― Ludwig Wittgenstein
I write a lot. I write in a journal, I write on group pages on Facebook, I write a lot inside my head that just never gets out on paper. What I don’t do is publish a lot of what I write and the reason is – I’m scared to do it. Putting one’s self out there for all the world is a terrifying thing, but then again, that is all part of what this blog is about.
You see, widowhood is not just a journey of loneliness and adaptation, it is also a journey of discovery. A journey of redefinition of who you are and what you will become. No one becomes a widow and stays the same and when you had such a close marriage as I did becoming a widow means that you died along with your spouse.
You float along on this level of mere existence for months, some even for years. You inhale, exhale, get up and move in the morning, go through the motions of each day and then lie back in bed at night to stare at the ceiling knowing that the next day will be the same and the same after that and after that.
You are nothing. No definition. An automaton.
You pretend to be who you were but inside you know that you are lying to yourself, your friends, your family. You smile, you laugh, you talk and engage but underneath there is this dead spot, this numbness that never goes away. This corpse of who you were, just lying there, rotting away, toxifying your every waking moment.
And like all corpses, it is ugly and truthful. There is nothing there to hide. All the goodness, the warmth, the strength, the beautiful pieces disappeared when your spouse died. All the blemishes, all of the worst bits are right where they were left in the open. There is no outer shell to disguise them or cover them up with charm and personality. There is no loving spouse to smooth the rough bits over and tell you that you are loved, warts and all.
So now, you are left with two choices – face that rotting carcass and deal with it or let it continue to pollute your life and dictate who you are and what you are becoming. Neither way is ideal nor what I want to do. What I want is to be who I was, alongside with my husband, but that is not an option.
And this is the part that is so scary for me to publish. Because facing who you were means becoming brutally honest with yourself. Each of those nasty bits must be examined, analyzed and properly discarded. And to put that out in the public, to be that honest, is to leave myself open to whatever may come.
But to become stronger, one must allow oneself to become vulnerable….no matter how terrifying that prospect. Whether it is writing a blog displaying those flaws or even just admitting them to yourself. Either way, it must be done if I am to take those first steps, albeit reluctantly, into my new life.
So who was I before my husband died? I was prickly, funny, energetic, sarcastic, driven, loving, loyal, envious, a procrastinator, sometimes bitchy, honest, sometimes too honest, hard-working, demanding, vulnerable, confident, not-so-confident, unselfish, friendly, nice, caring….in other words a normal mixed up human being with good and bad traits intertwined.
When my husband died I felt stripped of all of those, even the bad ones. Over the months I have been slowly reclaiming some of them back. Truly reclaiming them and not just going through the motions. Unfortunately, in my anger and my grief, I did not always allow just good traits to enter. I didn’t want to, but neither did I do anything about it when it happened.
For instance, envy crept back in. I am envious of other people who have loving relationships. That spills over into envy of other people who are happy and successful. Which spills over to envious of people who have things that I am struggling to have and keep. Envy is an insidious toxin. It weaves its way through everything and every day. It flairs up and overwhelms you. It colors the way you see your friends, your family, your life. It distorts reality and perverts it and if you don’t fight it, it will try to destroy the very thing you are envious of.
I’m not proud that this was one of the first things that I reclaimed, even if unconsciously, and I am constantly struggling to exorcise it from my being. The first step is recognizing it and I am, at least, at that step. The next step is harder, to throttle it down each and every time it rears its ugly head. If something good happens to someone, I try very hard to be happy for them and not envious. It’s currently a crap shoot about whether I am successful or not, but I am trying each time.
The second thing that re-entered was a two-fold. Vulnerability and the not-so-confident part.
Becoming a widow, especially becoming one suddenly, rips away any armor that you had. Your self-esteem plummets, you feel naked and afraid. This one is not so easy to overcome. I think to myself that no one will ever love me like my husband did. How could they? I am crippled, 53 years old, over weight, in debt, living on a ranch that is falling around my ears. I have little to no social skills. Small talk is beyond my comprehension and no one else wants to talk about the geeky science stuff that I watch and read about. My favorite things to do are riding my horse and playing video games – two extreme ends of the entertainment spectrum. I say the wrong things at the wrong times, my filter has never been properly installed, even as a child, and I seldom have anything of value to contribute to any conversation. My husband loved me despite all that. But then again, he was a very special guy. So how am I ever going to be loved again? That litany replays itself over and over in my head on a never ending loop. How can I fix this? I’ll let you know when I find out.
There are other not-so-desirable traits that popped back in, but you get the picture. I have pages and pages that I’ve written on this subject which I am too much of a coward to publish for the public. The old saying that the “truth will set you free” can be taken too literally, so please excuse me when I keep some of the truths to myself. No one needs to be that free.
But I am throwing out a few of these truths because I think it is important, not to just other widows but to anyone who is looking to reclaim themselves for whatever reasons. It hurts and is embarrassing to acknowledge them, but that is what needs to be done.
Just like when you clean out a closet, you need to take everything out and look at it. Think whether you need it or want it. Decide to keep it or throw it away. Some things are permanently stuck in that closet so you need to learn to work around them, deal with them, and continue to try and chip away at them until they are gone.
My closet is empty now, with just a few of those permanent ugly bundles I discussed. There are a few more in there – driven, sometimes bitchy, prickly, procrastinator. None which I purposely kept but they are a part of me anyways. But alongside them I am trying to add a few of my own choosing. I am trying to reclaim the good traits – hard-working, loyal, loving, caring, funny, energetic, unselfish, friendly, etc. They are a lot lighter and smaller than the bad ones and are still a work in progress to make them as permanent and even larger, but it is a battle plan and one that I am fighting daily.
It’s going to take a while. It took years of being married to become who I was and it will take years of being a widow to remake myself into who I will be.
Luckily I have friends and family that are very patient.