It’s been just over three years since my mom died. Three years of growth and change. Three years of SO many lessons that I’m not sure I can capture or convey all of them here. But, obviously, I’m about to give that a try.
Shortly after she died I got a promotion at work to the team I’m still on now, and a place I now consider my professional home. I had to grow into my role on my team and there were plenty of growing pains, but I’ve only recently realized that these things I’m doing professionally and this group of people with whom I interact every day truly has come to feel like home.
In the first year after she left I was adrift emotionally. When my sister offered to sell me her house and pass on the equity Mom had given her, it felt right. Until, that is, we actually moved in. Almost instantaneously I knew it was the wrong decision for me and my boys. But I had given my sister my word, and financially there was no way I could purchase something else of my own. And so I started spiraling down into the worst depression I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve never been terribly good at keeping my environment organized or neat and tidy. When depressed, that only gets worse as my external environment begins to match my internal one. Letting things sit where they fall and truly not caring is a set of behaviors of which I’m not proud, yet one of the ways in which my depression manifests itself. And while the house I was in had served my sister and her children well, and in many ways been a lifesaver for them, that same house was almost my undoing.
But I’d given my word to my sister. And, so I felt trapped. Until the day she asked me if I still wanted to buy it. And as I struggled with how to answer that question she went on to say that it was okay if I didn’t. And I broke down in tears of relief. Even through the long and nasty divorce, I had never felt a sense of chains being lifted from my soul like I did in that moment. We set up a timetable for me and the boys to move out to something else and I started saving and planning to get myself into the financial position I would need to be in to make that happen.
Last July, I finally admitted that I couldn’t deal with the depression on my own. I was 51. Apparently, for someone with my intelligence, I’m a pretty slow learner when it comes to myself. I don’t know if it was because society’s attitudes towards mental illness have been improving, because I have friends who openly deal with their own mental health issues, or what, but making appointments with my doctor’s office (and subsequently changing physicians) and my therapist feel like life-changing decisions. I got the downward spiral to slow down, come to a stop, and was finally heading back up out of the abyss.
And then the bottom fell out last October when my boys lost their father. But as tragic as this is/was/has been/will always be for them, it freed me. Afterwards, someone very close to him confided in me that they knew first hand how he had treated me. They understood the gas-lighting, the arguing in circles, the nasty abusive behavior when he wasn’t the center of attention or didn’t get his way. I literally had felt like I was losing my mind on so many occasions that I can’t begin to explain the impact of having someone else ,whom I know also loved him dearly, telling me they understood the hell he put me through. He was a narcissist. A charming, funny, sweet, thoughtful, self-deprecating narcissist who made my life hell. I say that not to minimize, diminish, or otherwise ignore any of my own mistakes or bad behaviors. But it’s a truth that virtually no one else ever saw. Having someone else speak this truth to me was life changing.
The work I had done financially in paying down debt was undone in a heartbeat when he died. I could no longer work the hours of overtime I had been putting in as I was now the sole parent. Plus, I tend to spend when stressed. But it turned out that his death meant that the final financial piece of the divorce settlement fell into place. The biggest bone of contention between us during the divorce had been his retirement fund. Previously, I would have to wait until he retired before I ever saw a penny of it. Death changes things. It changed that. I redoubled my efforts to repair my credit. I met with a realtor. And a mortgage broker. And early in May was finally pre-approved for a mortgage. Then, I was insanely lucky to fall in love with the fourth house I looked at and am now at the tail end of the mortgage process.
In a few short weeks, I go to settlement and the boys and I will go through another move. If I count moving most of my possessions to a box stall on my parents farm (and back again) at the beginning of the divorce, this will be my 5th move in seven years. Or, my third full move in that time. But for the first time, this is a move I’m really looking forward to. The boys and I will have a place that is all our own. A place that is perfect for us. A place to finally call home. And that has as much to do with where I am emotionally and professionally, as it does with the building itself.
It’s been a long three years, but I’m finally in a good place. I know life will throw new trials at me in the future. But I also know I’ll be able to handle them. Knowing that is the best change of all.