When Matt died it changed everything for me. This is probably a very obvious statement to most people but being pressed they wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what it would change. Yes, the man I loved above all others passed away, I lost my best friend, I lost half my income, I lost the life that I had been living for 11 years and all the plans we had made. These are the obvious ways in which my life changed but though they were momentous they opened up the door for many more changes, some subtle, some earth shaking.
Not many people at 32 see their own mortality, we don’t see face to face right up close and personal how fragile life really is. Most of us have lost a grandparent at this point, some of us have even lost a parent or an aunt or uncle. A very unlucky few have lost a sibling or a friend. Losing someone who has lived a full long life is different than losing someone who is 4 years older than you, someone so young and who had so much more to do with their life rocks you to your core. It makes you question everything you do, every relationship you have, every bit of time spent on tasks society tells you that you must accomplish in order to get to point B. It makes you step back and look at the bigger picture and when it snaps into full focus it’s scary as hell.
I found that I wasn’t scared at what I hadn’t been accomplishing, (I had checked the boxes in work, I owned my own home at one point, sold it too, I moved states for careers, I went through terribly painful fertility treatments in order to try to start a family), I was shocked at the things that I had pushed aside in order to pursue what we believed we were supposed. Matt and I only ever took two vacations, two in the 11 years we were married. Instead we worked and worked and worked some more believing that there was always time later. I promised friends I would visit them and never planned those trips because I believed there would be time later and the timing wasn’t right now.
I allowed people in my life because I felt that it was the right thing to do, that even though they didn’t bring anything to the table, though they took more emotionally from me than gave, I kept them because I thought it showed that i had patience, that I was kind. I no longer think that way and I no longer have the patience for people who take more than they offer. Now we all have bad days, sometimes we have bad weeks or months or years, but even in those moments if you don’t give back to the people in your life it’s time to take a long hard look at what’s wrong. If you start a conversation with “how are you?” but hate to hear the person actually answer because YOU have things to talk about it’s time to reevaluate. I was not the greatest friend after Matt died and there was a point where I definitely felt like I was running on credit even with my closest people, where I knew I was calling them crying AGAIN and I secretly dreaded that this was the last straw. But you know what? Even in my darkest days I wanted more than anything to hear about other people’s lives because that was normal and I wanted to talk about everything and anything besides what had happened and how I was feeling. Relationships I had allowed in my life changed and I did let some people go, some people I actively pushed out. I stopped clinging to people that I had been friends with just because we’d known each other for a long time and I formed new friendships.
Making time for myself still feels selfish but I am doing it anyway. I am carving out personal time even if it’s not convenient for other people. I make plans based on when I am free and when things come up to threaten that I am getting better at dealing with it later and perusing what I really want to do. I’m not great at it but I’ve learned the hard way that there is not always later and life does not give you credit because you had good intentions.
Decluttering my life has also been part of the process. When I moved out of a 3 bedroom house with 2 garages and a barn I got rid of 75% of the things I owned. You know how much of that I miss? None of it. I haven’t missed a single item. There are still things in my apartment I’m getting rid of and donating. I no longer care about accumulating STUFF, I’d rather have experiences and memories. I’d rather collect things I don’t have to dust or navigate around. I still like things but it’s not as important anymore. I’d rather spend my time and money on people, on experiences that I love or are new and exciting rather than trying to save up for some little piece of nothing that won’t give me pleasure three months from now.
I don’t have to win every battle. Sometimes I don’t even fight it in the first place. This is new for me, I’m a recovering know it all (I’ve been recovering since Matt first pointed out this less than pleasing personality trait to me 11 years ago) and I usually fight like hell for just about everything. Now I just don’t have the head space for battles that aren’t important. I say “fuck it” a lot but that’s not a very eloquent or accurate expression of what I’m really doing. I’m really letting go of things that aren’t really important in the long run, I’m letting go of the petty bullshit or the things that are too small to freak out about. This has expanded a bit more than I intended and I have stopped really freaking out about some of the issues that probably are more important. It’s just too much damn work to freak out all the time. Letting go has been a big process for me and it works better sometimes than others.
We don’t get to choose what life bitch slaps us in the face with but we get to choose how we deal with it and how we cope. I’m not perfect but I’m working on it. I refuse to wallow and I take each experience as a lesson in how I am to live, each new slap as a chance to learn my true path. It’s painful but its better than being stagnant.