Raising Raging Kids

Here’s a fun fact about widowhood:

If you have young children when your spouse dies, about a year after his/her death those children will probably go into full on rage mode.

I’d heard of this from a widow friend who was farther down the road, and now I am at that signpost.

One of my kids has slammed into “anger” with full force.  He’s always been a bit quick to fly off the handle.  We’ve always had to learn to manage his fits and his expectations.  Lately, however, his anger has become exhausting, impossible, draining, defeating.  He is quick to trigger and his rage fits will last over an hour sometimes.  We will then have a few minutes of peace before he triggers again. He screams.  He kicks walls.  He screams.  He slams doors.  He screams.  And screams.  And screams.

Through it he hurls insults.  I am a terrible mom.  I obviously hate him because I don’t want him to be happy.  He hates me because I don’t want him to be happy.  He’s going to run away.  He’s going to grow up to be a criminal due to my poor raising of him.  He hates me, he hates me, he hates me.

This isn’t supposed to happen until they are teenagers, right?

I am not without recourse.  We all see counselors, and we are working very hard with him to determine how to help him.  We are enlisting grief and anger specialists.  We are not letting this situation escalate without taking any action.  I am getting him the care he needs, but grief is a process.  We are getting through this, but in some ways it might just come down to being a storm that we will weather together.

I feel terrible for him.  It must be so miserable to be entirely contained within a fog of anger.  He can’t enjoy his life.  We are working on it.  I know we will get him through this.

Meanwhile, am I permitted to also feel terrible for me?  I am doing what the counselors suggested.  I remain calm.  I. REMAIN. CALM.  I REMAIN CALM, DAMMIT!  Seriously, I try my best to keep a calm tone of voice.  He can scream as much as he wants, but not in my face.  And not if it is making everyone else miserable.  He is allowed to have and express his feelings, but he is not allowed to make others feel bad.  He can scream in his room.  When he gets insulting, he gets a count.  Three count = time out.

One epic incident lasted over two hours.  I cannot remember what it was about.  I wouldn’t let him have juice, or it was time to turn of the TV.  Something like that.  He screamed and bellowed and slobbered and flung insults at me.  I calmly counted whenever he crossed the line, and wound up sending him to his room three or four times.  It was a nightmare, and I didn’t think I would be able to continue.

After that night, it has been better.  It was almost an instant cure.  For a couple of days he had no fits at all.  It’s building up again though.  I can feel it.  That kid has some sort of tectonic pressure inside of him and he is going to have another collapse.

The other night, he finally said it.  He said what I knew was coming, and was dreading to hear.

“Mom, I wish Dad were still here and that it was you that died.”

Holy shit, y’all.  Ouch.  Ouch.

I know it’s normal and okay.  I gave him a count for saying something hurtful.  I reminded him that if he wants to talk about his feelings, about my rules, anything that we can do that in a calm way but that he is not to say hurtful things when he is upset.

He was really close to his dad.  I am sure there are lots of times that he would rather have his dad around instead of me.  I know it doesn’t mean he would trade me, or that he wants me to die.  He doesn’t want either of us dead.  I know, however, that he sometimes feels his life would be better or more fair if he was with his dad instead of with me.  I am told this is natural.  A child will idolize their non-present parent and will believe their life would be better with the other person.

I also know that to a certain extent he was trying to engage me in an argument, by escalating his words to get a reaction from me.

It’s okay.  I understand.

It’s okay.

Except that Jesus Christ it is so not okay.  I’m not okay.

And now I am mad at my husband for leaving me to deal with the grief of our children.

My (Almost) Second Dungeons & Dragons

A local game store was holding a “one shot” DnD event.  One day for newcomers and old salts to bring level one characters, meet other players, divide into groups, play a short campaign, and go home.

This was PERFECT!  I could get some experience at the game, and perhaps meet some people with whom I could get a casual ongoing gaming experience.  Or not.  The point was for me to get out there and play.

The icing on this cheesecake was that the week before the one-shot, the store was to hold a character generation class.  To ensure the new players felt welcome, this store went above and beyond to hold a clinic for character building.

I went, and was the only student!  Not to be deterred, the young man working at the store gave me a one-on-one tutorial.  I built a lovely Dragonborn Sorceress.

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During my lesson, a couple of scruffy older gentlemen showed up and chatted with us a while.  They gave me a good-natured hard time about my Dragonborn, and told war stories about playing in the eighties.  I gave them a hard time about being stuck in yesteryear.  I felt completely at home.  I belonged here.  I was at ease (as at ease as it is possible for me to be in public) talking to these guys.  I hoped I’d see these men at the one-shot day.

I spent the next week preparing.  I read all about Dragonborn and Sorcerers in the player’s handbook.  I printed out spell cards for the spells I selected.  I wrote a list of my equipment for easy access.  I raided my sons’ Legos, carefully selecting a perfect mini figure.  I collected two sets of dice, and a handful of additional six-sided dice.  I assembled these items into a kit, ready to go.  I sent pictures of the kit to everyone I knew.  I was so proud of it.

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And I got nervous.  Butterflies in my stomach, goosebumps nervous.  I got a huge pimple on my nose.  I felt like I was going on a blind date.  But it wasn’t with a boy — it was a date with me, to see if this is the me I’m going to become.

The next Saturday arrived.  I dropped the kids off at my folks.  I showed up at Zulu’s Board Game Cafe a full hour early.   I sat in the parking lot texting my brother in law about how excited I was.

Should I go in and get something to eat, or wait here until closer to starting time?  Wait-

Why hasn’t my phone beeped the reminder of this event?

I checked my calendar.  The one shot was on SUNDAY.

How did I make that mistake?  I was so thrilled, so excited, so looking forward to it.  How could I get the day wrong?  I couldn’t go the next day.  I had made plans with the kids.  I didn’t want to bring them along.  So I missed it.  I just missed it.  I would actually use the word ‘crestfallen’ to describe my emotions.

I went and saw a movie.  A Quiet Place.

I have contacted Zulu’s since then, and they are planning another one-shot soon.

Meanwhile, I have learned, through Meetup.com, of a pair of friends who are looking for 3 more players to join a DnD campaign every other Friday.  That is perfect scheduling for me, but of course I have no idea if we will ‘click’ or if I will hate them.  I messaged the guy and he said that a total noob is completely welcome.  It is a bit dice though – since it’s at his house.  I am thinking if this comes together I will ask if we can have the first game at a shop so we can all meet each other.  Is that being too paranoid?  I am a girl, and it seems that meeting someone online and showing up at their house is a good way to wind up dismembered in dumpsters.  Would he/they be offended?  I suppose I will feel it out if it happens.  Last I saw, he wasn’t having luck.

So a swing and a miss, but I’m still on the hunt for a DnD group.

My First Dungeons and Dragons

I arrive at the game store. Sporting a shiny new Player’s Handbook in my arms and a set of dice from the Starter Kit in my pocket, I ignore my humming nerves, enter, and observe.

This establishment had advertised something called “D&D Encounters” on Wednesday nights.  I had done my research, and learned that “Encounters” is something promoted by the creators of DnD in order to make it more accessible to new players and to those without time to dedicate to a full campaign.  It is, as I understand it, a one-shot game every week, for level one characters.  This sounded perfect for me.  I had no desire to commit to a campaign I would not be able to maintain, and I especially did not want to saddle a Dungeon Master with a brand new player against his/her expectations.  Just to be sure, I had emailed the establishment to confirm this meetup was for newbies and people with limited availability.  I was told that there were Wednesday night games that had open slots available, and that people pop in and out all of the time.  It wasn’t exactly what I was asking, but it was close.  I was told to arrive early so I could meet the DM and roll up a character if need be.  I was terrified, but I need external interaction so badly right now.  I have always ALWAYS wanted to try tabletop RPGs.  I had to jump in somewhere, and this sounded promising.  So I had decided to go, had my mom watch the kids, and wound up here.

Several tables are occupied by people playing games, but unfortunately none feature a sign stating, “Dungeons and Dragons Noobs over Here!” I take an eternity in front of the cold case, taking deep breaths and selecting a fruity soda.  As I pay, I ask the bartender about the “Encounters” group for newcomers. She sees this listed on their chart, but doesn’t know which group it is.  She asks a man I figure is the owner.  He points toward the back room and says he’s pretty sure those tables have room for new players.  Neither DM has arrived.  He tells me to pick a table and see how it goes.

Ummm, okay.  That’s not my worst nightmare or anything.  I have flashbacks to finding a seat in the school cafeteria.  I almost run away.

Almost.

I stay.

The current clues do not bode well. My fear had been that I would show up and find myself in the middle of someone’s campaign, that a DM would have to try to teach me how to play while running an ongoing game. It now seems like this was exactly what I am about to do.

I peek into the back room. Seated at one table are a couple of kids who tell me that they will be playing an original game one of them has made up.  They say the other table will be playing DnD.  They don’t exactly invite me to play with them, but hint that new players are always welcome. I, however, know that I won’t be able to attend regular Wednesday game sessions, so I don’t want to impose on their game for just one evening.  Plus I am still hoping the DnD table will be single shot games I can play once a month. Besides, these kids are all a good two decades younger than me and sport multicolored hair. Obviously that iss the cool kids’ table. I have never belonged at the cool kids’ table.

I sit at the other table, the one that will be playing DnD and is occupied by a guy closer to my own age. At first I hope his is the GM and I introduce myself.  He tells me the GM hasn’t arrived yet and we chat about general nonsense. A couple of other guys show up, all of us as awkward as one would expect, and finally the GM gets there as well. He welcomes me as a new player and seems nice enough.

He asks if I have a character. I do!. I built one on an online generator, and admittedly don’t know what a bunch of the attributes mean. He looks over my character. Apparently it is all wrong.  My stats don’t match up with my personality traits, etc.

Also, my character is a level one.

I need to be a level three.
Because they are in the middle of an ongoing campaign.

Crap.

At this point I know I probably won’t be able to play with these guys regularly – unless we can make my character hibernate at regular intervals. Like Brigadoon.  I am otherwise engaged three Wednesdays a month.  My dreams of joining a one-shot game once a month to learn the ropes are pretty much dashed all to hell at this point.  I have made it this far, however, so I may as well finish out the evening.

There is no time to roll up a new character for me, as the GM was a bit late to begin with.  He doctors my character up to a level 3 and corrects some of the things that were wrong with her.  He asks some questions, and gives the deep sigh when I don’t know the answers.  The other players are extremely patient, counting out their dice and looking up things in their books.  I apologize for taking up the time, but they all respond with a general, “Hey, we were all new at some point” thing which is super nice.

Finally my character is less atrocious and the game starts. Immediately the GM turns to me and says, “I can’t keep poofing players in and out of the game whenever someone new shows up, so you’ll have to wait while I figure out a way to work you in to the story.” Okay, fine. I completely understand. I didn’t mean to intrude on an ongoing game, but here I am and I am aware that makes things more difficult for the GM. I am certainly not trying to trash him here, because I do know I put him in a bad spot.

It does feel a bit less welcome-y though.  Especially when two of the guys next to me point out that they are in a forest and I’m a rogue thief, so it would make sense for me to kind of appear out of the woods.

“I’m not doing that.” the GM replies.

The group is in a forest, having just rested.  They are immediately attacked by some sort of fire monster whose name I didn’t catch.  It takes me a bit to realize that the little cardboard circles on the table represent the fire monsters.  It doesn’t matter, however, because I’m not in play.  I watch the game play, and the guy next to me whispers, “I’m sure he’ll get you in the game soon.”  I reply, “It’s okay.  It’s helpful just to watch what’s happening.”  I can tell he’s annoyed on my behalf, though, which helps to diminish my own annoyance.

During the battle, a couple of other guys show up — first timers who are friends of one of the other guys.  Now the GM has to deal with three of us.  They borrow characters from their friend, so they don’t need to develop anything.

The GM winds up more or less “poofing” us all into the game.  “You are drawn to the sounds of the battle.”

During the battles I learn the difference between “open to new/beginning players,” and “geared towards beginning players.” While everyone is friendly and patient with me, the game moves so quickly I can’t keep track. We are still under attack by a swarm of . . . those fire related monsters. I can’t tell who is rolling to attack and who is rolling some sort of reaction. When it is my turn, the GM hands me additional dice and tells me what to roll and adds up the numbers, and I spend the next couple of turns scouring my character sheet to find out where all of those numbers came from. (After my second turn at battle, I find that I have been doing a ‘sneak attack,’ which is why I’ve been needing to roll a second d6.  I still have no idea, however, why I had the sneak attack, or when it applied.)

What I had hoped for – what I still hope to find – is a DM who will narrate the game the way I do for the kids. “The monster is attacking that player and the roll comes up with this number which is a hit, so I will roll this and the damage done is that.” Yes, I am saying I need to be treated like a child.

That is not what is happening here.  It feels like dice are rolling and damage is happening and I have no idea what is going on or whose turn it is. I roll when I am told to roll, and attack when my name comes up.  I don’t feel like I’m learning how to play.  I am just perpetually confused.  And stressed.  Every turn I get, I try to figure out quickly what I’m to do, but the GM just keeps pressing dice into my hand like they don’t have time to sit and wait for me to catch up.  (It is only later at home that I realize the other players all had to take a few minutes to check their sheets or their spell cards or whatever during their turns.  It is only me who is being rushed.  Even the other two new guys are given time.)

The battle ends, one of the characters heals us all, we are dealt experience points.   Our group decides to press on instead of resting, and we are attacked by . . . some sort of water creature.  We are still in the forest.

During these battles, I do realize quickly that having your numbers leveled up is not the same as actually playing a character until she levels up organically. Everyone else has developed spells and armor and abilities, while my character is pretty basically equipped.  I have a dagger and a shortsword, and some light armor.  I deliberately have no magic, because I knew I’d be struggling to keep up and didn’t want to complicate things further.

This is how every round of battle goes:
Other Player – throws up a wall of fire or some such. Damages all of the monsters on the north end.
Another Player – blows a gale force wind knocking back all of the monsters 20 feet.
Me – walks up to the closest monster and pokes it with my dagger.

It gets a bit embarrassing and futile feeling before too long.

I think the DM may be skipping me, but I can’t tell for sure and I don’t really care.
By the end of the game, I know that this particular group is not mine. I have learned quite a bit, however, and would say I had a good time. I believe I will find my group eventually, I just don’t click with the dynamics of this one.

Lessons Learned:
I learned that there are SO MANY kinds of dice. Some people come to the table with boxes full of of a kaleidoscope of dice. Others bring out only one or two sets of fancy and obviously expensive dice.
I learned that you need more than one set of dice to play.
I learned that a d8 and a d10 look remarkably similar to each other.
I learned that I should use pregenerated characters until I know what I’m doing.
I learned that it takes about 20 seconds, in a room of the right people, for a heated discussion about Firefly to begin.
I learned that if you (I) roll a one during an attack, you miss the target and wind up shooting your own paladin with your arrow. I also learned the Paladin will not get mad about it.
I learned that a new player (or at least me) should either find a group of friends who play and join them, or find an event that is geared specifically to new players so the GM can plan on teaching while playing.
I learned that maybe next time I should give the cool kids’ table a try.

First After Miserable First

We survived our first holiday season without Trey.

As Halloween approached, we elected to not make the costumes we had all been talking about as a family.  Then we elected to not make costumes at all, but to buy.  Mr.K finally decided to just wear last year’s costume, which was the moment I realized that he was not as excited about the holiday as he wanted to be.  We had several parties plus trick-or-treating.  Each Halloween event began jovially, but ended with K feeling sad, removing his costume, and secluding himself.  He says he may not dress up next year.

Mr.H made a Thanksgiving project at school – a poster on which we all were to write what makes us feel thankful.  We all wrote something about family, but I felt dishonest because our family is missing a piece.

Tension built in the days leading up to Christmas, as Mr.K grew more and more insistent that Santa could bring his dad back.  He would not be disabused of it.  The whole thing terrorized me that he would wake on Christmas morning and fall to pieces because his wish had not come true.  Thankfully, on Christmas morning he accepted what I am sure he already knew — that this was not possible.  We had a lovely day, but partway through it Mr.H got really upset about a gift he though his dad would have gotten him.  I hurt for him so much.  After a snowball fight in the yard, Mr.K laid this one on me:  “It’s sad that dad couldn’t be here for this.  That’s what’s so bad about when people die.  They miss out on all these things.  I mean, Dad is never going to have another Christmas.  I don’t even have to get very old — just 41 — and I will have more Christmases than he did.”

Ouch, kiddo.

New Year’s Eve arrived, with nobody to kiss.

Close on the heels of New Year’s was Trey’s 42nd birthday.  It also would have been our 19th wedding anniversary.  Even though I was certain gravity had doubled due to the heaviness of my entire body, I managed to bulldoze us through that final day of the Wilson Family Holiday Season.  We enjoyed breakfast at the pancake place he used to take us.  We honored his memory by once again visiting the root beer store.  Mr.H and I cooked a birthday cake for Trey.  Mr.K, who originally suggested the cake, found himself unable to move forward with it.  We didn’t sing “Happy Birthday.”  We baked the cake, iced it and ate it.  K joined us for the eating part, and we didn’t talk about why we had cake.

Everybody is extremely sympathetic toward me right now.  I appreciate this. I am fortunate to have so many people in my life who care about me and who are thoughtful enough to realize how difficult the holidays are.

The first holidays, in particular.

For every first holiday, however, there are countless smaller firsts.  Innumerable times my heart protests that the last time we did this, he was with us.  At the beginning of widowhood, these firsts are a daily assault:

The first time I put the kids to bed and came downstairs to nobody.
The first time I made dinner for just the three of us, knowing he would not return.
The first time I went grocery shopping without buying his favorite staples.
I watched a TV show we always watched together.
I picked up listening to the rest of the audoibook we were sharing.
I went to bed.
I woke up.
I rented movies.
I cleaned the kitchen.
I hung up clothes in the closet.

Everything in my life was something I was doing for the first time since he died.

After a while, the basics of living had run through a couple of cycles.  No longer was each day a constant chorus of “this is the first time . . . ”  The firsts continued to batter me, however.

The first time I took them to a movie just the three of us, I couldn’t figure out what to do when I had to use the bathroom — make them both come with me, or leave them in the theater while I went?

The first time I took them to get the Slushies Trey always got them, I managed to get Slushie all over the place.  I could not get the hang of filling the cups the right amount before causing major overflows.  In some cases, the stuff keeps expanding after you stop pouring, turning your cup into a volcano science experiment smelling of blue raspberry.  I’d had no clue it was that complicated.

The first time we went to one of their school parties without Trey was the Neon Glow Party.  It was just a week after he died, but we’d been talking about it for weeks.  The neon party is always eighties themed, and I’d said we needed to all dress up like the eighties.  Trey had responded, “So you’ll just be wearing your regular clothes, then?”  He had a point.  Looking back, I can’t believe we made it to the party.  I was still in such a fog, and didn’t want to disappoint the kids who still wanted to go.  They were dancing their butts off, and I was glad to have brought them.  I just kept thinking it would be okay as long as we avoided the photo booth.  Of course then K really wanted to do the photo booth.  So we did it.  And we got the pictures.  The same pictures we get every year, but with Trey conspicuously missing.  K deflated and wanted to go home.  We went home.

The first time we played our favorite four-player video game with just the three of us, we realized one of us would have to log in as Trey in order to keep our game progress.  As uncomfortable as it was, I logged in as him.  It’s commonplace for me to do that now.

The first time the three of us went on a road trip together, I wondered if it was safe.  How can a woman and kids drive over the state border and get a hotel room and be safe?  I’d never traveled without a man.

We went to our first soccer game, and to our first hockey game.  Without their dad.

These small activities that we find ourselves in, that remind us that Trey was here last time, they are growing more and more infrequent.  Maybe there will come a point when there are no more.

The final kind of first I will address is the worst, as the frequency of it will keep growing at least for a few years.  Instead of protesting that we did this last time, my heart screams that Trey never had a chance to do this with us, to witness this event.  These milestones and first experiences will always be accompanied by my ghost of him, seeing his reactions inside my mind.

I joined the kids on their first airplane ride.  They had never heard the safety speech before, and K paid careful, solemn attention to the flight attendant.  They delightedly opened the tray tables, exclaiming, “Hey, look at this!  A little table!”  Trey never got to experience this with him.  I could almost feel his laughter.

Harry hit his first baseball.  Then stood at the plate, not knowing what came next.  At the urging of his coaches he ran toward first base.  Still carrying his bat.  The coaches yelled at him to drop the bat, so he ran back to home plate to put the bat down, and then back to third.  Trey would have told me that only my kid would be doing this sort of classic move.

Korben played goalie for the first time.  Trey never got a chance to see his son so enthusiastically cheering on his team mates even when they were not near his goal.  He never got to see Korben save a goal.

He won’t be there for their first girlfriends, their first school dances, their first day of every grade, their first kids, first auditions/tryouts for various activities, first play or first academic bowl or first recital or whatever we have in the future — these firsts will keep coming.

The Empty Christmas Stocking

I’m not crying because I’m on Zoloft.

This is our first Christmas since Trey died.  It’s rough, y’all.  Really rough.  I love the holidays, though, and am looking forward to Christmas.

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But that stocking.  Trey’s obnoxious gold tasseled Christmas stocking.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, I pulled out our boxes and boxes of holiday decorations and went to work Christmas-ing our house.  I was appropriately jolly, until it came time to hang the stockings.

What do I do with his?  Do I hang it, and then fill it with gifts for the whole family, in memory of him?  Do I hang it in his honor and leave it unfilled?  I thought those options might bring more sadness to the day, so I elected to leave it in the box.

I struggle with whether this is the right decision.  I feel like we need to include Trey in our holiday somehow, but I don’t want an empty plate at the table and I don’t want an empty stocking over the mantel.

The good news is that we have LOTS of stockings above our mantel!  Everyone who celebrates the holiday with us gets a stocking and this year our home will be filled as my parents and uncle are coming.  Of course we have a stocking for the pets as well.  We therefore have a whole row of stockings and our life is full of love.

But that one, it’s gone.

I just don’t know what to do about it.

He’s Really Gone

He’s gone.

Duh, right?

It’s been almost nine months.

Nine months of not hearing him come down the stairs.

Nine months of him not falling asleep on the sofa on a Saturday morning.

Nine months of me watching kid-inappropriate TV by myself.

Nine months of crying and yelling and laughing and weeping.

You’d think this would not just now be sinking in.

It’s hitting me like an anvil.

I think it started the last time I visited this blog.  I got to thinking that I should change the photo of the blog to a more recent one of Trey.  This one is over a year old.  That’s when it hit me that there will be no new recent pictures.  I mean, we have more recent pictures than this one, but all we have is all we will have.  At some point the most recent picture of him, one taken on my birthday two days before his death, will be ten years old.  There will be no new photographs, no new jokes, no new experiences.

There will be no new memories with him.

At night I get in bed alone, and that is how it will continue to be.  I still sleep mainly on my own side.  The dog has taken over his pillow, a fact that would both amuse and annoy him.

I wake up with kids in my bed, but no husband.  That is how it will continue to be.

This is not the first holiday season without him.  This is the first of many holiday seasons without him.  Of ALL the holiday seasons without him.

I asked my mom for gift ideas for dad, and awaited the traditional responding question of what she should get for Trey.  Half the day went by before I realized that I was expecting that question, and that it would never be asked again.

His gone-ness is overpowering, is washing me away.

I sit at the dinner table, looking at the three of us.  (Okay, I admit it.  I sit on the sofa, looking at the three of us eating dinner with our plates on our laps.)  It’s the three of us.  It will be the three of us, until the kids grow up and start lives of their own.

I see advertisements for concerts and live shows to which we will never go.

I get groupon ads for couples’ getaways and think, “Well, I guess I’m never doing that.”  We will never go to a romantic resort together.  Never take a cruise.  Never visit New York.  Never visit the real Stonehenge.  I may do some of these things on my own, but so many of them are contingent upon being a couple.  The part of my life where I am part of a couple is over.  I didn’t see it coming.  It’s done.  He’s gone.

Riding the Depression Wave

It’s all happening again.

Not to the extent it happened before, when the pain was new and I lived in a fog.

It is, however, all happening.

I can’t.  I can’t DO.  I sit on the sofa and realized an hour has gone by.  An hour with no TV, no phone, no music – is just gone.  Gone to blank staring, to emptiness and nothing.  I’m not remembering.  I’m not lamenting.  I’m not thinking of the holidays.  I’m just physically too sad to move.

My whole body is sad.  My shoulders droop.  My knees ache. My back twinges.  My legs refuse to carry me out of the chair, much less up the stairs or out the door.  I am heavy.  Gravity has made me its bitch.  It pushes me and I don’t even resist.

I try to work, and stare at the screen.  I try to wash dishes and stare out the window.  I try to sleep, and stare at the ceiling.

I have turned off.

Except when I’m on.

Two days ago, I reorganized/rearranged one of my pantries.  A couple of days before that I sorted through the medications in our guest bathroom.  I ordered new pictures for the walls.  I hung a broom organizer.  Over the past couple of weeks I have filled three large trash bags and two boxes for the goodwill.

I am experiencing bursts of organizing and productivity in between lulls of depression and sadness.

I went through this in the early months.  I want to claim my life and my space, so nesting kicks in and I go, go, go.  A day turns, and I am almost unable to shower.

It is most likely the holidays that have brought this on.  This is not happening the way I expected.  I thought I would be sad when I looked back at all of our holidays together, or forward to the holidays without him.  The truth is, I’m not thinking about or dwelling on those things.  Not much.  Not VERY much.  This is a free floating sadness invading my bones during the most mundane times.  Still, I think we can assume it is a combination of the holidays, along with the feeling that I’m careening toward his death anniversary, and the winter doldrums.

I’ve gone to the doctor and have gotten a prescription for Zoloft.

I had been resisting this.  I don’t like the way I feel on SSRIs.  I feel less me.  It’s not a dramatic change, but it’s enough of one that I feel uncomfortable with it.  Also, I want to feel my feelings.  How am I supposed to heal from the pain if it is always shrouded?  Sometimes you have to run a fever to break the flu.  (I don’t know if that’s actually true.  Don’t come to me for medical advice, I’m clueless.)

I can’t keep going like this, though.  I need to keep a relatively clean house.  RELATIVELY clean.  I need to work.  I need to make lunches and walk the dog and sew patches on boy scout uniforms.  I would love to succumb to the sadness and stare into space until the kids come home from school, but I do have work to do and it won’t wait.

Now, I’m not trying to be alarming.  When I leave the house, I do put on shoes — flip flops at least.  I am getting us all fed and to school and back.  I’m even getting some work done — somewhat inefficiently.  I do wear PJ’s and a robe a lot of days — a perk of working at home.  The PJs are clean — unless I spilled coffee or egg on them that morning — and in fact I kind of have ‘daytime jammies’ and ‘nighttime jammies.’  I’m showering.  I’m taking out the trash.  You won’t come to my house to fight through a mountain of pizza boxes and cat litter to find me in dreadlocks with green teeth.

But it’s hard. So Z is for Zoloft.

I have been on it two days.  I had forgotten that while the effects take a couple of weeks to be noticeable, the side effects are immediate.  I’m not sleeping well and my stomach is in knots.  This will peter out, but is unpleasant currently.  But if it gets me through the holidays and a bit beyond it will be worth it.

I’m also grief-shopping again.  The kids were thrilled with the “epic fort” they were able to make from all the Amazon boxes.

I just want to curl up in my bed and stare at nothing.

But, this weekend I plan to take the kids to a potter class.  Next Tuesday I’m going to see the Justice League with my widow sponsor.  Next Thursday will be Thanksgiving at my mom’s house, and I’m looking forward to it so much.  After Thanksgiving, the Christmas boxes will come out of the garage and we will start decorating.  We will also get those cards in the mail.

We’re doing it.  We’re doing this life.  We’re riding the waves and we’re crashing sometimes but we’re getting back up.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

The Things Not Done at My House

The light in my bathroom keeps blinking off and on.  I’ve changed the light bulb but don’t know what else to do.

The thermostat keeps giving me an error message.  I need to call a repairman.

The handle fell off of my bathroom door.  I could fix it if I had the screw, but it seems to have vanished.  So every time I forget and close the bathroom door all the way, I have to get the handle off of its now dedicated spot next to the sink and jam it into the spot where it goes to open the door.

I took the cover off my bedroom light to replace the bulb, then lost the knob that holds the cover on.  I have since found the knob, but still have not replaced the cover because I’ve already folded up the ladder.

There is a mountain of boxes in the garage that need to be broken down and put out to recycle.

All of our bike tires are flat.

My kids don’t know how to ride their bikes.

They also don’t know how to tie their shoes.

There are two large pictures that need hanging.

The door is about to fall off that corner cupboard in the kitchen again.  I’m always leaning on it, but I always pretended like I didn’t know how it always broke.  He pretended to believe me.

The grill is filthy and needs a good cleaning.

Of course, there are also a lot of things around here that need to be done as a result of Trey’s death.  There is sorting and getting rid of things, rearranging things, not to mention the whole nesting instinct that kicks in.  So my house is half painted.  The above list, however, is a list of things that Trey normally handled and now he is not here.  His dad used to buy dilapitated houses and the would enlist Trey’s help fixing them up for rent or sale.  This was years – decades – before “house flipping” would be a thing.  The point is that Trey could rewire things, install thermostats, repair plumbing — he was a super handy “guy-guy.”  And now he’s gone.  And it’s not like I’m a girly princess who can’t fix things.  I hang my own shelves and I installed our video game systems and I can do a lot of these things. The things I can’t do, my dad can do or I can hire someone.

But he used to do them.  He took care of things like broken door handles and flickering lights.  He knew what to do about furnaces, and didn’t mind getting out the ladder.

I hate these daily reminders that he’s not here to take care of things.

Meanwhile, there is a jar of strawberry jelly in the fridge that I absolutely cannot open.

The Unbearable Sameness of Being

When my boys were babies, there was a mom in my Mommy group who said, “It feels sometimes like I’m living the same week over and over again.”

That perfectly captured what it is like to be a stay at home mom with young children.  Your life exists only as routine — bathing, feeding, dressing, cooking, cleaning, washing clothes.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

It once again feels like that, now that I am widowed.  There isn’t any reason for it to feel this way.  The kids and I go places and do different things every week.  There are holidays and seasons, birthday parties and movies, classes and scouts.  If anything, there is less routine in my life now.  I am most likely overcompensating by filling our lives with activities.

Still, it feels like there is no reprieve from daily life.  I get the kids ready for school, drop them off and then either work or run errands.  I pick them up at my parents’ house.  We do homework and have dinner and either watch some TV or do baths unless it is a night where we have activity planned.  Then it’s bedtime for them and TV/Chores/Staying up until I pass out time for me.

Every day.

Nobody is here to say, “I’ll do the cooking tonight.”  Nobody is here to tell the kids, “It’s after bedtime,which means Mom is off duty.  Come to me if you need anything.”  Nobody is here to embark on some project like painting the fence that will consume us all.

To be fair, I have had my share of projects.  My downstairs is currently half painted.

So I am not sure why it feels so monotonous, but it does.

Maybe it is the simple lack of someone to talk to.  Perhaps the presence of another adult, someone to tell about my day, someone to make comments to while watching TV, maybe that is what I am missing.  Maybe the simple act of turning to the person next to you and saying, “Whaaaat?  I did not see that coming.  Did you see that coming?” is what transforms an evening in front of the TV from being sad and monotonous to being fun and engaging.  Maybe being able to complain to someone about the mountain of dishes elevates washing them from being lonely to being, I don’t know, not lonely.

That is what I feel now.  Bored and lonely, and like every day is the same.  Every week is on repeat.  The morning routine, the night time routine.  Over and over.  I know it isn’t true.  I know last weekend we went to a Halloween party and the weekend before that we went to a scouting event and this week the kids were out of school on Friday but we all had fevers so we didn’t do anything.

I know my days are not on repeat, but they still feel repetitive.

And now I am being repetitive in this blog.  Sorry about that.

I don’t know what to do.

I just feel so sad.