Tag Archives: loss

when life hands you a shit sandwich…

Lately a lot of people have been asking me how I’m doing:  they know my ex has been struggling with health problems; they know my boss is certifiable; they know I’m a full-on single parent with a demanding job and hellacious commute and children’s activities and more than too much to try and squeeze into a day.

I tell them, “I’m fine.”

I am a liar.

The truth is that I’ve been struggling. For months. More than ever. And it hurts. I’ve never been in a place where my herbal antidepressants seem so ineffective, my endless optimism is so drained, my outlook — regardless of what I may tell my friends — is so bleak. I exercise and it is not enough. Summer is not enough. I am able to have fun; I am able to function; I can experience joy, but there’s a ceiling on this joy — an upper limit I don’t recall experiencing before. And my heart is broken.

Broken for the man I once loved and for the decline even our children must now observe. Broken for the friendships and full, rich life I once had and those who no longer call now that I’m a single parent. (What?! Do you think I’m somehow a threat to your relationship because I don’t have a husband? My life is still full and rich…so there!) Broken for my friend with a brain tumor, dying slowly or maybe less so after a lengthy seizure about a week ago.

There is a word for how I feel…lonely. I am constantly surrounded by friends, co-workers, children and people who want nothing but the best for me. And none of that is the same as being loved fully and unconditionally for who I am by a lover and mate. So I naturally poured my heartache into the fantasy of my one unrequited love, making so much more of that crush than ever really was…about whom, by now, I must have written a dozen times. Without ever even trying, the man completely lay me bare, left me defenseless. And I loved it because I loved me in the context of him:  I loved the me who cared for a man because he was good and kind and competent and caring — and not for any superficial reason.

He had passion for me, too, in my dreams. I’ve woken at least a dozen times in his loving arms…I mean, it seemed like I had until I really woke up.

“I want to meet him,” says my friend and co-worker, Char. “But I think I’d probably slap him.” Char was raised by a single mother and, therefore, assumes that I am a stronger and better woman than I am. She thinks he’s crazy. (I do, too.)

Pouring my feelings into longing for someone with whom I’ve never had a relationship must somehow be easier than having to deal with the fact that my ex is an alcoholic and that my children have to watch his decline and all the other garbage that I won’t even go into right now. Heavens, it gets old to dredge up this shit!

So I swing between this genuine pain I am feeling, because I truly feel as thought the spate of difficulties is perhaps more trouble than I deserve just now, and the rational, Peppermint Patty voice inside my head telling me to “buck up” and, frankly (even though I’m not Catholic), guilt about feeling as I am when I know full well most of these are first world problems.

I surround myself with happy, positive people and am blessed to have this rich group of friends. Except, right now, it seems as though they’re all looking around pointing at rainbows and, the second I turn my head to look, thunder claps down around me. And I’ve been self isolating, which is never a good sign.

I don’t waste time wondering why. I do wonder how on earth I might find time to take forward steps…dare I say, to put myself out there, to date. Alas, I have no time to offer another person. I’m not even sure I have the time to be a good parent!

So when I took a walk with my therapist friend recently, she echoed what she’s heard from me for months and gently asked whether I thought it was time to try a different course of action. Yes. And what did I plan to do?

(That’s a good friend right there!)

I committed to a plan. And I spent more time in the sun and worked out and started meditating again and, for the past week or so, I have felt better. My head seems to be on straight again. My heart does not feel noticeably broken. And this, too, shall pass.

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and, now, I can properly grieve…

A few days ago, I learned that a man I’ve known (very casually) is dying of a brain tumor. Let’s call him Tom (not his real name).

When I left one corporate job (right around the time I started this blog), a friend and mentor recommended I network with Tom. We set up a coffee appointment, talked about my experience, what opportunities or possibilities he saw based on his connections, and networking groups I should attend. Tom was excited for me, positive about my very broad skill set and encouraged me to think big.

We saw each other a few more times for coffee over the past couple of years:  the last time would have been over two years ago when he had left a job and asked me to return the favor. I shared some connections and helped him understand the organizational structure of the company I work for and see where there might be opportunities that aligned with his passions. He told me he’d take me out to dinner to thank me as soon as he’d landed the next job.

It was a year before I ran into him again, this time in our corporate cafeteria, where he was clearly having an interview lunch and didn’t have an opportunity to talk. And it was late autumn: buzz of a hiring freeze meant he wouldn’t be hired until at least the new year. What I didn’t know was that, in the meantime, he’d been diagnosed with and treated for a brain tumor.

Fast forward to this past fall, when I realized we were now working at the same company. In fact, Tom had the same role and leader as the object of my affections that I wrote about a couple of posts ago — you know, the one I haven’t managed to get over in two years… I reached out to Tom and suggested coffee or a happy hour, and he told me he’d been having some medical issues and would be back after the new year, at which point he’d reconnect.

Over the past few months, I checked every so often to see if Tom was online, but he wasn’t. I tried texting and social media, with no response. So I reached out to my unrequited love interest — you know, the one whose contact information I deleted for the sake of self preservation — who told me Tom had been out for awhile; that his tumor had come back, he was being treated and expected to be back in February. We vowed to let each other know if we heard news. Tom was the strong, athletic, vibrant type we knew would come back!

Except that he’s not. A few days ago, I heard from the same friend and mentor who’d introduced me to Tom in the first place that he’s declined rapidly and in hospice. I’ve felt gutted and raw and unsure how to grieve someone with whom I was never really very close; Tom was little more than a casual acquaintance and possibility to me. Now, not only did I have to share what I’d learned with my old flame, but the two of them are linked in my mind.

And that’s how I found myself grieving both of them last night:  I grieved for Tom, who I’ll never get to truly know, and for the man for whom I fell so hard and who didn’t return those feelings. Once again, I found myself wondering when I’ll be able to release that energy, that longing, that heartache and move on… I cried over it for the first time and, suddenly, I realized something:  this man, for whom I still care a great deal, was a near daily presence in my life for two years:  he was like a best friend. And I realized that the loss I feel is not for the love that never was, but the loss of my best friend.

It was a cathartic release and realization. I am still unsure what to do with this new perspective, but I am now confident that I can properly grieve these loses for what they were and are.

The other thing about perspective is how well it plays as a cartoon:  There’s me, with this huge thought bubble filled with everything you’ve read in this post and several others about the guy who should probably have a nickname or even a category on this blog because he’s played such a big part in my consciousness about men since we met. And then there’s him, with a thought bubble over his head that says something like, “Huh. Yeah, I know her…”