I sent this message to my daughter-in-law regarding moving on with your life after you’ve tragically lost someone close to you: grief needs both contemplation to remember a life and joyful activities to not forget your own. Grief grabbed onto both of my feet and was strong enough to never let go. It immobilized me, keeping me from moving forward, which is a good thing, but not forever. How else is it possible to stop and consider what impact that loss will have on my life? How else is it possible to process the shock of the unimaginable, the vicious cycle of asking why, or the overwhelming anger? How else can I get beyond hurtful reminders to joyful memories? My strong desire to run (avoid) made me feel like I was moving forward, but I wasn’t, just like a mouse in its cage, running on a wheel, going nowhere. I needed to get off the wheel, out of the cage, and hit the contemplation road; considering the life now gone, how it impacts me and others, what will I do and where will I go without him, how can I help others who are hurting with me – things I must do.
One of my favorite recording artist is Patty Griffin. In one of her songs she says, “You’re coming home to me, just remember, you’re coming home to me.” I can’t help but think of the morning my husband left for work and never came back. The memory of him standing in the doorway saying goodbye is just as clear today as it was more than 6 years ago. I ask, what if I said those words to him as he left? Would that have made a difference? I know the answer, but for me these words are more about the intent of what I wanted, which was him to come home, because I never questioned that he wouldn’t. I never reminded him, that no matter what was going on in our relationship, deep down, I wanted him to come home each time we parted. It was very presumptuous of me to believe he’d always come home and because of that I believed time to love him, to ask his forgiveness, and to make “it” up to him was infinite. You’d think my reality check would be a constant reminder that life isn’t a given, but it’s still easily forgotten.
From A Reliable Wife: “Love that lived beyond passion was ephemeral. It was the gauze bandage that wrapped the wounds of your heart. It existed outside of time, on a continuum that couldn’t be seen or described.” The word ephemeral means lasting a very short time, but within the story line of the book it meant it’s a very hard love to come by. Many people can’t find it or keep it, but there are many who hold on and make it last. I was fortunate enough to find such a love, a love that grew through the years of passion, establishing a deep root for a love that would bloom one day. There were many wounds along that journey, requiring a love wrapping on my heart, something not as easily removed, or as painful to remove, as a Band-Aid. I don’t know exactly when this love bloomed but I know it took years as it waited for each opportunity to take up the space made available as the proportions of all the other kinds of love I held in my heart changed over time. Once bloomed I’m glad it stayed, glad I didn’t replace it with anything else.
I’ve chosen many paths in my life, choosing without knowing for sure where I’d end up. I’ve used the pros and cons method, weighing them against each other to see which one’s heavier. I’ve listened to my gut because, considering it’s a gut, it makes a pretty good feeling meter. As a financial analyst I would joke about checking my crystal ball when it came to predicting interest rates. Making a decision involves some guess work because it’s impossible to know every detail for certain and it can only take one unknown sticking it’s toe out to trip me up. It’s not about making the right choice or choosing wrong, it’s all about just choosing. If right, good for me. If wrong, there’s pretty good odds of fixing it and if not, then I’ve just taken the long way around. Right or wrong, at least I’ve made a decision, making it possible to move forward. Not choosing is like stepping into quick setting cement and nowhere is where I’ll be going.
Trees Fall/Choose (Enfield, NH 2010)
- Which way will the tree fall.
- Make a guess and hope for the best.
- Wind doesn’t need to guess.
- It knows the tree and fells it perfectly.
I saw my Mom recently and she’s very unhappy about her present circumstances. They aren’t the best but they are the best for her at this time in her life. She made me think generally about people who are unhappy about all, or parts, of their life that can’t be changed. My conclusion is unhappy isn’t helping but making life worse. My Mom talks about all that’s unhappy continually, as if doing so would make them go away, but instead they seem to have consumed her to the point of keeping her from the game shows she enjoyed watching. The unhappy is winning and I can’t figure out how to motivate her to say, enough, and get out of her room and do something. Self-motivation is hard, even when there’s no unhappy consuming your thoughts. I struggle with it over many things I’m determined to remove from, or add to, my life. I can usually manage to stick want to/need to change in my mind, but struggle with applying enough glue to the actual doing of it on a consistent basis, to make doing stick. I can be unhappy as I am, but I’d rather be determined to keep trying.
The movie Captain Fantastic raises several interesting questions about social mores. One questioned how many societal norms are we willing to ingrain into our lives. Do we jump on the rubber raft with no paddle and go with the whim of a raging river or do we choose a canoe, calmer water, with paddle in hand and time to consider each bend, each channel; what might the consequences be, how great the impact. Never having a mind of your own or always considering are extremes one might call insane, or maybe “insanely great”. I tend to lean towards considering who says so. Who says I have to put stone countertops in my kitchen? Who doesn’t say, consider the cost? Who says I need 24/7 access to television on my phone? Who says “new math” is amazing? Who doesn’t explain why US schools aren’t #1 in the world? Who says I have to cut my hair a certain way, or wear certain clothes? Who says I have to live a certain way or here’s the right way to raise a family? I have a mind so I can decide for me and mine. Gotta have it – nope! Gotta fit in – nope!
These words, from the movie Captain Fantastic, struck me as being an amazing expression of love: “My face is mine. My hands are mine. My mouth is mine. But I’m not. I’m yours.” These words represent giving your whole being, your heart, mind, and soul, the most important things that comprise a life, to another person. They don’t just get some of these unseen pieces or all of them some of the time. They get the whole shebang, all the time. I don’t just hear and see you, I try my best to listen and understand. I don’t keep secrets and tell the truth even if it’s hurtful. You get my faults as well as my strengths, my successes as well as my failures. I’ve put my heart in your hands so be gentle with it. Unfortunately I selfishly control the parts of me you do see, so I might do and say things you don’t like, that hurt. I might look at you with selfish eyes at times so I hope you can get past what you see and hear and find the inner most parts I unselfishly gave you are the true me and know I’m still yours.