Getting to know me...
Friends, today I’m grateful for my ongoing journey of self discovery and reinvention (words I never thought I’d ever read). I never wanted to reinvent myself. I didn’t want to start over; I thought I was set for life with my best friend. I resisted. I wallowed. I sat still and tried to make time do it, too. If I could keep things just as they were, he’d never be that far gone from me, and things could stay just the same; I could somehow make it so that he’s not gone, he’s just in another room. He’s just at work. He hasn’t left me. He’s just not “here” right now. But time wore on anyway. Things kept happening no matter how hard I tried to keep still. Holidays, life events…and somehow the hindsight of it all kicked in. How slowly I really lost him, how much it took out of both of us over the years. The truth is that when he got sick, he wasn’t the only one who retreated from the world, from feeling. The fear of getting nicked again and again was more than I could take, too. I think of who Kenny was before treatments and sickness took it all away; the connection we had, the partnership. I know he loved me. I know he’d hate the thought that I’m trying to keep life in some vacuum, where I feel nothing anymore. Where I watch the world go by without joining it. So at first it was baby steps…everything I did felt like I was living it for him, like I’d absorbed him. I’ll do the parent things for both of us. I’ll take the kids to Disney World. I’ll go to the beach and take the kids swimming. I’ll do it all, and I’ll do it for him.
It wasn’t until a couple of months in that I realized, while that’s great, and I will always do that, I needed to do things for me. It was a slow start; it felt unnatural, and it made me feel guilty to even care about myself at all. Any semblance of happiness felt like I was doing something wrong. I remember wanting to buy something for myself, and then thought “Kenny wouldn’t like this shirt.” SO I didn’t buy it. It was really hard to override years of doing things with someone else in mind. Then, when I got back to North Carolina, it felt like I hit bottom. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, lonely…and one day, somehow, it all just “clicked.” I started making friends, making plans, stepping outside my comfort zone.
Since then, it’s been this seriously weird experience, but I can honestly say I really like how things are going right now. I like learning about myself. I like reconnecting with old friends who remind me of who I was before “life.” I love joking, and laughing, and meaning it. Not “fake it till you make it” smiling, not “laughing” because I know I’m supposed to. I mean real, from the gut silliness. I love choosing “happy” as often as I can. I love dancing around my house with my kids until we’re all out of breath. I love getting out and trying new things, testing things I like, or don’t like, from food, to clothes, to new music. I love feeling alive again.
I’ve also finally learned to LET myself be proud. Sometimes, in the past, it always felt like I was waiting for someone to just reach out and tell me I was doing a great job. And while it’s always nice to hear I’m doing a good job, I’ve finally let it come from me. And know what? I am DAMN proud of myself. Come what may, I took a chance. A real, big chance; and that chance has snowballed into taking other chances. Each little chance I take makes me feel stronger, braver, and more capable than I was before. I’m proud that I’m just freaking here, and doing as well as I can be. I’m proud that my kids are happy and thriving, that I’ve made friends, they’ve made friends, that we keep on doing things to enjoy life, and even celebrate it. I’m proud that I’ve become someone who genuinely chooses happy, despite the fact that no one would blame me if I didn’t. I can’t say bad things won’t happen. I can’t say I’m not afraid (I’m always afraid), but every day I get up, and choose to feel as positive as I can. When I do have those harder days, or waves of fear or sadness, I do my best to work through it and get back on track.
I can’t say how long it’ll all last, but for now, I’m grateful to enjoy getting to know who I’m becoming.