Dr. Seuss always nails it.
You are YOU — just a wee bit different than you were ‘before’. The first time you check the “widow” status on a form, have to change your emergency contact or start to say ‘honey, I’m home’ and realized no one is there, you are a different you. And it sucks. But it’s life now. Whether it happened with no warning or after months of dread, the title ‘widow’ is as foreign as if you shucked your identity for the Witness Protection Program. You feel like you woke up on another planet — without rocket re-entry to your old life. This is it.
My husband is gone almost 10 months. I should be used to the title but ‘widow’ still doesn’t compute. To totally absorb it, means I need to accept the basic fact that my husband died and is never coming back. Before you think I’ve lost it entirely, of course I know he’s gone. I know he’s not just on a business trip; he’s not on a road trip. I get it. I’m the one who found him that fateful night.
Cancer perched on the sidelines of every facet of our lives for years. Often sneaky, even silent, sometimes we ‘almost’ forgot it was even there. There were more emergent battles to fight. Debilitating treatment side-effects that dogged him constantly that we both knew would never leave. But sometimes even the most upsetting can be business as usual when you’re immersed in the day to day and you almost forget the gorilla waiting to pounce.
What was I thinking? That the Big “C” would have pity on us? That it would quietly sit in the corner sucking its thumb as we happily went off into the sunset? That marrying a man with cancer could ever mean happily ever after? With all the other medical terrorists attacking over the years, cancer might as well have still been nonchalantly looking on from the corner. But it was the leader of the pack and I should have been a lot less naïve about its presence when we became a ‘we’.
Now ‘we’ is only ‘she’ and all I can do is search for this new me, this ‘widow’ person, and try to get to know her. ‘Getting in touch with yourself’ always seemed cliché — and unnecessary. I mean, I didn’t just hatch yesterday, right? All the experiences, the years, the love along the way as well as the heartbreak count for something. That is until you wake up one day to a see a very changed person looking back at you in the mirror. You see someone much older, less sure, without tether now. Who the hell am I?
Thus the journey within — and that’s never an easy ride. Sometimes there’s total gridlock on that highway. All the versions of you, grief, fear, all the ‘others’, even your funny side, litter the road. But no matter how many roadblocks, no matter how slow the ride, you have to keep going. As I say that, I laugh thinking of how my husband, rather than sit in ANY traffic would take the nearest exit even if it we had no idea where we were. While I’m not channeling his legendary traffic impatience, I do wish there was a shortcut through the grief of losing him. Not for anyone else – it’s not their journey; not their pain.
There will be some who plain don’t want to know that you’re lost right now. Some have never had a reason to be lost; some, who cheerfully speed along on their own road trip, fear that and to really feel, to understand would upset their own ‘pleasant’ they work so hard to keep on track. Most stop and change your tire, give you a lift to a garage or a bottle of water and a map, but there will always be a few, maybe those you never expect, who neatly shield their eyes from the glare of grief. Maybe once upon a time, we did, too.
But this is now and today I’m on the way to ‘me’. I don’t have a map. I have no idea where this road will take me. I’m not always crazy about the scenery — or the snacks. On the other hand, I have a new car filled with the spirit of loving friends (who I’m trusting to have some clue about the GPS) and a boatload of tissues. When your inching along in grief traffic, fake it until you make it through the dark night. Don’t make excuses to anyone for being exactly where you are in your trip just to make them comfortable on theirs. You can’t afford to break off any more of yourself.
Dr. Suess had it right when he said “Today you are you; that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is you-er than you” So my sense of direction isn’t that great right now (when was it ever?) and my heart needs to be rebuilt. In this moment,(wait 5 minutes and the weather can change lol) I’m alive, I’m brave and yes, I may be a widow — but I’m me.
Take that, life