Clare Saumell VanderWeele

essays on living

Category: Anxiety

On Becoming a Quitter

I reached 5 miles with a smile. I turned at the half way mark, a pedestrian bridge across the Fox River, and I ran back down the ramp towards the riverside path.

And then it happened.

My ankle buckled. I flew with the downhill momentum. I landed in a heap, with a bloody knee and instantly swelling ankle. And I sobbed.

I had spent 5 months in the biting cold of winter, one foot after the other pounding the icy pavement, and now I was two weeks away from the half marathon I had signed up for in an effort to hold myself accountable.

I needed the winter running to stay sane. I refused to spend months of cold gray skies huddled inside, depressed and agitated. And so I ran. And it was awesome… until it wasn’t.

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The Voice That Sings

A year ago, I published my first blog post. I wrote out of the desperate need to tell my story, to share my grief after the death of my husband.

I wrote about how there’s something deeply human about imagining worst case scenarios.

A year later, in this 3rd year since Chris passed, I haven’t stopped imagining. And yet, that initial grief has shifted. What once tore me apart on the inside and made it hard to breathe has since calmed itself.

It lingers like a scar.
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Why I’m Terrified of Dying

I didn’t expect to be afraid of dying. The terror crept up slowly like the dawn until all of a sudden it was blinding and hung over my day.

When I had planned out my life years ago, it was with youthful ignorance; predictable and familiar.

I did not expect to become a mother who, exhausted and emotional, reaches for cheerios for her kid’s dinner.

I did not expect to be searching for signs of my husband in the soft sleeping face of my son.

I did not expect to be offended by the rows of summer corn, growing tall as if nothing ever happened, as if time had not stopped.

I did not expect the dust to gather on his nightstand.

As the expectations collapsed, I was left with the bitter fear of my own death.
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The Lesson that Changed My Life

Did anyone else think they’d have life all figured out by the age of 27?

I did.

My shy, pimply 14-year old self thought 27 would be a magical age: I would be happily married, growing a family and publishing my first novel. We’d be living in our first house with a friendly dog and regular dinner parties. I probably would have figured out the meaning to life. Oh, and I’d have great hair (finally).

Instead, a year ago, I turned 27 and realized a harsh reality:

I was a widowed single mother to an only child.

I was burning myself out at work.

I owned a house that was far too big for 1.5 people.

I was sadly in need of finding my high-maintenance dog a new home.

And my hair was falling out with stress.

12 months later, I can honestly say the year of being 27 was the longest, most difficult year of my entire life.

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