I’m about to do something really hard. And I’m a tiny bit nervous. Okay, I’m more than a tiny bit nervous. If I’m being honest, I’m legitimately anxious about this next step. It’s a big, hard step.
It’s not like I’ve never done hard things. I lived with a mentally ill mother who died by suicide. And then I got married and had three kids and then my husband died. And then I dealt with everything that widowhood brings. And I survived it.
I even found love again. Which was wonderful…and also, it was sometimes scary.
Any big changes can be scary, I know that. When I told my friends about my next step in life, I joked, “Well, here’s another announcement from me. Because if you’re looking for someone who makes a major life change at least once a year, I’m your woman!”
It’s a joke, but it’s true. In less than 5 years, I’ve nursed my husband through his cancer treatment, watched him die, become a single mom to 3 kids under 9, had my father move in with me, started dating again, had my father move out, dealt with a global pandemic as a single parent, fallen in love, had my boyfriend move in with me, got engaged, got married, and had my new husband adopt our kids.
And now, we’re adding one more to the list.
We’re moving to Colombia.
No, I’m not talking about Columbia, Maryland or Columbia, South Carolina. I’m talking about Colombia the country, which I’ve started to say when I tell people. I get it. It’s not exactly the typical next thing to do in midlife.
But Chris worked there for many years and this spring we found out there were new opportunities for him there again. In February, we took a trip to check out where we’d live, the schools, and even got the kids to appreciate that Colombia is a pretty cool place. Behind the scenes of our regular life, we felt out if this move was possible. We wouldn’t move forever, we knew that. Just a year, we promised ourselves and then our family and our friends. We’d need to rent the house and change our jobs and make sure the visas came through. There were a lot of logistics involved. But we could do it.
So we are.
As we were filling out yet another oddly translated form for the kids’ school and as I was looking over the rental contract once again, I didn’t really think much about the emotional part. I’ve done hard things, and in the past 5 years I’ve done a lot of hard things. This was just one more thing, right? And – here’s the rub – I’ve convinced myself that I’m good at doing hard things. Which may be true.
But I’m just as scared as anyone else to do those hard things.
I still get nervous and feel bad and lose sleep over all sorts of things, but especially the hard things. For example, getting married, even though I wanted so badly to marry Chris, was really stressful. I worried and I lost a ton of sleep. I remember thinking it was crazy that I was so stressed out, because marrying Chris was something I really wanted! And yet, I still felt scared.
I’m no better than anyone else at confronting hard things, it appears. Being a widow doesn’t make me immune to these tough feelings.
What I do think widowhood gave me was the knowledge that I can do hard things. I think (often because there wasn’t really any other option) I learned how to take the leap and do things that were scary. Becoming a widow? Scary. Going back to work? Scary. Traveling alone with kids? Scary. Online dating. Scary. The list could go on. I didn’t always have to do these things. But I knew that my life and the kids’ lives would be so much better if I faced whatever the hard thing was and just did it. And once I did one hard thing, I realized that I could do more.
So now I’m going to do this hard thing. We’ve packed our bags and we are ready to go. No, I don’t really speak Spanish, and neither do the kids. No, I’ve never lived abroad with kids and no, I haven’t spent more than a week in Colombia. No, I don’t know if my school will take me back when I return in a year. No, I don’t honestly know what my days will be like for the next year.
But I am doing it. I’m not sleeping particularly well and I’m worried about the kids’ transitions and I’m not totally sure we packed any of the right things. My plan right now consists of taking a month off the blog (I’ll be back after Labor Day, don’t worry!) and trying to do as much Duolingo as I can. Pretty soon, I’m going to get on that plane, smile widely at my kids, and tamp down the fear in my chest.
And I’m going to do it.
It’s the only way I know how to do hard things.
Image Credit: Becky Hale.