Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Unplanning

I have always been a planner.

Or maybe I should revise that.  I had always been a planner.  Until my daughter died.  

I had plans.  I had plans to have a living baby on December 12th.  I had plans to raise a daughter, to dress her in all those cute clothes I bought her, to teach her how to swim and how to be self-confident.  I had all sorts of plans for us, for our mother/daughter team, our perfect family of four.

My plans clearly didn't work out.

So if I've learned anything in this new life after loss, it's that plans need to be made with a whole lot of flexibility.  Or perhaps not be made at all. 

It's hard to commit to social engagements.  It's hard to commit to doing much besides staying in my Fortress of Solitude with my husband and my son. 

I don't know when the waves of grief will hit.  Sure, there are the times I know will be tough.  But other days, I don't see the waves coming, but they knock me on my ass.  It's impossible to plan for them.

On Justin's 35th birthday, we drove to Indiana.  We left Benjamin with his grandpa for the evening, and we drove up to Purdue, Justin's alma mater to see our favorite band, The Avett Brothers.  Before the evening, it felt like fate.  Justin's birthday, 35th at that, his dad offering to watch Ben, his college, our favorite band.  Oh, and our good friend Andy joining us.  Like the stars were aligning to give us a night out.  

Before we left, Justin's dad's wife said, "If Lydie were here, we'd be watching her too."

And I thought, "No.  If Lydie were here, we wouldn't be here."

And who wants a night out when they could be home with their baby?  All night, I kept thinking about what a lousy consolation prize it was.

The first song we heard at that concert?   A song that I have not been able to listen to for the past six months.  One that has the lyric, "she has got a baby with brand new eyes."

So I'm standing there in this concert, crying, wishing desperately I was home with my baby with brand new eyes.

It's hard to predict the triggers.

And that is why I no longer like making plans.

Last Friday, I took the day off work, took Ben to school and hoped for a nice day to myself.  I was getting my hair cut, trying to de-stress, when the woman next to me started talking about her new baby.  And I couldn't run, and I couldn't hide, and I couldn't, though I desperately wanted to, say, "My baby died, so do you mind not talking about your baby?"  It got worse as she continued on that they wanted to have another one right away so her two kids would grow up close in age, and you know, the older you get, the harder it is to have a healthy baby.

The plan was to have a relaxing morning.  The plan was not to sit and listen to someone else talk about her new baby.

At least I got to meet a friend from support group for lunch after that and I could vent and she understood.  And we could laugh about all these women, cluelessly talking about their babies.  How naive are they?!?! (And how much do we wish we could be them?)

I find I fight my own personality in the new unwillingness to plan.

I was born a planner.  I always believed that hard work and dedication would get you to the place you wanted to be.  I believed that life was what you made it.  I believed that I was in control.   I believed in dreams and aspirations.

In high school, I graduated with over a 4.0 GPA.  Didn't get one B.  Didn't know exactly what my plans were, but I knew if I worked hard, I'd put myself in the place I wanted to be.  I knew the plan was to be successful.

In college, there was one semester I partied a little too much and got my first B - two of them, in fact. 
But after that, I struggled a bit more with plans.  That summa cum laude title didn't seem to mean much in the real world.  I floundered a bit.  I moved to Connecticut, then Colorado.  I taught middle school, I skied, I mountain biked, I drank too much.  I was lonely and I missed my friends and family and I dated some guys I shouldn't have.  I allowed my adventurous spirit to win out and practiced 6 months of unplanning in Australia, where I sometimes figured out where I would sleep that night at 8 or 9 pm.  And I learned that you can live that way too.

And then I returned to Ohio, where I met Justin two weeks later.  And I earned my Master's and I found my job and we bought a house and we got engaged and all those years of floundering in my mid-20's seemed like a hell of a good adventure that allowed me to have stories to tell.  Because the plans seemed to be falling in place again.

So what now?

A dead daughter was not part of my life's plans.

This grief was certainly not part of my life's plans.

How do I write my performance review for work, where I must reflect on professional development plans for the 2015-2016 academic year, when right now, my plans consist merely of getting through the day?  What would my supervisors think if I responded that I would like to cry in my office less next year?  I'm not sure that's quite what they have in mind. 

The "get through the day" mentality is where I am.  It's realistic.  In life after loss, you learn that all you really have is the present moment.  The future?  You never actually have that until it arrives.  

Besides a planner, I've also always been a saver.  It's always been much harder for me to spend money than save money.  I was the kid that would stash away all her Halloween candy.  I was the 26-year-old that came home with two boxes of my favorite "bikkys" (Tim-Tams!)  from Australia and rationed them so much that I had to throw half of them away months and months later.

I've never really believed in instant gratification. Now?  I'm the one who keeps telling my husband that I am "taking my grief shopping" as I peruse Amazon in the evening or as another package shows up at our door.  I'm not blowing our life savings by any means, but I'm finding the future hard to believe in, and suddenly it's a bit easier to spend my money today than it used to be.

Like all the other personality changes I've experienced in the past six months, I am not sure what will stick.  But as for now?  I'll be focusing on getting through each day, and sometimes taking my grief shopping helps me do that.


3 comments:

  1. Heather....I'm sorry if my comment hurt you. I didn't mean it in a bad way. You have said how you want people to include and talk about Lydia...just like on the birthday cake I made for Ben, Justin and grandpa....I put a special candle on it to signify our love for her too and that she will always be in our hearts and never forgotten. It would have been a joy and a blessing to grandpa and nana Rita to have been able to babysit them both....that's all I was meaning....Again, I'm sorry if my comment upset you...it was said from my heart.

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  2. My husband actually said to me last summer, "It's like spending money makes you feel better or something." Um...yes?

    I went shopping all the time after Josie died. Online or I would just leave for an evening and peruse Target or Kohls, not really needing anything, not really looking for anything. I wasn't always buying things for myself either. I bought memorial jewelry for other loss moms I knew, crafting supplies for gifts for their babies, I bought gifts for family members, clothes for my living son (I hate having to use the word "living" before speaking of a child, by the way), a new purse, new mascara, new curtains...and you know what? It helped. Like you said, I wasn't depleting our savings, and it didn't last forever. We do what we have to do in order to make it through the shittiest of times, and I think that's okay. Sometimes, something new and shiny helped to alleviate some of the death grip that grief had on my soul those initial months without my daughter. Briefly, yes, but it helped me to focus on something else for a moment, even if it was something materialistic or unnecessary.

    Thinking of you, friend. Hang in there.

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  3. Dang. You're a smarty pants. As in, maybe too smart for me if we'd met any other way. But shared grief evens things out when it comes to stuff like that, doesn't it? (Then again, you went to Australia and I lived overseas after high school and love international travel, so we would have that.) Anyway.

    In this post I was particularly struck by the part about having to write professional goals for next year. Oh, do I remember that garbage. I think I wrote something about spending more time with colleagues - for real. Because I'd hole up in my office and avoid talking to peers at all costs. How can you think about improving your performance when the ringing in your head is so loud and the gaping wound in your chest so brutally open and raw (HOW do people not see it?!?) that merely showing up presentable for public viewing and completing the bare bones necessary for your job feels equivalent to swimming a mile through mud? "Cry in my office less next year" I gotta tell you, I'm laughing through tears at that, because YES!!! That's all there is, and I love to read someone else writing exactly what I felt then. Simple, honest.

    We got iPhones several days after Anna died. I told my husband it was a good time to buy whatever he wanted, because I couldn't care less. We went through a round of that again with his cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, money is money and if you have it, what the hell. Spend it. The, "You never know if you'll die tomorrow and never get to indulge and enjoy it anyway" mentality. Sometimes spending is defiance, I think. Some measure of control. And sometimes I think it's a way to stay connected to the real world by just a filament. When your so numb, the act of buying stuff and having solid, 3 dimensional objects to hold, feel and touch fulfills something in your psyche.
    Particularly when the only thing you really want to hold, feel and touch is impossible.

    I didn't shop, but I still spend inordinate amounts of time trolling the internet. I'm looking for something I know I'll never find, but I keep doing it, like an addict. I keep thinking I'll find the answer. The reason we lost her. A message from her. HER. Something, anything about her. Something.
    Nearly 5 1/2 years later none of that has happened, of course.

    But I did find you.

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