Saturday, February 23, 2013

Am I better off without him?

"Goodness.  I didn't divorce him!  How can you even ask me that?"

But I do ask that.

Am I better off without him?

This whole idea came up when I looked through old files in my art studio yesterday.  I hate to admit it, but some of these files are nearly twenty years old. There are snippets of articles and notes.

I found a note my late husband wrote to me on March 26, 1996.

Dear ____,   What we did last night was devastating, and I'm still angry.  Yet I see you and our union as a blessed gift from a loving God.  I am sad that we hurt each other from our woundedness.  Love, ___

I guess the argument he's referring to was a doozy.  We had rough times in our marriage, especially a six year spell from 1991 to 1997.  Often, during this time, I seriously contemplated this question "Would I be better off without him?"  I stayed on the fence a long time, and some would say circumstances merited my departure.  Then, in 1997, I jumped off that fence toward him, toward us.   Not that circumstances were a lot better.  But, like the pearl which forms around an intrusive grain of sand, we faced what was hurting us and held on together.  We learned.  We grew.  We shed entrenched beliefs that were really harming us.  We had five very very good years beyond 1997.  And when his terminal disease hit in 2002, I unleashed every tool and effort to add months to his life, as did he.  Together we added 36 long months, each a hard won pearl in our strand. 

Am I better off without him?  I'm better off without the pain and daily struggle when times were tough.   Now that my grief is spent and I'm tickled to be alive, I'm better off without the pain and daily struggle his death left me.   And the pearl necklace we created?  It is in my past, in my heart.   Every once in a while I see evidence of it, like this note, which I'll hang on to.

Am I better off without him?  I am better off because of him. 

And, I am better off today because of the help I've received, and because of the choices I make.  Well, not all the choices.  But enough good choices mixed with these have added up.  I am better off than when I first lost him. 

A new strand of pearls is emerging now.  I have to remember that making pearls isn't fun, but it is worthwhile.  Turns out the strand won't be all pearls.  It has diamonds here now, sparkling in today's light.

Am I better off without him?  Difficult question.  I am blessed to have diamonds in my life at present.  I hope I will have more diamonds in that thing called the 'future', but the future has no guarantee.  In any case, I know I can make pearls from grains of sand, and try to do so every day.  If that most terrible grain of sand called death intrudes upon me once again I'll ask for help.  How would we make it through life without each other?

Do you see the day when you will be better off without your late husband?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why aren't you like _____ ?

Does this make you laugh? Cringe? Stop listening? Want to rant?

In my last post, I asked for feedback.  On another site, too.  Yes, my psyche has grown stiff, resistant to change.  My heart has scars I need to grow beyond.  Thank you, one and all, for writing me to support and encourage me.  I'm learning to be pliable and resilient, and your hugs help so much.

I've also heard from the well meaning folks who can't resist instructing and comparing me with so and so, who is having a better experience of widowhood, or is experiencing new love after widowhood more completely.  I roll my eyes.  *"Gee,  what an idiot I've been!  I guess God isn't very impressed with me, and wishes He (or She) could have made me more like that person you just pointed out. Gosh, I'm going to learn to be like her!"

*Please note: sarcasm

Yes, I got the memo that I'm loved just the way I am.  I am exactly where I'm supposed to be, on this river of life, with all its rocks, and waterfalls, its smooth sandy bottoms and pools, its forks and dams, its frozen waters and fluid flow.   Now, my challenge is to love the folks who wish I'd see things some other way as well as the folks who give me a vote of confidence.      

Oh, dear.  I, too, have been so guilty to trying to change people.  My pet peeve?  Pessimism.  I get so frustrated by pessimism and want to drum it out of people.  I want to shake them.   "Wake up and smell the roses!" "Look on the bright side!"
Now that I've discovered my own little streak of pessimism, I'm rather happy I can give up this job of cheering others up, because I know better.  Or I know somebody who knows.  Or I know somebody who knows somebody who knows.   Or I know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who knows.

It's about time I read this poem again.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

Well, I hope this day is good for me, and good for you, and good for somebody you know, and somebody who knows somebody you know, and somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody you know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What am I to do?

I'm torn, confused about my future with a man I love.  Here I sit, talking to myself.   Can you help? 

"Dear self. Be happy.  This is just a fancy way of saying..."

"What do I want to do with the days I have left?"

"Envision life is supporting your happiness".   

"Support for my happiness?" 

"You have a little say in this, you know." 

"Look, I'm happy if the sky isn't falling in. "
"Widowhood happens. You actually have it a lot better than most widows. You got to say good bye." 
"Look in the mirror."
~ ~ ~P ~E ~S ~S ~I ~M ~I ~S ~T ~ ~ ~ 

"Wow.  This post sure is a downer."  
"Life is what happens to you whether you believe in it or not."

"Will life bring me happiness?

"Do you need it to?"

"More than ever."
"Dare to be an optimist."

"But I had this experience."
"Chicken Little"
 "....The sky is not falling?"
"I'm sure I can find a fox who agrees it is."
"Be happy."
 "And when the does sky fall in?"
"Add another acorn to your collection."
 "Look , wise guy.  If an acorn falls far and fast enough it can kill you.  That's what losing a spouse is like."
"Did it?"
"Yes.  It killed part of me."
"Then don't sit under an acorn tree." 
Link to the story of Chicken Little:

Friday, February 8, 2013

A widow dating, with a good book

Dating a Widower , by Abel Keogh.

On the face of it, this book appeals to a very small niche.  But think about this.  Substitute the word 'widow' for 'widower'.  Then turn it around.  "What is it like dating me, a widow?"   The five points in its first chapter inspire me to ask  "Am I really and truly opening my heart, my space, my life, my future to this man I'm now loving?" 

After I, as a widow, started dating again, I discovered Abel Keogh's blog, specifically his "Widower Wednesday" posts.   I read about widowers and girlfriends or new wives.  I read about these women's joys, their heartbreak, frustration, and confusion loving men who had lost their wives.  Were they really now in the center of the widower's heart?  Were there red flags they should consider?  Red flags signalling that the widower isn't ready and willing to make her number one?   Red flags like his keeping photos of his late wife around?

As I dated, I had to ask myself if I prevented myself from enjoying new love.  Was I making unrealistic comparisons from cherry picked memories?  Was I not releasing myself from a commitment that death had already terminated?  And my fear - if I flung myself away from my past, would future love even catch me?  I looked at the photos of my late husband around my house. There I was, dating, and I still displayed his photos.    Red flag.   Nowadays, I have new photos of my boyfriend and me around the house.  Yet, as much as I care, stepping into the future with him sometimes feels 'don't tempt the fates' scary.  When I trust my soul, and realize that merging two lives is a process, my fear is calmed.  I believe I am meeting the criteria for putting my boyfriend first.  But this matters more: Is he feeling this?  Is the ghost of my late husband interfering?

Now, regarding dating in general for widows... I realize many legitimate reasons for dating exist, and a serious relationship isn't necessarily one of them.   But, if loving 'til death do us part' again is the point of our dating, Abel Keogh's thoughts in both his "Widower Wednesday" column and in Dating a Widower 's first chapter may be useful.   Have a look! 

One can link to Dating a Widower's first chapter here:  

Abel Keogh expands upon the five points I quote below in his book.   I insert brackets where I have reversed genders and added a minor variation.
"When it comes to [women] , there are five things about them that affects their behavior after they've lost a spouse.   

 1) [Widows] have an internal need for relationships. 

 2) [Widows] will stay in relationships with [men] they don't love.

 3) [Widows welcome men] they're interested in.  (Here I changed Abel Keogh's words: "Widowers pursue women they're interested in.")

 4) [Women] can only actively love one [man] at a time.

 5) A [widow's] actions speak louder than words."

What do you think?   Are these five things true for widows who hope to love again?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Something is scaring me

the "future"

Today's issues are enough. Don't invite disaster.

Time was, a decade ago, the future held heartwarming scenarios for me.   That was then, before widowhood. This is now.  Now, I'm afraid of counting on the future.  If I put my hand near this flame, I mean, this "future",  I'll not emerge unscathed.   Who of us can?   The 'future' has death written on it, mine and yours.   Why trust its golden lure?   Can it deliver something beautiful and good before it delivers death?   I wish I could have faith.  Instead, after the future took my assurance of tomorrows away with my late husband, I made a truce: I won't tempt it and it won't burn me.  (Like I can stop the future from happening by not dealing with it???)

Except ~ somewhere deep inside I have continued to build a foundation for a future.  Part of me hopes for and relishes the future.  How can I not?  Life, and people, and nature are precious and loving is most natural.  Part of me feels naive if I become enthusiastic about the future.  It's like I'll be Charlie Brown.  Lucy has the football just so.   Just when I really really want to kick it...

What is in front of me?  Is it really the 'future'?  Or is it 'fear'? 

What is it I need to learn? I need help sorting it out.

Have you faith in a bright future?