I am a teacher, and while I used to look forward to a good break from school, all of that changed when I lost Shane. Not just for me, but for my boys as well. It’s like we quit knowing how to rest and reset. I often tell people that we don’t idle well.
I couldn’t close my eyes at first. Not even to sleep at night. I lost about ½ of my head of hair in the first year due to stress and lack of sleep. Fortunately, I have a lot to spare but I would gauge it on how many times my ponytail holder could wrap around it. It went from barely 2 to easily 4. I still struggle with sleep. Nothing was easy anymore. The summer immediately following his death, my boys and I sat outside my sister’s house in the car and prayed we could make it through a routine yearly pool party with my school family. I can remember our first winter break without him. He worked regular hours, so it’s not like he was home during these breaks but he used to take one day off on winter break. I intentionally MADE us leave the house at least once a day that year. We would mostly go shoot baskets at the YMCA. We weren’t ready for the movies, or bowling…certainly not ready to rush out of town unless it was for a game. There was just no peace in our rest and being around too many others was not enjoyable for them or for us.
Over these past few years, we have worked on this. My boys are right back to groveling over closet cleanouts and lawn mowing rotations when summer hits because they actually have better things to do. I am so happy for us! There should be no immediate shame in smiling, in laughing at a joke, or in planning a trip. The reality of your lost loved one missing out is a real struggle. You feel like you should not be doing any living without them here. That it isn’t respectful to them.
My youngest is now 11. He has been so kind to accompany me to water aerobics this week. We haven’t missed a day yet and we are quite enjoying ourselves. I was in a walking boot for 5 months of last year. My achilles just doesn’t want to cooperate with the rest of my leg. To avoid surgery since not working or not driving isn’t an option for me, I was in 11 weeks of physical therapy. My physical therapist told me to get in the water, and he was right! The pool is my friend. I knew that once school was out I wanted to make this a habit, but I didn’t realize how much it would bless my soul!
If you haven’t seen the new movie ‘Poms’, you must go. Get a group of friends, or go alone (I actually like doing this and didn’t think I would). It is a heartwarming tale of senior sisterhood and it is set in a retirement community called Sun Springs. Well, our first day at water aerobics, my son whispered and asked if we were at Sun Springs. I am 44 and a young member of this class, while he is 11 and he doesn’t realize it but he’s the star of the show. How sweet it is to get advice on movements from these seasoned pros! How sweet it is to see the friendships and the life lessons they are sharing. I don’t even like to be seen in a swimsuit. I teach 7th graders and always know someone wherever we go. I just know I will end up on someone’s snapchat story or instagram in all my glory. Well, here, it doesn’t matter. This is about being STRONG, NOT SKINNY! My friend told me once that that was her goal. I like it! I love the strong part in every sense of the word. At my local YMCA’s version of Sun Springs, they are all there for the benefits of joint health, cardio, and companionship. It is just what the doctor ordered!
So, here is my go at easing into a break. Living life with no guilt. It is a hard concept to grasp and even harder to accept without my Shane. I replied to someone who was hurting recently with this list of things to do when I can’t sleep. Maybe this can apply to someone and offer some help to you or someone you know.
- Get up! Don’t sit or lay there and think about how much you can’t sleep. I will walk my neighborhood street at 3am if needed. I keep my garage open in case one of the boys wakes up and I don’t go far…just back and forth in the fresh air. I often prayer walk, as in praying aloud. So far, no HOA complaints and I find this so fulfilling and usually I am more at peace when I am finished. I sometimes make my way upstairs to pray over my boys while they sleep.
- Do something you hate. Laundry – It is one of my least favorite chores. When I can’t rest, it’s always there. With 3 stinky boys in sports, I can always start a load, finish my hang ups, or pair those dang socks. You will be happy you knocked something off of your daily chores and not as frazzled from lack of sleep. Productive in a sense. ‘The secret to getting ahead, is getting started.’ -Mark Twain
- Read!! I recently got a new bookshelf for all of my books. I don’t like reading on my phone because I rely on it so much for the boys’ schedules and teams so I don’t enjoy staring at it to read. I prefer paperbacks and love having them on hand to share with my friends. One of the best things I have done in the last year was joining a book club. It is one of my two scheduled outings a month for myself…book club and bunco. What can I say, I’m a wild woman! LOL!!
- Clean out a drawer. Pathetic, you would think I would be embarrassed to even type that. But who doesn’t have a junk drawer?
- Listen to a Podcast. This can be done while doing almost any of the above. ‘A Frayed Knot’ is one of my favorites. Fresh Life Church with Levi Lusko. Anything Craig Groeschel. I would love comments with some of your favorites!!
- Journaling. I have a prayer journal and when a prayer is answered, I mark it down. The dates are always so interesting and often so telling. God’s timing is by no means our’s and I love to see how He works.
- Active meditation.You can find these guided meditations on Apple music, you tube, or your favorite streaming of choice. Some are progressive to help you scan your body for tension and some are more for self-talk and calming your mind.
- Gardening. While this is hard to do at 3am, I have been known to pull weeds at all hours. I love my garden. Something about new life and dirt lights my fire. I love sharing the salsa I make each summer. I don’t eat anything spicy, but I can grow a mean jalapeno.
At the height of my anxiety, I have tried any and all of these things. I know there are many more that would help. I also could have listed things like: look through old photos, smell that one shirt I still thinks smells just like him, listen to the songs I have that he recorded, stare at my wedding dress, take out the notes I found while cleaning out his office at work (some of them are drawings of football plays for Lane’s team) or just sit and feel sorry for myself. These options are not healthy for me every time. I still resort to them and use them when I think I can handle it. I am grateful to be somewhat over a black diamond mogel of grief and able to relax a little on breaks. My to do list is always long, and my sights are maybe too high on what all I can get accomplished before the hustle and bustle starts all over again. I know Shane would be proud of how far we have come. May you find some guilt-free peace today!