I've been really busy (just got back from California and got the house ready for showings during that short week before the trip!), so I haven't written about the marathon or any of that weekend yet. In fact, I'm not sure I've processed it all. I hope sitting down to write about it will help me with that.
My recent experiences/challenges began with some family time, most notably an early Thanksgiving dinner gathering. This was about a week and a half ago. I went back to SE Iowa on Friday and went to dinner with my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend.
It's always been a group of five with my family, but I'm just not used to being the single one whose sister has a boyfriend. It was always my parents, Brian & me, and Laura. Now, it is my parents, Laura & Alex, and me. It's an interesting shift. I've never been in that role before. At no point did anyone do or say anything to make me feel like a fifth wheel or left out, and I didn't feel like an odd person out or anything, but it is just another way that life is different for me without Brian.
Everything in my life is different now, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't still cry and pray for a day or two that feels the same, that feels "normal." I miss the hell out of Brian and loved having him there for everything I experienced. I got used to having him as a constant in my life. I don't know how it feels to not have that constant, that partner. Think about how "used to" having him I was (I AM) -- we started hanging out as friends when we were 14 and 16 years old. We started "going out" right after my 15th birthday. I've never not had him fill the role of boyfriend/partner/husband in my adult life. Hell, he was boyfriend when we were really just kids still. Of course EVERYTHING is different without him -- I never actually had my own life without him. The last time I remember family functions without him, my sister (who is now 20 and a sophomore in college) had not even started kindergarten. He has ALWAYS been there, he was ALWAYS in my life.
So I'm still getting used to the change in dynamic, the change in roles, the weirdness of this position and feeling (on top of just plain MISSING him, of course -- I still think about what he would say during a conversation, what he would order at a restaurant, what he'd wear to a family dinner out, etc.). I feel like an alien on another planet, but only I know that -- everyone else sees a human, but I feel like an impostor. Look at me, pretending to be normal and like I know how to function in this world. Inside, I'm mining every encounter, every conversation, every situation -- and even every sitcom -- for clues about how one is supposed to act. I'm suddenly very self-conscious of whether I'm "normal" or how I will be perceived. Before, I knew Brian would call me on it if I was rude or weird. Also, I didn't care -- I had him. Now, I feel like I can't do anything that might drive people away because I don't have that security that comes with a good relationship.
For so many reasons, I miss living out every moment of my life with Brian, and to be having those moments and experiences without him is just plain weird. I'm not saying I can't (or don't) enjoy life without him; that's far from true. But even the best of times have a tinge of discomfort or weirdness for me. It's weird to me to enjoy life on my own, to not have anyone to share it with. I miss having someone to share all this with.
But I digress. Getting back to my busy weekend a couple weeks ago:
I had dinner with my family Friday night. Saturday, I got up for breakfast with Brian's parents and I took a car -- nay, SUV -- full of Brian's clothes to their house for his dad to go through. Then, I went to the cemetery, where I sobbed and hugged his tombstone in front of some people walking past. This was a big step for me; I have a really hard time showing emotion in front of people (part of the reason I have to blog). I was proud that I could let those emotions flow and not feel self-conscious. I also think it's important to show "bad" emotions like crying, or to talk about "bad" feelings like guilt and jealousy. People have to know those feelings are a normal part of life and that you can talk about them and not have to hide them. In a way, I felt that letting my emotions show in front of strangers breaks down that societal wall just a little bit. And, oddly enough, for me, it might be easier to cry in front of strangers than people I know. I'm just not good at opening up -- I try to reserve my emotional breakdowns for when I'm alone.
After I left the cemetery on Saturday, I went to my aunt Trish's house. I was still very emotional from being there, and it's a short drive from Greenwood Cemetery to her house, so I was still pretty teary when she came to the door and as soon as I saw her, I fell into her open arms and cried some more. I think this also will help me with my feelings barrier, and I'm glad I went to Trish's house rather than driving to another relative's house further away and letting those feelings dissipate (or forcing them away) before seeing anyone else. I need to lean on my family and let them comfort me instead of always trying to suppress the emotions to deal with on my own later, as I've been doing.
Trish helped me design my shirt for the Des Moines Half Marathon. It was on Sunday, October 17, the nine month anniversary of Brian's death. The Bears had a home game that day. I wanted Brian to be with me in some way, so I took an old Bears tee of his from the 90s and Trish and I modified it to fit me and girl-ify it a bit for the race. It was his way of being with me and my way to honor him.
After Trish and I got the tee shirt modified, we went to the Thanksgiving dinner. I think having a big emotional weight lifted by crying a lot that morning helped me go in with a sort of clean slate, and it actually went really well. I have a big family, and it was great to be able to catch up with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends of the family. There were a lot of people and a lot of things going on, which helped. This family function is held at a sort of reception-hall style space (my aunt and uncle run Circle of Pride motorcycle club in SE Iowa and own some great event spaces as a result of operating functions for that club).
The reception/dinner space at the rodeo grounds was set up for a wonderful family dinner. There were beautiful fall decorations, a Thanksgiving tree, a door prize table, a table for displaying giant cupcakes made by my mom and aunts for a cupcake war, and even one of those cut-outs where you can stick your face in for a photo. It was awesome! I will post some pics soon, I promise.
I had a wonderful trip back home. Yes, there were things that were weird, and moments that were sad, and times that I was crabby, but it was still a good time. I was bummed when I had to leave early to head back to Des Moines for the Animal Lifeline fundraiser.
I guess I really DID have a lot to process, looking back at this post...
I will write about the fundraiser and the half marathon in separate posts.
The next one will be less wordy, more photo-y.