The majority of my blog posts this last year have been about my absolute heartache and loss. About how I’m navigating these waters of life as a young widow and newly single mom. I’ve been mostly honest, but also guarded. The reason for that, is that almost immediately after Matt’s death I began to see that I was now a full time resident in a glass house. Every thing I did or said or felt was up for discussion, opinion and most of all, judgment. I continue to be completely dumbfounded by this phenomenon. I’m not alone in this glass house, as every widow I know also resides here. We swap stories and judgments and completely stupid comments from complete morons. I’ve seen a widow choosing to date again judged. I’ve seen a widow shunned by her deceased husbands family (disgusting!) I’ve experienced judgment for my spending, my drinking, my weight gain, my anger, my BLOG. I’ve lost so many friends I’ve quit counting. I would venture to say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% of those who rallied around me when Matt was dying have barely said a word to me since then. I can count on one hand the real friends I have. And that’s OK, truly it is. You see, I’ve already lost everything. I have watched my precious childs heart quit beating. I have watched a man who loved me so completely waste away until his heart quit too. I now have the luxury of knowing who and what is really important in this life…….and it has come at a significant cost.
If you follow me on social media, you know I spent the last week in Colorado. I had a lot of time to really think, as I had almost no cell phone service the entire week (the horror!). As I sat on the porch staring at these incredible mountains I thought about how happy and peaceful I felt there. I remembered how I had begged Matt to move to Colorado for years. His answer was always a resolute No. There is just something about that landscape, that lifestyle that calls to me. It feels like home in a way that no place ever has. At night as I laid in bed I would toss and turn unable to sleep, remembering Matt’s face and tears in the early days of his diagnosis. He was faced with all the things he had said NO to in life. All the ways he had been practical and logical and frugal and when faced with his mortality, it meant nothing to him. Now, I have always been very passionate about life and the whole “YOLO” concept….it drove Matt nuts. Practical Pete vs. Spontaneous Susie. Yet today, I see it even more clearly. Life truly is short. Even if you see the broad side of 100, it’s SHORT you guys. There is so much life out there. So many people to meet, places to see, things to really experience. Do I really want to get in this hamster wheel of work, pay bills, work pay bills, die? OK, so yeah, I have a mortgage and car payment and three expensive kids so I’ve got to work and pay bills. But is that it??? Is that life? Is that LIVING? For some of you that’s enough and I applaud you for that, I really do. Perhaps I am a little envious, because I can never get enough of life. Ever. I’m greedy when it comes to this world and what is has to offer. I want all of it, like yesterday. This is the part where my mom sighs heavily and rolls her eyes and says “Michelle has always been this way. It’s exhausting.” (Admit it mom, you just did that to yourself didn’t you?) I admit it. I’m exhausting…..even to myself for crying out loud. I’m insatiable when it comes to life. I love humans and how amazing and stupid and beautiful and ugly and crazy and loveable and hateable they are. I love looking at God’s canvas when I travel and seeing how varied his love is (When he got to the plains he must have taken a nap or something, just saying!) for his people and just how creative He is. I mean, seriously, drive to the mountains or the ocean and just marvel at it. They are HUGE and we are so damn small.
So as I sat every morning and explored all day and tossed and turned all night in those mountains, I knew what had to be done. I have to move. I have to leave what is comfortable. What is known. What is draining the life right out of me. I can make a plan and have a goal in my mind. I can finish nursing school and then leave. Just like that. I can give my kids a better life. Better education, better life experiences, better everything. I have traveled from coast to coast this last year (Seattle to NYC). I’ve sat on the beaches of the Gulf and cried until I could no longer cry. I’ve drank beer alone in huge bars in the middle of huge cities. Yet, the mountains always call and say Home to me. The mountains scare me with their enormity. The roads intimidate me and beg to be tamed. Those trails? They make me breathless and shaky, but when you get to the top of that mountain you’ve struggled to climb? The views are beyond anything. That feeling of look what I did. It’s a real analogy for this last year of my life. I’ve climbed both real and metaphorical mountains and those metaphorical ones are real challenge I promise.
I have a thing for Sunrises and Sunsets, beginnings and endings. Both beautiful.
One of the other things I want to be real about is how I’ve managed to make it through this year. I would love to tell you that it’s because of my church (but I don’t have one) or prayer (nope, I can rarely even finds words to pray still at this point) or counseling (again nope.) but it’s really been a mash up of things. Some healthy, but mostly not. The first six months after Matt died I survived because of alcohol. Now hear me out, because I know those judgments are just waiting to pop out. Or perhaps I survived in spite of the alcohol, but whatever. It’s however you choose to look at it. The pain I felt in those early months is beyond what I could ever describe with English language. Or any language. It was visceral. Consuming. I was desperate to extinguish it. To feel anything but that absolute despair and dark. Enter wine. If I’m honest those early months were not good. I hid it well from the outside world, but those closest to me knew. I knew it was a problem when I woke up one morning and I saw red wine vomit all over my hallway floors but I had no recollection of it. I had complete black out. Numerous times friends had to put me to bed and I would not remember the last two or three hours of the night the next day. Unfortunately my kids were exposed to this more than once and it’s something I’ll pay for forever. I own my mistakes and I’ve owned them to my kids, we have since had many discussions about it and how alcohol isn’t a problem solver. Once I realized I was using alcohol to cope I stopped and it hasn’t been an issue for months. I’m lucky that I’m not an alcoholic, but today I can see where it begins. Pain. I wanted to drown the pain. I really wanted to drown myself and since I couldn’t do that, I did what I could to survive.
I cannot count the ways that Matt dying has forever affected my life and my kids lives. It is an endless ocean of a terrible domino effect. Just today I looked at a picture and it took my breath away as I once again remembered Matt died and isn’t here anymore. I am no longer a “couple” and I avoid most couple interactions like the black plague. When I’m around my couple friends its the little things that put a huge lump in my throat. A hug, teasing, cuddling….all of it reminds me of my great loss. Reminds me that I am alone now and it reminds me how much I hate it. When I felt Matt’s pulse stop beating, I felt like dying too. I wanted to die with him and if it wasn’t for those three amazing kids, I can’t tell you it wouldn’t have happened. I think my heart would have given out for sure. I know today how people die of broken hearts, because a year out mine still physically aches for him. I cannot describe the pain of missing him and of loving him when he’s no longer here. The pain of knowing you are no longer married and you had no choice in the matter. I never said I didn’t want to be his wife, yet here I am, single. And so yes, I drank those first six months. I drank away the pain. The anger. The loss. The loneliness. The depression. The anxiety. I drank to feel something other than despair and loss and utter hopelessness. I drank because I felt that God had abandoned me. He had just asked too much of me and I gave up on Him.
Today, I am in a much healthier place. I’m by no means healed and whole, I am still very much broken, but I suppose I always will be on some level. I don’t drink to erase or hide or not feel. I can drink socially now for pleasure like a responsible adult and I’ve learned that when those dark feelings come I just need to cry and get it out. Feel the feels even when it’s too hard.
I’ve had so many of you tell me how strong I am and how you admire me and all that. I’ve felt guilty every time thinking to myself “what if you knew I blacked out one night because I drank away the pain?” I’m not a pillar of strength. I am a real woman who is doing her best to survive a monumental loss. I’m trying to be a good mom. Figure out who I am and what I want. Trying to live an intentional and love filled life without my person. Hopefully one day finding my way back to Him and trusting His will for my life once again. I’m broken and battered and bruised. I am strong only because I have been forced to be, I’ve never had a choice in it I promise you.
This last year I have been a drunk, I’ve spent too much money, I’ve spent a lot of time in bed, I’ve cried oceans of tears, I’ve gained a ridiculous amount of weight (the whole drunk thing), I’ve lost friends, I’ve made enemies, I’ve screwed up more ways than I can count.
This year I have found some peace, I have finished two full semesters of college, I’ve been accepted into Nursing school, I’ve bought a house, I’ve bought a car, I’ve traveled, I’ve laughed big fat belly laughs, I’ve loved on my kids like crazy, I’ve rocked the whole stupid single mom gig, I’ve found pieces of Michelle that were long gone, I’ve created a new life for us.
Turns out you can be stupid and amazing all at once and in the same year. I’m living proof. You can also own your stupidity. And your amazing badassness. I’m living proof.