If This Were Real Life...
If this were real life, I would be spending my days being productive and crushing goals. I would be scrubbing toilets, mopping floors and dusting shelves. I would fold laundry right when the buzzer went off. I would run errands to the dry cleaner and the grocery store and the bank. I would volunteer at school. I would spend hours in the kitchen prepping healthy meals. I would vacuum and unload the dishwasher and wash my car. I would go on hikes. I would meet a friend for coffee down the street. I would teach fitness classes and train for a race. I would get a sitter for Moms' Night Out and get a little drunk. I would join a book club or take a class. I would call my Dad. I would send birthday cards to relatives and make costumes for Spirit Week. I would remember things. I would have potlucks and movie nights. I would go on weekend getaways and trips to the mainland. I would get a dog. I would plan date nights and play dates and do all the things. But it's all too much. And this isn't real life. My husband died.
So instead I've lowered my standards to realistic. I prioritize. I focus on accomplishing only one big task per day so I don't get overwhelmed. I use paper plates. I unsubscribe to emails. My new word is simplify. I don't schedule two appointments in one day. I rest. I try to listen to my body. I take walks. I run intervals instead of 10K's because that's where I am right now. I do everything I possibly can online. I don't make plans for happy hour or invite people to our house. I stick to a routine. I run the dishwasher once a day no matter how empty or full it is. I say no. Sometimes I have groceries delivered to my house. I use Amazon to order everything else. When I open the dryer and sand falls out I don't get upset anymore. I have a new perspective. Most things don't matter in the end. I try to laugh it off. I take it slow. I remind myself I'm not the one who died. I tell myself this is all temporary. Someday everything will be okay.
If this were real life, I would show my kid tough love. I would have more rules and consequences and I would put my foot down. I would be more involved. I would insist he use a timer to brush his teeth. I would play Roblox and build Legos and we would have more fun. I would know when he was manipulating me and stand my ground. I wouldn't fall for tears. I would make him sleep in his own bed because he just turned 10. I would ground him when he lashed out and let his anger show. I would take him to museums and national parks and carnivals. I would teach him how to cook. We would do beach cleanups and science experiments and build forts in the living room. We would go camping (against my will). He would smile more. We wouldn't have to leave when dads were throwing their kids around in the pool. He would play sports and join Boy Scouts and make new friends. He would have sleepovers and feel more confident and do well in school. But he is hurting. And this isn't real life. His daddy died.
So instead, I do what I can to just show him love. I keep him on track and try to be consistent even though I want to break all the rules. I make mac 'n' cheese when he's feeling down. He has therapy twice a week. We have a schedule. I let him have his big feelings, a brand new concept for me, and tell him I understand how he feels. He takes personal days from school. Sometimes we eat dinner in front of the TV. Don't even get me started on screen time. He sleeps in my bed with me. We have an "emotional support" cat. We have good friends that we meet at the beach almost every day. He walks a neighbor's dogs. Saturday is "Lazy Day." We take golf cart rides to feed the ducks. We keep a positivity chart on the fridge where he earns rewards. We have basic house rules. We do chores on the weekend. I hug him (against his will) and tell him I love him no matter what. I am honest with him. I make jokes. I practice patience. We do our best. He sees that I have bad days too. I tell him what he feels is normal and that I feel that way too.
If this were real life, I would have regular anxiety like every other mom. I would worry sometimes about dishes and laundry and due dates piling up. I would wonder if my husband works too much. I would freak out a little when a bill was past due or if missed my exit on the highway. I would stress out if I was running late. I would leave the house and not wonder if I was ever coming back. I would get through an entire Costco run without feeling like I was going to pass out. I wouldn't feel dread when my phone rang, expecting it to be bad news. I would feel a normal amount of overwhelm when my plate was full and I couldn't get it all done. I would be able to digest food. I would be able to take a nap. I wouldn't have panic attacks or google symptoms late at night, reading about cancer and heart attacks. I would feel headaches and sore throats and heartburn and not give it a second thought. I wouldn't think I was dying all the time. I would know that I was healthy and strong. I wouldn't keep reliving that awful night over and over again in my mind. But I can't turn it off. And this isn't real life. My world was turned upside down.
So instead, I repeat mantras and do deep breathing and focus on being calm. I stare at the ocean. I listen to Hawaiian music. I call good friends when I need them to talk me down. I left my job. I pretend I'm retired. My days are full of self care. I paint rocks. I write. I read library books. I'm working on loving myself. My circle has become extremely small. I have several meditation apps on my phone. I listen to podcasts. I use my heating pad and massage pillow religiously. I watch Will & Grace in bed at night to end on a good note. I don't drink anymore. I use essential oils and special pillows and make sure I get enough sleep. I'm learning that my feelings can't hurt me. This one is going to take some time. I don't should on myself. I practice forgiveness. I am grateful for all that I have. I've started speaking to myself like a child who needs reassurance instead of an idiot who should stop being weak. I watch Ellen videos because they make me happy cry. I pray, in my own way. I try to recognize how far I've come. I repeatedly tell myself I am safe.
If this were real life, my husband would still be here. He never would have left. We would have talked it over. We would have figured it out. He would have told me he needed help. We would have had more date nights and family days and sunsets on the beach. We would have taken a trip. He would have taken time off. He wouldn't have kept everything to himself. We would have gone to counseling and spent more time together drinking wine and talking on the couch. He would have gone to meetings. He would have gone back to work. He would have won more awards and known how brilliant he was. I would have made his favorite meals and packed his lunch. I would have bought him high-end scotch. I would have told him I loved him and he would have known. We would have made each other laugh. We would have paid off our debt. He would have bought a new car and we would argued about how much money he spent. He would have gotten clean. He would have loved himself. He would have saved his own life. But that's not how it happened. And this isn't real life. My husband is gone.
So instead, I heal and I grieve. Two steps forward, one step back. It's been a long road. I try not to argue with reality. The mystery will never be solved. I do the best I can to push forward. I do yoga. I meditate. I get fresh air every day. I remind myself that he loved us. I talk to him in my head. I have two therapists, a life coach, a support group for solo moms and an incredibly patient best friend. I try to keep my life simple. I make lists. I check things off. I learn as much as I can. I try not to take it out on everybody else. I keep in mind that other people's advice, as well as their comments and opinions, are all optional. Nobody knows what's best for us but me. We put pictures of him all over the house. Our inside jokes come up all the time. We celebrate his birthday with milkshakes and arcade games to keep tradition alive. I'm not angry with him anymore. Well, not as much as I was. I tell myself it wasn't my fault over and over again. Sometimes I believe that it's true. I tell my son stories about his dad and how much he reminds me of him. I talk about our wedding day and the day he was born and everything in between. I talk about silly things. About how proud his dad would be of him. He says Daddy is watching us. I can hear his laugh sometimes. I can still hear his voice. I think about what could have been. I remind myself of all the good times before the end. I remember him.