10 Months

This week has been ROUGH. I told my therapist yesterday that I’ve had this line from a children’s book running through my head. I read it to my kids a million times, but I can’t remember the title….but the line is “sometimes I want to curl up in a ball so no one can see me because I’m so small”.

After a good weekend with my parents…we got my garage cleaned out…yeah! My week went downhill pretty quickly. Woke up Tuesday morning to my downspout hanging off the side of my house and my gutter dented. No idea how that happened. One more thing to take care of. Then my “service engine soon” light came on in my car. I’m sure it just needs an oil change. One more thing to take care of. Wednesday morning my dishwasher stopped draining. One more thing to take care of. Yesterday we dropped Seth’s car off to get the hail damage fixed so we’re down a car for awhile. One more thing to sort out. I cannot handle anymore “one more things”!!!

Wednesday the landscaper came out to meet with me and we walked around the yard and talked about what I’m looking for. I knew that I really needed to work with someone on this project who I can feel a connection with because it is very important to me that it is done right. I told him before we even walked around the house that my husband passed away in August after battling brain cancer for 15 months and that I need my backyard to be a place where I don’t feel stress. A place where the kids and I can hang out…the dogs can play…a special place for me. Thankfully, he completely got where I was coming from. So much so that when I told him Jason bought me the gazebo and that it was my peaceful place for the past 4 years he suggested using parts off it somewhere in the landscape design. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with!

And so it’s been a week of high stress and very high anxiety. Mornings where I’ve woken up…but not wanted to…dragged myself out of bed…somehow got to work…and then had to sit in the parking lot and breathe my way out of a panic attack….get my “work mask” as firmly in place as I can…and then fight my way through one more day…and one more day…and one more day. And when I say “fight” I am not using that word lightly…because I DON’T WANT TO.

So 10 months. I just want to stop going forward. I feel like time is just taking me away from Jason. I know that’s not true in my head….but my heart doesn’t care what makes sense.

I miss my husband so bad. I told my therapist yesterday that I miss the feeling of being so completely and perfectly loved. “Soulmates” is such a cheesy word…but we were that for each other. Two imperfect people that perfectly fit together.

The Knowing

No feeling in the world can beat
Feeling completely loved.

When another soul looks at yours
And sees all the broken messy bits.

The insecurities
The failures
The hurts

And doesn’t accept you despite them
But because of them

Because they are what make you.

And in that person you find your home

Your refuge
Your safety
Your peace

Your souls will form a bond
Unbreakable by time, distance, death

Your hearts will beat together
The rhythm of your love

Your bodies will search for each other
Like polar ends on a magnet

And that’s when you know.

Memorial Weekend

It has been a busy, busy week. Levi wrapped up his tennis season playing singles in Individual Sections on Tuesday and Thursday. He won both of his matches on Tuesday and then lost against the #1 kid in the State on Thursday. I think that loss only showed him the things that he needs to keep working on and added fuel to his fire. We were both really sad that he couldn’t share this tennis moment with his Dad, but he does have a lot of support and had a phenomenal group of guys there cheering him on. These guys have been steadfast in supporting my family these past two years. They put up with me daily…and make sure my boys are okay and get plenty of opportunities for good tennis.

My parents also came on Thursday just in time to watch Levi’s match and are with us this weekend. It has been great having them here. They helped me get my garage cleaned out so I can actually park the cars in there again. Yeah!! I’ve been dealing with the insurance company for hail damage to my cars and roof from a storm about three weeks ago and really don’t want to go through all that hassle again! We also took a walk to Jason’s bench, went to a garden center, and my sister and her family came over for pizza last night. It’s been a good weekend.

This week I have a landscaper and a fence company coming to give me estimates and ideas for my yard. Right now when I look out at my yard all I feel is stress because I see all the work that needs to be done. I want my yard to be more of a sanctuary for my family. Where we can just hang out together…eat outside…have fires…let the dogs run around. I also have a dream of having a “me spot”…a place where I can drink my morning coffee…or a glass of wine in the evening…write…maybe some sort of water fountain…hammock…pergola maybe. We’ll see. Jason gave me my gazebo to be that place for me before, but now that the gazebo is worn out I need a more permanent place. It’s also something I can feel a little excited about, which honestly, is a feeling I don’t feel much anymore. I either absolutely don’t want to do things, or I tolerate things….and those things usually only with a few drinks. So a project that makes me feel excited and gives me something to look forward to feels really good right now.

Bluejays and Foxes

Today was a pretty good day again. The kids and I enjoyed our breakfast together this morning. We went to a different restaurant this week than we usually do. It was a good to change it up a little bit. My Caramel Irish Coffee was delicious…Baileys and butterscotch schnapps in my coffee? Yes please.

When we got home Anna and Levi put their stubborn personalities to good use and shimmied and shoved and got the lawn mower out of the garage. It was trapped in the back behind all the furniture that got put in there this winter when I redid the basement and living room. I have a company coming to take a bunch of the junk on Saturday morning, but the lawn couldn’t wait until then!

Then Anna went to work and Seth went to play tennis, but Levi spent most of the day with me. We filled up the birdfeeders and got the lawn mowed and weed whacked. He and I also talked quite a bit about what we would like to do with our yard and contacted a couple landscape companies to come give us estimates….as well as a fencing company. We’ll see what we can do this summer to turn our backyard into a peaceful sanctuary that we feel like we can hang out in.

Levi and I also both had tennis lessons this afternoon. It always feels good to take some aggression out by smacking some balls around…especially now that my game is feeling a lot better than it used to. If you would like your game to also feel better, I know a guy…lol. Levi is playing the best tennis of his life right now and just getting better. It’s really fun to watch his improvement. He is playing singles in Individual Sections this week…should be some good tennis!

Lately I’ve been thinking about blue jays and foxes. Jason and I always enjoy watching the birds in our backyard. We have always had birdfeeders out…the squirrel-proof kind of course! Every once in awhile we would try a different kind of food or different kind of feeder…just to see what we would attract. Well, one of the feeders that Jason wanted to try is a peanut feeder. It basically looks like a slinky connected in a circle that you fill with peanuts in the shell. Well, it does attract birds…blue jays. Now in the hierarchy of birds, blue jays are not really near the top. They are kind of noisy and obnoxious. They often just come and take peanut after peanut and then stash them somewhere. They can empty that peanut feeder in an afternoon. Some people would just give up and take the feeder down, not Jason. He loved watching those darn blue jays. He didn’t care that they weren’t “cool birds”. So I keep filling that feeder up for him and thinking of him every time I see those blue jays.

I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but the morning Jason passed away there was a red fox that went strolling across our backyard. Not completely unusual. We get the gamut of wild life here…deer, raccoons, fox, opossum, coyote, turkeys, etc. But this one kind of paused and turned and looked at me where I was watching it through the patio door…and it’s eyes looked so sad. I’ve been watching for another fox ever since and hadn’t seen one until last weekend when I was driving to Wabasha. I was right outside of Lake City and suddenly there were three of them playing on the trail between the lake and the road. And now I’ve been dreaming about foxes and can’t get them out of my head.

Anna’s Home!

Yesterday was a good day. It started out a little rough. I had therapy in the morning. My week had me feeling pretty battered and exhausted. Anxiety was huge for me last week and I had a few things I just needed to talk out. Looking back I think that I have always had a fair amount of anxiety, but Jason was always there to talk things through with me so my brain could let go. Now, my brain can’t let go and all my worries just spin and spin and spin. It is paralyzing and exhausting.

Midmorning I left to go to Eau Claire to help Anna move back home. Jeremy came with me, which I really enjoyed. It was nice chatting with him in the car…reminiscing about our college years…talking about Jason…talking about the kids…tennis…life. We stopped at one of our favorite spots for lunch…Mancinos…bonus!

After we got the cars unpacked at home, Anna and I headed out to go buy plants for my pots outside. We decided to do all purple flowers for Jason. She spent the rest of the evening getting everything potted for me. She is my plant-loving girl for sure. I now not only have color outside, but every spare surface inside has a plant on it. I don’t know how she fits them all in her dorm room. The flowers outside make me smile, but I don’t think I even would have done them without her.

Then, out of the blue last night Seth tells me he got a job coaching tennis this summer. I don’t know why I doubt that kid and worry about him so much because he always pulls through and does things in his own time. I told him when he moved back home that I wasn’t going to nag him about working…that I knew he needed his time and space to grieve his Dad….but I really wanted him to just finish his semester of classes. Well, he not only finished his classes, but he decided to get a job as well. He and I went out for lunch together and I really think he is doing just fine.

So…good day yesterday…good time with Seth today…and then this afternoon was horrible. Sad…lonely…panicky…couldn’t focus…anxious. Then I got frustrated with myself because I have so many things I could do and I just couldn’t. My emotions just got the better of me and I literally felt paralyzed. I went outside and watered the plants and that felt like a huge accomplishment.

Tomorrow morning the kids and I are going out for breakfast. We really value our breakfast tradition. Usually we go on Saturday morning, but Anna and I both worked this morning, so Sunday morning it is!

Crazy Widow Ramblings

And everything in my mind is screaming
Retreat! Retreat!

And my soul is pleading
Mercy! Mercy!

And my heart, my poor heart
Bleeding, Bleeding

I add another brick to the wall
Protect, Protect

But the foundation crumbles
Down, Down

And the words keep battering
Bam! Bam!

And the eyes, everywhere the eyes
Watching, Watching

And the fingers pointing all around
Judging, Judging

And the constant buzz of whispers
Criticizing, Criticizing

Or is it all in my messed-up mind?
Paranoid, Paranoid

And caring has ceased
Forgotten, Forgotten

But I cannot forget the love that still burns
Forever, Forever

And I feel so all alone
Lonely, Lonely

My love is not here
Gone, Gone

Only alive in my mind
Memory, Memory

Unexpected Triggers

Today was Levi’s last match of the season with Eastview. He still has Individual Sections next week…so more tennis for him to play…but his team is done. They played Benhilde-St. Margaret. He played a great match and won at 3 singles, but his team ended up losing 3-4. They had a really good season…although the weather could’ve been better at the beginning of the season especially!

Jeremy came to watch today. He walked into the spectator area with a woman that looked very familiar to me, but I couldn’t place her until he said…”Did you recognize who I walked over with? Jason’s partner…” And then the light went on. Sarah that Jason had played mixed doubles with at the last National’s Tournament that he played in November 2019. She was the Mom of one of the players on the Benhilde-St Margaret team. I didn’t know her as well as some of his other partners, but the fact that she was there nagged at my brain and my emotions the whole match.

When the match was over I went up to her and introduced myself. She already knew who I was and gave me a big hug and asked how we were doing. I got teary-eyed and had to put a huge effort into holding back sobs. Unusual for me. I don’t know if it was seeing her unexpectantly…or memories that came up…a combination…but damn that was hard on me. I told her we were hanging in there…still doing a lot of tennis. She commented on how well Levi played and I said “He’s a lot like his Dad and if there is one thing I know Jason would approve of it’s tennis. So here we are”. And then I said my goodbyes and got out of there before I turned into a mess on the court.

Unexpected triggers are hard. It’s like my legs get swept out from under me and I just can’t find my footing or my breath for a bit. Most of my days I have my guard up and I’m better prepared…like when I’m at work…most of the time my emotions are battened down tight. Today…watching my kid play…not so much.

And it’s a Wednesday…I don’t count the weeks anymore….but every single Wednesday I think “Jason died on Wednesday”.

Jason and Sarah at the National Tennis Campus in Orlando Nov 2019

Most Improved Player

Last week in therapy we talked a lot about how humans have the ability to feel multiple emotions at a time…sometimes very strong emotions…sometimes emotions that are complete opposites of each other. She was asking me to rate on a scale of 0-10 how often I have felt certain emotions or how strong certain emotions have been in the past week….happy, hopeful, hopeless, sad, anxious, irritated, lonely, etc.

So often the times when I would say I am feeling the happiest…I am also feeling so incredibly sad. Today is one of those days. Levi wrapped up the regular season for tennis and brought home the award for Most Improved Player. I am so happy for him and so proud of him. He worked incredibly hard all year…private lessons, drills, matchplay, etc. He never hung his racquet up or took a break…just kept grinding. He just loves the game so much and wants to play the best that he can, not only for himself, but for his team. And while I am so happy….I am so sad because his Dad isn’t here to share this moment. And it’s moments like these where I feel like praise from his Dad would mean so much more than praise from me.

Wabasha Takeaways

I made it back home from Wabasha around 10:30 this morning. I could’ve stayed a little bit longer but my anxiety about leaving the kids home alone…human and dog…was starting to get the better of me. Seth was feeding the dogs their breakfast (!) when I got home, but he had also loaded and started the dishwasher…so there’s that.

A few takeaways from the weekend:

  1. Laptop screens do not mix well with sunny days. It’s really hard to sit in the sun and write at the same time. So frustrating!
  2. I do better with time alone if I am really alone…like cabin by a lake alone. I did okay eating breakfast in a local dinner by myself on Saturday morning, but other than that being around people was really uncomfortable. I was glad that I brought along frozen dinners so I didn’t have to venture out much other than walking down by the river.
  3. Sitting by water is extremely calming. It brings me peace in a way that little else does. My mind stills and my breathing calms listening to the waves shush against the shore. I know this…but I always forget. I need to add some water to my backyard.
  4. And lastly…but the most exciting and scary for me…I decided that I need to do something more with my writing. I revived a project that I had started a few months back that I’m pretty excited about….autobiography…mixed with poetry…mixed with pictures…mixed with songs that have spoken to me at different times in my life. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it when I’m finished…but it feels good to be working on it and like something I need to do.

After I got home I worked on hanging up some pictures around the house. I really like this frame that I filled with pictures from Jeremy and Cheryl’s wedding. I go back to that day in my head often. The Last Happy Day

I’m No Cheer Captain

Last night I watched the movie “Senior Year” with Rebel Wilson.  It is a comedy about a cheer captain who has an accident while doing a stunt and ends up in a coma for 20 years. Of course, when she wakes up life has gone on around her, but in her mind she’s still 17 with dreams of being prom queen.

The movie had its funny parts but I also found so much to empathize with.  No, I was never cheer captain or the most popular girl in school.  I never had aspirations of being prom queen.  But I do feel like life is going on around me while I’m still somewhere in the past…not 20 years, but 2 years for sure.  In the movie, Rebel’s character tries to make her old goals and dreams fit into her new life…and while that makes for great comedy as a 37 year old goes back to high school…it just doesn’t work well.  But what is one supposed to do when one’s life changes so drastically in ways one never would have chosen or imagined?  When the change is so big that the very threads of one’s identity are either completely broken or unraveling. When not a single dream or goal from before is relevant or obtainable.  And life goes on all around…for everyone else.

I ran across this infographic the other day that pictures all of the secondary losses that occur when someone loses their spouse. A couple of these don’t apply to me….I still have my job and I’m not in danger of losing my house, although I would say that it doesn’t feel like “home”. And these are not even all of the things I feel like I’m grieving. I feel grief that Jason doesn’t get to experience a future with me and our kids. I feel grief that my kids don’t get to have their Dad and our grandkids won’t have their Grandpa. And on top of that is the trauma from watching the love of my life suffer for 15 months before dying in front of me while I was powerless to stop or fix anything. I feel like it would be easier to pull a Rebel Wilson and go back to school and become prom queen than it would be to have any sort of hopes and dreams for my future.

And so for now I am just treading water. Staying afloat. Trying to be a good Mom to my kids…making sure they have everything they need. Forcing myself to keep on kicking when I really don’t want to. Goals for today: enjoy nature…walk by the river…write…sit in the sunshine…get an ice cream cone. Today is going pretty well so far.

So…this weekend I was supposed to be enjoying Girls’ Weekend with my sister-in-law and my friend Terri. Doing all the wine drinking…or vodka soda drinking…we could and wreaking havoc on Wabasha, MN. In other words spending our money libating at the local establishments and scouring the boutiques for “must-haves”. Well…as usual…things didn’t go as planned. Terri had a conflict with a trip to Florida and had to cancel. Bummer, but Cheryl and I were going to pick up her slack and party twice as hard. Well, that plan also died when Cheryl tested positive for Covid on Monday. And not the “oh I’m positive, but I don’t have any symptoms Covid”. The “oh my God I got hit by a truck and I’m dying Covid”. So suddenly…no Girls’ Weekend…but I have a VRBO in Wabasha I’ve already paid for and can’t get a refund on.

So I’m frustrated…and angry. Not at either one of them, but at how life has to keep throwing me freaking curveballs. And that’s how I went into my Friday therapy session this morning. And Connie worked her listening magic once again. Let me bluther and cry not only about my “ruined” weekend, but about all the other things I didn’t know I was even thinking about under the surface. And by the end of the hour my whole mindset had changed and instead of being frustrated and angry at the change of plans I was looking forward to having more of a “writing retreat” type weekend. The location is not exactly what I would have planned for such a thing…put me in a cabin by myself on a lake…but I do have a balcony where I can see a small stretch of the river…so I’m making due with that.

On the way here I drove through Red Wing….where Jason grew up and his parents still live. I was reminiscing about the first time Jason brought me home to “meet the parents”. It was January of our Freshman year of college. Red Wing is a pretty small town now…it was even smaller back then. No Target or Walmart. His Dad was a teacher at Cannon Falls High School and his Mom worked for Goodhue County. They were both at work when I got there. Jason was trying to fix something with he and Jeremy’s computer that he had messed up. And I was sitting in Jeremy’s room looking through their high school yearbooks while he did that. I don’t know why I remember that so well. I slept in Jason’s room and he slept in the basement. His parents would leave for work in the morning and I would sneak downstairs to cuddle with Jason for a few hours until we got up for the day. He struggled to find anything in Red Wing to show me…Treasure Island Casino (we went inside the lobby and saw the waterfall)…the Pottery…Red Wing Shoe…the St. James Hotel…the lock and dam by the nuclear power plant. We went to see the Titanic in the movie theater and his high school buddy let us in for free. Good memories.