Putting the estate in order has been an overwhelming undertaking. It’s definitely sucking all the joy out of my life. I’m sure my sister isn’t enjoying it either. We are both mentally exhausted. Banks. Lawyers. Taxes. Insurance claims. Every day there is a new paper to fill, a new insurance adjuster or player to bring up to speed. A Last Will and Testament would have sped up some of the ordeal, but it doesn’t completely save you from coordinating its aftermath. Maybe a lawyer/executor is a better investment than having multiple accounts to diversify risk management.
Two months passed before I realized I hadn’t called the correct retirement office to cancel my mom’s Army pension, and that I had contacted just one of the tree agencies that needed to provide me with income tax forms: the hard to find 1099-R. We were locked out of many online accounts so we had to fish what we could from snail mail recieved paperwork. It’s mid July and I’m still waiting to finish her Federal and State taxes. Ugh! The long term care insurance we filed in October is finally being paid up. Blessed are those who have savings to weather these kinds of surprise medical quandaries. I’m losing my mind even though paying high hospital and care bills isn’t part of the equation. My heart goes out to those who have to get into debt to pay for treatments to survive.
I’ve been operating outside my comfort zone for so long that crisis management mode has become my new normal, my default. When the phone rings I automatically assume that the proverbial 💩 has hit the fan. After a decade of miscarriages, natural and accidental deaths, bailing out people due to DUI and other arrests, murders, weddings, baby showers, layoffs, nasty divorces and family emergencies, I’m ready to throw in the towel, cash out my 401(k) and move to a solar powered, well water, self sustaining ranch in the middle of nowhere. Stick a fork in me, I am well done.
Resilience. Grit. Empathy. Talent. Intelligence. They can keep all of it. The simple life I had planned, the 2.5 kids and a dog inside a picket fence house dream, is all garbage. Whatever I wanted for myself has been replaced by whatever has to be done for the sake of those who need me. Laundry. Cleaning. Loans. Bail outs. The sense of duty and loyalty are so overwhelming, stopping me in my tracks every time I realize that this new detour puts me even farther away from my goals; from the ability to retire early, concentrate on stuff I really want to do and maybe luck out and become successful by pursuing a hobby and not a paycheck. The glory of converting chaos into ordered systems has consumed me. The entropy burning me alive as energy is released and reharnessed to control what others think is out of their influence circles. Doing right by others is keeping me away from doing right by me. Something’s gotta give.
Slowly but surely I’m reach the end of what had been the ugliest part of grieving, the chapter of my life in which I chose to keep trucking to avoid having all of our lives unravel; I don’t have to be brave anymore. I can delegate whatever is left to the experts and walk away to take a long breather. To celebrate everything we couldn’t, like our 10th anniversary, out of respect for the convalescent matriarch. Losing my mom so young was a burden I wasn’t intending to carry, another dimension added to my already complex social identity. Woman. Engineer. Successful. Motherless. My internal compass looks for a new north, a reliable source of comfort and wisdom, a new temple of love and devotion: a new place to call home.
Don’t get me wrong, I am devoted and committed to my husband but my vision of home has always included my mother. She was the only person on this planet that valued every inch of my soul, who would go through great sacrifice and hardship to support and finance my quests for enrichment and enlightenment. An eternal source of yes, she rarely resisted my logic and put her foot down to steer me in a different direction. She willingly let me be my own person, free to achieve whatever I proposed. The only expectations were good grades, optimistic attitudes and kindness. She even sent me away to finish my MBA “over her dead body”. I knew that if it had been up to her we would have spent waaaay more time together but uprooting our lives to see her fade away wasn’t something she could allow herself to ask for; that wasn’t why she had worked so hard all those year. It wouldn’t be fair of her to have given us a better life only to take it away under the premise that we owed her.
As I wrap up the last course required to fulfill the MBA requirements, a month after graduation, I wonder if the magic will ever happen. What will the rewards be for my patience and reluctant hard work? Will there truly be better times ahead? Through all these storms, I have yet to find a silver lining that isn’t imposed by society, faith or a belief in God. Seems I can’t escape the trappings of the provincial life even in the middle of the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I sincerely hope inner peace and gratitude find me soon, that I get to have some respite after all these insane adventures. I outgrew my old existence so fast and so violently that everything in my life seems small, fragile, ordinary.
Joy, if you are out there. Come at me, bruh! I could use some soul healing sunshine…