01 December 2009

Thanks, and Giving

We had a great time in Michigan for Thanksgiving. Maddie and Riley were rock-star travelers (thank you, Dora and Dum-Dums), and we were all spoiled by the entire family. It was incredibly rewarding to see the kids respond to their grandparents, aunt, and uncle; they just love spending time with all of them, and it allowed me to get a little bit of a break, too. We even survived a family portrait session on Sunday morning. That's saying something.

I'm having an incredibly hard time transitioning to being back home. We had an early morning flight yesterday, and so I spent the whole day in a fog after getting up at 3 a.m. and then dealing with the stress of travel, even hassle-free travel. I can't quite remember what I'm supposed to be doing at home or at work. I feel like I forgot all of our routines in the span of five days. My fridge is empty, but I don't know what to buy. I have completley misplaced my gym bag. I left a note to myself at work about some things to do immediately upon getting back to the office, and the note means nothing to me.

I just want to curl up with some tea—no, wait, some hot chocolate—and read. Or do puzzles with Riley. Or play "bunny house" with Maddie. Or bake cookies.

Or Christmas shop.

Yes, really. I don't like to shop, and I can't stand the overcommercialization of Christmas (and everything else) and I hate to feed into a culture that creates a desire to own more and bigger all the time. But I feel a real need this year to do something to show people close to me how much I care. So I'm building a list and coming up with ideas and we'll see how things go.

Until John's death, I was always the person that was early to every meeting, organized to the nth degree, had thank-you notes written before the gift was out of the original package, and paid my bills on a strict schedule. Now? Not so much. I pay my bills late all the time. All the time! Sometimes I don't write thank-you notes, and when I do, they are rather tardy. As I pointed out above, I can't seem to remember what my job is today.

I've writeen about this change before—from Type A organized supewoman to Type X unidentifiable slacker—but I still find it surprising that it's such a common manifestation of grief. I suppose it makes sense that when you're grieving, your mind dedicates so much space to the grief process that the other things get left by the wayside. What is surprising is how long it persists. Perhaps it's less a manifestation of the process of grief and more a manifestation of being a widow. I am certainly a different person now, in many ways, and perhaps this change is one of them.

I miss my old, organized self at times. I'm very good at being hard on myself, and by giving in to a life where I make little effort beyond the bare minimum gives me plenty of ways in which to beat up on myself. But there are things I like about the attitude and actions I have now. I'm amazed every month that the world doesn't stop spinning because I haven't balanced my checkbook. And that the electric company keeps letting me turn on my lights even though I only seem to pay them about half as often as I'm supposed to. Life is more forgiving than I ever thought it was, and lots of things I thought were Rules have turned out to be more like guidelines.

Where that ends, though, is with being less sensitive to friendships and support than I'd like to be. This holiday feels like the time to start turning that around. Of course, the first gift I bought was for Maddie, but still. I bought a gift! Today I've returned some really overdue e-mail and reconnected with some people I've neglected.

Tomorrow I might even remember what it is I do at work.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

the grieving process takes forever, but changes with time, just as we all change over time.

also, don't be too hard on yourself - remember that you are a fantastic mum - and dad - of lovely twins - they are adorable but demanding - upon you physically, emotionally, mentally.........no wonder your mind is full!

snick, you are an inspiration to sooooo many many readers - go gently, enjoy the moment, give and receive love......you are one awesome mum. x

Jennifer said...

Don't be hard on yourself!

That said I have to admit that 5 years after losing my daughter I am STILL not that organized person that once was. I think I live a bit more in the moment.

OTRgirl said...

I think the experience of significant loss can also shift what you think of as 'do or die' important. I think that experience might have loosened your drive for perfectionism (in a good way). I wonder how much of would have shifted with motherhood, even if John were still alive?

Cheryl Lage said...

Snick---You are an inspiration. I am in 100% agreement with OTRGirl has said about the shifting sands of importance. Think you should take great comfort (and pride) in the fact you'd rather be playing with Maddie and Riley than balancing that checkbook to the penny or making sure the bill is paid before the due date.

The fact that you took the time to bolster me amidst my husband's cancer recurrence meant more than you could possibly know.

You are a wonderful mom, Snick...and a wonderful person. Take it easy on yourself.

cv said...

I agree with OTR, in addition to grieving, you also transitioned from being the mom of semi-inert infants to being the mom of mobile toddlers.

I've also stopped doing a lot of the 'administrative' work I once did to tick and tie out each month, as I've started chasing a child. And you've got my issue times 2 (or squared, probably).

I'm not trying to discount the affect of grief, or the joy of reuniting with parts of your old self after all this time-- just giving a shout-out to acknowledge the single-mom/mommy struggles.

And where's my email? (jk, you're an awesome friend and have nothing to apologize for, ever!)

Maria said...

You are an amazing lady, do not forget that! I agree with the over commercialization of Christmas being a problem, and finding special things for those close to us being somewhat of a challenge. I think I came up with a plan for my parents and grandma that they will cherish...I found really gorgeous scrapbook paper and printed out profile pics of the kids, and cut them out, painted them matte black, and framed them with the scrapbook paper as a background. Instant oldschool momento that is sentimental and pretty. You are doing a fantastic job with your kids, as long as your lights stay in, you aren't too late on the bills to do one more puzzle!

Anonymous said...

And don't forget, the hormonal and emotional changes after giving birth are huge and can go on for several years. Don't discount that part of your equation. I think it took me almost two years to feel like my brain was its old self again. There was a week when I could almost literally feel it "turn back on" -- as if a hormone cloud had lifted. This is in no way meant to diminish the powerful effect of grief on the human mind and spirit, but perhaps another point in the column of "give yourself a break."

Fresh Hell, Texas said...

My in-laws were all Type A, to the max. When my husband's brother died, they all got knocked off of that track and 20 years later none of them have regained that level of type A. Although some of them have come pretty darn close (I say with sincere affection and a smile.)

I believe, as someone else pointed out, that a death of someone so close to you forever changes your perspective of what is really important, how you spend your time, what goes to the top of the "to do" list.

I want to thank you for sharing so much of yourself here. You've really helped me to reconnect with the needs of those who are grieving and it's made me a better partner. Plus, your kids are insanely cute!

Sandy said...

Snick, I'm so glad you are a writer! You're amazing and have so much to say. I eat up your posts and am broadened by your perspective and experience.

So glad you are in the mood to shop!

Eva said...

Obviously, you have to give yourself a break, and when you can, take moments to curl up with tea and play games with the kids.

That said, I am not dealing with grief, but I can tell you that parenting twins for the last 3 years has changed me from an organized, Type A person to a disorganized, late for meetings, messy, forgetful person. Just the parenting part (with a partner). So I can't imagine having to deal with all you do on top of that.

Michéle Hastings said...

my john died on december 12, 2008 - during new england's devestating ice storm. we also had a year long journey dealing with cancer. during this past year i have never felt so unorganized in all my life...nothing gets done in the time frame i originally plan...
somedays i fret over it. other days i realize that it is a good thing...letting go of trivial deadlines and living life in the moment....that is what john would have wanted for me.

Jen said...

As others have said, I'm glad to hear you're more inclined to spend time with your kids than paying bills. I find I'm not as patient with my three-year-old as I'd like to be -- those bills have voices almost as loud!

I lost my husband suddenly and unexpectedly 18 months ago, and at points in my grieving I have found that being super-organized has been a comfort in an otherwise incomprehensibly random world. At other times, I just let go and coast, and know that the world won't end. In either phase, I can recognize why I'm feeling and acting that way, a result of the new level of self-awareness that came with the loss.

Anonymous said...

Automatic bill pay. The best thing I've ever done to make my life easier. I know what dates different bills come out of my account and I just have to keep an eye on my account on line and that's it. The only check I ever write is to my lawn guy and all I have to do with that is stick it in the screen door.

That's my advice for today!

sherry in tempe

Poppy said...

I too have gone from super organized to barely getting it done and then always late. It sometimes drives me nuts, but most of the time I can't even get up enough gumption to give a damn. *shrug*

Good luck with the Christmas shopping. I'm making my first foray to the stores tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to it in the least.

Pop and Ice said...

Life can be exhausting, even without grief. I believe that eventually you will get back on track, but perhaps not quite so emphatically? I think it's a lovely sign that you want to buy gifts and reconnect. It's the wanting that helps you to DO. It's the holidays! Enjoy the next few weeks and don't turn it into a drudge. There is no MUST. Only what we wish and what we can handle.

Anonymous said...

Great post. (And suddenly I realize why I didn't bother to pay bills at all after a miscarriage at 12 weeks -- not at all comparable to your loss, of course, but there was grief involved and now that behavior makes total sense).

I'm glad, though, to hear that your holiday mojo is coming back a little bit. I'm not a fan of overcommercialization either, but it *is* fun to find the perfect gift for those you love and it's great you're once more in the frame of mind to enjoy that.

Shelley

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I agree with Jen and OTRgirl. You are shaping a new Snick, and you are trying on different ways of being responsible, capable, and handling your time and energy.

I'd add that you have some choices once you try on these different ways of doing things. Me, I'm still the slacking off widow who's late and inconsiderate, but it's beginning to wear a bit thin. ("Beginning to?!" they gasp)

I may never be a type A again -- not sure it was the real me last time around, plus, I have in fact changed as much as (or more than) my circumstances.

Also, an idea: you can "give" by making stuff. I should post my homemade cookie cutter technique. I used to make large overdecorated hard spicy gingerbread cookies(one year snowflakes, another station wagons cause I bought my first car). It's a way to feel abundant without all the drawbacks of shopping (and the pluses of making, which I know you like!).

LOVE

Supa

django's mommy said...

Once again, you eloquently express exactly what I'm dealing with at this stage. Recently I found out that an old friend was upset with me, because I had basically checked out of the relationship. After I got over myself, I realized she was totally right. At two years and change, I'm finally getting to the point where I want to give back, want to initiate contact with my friends, want to stop focusing on *my* grief and mememe and want to get back to giving, and giving to those who matter to me. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

christina(apronstrings) said...

You are a lot of things-a slacker-not so much. Circumstances make your existence much harder. I would know you were lying if you were still Ms. Organized. It's a season-when the little ones are less dependant on you-you;ll have more time to get closer to doing everything. Until then, try to cut yourself some slack!

winecat said...

Dear Snick, give yourself a break! You lost your beloved husband when the twins were still infants. You were thrust into being a single mom before John actually died. Of course you're still grieving. I have a sign hanging on my desk that reads "In the midst of chaos lies creativity" Keep that in mind : )

Christmas shopping, I used to be known as the one that found the perfect gift for everyone. Try etsy.com. Huge variety of amazing and sometimes magical things very inexpensive.
Last year I got my nephew that is a computer junkie a clock made out of recycled computer parts. It was a huge hit. Go browse, have some fun. It's fascinating what you'll find.