Norman Vincent Peale wrote about dealing with life's troubles. In an old piece I came across recently, he suggests we may unknowingly like our trouble..."a convenient alibi for failings and shortcomings." In my case, I blamed my writer's block on grief and melancholy....I did enough on the sad theme about becoming a widow and poor me! But what's really holding me back is my fear of sharing that I can and DO find happiness; I AM trying another beginning. "The spirit of man enables him to surmount his sorrows," Peale states….it’s okay.
I focus on moving forward; learning to live on my own and keeping my husband’s light burning for family, friends and all those in the world whose lives he touched. I still deal with grief and loneliness two years later. I feel the pain all over again when friends lose a spouse....the heaviness holds me down so close to depression and it wears me out pushing it away. Know what I mean?
But I am grateful for each day that I'm here and healthy. I can make decisions now. I can laugh and have fun and enjoy things even though I lost a part of my being. Underneath the sadness is hope, hope begets curiosity and strength. It's strange feeling content and steady, but lost and wobbly at the same time. Does it ever go away? Should it? I like this kind of vulnerability. It keeps me balanced: two steps forward selling my house, traveling, thinking about another man; and then one step back with memories and tears and longing for my husband's touch. It works in perfect rhythm most days, until I trip and step back too many times. Just like on Dancing with the Stars....I have to stop whining and try again the choreography of life’s neverending starts.
All my life I had beginnings, but the path was laid before me pretty much. College/dorm life/degrees came with plans and I conquered them all. Marriage was the best beginning because it came with a partner! Together we figured it out through 47 years of living, raising kids, cross country moves, new jobs, homes....loving and learning and laughing all the way. We welcomed grandparenting with open arms; left alone with the first newborn, we stared at each other in awe. How did we get here? Are we ready, willing and able? Apparently not as well as we thought because there were no instructions on the swing set that cautioned baby girl may throw herself onto the floor at the split second you lay her in and start to fasten straps! She was fine but we were not. Her parents were understandably upset. Not our first life-time goof....but one that stuck. We learned to tag team and face this new beginning hand-in-hand; another granddaughter, then a grandson! By the time the twins arrived, we were having the time of our lives! We loved each other even more....not because we'd been so beautifully rewarded for raising two kids.....but because we'd reached old age while we were still young and fun and onboard with a fast-changing world.
There was even a plan for death. Funeral arrangements and wills and bundles of red tape are all explained in solemn binders. People magically appeared to take my hand and guide my way. But then it's over. It's done. And days and weeks turned into months and seasons and I floated along automatically; not quite here, but functioning. Time went by, but I was still at the beginning.
There are no rules for widowhood. No right or wrong for dining or traveling or living alone; no plan for finding friendship, companionship. Yes, there are websites and what we used to call mixers, but that’s not my style. Seventy, senior and single seeks comfortable and understanding; another wounded soul on this same journey....do I want someone else wandering and wondering what the hell do we do now?
No rules on how to behave. I joined a grief group at my church which was quite comforting in those early months; yet it frightened me to see so many widows still there ten years later with sad eyes. I have five young ones who miss Grandpa and I am HIS cheerleader now! I am the go-to grandma for fun and games, sleepovers, skating, shopping...do they realize how much I need this too?
Should I stay or should I go? I’m going to sell this home full of joy and love. I want a fresh place, a new environment and an old village if you will. I am blessed to have many villages and tribes of pals who’ll welcome me with open arms. But the naysayers say stay; your house is your nest egg, you haven’t waited long enough. How long is enough? No rules here either. I’m not the best regarding financial matters, but I do know staying here and now is not for me…..I want to go and do and be! My five little giggle buddies….ages 7-17 (who tell me that our ages “match” now that I’m 71!) are my strength here also….going through files and photos, old trophies and sports memorabilia. These kids have done some heavy lifting, figuratively and literally, in helping me prepare for a garage sale. Not one is saying “don’t go, we’ll miss you”…..they can’t wait to visit wherever I land!
There’s no right or wrong when it comes to change. I was wishy-washy for a long time; then gradually becoming sure of my decision to move. I told my family I felt a sense of peacefulness now. Bless my granddaughter who gently whispered, “peace means you are ready and you are doing the right thing, Grandma.” I spend days going through things room by room. Each closet or shelf or drawer I open is a peek into the past. The old woven jewelry basket I've kept filled with old photos is absolutely ‘my life in a box!’ I’m taking my time; but once the sign goes up, it’ll sell pretty fast. Finding a place to relocate is not easy either; have you ever felt like being blind and wide-eyed at the same time? I am learning as I go.
Besides peace and strength, I have faith; faith in God’s plan and faith in myself. You too, will realize someday that you are stronger and ready for change, big or small. You’ll learn to tuck the past safely in your pocket, forget about so-called 'right' rules and look ahead to something new. “It’s hard to start again this far along” as the song written by Mary Gauthier goes. “Brick by brick, the letting go, as you walk away from everything you know.” But I can tell you this….beginnings also bring anticipation. Every new start I've made helped build the chapters of my life and now I get to start another…."live the hell out of life" my husband used to say. You got it, babe! Will do.