Sunday, January 29, 2012

I _______ , therefore I am.

For me, this blank is easy to fill in.  I create, therefore I am.  This seems inherently selfish.  The relationship is between me and my creation, me and something, not me and someone.  No matter what the circumstances are, I create.  When comfort is needed, I create.   When I need to be seen,  I create.  When I need to be heard, I create.  When I need to be touched, I create.  I do reach out to people, but it isn't my first impulse.

Is creating things a substitute for connection with people, a means of connecting with people, or a means of connecting with God? 

Definitely not the first.  There's no substitute for connecting with people.  I wish I could build better connections with new people.  Not easy for me.  I'm still carving out a new life.  A new me.

Definitely the second. I'd like my creativity to be a means of connecting with people.  When I write, I connect, much more easily than I do speaking.  Not surprising for an introvert.  My primary language, however, is visual and my greatest joy is connecting deeply with people through visual creations.  

Definnitely the third, connecting with God.  I cannot lie when I create.  I cannot be unkind when I create.  It is me at my best. I create, therefore I am.  I have to trust that good will come of this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Uncovering the 'me' without a 'he' or 'them'

I haven't had a 'he' living under my roof for six and a half years.  No 'thems' for over twenty years.  I don't miss the 'thems' but I do miss the 'he'.  I marvel at women my age or older who love living by themselves.  They say their life is so full.  Their time is their own.  It is meaningful and purposeful and enjoyable. 

I can't imagine this attitude.  Perhaps my time with my husband was too short, only twenty three years.   Perhaps it's my sex drive.  Perhaps it's my age.  Perhaps I simply want the male version of the species to balance my female version.  Perhaps I simply need help.

After his death, huge slices of me fell off, the 'me with him' parts.  Some were quite a relief.   Some left a gap in my fun meter.  Some were crippling; they revealed my undeveloped capabilities.  Widowhood is just one bloody challenge after another when you've lost the other half.  I made the mistake of thinking the couple we were was 'me'.   That I could do what 'we' could do.  Travel as boldly.  Plan household projects as broadly.  Dine out as frequently.  Entertain as easily.  Get as much done in a day's time.

Man, it was a big learning curve to just to keep my head above water.  Inevitably I got stronger and scaled back.  So who is the 'me' without 'he'?    Not simply the scaled back version.  I am a version that didn't even exist when he was here.  I just wish I could celebrate this fact.  Maybe scaled back enthusiasm is appropriate? 



Sunday, January 22, 2012


Yeah.  I remember enthusiasm.  Definition: 1. intense and eager enjoyment, interest or approval.  2. a thing that arouses such feelings.

Friends and family enthuse over their interests, and their enthusiasm is contagious, or at least a joy to watch.  If they go on too long, though, I feel sad, out of the loop.  My own enthusiasm is weak.  It has not roared back to life.  In fact, I had more when my husband first died, because I was still going strong with his love.  My priorities were obvious to me.  In the fifth and sixth years, it dribbled away quietly, when I least expected it to.

I embraced my future. I have opened so many new windows in my life to offer lifelong pleasure.  I took up bicycing, running, swimming.  I build new projects.  I continue to garden, travel, camp, eat out, play piano, attend concerts, visit family and friends.  I created a new home that I and my guests truly love.  I've dated and fallen in love (didn't last) and taken a lover (grew tired of just that).  I participate in community both off and online.  However, my enthusiasm has not roared back to life.  I have faith that I'm on track, but a deep loneliness permeates my life.  I need the twinkle in my eye.  Can something  I haven't tried be the answer?  I can't fit another activity into my day.  I would love to fit another mate into my day, but the fact is, not every wonderful and deserving person finds an appreciative mate.  One thing I haven't tried is an expectations adjustment.  My life doesn't have nearly the color and enthusiasm it once did, and perhaps I'm tormenting myself by asking it to. 

Close your eyes.  Clear your heart.  Let it go.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Under Whose Wings?

Will a desirable man take me under his wing?  I wouldn't mind a little shelter from the storm, a little back up, a little relief when I'm on overload.  Though I have enough faith in God's love to meet my fear,  it isn't enough to ease real time overload and erase my loneliness as a woman.  I need people.  I need a central love relationship.  I'm trying to get along without it, and it's darn hard.

The help I need now is light years away from the type I needed in widowhood's  first years.  Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs?   I've been addressing these from day one.  Had to.  Physiological needs - settled.  Safety needs - settled.  Love/belonging needs - in process.  Esteem needs - in process.   Self-actualization needs - in process.  At best my last three needs are met sporadically.  How do I make do with the sporadic connections of single life?   I want the consistency and sex and the give and take of a primary relationship!   So much for shelter by a desirable man.

Instead, I find my own wings are healed enough to offer shelter.  I invited neighbors over last week for my first dinner party.  My fear of being a capable enough hostess was allayed with enough preparation to actually enjoy the company.  Cleaning the house was number one.  A good enough meal was number two.  Enough wine was number three.  Can I grow into being a decent hostess?  I hope so!  I hope that hospitality may be a way of addressing my need for love and belonging. Goodness knows dating isn't.  Maybe someday...  In the meantime, family fits the bill for love and belonging, without the sex.  Neighbors fit the bill as well as they can.  They are less transient than most group activities I'd be a part of.  I really don't want transience.  The pain from the transience of my husband's life was more than enough for a while.

Life is transient.  Shelter, anyone?    

Friday, January 13, 2012

Once a Day

I've never been a fan of routine and regimentation.  Unless it's coffee first thing in the morning.   But all of us have a list of  'got to do's'  just to break even in life.  Some people thrive on that list.  I suspect these are the left brain people, a nice orderly people that feel a sense of accomplishment putting a slash of ink through undone business.   I inhabit the other side of my brain mostly, and circle round a task, picking off lesser 'to do's' until I hone in on what really needs to be done.  But I take satisfaction in crossing the 'got to do's' off my list, too.

We know the chaos of widowhood, when the foreign tasks of closing a life rudely push aside routine and the solace it can bring.  Executor duties are complicated, tedious, and frustrating, but they do end, because Uncle Sam insists on it.  Closing a life's history and meaning take far longer.  These overwhelming tasks replace the routines that once grounded our lives.  It's like cleaning up after the tornado that decimated your house and whole town.  At least that was the way it was for me.  I needed to clean up, move on, and make a new life.  If I was fortunate, I'd find new satisfactions that would be as deep as the satisfactions I knew as a lover and wife.  Life would be lighthearted once again.  My humor would return. 

It became really clear to me early on that I would have to develop new systems, from meal planning (alone) to paying taxes (alone), to updating my home to accommodate my capabilities (alone), to maintaining vehicles (alone), to gaining proficiency with technology (alone), to building a social life for one (alone),  to ensuring my emotional health (alone), to reviving my physical health (alone), to enlivening my mental health (alone).  Did I mention alone?  No matter how many loving friends, family, and professional support I had to buttress these efforts, they began with me.  Damned if I felt capable.

Here was a fantastic opportunity to build my life from the ground up.  To establish new healthy routines.  Only thing - where was the enthusiasm?  I was in survival mode. 

Six years out, I'm past survival mode.  I've acquired so many new skills I can't count them all.  Yes, enthusiasm waxes and wanes.  But it is here.  There's still precious little I like to do once a day every day, but that's just fine.  It's just my right brain self doing her thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What the heck is relevant to me?

Frankly, I have had enough of the type of relevance one has as an indispensable caregiver during the relentless struggle with terminal cancer.  I pledged 'in sickness and in health' when we married.  I made good on that promise and I'm glad.  Totally worth it.  But when he died I was glad to get time off.  I don't fully appreciate how people can survive caregiving longer than my three year tour of duty, and my hat's off to them.  I know I want to hug them, help them, and tell them there is a wonderful life awaiting them when it's over.  Personally, I was sucked dry by the caregiving.  More than that, I'd had my insides turned out and scraped clean.  I had so little to give to anything or anyone else for years.  Years.  Is all grief like this?  So incapacitating?  

There is a benefit to grief.  Like Kahlil Gibran writes  "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain".   It's nice to finally feel full after feeling so empty.  I'm overflowing now.  I just want to set my course in life to reflect the lesson I've learned.
My answer to my question:  Love
It's begun with me but it won't end there.

Friday, January 6, 2012

If it's only me now, am I OK?

I don't know. It's not me and him anymore.  I feel OK most of the time about his absence.

He was the yang to my yin, and the yin to my yang.  I was the spark plug.  He was more social.  Being a spark plug is really handy post widowhood.  Being an introvert who is happy with her own company is much less handy, and a downright handicap when taken to extremes.  Which I tend to do.  I'm a spark plug with solitary projects.  Yes, I have family and some friends I love.  But I occupy my house by myself.  Only occasionally do I invite people in. 

I don't want to live a solitary life in my home.  I end up feeling irrelevant and unknown to others.  Hostess is a new identity I want to grow into.  It's time to insert myself into people's lives by inviting them over.  Just take a deep breath.  I guess it's like starting an exercise program.   It needs reinforcement to become habit. In time it becomes absolutely necessary to one's well being.  Do I use the carrot or the stick to become more social?  Both, I expect.

I have to do this in my own way on my own terms or it's not going to work.  I've acquired other new identities and interests since my husband died.  Widow. Athlete. Handywoman.  They felt ill fitting at first. When I saw these new identities mirrored in other people's eyes I'd wonder 'can I really be this person they see?'.  Eventually I grew into them.  I'm still tweaking them.  More athlete. More handywoman.  No more Widow.  I'm single and I'm OK.



Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Til death do us part

"He would want you to move on."   I dislike those words.  It's like saying "He would like you to forget him."   Yeah.  Like that's going to happen. "Til death do us part".   As if death can sever the connection. 

He's part of my support system.  I can't undo the love he felt for me.  The love I'm sure he still feels for me beyond the grave. Wouldn't want to.  My self esteem rose steadily throughout our marriage, in part to his belief that I could handle things when he wasn't physically or emotionally around to help.  So when he died and I actually had to handle everything, I believed I could figure things out.  Didn't mean I wasn't furious at him for not doing his part in real life anymore.  Here I was doing two people's work just to stay afloat.  But suck it up, marine. This isn't any different from what any single person living alone experiences.  We juggled a lot of balls as a couple.  I can't juggle all those balls by myself.  I have to decide which three balls are most important to live a life I'll be happy with.  I've dropped so many and still feel like I have too many.  Clarity is what I seek.

Another part of moving on, getting rid of his things, was scary.  I thought that if I removed his stuff, I removed his love.  Didn't happen.  Purging has become my new mantra.  All the rooms in the house we shared are now mine and mine alone.  Even his former library has new sheet rock and bare shelves.  It's going to be my woman cave.

The love never leaves and never dies.


Monday, January 2, 2012


I prepare best I can for loss.   Insurance, cell phone, ID, phone numbers, copies off site, extra supplies, back up generator, 2nd car, friends, keeping needs small and manageable.   But nothing I did prepared me for the ultimate loss.   Terminal cancer.   Hearing the news is like being pushed off a cliff in slow motion.   When my husband and I hit bottom, LIFE would be smashed to pieces.   You can pull out all the stops, fight the good fight, but you're already over the cliff.  I was lucky.   On the way down I had time to treasure him and say good bye.   Then we hit bottom.   His heart stopped beating.  Mine broke.  Life shattered. 

There are plenty of blogs that speak eloquently to the newly widowed.  We need each other.  Like combat soldiers returning from the frontline, we have experienced a life shattering experience that few who haven't been through it can understand.  What I'd like to share in this blog is the creation of my new identity that leaves the past behind.  That accepts the transformative experience of widowhood as a passage and a gift.  I'm accepting that my life is about me, not me and another.  Not me and my dead another.  Not me and the stepkids.  Not me and my future another.  I'm bringing me centerstage. I just hope to stay out the the trap that it's all about me.  My late husband died six and a half years ago.  Widowhood doesn't cut it as an explanation, let alone an excuse for my life.  I'm post widowhood.

Rebuilding my life began as soon as the house emptied out and the donated food was consumed.   I felt like hell, but I was alive. I knew not to do anything really stupid.  The first difficult decision I made by myself was replacing the ratty old electric blanket on our bed.  Excuse me, my bed.  After that tiny decision came the more complicated ones.   Any person used to living on their own has long mastered decision making, but competence comes slowly to me.  I want nothing less than mastering the art of living.  These are the best days of my life.