Baby steps

Sometimes in my life, I wake up and find myself in a place, a life really, that I don’t recognize.  I look around and what I see is so different than my life was a few years ago. Some days when this happens I am shocked.  Other days when I look at my world I can say…well, what did I expect?  Things had to change.  It’s a strange place some days when grief reminds me how different I am now than I was seven years ago and how much my grief played a role in the evolving me.  I know I would have evolved with or without grief, but would I have become this woman?

When Dave died, I would set small goals for myself every day.  I took baby steps toward survival.  I would make my bed.  I would take a shower.  I might even venture out into the world to the grocery store.  All of these things were so painful.  I was consumed by grief.  All I could think about was that he was gone.  He was gone and I somehow was still here.  He was gone and somehow I would have to see our boys into manhood…alone.  It was completely overwhelming, completely consuming, completely exhausting…just thinking about these things.  I was happy most days to just be able to get out of bed, get Sammy to and from school, feed and care for both of the kids, and then make it back to bed again.  Every day felt like an eternity.  When I look back and see that nearly three thousand days have passed…well, I can’t believe it.

As the days passed, I tried to make bigger goals.  Maybe a goal would be conquering a “first” without him.  Something like flying a kite with the kids, walking the dogs around the block, cooking one of his/our favorite dishes would be the accomplishment for the day.  I really think it was this daily stuff, this ordinary routine that was most painful.  Watching a movie we enjoyed together…excruciating.  Going to one of our favorite restaurants…nearly killed me.  These ordinary things, these baby steps through my life that died with him gave me strength each day as I looked back on them.  Each day, I could say to myself that I had done something, I had made the bed…hell, I had gotten out of bed!  I did this for years…yes, years.

Several years ago it became necessary for me to set some bigger goals.  After I was diagnosed with LAM disease in 2006 – a year after he died – my insurance rates sky rocked.  Although I was still in good health, the insurance companies considered me “terminal”…a very untrue and broad statement.  My income had to increase – I had to find a way to take care of my new medical issues that wouldn’t bankrupt me.  I needed work that would allow me to be present to my kiddos and still feed them and provide a home for them.

So, I went back to work.  I tried full time administration – it nearly killed me. It nearly killed the boys too.  We wouldn’t get home until evening and then there was still homework, dinner, housework, and all those other little things to do.  I had no time for my kids.  I was completely stressed out and felt guilty every day because I couldn’t be the superwoman I expected myself to be.

I set new goals.  I remembered old goals.  I wanted to heal our hearts.  I wanted to be present to my kids.  I wanted to be healthy so I could care for them for a long, long time. I hoped that one day, happy would creep back in to my sorrowful life.

I left my full time job.  I found jobs here and there.  I made just enough money…some days, when it wasn’t enough, I swallowed my pride and lived on the kindness of others.  I started this blog.  I tried to do things that were life giving…hoping that my life would be given back to me.  I decided to go back to school.   I decided that I needed to be more marketable and needed to be marketable for the next twenty years…my baby was not even in kindergarten yet.

So this week, I will finish the master’s program I started about two years ago.  This was not a small goal.  This was a goal that I thought I may not be able to complete.  I would give it my time, my energy, and my focus with the hope that I could make it through. Well, here I sit…goal achieved!

Not only did I do this, but on the way, I found myself back in work that I love and is life giving.  Every day I spend in a middle school classroom – yes I said middle school – I feel alive and blessed.  I am grateful for every moment…yes, every moment!  These days, I wake up and I feel lucky again.  How did I get here?  I wonder about this every, single day.  Seven years ago, I couldn’t bear to get out of bed…tomorrow I will joyfully get up very early and go to a place filled with life, energy and learning…the only way I can believe it – I remember the baby steps.  Bit by bit, small goal by small goal, making the bed each day, taking a shower, writing, going to school…see…it builds…baby steps.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my husband.  There is not a day that goes by that I my heart doesn’t long for my kiddos to have their dad…but somehow, I found my way back.  Somehow, those little goals led me to a place unexpected.  Those little goals helped me to grow into the woman I have always been meant to be.  Who knew I would be able to survive?  I certainly didn’t…

But, guess what – I did!

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8 thoughts on “Baby steps

  1. Annette says:

    Congratulations! I am so proud of you. I am nearly six months into widowhood and look forward to the day when I can accomplish the goals that I set. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  2. Teri says:

    This is a very inspiring post, it will help a lot of widows.

    Congratulations on getting your Masters Degree.

  3. Karen says:

    Christine,
    First of all congratulations, that is a huge accomplishment!
    I have enjoyed reading your blog since my husband passed one year ago. Your honesty and your ability to express your thoughts and feelings has helped me through some not so fun days. I still don’t see how things are going to be better but you are giving me hope. I will believe in “baby steps” for now, wishing you and your family all the best,

    • cmt says:

      thank you so much for your kind words! The only reason I’ve ever written this blog is for solidarity with others who grieve…many others have given me hope throughout the years…I am grateful to be able to pay it forward…baby steps baby!

  4. brenner1543 says:

    I feel so selfish being consumed with my own grief when I read something as beautifully honest as this. You are being so strong for yourself, your children, and for those of us reading this. You are truly an inspiration.

    Christine, I really like that you wrote about how time goes by so quickly and how unbelievable it is. I came across a William Shakespeare quote today that said “Grief makes one hour seem like ten”; could that not be more true? It really does.

    • cmt says:

      Please, please don’t feel selfish. In my experience, grief it myopic…it’s very hard to see beyond ourselves…all I could think about for years was how would I cope. Your loss is so recent – please be gentle with yourself and compare your grief, your journey to no one’s. I so get that quote tho’ … it is soooo true!

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