Last post, I began by saying that I was beginning to like the person I am becoming. I debated on erasing that line numerous times throughout the writing and editing of that post. I simply felt torn. An internal monologue of epic proportions seemed to be on repeat within my head. “What if people thought it was simply ‘too soon’ to begin to like the person I am after J’s death? What if I haven’t grieved enough in their opinion? What if I seem too happy?” And yes, I know you will all leave me comments about how I should permanently delete that playlist entitled “Self-Doubt Monologue Number 512” from my internal music selection. That instead, I should only play “Eternal Sunshine,” Or “Wonder Woman’s Theme Song,” or something far more positive. I agree, I should, but if you read the last post, you’ll see ultimately I decided to leave it in place. And, no one has said anything – big surprise. My mind is my own worst enemy. You all have been nothing but supportive from the start.
After writing that post, I haven’t been able to get that picture of me looking at J’s casket out of my mind. I can’t express my gratitude for my mother-in-law capturing that moment. It was such a beautiful moment. It’s where my journey to the new me began. It was my last earthly goodbye. No words can express the amount of love that picture captures. At first it seemed odd to me that this picture would become symbolic in my mind of the path to the new me. And, again, I began to doubt whether I should be feeling this way. How could I ensure that our “true love story never ended,” but yet still become the new me? How could those two paradoxical ideas become meshed together?
In the days and hours before that picture was taken, I had no idea who I was. I simply just reacted to whatever situation was thrown at me. I’d make a decision, and I’d move on to the next. Checking off tasks, hugging people, thanking people, attempting to sleep, and starting the process over again the next day. Ironically, even though I was making every single decision, I had never felt more out of control in my entire life. I was terrified. At visitation, I hugged, thanked, hugged, thanked, hugged, thanked, and continued the process. This redundancy makes me seem ungrateful, please don’t read it as that. I was just a robot at that point. It wasn’t until the moment in this picture, that I actually truly said my goodbyes. And when I walked away from his casket, I walked away with a million paths before me, and I had no idea which one would lead me down the right path to the person God intended for me to be after J’s death. I’ve recently spoken to close friends about the need for affirmation in my life that I’m making the right decisions. That, if I could just see some type of measurable progress, positive or negative, than I could readjust my sails, and continue to navigate a new path. Yet, walking away from his casket, I have never felt so alone. Even in the midst of so many supportive people – I was alone within myself. I didn’t know ME anymore, and inside myself, I was stripped bare.
In the 3 months after this photo was taken, I can say with certainty that this feeling of being alone within myself, caused me to hurt some people who truly love me. It caused me to fall to my knees countless times, but to always find a way to rise up. I walked down paths, and was only 4 steps in before completely doing a U-turn. Sometimes, I’d get to the end, only to realize it was a new beginning. Along the way, I’m sure I worried a lot of people, but these past two weeks, I’ve discovered that God has placed some pretty substantial meetings and people along each of these paths.
These past two weeks, I’ve finally started to believe in the strength you all insist I posses. Last post, I shared with you facing the scene of the hit and run, but my blessings didn’t stop there.
In the past week, I’ve officially bought a house and given an interview to one very special young lady at the high school where I taught last year. Both of these events, though seemingly unrelated to you, have revealed pieces of the new me. They have connected some paths together that seemed to be so far apart. They revealed a walk-way I couldn’t see, and in essence the path to the new me.
For so long, I kept trying to make myself fit into a mold that I became accustomed to before J died- officer’s wife, mom, teacher etc. And then, when I walked away from his casket the night of visitation, I crumbled. I refused to see this as a new beginning because in my mind, that phrase was synonymous with dishonoring our sacrifice and J’s death. Buying a house and giving an interview sparked a small change within me. Maybe more accurately put, it caused a realization of who I wanted to be. Tonight, after intense reflection and affirmation with a friend, I’ve realized just how “right” a new beginning is. It’s inevitable, and it’s what J would want. I promised to “not lose myself if he ever died.” Well, I did in some sense lose myself. I lost aspects of who I used to be. Being that exact person, is impossible. Actually, the pieces I lost, I didn’t need. Fears, uncertainties, self- doubt, “squareness,” all shed. So inevitably, I have to be someone new- meshing the two together into a beautiful, strong woman.
I never would have thought buying a house would have evoked this realization. Honestly, when I started the searching process, it was simply to “quit throwing away money on rent.” But, I chose a realtor I happened to meet the day BEFORE J’s death. We met through a mutual friend. Linda, you didn’t know it then, but you were already chosen to be my tour guide along a new path. Paths that seemed only 3 weeks ago to be randomly placed, with no links to another, a maze with no end. God chose you to be my affirmation, my confidant, and my advocate. Today, when I signed that contract, it was a step to the new me. The me that gets the privilege of learning how to ensure that our “true love story never ends.” I know she had no way of knowing that me buying a house symbolized the first thing I’ve done in the past 3 months that had nothing to do with satisfying a need that arose because my husband died. And in doing so, in buying this house, I’ve realized I’ve been approaching this idea all wrong. Mourning J’s death and becoming a new me aren’t separate entities, they are all one. The strength and lessons I’ve learned and will continue to learn after J’s death, are what are making me the person I’m intended to be.
Before he died, I just thought I was strong. I thought I fought for what I felt was right and even what I wanted out of life. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Throughout the process of buying a house, I’ve stood up to CPA’s, argued with a seller, and fought for what I wanted. In the past, I would have backed down. I hated confrontation. But, I haven’t this time. I faced it, and I walked away with what I wanted and deserved. But more importantly than just getting the house, I walked away with the affirmation that I am a strong person. Buying the house is just a concrete symbol, a reminder, of the journey. A reminder that I am blessed to walk into daily. A reminder that J would be proud of the woman I’m becoming. That he wouldn’t be upset with me for “leaving the last house we ever lived in together.” He would be proud of how much more rounded his “very square” wife was becoming. Okay, I’ll admit, I did buy a house with a Homeowner’s Association and rules and subdivision covenants. Again people, we are meshing the old me with the new me. I like rules and boundaries- I doubt that EVER changes.
And speaking of rules and boundaries, I’d like to also say that the interview with Sydney this week also was another step to finding, embracing, and loving the new me. When Sydney interviewed me, she surprised me with all of the personal questions she was asking. “What happened that night?, How did you tell C about the death of his father?” She explained the goal of the story was for my students to really know how I was. That they were all worried about me, but they didn’t want to bother me. They wanted to know what my future plans were, and in giving that interview I was reminded all along of who I really am- a teacher. I took off this year to find myself after J’s death and to handle all the business that is required after the death of your husband. Sitting in the library Tuesday, taking pictures for the interview, and reflecting afterwards, I caught a small glimpse of me again. I felt at home at THS. I was reminded of how many students rushed to give me individual hugs and words of encouragement after I received an award at the local football game rivalry. That moment was one of the most inspirational moments since J died. They make me feel loved and needed in a way that only fellow teachers could truly understand. They, and all of my former students in general, are members of my family. They need ME. They don’t need an officer’s wife or some random person to give them a hug- they need me. And their emails, parent phone calls, and hugs are reminders of who I am. I’m in no way downplaying all of the support from my Blue family. My fellow officer’s wives and J’s brothers in blue are essential members of my support team. However, they offer a different kind of support. My students and fellow teachers offer another. Just the idea that they wanted to know how I was doing touched me- reminded me of why I love teaching.
I’m slowly realizing that the new me is a combination of the old and the new. And I guess, if I had ever stopped to think about it, I would have realized early on how impossible it would be to separate the old from the new. God has a way of turning what seem like dead ends and over grown paths which create a never ending maze, into slightly less over grown and more connected paths. While I’m by no means to the end, and I’ll never be, my path is slightly more clear. And, I can say with certainty that tonight I know J is smiling down on me. He saw this potential in me years ago, and he worked until he died to bring this out in me. And no, I’m not saying God caused J to die so that I can become who I’m supposed to be. Now, I just know it’s okay to find the new me and still mourn J. I’m honoring him by honoring his wish of “never losing myself when I lost him.” And strangely, buying a house, and giving an interview, seem to have solidified the idea of being able to ensure that our “true love story never ends.” J lives on through me whether I teach or stay at home the rest of my life. He’ll live through me whether I stay here or move back to my parent’s hometown. Most of all, he’ll live through me because I am choosing to live for myself. I’m choosing to confront obstacles that stand in the way, and I’m choosing to in as many ways as possible still remain a teacher. And yes, I can do that while still honoring him. So, it is with absolute assurance, that I write tonight I’m liking the person that I’m becoming, and I’m smiling while writing it. The storm is far from over, but I’m one step closer.
Monica, you are right, I am more “self- assured, more spiritual, and more willing to show my growth to continue my growth.” Thank you for being my affirmation, mentor, and friend. To my friend who just started teaching, please know how impactful your job is, and how those precious babies will change you for the better, if you let them. Please know that you too have given me affirmation this week. And to my “to Jupiter and back” friend, know that you allowing me to mentor you, is also more affirmation that you could ever know. To all of J’s brothers in blue who will help me move, and to your wives who will willingly sacrifice their family time with you for you to be able to help me, thank you! You too are my affirmation that staying here is the right decision! To my other friends and family, you in your own ways, are my affirmation. I’ve just been looking for affirmation in the wrong places.