I’ve gone through most of my life not really caring about what people think of me. I always held my ground in terms of my values and beliefs, and I always remained true to myself no matter what people said or did. I never wavered from who I was and there was never a moment where I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted out of life. Even at a very young age, I was very determined to be independent and free. Those two things were the only goals I had in my life. I never wanted to be encumbered or held down to anybody or by anything – that’s probably why I never really took an interest in boys or dating when I was younger. I was always focused on my studies and wanted to grow up and be independent as fast as I could. I used to live life by this motto in my teenage years and well into my 20’s. It’s one of my favorite quotes.
“Not all those who wander are lost”
For some reason when I saw this quote on a bumper sticker while driving on day, it really struck a chord and I felt like it was me in a nutshell. I never really had a clear path while I was growing up. I just knew I had to work hard and move forward, but I really didn’t know where forward was going towards. To me, it didn’t really matter where the destination was, as long as I was growing, progressing, and learning – these were the only things that matter to me. The destination wasn’t important, so I had a tendency to wander and go where ever life took me. Some people called it “spontaneous,” others called it “adventurous,” some even called it “risk-taking.” I never shied away from new things or experiences, and I was always open and down to try anything once. I also loved to travel and roam the world learning about new cultures and ways of life. For me, the world was large and grand, and I wanted to exploring every nook and cranny. By the time I met you in my mid-20’s, I had already traveled to over a dozen countries. Mind you, I was never reckless and everything was within reason, but if an opportunity presented itself and it felt right in my gut, I would seize the opportunity, even if it defied logic and reason. I was more afraid of not getting a second chance than the unknown and uncertainty of the opportunity. Carpe Diem – yes, I definitely also lived by this motto also. I never wanted to lose out on an opportunity just because I wasn’t ready or the timing wasn’t right or not what I had planned. I always believed that if I took care of today, tomorrow will take care of itself. It’s odd, I’m not a religious person, but I do believe there’s a master plan for each of us if we’re open to accepting and letting it lead us to where we are destined to go. I always had my passport within arm’s length and a black dress in my closet – ready for any adventure that may present itself at a moment’s notice. That was the type of person I was before I met you. I was fearless, spontaneous, unencumbered and a bit erratic. I liked to call it being a free-spirit. You always thought of it as being wild and untamed.
You also enjoyed your independence and freedom. You didn’t want to be tied down or encumbered either. Within the first few months we started dated, you told me, “No woman is ever going to get me to walk down the aisle!” This didn’t bother me much since I didn’t really believe in the institution of marriage either. You also didn’t care about what the world thought about you either. You always knew where you stood in terms of your values and beliefs and you held strong to them as well. These were the things we had in common that tied us together, whether we knew it or not. However, the difference between us lied in how we approached and interacted with the world. I wanted to always be moving while you were content with being stationary. You were content with living in your world and had no desire for change or living in any way that was drastically differently than the way you were living. You didn’t even have a passport when I met you. The first time you left the country was when I forced you to take an international trip with me. You abhorred changed while the only constant for me was change. You moved at the speed of snail whenever we had to make any type of big or major decisions in our life. You had to think every detail through, play out all the different scenarios, calculate everything, and then recalculate it three more times before you can even begin to take action, and even when you knew what you wanted or had to do, you were still very reluctant and cautious. Yes, it was very frustrating for someone like me, who moves at the speed of light.
But, over the years, our personality started to meet at a happy medium. I learned to move slower and you learned to move faster, and we always tried to meet the other where ever the other person was. It was never 50/50 since sometimes one person couldn’t give 50% so the other person had to give more in order to make it work, and that’s what we did. We always tried to meet each other where ever the other person was. Although we are both very selfish with our time and how we chose to spend it, we were always selfless when it came to being present for each other, our family, and friends. We always kept our word and commitments, and we both knew how to show up and support each other and the people closest to us. And, somehow, after 12 years of dating and 8 years of living together, two strong, independent people who didn’t believe in marriage, got married. To this day, I can’t believe we actually got married. When you brought up getting married, I thought it was a joke. I laughed and said, “But, we don’t believe in marriage?!” And you said, “I already think of you as my wife, so why not make it official?!” And, that’s how we got married. For two people who didn’t want to get married, I have to say, “We were pretty good at ‘playing house.’”
I remember sitting in my therapist’s chair for the first time after you passed and said, “Sean and I are super independent, and we didn’t really rely on each other much. We did our own thing, so I’ll be okay once I get over the grief part.” Boy, was I wrong! 😂🤣 I didn’t realize how intertwined and codependent we were until you passed. Even a simple decision such as “What’s for dinner?” was a joint decision. Without realizing it, we thought we were living and roaming in an open pasture with free reign to wander and go where ever we wanted, but in reality, we were living in an enclosed pasture and never noticed that there was fence enclosing us. Honestly, Babe, we were living in a bubble and we didn’t even realize it. Our world was actually fairly small and simple, and we were super happy and content with its mundane and boring existence. Whether we knew it or not, we were living the life that neither of us wanted, and surprisingly, we were happy and content doing it together. I guess it’s true, being married is like “hanging out with your BFF every day!”
To this day, the hardest part of being a widow is my identity crisis. After you passed, it was like I didn’t know who I was anymore and I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. There were days where I was so uncomfortable in my own skin that I just wanted to rip it off. I wished I could shed my skin and step out of it like a reptile. Everywhere I went, I felt uncomfortable and awkward, like a fish out of water. I didn’t feel like I fit in or belonged anywhere. Like I didn’t know where my place in the world was anymore. Even to this day, I’m still struggling with who I am without you. Each day as I progress on this widowhood journey, I’m constantly learning something new about me, you, and us. It’s odd to say this, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know you better and at a deeper after you passed. Maybe it’s because I have to interact with your family on my own now so I’m learning more about you through them. As my relationship with your family continues to grow and deepen, there’s so many new things I’ve learned about you.
I can honestly say, I know how you very well from the perspective of what you will do or how you will act in a situation, but I never really knew what you were thinking or feeling. You weren’t the type of person who shared your thoughts or feelings so I always had to guess. Over the years, I got really good at guessing what your thoughts and feelings were by your mood and actions. But honestly, I never really knew what you were thinking or felt. This was a source of contention between us at times since it was hard living with a person who didn’t express or share himself emotionally. But later I realized that if I was one of the closest persons to you, and you couldn’t express yourself emotionally to me, then it more likely that you didn’t know how and not because you didn’t want to. Somehow this revelation brought me to tears because I realized I finally understood something fundamental about you, but you’re not here to witness it. It’s a fundamental understanding about you that I learned too late. That I would never be able to adjust or change the way I reacted or interacted with you because of this new revelation. It made me realize even more, how death is so finite. Once that person dies, they are gone. It’s like they disappeared into the ether. No matter how much you miss the person, you can never see, talk, or touch that person again. Death is the most painful separation there is in life and grief is the ultimate price we have to pay for love.
I'm a Widow
It’s been almost 13.5 months since I moved out of our Shay house and into a temporary rental unit in Point Richmond, one year since I closed on our Shay house, and almost nine months since I “temporarily” moved from the Bay Rea to So Cal to quarantine during the COVID-19 global pandemic. I tell people that I’ve been living in transition for the last year since I sold our house, but the more I think about it, I’ve been living in transition since you passed away 3.5 years ago.
In March of 2020, the world literally shut-down when the COVID-19 virus was rapidly spreading and killing millions around the world. In April, there was so much uncertainty, confusion, and hysteria as the world was forced to stay home and quarantine. First, it was just for two to four weeks, but as time wore on, the quarantine kept extending and I was afraid the economy was going to tank and home prices were going to dropped, so I decided to quickly list our house for sale in April. Mentally and financially, I always knew it did not make sense to hold on to our home, even if it was supposed to be our forever home, especially when I only occupied a quarter of the house. But, emotionally, it was very hard to even thinking of selling the house. It was our dream home, and we were supposed to grow old and spend the rest of our lives there. Although I knew the right thing to do was to sell the house, I had always sat on the fence about it. I couldn’t decide if it was something I wanted to hold on to or let go of. Neither options were ideal so I was indifferent, which didn’t help the situation. But, about a year and half after you passed, I did come to the realization and conclusion that the house held no sentimental meaning or value to anybody except you and me. So, even after I passed, the house would be sold at some point anyways since all my heirs live in So Cal, it was unlikely they would live in the house and how would it be split between them also? Another thought that came to mind was also, “What if I remarry? Did I just expect my new husband to move into the house we shared?” These questions kept swirling around in my head, and at times, they kept me up at night. There were really no answers to these questions that made keeping the house advantageous. Although I knew what the right answer to was to whether I should sell the house or not, I wasn’t in a rush and I was indifferent either way. However, with the uncertainty and bleak economic as the world was forced to shut-down and / or work from home, I was afraid home prices were going to take a big hit and I would have to sell the house at a loss or be forced to continue living in the indefinitely until home prices recovered. As you know, I like options and prefer to choose then be forced into anything. So, ultimately, I chose the option that afford me more options and freedom, whether I was ready for it or not. COVID-19 was the catalyst that forced me into a corner to finally make the decision I knew I had to make but was afraid and unready to make.
I always thought that after I sold our house, I would somehow magically feel less stuck, trapped, aimless, frustrated, and contentious. I mean, it was the largest “burden” from our life together that I had to deal with. Whether I was willing to admit it or not, I always knew in the back of my mind that the house played a large part in why I always felt so trapped and stuck. There was never a doubt in my mind that selling the house was not the “right” decision, but I was never able to wrap my head around the decision since I was so scared and afraid of venturing into the “great unknown.” I didn’t have a plan for “what’s next,” so living in the house always felt safe and comfortable even if it held me back and made me feel trapped and stuck. So, I continued to put off the decision even though I knew what the right decision was, and not being able to mobilize myself even though I knew what the right decision was drove me utterly insane and crazy and played a major reason for why I always felt so aimless, frustrated, and contentious. I’ve always the type of person who’s able to analyze and rationalize a situation quickly and take appropriate action in a timely manner. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard for me to do the right thing that would result in a better situation for myself. I was never the type of person who held on to things and couldn’t let go, so I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore and there was always an internal struggle and battle raging on inside of me. Do I need to say it?! “I was completely a HOT MESS?!” So, you’d think that after I sold the house and the money was wired into my account, all my worries would have dissipated!! But that was definitely not the case. If anything, I grew more frustrated and impatient that I didn’t feel better. I did feel less trapped, but I still felt very stuck, frustrated, contentious, and aimless. There were many instances where I would sit at the rental unit and contemplate how nothing has changed except for my location. Not feeling better after selling the house was such a large source of contention and confusion for me. The confusion just made me more impatient and angrier at myself for not feeling better. I started to question whether I made the right decision to sell the house or not and it didn’t help that I was going in and out of depression from being so socially isolated during the quarantine. I was literally going through weeks without talking to or seeing anybody. There were only so many conversations I can have with myself and the animals. So, in mid-Oct, after seven months of quarantining by myself and when return to work kept pushing out, I eventually decided to temporarily relocate to So Cal and quarantine near my family. It seems odd that I would make a decision like that, right?! Yeah, I surprised myself as well with that decision. I never would have thought I would ever make a decision like that in my life but it made sense in my mind and it was just a temporary situation to help alleviate the social isolation I was feeling during the quarantine. I would move back when it was time to go back to work. I was working from home, so technically I could work from anywhere, and since I sold our house and was renting, I wasn’t attached to anything so I could literally live anywhere. So, that was the plan, I would temporarily relocate to So Cal and quarantine with my family.
It’s been nine months since I’ve been quarantining in So Cal and my life and routines have become unrecognizable. Whenever I think about it, it’s almost unfathomable that I’ve been living with my parents for nine months in So Cal. If you told me that I would be living like this after you passed or when the pandemic started, I think I would have laughed in your face at the absurdity of it all. At the end of the day, what finally occurred to me during those numerous conversations I was having with myself in my head at the rental unit while being socially isolated from the world was that I had to throw out the playbook I was operating from. Honestly, if I had to really look at my life after you passed, not much had changed except I was doing everything by myself and at some point, I was living at a different place. Everything was more or less the same even after I sold our house. Except for a global pandemic and social isolation, I was still ultimately living the same life but just in a different location and without you.
So, the biggest risk I took after selling the house was moving to So Cal to quarantine temporarily with my family. There are often times where I would look at how I’ve been living in “transition” for the last year, and I would feel sorry for myself when I realized that I would never be in this situation, even during a global pandemic, if you hadn’t passed away. It literally brings me to tears and an emotional break-down whenever I think about this. It also forces me to really accept the fact that you’re dead. You’re not coming home and I’m a widow. I’m a widow. I’m a widow. That’s who I am now – I’m a widow.
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.