“You should know, everywhere I go…always on my mind, in my heart, in my soul…”
When you spend 15 years attached at the hip to someone and all the sudden they are just gone, it is just SO weird on so many levels. It’s also a really interesting and rare opportunity to look at oneself and redefine said self. As an individual. A chance for some do-overs, even.
At one point in late October, after Darcy had been gone for a month, and the intense shock had made way for new realizations and the earliest glimmers of acceptance, I remember being struck by the most abstract thoughts. Like, “I have had this pedicure for longer than he has been gone.” Weird. Or, “His hands opened this box of Cheerios.” So weird. So unnerving. His famous home-made cherry BBQ sauce in the fridge. A massive batch of perogies that he made with the kids during lockdown, staring at me from the freezer. Pictures of sharks that he drew with Summer, his handwriting everywhere. His presence just woven into every moment of every day. And yet, he was so gone. Far gone. Long gone.
And that is just the physical stuff. When I found myself slowly start to move back into our routines and get back to a new, modified version of life, he was in my HEAD constantly. I loved being part of a couple and sharing ideas with Darcy, but I also have a strong sense of self and always considered myself to be very true to my own belief systems, which, occasionally did not exactly match Darcy’s. That’s where all the compromise comes in, right?
Over the past several months I cannot believe how much his ideas, values, opinions on many things, including parenting, hover in the periphery of my every thought. And as I heal, I have begun to gently dip my toe into the puddles of independence...testing out new ideas with myself (“Should I get a teal sofa?” Absolutely. “How do I feel about brand-new-to-the-world vaccinations?” Mmmmm, that’s trickier.) and also questioning some of the values I have lived by for the past fifteen years. To be honest, not all of those values actually resonate as my truth. I’ve been asking myself, of late, which ideas were a true representation of me? Or we? Or he? Or sometimes all three?
A great example of this is the mantra we (HE!) unconsciously created for our family with regard to our kids. “Our kids, our responsibility.” It simply means, we keep those two precious humans as close as possible. We are the only ones who drive them anywhere, feed them, bathe them and we are the only adults they rely on and, therefore, we make ourselves available to them 100 % of the time. Always.
Actual footage of us in our bubble!
Now, in fairness, this idea may have stemmed from our having a child with a mild physical disability and feeling highly protective of his needs, both physically and emotionally, and I was definitely on board with that. (“Look! This bubble is PERFECT! We’ll take TWO!”).
But as time wore on and our kids showed a keen sense of independence and the ability to advocate for themselves, it felt like A LOT of pressure to never be able to rely on the proverbial “village” to help out. If you work fourteen plus hours a day, like Darcy did, this arrangement is fine. I understand the need to spend every other waking hour with your kids and I LOVED that about him. But If you are the full-time caregiver of the kids (and those delicate bubbles), that can get exhausting. It is a lot of responsibility to never allow your kids to ride to an activity or birthday party with anyone else, to avoid babysitters, to never let them sleepover at Gramma’s alone… For me, it was tough. It was unrealistic and put a ton of pressure on me. And even if I COULD have found some meaning and purpose as an individual, outside motherhood and being a wife, I probably wouldn’t have had much time to pursue it, so I didn’t bother dreaming about such things until very recently.
I look back now and wish that I hadn’t subscribed to that particular idea, which wasn’t mine. Truthfully, I feel that kids thrive when they have multiple adults in their lives with whom they spend time and can rely on. Adults with different interests, styles, priorities, talents and faults. I think it helps shape young people to have multiple mentors to draw from and I often question the choices I would have made if my own parents were the only adults I had true exposure to as a child and teen.
Would I have hopped on a plane at age twenty and moved to London to travel the world and find my own way? Probably not. That type of inspiration came from other role models in my life. My uncle, an artist with a cheesy sense of humour and a heart as big as Manhattan…my other uncle, a traveler, writer, musician and outdoor enthusiast…my dance company director, a single mom, entrepreneur with a taste for younger men, a mild eating disorder and belief in her boss-babe abilities like I have never seen…THESE interactions contributed to my development and my choices. They shaped me. I want that for my kids. God forbid, they only ever got to hang out with ME and my overbearing need to be impeccably punctual and my obsession with things being put away properly! No thanks.
Anyhow, it isn’t a complaint, just a mere observation of a pattern that I see had subconsciously dripped into many areas of my life. As I move through and away from my deep grief and step toward my life as an individual, I have the opportunity to make some changes and it’s a bit crazy to me, this realization of just how entwined our thoughts were. Sill are. It’s kinda blurry, actually. Him and I. We blur. Still.
His voice… it is ALWAYS with me. Sometimes in a good way. Like when I am worried about something (the intense Supreme Court case I am preparing for, or Miller’s broken foot) and I hear his classic line and his forever-nickname for me… “It’s fine, Bear” he tells me. It’s so reassuring and it always IS fine. That blurriness feels good. Reassuring guidance.
But sometimes that “voice” is annoying like when I go shopping for a rug and choose something that I know he’d never buy. He’s like, right there, shaking his head as if to say “Not THAT one.” And for a minute, I second guess my choice. That blur? Not so awesome.
And then there’s the judgements and expectations that rain down from my subconscious, daily. I’ll be making a decision about what to feed the kids for dinner and I‘ll hear a voice say “Really Tara? You’re ‘Skipping the Dishes’ AGAIN?” or “New running shoes, eh? Are you sure you should buy those? You don’t really have an income…”. Or my favourite haunting judgement “How much screen time have those kids had today while you wrote your blog and did coursework?” OUCH. And just as I am about to flip the bird at the heavens and blame all my shame on him, I realize that those judgements actually come from me! Wow. No blur. That’s all me.
Overall, I love that his voice haunts me a little. I try to enjoy these reminders of him and us and our life together… our ideas woven together for better or for worse. I wouldn't have done it differently. But I am also celebrating my independence these days and, although it makes me feel a tiny bit guilty, I intend to stay a little closer to my own core values as I move forward. Adjust the lens and sharpen the focus a little, I guess.
And if he read that, I know what he’d say. “It’s fine, Bear.” And so, it is.
Til Next Time,
Heal and Be Healed.