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Monday, February 28, 2011

Who am I?

Monday morning. I enter my office at work and look over at my small photo of Bruce next to my computer. Try to remember the way I felt 2 plus years ago when I could be sure that he was on his way to work, or settling in to teach his class. My life so intertwined with his that I could count on his presence to give me courage-even when he was not with me. I was Bruce's Jill. Funny that I feel this way now-if you would have asked me about this before his death, I would have been insulted to think that my identity was so merged with his. Not very liberated of me but there it is. I guess I am like the feminist in the foxhole, fervently proclaiming my independence until they bombing starts or in this case until the "man" vanishes.

So who am I now. I have written about this before-difficult that one's identity or the perception of my identity can change over time. True, I am still a mother-but feel less like a mother day to day as my children are adults. True too that I am not now a wife. What else has changed over the past 2 years? So much of what I knew about myself was reflected in his eyes and now that they are closed forever-how can I possibly understand myself. Especially given the trauma with bereavement.

This weekend I spoke with another widow about the creation of our life. My life was set-I was at the top of the hill and could anticipate the downward slope and knew even a bit about the bumps and curves ahead. Now the road is uncertain. I have no idea what is ahead and even though I acknowledge that much of the journey is in my hands-I feel less able to map my route. So much of my confidence is gone.

I think that I need some time to think. I am now more used to being by myself-and the loneliness is less devastating. Also time to plan the next steps on the road-even if it is just 10 paces forward.

Monday, February 21, 2011

On to the 3rd year

Yesterday was the 2 year anniversary. I decided to spend it alone-made no plans and told everyone that I would be okay and I was. I slept till 7, and then got up, walked Bebe and settled in for a day filled with no big plans. I would watch movies and not do any work.

Of course, I thought of Bruce all day and missed his presence on the couch next to me. We used to have movie marathons all throughout our marriage, even when the kids were little. There was always a running commentary-kind of like mystery science theater. The first movie was "Two Weeks", a sad movie about a woman dying of cancer, who summons her 4 kids to spend her last days with her and take care of her. And of course, I cried throughout the movie. I cried for her and cried for me and Bruce and what my life has become without him.

In all of the books that I read about meaning, there is a thread that persists about how the widow attempts to find meaning in the loss. I disagree that I or anyone can find the meaning in that. I believe that loss is somewhat random, maybe dictated by science and not God. The search for meaning happens because the values that we held before the loss are forever altered. What was important to me before Bruce died now does not seem to hold the same meaning, and I am struggling to find my way. I sometimes have an image of myself in a deep underwater cave and I am searching for the opening so I can get some air. Work is harder than I imagined and the latest crisis is that unless I summon the energy, I will fail at that.

He was my cheerleader, my role model, my mentor, my best friend. Of course my life is difficult without him. I get that, but understanding does not make the day to day any easier. I am getting used to life in the house alone-don't mind it most days. I miss him though-miss his being my teammate. We faced challenges together-complained about student papers and faculty meetings, administration and the lack of resources. The challenges seem overwhelming without him to comment on them and I question why I am in such a pressure cooker without him as the valve to let off the steam. It makes the work much harder when I am not totally committed to the task. And my job requires the total commitment to make it work.

So on to year 3. I start the 3rd year back to the magic of medication. This time I am dealing with the anxiety coupled with the depression and hoping that I can turn off the emotional overflow and do good work. I guess we will see.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hard times for all

Feeling so down in the dumps lately and the news is grim everywhere. From the economy to the weather to the unrest in the Middle East. No matter what your political views are the state of the world is dismal. But misery does not love company-I wish that all was better elsewhere so that my sadness was not mirrored in those around me. Maybe it would give me some hope for the future.

But I struggle - I know that I cannot wait for MY world to right itself, but feel unable to charge forward and alter it. And yet it is really up to me. My rationalization is that I need to be patient and let the grief evaporate like some horrible weather pattern. I have heard that one day I shall "turn a corner" - I have written here about this before. Often though there is not a corner to be found. Do I wait? Certainly something has got to be done - by me - about this horrible emotional downturn.

So much of my life was constructed on Bruce's ideas for me-who I was, what I should do with my life, what I was capable of. It was not so much that I was dependent, but I was so young when we met and he had a plan for me. What I did, day to day, had much to do with my reaction to what he said and thought - even in opposition to him, it gave me a direction.

I completely understand then why I have fallen apart now. I was able to continue on after he died on the steam that I created before his death and then all was still in motion. But that steam has dissipated and now everything is spiraling downward. I took on more because "being busy was good" but now I realize that "being busy" can be extremely self-destructive as well. So now I am sad, anxious and overwhelmed. No good can come of this so I need to back pedal and develop a plan. And I will try. Just so much harder now without the guy at home to provide some balance for me as well as the edicts that I can get it done.