In the show, Designated Survivor, the president’s wife died in an automobile accident. I watched closely as they unfolded the ten weeks since her death to see what they got right, and wrong. There was avoidance, going through every normal routine, not wanting to face reality, or make the tough decisions. There was blame, the only thing there is to grab onto when there is no why. Most of his staff felt ten weeks was enough to let the presidency slide. Grief won’t be finished with you in ten weeks, but it’s possible to get the process of healing started. He was asked if he shed any tears. The answer; some, in private. I strongly believe in letting them out. But if you let them out, won’t people feel sorry for you? If you keep them in, they’ll see strength. I thought it impossible to give others, those who have yet to experience the sudden death of the one closest to them, a taste of the numbness, intense sadness, overwhelming anger, and panic, but realize now I was wrong. Let the tears out, don’t be strong; letting others see a glimpse of all of it, through each and every tear.
In my woodworking shop, I use the, measure twice, cut once, rule. When a piece of wood is cut too short, there’s nothing you can do about it, except buy another board and start over. Measuring twice takes a little more time, but it’s well worth it. It would be great if, guess twice, decide once, would also work. There are decisions made for me, and on-the-spot decisions; no contemplation required. There are decisions based on the pros and cons, but sometimes on what I need, regardless of the pros. Even with contemplation, there’s no guarantee of choosing correctly; it’s still a guess, with no going back to choose differently. If my family didn’t move to Argyle, would I have met my husband? If he decided not to leave early and collect maple syrup on his own, would he still be alive? Where would we be if I didn’t change my career and move to New Hampshire? I’ll never know because there’s only choose once, then choose again, and again, each choice moving me along life’s journey, in new directions, or modifying the one I’m already on. Decisions, any way you cut them, creating the is, not if, my life.
In The Glass Castle, a teenage student was told something like: It’s not an excuse, but your Dad had it pretty tough at home.” I thought of my Dad, and then back a generation to his parents. He never talked about them, and I wondered why. The bad stuff that happens isn’t an excuse as to why we act a certain way, but a reason. Excuses just shove bad behavior under the rug, allowing that behavior to repeat itself. Reasons set forth that which must be dealt with, cured. Bad stuff slices through us like a knife and the wound changes us. There’s a choice to either let the wound fester or heal it, possibly leaving a scar behind, but one well earned. I believe, because of the scars left behind, my Dad turned to alcohol and then to Christianity as his way to heal from the difficulties of his childhood. My Dad was a good man, but his way was the only way and you’re beautiful were the words we heard, not I love you. Was his life so controlled he believe that was the only way? Was he never told, I love you? Tough stuff; reasons, not excuses.
My last trip to Alaska included two, 11 mile hikes. My surroundings were amazing – spectacular views and wonderful company – but for both hikes, walking those last few miles was a struggle – only the last few because these hikes were fairly flat for the most part. Up and over hikes are a different story; more challenging on the mind and body for the entire journey. I can’t count on an always flat life’s journey, one that comes with a topographical map, making the appearance and steepness of elevation changes predictable. Going around might be an option or perhaps not. It’s rare to encounter two mountains exactly the same, so I will face different mountains, requiring different skills, possibly with little or no experience in my pocket. For some, when the journey’s been flat for too long, there’s a desire to create a hill or something bigger, just for the challenge. I believe everyone is capable of conquering their own mountains, unexpected or chosen, if we don’t look to the top, but at our surroundings, to find inspiration and joy, and at our feet, because one step at a time is what gets us up and over with no wings to fly.
I’ve heard the words, my world was turned upside down, but just recently, my world stopped tilting. The images here being the original concept of a flat world, like a dinner plate. Turn your dinner plate upside down and everything falls off, which is exactly what I thought happened when my husband died. The sudden intensity of my loss blinded me, making it impossible to see anything but total darkness. What really happened was my world tilted, making me off balance and allowing everything to slide. I’ve hiked mountain sides before; up, on hands and feet, down, on hands, feet, and butt, and sideways with the uphill knee bent, all to keep my balance, and from sliding down along with the slippery stones. It’s tricky and uncomfortable, but possible. Thankfully, over time, my sight returned, becoming clearer as days and years went by. I didn’t really lose everything, it just slid a little, no longer surrounding me. At some point I started putting it all back, but not before making my world level again. Worlds tilt for many reasons. I chose to make mine level again. It’s hard, but easier than letting it stay tilted or tilt even more.
I’ve been writing posts for two years now and what a difference it has made in my life. It’s been an amazing avenue to share thoughts and beliefs from my head and feelings from my heart. It’s become a way to put these things in some semblance of order, making many of the not so sures and I don’t knows forfeit their space in my life. Taking time to think has been wonderfully calming as I churn my thoughts, turning them into meaningful words. I’ve learned a lot about those first five years after he died, finally starting to grasp what I allowed to happen to me, and realizing allowed could have been chose. I’ve looked back over some of the things we did right and wrong, as a couple and as parents, during the 36+ years of our marriage. I’ve written about the past two years while it was happening, taking in the changes so far and all things new; some wonderfully amazing, some yet to be made so. Quite a lot of sorrow, pain, anger, alone, and self-pity; pushy and demanding, forcing me to do something about them so I could begin again, overcome, change, and grow – live!
I’ve asked before, what would we have done differently that last 24 hours of my husband’s life, if we knew he was going to die? I think we would have driven to New York to see our daughter and her husband. If we had 48 hours, we would have flown our son and his wife from Alaska so we could all be together. We would have shed lots of tears, but at some point we would have said that’s enough, and started remembering the times we’ve shared, and laugh, because that’s what would be left behind. We would have hugged each other and said I love you, as many times as we could. Yes, those last days and his life would have become very precious, spent very differently than every other day. Why? Because it’s the final moments to be together and we don’t want to waste them? If that’s true then lots of time, no a tremendous amount of time, had been wasted. Making great memories, laughter, hugs, and I love you, should have been on the agenda every single day, and his life, something I often took for granted, would have always mattered, despite our differences. Why wait?