I'm in the process of getting to know myself. I'm sure you've heard of this concept before. I’m trying to be comfortable in my own skin. Understand what makes me tick – and what ticks me off. I'm understanding how important it is for me to recognize who I am as a person and not as part of a couple.
I read a book on moving from “we” to “me” for people that were widowed or divorced. How do you transition from that couple status to an individual? How do you define yourself? If you become involved with another person, what qualities do you want that person to have? How do you maintain “you” for the future and potential relationships. Some parts of the book I didn’t care for. Some, it made me think, so that’s a good thing. The book did confirm that I need to continue to know more about me before I can think of any potential “we”. I don’t want to lose me again.
After 21 years with Ghon, I realized that I wasn't so sure who I was. I attempted to start this process, of figuring me out, or at least deciding I needed to, right before Ghon died. I put Ghon, the kids, and my job so far ahead of myself that the definition of who I was focused on my roles of wife, mother, and project manager. The biggest project I needed to focus on, the most neglected, was me. After my weight loss, I became an entirely different person physically. Mentally, there is a slow mind shift.
Shock and grief put a hold on all this. I needed to go through the motions, at least those of mom and project manager before I could focus on me.
Ever see the movie Runaway Bride? I kinda feel like Maggie. I'm trying to decide if I really like my eggs scrambled, or if I like them scrambled because that's how Ghon ate them.
What are the things we did that I really enjoyed or would consider doing without him? Not too much. What did I like doing before him? I have no idea. I was 19 and in college. Before him I was, well, let’s just say I don’t want to be her either.
Signs of my own growth and development are sometimes slow. I am beginning to recognize that to an extent, I may be a control freak. As a parent, I've had to let that go and accept that there are things I can't control. That was easy. I do go with the flow a lot in that respect. One of the biggest things I teach the kids is control of our emotions. We are human and we are allowed to have feelings, any feeling we want. But it is our reaction, our response and behavior that we can control. That it's OK to be angry and hurt but it is not OK to throw or break things or use hurtful words. These reactions may give temporary relief but have lasting impact and not always a positive one.
On Monday, I had my own mini-epiphany along these lines.
If you know me, you know I am a huge New Kids On The Block fan. Just six hours before show time on Sunday, my friend Brandi agreed to go with me to their show that night in D.C. I didn't have tickets. Totally impulsive. It was exhilarating to make such a decision, then buy tickets in the pit, and go!! I’m a planner. I don’t mind spontaneity, but it’s not always easy. This was exciting!
I'll spare the concert details, but it was amazing. Then as we tried to leave, we couldn't. We missed the last Metro train home. Quick thinking and a call to another friend who was also at the show, we made it back to Winchester. Now of course, I had to figure out how to get my car from the Metro on Monday.
Fortunately, yet another friend agreed to drive me nearly an hour and a half to the train station to get my car on Monday. It was early in that ride that my epiphany began.
Ghon had a 68 Pontiac Le Mans convertible. Driving that car was therapeutic for him. For me, unless we were driving in a city, and even then there were episodes, riding in the car gave me anxiety. He loved to drive it fast. Top down of course. And it scared the shit out of me. Is he going to stop in time? If we were rear ended, would I fly out of the car? What if we rolled? Oh my are we really passing a tractor trailer it's fishtailing I think I’M GOING TO DIE!
I couldn't ride on any highway in the car. In general, I drove almost everywhere we went (but never the Le Mans) except on vacations. If I was a passenger, I felt out of control, and that often extended to other people driving. Ghon may have been driving the same speed I would have, but I felt so unsafe. It was better for both of us, to spare my anxiety or any arguments from me yelling at him to slow down or announcing the presence of every stop sign, to just do the driving.
What does this have to do with getting my car? I was about to ride, not drive, in a Jeep with an open top and virtually no doors on the interstate. I almost panicked, but realized I didn't really have reason to. OK, I did mention once how this ride had anxiety inducing potential, but I shut up after that. I had no control over the drive, only my reaction to it. Take a deep breath and settle down girl…
So what happened? First, I enjoyed the ride.
Second, I was able to view and appreciate the view around me. When I drive, I am too focused on the drive to appreciate the mountains, the valley, and thanks to an open roof this time, the sky and clouds. We live in a beautiful world. OK maybe at first I looked around and up to not look forward; but it was still refreshing.
Third, I realized what was happening. I was comfortable not having control of the vehicle. I was comfortable in the passenger seat, my hand not always in the vehicle (don't tell the kids!), and just being present in the moment. I let go of control. I was content, relaxed, and combined with only 3 hours sleep the night before, I almost fell asleep.
I had no reason to be anxious or fearful. My previous reactions were likely a result to the fact I'd been in a car accident while Ghon was driving, and the continuing anxiety and need to find control while in a similar situation. I hadn't felt that, and when my brain tried to remind me that I was in an open vehicle on an open road and I needed to breakdown; I denied the fight or flight response. I controlled it. The reward was insurmountable.
Control. It’s power and influence over another person’s behavior. It sounds so heavy and negative. In my past, it was control of, well, almost everything. Schedules, meals, shopping, activities, laundry, finances, you name it, I ran and did it. Ghon and I didn’t always have a balanced at home life. Sure, he’d help here and there, but 90% of the time, it was me. I’m not so sure it was so much that I needed the control as much as it was that someone had to do it, and that someone was me. The one thing I had no control over was Ghon. Influence maybe, never control. And I wouldn’t have wanted it.
The first weeks of losing Ghon, I had no control. I just went where nudged. Did what I thought was right or was told was. Slowly, I attempted to regain control of my life, of the kid’s life. Attempt; as sometimes it still seems a little chaotic. Maybe this is why I have such a hard time asking for help. I’ve been wired to do it all with no help. I control the who, what, when, where and how. There are many days and situations where I wish I could give some of that control over to someone else. Not to a Stepford wife level of course.
For now, I will attempt to keep focusing on doing what makes me happy, outside of my kids and career. Is there anything I want to change or improve when it comes to who I am? Who do I want to spend my time with? What do I enjoy doing? I want to try new things so I can decide whether or not I like it or not. Knowing I’m not into something is just as important as knowing I am. To be open to learning from people that have lived different lives so I can see what life is like outside of the “we” I lived for so long. I know I like to help people. I know I like to do things for people. I like to take care of others. I like yoga, massage, acupuncture and exercise. I like the beach, but don’t like sand anywhere but on my feet. I love live music, chocolate, and the sun. I don’t like kale, snakes, and rodents. I don’t like little cars, negativity and scary movies.
And apparently, I can now appreciate and enjoy long rides in vehicles with no roofs and open doors.