My day was just weird, I guess.

I decided that we can’t really afford to go on a trip after all, which is super disappointing. I really feel like I could benefit from a real vacation but I just can’t really afford it.

We might go down and spend a day in Austin (because Dylan’s never been there) and San Antonio, which neither of us have ever seen. J loved San Antonio and always wanted to take me, so that might be a fitting choice for a first trip.

Chloe had to cash in her last CD today, which was money from her lawsuit settlement. She’s understandably feeling freaked out about money. I’m also feeling freaked out about money, since I just had to write another check from the life insurance amount. It feels like I’m going through it too quickly, which is just what J feared. I feel like I’m disappointing his memory for needing more to get by.

Dylan’s going to get a job as soon as driver’s training is done but I think he won’t have a license right away, which means I’ll have to be available to take him to work and pick him up. That limits me from getting a job of my own until I no longer have to drive him, which is just ugh.

I need to be able to work and I can’t because he still needs me. And he doesn’t like being dependent on me any more than I like it but we can’t do anything about it. Which means I have to borrow more against the life insurance money, which just makes me feel like a failure.

We have to all get on our feet and we will but it has just taken so much longer than expected.

Meanwhile, I bought a particular hoodie for an old friend from my hometown a couple of months ago (it was on a really good sale and I knew she would love it, which she did.) But now she’s asked me twice for money, first for gas money and this time for grocery money.

And I get it; I really do. That’s much of the same reason I had to get out of there because poverty is endemic and it’s a trap and there’s a certain element of learned helplessness.

But I can’t afford to help her and I said no. I need to stop donating to GoFundMe accounts too, even when they’re for good causes and people I know. I want to save everyone but I have to save myself first.

Oddly enough J was worried that I would go through the life insurance money too fast but he thought I wouldn’t be able to rein in my frivolous shopping. It turns out that it’s not the frivolous shopping that’s getting me but being too generous with others.

It doesn’t matter what I’m spending on, though. I have to start looking out for myself because my position is still a lot more perilous than I am comfortable with.

Well this is weird

I have a dating profile on a couple of apps. So far it hasn’t led to any actual dates yet, which is almost entirely because I haven’t accepted any. (However, I may be meeting up with a woman on Saturday for dinner and then possibly going to the gayborhood.)

The thing that is so weird is that I am getting much more interest from much, much younger people. It’s mostly guys but not exclusively.

I really don’t understand at all what my appeal is to someone in their late twenties. I mean, I’m 48 freaking years old—almost 50, for god’s sake!

I’m assuming that either younger people are seeking out someone my age because they think that I might be more sexually experienced than women their age or that maybe I could teach them something? I really don’t know but I’m just thinking it’s like a Mrs Robinson kind of thing (although The Graduate was even before my time, so it’s even more dated of a reference to them.)

I honestly don’t know if I’m flattered or disgusted.

On the one hand, I’m obviously extremely flattered that several of them are telling me I’m gorgeous or beautiful etc. I don’t really see myself that way and my self-esteem really tanked during my marriage. I tried to build it back up when J changed and he really wanted me to see myself as beautiful too but the damage was already done.

So it’s obviously an ego boost that so many people are attracted to me and I’m sure part of it is that I both look much younger than I am and also think like a younger person, too.

But I don’t sense that any of these young people who have expressed interest in me are interested in any kind of serious relationship. I assume that I am just a sexual conquest, the one who can check off the box for an “older lady.” A “milf.”

And I’m not sure I’m interested in being that for someone.

But at the same time, I also don’t feel ready for anything serious yet, either. So maybe I could benefit from their youthful exuberance and stamina? I just really don’t know. I honestly never, ever expected to have as much interest in me as there is and I’m inclined not to trust it.

Ugh, my mom

She’s making me second-guess my own decisions and I hate it. I’m not sure if this is how she means it or not but she’s making me feel like she questions my ability to make good decisions for myself and the kids.

She very often gives advice when I don’t ask for it and a lot of it seems like she thinks I’ll be irresponsible now that I don’t have J to fall back on. As though he was the only person keeping me responsible before, I guess.

I know exactly how much money I have at all times—just like I did when J was still around. The kids (meaning the younger two who are still at home) and I are actually doing pretty well. We have pretty solid plans and we’re getting stuff done. We’ve even taken on some new responsibilities, like Dylan with his gardening and I’ve done a lot to repair the yard (like growing new grass, getting the gate fixed, and getting some ancient cardboard that was rotting in our lawn taken care of.)

We’re good, as good as we can be under the circumstances.

Yet she’s always telling me what choices she thinks I should be making and either they’re what I’m already doing anyway or they’re frankly none of her business.

Example: I am thinking of taking a short vacation trip with the kids, possibly soon, to Denver and Boulder and maybe Santa Fe if we do a road trip. (That looks increasingly likely but I have to discuss it with them. I know Chloe doesn’t like long road trips very much.)

We all want to do this as kind of a last hurrah before we all start working (yes, probably including me, too.) We haven’t been on any kind of vacation in I think four or five years. Our last vacation was to visit J’s sister in Tennessee, which was fine. But it was still a trip to see family and not necessarily a place we wanted to visit otherwise.

Now I want to do this and my mom is trying to talk me out of it, saying that the people who are giving me money will be upset if I go on a road trip. For one, I don’t think they really would; I think most people who truly support me understand why we all might benefit from a little getaway.

Second, am I going to start living my life to please others? It’s not like I did before.

And then there’s her reaction to me telling her that I was probably going to be dating primarily women for a while. She giggled like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. And I get that she may be embarrassed and I’m also extremely grateful that she didn’t say anything hateful. But I’m also just wondering what exactly is so funny about that?

The women I’ve been meeting on the dating apps are so much more interesting and frankly less creepy than the men. I just don’t feel ready for men yet. Women seem safer. And for now I think that’s what should matter.

Messages from beyond

I’m not a huge believer in signs from those who have passed. I’m trying to convince myself and I have to admit that I’m closer to believing now.

Last night, I was trying to fall asleep. I had taken just one hit off of my CBD pen, hoping to be relaxed enough to fall asleep without getting too high. My working guess now is that doing so made me finally able to communicate with J.

I started out by telling him all the things we’ve been up to lately—kind of like a different version of the letter my therapist has been bugging me to write to him.

Then he started replying to me like he was in the same room. He stayed for much longer than he did when I had the experience of him visiting me after I got my Covid booster shot. Seriously, he was there long enough that it didn’t feel rushed at all.

He apologized to me for not being able to love me the way that I deserved for so many years. He said that he did love me to the fullest extent that he could but he knew I deserved more.

He also told me that he arranged for me and Christi to become friends again, which I found interesting because he never liked her much before. She has changed so much for the better and he wanted me to have that support. I told him that I loaned her the money to pay off her debts and said I was sorry (because that’s always haunted me a bit, wondering if he’d approve) and he said it was okay. And he also said that I’m never going to be poor again like I was in Michigan.

He also told me that I’m going to date primarily women for at least the next year and to just have fun with it. Then, he told me that I’m going to have two more serious relationships a couple of years from now.

He said that the first one will be almost perfect but I’ll have nagging doubts when we start talking about marriage and I’ll break it off. And almost immediately thereafter, I will meet the one I’m supposed to be with and I will just know.

He said our relationship will be like mine was with him in the last few years, only even better. And he said that I don’t have to worry about outliving him (one of my fears is being widowed again.) He said we’ll have a lot of years together and that I deserve that happiness.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about travel lately and he said that I should just focus on domestic travel this year. And he specifically mentioned San Miguel de Allende, an artsy town in Mexico that I’ve been wanting to visit. He said I should try to wait and time it for as close to next May as I can and that it will be like an anniversary trip from him.

It was just an amazing experience having him answer so many questions I’ve had lately. He also said that he may not visit me again for a while but that he’s always looking out for me and is with me. He said he’s going to be “working on his mom for a while” and trying to get her to come around.

That all just seems like something he’d really do. I hope that he does have luck reaching his mom and that his efforts won’t be fruitless.

And meanwhile, I’ve connected with a woman through a dating app and it looks like it might turn into something. He mentioned her too and told me that I’ll enjoy my time with her and even told me about an experience we’re supposed to have.

I guess I am interested now to see how much of his predictions come true. It will be eerie as hell if they’re all correct.

The emptiness

It’s overwhelming how lonely I feel without J.

I should have felt better yesterday because my best friend came over for several hours. But it didn’t take away my empty and lonely feeling. Sure, I had a nice distraction from it for a while but as soon as she left, my emptiness crept back in.

I just feel so lost without J. He had been my nearly ever-present companion for almost 30 years. This is the longest I’ve ever been alone and I’m not getting used to it.

I dream of finding love again someday but there’s no guarantee that I will ever find it.

I think that a big part of the problem is that I don’t want to settle for just anyone. I could very easily find someone else now, as my experience on the dating apps shows. I’ve had more than 300+ “likes” on my OK Cupid profile in the past month.

But none of them are J. None of them even seem to come close. I am resigning myself to being alone for the foreseeable future. I know it hasn’t been that long yet but I am just experiencing it as torture.

I know, I should be happier to be single. Lots of people are. And I know that I am happier alone than with someone who makes me miserable. I generally like my own company.

But I also feel way too young to be alone for the rest of my life. I am happier in a relationship and I have a lot of love to give. Yet I know that the way this works is that if I’m going to find someone to love again, it will probably be when I’m least expecting it and wishing for it to come along sooner isn’t going to make it happen.

Nobody ever talked about how hard it would be to just keep going on without J. I wasn’t prepared for this at all.

Trying to get my groove back

I ended up having to take down a couple of Medium posts.

Amy had a hard time reading them and it was making her get really mad at me.

Unfortunately, this is a lot like the time when my mom reacted badly to something I wrote. That time ended up throwing me off my game for about 6 weeks. I really hope this time doesn’t take as long.

My muse is apparently very, very sensitive and when people close to me are reading and reacting badly it just shuts me right up.

On another note, I’ve gone down two sizes since January (three since this time last year.) Clothing shopping is fun again and I’m getting a little more adventurous with my outfits.

On yet another note, I have finally found the grad school program I want to attend. It’s in Dallas at a nationally known university with a great reputation. It’s also very competitive, so I’m not guaranteed to get in, although I think I stand a good chance because my undergrad grades were so high.

BUT the downside is that I’ve already missed the deadline for the fall semester. If I get in, it will be worth the wait. I might even try to go full time. But that also leaves me with more time to fill up and who knows what that will do to me. I guess we’ll see.

The blahs

I am still just tired.

I’ve taken Provigil the past two days (a smaller dose) so I could get some stuff done and I’ll probably do the same thing tomorrow. After all, stuff still has to get done, whether I have the energy for it or not. Which I don’t. I still want to stay in bed all day.

I wrote an article for Medium yesterday about how J grew up. It took a lot out of me and I still don’t feel like I did nearly as good of a job capturing what I wanted to say as I’d hoped. Maybe I’ll try again later.

I feel like I have so much I want to say and I just can’t get the words out.

I got in a fight with the kids at dinner yesterday. I apologized to them and we ended up resolving it but shit is just hard. I told them both that they had to start chipping in towards household expenses. But I made the mistake of telling Chloe that I didn’t feel like she was trying very hard to get a job (which, honestly, she’s not, although she has had a lot of delays due to her name change.) She burst into tears and said that she already feels bad enough that she doesn’t have a job and that she doesn’t feel confident that she can do it and my comments don’t help.

That broke my heart and I don’t know how to fix it. We talked through it and I told her that I was just extremely worried about money and I needed her to take her share of the bills out of her savings. I really, really didn’t want to have to do that.

Dylan stayed mad at me for longer (he’s a lot like J in that regard.) But he still gets over it quicker than J did. I told him that I needed to talk to him and I went over roughly how much our monthly bills are and how much income I have and he could easily see how short I am.

I told him that I needed his help and asked how much he would be able to contribute and when. I was surprised that he estimated a larger amount than I was thinking he would.

But he said that he might want me to pay off his student loans, which are relatively small; only $2750. They’re not even due yet so I told him we could revisit the issue when they do come due. I explained that in my current situation, paying bills that aren’t even due yet doesn’t make sense.

I am worried about him, though, because he is so extremely terrified of debt. Like to an irrational degree. J was similarly terrified of student loan debt, which I told him about.

When we first moved down here, J and I both were going to enroll in school; that was part of the reason we initially moved here. Even out-of-state tuition was cheaper in Texas than in-state tuition was in Michigan. But when he realized that we would have to take out loans to do it, he backed out (for both of us, which I didn’t appreciate.)

I explained how that ended up being a huge mistake that altered the course of our lives. J never did go to school for what he wanted (to teach elementary school.) I told Dylan that doing so ended up hugely screwing us over financially in the end because J didn’t earn as much as an elementary school teacher until 2 years ago.

Dylan didn’t believe me and he fact-checked me right then on his phone and looked up the median salary for elementary school teachers in our metro. Oh.

I don’t know if I should pay off his student loan or not. On the one hand, it’s not that much. But on the other hand, is he entitled to it? I mean, no one ever paid off any of my loans. And he seemed to think that the life insurance money I got was “supposed to” go toward my education, so why not his, too?

The sense of entitlement was so huge in his statement. I explained that no, the life insurance money is all I will ever have as a personal safety net.

But he’s so terrified of debt that I don’t know what he’d do if I didn’t pay it off. He doesn’t understand that his payments would be next to nothing; it’s the fact of having that debt that’s terrifying to him. I’ll have to think about it for a while.

Meanwhile, another day, another shooting in America. I’m so, so tired of this. I want to get out of this state, possibly this whole country. I really don’t know what to do about that, either.

The real grief, day 2

So I wondered if I was grieving wrong before because I couldn’t feel anything and wondered if the real breakdown was coming. I know now that no, I wasn’t “grieving wrong” but that my brain was protecting me from what it couldn’t handle.

Last night I had trouble sleeping and then when I tried, I had very lucid dreams (alas, no contact with J) and I was noticeably really starving—which I haven’t been in months, maybe years. When I got up, my body was still trying to hang on to sleep for a really long time.

Unfortunately, when I woke up, I wasn’t still feeling hungry anymore. I guess that’s going to be another stage in my healing process and I’m not there yet.

Now I’m feeling everything and it’s not pretty. My sleep schedule is completely whacked out. Even my menstrual cycle is reacting. I say that only because it shows how strong the mind-body link is and I think that similar reactions to major trauma explain some of the reasons for extremely early menopause in other women in my family.

Basically, I haven’t had a period since the week before J died and I chalked it up to perimenopause. But now that I am facing my grief, it feels like it’s coming back.

I’m realizing how powerful denial is and how easy it would be to slip into it. I could have very easily stayed in that state forever and I think it was only that my friend (who’s also working toward becoming a therapist himself) recognized the sadness in my eyes that it snapped me out of it. And now I feel like I’m really beginning the real grieving process.

Not that this is a new wave of grief. Many people say there are waves of grief. No, this is completely new and different. It’s like there was this hard, thick layer of ice around my emotions before and it’s finally melted away. I feel completely raw and exposed to air and everything hurts.

I wanted to do so much today. I need to change the cat litter and clean the kitchen and take out the recycling and get stuff ready to mail and reply to blog comments. And change my sheets and wash my laundry and take a shower. But in truth, all I got done was finished an article by deadline.

I also want to keep writing for Medium but I can tell that I need time and rest before being able to write my next article. I thought I would write about becoming unthawed emotionally but it has become clear that the next thing I have to write is about the abuse J grew up with…again.

I’m thinking more about his life and I am angry and sad about what he went through. That’s such a heavy topic and it’s going to take brain power that I just don’t have right now to write it.

I actually have to sit with it and feel it and think about it. Doing so is incredibly emotionally draining. I will be glad when I do it because I know it will be a purging and it will probably be a good article, too.

But I’m actually having to gear up to write, which is new. I’m starting to understand my creative process and how it works now.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to focus on my writing and my physical and mental health instead of trying to date anyone. It doesn’t sound as fun but it’s what needs to be done.

And now even though I’m not tired per se, I’m just so mentally drained that all I can think about is going to bed early.

I’m all screwed up

I had a breakthrough in my grieving. I think my emotions were stuck before because I didn’t want to let myself feel how bad I really felt.

Now I do and I can’t sleep. At all.

I cried for hours yesterday and stayed in bed for most of the day but I didn’t sleep.

I’ve been wide awake for about 19 hours so far and don’t feel sleepy at all.

Having that breakthrough where I was able to truly cry yesterday unleashed something but I’m not sure what it is.

I wrote about how fast J’s health unraveled near the end and the lengths to which my household went to protect him from Covid for so long and how my husband’s health affected my son’s mental health at college in a piece for Medium. They’ve already picked it up for further distribution.

In it I described the state of unreality and numbness I lived in for so long. I think that was a protective mechanism. Now I feel everything and it all hurts. Even my heart rhythm is different, which may be that widowhood effect I read about.

I took an aspirin and a beta blocker tonight just in case. This feels different and not in a good way.

Yeah, screw that

I am not going to become a “wid-hoe” anytime soon, if ever.

The couple of guys I was talking to from the dating app got creepy and I backed way the fuck off. Thank god I never met them in person. That actually kinda scares me.

It was a fun thought for a moment but then my survival instincts kicked in. And I was suddenly like FUCK NO, get me out of here.

In truth, I only implicitly trust 3 people and one of them is now dead. The other is one of my best friends who lives here and the other is my male best friend who lives in California. He and I would probably be perfect together but for now I am just incredibly grateful for his friendship and the depth of it.

I mean, he messaged me last night because my eyes looked sad in a selfie that I posted. How incredibly awesome is that? And then I poured my heart out to him and cried and cried, probably the hardest I’ve cried since losing J.

Today is my 28th wedding anniversary with J and I’ve been figuring all week that it would probably hit me hard and it is. I wrote about it at Medium, along with all the ugly truth of how I’m doing.

He wants me to check in with him tomorrow and he’s going to check with me if I don’t. He understands truly how fragile I am right now.

I guess for one small thing to be thankful for today, I can be thankful to have a friend who cares about me so much.