I understand that the grief process is different for each individual. And since I have never experienced grief before, I suppose I had a pre-determined image of what that would look like for me. I imagined the scene of The Godfather movie (my husband is Italian and I am well-versed in this genre)... where the professional mourners are dressed in black, gray hair atop their heads in a tight bun, moaning and wailing in the back of the church. Only I don't wail. And I do not dress in black. And I am not Italian (only married to one).
For me mourning took a different path. I did not wail and honestly, I barely shed a tear. My dad died in 2006 and two short months later I found myself responsible for the care of my aging mother who grieved in the form of hallucinations rather than tears. Her psychological issues, paired with her physical limitations of orthostatic hypertension and congestive heart failure, nearly consumed me. I was trying to raise my own children, fulfill a teaching career that at one point spanned nine different class preps, and provide her with the love and care that I knew she deserved. In the end, she just couldn't go on ... and I assumed the guilt of allowing her to die.
I tried to mask the pain. I treated myself to a thirty year dream of going to Paris - and while that was wonderful in so many different ways, it did not fill the void that was left inside of me. I continued to teach, but the frustrations outweighed the long-term fruits of labor. I was burnt out, but refused to accept my limitations. In the end, I was fooling no one, especially myself.
So in these past two years since Mom's death I have had to do some soul searching. What is it that truly captures my heart? What is it that I truly wish to accomplish in life? Who am I?
The past six months have been difficult and quite honestly, I had no idea the answer to any of these questions. I debated retiring from teaching - but I couldn't voice that here in the off-chance that a fellow student might read it and not understand the full story behind the desire. I managed to frustrate every person in my family and cause major anxiety and drama. I was not me... and yet I did not know who me was anymore.
I was no longer a daughter. And I was now the "matriarch" I was still a mother - and yet the mother of adult children, which is an entirely different type of parenting. I was a grandmother and yet did not feel old enough to be called by that title. I was a teacher and yet so weary of the grading. What was the next step in life? Did I have control of that step - or was it all outside my sphere of influence?
But on this April Fool's Day I feel less foolish than I have in a long while. Today I feel more in control of my own life than I have in years. I am quite hopeful of the future and am anxious to see what new adventures await.
Teaching a part of me. I did not go in search of this career, it found me. But I have welcomed this phase of life and am not yet willing to let it go. I have the distinct privilege to work for a group of people that are not only dedicated to their craft, but also to their Savior. And I am indeed grateful to report to an administration that looks for the good in all. I needed a break, for sure ... but rather than quitting I have been allowed to scale back my schedule. I will now only teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays - and I will be teaching only the classes that I truly love: Brit Lit and English Comp. I am indeed blessed - and I hope that I can continue to make a difference in the lives as students as they surely make an impact on my own life.
There is a quote by S. E. Hinton that goes something like this: "If you have two friends in your lifetime you are lucky. If you have one GOOD friend you are more than lucky." I have never been what one would consider popular - and it wasn't until after college that I realized popular is not all it is cracked up to be. The pressure of maintaining contact with everyone and being there when needed and providing the right amount of encouragement to all is absolutely exhausting to me. But now that I am in my 50s I have realized that I am indeed blessed with friends. I have three friends whom I know that I can call and they will be there for me - just as I will be there for them. And I do not take that for granted.
And while my life is full with family, meaningful career, and friends ... I am also blessed to have interests outside these spheres that keep me mentally challenged. I am thrilled to begin a writing endeavor (I am not yet brave enough to call it a career), and I love the idea of capturing a moment of life in photographs as well. I enjoy creativity in the kitchen and I look forward to continuing my interest in paper crafts. Yes. life is full - and I want to experience each glorious moment.
So while I was not officially "dead" - I do believe I was dead in spirit. The body can only handle so much stress and I was over my limit. I needed to hibernate - hide away - and discern how to become whole again.
But I think I am there - or almost. And I do indeed feel reborn. I have another half of life to live - and I intend to live it to the fullest.