Excuses and More Excuses Staring at me from the Mirror

I started writing this some time ago so it has been edited and finished to catch up to how my life is going. Today I thought I would finish this. Not because my life has gone back to normal, rather there are one or two more blogs I want/need to write. An update on my widow friends. The one whose husband died almost 2 years ago is trying very hard (some might say too hard) to get on with life & make new friends, but still having bad days. The one whose husband died last March just got rid of her husbands clothes and is not ready to move forward yet, though she still has her faith & her church. I am behind them in time and also in my movement towards the future and the normalcy of life. I have no time-table for when I will be normal, I do not think anyone could say when my time will come, or if it will ever come. My only thought is that it would be nice to at least to start to live my life, not just exist in my life.

It has been almost 10 months since my husband died. I have not accomplished much. Yes, I have cleaned the house and donated my husbands clothing & other things. But at some point I got either tired of cleaning or just thought I had done enough for the moment and would start again, later refreshed. At least that is the excuse I told myself. Now, the clutter I cleaned has begun to pile up again. Not as bad, but with nothing to do, my house should be clutter free and spotless clean.

There are many excuses I have been telling myself. Do I tell myself thinking I am somehow fooling myself? That the mirror reflects that these are legitimate excuses? I know some are. But too many excuses I think are coming from my having a hard time getting on with my life without my husband. I need to figure out a way to realize what excuse is legitimate and what excuse is just that, an excuse. An excuse not to live life.

Since I had started writing this, I have been trying to find at least one thing a week that I have been making excuses for and try to accomplish it. I had put off getting routine blood tests for fear of catching the flu…that is a legitimate excuse, even my doctor agreed with me. I am sure there was a part of me that put it off because of the fear I have walking out the door, but the main reason was flu season. I went 2 months ago. All is fine with my blood work. There was a part of me that worried the tests would show I was pre-diabetic, due to not eating correctly and also forgoing dinner for dessert. Luckily this was not the case. That is one example of a small accomplishment even with an excuse thrown in.

I have put off many things with excuses. I am accomplishing getting at least one thing done a week that I have made excuses for. That does not sound like a lot and if I am honest with myself, it is nowhere near enough. It might be the best I can do at this point, or it might just be me, making yet another excuse. But I have to start somewhere. I have to find where legitimate excuses start and excuses I make up start without realizing it. This sounds like another excuse, but this one I think is legitimate, knowing an excuse is legitimate will make me push harder to get past the excuse.

I think just walking out the front door will always be an excuse for me not to go out. To some that might sound stupid. But the fear of panic attacks stop me in my tracks as I try to walk out the door. It seems since my husband died, every day is a hard day to walk out the door. I have had days where I walk out even though the dreadful feeling is alive and well. In the past, when I went out on days like this, I was okay after I got out and to where I needed to go. I am not finding that sense of comfort when I go out on days the fear is alive and well. But I am going anyway. Not all the time, but I am trying. I think my fear of walking out the door is somewhat legitimate, if I have a day where I put off today what can be done tomorrow. But it should only be a day here or there, not my normal routine. I have to forgive myself when I fail, while promising myself I will try harder next time.

My friend who is the widow that is making new friends has been asking me to join the group of women she has become friends with. They go to different places, sometimes each others homes, sometimes to events. I find myself making excuses for not going. She understands, she has been where I am. One of my excuses is that everything is too far away (she lives about an hour & 1/2 away), which is not really a legitimate excuse all the time, it might be at times when it is a holiday weekend or some other reason that would have a lot of traffic on the road. Another excuse, I am not ready to make new friends…if I make new friends they will expect friendship all the time, not just when I am in the mood. My widow friend understands this as she did not want to make friends when her husband had just died, as I mentioned it is only now she is making new friends. Is it a legitimate excuse? I do not know, I only know that I am not ready to make new friends that live far away. I wonder if my excuses are valid.

I have a cousin I have never met that lives about 10 miles away from me. She is more than ten years older than I am. Age is not the problem for me.  Rather, she is a lot like a sibling of mine who calls all the time, worried about me. Though I have never met this cousin, we do email and are friends on Facebook. After I reached out to her (I should not have but did not think it through), my husband was dying at the time, I regretted it. But I knew she had been wanting to meet me and become close as we are the only two that live in the state. The day after I contacted her through Facebook and email, she had emailed me over 6 times as well as at least 6 messages on Facebook. She had our lives planned out. My husband & I would spend all the holidays at her house, go to church together, you name it, she planned it. It took me 2 or 3 weeks to finally tell her my husband was dying and I had no time for her. Now she is still emailing and messaging wanting to meet. She tells me that no one can believe she has a relative so close and has never met her. Yes, I have an excuse for not wanting to meet her. My sibling is so overbearing and this cousin seems to be the same…I am not ready to have 2 people overstepping their bounds with me…and this one would live close, my sibling lives far away. I just am not ready to meet her. Just yesterday she emailed me again that we NEED to go to church together this weekend. I am an adult, I do not need someone to tell me what I need. I know I have to meet her and part of me really wants to. I just have a big problem with someone who wants to rule my life, that includes my sibling. At least with my sibling I can tell her off, but this cousin I do not know well enough, it would hurt her feelings if I were not so nice. Is this excuse valid? I do not know. I do know for now I am not ready to have another overbearing relative in my life. I will meet her one day and we will probably get along well, but for now I am not ready.

Those were a few examples of where I am at in this process called grief. It would be much simpler if there were a rule book on how we grieve, but then again maybe not…it might cause more pain if we do not progress as fast as the rules say. There are many other areas in my life I make excuses for, I need to work on them too. If I am sad, that is legitimate, it is to be expected. But I do think I am making too many excuses and missing out on my life. I do not want to wake up one day and decide to really look in the mirror and see that life has passed me by while I was making excuses. So, I will continue trying to accomplish more, allowing for some excuses, yet pushing myself past other excuses. It is not a big step, but it is a step towards the future without my husband to share with.

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Needing to Take a Second Glance in the Mirror and Other Needs

One day goes into another. No progress made. Just emptiness left. I am on this journey or drive to find how to live my life again. I feel as if no progress has been made. It feels as if no progress will ever be made. That I will forever be stuck in the haze or phase. I know that is not true, but it feels that way at times.

I went to the store a few days ago. Before going, I could not decide if I was up to walking out the front door and facing the world or not. So I kept putting it off. When I finally decided that enough was enough and I needed to force myself out of the house, I glanced in the mirror. I had not curled my hair or done anything to it. I have long hair, but it is fine and unless I curl it, put it up or french braid it, my hair looks greasy as if it were not washed. After glancing and seeing my hair looked as if it needed to be washed, I decided that if I took any more time to fix my hair my nerve to walk out the door would, well walk out the door without me. So I went out with my hair appearing dirty. It was combed. I had makeup on. I know I did not look my best but I was not trying to impress anyone.

I went to the check out at the store. The cashier was elderly. She was friendly and talked with me. There is no one on-line so we chat. I do not mention my husband or anything else. Rather we talked of sales at other stores, how cold it has been for the south, just small talk. Suddenly she said to me “If you curl your hair you would look so much prettier. You are very pretty but you are hiding your looks behind dirty hair”. Normally I would have told this person off or told them of my husband dying, invoking sadness from the cashier. But my life is anything but normal. I knew she was not trying to be cruel. She was telling me what she saw. She felt that through our small chat we somehow connected and she wanted to be nice. It did not make me feel good that a stranger told me how I would look better if I curled my hair. I know this. It really did not even hurt my feelings, rather it was somewhat of a shock to hear it.

Which got me thinking. Do I look worse than I think I do? Are my quick glances in the mirror enough to make sure I am at least presentable to the world? Or do I need to make the glance last a little longer, look for flaws? Am I allowing myself to not look my best out of habit because it took so much time to care for my husband I had stopped caring for myself? Are there other areas in my life I am not examining close enough? And just how bad did I look that a stranger decided to tell me to curl my hair?

There are a lot of questions I need to ask myself. There are a lot of answers I will be searching for. But I do not think the question of how my hair looks should be one of them. I need to start paying more attention to how I look. While I will still glance, the glance will linger, not looking into my eyes, rather at the reflection as a whole to see if there is anything that needs to be done. Then I need to fix the outside of myself. Make sure I am not wondering how I look on the surface or at first or second glances.

Fixing what is wrong on the inside will be a lot harder. I do not know what is wrong that I can fix. I know there are things wrong, such as my panic attacks or migraines that I really can do nothing about. But getting over the fear of walking out the door is one I need to fix and it will be hard. I am working on it. The small things that need fixing, many I am not even aware of, is where it seems to go from a journey to an endless journey. From hope to despair with each day nothing is done. I must try harder fixing not just is what is on the outside, more importantly I need to fix what is wrong on the inside. Only when I start fixing what is wrong will I feel a real sense of accomplishment, not just a hollow okay feeling. If anyone were to ask me if anything is wrong, I know I would answer without hesitation that nothing is wrong. I would not be lying, as whomever would ask would not be asking the questions I am trying to answer. Needing to get back my life is not just something I am writing, it is something that is essential to my happiness. It may be in baby steps, but I have to start somewhere. Tomorrow, I will curl my hair. It is not an earth moving realization, it is not even a superficial realization, but for me it will be a step.

Boundaries in the Mirror

One of the last times I called 911 for an ambulance to bring my husband to the hospital two women came to the front door while I was standing waiting for the ambulance. I would suspect I was short-tempered with them, which is expected with the stress I felt at that moment. I told them they had to leave as they were in the middle of my driveway and an ambulance would be there any moment to take my husband to the emergency room. I also told them I had no time for them. They apologized and asked if they could visit at another time. I told them yes, but please hurry and leave. They left, the ambulance arrived and it was off to the hospital. With all that was happening so quickly with my husband’s health failing, I forgot about the two women.

About 4 months after he died these two women rang my doorbell. I was expecting family in a few hours, this would be the first time I allowed anyone to visit since my husband had died. The women explained that they had been there over the summer and I seemed very stressed and this was the first time that they had been able to get back to my neighborhood. They asked about my husband and I told them he died. They offered condolences and said they would pray for him. Then they asked if they could come in. I was thinking “no way” but said “okay but only for a few minutes as I am expecting family”. I was lucky, they had other appointments that day so we only talked, I should say I only talked briefly. They asked if they could return in the future. Once again I thought “no way” instead I told them they could return.

My family visited for five days. I thought it would be an uncomfortable visit. It turned out to be fine. Though many things we planned I was not up to, we did go out some. The reason I say the visit was fine is my family does not know of my panic attacks and my fear to walk out the door. My explanation for not doing all they wanted was the weather, which they understood. The morning after they left, while I was still sleeping I heard the doorbell ring again. I thought maybe it was a package or something else of that type. No, it was the two women wanting to visit. I explained, I was sleeping and was not up to a visit. I also explained it would probably be a little longer until I was up to visits. They apologized for waking me and wished me a good day.

The following Saturday, in the midst of a severe migraine, the doorbell rang again. Once again it was these two women. Again I told them I was not up to it. For the next several weeks they probably stopped by my house at least once a week, though a few times it was twice. Each time I told them I was not up to visits. The last time they rang the doorbell, which was last Saturday, I told them nicely that it would be a few weeks if not months before I was up to visiting. They told me to have a nice day and left. I thought, finally, some freedom from that doorbell and these two women. It was not to be.

This morning before the doorbell rang, I saw them walking up my stairs. I have windows on each side of my door, so they could see I was sitting there. I had no time or I would have gone in the other room and not answered the door. They also came at a bad time as I was looking at my ailing pet, thinking of my husband who had died, there were tears in my eyes but they were probably from something other than crying, an allergy most likely. I did not bother wiping the tears when I answered the door. They noticed the tears, but still wanted to come in and visit. I tried to hide my anger as I told them that on Saturday I had told them I was not up to visits. That I would not even allow neighbors to visit. I told them I was struggling, not only dealing with my husband’s death, I now had my pet who was dying. Surprisingly the women said my pets impending death must bring a lot of memories of my husband’s dying and what I went through before he died. I did not expect anyone to understand how my pets illness brings up what I went through. I still did not allow them in. In fact I tried to tell them nicely that I did not want any visits for at least two months, maybe longer. They were quite kind and said that mourning (they did not say grief) takes not only time, but time alone. I was surprised they understood my need to be alone as well as my need to look at the past, one even said it is best to look at the past so we do not repeat what we did not like about it in the future. It was nice to have someone understand that. Still I did not let them in. I know I need more contact with people, but I am working towards that. As for these two women, they are very nice but they need to learn to respect boundaries.

I did not mention who these women were as most people would draw judgement on them. They are Jehovah Witnesses. I am not. I had a very good friend that was. Our friendship was not based on religion but how we had so many things in common as well as our mutual respect for the other. Religion was never brought up by her unless she was going to an assembly and she would tell me what days she would be gone. I sometimes asked her about her religion. She would answer my questions. I am always curious about other religions and had never understood this one. My friend gave me explanations for her reasons to be a Jehovah Witness and a little about their beliefs. I sometimes joked with her about the knocking on doors. She did not like to do it, but did it once a year as it was part of her religion and service. When a Jehovah Witness comes to my door, I think of her. I would hope no one was ever rude and slammed the door in her face. She was very kind and sensitive. That would have hurt her immensely, though she understood why people did this. This is why I talk to these two women, out of respect for my friend.

I talk about my friend in the past tense. This is because I lost contact with her about 8 or 9 years ago. Shortly after my husband became ill, I looked to see if she was on Facebook. She was not, but her husband and children are. I messaged her husband to tell her I said hello, he asked for my phone number. I messaged back the number but told how my husband was so ill and all my time was spent caring for him. That I would like her to call, but I might not always be available. I never heard from her. Upon telling two who knew her well, they both said she must have died as she would have definitely called. I then went back to Facebook and looked at all the pictures her husband and children had posted. She is only in one, it is an old picture her son posted, someone asked who she was and he replied his mother. No other comments. She had two bouts with cancer, I see her son is battling cancer now. My only conclusion in seeing these things are that she most likely is dead. I was going to contact her husband again or her son or daughter, but realized I am not up to being friends with anyone at this time. So I have put it off until I am more sure of myself. I may not contact them even at that point as I do not want to bring up memories they might have already dealt with.

As for the two women that keep ringing my doorbell, I think they now understand I need time and will not bother me for a while. These two women also made me think of boundaries. When to say no. They obviously had not been respecting my boundaries or at the least did not understand. I know at times I have crossed boundaries thinking I am helping. Or I have crossed them with my husband’s doctors in order to talk with them when I wanted to, not at their convenience. My whole life I have crossed boundaries. I have spent a lot of time at race tracks or shops where the cars are built. To me being at a track or shop is more enjoyable than going to a spa. I know I crossed boundaries, used my looks to gain access to places others only dream of going. When I was younger someone very intelligent told me it was not fair I used my looks to get what I wanted. I replied one day my looks will fade, their intelligence would not, so I was using what I had before it was gone. I now see I was crossing boundaries. Would I cross them again? Most likely, but I think these two women have taught me a little. I will think twice and make sure it is not at the cost of someone else if I decide to cross a boundary.

Myself in a Mirror

Many things are a part of our every day lives. Sometimes we are not aware of the significance of an object. Other times we place too much significance on an object. A mirror is an object. What each of us sees in this object is different. For me, mirrors have always played a minimal part in my life. Now as my life has changed so dramatically, I need to reflect on myself and my life. A mirror would be a good object to reflect upon the past yet also look towards the future. If I am able to help myself though these writings I need to be brutally honest with and about myself. I also hope that if someone is in need of reflection, that my writings might show them they are not alone, maybe they can even help.

I have talked of illness, grief, looks and other things while I have reflected in the mirror of my past. I have told little about myself. So I am going to try to describe myself to some extent. I am focusing on what I consider to be the main issues that have ruled my life for as long as I can remember. This is not easy for me to write about.

I suffer from panic attacks. The doctor calls it an anxiety disorder. In the past I was told I was agoraphobic. At that time I was. Or at least very close to becoming completely overwhelmed with panic. I did not leave the house much. My husband did all the shopping. I rearranged my life to stay out of scenarios that might cause anxiety that would lead to panic. I drove, but rarely, just as much as I had to and even then I would be in a state of panic. Driving is one of the worst parts of the attacks. You never know when they will hit, for me it is common to get them while I am driving. My way of handling that was to smoke. It would keep my hands occupied and my mind, that way there was no time to think of panic or if I started to my focus would be drawn away from panic to the ability to be able to smoke. I have not smoked for 8 years, meaning now when I need help driving, I do not have any. Another thing that is extremely hard with panic, is to walk out the front door with panic awaiting you. Many times I stay home as the thought of panic that might await me is too much for me. I will never win this war with panic, rather I have learned to arrange my life around it. I have learned to manage it. To stop attacks before they become full-blown. Only one or two people know of this and that is because I have told them. I have managed to hide them well. That is a common trait for those with panic attacks, our need to hide them from those around us. We can fool others but we do not fool ourselves.

I am controlling. This is another common trait among people who have panic attacks. The thought of control gives a false sense of security regarding the attacks. Most times, I can control them. In fact I have done very well controlling them in the past few years. But I am not deceived, I know around every corner is something that can send me into panic. In fact panic can come upon for no reason, with no warning, so I know I am not panic free just because I have managed to control how I react to the attacks and my management of what I do to avoid attacks. No one notices if I am in the midst of a severe attack. The controlling part of me has learned to hide the attacks. The only person that has ever been able to tell when I was having one, was my husband. I did not need to tell him. To him, they were obvious. He knew that sometimes he could be of help or at the least be there for me. It was comforting to know he knew of them and also he knew when to try to talk to me to bring me out of an attack or to be quiet and let me figure out how to get out myself.

I want to be a perfectionist. Many would say I am or am close to it. This would be wrong. Once again perfectionists and people who suffer panic disorders go together. Some say the need for perfection causes the attacks. I disagree with that notion. Panic attacks have a life of their own. Trying to be perfect does not cause or lead to attacks in my opinion. The panic causes the need for perfection I think.  It can lead to a sense of failure in some, but I am not negative so I do not feel as if I have failed when I fail to be perfect. Rather, I work harder at trying to be as perfect as I can, hoping it helps with the panic.

I am not an optimist. I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. I do not see the glass half full, I do not see the glass half empty, rather I see a glass that is filled halfway. What I do not see with my own eyes is hard to believe. Faith is hard for me. While many going through hard times turn to religion or prayer, I rarely, if ever do. When my husband was near death I was asked what church we belonged to. I was at a loss. While my husband had faith and was religious he did not go to church often. I spent a lot of time in church in the past, but it was not because I was religious, rather there were things that needed to be done, they just happened to be in a church. I went to services, but did not pay attention. I prayed, but it was mostly because I was feeling panic and it got my mind off the panic. I am not saying I have no faith or religion. Rather being a realist, not being able to see faith or religion, it is hard to believe they exist. I want to believe they exist, but it is hard for me.

As you can see, I am far from perfect. My control is limited. My life is about living around the panic attacks. Many experience panic attacks. Most will only have a few in their lifetime if at all. If you have ever had a real panic attack, you will know it. I am not talking of the passing panic some experience. Though that passing panic is worse in those who have attacks, as we tend to focus on the panic, not the passing of panic. For me, when I have a bad attack, I stop everything I am doing. If I happen to be driving I find a place to pull over. I will pick something up to try to read it. I will not see the words nor will they register in my mind. Rather in doing this, I have to focus on something other than my panic, with time the panic lessens and a feeling of relief sets in. It does not last as I know I could be one breath away from my next attack. But I have found a way to deal with them. What I need to find now, is a way to get out the front door, despite the fear of panic, to start to live my life. Even if only for short periods. Any day I am able to walk out the front door, get in my car and drive somewhere, anywhere, is an achievement for me. Those who do not suffer panic attacks will not understand this. Those who do, may understand in their own way. Some that do not experience panic think it is all in our minds. That is true in two ways, first it is our mind that experiences it and sends signals to our bodies to panic, second, our minds do not function the same with panic, there is some type of chemical disorder most times, though for that the cures are hard to find. My cure is only to work through them. Though it seems impossible to live with, it can be done. If anyone reading this wants to discuss their panic attacks with me, I am always here to listen, possibly offer advice, maybe learn something from you too. Just know if you have had or are having panic attacks you are not alone.