Lately, I’ve been going through the wringer and being tested in all aspects of my life (work and personal). For awhile now, I realized I could either be a victim or a heroine in my story. The choice was mine and whichever one I picked would set the stage for what I would do next. There are days where I feel like a heroine in my story, but most of the time, I feel like a victim trapped in the worst imaginable storyline!! (Yes Babe, I know, I’m so dramatic and I’d probably win the Oscar for best dramatic performance!!!) Whether I decide to be a victim or a heroine in my story, one thing that I do know beyond a reasonable doubt is that there’s no Prince Charming coming to save me anymore (and this is coming from the self-proclaimed independent woman of the millennia who always thought she didn’t depend on her husband that much!!), so I better WOMEN UP!! I’ve had to learn how to “fend for myself” (and not just what to eat for dinner on Fridays when you don’t cook, but for everything for the rest of my life). This required a complete shift in mindset and perspective (whether I was ready for it or not, it was going to come hard and fast at some point!!)
Looking back, I've often wondered at what point did I finally realize it was time to learn how to “fend for myself.” After you passed, I always knew I was going to continue the tradition of sending out holiday cards, so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to convey on my first holiday card as a widow. I always thought it would be an image of the backside of the animals and myself sitting on a bench in the backyard watching the sunset. But, when it came time to decide, I changed my mind at the last minute and opted for a profile image of me sitting on the bench in the backyard watching the animals play with the sun setting to my left. (As you know, the sun setting has always represented you!!) I decided I wanted my first holiday card as a widow to convey hope instead of sadness and yearning. I wanted the image to depict where I was going and where I wanted to be instead of where I was in my grief process. I guess it was my way of willing myself to believe that the animals and I could survive without you. That one day, we will find joy and happiness in our lives again; that the thought of you will bring a smile to our lips instead of a tear to our eyes. That one day, I will really be okay instead of just thinking I’m okay!
When I was in my 20’s, someone told me, “You will never reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going!” (Isn’t it always the simplest advice that is the most profound?!) I guess, without realizing it, deciding to change the holiday card image at the last minute to where I wanted to go and be at in my grief process was a way of setting my destination. I didn’t know how I was going to get there, but at least I knew where I was going and wanted to be. This shift in mindset really set the stage for everything else that came next. We generally decorated the house for the holidays every other year (I know it’s very odd but that’s been the trend for as long as I could remember). Last year was the holiday decoration year, so of course, I was determined to decorate the house for the holidays. (I refused to let grief take more than it should from me!!) But, I decorated the house the way I wanted to and not the way you would approve. Nope, the Christmas tree was not color coordinated and the only reason there were ornaments on the back of the tree was because it was visible from the backyard since it was against the glass wall in the living room. Yup, I just threw ornaments on the tree willy nilly, and I refused to use any of your sports logo ornaments. (I know these things would have made you cringe, and if you were still alive, you would tell me to stop, give me the biggest hug and smile before you fired me from tree decoration duty, and make me sit on the sofa and watch you decorate the tree by yourself. I know for sure, you would be rolling over in your grave if you were buried!!! I’m surprised you didn’t haunt me!! Maybe you did and I just didn’t know it!!) I guess it was my way of getting back at you for all those years you wouldn’t let me decorate the Christmas tree because I didn’t follow your tree decoration rules!! (Yeah, payback is a B****, isn’t it?!) I also consciously decided to not put your stocking up, I removed your name from the holiday card and gift tags, and I used the return address stamp that I made after you passed with just my name. (Remember, the one my therapist made me order to just have for when I was ready to use it. Besides eating pork and eggs every week, that was literally one of the first and biggest things I did early in my grief process that signified I was alone in this world.) Looking back now, I realized I did these things not because I was ready but because I knew where I was going and where I wanted to be. I had a destination, and these conscious and deliberate actions were the directions I had to take to get closer to my destination. I’m still pretty far from reaching my destination, but at least I know where I’m going and where I want to be. Some turns are easier to make than others, and then there are times where I make a wrong turn and end up lost and stranded in the middle of nowhere. When this happens, I just have to be patient and forgiving of myself while I’m trying to find my bearings, recalibrate, and figure out how to course correct.
You know, while writing this entry, I was curious when I purchased my big girl ladder, so I looked back in the blog and discovered it was in early December, which can’t be a coincidence. I remember standing in front of the ladder section at Home Depot asking myself, “Am I really ready for this?!” Was I really ready to change the light bulbs and smoke detector batteries by myself? Was I really ready to accept you were no longer on an extended business trip?! Was I really ready to accept you were never ever going to come home again?! Was I really ready to accept my “new” reality?! Was I really ready to “fend for myself?!” The answer to all these questions was no, and I was literally on the verge of a massive meltdown in front of the all the ladders, so I was going to admit defeat and walk out of Home Depot as quickly as I could. But, I couldn’t leave because I knew where I wanted to go and where I wanted to be. Whether I was ready or not, I was determined and I refused to leave the Home Depot until I could walk out with a ladder in my hand. Honestly, I have no clue where I even found the strength and courage to grab a ladder and leave. I guess, at the end of the day, I just closed my eyes and jumped off the cliff, whether I was ready or not; hoping I will land on my two feet instead of crashing and burning.
Looking back, I realize, I didn’t find the strength and courage to do any of these things because I felt strong or confident or ready. Instead, I found the strength and courage to do these things when I hit rock bottom, at a very low and dark moment in my grief process; having a major meltdown in a hotel room thousands of miles away in Kyoto, Japan because I didn’t know how I was going to survive the rest of my life without you. I didn’t know how I was going to go on with you. I didn’t even know how to breathe without you. I guess, without realizing it, at that moment, when I hit rock bottom, it occurred to me, I could keep crying and feeling sorry for myself or I could put on my big girl pants and save myself. I guess at that moment, I decided to be a heroine in my story, whether I knew it or not. I was determined to save myself and make it. I was going to survive, even if I didn’t know how I was going to do this, but I refused to let fear be my boundary.
And the inspiration for this moment came when I happened to stumble on a recording of the eulogy given by former VP Biden at Senator Mc Cain’s funeral when he said,
“But I make you a promise. I promise you, the time will come when what's going to happen is six months will go by, and everybody is going to think, “well, it's passed.” But you are going to ride by that field or smell that fragrance or see that flashing image, and you are going to feel like you did the day you got the news. But you know you are going to make it. When the image of your dad, your husband, your friend, it crosses your mind and a smile comes to your lips before a tear to your eye. That's who you know. I promise you, I give you my word, I promise you, this I know. That day will come. That day will come.”
A grieving widow who is trying to find meaning and purpose from her tragic event.