This morning when the alarm went off I thought, why am I getting up so early? My granddaughter doesn’t arrive until almost 11am so who cares if I’m lazy and sleep in until 10. While fixing my hair and putting on makeup I asked, why do I bother? I won’t see a soul today who pays attention to what I look like. As I struggled through my 20 minute Pilates workout, I asked, why are you putting yourself through all this pain? There’s no one here who’ll notice my somewhat flabby middle. I must see myself as a nobody, not important enough, not loving or care enough to not want to be lazy, or to not care about what I see in the mirror. Who cares? Who’s paying attention? Who’ll notice? I do, I am, I will. Why is it so easy to do these things for someone else but not for me, just for me. How I see myself should be just as important, or even more so, than how others see me. No one loves me, no one cares; boo hoo hoo, both a big fat lie. Why? Because I should. Time to notice and care about me.
It hurts so much to lose someone, and increasingly more so the younger they are. I’m sad for them, for all the parts of life they’ll miss. It hurts so much for a journey with another person to end, increasingly more so the shorter the journey. I would have chosen to not experience that pain but not if it meant never taking the journey. From The Dance: “I could have missed the pain. But I’d have had to miss the dance.” The dance is a wonderful description of a committed relationship. Two people moving together, sometimes as one, sometimes not; moving with the rhythm, sometime in sync, sometimes to our own beat, fast or slow; holding on, letting go, meeting in the middle, and laughter. I didn’t enter into marriage to maintain a safe distance, to never increase my emotional attachment, in order to save myself pain IF it ended. I wanted to be with my husband for the rest of my life, forgetting the rest could be as close as tomorrow. We never contemplated the extent of the consequences WHEN the day it ends came, because our focus then, and mine now, is at least we got to dance.
From Sarah, Plain and Tall: “There are always things to miss, . . . No matter where you are.” I thought of this moment in the book when my sister said there will always be someone to miss. It took 40 years to experience missing someone and make always missing a part of my life. I don’t miss our first apartments – outdated and drafty. I miss being kissed by my husband. I don’t miss paying for groceries with food stamps. I miss the beautiful stone home we lived in. I hate to admit it, but I don’t miss my dad. He never became rooted in my heart, like my kids and husband did, making it impossible for my heart not to ache when they were pulled out. I can transplant my son back in at least once a year, so there’s missing and not missing. My daughter’s been transplanted back in, so no need to miss. Some holes will continue to be empty, but there’s plenty of room for more, like my daughter-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, and people and many great things yet to come. Never as replacements, but as additions. Wonderful people, places, and experiences, missed or not, part of who I am.
Synonyms for the word alone include unaccompanied, only, solo, unaided, and lonely. The first three, meaning one, isn’t always a bad thing like one dessert and one owner of the remote. Unaided is something I feel quite often. It’s not that I’m incapable of accomplishing all I need to do, but help makes the load lighter and the task quicker. I don’t believe lonely, a word that radiates all things negative, should be included as a synonym. Just because someone is without another person doesn’t mean they feel abandoned, isolated, or forlorn. I’m alone, not with another person, but I’m not with nothing. Being by myself is a fact. Being lonely is a choice. It’s, I am alone verses I feel lonely. I believe feeling lonely is possible while living with other people so it’s not the presence of people that prevents the feeling it’s what else you include in your life besides people. Another person keeps you busy, occupied, and out of the silence, but other things can accomplish the same thing. For me it’s my guitar and singing, woodworking, crafts, writing, and reading. I don’t have to feel lonely with so many interesting things to keep me company.
So what would jumping into the unknown require? First and foremost, it would take getting over my anxiety concerning all things new. A diarrhea attack is imminent the moment I discover I’m heading towards anything new. All the things that could go wrong crowd my head and it’s a battle pushing them aside long enough to come up with an answer to just one what-if question. What if I don’t remember the words, miss the turn, my connecting flight is cancelled? What I fail to remember is all the times I did conquer the unknown, when none of the horrific things I thought would happen came true. I have conquered my fear, with and without the aid of Imodium-AD; with none ending in my destruction. And yet each time I anticipate something new, I envisage my defeat or embarrassment instead of recognizing my past victories and capabilities. Since my past successes don’t reside in my head, I’ll have to write them down and read them, over and over if I have to, leaving no room for all the ways I can fail. Jump in, sink or swim, failing or succeeding entirely by my own efforts. I know I can swim.
When I think about finding joy again, I can’t help thinking of the joy I’m looking for as the same joy I had before. It’s ridiculous because my world will never be the same, therefore the joy couldn’t be the same. It could be different, greater, or better. Any of these would be amazing, but imagining how it could be any, surpasses my ability to think beyond by past experiences. It’s not like our marriage was “happily ever after” with so much joy we continually burst into song. We had struggles, but we were a team, the closest of friends, held together by enough love to survive the times when we didn’t like each other at all. We shared adventures and the stuff we loved to do. The key to that joy was the person I shared my life with. I believe it’s not impossible, rather highly improbable, to find someone just like him and I wouldn’t want to. I want to keep the joy in what I had, and find more; not necessarily in a person. Finding joy again will mean jumping into the great unknown, a place I’m quite good at avoiding. I think it’s time to jump!
From the book Shem Creek: “You don’t like your life? Go get another one . . .”. Sounds great, powerful, simple; no, not really. Just like that? Go get another one? From where? It’s not like I can pick one out like I do vegetables at the grocery store. No, it would be a customized order like at Starbucks – I’ll have a joy, low stress, non-fat, extra-long, double love, happy-life-uccino! And if the life I want includes another, or a different, person, I can’t place a second order for someone else. My life is a combination of my upbringing, choices, experiences, and events beyond my control. I can examine my upbringing and either figure out how to fix any detrimental impact, or let it go, to move forward. I’ve made great and not so great choices and had great and not so great experiences but the key isn’t how great, but that I made them, had them, and need to keep making them, having them. And events beyond my control can control me, but only if I let them. The fact that I have any kind of life-uccino now, tells me I haven’t thoroughly messed up yet and therefore capable of finding another.