When I first moved my life to the Adirondacks, I started running the lake, about 3 miles. I never ran before, so I was proud of myself for doing so, in my mid 50’s. I loved the challenge, the adrenaline, and the calm after, as if my body was thanking me. A couple years ago I injured my knee, and even though surgery repaired it, my knee won’t ever be the same, so running is no longer an option. My knee is fine for walking around the lake, a concession I’ll make because my limitations are reasonable and workable. I realize my life was also injured and won’t ever be the same, because having my husband back isn’t an option. I can say living my life without him is fine, a concession I’ll make because the alternative of not fine is nowhere I want to live. My limitations are the changes I choose to leave alone, because of fear, complacency, or excuses. Injuries happen. They change how I move forward, which starts with choices – what to bring with me and what to leave behind. Not mourning the left behind but exploring the potential of all I still am and have.
On Say Yes to the Dress, a bride-to-be shared that her husband-to-be was recently diagnosed with a degenerative disease. During the ceremony, tears flowed when he thanked her for taking him as he was. The diagnosis gave them a strong desire to cherish each other by showing them the end. Just about everything ends. Sometimes we want it to, or we fight to postpone it, sometimes having it end anyway. When it comes to relationships, becoming aware its end will come way too soon, corrects my vision, making me see the other person through different eyes, appreciative eyes, adoring eyes, all because the end becomes a reality, turning that person and the relationship into something to be cherished above all else. Why is it so easy for the opposite to be true for “normal” relationships, the ones with no tragic, foreseeable end, the ones we allow to turn into something to be treated so carelessly? The, having them forever fairytale, is much easier to believe then the harsh reality of how easy a life can end. So cherish today and those you love, and hope for many tomorrows, remembering these are a gift, not something to be taken for granted.
I thought quite a bit about how to honor my husband’s life on the anniversary of his death. It’s more than remembering him, which I do often. It’s more than thinking about what he’s missing, the thing that saddens me the most and most often. A few years back we canoed across Little Clear Pond in the Adirondacks, hiking to St. Regis Pond for lunch, and on the way back scattered some of his ashes so he could swim with the trout. So my daughter, grandson, and I decided to go back and stand on that shore, because he can’t. Ice and snow still covered the pond, so using cones, we wrote his initials in the snow, remembering that canoe trip and the heartfelt words my children shared about their dad. My daughter took photos of his initials, one with my grandson, whose middle name is JW, the letters said together and abbreviated to create my husband’s nickname, JDubs. A friend of mine shared an amazing way to honor him by posting “3/25 . . . makes me slow down and try to have a little more grace, humility & humor. Part of his legacy.” His life still impacting lives – no greater honor!
This is the 6th anniversary of my husband’s death; 2,190 days, bringing with them many changes in me and my surroundings. Having his death change things was inevitable but my initial focus was on what needed to change, not who; the who being me, not seeing me as broken, desperate to fix alone, needing to change. Instead I saw the things surrounding me, like my home, job, and where I lived, as broken, and changed them, creating a new place that would accommodate me. But alone is a state of mind, not a place, so moving didn’t fix alone, it just came with me. It took a long time to see me, the broken, yet fixable, person, hiding behind all these external things. I realized that change must be directed inward, the only way to fix alone, and change me so I could accommodate all the things already in my life. Change, directed inward, has taught me, alone can be appreciated with no one but me needing my attention, silence can be sweet after days of noise and toys, and millions of silent tears, directed inward, will not go unnoticed. I’ll never let grief make me go unnoticed ever again.
“Sometimes we’re silent because our soul knows how it feels, but hasn’t found the words that the mind can understand (JmStorm).” This explains much of my silence throughout the years, having the words in my soul, but not in my mind. Without the right words, it’s hard to express myself without bumbling it. I should have realized this on my own considering how many times I read my blog before publishing it, wanting to find the most significant and meaningful words to express my thoughts in 200 words or less. The word limit prevents me from rambling and repeating, and re-reading allows me to consider if I said what I meant to say, searching my soul to find words that can be understood, therefore giving me the best hope for making a difference. But writing down my thoughts has an advantage over speaking, in that I have the opportunity to reconsider every word. Re-thinking my spoken words would end up choppy, and therefore hard to follow. Something like, you’re such an angry person, no, why are you angry, no that’s not what I want to know, what’s making you so angry? Deep down wanting to help instead of criticize or scold.
There’s a part of me that wishes I could move somewhere new and start over. I’ve always pictured myself living in a city, a place I rarely visit, but the thought of walking to work, with lots of people around me, and stopping to pick up a day’s worth of groceries on my way home seems charming. I found east coast, sea-side quaint cottages, and pictured sitting on the porch reading, and enjoying the salty air. While pursuing my move back to New York, I found an amazing home on a pond and pictured myself walking along the shore on cool mornings, deep in thought. I’ve thought about moving to Alaska and having adventure after adventure. These are all someplace new, and new beginnings, but none would be starting over, because going back and doing things differently isn’t possible. I’d be starting forward, something I can do anywhere, at any time, and should do often, putting things behind me and leaving them there, rather than in a suitcase and carrying them with me. Moving me is still the same old me, just in a new location. Changing me becomes new me, different location or not. Starting forward; full of possibilities!
There’s nothing like words. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “I have a dream.” “Love is all you need.” Words bring out the best in people and the worst. They can be angry or joyful, hurtful or loving, encouraging or disheartening, belittling or supportive. The same word can be interpreted differently, depending on the context or tone of voice. The comment, that was smart, could be a compliment or used to ridicule, but unfortunately the written word doesn’t come with tone. It would be great if spoken words came with an eraser or rewind button. Naughty or nice, once out, they hit their mark, never able to be taken back, only forgiven, rarely forgotten. Sometimes words aren’t enough, they don’t mean enough to make a difference. Sometimes there are no words, when nothing can be said to make a difference. So what does make a difference when words can’t be heard or aren’t enough? Turning words into action, like a hug to say I love you. My words, my responsibility, having some kind of impact, so why not make it a good one. Hard, but not impossible; being smarter than my foolish tongue.
Yesterday’s blog reminded me of the times I said the wrong thing to my husband, or he’d take it the wrong way; my right words understood with a different meaning than I intended. Since this happened when we fought, anger and hurt were the filters through which the words passed, on their way out AND in. Anger, hurt, and frustration create immediate road blocks to resolutions. Lashing out, like a boxer, before the other party has the chance to put up their dukes, creates the need to retaliate. Being hurt pulls all thoughts inward for protection from hurting even more, creating the desire to run and hide. Throwing words around in an attempt to release the internal pressure of anger and frustration, can make them appear to be directed outward instead of inward, creating the need for bricks and quick drying cement. The key is recognizing the triggers and controlling the filters. What makes me react instead of act, not think before I speak? Do I or some external force control my mouth and ears? Who is this person I’m speaking or listening to? Someone or no one? Always someone, never a punching bag, just an imperfect person like me.
From Gray’s Anatomy: “We’re petrified of saying too much, or saying it wrong, when the truth is, the only wrong thing you can say, is nothing at all”. Not speaking was my choice when my husband and I argued, and even though it didn’t work, I didn’t fix it. Saying too much isn’t fearful to me because I’m like a clam, shutting up tight at the first sight of confrontation. But some people are like an undertaker, maintaining a coffin’s not completely sealed until the last nail is driven in. For me, all the right words were missing and I just realized why. Anger, directed at me, scared them all away. I wanted time to think about what to say, but used that time to just be away from him, so if I came up with anything, it was too little, too late. I believe it’s wrong to say nothing, whether it’s an argument, offering solutions, or expressing feelings. A great beginning, like “once upon a time”, brings with it, anticipation. So will a few opening words, like from my heart or hear me out, setting the tone for what’s coming, offering humility, and giving ears the opportunity to listen.
I made rice pudding the other day. It’s so good, I could eat it all day long, and yet I still wonder if it’s worth all the effort. My husband made the best chocolate pudding. He’d add extra chocolate and stir and stir, the part I find time consuming and boring, which is why I think homemade pudding is becoming a lost art. There’s no shortcut; it’s just one of those things that takes its time. In the movie Zootopia, the department of motor vehicles is run by sloths; it made me chuckle, but man, that’s a little too close to the truth! It’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s packing too many things into the time we have. Years ago, a woman had a successful day if she prepared enough food for her family and kept the fire going. For a man, it was tending the livestock and fields, and splitting enough wood to keep his family warm. For a sloth, still climbing a tree. The clock is ticking: quality, not quantity; leaving room, not filling; discovering, not finishing; time is finite, we are too; and choosing how to spend it, rather than letting it spend you. (See my Recipe Page for the recipe)