I’m ready for my corn dog and caramel corn

I love roller coasters.  The slow crawl up and up and up, while anticipation grows.  The way the cars almost come to a stop at the very top of the curve.  The swift drop down where it’s hard to breathe and there a sense of losing all control.   Losing a spouse has put me on a roller coaster that DisneyWorld would find impressive.

A good friend who became a widower before me put it well.  Be ready, he said.  Be ready for wildly fluctuating moods that go from extreme highs to extreme lows, sometimes in a single day.  Just ride with it, he told me.  Gradually over time, the swings will become less extreme; but for now, just hang on.

Boy is he right.  I’ve gone from feeling basically Okay, and that things will be good to moods of blackest despair – often within a few hours.  This is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.

Some days I think that all the good and positive in our relationship will be with me, always, like a cardigan sweater – something that can be buttoned up tight when needed or opened when I feel better.  On the up side of the roller coaster, I let myself dwell, just a little, on those aspects of our relationship that weren’t good and that probably wouldn’t have changed much.  I realize I don’t miss the bad things, and that maybe, just maybe, I’m a little glad to have left them behind.  On the good days I realize that my life is not over, it’s just taken a turn down a road I never expected.  It occurs to me that the new road could be Okay.  Not better, but maybe just as good in a different way.

On the up days I realize that everything we had together will never leave me, and that memories of our time together (even of the areas that weren’t so great) will be a part of who I am for the rest of my life.  Not limiting what my life can and will be, but adding to it.  On the good days, I remember what an optimist Rick was, and how much he enjoyed living life and meeting people and doing things, and I realize that the greatest honor to his memory would be for me to do exactly that – to fully engage in life.

Those are the good days.  I live for them.   Just like a roller coaster, there’s a slow ride up where I feel better and better, and then a hovering, almost a stop, at the top.  Followed by… a sharp, precipitous, lightning-fast drop…

to the bad days.  Where a song on the car radio, or a picture popping up on the screen saver, makes me sob uncontrollably.   It’s a down day when I can’t stop myself from reliving over and over again the last day in hospital, holding him while he died.  Down days are filled with “what ifs” and regrets as I consider all the many ways that his death could have been prevented, or how I should have been a better spouse.  On bad days I wonder if I’m cursed; my first marriage ended in divorce after 5 years, I was single for almost 20 years, and then my second marriage ends after only 7 years.  The bad days have really dark periods where I just sit and stare at the wall, often in the dark because it’s just too much to get up and turn on a light.

Often the switch from down to up, from bad to good, is within a single day.  I’ll wake up feeling fine, feeling pretty damn good in fact, and be despondent by lunch.  I know this is normal, that it is common, and that there’s not much I can do about it other than making sure I’m strapped into the seat for as long as the ride lasts.   And when this ride is done, I’m getting a corn dog and caramel corn.


3 thoughts on “I’m ready for my corn dog and caramel corn

  1. “Some days I think that all the good and positive in our relationship will be with me, always, like a cardigan sweater” What a beautiful thought… makes me think of a hug. One of those comfortable hugs you don’t want to let go of.

  2. “Riding the wave” is something I said umpteen times during the first year of grief. Thank you for expressing the “wave” so well. They can be very powerful and, as you describe, mixed with guilt and remorse. The good news is they come less frequently as time goes on (but they still come). Keep hanging on and enjoy your corn dog and carmael corn.

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