I didn't want to write this year either. I actually thought I had a draft where I'd been typing my notes, but no, just this blank page that I need to somehow wrangle my thoughts onto. I thought maybe I'd just skip it, but I can't quite do it. I'm grateful to have posts from each year to look back on even though writing them is hard - years one, two, three, four and five here.
Today marks the sixth year anniversary of Dave's bicycle accident. Last year I had just finished dealing with a crisis and was so, so angry. This year I feel pretty defeated. Nothing is getting better and I'm starting to realize that I have to let go of it a little if my life is ever going to move forward. I've been trying to take steps towards letting go, but it's a terrifying, guilt ridden process. Looking back, I realize that I said I was going to do this last year and I've only been partially successful.
Here's the thing - my default mode is to be a "fixer" in all situations. I can google like a pro, I can make lists of action items and resources and steps to take. But I can't fix this and not only have I exhausted myself trying, I've ended up in a position where all my energy and resources over the last few years have gone towards trying. I just haven't had anything left to invest in myself or my career or my relationships with people I care about, including my parents, which seems ironic, since I spend so much time thinking about them. But a relationship based solely on problem-solving isn't really a relationship, and I'm starting to feel it.
Fixing is comforting. It keeps me busy and distracted. I don't have time to feel sad often because I'm constantly going over a to do list in my head. Appointments and phone calls I should make (when the hell do people who work full time make phone calls when most offices are only open during the hours you are also working? it's a dilemma), places I should check out, strategies we maybe haven't tried yet. My mind is always going and it numbs me out a bit. Sure, I feel frantic and stressed and angry that I have to do all this. But sad? I haven't let myself feel sad in a while. Sad is depressing. Sad is admitting defeat. Sad is something that you can't just fix and I have a hard time accepting that.
So this summer I decided to try just letting myself feel sad. Or angry, or whatever. I would sometimes come home and just lie on the floor in the dark for 30 minutes and listen to music and actually let myself think about my feelings. It was a little bit like being 13 again, but with fewer zits. And yes, it was sad. I was essentially throwing myself a long overdue pity party and not even attempting to distract myself from it. It was uncomfortable and awkward. I am not a lie on the floor and cry type of person but eventually I needed to stop banging against a wall and actually lean into it. Honor the sadness and hope that I could start to move on from there.
I wish I could tell you that I had an amazing breakthrough and am now totally in touch with my emotions and also magically found a solution to this situation. I didn't. I still backslide a lot, and catch myself putting up walls because it's so much easier, this habit, even if it leaves me cut off and angry. I still feel responsible for fixing my parents' lives or at least finding solutions to make them more livable. I'm still terrified because I know that at some point in the near future the burden of taking care of Dave 24/7 is going to break my mom down completely and we should be coming up with a solution in advance of that and we haven't. I don't have the energy. I need to spend a bit of that energy on myself, because I've been paddling in place for the last six years, barely able to get myself to move into a new apartment, let alone contemplate my own future. I keep telling myself that I'll pick up the pieces of my own life later, once I've resolved everything. But this isn't going to resolve. It might only get worse. And I don't know how many years the rest of my life can wait on hold.
I don't know how to get over the crippling guilt I feel when I make the decision to cut back on family time in order to have more time with Dustin, or with our friends, or just by myself. I've tried to do it this year because it's the only way forward I know. The first Saturday I woke up and realized I was going to spend the entire weekend in my own apartment, without any trips down to my parents or any major events, I actually felt at loose ends. What do people do with free time? And had I really had so little of it that I couldn't remember how it felt? The enormous, unbelievable luxury of waking up slowly and doing normal things, cleaning the house and drinking tea and walking the dog and reading a book and doing laundry. The lingering anxiety that surely I was forgetting something because not following a complicated schedule of obligations seemed unbelievable. I'm trying to make sure we keep at least two weekends a month free. It's harder than you'd expect and it's still never really enough time, but it's something.
So this is where I am, moving forward in starts and stutters, trying to rebuild my relationships as best I can, trying to honor the sadness without letting it consume me. I need to spend a little time fixing myself before I can keep on with fixing anyone else. I can't really see my way forward right now but I'm trying to believe that there's a path somewhere. I have to start taking some steps in the fog and just hope that I find it.