Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Failing

I’m failing. No, not with mourning and recovery. That, my psychologist reassures me, I’m doing quite well with. In fact, he tells me that I’m doing extraordinarily well - best he's seen. (Read the next word in your best dripping sarcasm voice:) Yaaaay!

I’m failing at getting back into life. I’m just stuck and I don’t know how to get unstuck. Life isn’t really throwing me any easy lobs over the plate either. My latest biggest challenge is that I spend an unhealthy chunk of time alone and I’m not exactly sure how to fix that. My friends are all married with children (like I should be) so my running buddies are busy chasing kids. Gone are the days of single friends having BBQs or nights on the town. Now those same friends’ evenings are filled with sick kids, wife/husband date nights, or other family crises while my evenings are, well, less engaged. At least with my current set of friends, gone are my easy opportunities to jump back into life and be effortlessly carried away by all the camaraderie that is (or was) being young and single.

I’m failing to find my place in this world. I don’t belong downtown in the Mecca of the barfly; I’m not the right age or temperament or something. Likewise, I don’t belong in the divorce groups; I’m not divorced (and no, being widowed is NOT like your spouse leaving you and no, your divorce is NOT a tragedy.) I also don’t belong to the life-long singles, those who for some reason or another haven’t found true love; Maggie and I had true love in our hands, and it was ripped away from us both. So where do I belong?

I mentioned to a married-with-child friend of mine (and Maggie’s) the other day that I was going to learn to play volleyball. (My logic is charming in its simplicity: People play volley ball. I need to meet people. Therefore, I need to learn to play volleyball.) My friend, in her innocent ignorance, said “Go hang out with some friends at the local volley ball courts and meet new people.” Ah, said like that, it’s so simple.

People remember their single days as easy and filled with single friends (because everyone WAS single back then!) The idea of hanging out at a volley ball court with friends is easy to conceptualize because it was easy to materialize - just call six or seven of your (all single) friends and one or two, at least, would join in the fun. Game on! But what has changed out from under us that isn’t obvious is that all the single folks have been replaced by married folks and, at my age, most with children. Try calling six or seven of those same folks to suggest hanging out at a volley ball court one afternoon and see what responses you get now. But my friend, with her kind suggestion, just didn’t see how her simple plan was doomed or why I wasn’t already doing it. Then she labeled my disagreement a “negative attitude” and as me “not trying hard enough.” Crap.

I don’t have any answers. Likewise, I don’t have any interesting analogies to drive my point home this time around. I’m just frustrated.

But frustration leads to action. Action is movement and movement is good, even when it’s not in the right direction. I feel like I’m stuck out in a blizzard, with the snow waist-deep and the howling wind confusing my senses. My feet are numb and my face stings from the wind. It would be so easy to just sit down in the snow and give up. But I can’t. I will not. I don’t know the right way but I know what I won’t do and that’s quit. So I move on. I will keep my feet moving. Movement is good. (Damn, there goes my no-analogies moment!)

One day I’ll find my path. One day, in hindsight, I’ll be amazed at where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. My new single friends won’t believe the amazing stories I tell them about my travels. One day, I’ll see that what I thought was failing was just a redefinition of what it meant to be me.


  1. I sit here and reflect on the options available to "get back out there." When we were single, we were young, the things young and single people do are just not even close to things that I find enjoyable these days. I need "adult interaction." I need to stimulate my brain, not just stand around a club. So, then what ARE the options? What do singular (note: not single, but singular) adults do? I came up with a few options: take a continuing education class, or even a regular class at your community college. If you are performance person, try out for a play, movie or maybe a local band. Flash mob? Of course there is always volunteering somewhere that puts you in a team like Habitat for Humanity. I'm sure there are more, but I guess my point is that the flaw may be in the mentality of trying to be young and single instead of a singular adult.

    I wish you the best with your volleyball; sports, thats another great singular thing.

  2. You can't be failing because at least you want to get back out there and make new friends. I am satisfied from pretending to live vicariously through my children's activities. I've only been out twice in 7 months for myself. The two times I've gone "out" dancing (which feels so much like college did 15 years ago....except we look like a bunch of cougars) it's with a mixture of married and single friends and no matter how hard they try, I can't stop feeling like I'd rather be home in pjs with a glass of wine and my iPad surfing the web. No you are not failing...you are trying and that is a triumph!

  3. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, I feel out of place. I don't know where I "fit" anymore. I want to jump start my life again, but I'm struggling to discover how to accomplish that goal. I maintain the hope that it will happen in time, but I'd also like to help speed up the process a little bit! Everything is so darn complicated!

  4. I can really identify with this; what you have said, written and felt. All I can say is find your passion in life and pursue it. For me it was writing, connecting with other women through writing our stories. It saved my life.

    I've met my share of frogs/toads over the years since my husband died . . .everyone tells you this. If you have found true love once in your life, you are luckier than most. Small comfort perhaps, but comfort nevertheless and very true. Cherish the love you once knew, as I suspect you will. It will keep you strong.

    I hope the best for you in the future.

  5. I so understand your dilemma!
    I am trying on a new city, new job, new life without my partner, my husband of nearly 27 years.
    I want to share what has worked for me...
    meetup.com...you can find a group (it was a social group for me)low to no pressure- mstly single people with similar interests. I have a rule- try something new three times before you decide if it is a no-go. I have been hiking (didn't know if i would like it..I did!) biking, cards all with single people.
    Out of the said social group, we have formed a small group to travel to Italy together this fall. Who would have thunk it?
    So try this..if there is no meet up group you are interested in- start one of your own!

  6. My Dave died a year ago TODAY. I haven't replied to any of the condolences I received today. What do you say? It's so much easier to reply here!

    Same deal as you.
    Individual & group therapy. Check! Passed with flying colours. Apparently I'm going to be "OK".

    I go out with my/our friends whenever possible - but it's not the same anymore.

    I still play volleyball (haha!) but just competitive women's - not co-ed.
    I know I need to 'get out there', but I really have no desire to date. I just want my husband and our life back. :(

    I started taking piano lessons 6 months ago. (Took lessons for a few years as a child and always regretted not continuing with it.)I'm enjoying it, but piano lessons aren't really a 'getting out there' kind of activity.

    I have a 3 year old Weimaraner (Dave's dog really) that requires constant exercise. He keeps me moving out the door every day after work. It's a good thing, but hardly a social activity.

    I've also taken up photography again by signing up for a course through NYIP.com. (Studied it in university and thought this would be a good refresher course.) But again, this is an individual activity.

    I've considered joining a Toastmasters group, as I have a huge fear of public speaking, so this could possibly address both the fear of 'getting out there' and the fear of public speaking...

    Last night the girls from my volleyball team took me out for the evening, (because it was the 1 year deathiversary). It was enjoyable, but I can't talk about this stuff with others that haven't been though it. Good to have this venue to vent!

    "One day I’ll find my path." Agreed. Can't wait to see what mine is either!

  7. check out www.meetup.com punch in an area of interest and you will find a group...doing fun stuff...i totally understand...same situation here..i started a young widower/widow group of my own and met a very special someone who I share lots of time with...

    our life is what we make it..Unfortunately everyone else has move one...it sucks, but is up to us...

  8. Wow...so many things you said, is exactly how I feel, especially about the getting back into things...NOT being at all the same...and being what u feel as "stuck"! My counselor also tells me how good I am doing, and that I shouldn't worry cause I am sooo strong...YEAH RIGHT!
    The difference is I have kids, but I am straining with finding someone who will care about my girls, and one day maybe even love them like their daddy did. I also worry about getting back in to the so called dating scene....whatever that is, cause it is so non existant for me! I HOPE to find a widower truthfully...someone who will understand my need to talk about him...have pictures up...and that he will always be a part of our lives, and how much we will always love and miss him.
    I also agree with you, I had REAL TRUE love, so I am scared I won't have that again...and I will be settling eventually out of being so darn lonely.
    ((big hugs)) to you!!

  9. I'm glad to see a post about this subject. I have also spent ALOT of time alone these past 19 months, but I've needed it. I'm fortunate to have a couple of friends available, but I've said no to alot of invitations. It's just a slow crawl back from my visit to hell. About two months ago, I started to feel the need to go out once in awhile, and I do the things that feel comfortable to me. I'm getting a bit stronger. I decided a long time ago not to force anything, I'm trusting that when I am ready, I will know. When I read that one has to walk through the fire of grief to get through it, I decided to do so and not try to distract myself from it. I want to heal and then go with my gut. I'm not lonely at all, because I'm around people all day at work, and I can't begin to imagine a new relationship at this point. Usually by the weekend I'm happy to have the downtime. You'll get there a step at a time.

  10. Chris, I love my friends, but what you say is true. They just do not get it. Things are different now and you are different!Just because you join a club does not mean you will meet anyone single and your age. I have two teenage girls, who are to old to have a babysitter, but too young to be left alone. feel like I have all the disadvantages of being single and none of the advantages- divorced people have weekends or nights with the kids! I have done meet up, but most of the single people there have been much older than me. I do not think that most people get how you lose all of your dreams and your enthusiasim for life when you lose your life partner!

  11. It is difficult to find your new place. I am almost 10 years past my husband's death and have just begun to find new places. For a long time I wanted to interact, but really didn't have the energy to work at it, and I wasn't good company.

    You have to be patient with yourself. People will urge you to do lots of things, but if they haven't walked this road they have no idea how long it takes.

    When you are ready a place will become apparent and you will find yourself making new friends and enjoying yourself. I tried to find clubs or other outlets, but it was exhausting and I didn't enjoy it. I had a 9 year old when my husband died (now 19 and in college) and that made it even more difficult. But it really is getting better!

    Just love yourself and remember it takes time.

  12. Great post. After losing your spouse you can't help but redefine yourself and branch off into a whole new life. You just don't know where you're going yet, but, again, like you so eloquently said, you're figuring out what it means to be you -- now, post-loss. It's not a comfortable place to be, but your words and your awareness give me great confidence that you are making great progress. Just to admit you feel lost and stuck and to persevere anyway is a great accomplishment.

  13. @Everyone – Wow! Thank you for all the great comments! I’m touched that this post hit a spot that was meaningful and relatable. The last few weeks I’ve felt so alone. Your comments mean so much to me!

    @Valerie Richards – I have no words to express my sadness for your anniversary. I call that day Maggie’s Angel Day –the day she became an angel, MY angel. You and I, we are walking on the same carpet. So many of my love-hobbies are hobbies of solitude: wood working, photography, music (I play cello and guitar), gardening, writing… All great hobbies but all hobbies of one. I can recommend one thing though. You mentioned your dog (formally known as Dave’s dog): in Austin we have many social places for dog owners, from dog parks to patios where dogs are welcome. We also have dog meetups. It’s a great place to meet folks who are dog friendly and, fortunately, dogs aren’t shy (like me.)

    @Amanda – ((big hugs)) back to you! And thank you.

    @Anonymous with two teenage girls – my best friend has two teenage girls that I adore. I’ve enjoyed pretending that they are my children and that we are a happy family. I’ve sat for hours imagining how my life would be different if Maggie and I had had kids. Having kids and being widowed… well, as you so perfectly stated, has advantages and disadvantages but it could go either way. Maybe having someone like me who doesn’t have kids gently remind you how wonderfully special it is to have those little angels in your life makes the tougher times a little less difficult? No, probably not. I’m sorry. I know better. As a witness to a single mother raising two teenage daughters and as a widower trying to fumble through and figure out life on his own, I know for certain that no one understand the path you walk. Please know, however, that you are not alone. Know also that the right guy is out there who will love your daughters like his own.

  14. So many thoughts and feelings are going through my heart and mind as I read these posts. I lost my husband to an unexpected heart attack 3 years ago at age 55. He was to leave the next morning for a business trip for 3 days and we didn't know how we were going to be apart for 3 days.. now it's been 3 years. I just feel shattered and lost without him. I have three grown children, two grandchildren with two more on the way this year which is a blessing yet the void where my husband was is huge. I fall in it all the time. I am lonely but what I miss so terribly is our relationship... he was my best friend. No one else could begin to fill that place. I wish for him to be here now as we look forward to our new grandbabies... he would be so excited! It helps to hear from others who are walking this same path of grief. I know that one day I will smile again and it will last for more than a fleeting moment but for now, I am learning to live as me and that I am as strong as my husband always believed me to be. Hugs to each of you.. I'm so glad to have found this site.

  15. I feel so much the same as you, trying to get back into life after losing my husband to melanoma in March 2008. It is hard to find where I belong now, past the barhopping days, and missing my other half. I do however, disagree, from my point of view, on your comment about divorce not being a tragedy. I was married for 5 years and divorced after my husband cheated on me, and it is very much a tragedy in our lives and the lives of my 2 daughters, as we have to deal with that daily. After my tragic divorce, I met my amazing and wonderful husband, married and had a son, and melanoma took him from us. I do completely agree that being divorced and widowed are very much different events, the grief that comes from both are very similar, or at least similar in the fact that it is real and something very difficult to work through. Just another perspective, as I have learned not to judge people's situations as being worse or better than mine. Thanks again for sharing.

  16. Chris, you are so relatable. I find myself coming to the virtual world all the time to find people who understand me. We all are safe here, but I don't have friends here who understand me and it's difficult to go out, just how you say it. I have found myself over the last 3 years cycle between wanting to meet new people to hibernation. Just when I start to get out (like you, I recently joined a sports team - softball) but never find it as rewarding as I want it to be (maybe that's what leads to my wanting to hibernate from the world). And to add the cost of a babysitter for my 2 young children, makes me really value if what I'm doing for fun and to meet people is financially worth paying a babysitter. I'm very rewarded in my career and it keeps me going, but I work with very ill babies and it hasn't yet allowed me to meet any single thirtysomething people.

  17. I went to a party tonight for a member of one of my grief support groups. Nice man, had been married 40 years, children, grandchildren, widowed 7 months. He introduced his friend, confidant and lover to the group. I choked on my diet coke.
    It will be 2 years for me this July and I also feel like I am failing, failing miserably.
    Failing at living my life because I am still failing at processing his death. The crazy broad inside my head has been chanting "I want my life back" for 2 years.
    I work, do what I'm supposed to do, I've gone to grief groups, I've participated. I have friends I talk with and get together with. I read and watch TV, laugh, stay in touch.I look pretty normal if you don't look too close, but....
    I'm not me anymore. I don't know who I am but I'm not who I was and I don't think I ever will be again.
    I'm failing at widowhood and maybe that is because you can't move on when all you want is to move backwards to where it began.
    I haven't slept in my bed, or any bed since Jan.2010 when we got the diagnosis. Slept in a chair next to him till he died and I've been on the couch since. I can barely walk through our room much less spend time in it.
    His cancer killed us both in so many ways. I hate what is left of me without him, I hate to fail at living. I hate being stuck in this limbo.
    But I hate the thought of letting him go even more.