I’m not a fan of new normals. I prefer old normals. The ones I have worked hard to create and construct just as I like. The ones that sort of unfold without thought and feel like a hug, or a second skin with well worn laugh lines, grooves and understood, expected next moves.
New normals mean that something’s been adjusted or changed, added or taken away that you didn’t really see coming or were prepared for. I’ve lived through some really rough new normals. The aftermath of my mom’s death, my divorce from my children’s father and first love, navigating the rocky road of blended families and step parenting, new work experiences that weren’t what I expected. New normals are clumsy and awkward, with no finesse at all. They hurt. New normals always have a hollow element to them for me, at least for a little while.
Henry being gone is a new normal for us. And right now, we don’t really like it.
We miss him a lot more than we realize.
As we sat down to dinner the other night, Richard asked, “Where’s Henry?” As soon as the question came out of his mouth, he realized what he’d done. We all just sort of looked around sadly. It slightly reminded of one of the many times I picked up the phone to call my mom only to remember that she wouldn’t be answering on the other end.
Yesterday, as I pushed my cart down the chip aisle at the grocery store, my eyes welled up and my throat caught. It was ridiculous, but all of a sudden I was sad because I was flooded with memories of Henry asking for Butter Snap pretzels when I went shopping. I was literally standing in aisle 8 crying because of carbs. So silly, but real. Now, to be fair, that’s not the first time I’ve ever cried over bread, but never in regards to my son.
Being more than ‘run of the mill’ sad about something is hard. First of all, you don’t even realize what’s going on. You’re so busy just sort of going through the motions as best you can, you don’t necessarily clue in to the fact that you might be more than a little sad. What I am sharing is how I am feeling.
For me, it looks like this.
I have a hard time finding what I want to focus on. Nothing seems interesting, nothing seems worth the energy. I feel empty. At first, I think it must be hunger, so I eat things that I feel might soothe me. Carbs are almost always involved (see above). 4,000 gluten laden calories later, the empty feeling is still sitting inside me, along with a lot of crackers, chips and cheese. I also wake up almost every night between 2 and 4 a.m. for no apparent reason. Try as I might, I can’t fall back to sleep and my mind can’t stop long enough to begin to figure out what it needs to sort through to feel safe enough to let sleep return.
Lately, I am also constantly annoyed with other human beings. My apologies to you all. My husband touches me and I flinch. People open their mouths to talk and I want to just turn and walk away. I don’t like any single bit of how I am reacting, and I know it, even as it’s happening, yet I can’t find a way to be more open and human. Connecting is hard lately.
Another thing that’s happened is I’ve started buying random things that I think might make me feel better. Yesterday it was an electric red sports bra (I know exercise can help with all of this) and some energizing face spritz and magical eye cream (hopefully to hide the puffy eyes from crying). Also added to the “I need this, so I’ll buy it” list this weekend: 2 stuffed pizzas and an Alex and Ani Army bracelet. I’ve had my eye on ACL VIP tickets, a facial, some Botox, an Apple Watch and a trip to Spain. See what I’m talking about?
It also takes every ounce of energy I can muster to just DO ONE THING. Load the dishwasher? Sure! Good! But once it’s done, I need to rest and regroup for a while. I just have zero energy. My closet is a disaster zone. It needs a lot of TLC. Will I be able to check it or another thing off the list today? Not sure. We’ll see. Probably not. Hopefully.
And so it goes. Day after exhausting day.
I don’t feel like I can talk about this or spend time on this issue because it’s so selfish. My son is alive and well (as far as I know, but to be honest, I have no easy way of knowing). Things could be so much worse and I know that, which adds a hefty layer of guilt to these other heavy things I’m feeling.
But…and this is an important but.
There are a few things I KNOW I can do to help myself and those around me.
- Write and share how I feel, even when it hurts. Keeping it inside does no good at all.
- Keep a simple gratitude journal. Giving thanks for my many blessings in life (and there are so very many) will help me focus on the true importance of why we are all here and how beautiful the gifts I have are. Prayer and reflection is a part of this.
- Move my body as often as I can, especially outside. Being outside helps me more than I ever realized.
- Engage in other creative endeavors. I already mentioned writing, but I love photography and when I’m taking pictures and creating a story or sharing emotions, I feel better.
- Practice grace and forgiveness. Some days will be better than others. That’s okay. I am an imperfect work in progress (now I breathe deeply).
- Be open to this new cloud that follows me. He’s welcome to stay for a little while. I know he won’t be here forever, because that’s not what clouds do. But while he’s here, I might as well name him. I’m pretty sure I’ll call him Normal.