It’s good to keep busy, especially when trying to overcome fear, anxiety, depression, grief, or whatever your particular challenge of the moment happens to be; I often face at least one or more on any given day. Too much quiet time can give your brain more opportunity than it needs to focus on whatever hurts, at least that’s my experience. There’s something very satisfying about making things with my hands, whether I’m stamping, quilting, or working with wood, and it must encourage the release of some good hormones. Either that or I’m just addicted…
I have projects going inside and outside my house so I can go back and forth depending on weather, energy level, or preference. However, while I’m certainly getting a lot done, enjoying myself, and learning new things along the way, I do sometimes wonder if I’m really learning to cope or if I’m just filling my brain up so much that I’m fooling myself into thinking I have a good process going here, and sooner or later I will crash and burn.
Those questions occur to me when I’m near the end of a project and feeling the need – well, it might even be a compulsion – to plan something else (or two or three more things) so that there is no chance of down time in between. Down time kind of scares me because it’s in my down times, even short ones, that I get hit with proverbial bricks and have to grab onto something close by to catch my breath while I sob because I recognize that everything I’m doing is an attempt to stuff a hole that has no bottom. It only takes a small thing – a word, a memory, a picture, a conversation, a moment – to burst my busy and energetic bubble and remind me just how thin and fragile it is.
I believe staying busy is better than not, but I question whether or not I’m having trouble finding the balance. I can’t sit still very long unless there’s something keeping me focussed – a tv show, a good conversation, an intense internet search for new ideas – and I tend to work past the point where my body is aching and my brain is exhausted. I don’t like bedtime because it’s quiet and reflective, and Pat isn’t there. I need to go to bed with new ideas to plan for the next day so that I can fall asleep with something other than loneliness on my mind and tears on my face. I wake up early and am ready to get started right away on my list for the day, knowing that I have many hours ahead of me to accomplish whatever I want to do.
Perhaps it’s easier to deal with physical pain and exhaustion than to face the mental anguish resulting from the situation that has at the same time left me with many possible years of new experiences and an empty space in my heart everywhere I go, knowing how much more it would all mean if he were able to share it with me. I can’t escape it, the broken heart, I can’t package it up and leave it behind once in a while to go do something else. Everywhere I go and in everything I do, I’m broken.
There are people in general who tell me this will get better; there are other widows who remind me it won’t. In the past week I’ve had two encounters with recently widowed ladies, each with a bit more learning behind them than I’ve had yet, one whose husband was also brain injured, and both said they wished they could tell me it gets better inside, but it doesn’t. They didn’t have magic words to assure me that time will heal a broken heart. They both said what I’ve been told before and what I’ve felt myself in my limited time since losing Pat, that we get better at coping with what’s broken in us, but it’s never healed or fixed or filled with anything else. They just get up each morning and decide to live that day, to get through it, make the most of it, and start all over again the next day, which sounds to me like what I’m trying to do.
So I guess we all have to do that in whatever ways we can, and maybe right now it doesn’t matter if I know for sure that I’m learning to cope or if I’m filling my brain up so full that at least when I crawl into bed alone each night after a long day of busyness, I’m good and tired and haven’t just been sitting around feeling sorry for myself for long periods of time. I don’t fall asleep easily because I can’t always make the painful thoughts and memories go away, but I do my best because I know I have to sleep sometime and that when I wake up I’ll have things I need to do, and I’ll get through another day.
In the meantime, I’m getting in lots of stretching and bending (and work!) every day, and another healthy upside of keeping so busy is that sometimes I even forget it’s snack time 🙂