People say “I give up” when they can’t figure out the answer to a question. They say it to call an end to a fight. It says I’m done, I can’t finish, I’m “out gunned”, I can try no longer, or I’ve lost all hope. These may be true, but only for a time if you have the determination to not be knocked down for good. Lots of things can try to knock me down and some do, especially when they’re beyond my control. I thought a few times about giving up on my marriage. I can’t comprehend ever giving up on my children. Many times, giving up is associated with an ending; someone or something is taken from us, ending what was. I’ve heard it said, endings are always sad, but I disagree when there’s still what is and what can be; a new beginning. I can get stuck in the sadness of endings and lose hope, or I can see endings as beginnings of good things yet to come. I might think, the what can be couldn’t possibly be better than what was, but I’d rather unstick myself, stepping forward, and see how close I can get.
I saw a clip from America’s Got Talent of a singer/songwriter. There’s been quite a few of those on the show, but this one lost her hearing at 18. She said something remarkable and powerful. “. . . I gave up, but I want to do more with my life than just give up.” She lost something that she’d might never get back, an excellent reason for wanting to give up. Many things can be lost, like an arm or in my case, my husband, something that makes it possible to continue with my life and yet the pain of that loss makes continuing seem impossible. And yet I did, in the smallest sense of the word; breathing, working, eating, anything where I could use cruise control. At some point I woke up and realized I had given up, I had stopped moving forward. I’m not sure what made me wake up, but I know now I could have taken steps to bring it about sooner rather than later (Step Blogs Feb/March 2017). It’s hard to figure out how to stop giving up, but it can’t be any harder than being stuck in the sadness of that moment of loss. There is a way if there’s a life.
We shared some great memories of my husband while my son was here. It’s getting easier and easier to do so. Once the source of sadness, now the means to keep him alive in our hearts and make him come alive to his grandchildren who will never meet him, except through the stories we tell. We remembered the bizarre way he folded T-shirts and his gift for tall tales, something his grandson inherited. Of course, we only tell the fun stories, the good memories, because that’s what he would want, no need, to be remembered by. We skip the mistakes, failures, and, hardships for those aren’t what defined him. They molded him and changed him, but they are not the sum of who he was. We remember the funny things he did, his adventures, and accomplishments. His life influenced ours intentionally, or unintentionally as we observed the pieces he allowed us to see, and then made choices to either exemplify the ones we found worthy or take a different path. What pieces of him in us will we pass on? His love of hiking, passion for fishing, skill at woodworking, musical talent? Pieces very much alive in us today.
While my son was here, we hiked up Big Slide and my daughter and son-in-law hiked Giant with him. I had tears in my eyes watching the videos of the spectacular views of the “High Peaks” region from the summits, because I was reminded of what my husband said about these mountains; “My heart aches for the Adirondacks”, making the fact that’s he’s missing it touchable, unavoidable. His heart no longer aches for these mountains, but mine does and always will, for even though I now live amongst these formidable peaks, it’s me living here without him. My daughter and her family also live in this place, the place my husband loved most, and my son and his wife visit, but he can neither live here or visit. Nevertheless, we must go on, we must experience, we must continue along a path we did not choose; one we can alter, yet all within the constraint of his leaving. It’s OK to be sad that he’s missing it, but not to let that sadness become so great that I lose sight of the amazing privilege I still have to experience as much of life as possible before I start missing it.
My son left for Alaska this morning. Two weeks of sharing my home, baking many pies and biscuits, hiking, biking, laughs, and projects. With so much to fit in, downgrading the importance of things that usually matter me was required; a major readjustment of my predicable life. I kept things picked up barely enough, team efforts to tackle dishes and meals, no vacuuming or dusting, and quick bathroom wipe downs. How different to have to consider someone other than myself for that length of time. Taking into consideration what he wanted to do, eat, or watch on TV, and when he want to get up and get going. Now quiet, calm, plenty of time; back to where I started before he came. Nothing wrong with a quiet life or a busy one, but important to have some of each so I don’t get so set in my ways or become so inflexible I can’t easily switch gears, or let the lack of one, bother the other. My life, quiet or noisy, calm or busy, somewhat empty or very full, settled in or changing, it’s mine to do with as I wish. Not willy-nilly floating along, but purposeful and meaningful.
I have plenty to keep me busy, but there are times when alone brings me to a halt. I can’t move past it to get to chores or hobbies, making alone feel even more real. Occasionally it’s wanting a man to love me, but mostly it’s about not having any friends here. No-family-here either thoughts pop into my head whenever my daughter and her family leave town to get away. Not that I have to see them every day, but they’re here. I’ve found very few occasions to meet people, like workplaces, social events, or church. I haven’t looked into how to find a hiking club, or a church to attend, but even if I did, I can’t bring myself to go alone, the very thing that’s broken. I’m stuck in one of those circles like don’t walk, can’t walk, don’t walk.
My husband was my outer social circle, I the inner, therefore accepted, comfortable, by association.
With that outer circle gone, it’s just me, vulnerable to rejection and overflowing with uncomfortable. A wall flower long enough to start fading into the wallpaper, getting comfortable with it, but also wondering why I find that acceptable, and can I fix it.
I woke to 40 degrees this morning. Last night, after seeing yesterday’s weather report, I covered some of my plants, those well up out of the ground. The apple tree was impossible to cover; leaving thousands of blossoms unprotected, except for being one with the branches. I wrap things like leftovers to keep them fresh, and use tools, like safety glasses to protect against harm. It’s a different story when it comes to covering my heart and mind. I protected my mind the last time I went to the motor vehicle’s office – repeating the statement, it’s OK if I have to come back. The most difficult, sometimes to the extent of impossible, is my heart. I’ve heard it said, I’ll never love again; a statement to protect the heart from ever experiencing heartbreak again after a breakup. When it comes to protecting my heart from losing my husband, a loss powerful enough to alter my world forever, there’s nothing. Nothing to wrap myself in, no tools, no statement, no reality, no thought. There’s nothing big enough to cover all of me, the apple tree, because he was woven, not just into my branches, but into every part of me.