Bittersweet: More Sweet than Bitter, Bitter than Sweet

It’s a cliche that every author of a semi-abandoned blog returns, apologizes for the absence and expresses a desire to dust it off and resume writing. Well, I am nothing if not a cliche.

I thought about blogging in March 2020 when we started quarantine. I thought about blogging a few months later about how much I hated wiping off the items from the grocery store and how my nails would never be the same thanks to Clorox. I thought about blogging the first time I left my house (July 2020) since March. I thought about blogging about how small my house felt with Daniel home and “attending” (read: not) virtual school, my husband on medical leave, the arguments and the three cats that draped themselves in front of me and on chairs while I worked. I know I had a few interesting Zoom meetings when one of them did something gravity-defying in front of me and my expression was one of panic or shock. I thought about blogging about the quest to make my dining room chair as ergonomically comfortable as possible since I spent all day, every day hunched over my laptop (still do!).

I worked my ass off, literally (we’ll get to that). I know some employers complained about a loss of productivity, but I have never worked so much (and still doing so) ever. But it was good work. Meaningful work. Taking my org’s mission and trying to identify manufacturers that could make PPE and match them to state and federal opportunities. I never thought I would find myself discussing Everclear in a work call, but it happened because the alcohol proof to be effective against COVID needed to be at least Everclear levels and we had to advise the local distilleries seeking to make hand sanitizer. Bizarre. But this sort of thing is why I love my job. You never know what you will need to research.

And I had anger. Lots of anger. And resentment. My house often felt like a prison. Trapped between a surly, increasingly anxious tweenager and an anxious spouse who often butted heads because frankly, they were so much alike. They both would come vent to me, and I would offer counsel, but I also screamed, “I am working here! I am the ONLY one in this house working. Figure it out for yourselves!” I fantasized about just walking out the door and leaving. Even 43-year-olds can run away from home, right? Sartre said that hell is other people, and I raise a glass to him because at that point, truer words had never been spoken.

And then came Halloween 2020 and November 1, 2020. I was in a foul mood. Everyone had been extra…needy that week. And it takes a lot out of you when you finally shut your laptop at 5 or 6 or whatever and have to shift to your second job of “keeping the fucking household going: cooking, cleaning, feeding the cats, laundry, etc.” Bitterness, resentment and anger? I had them. Old friends by that point. Best friends. I was feeling resentful and angry because I had to get everything ready for Halloween, including the pumpkins, dinner, candy, the costume, etc. And also guilty and sympathetic because Jimmy wasn’t feeling well. My goal was to give Daniel a decent Halloween because so much of 2020 had been a shit show: couldn’t go anywhere, beach trips canceled, nothing fun. The least I could do is take him to a few houses to trick-or-treat.

We went to bed and…the next day I woke up a widow. I’m not going to go into details because they are incredibly personal and awful. Just know that I saw things I cannot unsee. Ever. It was a terrible, terrible day. And Daniel was home, so I had to shield him as much as I could.

That was almost 10 months ago. I cannot believe it has been that long already. I’ve talked to more people on the phone than I have in years. I’ve written the first checks I’ve written in decades. I’ve filled out so much paperwork. I’ve dealt with tax issues and estate planning. I found yard people! I am dealing with a plumbing issue. I’ve carved a turkey (not necessarily well but that fucker was carved). I’ve dealt with the anxiety of being the “only” parent. Daniel and I have fought and made up so many times. I know he trusts me because he feels free to be a right asshole to me. I’ve upped my meds. I’ve cried many, many times. I found a therapist of my own. I work. In fact, my team has doubled. I try really, really hard to keep it all together, but I have also learned to let myself be vulnerable and to be seen as vulnerable.

And I’ve let people in. I have zoom calls with friends from high school. I have a monthly “happy hour” zoom with a former coworker. I have Zooms and a FB group with fellow IF friends and I now consider them among my closest friends. I’ve made new, special friends. I used to have few people I texted, but now I have so many that I forget to whom I have told what. I talk and talk and talk. Jimmy used to joke that he could tell when I hadn’t talked to anyone at work because I would come home and talk nonstop. I lost a lot, but I feel like I found a lot. I have been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting. Some days are unbearably lonely. Other days, I want Daniel and the cats to leave me alone after a day full of Zoom meetings. But these connections mean a lot to me. I’ve always felt chronically lonely and that was probably of my own making, but being able to talk to these people – realizing that they care – that they find me worthy & interesting is humbling and wonderful.

We have had a good summer. Several trips to the beach. Lots of freckles (me); whatever his heart desires (Daniel). I’m probably spoiling him a bit, but I’m OK with that. And I lost 40+ pounds since January 2020 (see “literally working my ass off”). Was not intentional. It turns out I am not a stress eater, and anxiety renders me incapable of eating. It’s a weird place to be. I’ve cooked less than I anticipated, but that’s OK. “Getting By” is the goal. Is Daniel fed? Are the cats fed? Have I eaten something? Then it’s all good.

So why tonight? Why resurrect the ol’ blog tonight? Well, I’m a sucker for milestones, and Daniel starts school – in person – on Monday. We are both looking forward to it. I’m not sure I can adequately explain it, but the last 18 months seem so surreal. Almost dream-like (or nightmare-like – pick your poison). Nothing seemed real. I’ve been working in a tank top and lounge pants. My beauty ritual has been whittled to 5 minutes. I joke I’m feral but it’s not really a joke. No, really. So resuming in-person school seems like a nice coda. Maybe now we can start to re-establish routines. Better bedtimes. I don’t want to put too much pressure on us, but I have some optimism about this. The world is still on fire (literally in several cases) and the Delta variant is causing trouble. Also, the first day and week of school have threats of protests by local groups who believe a piece of cloth is the worst affront to their rights they have ever seen 🙄 Overall, though, it feels like a whisper, a hint of normalcy.

I hope to revisit this space more. I NEED an outlet. And every day is not perfect nor do I expect it to be. But I am learning and growing as painful and wonderful as that can be. I leave with this quote from Keats:

Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

17 comments

  1. I am so sorry for your loss KeAnne. This is one of my biggest fears…the aftermath that would follow. I look forward to hearing more from you in the days to come, you are a beautiful writer.

  2. I had no idea — rarely on social media any more. I am so, so sorry. Abiding with you…and please let me know if there is any way I can help (go fund me, college fund or even door dash when you need a break from cooking). You can email me info if preferred.

    (is the title of your post from that great song by Big Head Todd? One of my 90s faves)

  3. I was so happy to see your blog pop up, and I’m so sorry to see what you had to share.

    Happy school year to you both, and may the return of routines be healthy and beneficial for you!

  4. I was so happy to see your blog pop up in my feed, and so devastated to read your news. I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    I have a friend who lost her husband five years ago and she found ‘young widows’ groups on fb that were incredibly helpful for her as she moved through that first year and beyond. You sound like you have a great support network already but I’d be happy to put her in contact with you if you were interested. She’s always said that it was invaluable to have a support system that actually understood what she was dealing with (as good as her friends and family were).

  5. I am so glad you’ve come back to update here, though I’ve been following the beach adventures through Facebook. Just sending a hug and hope that the first day back went well.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. And sorry it took me so long to comment. Sending love and light to you and Daniel. I hope the first week of school is going well.

  7. So sorry for your loss! Here via Mel’s Friday Roundup. I certainly recognize your name from the “good old days” of blogging. I hope your blog provides you with comfort now too. ❤

  8. It has been a long long wander, but I just wanted to say I’m so sorry, and that I am sending gentle thoughts as this anniversary approaches.

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