Unsettled

Yesterday had some big victories—namely that Chloe got up really early and drove on I-35 (one of the busy highways here) and went to the social security office in the county north of us. She hadn’t been doing much highway driving, so that was a huge win in terms of her comfort level with driving.

Now I can fully rely on her to get anywhere she needs to go without my help. And I also have the benefit of having another driver in the house.

So that’s all really great news.

But on the other hand, I also feel kinda unsettled. Part of that is because I was going to take a trip down to Austin to protest for abortion rights at the Capitol and I realized that I really can’t afford it. Not only are gas prices really high right now but also I would have to stay overnight Friday because I can’t wake up early enough to get there by the time the protest starts at 11 am. (It’s about 3-3.5 hours away.)

I looked up discounted hotel rooms and realized that I really can’t spend that kind of money right now.

There’s also the fact that I am going to have to call the vet tomorrow about Dyl’s cat. She’s very old and hasn’t been eating well lately and just lies around like she’s in pain. I figured out that at least one of her teeth has to be pulled—it looks really bad.

God only knows how much that will cost but I’m not expecting it to be cheap.

Chloe is going to need a basic work wardrobe for an office job soon, too. As much as I would LOVE to get her a wardrobe (Amy never let me do that for her), I probably can’t afford to do that by myself either.

I’m also going to have to pay $400 for Dylan to take driver’s ed in the next 3 weeks. We are so close to the home stretch where they can start helping me with expenses but first there are costs involved in getting them ready.

I realized last week that I have not adjusted my spending nearly enough to accommodate my circumstances. So I have to write another check against my life insurance money, which makes me feel terrible.

I know that J’s worst fear was that I would blow through his life insurance money and I promised him that I wouldn’t. But it has taken much longer than I thought it would for the kids to be able to help me. And I haven’t said no to them very much (like with all Dyl’s gardening supplies—that has certainly added up quite substantially.)

On top of that, we were continuing to eat out about 3 times a week. I put an immediate stop to that after last week, when a trip to a burger place we don’t normally frequent ended up costing $71 dollars. I was so shocked by how much it cost that I immediately said that’s it, we are only going out once next week.

Part of that is hard though because Dyl’s girlfriend doesn’t like a lot of food and she’s used to getting restaurant food almost every day. It does make it easier to get restaurant takeout when she’s here but it’s just too expensive.

On top of that, I’m also worried about trying to work myself because my freelance work is drying up and I can’t take on any new job until once Dylan gets through driver’s ed.

I don’t know if I’ll lose my disability by taking out student loans, either. I don’t know if I’m better off paying for my classes out of the life insurance money or if I should just go full-time to get it over with and use the life insurance money to support myself.

So much isn’t knowable right now and I hate that. I don’t know how I’m going to be okay; I just have to assume that I will. But it’s honestly kinda terrifying in the meantime.

Weirdness

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day without J. It ended up being a pretty great day overall.

The day began with getting a text from Dyl’s girlfriend, in which she wished me a happy Mother’s Day and thanked me for all I do for her. She said I really am like a mom to her and she loves me.

Knowing that she lost her grandma (who adopted her and whom she knew as “mom”) at a young age and that her biological mother is kind of a train wreck to say the least, I feel honored to play that role in her life.

Then I had a great time with my kids when Amy and her boyfriend came over, too. I got pizza for dinner and before eating, Amy brought back a tradition that I tried really hard to implement a couple of years ago: going around the table and saying what they were thankful for.

She went first and said that she was thankful that I was her mom (and then she encouraged her siblings to say something similar.) So all the kids and even Amy’s boyfriend said they were thankful that I was their mom.

Amy also gave me a card, which was a huge deal because she’s not really a greeting card kind of person.

Chloe made me a card, in which she said that I have done well in holding the family together since J’s passing, and that she’s excited to see what I do as far as my future pursuits.

And Dyl didn’t get me a card but got me three tarot-themed tapestries and said that he did so because that was something I wanted to incorporate into my decor. (He listens and pays attention really well, lol.)

The thing that I thought of when I first woke up, though, was of the attitude J took about Mother’s Day for many, many years. He thought that he shouldn’t have to get me a gift (though he still did) because I wasn’t his mother.

And honestly that always made me feel kinda disrespected and undervalued by him. I can’t really put it any other way or put a better spin on it than that. I just put so much effort into trying to be a good mom and it sucked that he didn’t want to recognize that.

Which kind of leads to my last point: am I grieving enough or in the right way?

On some level, I feel like I haven’t grieved enough. I even feel some sort of relief that he’s gone, though that’s also mixed with complete devastation that he’s gone. I’m just all mixed up about it.

Yes, he was my best friend for almost 30 years. I loved him more than anyone else. But as more time goes on, more of those shitty little things he said and did resurface (like asking why he should give me a Mother’s Day gift because I wasn’t his mother) and that tempers a lot of my grief. I don’t want it to but it still does anyway.

The dating site is not anything serious and probably won’t be for quite some time. For now, it’s just a needed ego boost and it’s nice to exchange messages with a couple of people. I told my kids about it and they were all fine with it.

But that also makes me wonder about a lot of things, too. Like the fact that my oldest daughter asked him about 10 years ago why he didn’t just divorce me because I so clearly seemed to love him more than he loved me. I don’t have an answer to that and neither did he.

Do they want to see me happier than I was with J? If so, what does that mean? I still deal with a lot of survivor’s guilt, like he should be here instead of me. But what do I do with that information? They’ve all separately told me that I’m better equipped to live without J than he would’ve been to live without me.

I know his life was hard. I wish I could have helped him more than I did. But in many ways, he didn’t want to get better, and that’s something I can’t change.

I just don’t know what’s an appropriate way to feel right now. For much of our marriage, he was actually an emotionally closed-off asshole. But he always took care of me and the kids and he didn’t have to. I feel some guilt about that.

I want to believe that he was always Mr Wonderful, like he was in the last 6 years of our marriage. But he wasn’t and the person he was before that was kind of an asshole and hurt me in some very big ways.

I don’t think that finding someone else is looking to replace him and I don’t sense that it’s an appropriate time yet anyway. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope to find someone else who’s a little more emotionally healthy. I actually put up with a lot that I still haven’t gotten over yet.

Well…

Things can turn around in a day, I guess. But I also feel super guilty about why they turned around so much.

Long story short (even though I’m afraid to admit it): I joined a dating site just for the hell of it. I was very honest in it about being recently widowed and probably not being good relationship material for a long time and also said that I’m not looking for hookups or casual sex.

Surprisingly in spite of all that, I have gotten an overwhelming response. Mostly from men, although also some from women, too.

I’m actually very surprised that I am finding out that I am actually more attracted to men than women and by a pretty significant margin.

The site is one where you can answer as many questions about yourself as you want and it shows you what percentage you have in common with them.

I’ve had more than 100 people show interest in me in three days. A couple of them sent me notes, kind of like introductions. My favorite one so far is an Indian (Middle Eastern) guy who asked me a thought-provoking question about what I think will happen if abortion rights really are overturned.

I actually thought he was kinda cute and I also noticed that he’s on the shorter side for men (which J was, too.) I actually do seem to find shorter guys more attractive. Since I’m 5’1”—barely—a guy who’s 5’6 or 5’8 is still taller than me and that works.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of my positive attention is coming from guys with graduate degrees. I’m not really surprised by that. I think that because I want to have more in-depth conversations, that seems to select for more education.

On the one hand, it kind of confirms what I thought: that if I ever get married again, I probably won’t be as broke as J and I were. That’s just kind of a subtle gut feeling I’ve had for a while.

On the other hand, I know: whoa, slow down there. It seems like I’m moving on awfully fast, even to me. It’s only been a little more than four months since I lost J and I truly felt like he was a soulmate.

To be perfectly clear, I am not really ready to date yet. I imagine the general reaction is one of shock that I’m even putting myself out there like this. I know and I get it and I am heaping all the shame on myself already plenty enough.

But it’s also a really significant ego boost for me at a time when I really need that. Even exchanging a couple of innocent messages makes me feel more alive and almost social again.

And seeing that so many people find me attractive and interesting is really good for my self-esteem right now.

I realize that a lot of the patterns J and I got into were comfortable but weren’t necessarily true to who I am. I compromised myself a lot to keep J feeling safe and secure.

It’s like I’m rediscovering the “real me,” the one that’s been buried for 28 years. I don’t always know what I’m doing and sometimes it’s terrifying trying to figure it out on my own. But I also realize that the real me that’s in there somewhere is kind of a badass and I think I like her.

Low, low, low

God, yesterday was depressing. I finally got a hold of someone at the social security office. Previously, I called the local office and I always had to leave a message, which they never returned. So I called the office for one county north of here and actually talked to someone.

I’ll get the one-time payment of death benefits for $255 (woohoo? I guess?) But then they also told me how much I’ll be eligible for at age 50 for J’s survivor benefits, assuming that I stay on disability.

It’s only 70 percent of the total but it’s somewhere in the range between $600-700 a month. His total benefits will only be about $1000 at full retirement age.

And OMG, that just made me feel so depressed. I know that his last two years alive, he made much more and he was just coming into his prime earning years when he died. If he had lived longer, it obviously would have gone up substantially.

But an extra $600-700 a month is practically nothing, at least around here. So I have to try to get off disability and really make it work. The problem is that right now at least, I am not so sure that I can make it work.

I am so sleepy all day. My doctor exceeded the normal maximum dose of my Provigil, which is the medication that keeps me awake. The normal maximum dose was still allowing me to feel sleepy.

It might be because I am also taking a fairly low dose of a benzodiazepine medication to help me sleep. I always still feel tired when I wake up and I don’t know if that’s because of the drug being in my system or not. The benzo medicine also quiets the spasms in my legs and I don’t know what’s going to happen if I quit taking it.

The thing is that tapering off benzos is a long process. I tried cutting back my dose by 1/8 last month and within four days I was crawling out of my skin and felt suicidal.

Chloe said I can live with her and she’ll split the household bills with me. But for one thing, she doesn’t even have a job yet. And for another thing, when I told her that I had hopes of making a good salary as a therapist, she said that would be good because she doesn’t really want to be responsible for me at either my age or hers.

She still wants to get out and live her life and I really want that for her. I don’t want her to feel obligated to help me, even if she would.

It just feels like so many things have to line up just right for me to get off disability and I don’t have a lot of confidence in myself right now. In fact, I feel like a burden and a failure and like the kids would be better off if I weren’t here.

I don’t have enough money to support them. They’re apparently not ready to launch and start contributing to the household bills. But my money is quickly dwindling and that terrifies me.

I’m floundering and right now all I want to do is join J.

Where to next?

I know I am most likely going to leave Texas eventually. In a sad way, that’s one of the only things that’s a potential positive about J’s passing. He was so employable here, which was a great feeling for him after struggling for so many years in Michigan.

Who’s to say if he even would have been resistant to moving; maybe he wouldn’t have. But now (for better or worse) I am free to go anywhere that I want.

While Texas is undoubtedly better economically than Michigan was, it has also changed a lot (for the worse) since I moved back here 8 years ago. On the one hand, there are a lot more liberals in the city and suburbs than there were back then. But on the other hand, housing prices have gone up so astronomically that when I look at other notoriously expensive cities, I don’t get sticker shock anymore.

I hate so much about this state’s political system and it’s only getting worse. Between the abortion bans and the laws targeting trans kids, I am heeding the message that I am not welcome here anymore.

Amy has the youthful vigor and knowledge of guns that she wants to stay and fight and I celebrate that. But I don’t think the same path is likely to work for me. I feel like I’ve been through more than enough struggle already and I just want to have an easier life.

I want to move to someplace where my and my kids’ rights aren’t threatened. I would ideally like to remarry someday if I can ever find anyone with whom I have as remotely good of a connection as I did with J. It probably will be to a male but I inherently trust men less than women so I think that may take a while to find.

I mean, ideally I would like to strike up a relationship with a guy who lives on the west coast, who is already financially successful and has dealt with any childhood trauma he suffered. He could just swoop me up and get me out there. But that doesn’t seem too likely, either.

I just don’t know when to leave or where I should go but I’m pretty sure my days here are numbered. Dyl keeps talking about how I’ve decided to move to “Commiefornia” (he thinks that’s clever, I guess.) I haven’t decided that for sure yet—mainly because I don’t have enough money yet—but I just really need to get the hell out of Texas.

Um…wow

So I finally had the guy come over to install my fence gate yesterday. He did a great job at a fraction of the costs I was quoted by the pros (and I can take back the gate kit I ordered since he didn’t end up needing it, which means I can get that money back.)

But the thing that was weird and kind of uncomfortable was that the guy was undeniably flirting with me.

A lot of times I either don’t think people are flirting with me when they are or I think they are and they’re just being nice. This time I was absolutely sure of it.

I went and got him a 12-pack of beer because it was ungodly humid outside and I thought that was just a nice thing to do because he was helping me out. He asked for Shiner Bock, which is a decent Texas beer that I actually don’t mind (I’m not usually a big fan of beer.)

So I brought the beer to him and stood outside talking to him. He asked me if I wanted one too and I said sure. We just continued chatting about all kinds of random stuff. He had some views I didn’t agree with but also had some that I did agree with. I think that mostly for me it was just really good to have a discussion with someone who had strong opinions and liked to talk about them.

I realized just how isolated and lonely I’ve been since J died. We used to have long talks about our opinions a lot (though J’s views were much closer to mine than this guy’s were.) I just missed getting to have long conversations like that.

He also had 3 tattoos of the Coheed and Cambria keywork (the band’s logo) which I recognized right away and commented on. He said that very few people even know what that is, which I’m sure is true. So we talked about music and concerts and overpriced local venues.

At one point, it came up that he thought I was much younger than I am. He is not the only person in recent months who thought I was in my 30s (and I’m actually 48.) I guess it’s flattering that I seem to look so much younger than I am.

I knew he was flirting with me because we were talking about guns and I said that I really wanted to learn how to shoot (which I have for quite a while now.) He said that he could teach me and said “it would be nice to have such a pretty woman at his side.”

Before he left, he was going to shake my hand because he was all sweaty and didn’t want to get me sweaty too by hugging me. I said “ah, that’s fine, I’ll take the hug.”

The hug was a little too long and for a half second I wondered if he would try to kiss me. But he stopped himself (surely if for no other reason than the fact that he’s married.)

But for me, being just four months out from my husband’s death, that was both flattering and kinda overwhelming.

I guess I’m glad that I’ve still “got it.” But now what to do with that knowledge, I have no idea.

The blahs

I still feel like I haven’t accomplished anything, even though I can point to several things I’ve done. I don’t know if I’m measuring myself against an unrealistic standard or if I need another day soon of doing absolutely nothing and staying in bed all day.

I’ve forced myself to get out of bed every day lately but at the end of the day, I asked myself why I bothered. I guess I feel some obligation to the kids to at least appear marginally productive but it never really seems worth it.

I’m so discouraged about so many things right now. I bought a new gate for my fence, figuring I would pay someone to install it. Technically, it’s not my responsibility but it seems like a nice thing to do for our landlord, who hasn’t raised our rent in the past 6 years that we’ve been here. To rent a comparable house pretty much anywhere in our metro area would cost at least $500 more a month.

But I called to get estimates for installation and all of them are coming in at about $600, which is absolutely ridiculous to install a gate. Yet I have no earthly idea how to do it. So now I’m going to look on YouTube and see if it’s something Dylan and I can do together. If not, I’m going to start introducing myself to my neighbors and hoping that someone will take pity on me as a new widow and maybe I can get it done for less than $100.

One of my oldest friends invited me to her gathering later this summer, where several of my parenting group friends meet every year. I’ve never been invited before. On the one hand, I am so grateful to be invited and I think it could be wonderful to be around so many people who love me.

But on the other hand, I remember when my friend did some very horrible things to me (like knowing that I had a vomit phobia and sending me a link to a video of someone vomiting, then playing dumb like she had no idea what was in the video.)

But that was a very long time ago, probably more than a decade ago. We’ve all changed and grown up a lot. Hell, I don’t even have the vomit phobia anymore.

At the same time, though, I wouldn’t want to go if I thought that the tragedy of my life would just become gossip fodder. I don’t think it would but there’s just enough doubt in my mind that I can’t be certain yet.

There’s also the fact that I really have to get my sleep straightened out before then (which I have to do either way.) I will presumably have started school by then and as it stands right now, I would need several days to recover from a trip like that, which won’t be possible if I’m in school.

I have pretty much determined that the reason I’m so excessively sleepy all day is mostly because of the Klonopin I take at night to help me sleep. I tried to taper off of it by cutting my dose by 1/8 last month (?) and within 4 days I was suicidal and crawling out of my skin.

This drug is no joke. I want to envision a life free of it and then I would be able to get a lot more done. But until that happens, I feel like I’m a slave to it and it significantly limits my life in so many ways.

I have an appointment with my psych NP later this month and I’ll see if she can switch me to something shorter-acting. Klonopin is one of the longest-acting benzodiazepines. All of the benzos are bad news because you become physically dependent on them very easily and quickly but it’s my understanding that some of the shorter-acting benzos are easier to quit taking.

I just want to be free and to have normal energy levels again. Right now that seems so far away but I have to believe it’s possible.

Hanging on

I’m not really sure what I’m doing lately. I kind of want to write but I also don’t have any motivation.

However, in the past two days, I’ve washed two loads of my laundry and folded three. I changed out the cat litter in all 3 litter boxes. I went grocery shopping today for a few things. I also filled up the gas in my car (it had gotten down to a quarter tank, which is really low for me.) I also got my car washed.

Oh, and I picked up all the branches that Dylan had trimmed off our hedges on the side and put them in yard waste bags. And I planted some grass seed today as well (but I’m not sure how much any of it will take because it’s raining super hard right now.)

I guess I am doing somewhat well with getting stuff done. It just doesn’t feel like that much. I don’t know if that’s because it legitimately isn’t much or because I still expect super-human levels of productivity like J had.

This week, Chloe’s going to work on resetting her sleep schedule and we’re going to do the last major in-person stuff she has to do before she starts working standard office hours. I’m going to be taking her to the Social Security office to get a new card reflecting her name change and then I will file for her gender marker change too. And we also have to go to transfer the title of J’s car into her name.

Then she plans on going to a temp agency to get work next week. On the one hand, that’s a HUGE positive as far as the likelihood of her getting some cash flow soon. I told her that I was getting desperate and would need her financial help, even if she had to take it out of savings. That seems to have lit a fire under her, thank god.

But I am also nervous because she doesn’t have a whole lot of driving experience, especially on highways, and people here drive like idiots (especially during rush hour.)

And then Dylan is going to start applying for lots of jobs in earnest once he gets his learner’s permit and takes driver’s training courses, which is near the end of this month.

I just really need for both of them to step up to the plate and start helping me out. The time of me trying to be super mom keeping us all afloat has to come to an end and soon.

New beginnings of a sort

No, nothing on the dating front. As lonely as I get, I am grossly turned off by all the people messaging me and I’ll probably take my profile down soon.

But I think I finally got through to Chloe and told her that she’s going to have to start chipping in on the rent. I know she has the money but understandably doesn’t want to part with it. But it seems to have really lit a fire under her so hopefully she’ll get motivated.

Dyl took me to task for my spending and I have to get that under control too. Even though a lot of it is stuff for him, I just need to have less money going out.

I also really have to get around to listing my stuff on eBay and maybe just donating the rest. I have too much stuff now and I don’t like it.

On the bright side, though, I am keeping up with all my deadlines. I might even look for a job once I get Dylan his permit and get him signed up for drivers ed. That’s only about a month away.

I’ve decided for sure that I’m going to do classes in person. The commute will be killer unless I move to Denton but it’s hard to give up my relatively cheap rent here. I now have all the things submitted that I need to so now I just wait to hear if I’m accepted, though I don’t know why I wouldn’t be because my undergrad grades were so high.

I’ve also started being able to read again. I currently have two books going: “Keep the memories, lose the stuff” by Matt Paxton and “The Body Keeps the Score.” (I’m even reading therapy-related stuff in my downtime.) I haven’t been able to read in years.

I’m also still thinking a lot about my therapy session this week. Admitting that things weren’t always great between me and my husband and that I apparently loved him more than he loved me is kind of tough to come to terms with.

But I know he loved me as much as he was able and I have to comfort myself with that knowledge.

In the meantime, I have to try to get on with my life without him and it’s not always easy.

Nope, not yet

I decided to make a profile on a dating site. It’s the same one where Amy and her boyfriend found each other and they’re an exceptionally good match for each other.

And I decided based on the results they showed me that I am definitely not ready to date anyone at this time. More specifically, I was trying to find a female friend who might have the capacity to become more than that, and nobody matches up to J in any of the ways that count.

I don’t do well with being alone; I never have. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy my own company or that I am in any way dependent on being with someone. I just really prefer to have someone to regularly talk to and do stuff with.

I always thought that I was kind of a loner but I guess I’m not as much as I thought. I think that for the most part, I’m not very needy. I am fine doing a lot of things by myself.

But I really do miss just having basic human companionship. I don’t think I’ll be alone forever but it’s clearly not the right time to meet someone to fill the empty space left by J.

It’s not even a relationship per se that I’m looking for, just friendship (and maybe sex if it turned into that.) I just want to find someone to have interesting conversations with and I think I’m just too weird and intellectual for most people. I know that sounds obnoxious but it’s not meant that way. I just like to have conversations with real substance and I can’t find that.

I really miss having someone who understood me and spoke my language. I never had to worry that my thoughts were too weird or my political views too extreme. Losing J really is about losing my best friend of 28 years and it’s definitely not easy to find a substitute.