taking some tough courses and had a lot of “summer work” to do for them. She was at camp for seven weeks. When she got home she had three weeks until school started (minus the 6 days we were on vacation as she keeps reminding me). She did have a lot of work, and she did do some of it before we went away and some right after we got back. But she saved the hardest subjects for the last minute, and when she finally went to do it, she got extremely overwhelmed. It was too much work and not enough time. She just did not know what to do, so she couldn’t do anything except cry. One part of me really felt so bad for her – I just don’t understand why they give these kids soooo much work to do over the summer and over breaks. It would be nice if sometimes they could just relax and have fun. Another part of me was so angry with her – why on earth would she leave all of this to do at the last minute? What was she thinking?? And then there is the guilty part of me – why didn’t I look more closely at what she had to do and what she had gotten done? Why didn’t I push her to finish all of her work weeks ago?
She was crying, yelling at me, and just generally freaking out all day. I sat with her and tried to be patient. All I could think was “if Howie was here, he would know how to help her”, and “he would handle this so much better”, and “it may have never gotten to this point if he was here”. But sadly, he was not here. So I handled it the best I could. We got through the day (barely) but it was a long one. Her first day of school went well. If nothing else, I think she now knows not to save things for the last minute. Hopefully, the rest of the year will go a lot more smoothly. I certainly hope so because I cannot handle many more days like that one!
So Lily, you got your story…
I think I have stated numerous times that I am in a good place right now. I am. I have been for about six months – by far the longest stretch of happiness I have felt in a very long time. It is a great feeling after being unhappy for so long. I have realized that life can still be good and that is a wonderful realization. But that does not mean that I never have a bad day.
For a very long time after Howie died, I would wake up with this horrible panicky feeling. It’s hard to explain but it’s almost like a pit in your stomach, a feeling of dread. Ugh it is a terrible way to start your day. I am sure that those who have felt it will totally understand. But slowly over the last eight or nine months, that yucky morning feeling seemed to go away. Almost but not quite always – occassionally it still does happen. Everyone has bad mornings and bad days – I am sure even those who have seemingly fabulous lives. Of course I do not expect to wake up with a huge smile on my face every day. But when that old panicky feeling comes back it is horrible. Once it happens, it is hard to shake for the whole day.
This happened to me very recently. One morning this past weekend, I woke up and there it was – that awful feeling. I couldn’t believe it and did not understand where it came from. I had been out the night before and had a great time. I didn’t have anything major going on that I was worrying about. Nothing bad had happened, all had been fine. This completely threw me off.
So I wake up like this and what do I do? First I tried to figure out why. A few things came to mind – maybe because summer is ending, maybe because I didn’t have a lot going on that weekend, maybe because Amanda is starting her senior year of high school and Lily her sophomore, and I’m realizing how fast time is going. Maybe a combination of all of these or maybe none of them – sometimes I think my brain is just telling me I’m not allowed to be happy!
Next, my therapist’s voice came into my head saying “distract” – not to lay there and wallow in it. Usually my girls are good for that but they both happened to not be home. I thought of asking a friend to take a walk. I reached out to a couple of people but no one seemed to be around. So I put my headphones in and went myself (I do this often). Usually this works for me but as I was walking I started not to feel well. This of course reminded me of what happened to Howie and it freaked me out a little, so I went home immediately. Mom, you don’t have to call me – I’m perfectly fine – just a stomachache!!
The walk didn’t work. So I took my kindle and sat outside with my dog (who always makes me smile) and read a book that I had started on vacation. This worked a little. I was getting into the book and it was distracting me. As I was reading, a friend that I hadn’t spoken to in a while called. We caught up and chatted for a while. This was also helpful.
The rest of the day was a little better but some of that feeling stayed with me all day, and even carried into the next day. I know that I’m feeling bad when the final episode of “Friends”, which I have seen at least a million times, makes me cry. But what I know now that I didn’t know a few years ago is that I will be ok. It will turn around and get better even if takes a little while. Knowing this makes going through it a little more bearable. And the fact that it happens so infrequently now is an amazing thing for me. I guess I’m still a work in progress…