Hold It Together

fenceSometimes you have to be creative when you need to hold it together. You have to fix the fence with whatever nail or screw you can find and get it done.  It isn’t perfect, nothing matches, the repairs happened over the years, but it works. In this case, the fence stays up and the horses stay in. There is a beauty in the patina – knowing that time and weather and strong hands were on this fence.

But I mumbled to that fence as I pulled out my phone to take the photo – hey there I see you holding on and holding it together, sometimes I feel like you look. 

When I started this blog three years ago I wanted to write about life as a widow after the first year. Most of the books I read were about widows during the first year on their own. I was hungry for more – tell me what happens after – will it always feel like this? I hoped I could offer something if I carried the blog forward into the years.

Here I am, almost 4.5 years after my late husband died from a swift cancer and I am still propping myself up at times and holding it together. But thing have changed and I can assure you that you won’t feel or be in the exact same place as you were when you first lost your loved one. But where do you draw the energy needed to bridge it all, make it work, feel ok, in a post loss life? What is the cost of holding it together? How do you keep it together?

And some would say you don’t need to keep it together and of course there is truth to that. The world will understand if you fall apart. Sometimes it is what is expected. (Sometimes the falling apart is what prompts you to pull it together again). But kids and a job and bills and my hope for a meaningful life is all inside that fence. I’ve got to keep it maintained. Pull that random screw out of your pocket and nail it in. Get it done.

When I set out to write 3 years ago I NEVER would have predicted that I would be remarried. It’s actually a joke now, how when I met him I said, I am totally still married, nope, not interested. But as my sister says, and I have written here before, tragedy can happen in an instant and so can magic. I can offer you that truth. I cherish it, him.

When I set out to write 3 years ago I knew that my body was compromised by health issues (I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia, POTS: Click to learn about POTS ). But for a person with a chronic illness I manage well and many have it so much worse. But I never would have predicted that something would have gone wrong with my jaw and I would have chronic face pain. 1.5 years of daily pain that never really lets up. Imagine a fire ball stuck in your mouth while someone is jamming a fork between your teeth. And that’s just some of it. You don’t see these things coming either. But they do. Sadness and stress and grief and keeping it together might just make you clench your face and mess up your jaw! Chronic stress is not a good diet.

But that’s not the point of this post – so many people are in pain. So many people are sick. You don’t need to feel my pain – you might have your own. Where is the hope in what I am writing? What can I offer you – maybe a late night reader looking for some comfort? What can I offer myself as another night looms ahead and I look for relief?

It’s not perfect, I am still working it out and don’t expect it to match and have order and look neat and tidy. I know that is not realistic. Life is tricky when you always have one wheel spinning on grief (or depression, or illness, or whatever is hurting in your life). Like this weathered fence, I am held together by some resourceful repairs. Translation: counseling, support, a loving family, walking, meditating, a warm cup of coffee in the morning, etc. And sorry not sorry – nothing helps me feel put together like cleaning a closet or vacuuming. Yup, I am one of those. Does it make the pain in my face go away? No. Doesn’t it stop the ferris wheel in my brain? No. But I actually feel better about myself when I keep it together. So when the choice is between letting it all fall apart and keeping it together I aim for the latter.

Gratitude for the small things that hold us together is no small thing. I am sure the fence builder was happy to locate those nails and screws where ever he found them.

The flip side, and there is one for me, is that I often feel like I have a terrible secret: I am holding it together but it doesn’t feel so good. The downside of being a keep on truckin’ person is that I feel I will let people down if I tell them I am sad or I don’t think I can manage the pain today. I hurt.

But I wonder if the person I am most afraid of disappointing is myself. I so badly want to feel better. Great Caroline – put more pressure on yourself! But we all do it, I think. We burden ourselves with judgement. It makes it worse. So the balance I am working on is keeping it together but not at the cost of causing more harm to myself. No need to pretend that it is easy.

It is what it is. It’s a messed up beautiful juncture between a tired fence post and frayed rails that reach out to the next post and then the next – they keep on going, one after another, doing their job.

Are you grieving? In pain? Be ready for anything, stock your shelves with the tools you need. My greatest tools are getting professional help for my pain, learning about grief and pain so that I can better understand my experience, writing, and showing up for what matters in my life. And telling someone my secret – saying it outloud. Even just noting it to myself – today feels impossible. Acknowledging it usually helps loosen its hold on me.

Safe and happy

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