How Am I?

Disclaimer: As I reread this post, I see that it is on the grumpy side. It is not beautiful. I’m still gonna post it, because, well, blogging has become my therapy and there’s no turning back now. You’re stuck with me. (And if you don’t read this, I’ll never know.)

When people ask me “How are you?” these days, I always have an instant of indecision. Usually, I say I’m fine or okay – because, at that precise moment, I am. Or I say, “Up and down,” since that is probably the truest answer out there.

I should really just admit that I don’t know. (That doesn’t make for neat small talk, though.)

Today, I’m having a bit of an emotional day. (And I’m having chocolate. Trite, but worth it.) I have realized that I am past what I can call “initial grief”; Sean and both have felt ourselves shifting into a different phase. Now I’m becoming aware of the elements of grieving that sneak up on you – the elements that make you feel that as you heal, you sacrifice parts of your functional self.

Since Sebastian died, I’ve generally coped better than I or anyone else would expect. I never felt like I was falling apart; I didn’t lose my ability to enjoy good moments; I didn’t forget how to laugh. In between bouts of intense grieving, I have often felt… pretty good. I have sometimes wondered why I didn’t seem to be hit as hard as other moms in similar situations, why I wasn’t completely devastated. As I’ve written previously, I know some of the reasons.

And now I think another reason is that I’m experiencing grief one piece at a time. One family friend said, at Sebastian’s memorial, “Maybe this can be the end of a chapter.” I think she was right – it provided an apt closure to that phase, whatever it was. The next chapter is the one where I am getting the more mundane, more frustrating aspects of life after loss – ones I was spared (or at least didn’t notice) at first. The ones that make me feel like I’m a different person, and sadly, a person that I don’t like as much. Sometimes I’m not even sure I can blame this new self on my grief – maybe it’s all just the process of aging and gradually losing one’s marbles. The answers to the “How are you?” questions are so intertwined that I don’t know where to start (which is typical). Good thing blogs allow for cutting and pasting.

So. How am I?

  1. I miss my baby boy… but it’s getting easier. (I am conscious of how illogical it is to miss a tiny person who could scarcely be known. I don’t get it, I just feel it. And thankfully, that visceral ache is less pervasive these days.)
  2. I am tired. At first, I was surprised at being able to sleep reasonably well, and even more surprised at the decent amount of energy I felt during the day. That was partly in contrast to the deep exhaustion I had been feeling during pregnancy, more than with E for sure (I can’t help wondering if my body was busy compensating for whatever was depleting my amniotic fluid – I have seriously never been that tired). Now, I find it takes me a long time to get to sleep, and if I wake up in the night for some reason, it takes me a long time to get to sleep again. During the day, I have bursts of energy, but they are quickly spent, leaving unmotivated flatness. I often get stuck in holes of inertia – the non-moving kind. It’s a toss-up as to whether it’s mental or physical energy I lack more.
  3. I am absentminded. Some of you will smile wryly at this: I’ve always been a compulsive list-maker, partly for reasons of forgetfulness. I’m even more so when pregnant… and apparently, I’m even more so now. I have to be vigilant to get through my sentences without losing track sometimes. When I get distracted, previous thoughts zip right out the window. I think I’m starting to understand how kids with attention-span issues feel.
  4. I am easily overwhelmed. Thinking of all the things I need to get done, sometimes I am paralyzed because I don’t know where to start – my To Do list appears in my head like a circle with no entry point. I have perpetually had To Do lists that are way too long, but usually I’m able to accomplish enough that I feel okay about it. (I still like the lists, though.)
  5. I am disorganized, when you combine #2 and #3. It takes me forever to leave the house, especially with E in tow, because it’s like I’ve lost the ability to know whether I’m ready to go.
  6. I am not so patient. This probably has a lot to do with being tired. It’s one of the most frustrating things, because I hate it when I realize I’m being impatient with E. I mean, he is two and this means that sometimes he is a little turkey who naturally tries one’s patience… but overall, he’s still the sweetest, most awesome little boy I know. He deserves my best. It worries me to think of what I will have left to give him when I go back to work.
  7. I am ticked-off, because none of my clothes fit. Maternity clothes hang off me, and my regular clothes – especially work clothes – just don’t look good with the post-pregnancy paunch. I don’t care if it sounds petty: there is something patently unfair about having to deal with baby weight, grey hairs (which I sprout during pregnancy), breast pads, and the month-long period… and having no baby to show for it.
  8. I am frustrated by all of the above. Being not those things was what made me a good mom and a good teacher.
  9. I am stressed about school. I have always felt anxiety at the beginning of the school year, and knowing #1-7 doesn’t help. I also don’t want to have to tell kids and their parents what happened. I had a bit of a freak-out last week, deeply regretting that I had opted out of the pregnancy leave I was entitled to, which would have amounted to about nine weeks at the beginning of the school year. After all, the whole world is way too busy and stressed – why on earth would I (the chronic over-committer) say no to slowing down and doing less for once in my life, when the opportunity was there and I would definitely be forgiven for taking it? As one of my friends said when we discussed this very issue, “We spend so much time in our roles as teachers, mothers, wives, and all that… Sometimes you need time to just be you.” There is part of me that still wishes I had chosen differently. But on the other hand…
  10. I am looking forward to school, sort of. Okay, “looking forward” is a little strong; let’s just say I’m not dreading it like I was. I got to see my official schedule, and somehow it calmed me a bit. (Kinda like a list. ;D) I know I manage my time a lot better when I have less of it free. Being in a routine will be good for our whole family, I’m sure. And I will be glad to see my co-workers… and probably the kids, too.

Strangely enough, even with these chapters to consider, if some unsuspecting person asked me how my summer was, I could not simply say “It sucked.” Parts of it sucked A LOT. Parts of it, as you know, were unforgettably beautiful. And if I refer back to my #1 up there, I know that however frustrating this part of the process is… I’m getting there.

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6 thoughts on “How Am I?

  1. Mama says:

    Thanks for so much honesty. You have every right to be grumpy. I just keep praying for progress – whatever that amounts to – to be made and for healing to happen and for both of you to get better – in all the ways you need and want to.

  2. emerge says:

    I don’t think you do Grumpy NEARLY as well as I do. (I can give you some pointers if you like.)

    P.s. you still do a pretty great job as sister and roommate/landlady, in spite of the #s. Just in case there was a spare # or two lurking around for those.

  3. Darci says:

    Sweet lady – how beautifully honest is your post. Can I just say, you are not grumpy, you are normal. Normal in the context of your life as it is right now. Deep breath, one moment at a time, love and laugh when you can and cry when you must.
    xoxoxox

  4. Quinnsies says:

    You’re beautifully aware of all the subtleties of your emotions, and I think it’s important that you are writing everything down. Many of us can relate to the chronic over-committing! I’m sure you’ll make it work going back to school at the beginning of the year, and don’t forget to add some much-deserved down time to your lists. Hugs.

  5. Erin T says:

    I think it’s likely important to go through periods when you don’t like yourself as much as you normally do. It’s a sign of healthy self-reflection and emotional awareness (that they say sociopaths, for example, don’t experience.) Meanwhile, I’m sure everybody sees you as just as fun and sweet-natured as you’ve always been, despite what you’ve been through lately. And just as pretty, too! Re: Grump #7 – not petty at all. On a related note, I’m sure your hormones are still out-of-whack, which surely doesn’t help your mood. Be kind to yourself – as a mom, wife and teacher, you deserve it, even apart from your grief.

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