It hit me last week like a tsunami: I am not living, I am existing. More than one person said to me, "have fun" or something similar regarding Halloween, and I realized it's been so long since I've laughed that I can't remember the circumstance. Another friend said, "you work harder than anyone I know, don't you ever stop?"
I can't stop.
I stumbled upon the above quote and it resonated with me. I've been in fight/survival mode for so long that I can't remember what it's like to relax, to have fun, to let go of responsibility. Nine years, to be exact.
Sean acted like a lunatic before he died. He'd hallucinate, become paranoid, and he mastered the art of manipulation. The kids and I were on eggshells most of the time. We'd leave. Come back. I begged him to get help…for us. Then he committed suicide and our lives went into free fall. It's been nonstop fight mode ever since.
Fight to keep the house, fight to keep the kids sane, fight against the stigma of suicide, fight against people who acted like we had no right to grieve, fight against those who told me I'd fail, fight against survivors guilt, fight against a depleting bank account, fight against depression, fight against sorrow, FIGHT.
I've been in that mode so long that the stress has taken a toll on my body, my mind, my sense of well-being.
Time to stop.
I don't want to go through life merely existing. I have been hibernating. Perhaps I've stuck my head out of the cave once in a while to feel the sunlight on my face, but then I retreat again feeling that I must keep fighting or else I'll lose everything.
For a few years after Sean's death, I had an abnormal anxiety over loss. Whether it was simply a shoe or a set of keys, if I lost it, I'd be a wreck. The kids were the same way. We'd already lost so much that we couldn't bear losing anything else. I took that a step further by becoming concerned about losing our lifestyle and our home…so much so that I can't stop working long enough to enjoy it. Because of that fear of loss, I also tolerated toxic people and their poisonous opinions.
Last week a friend said to me, "Why do you still talk to someone who's been so hateful to you, who has undermined your every decision?" My answer was, "When you're already so alone, it's hard to let even one more person go."
But I heard myself. I thought about that conversation all the way home and it didn't sit well with my soul. I paced. I wrote. I tossed and turned in bed. I hated how weak I sounded. I am not weak--never have been. I'm a survivor. I'm a professional. I'm a goddamn success story in every sense of the word. I've loved. I'm making a living doing what I love. My kids are healthy and smart. I've kept the house despite all the people at my husband's funeral who doubted me. Here I am! Still standing. So why in the hell am I hibernating?
Life requires truth, especially authenticity of self. I've been holding on tightly to a life that is no longer mine. This existence, this sense of doing the right thing for the sake of others, is killing me. I know what I want, what I'm worth as a human being, and I will no longer settle for less than I deserve.
I don't want to die having lived an unfulfilled life. I don't want to die having merely existed and tolerating abuse from people simple because they're related to me or because I've known them my whole life. No more. That is not who I am.
I'm not hibernating anymore…and I'm on fire with ideas and inspiration! I'm in the sunlight. I'm awake.