“I don’t understand teenagers. I thought I would. Honestly. After all, I was one. It’s not like it was that long ago that we were rebelling and breaking curfew and wearing lace bustiers as shirts. We wore too much make-up, teased our hair too high and we were the first generation of girls who #justsaidno to pantyhose, and the first generation of boys who wore them proudly. We were 80’s kids. The products of parents who invented rock n’ roll and parents who walked around naked at Woodstock. Parents who stood up for what they believed in and sat for stuff they thought would change the world. Parents who ‘damned the man’ and questioned authority. Parents who made society rethink what was ‘normal.’
We were cool. We were hip. We were the new generation.
And, look at us now. Just look at us. We’re in our 40’s and 50’s with teenagers and grown kids of our own. Some of us are grandparents. GRANDPARENTS. Well, unless you ask my friend Kim, who is a ‘Mimmi.’ Not a ‘Mimi,’ but a ‘Mimmi.’ At least I think that’s how you spell it. But the point is, we’re grown-ups and that is terrifying. And no matter how much I don’t understand teenagers, I clearly don’t understand adulting, either.
I’m serious right now. I’m going to be 47 years old this month and I still eat just the marshmallows from my bowl of Lucky Charms, and I still like young adult movies. My friends and I still do Chinese Fire Drills, except now we do them in parking lots because we realize it takes longer to get out of the car and after one run around it, we’re all doubled over trying to catch our breath, but whatever. My best friend and I still stay up late gossiping and talking about boys, and we still call each other with horrible ideas but agree to go with each other to act on them anyway. The only difference is now we can afford the gas. We still get excited about Halloween, and we still don’t know how to do math. We still eat mac and cheese and burn toast. We still hate cleaning and shove way too much stuff into our closets and we still look at each other with deep confusion when our kids look at us like we’re not cool. Because, when did we stop being cool? That’s just ridiculous.
And even though we can still feel and act like our once wild and free selves, somebody along the way decided to label us as ‘adults.’ And now, we are required to work and pay bills and make responsible decisions. It means we have to go to parent-teacher conferences and figure out common core. And some days, I just don’t want to. I really don’t. Some days, I just want to go back to when the nights were long and the phone calls were longer. I want to go back to when we laid in the backyard covered in baby oil and lemon juice in our hair. I want to go back to when we didn’t have cell phones, or social media or anything that distracted us from making friendship bracelets.
But, most importantly, I want to go back to when my husband was alive.
Because losing him was the worst adulting moment of all time, and the most abrupt and cruel end to our teenage love story. Because when you lose somebody who has known you almost your whole life, who knows every story, who can interpret every sigh, who can calm you with just a look, who holds every memory, and who knows what you look like with braces – you’re just lost. I don’t know how else to explain it. You’re just lost. He took care of me. He took care of our family. And, suddenly, not only did I figure out that I had to be an adult, but I had to do it alone. I really, really don’t like that. Not one bit.
And, the little kid inside of me wants to pout. It wants to scream and bang my fists on the floor. It wants to go to my mom’s and sleep in my old bed and eat pizza and not get up for three weeks. It wants to yell out about how unfair it is, and it wants to sit in the corner and cry. It wants to shake people and tell them not to waste one moment loving who they want to love and to be who they want to be. It wants to remind people what it feels like to be wild and what warm summer rainstorms smell like. It wants to run away.
And then the adult in me, the one I try to fight, wants to apologize. To everybody. To my kids. I haven’t been the best mom. I wasn’t supposed to be a mom without him. I didn’t know how to do it by myself. I didn’t know how to lay in bed and cry all night and then get up and make heart pancakes. I was tired all the time. Impatient. Irritable. Please don’t just label it ‘depression.’ It’s not that simple. Not that depression is simple. I understand that it’s not. But grief is so convoluted and complex and weaves in and out so viciously that even the happiest, most well-adjusted person can get caught up in it and not know what to do, or where to turn or who to talk to. Like so many grieving people, I struggled with that and sometimes, I still do.
I know that there’s so much more to it, but sometimes, I wonder if I am not taking care of that little girl inside of me who just doesn’t want to grow up. Who doesn’t want to be an adult. And, who doesn’t want to have to deal with this kind of adult stuff at 43. I’m not nurturing her enough. I’m not giving her enough attention. I’m not loving her and comforting her and reminding her that she is going to be ok. I’m not always taking care of me, just like so many of you are not taking care of you.
So, from today forward, I’m going to eat more regularly. I am going to drink more water. I am going to try to sleep more hours. I am going to buy the shoes when I want to. I am going to listen to my voicemails and return texts, even when my phone feels like it weighs a million pounds. I am going to write the books I’m committed to writing and I’m going to do all the adult things I have to. And some nights, I am going to call my friends and drive down a long road with my sunroof open and breathe in the night air and let my hair get swooped up in the wind and tangled. I’m going to laugh at the movies and cry at sappy commercials. I am going to let myself love, but more importantly, I am going to let somebody love me. I am going to give the adult me grace, and I am going to embrace the kid in me. And my kids and I are going to be ok, and so are you. Be kind to yourselves, friends. We’re all figuring it out, together.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her book “Grief Life” is available in print and kindle. You can find more of her books here, and her podcast here. Connect with Diana on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
Read more powerful stories from Diana:
‘My husband bungee corded my kid to the backseat. Not kidding. She was 3 years old. I honestly didn’t believe it. But there she was, strapped in a makeshift five-point harness.’
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