I've been thinking a lot the past few weeks about something other than death.
I've been thinking about life, and the true meaning of it, and how that meaning is different for everyone, and how maybe that meaning changes and shifts when you have been through trauma or loss or grief. I have been thinking about what it all is, what it all means, really and truly means.
I know. Pretty deep stuff for a Friday morning. But let's go with this thought process for a few minutes, and see what comes of it. Like many weeks when its my turn to write my Friday post in "Widows Voice", I had no idea what I would write about today, and so I went to sleep last night without writing anything at all. I woke up this morning with these jumbled, yet somewhat clear thoughts in my head about life, love, death.
I was also thinking about loneliness. Well, not so much thinking about it, as feeling it lately. Feeling that intense loneliness of life that happens when you have lived FOUR whole years of it without intimacy - without a partner - without a best friend. Since much of this past four years has been spent just trying to exist/live/get through the day, and grieve at the same time, the loneliness sort of got pushed to the side for awhile. It was there, but I pretended for a long time that it didn't matter to me. I told myself I didn't need to have anyone in my life anymore, that my dead husband was it for me, and that I would live my life alone. I told myself that nobody would ever love me again anyway, and how on earth would I be able to feel anything again for anyone who wasn't him? I told myself that maybe he WAS the only person who thought I was worthy of love, or that I was beautiful, or that I was any other good thing. All of the relationships and situations I had with men before my husband, were complete shit, so I talked myself into the idea that having more love just didn't matter.
It just didn't seem possible, so I pushed it away and focused on work and other aspects of my life that didn't involve the idea of "someone else." I didn't date. I didn't think about dating. And if a person of the male species dared to look my way or flirt with me, or god forbid, ask me out in some ridiculously overbearing and out of line way, I felt sick to my stomach. A few times, after being hit on by a random guy, or feeling uncomfortable in a situation with a man who was showing interest in me, I actually would go home and throw up. I'm not joking. That is how sickening the very idea of someone that was not my dear husband, was to me. It made me feel ill. So I stayed alone.
And let's be clear - being alone is very different than being lonely. I can do alone. I have been alone most of my life - all the years before my husband, and now, the 4.5 years after. I left smalltown Massachusetts home at 18 years old, for my big dreams in New York City. I lived alone in apartments for years. I'm fiercely independent, and I know how to survive alone.
But that is very different than being lonely. And what I have discovered in the past 4 plus years, is this: I don't want to be lonely anymore. I don't want to live a life of loneliness. Even if every single dream I have ever had for myself, career-wise or other, were to come true, I would not truly be happy if I were alone. For what is the point of living, what is the point of anything - if you have nobody to share it with? Nobody to come home to at the end of the day, and say: "Honey, I'm home." It reminds me of a scene from the Kevin Costner film: For Love of the Game, where the main character, a major league baseball pitcher, has the best career day of his life. He pitches a perfect game. He is being interviewed, and the bright lights are on him, and he is the star in everyone's eyes. He is all over the media, his name is everywhere, his dreams have just been realized. And then, after all the hoopla, there comes that moment when it has finally reached "the end of the day." He goes "home", to his hotel room, alone. He doesn't have anyone in his life with him to share this major achievement. He sits on the corner of the hotel bed in silence for a few minutes, and then he just cries. Best day of his life - ruined and stolen by loneliness.
What made me start thinking about life, death, and loneliness so much, you didn't ask? Well, dear readers, I will tell you. Recently, I have been "talking to someone". I have "met someone", in the sense that I have physically met them, and in the sense that, to me, they are someone very special. I am not going to call it "dating", or whatever else, because things are rather complicated with this situation, and we are moving in very slow motion, which includes not labeling things. Also, I am very protective of this person's privacy, because he is way more private than I tend to be with things such as this, so it's important that I respect that right now and keep things vague in public forums, until we have shifted into more of a place of knowing what this actually is.
But I will say this - the act of talking with this person and then meeting them and spending time with them - has made me start to think a lot about the meaning of life after loss. It has awakened that part of me, that I truly thought was dead inside. It has made me feel joy again, and made me see that while I will ALWAYS love and miss my husband and that life, the life I have now is still very much happening, whether I like it or not. And even though I could survive alone and be alone, I don't want to be. I want more memories, more life, more love. I don't want the good pieces of my life to be tarnished and stolen by loneliness. I want to love my beautiful husband who died, forever and ever, while also feeling love for someone else, who is very much alive, in the very same breath. And whether or not that turns out to be this person or someone different, the important thing right now is that I have finally let these feelings in. In 4 years time, I have gone from pushing them away , to welcoming them with a warm, yet terrified embrace. For so long, I was not ready. And the people that were approaching me, were not even close to worthy of me being ready. About a year or so ago, something shifted, for no reason whatsoever, and I felt ready to let the concept of "my next great love" into my heart. About 5 months later, this person showed up, and we began a beautiful friendship. I believe it is much like what my friend Tom Zuba says: When the student is ready, the teacher appears.
Yes, Im scared. Losing the person you thought you would spend your life with to death, makes a person very scared. I'm terrified that I will open my heart and then be rejected. I'm terrified that this person will disappear entirely, either by sudden death, or because they just decide they don't feel like doing this with me anymore. Both of those things have happened to me in my life, so it scares me on many levels. I am walking around a terrified mess. But I'm also happy. And letting someone into that emotional and vulnerable part of yourself, it also brings back the grief. Caring about someone new brings back the intense missing of your person, and that life you had. Im not really sure why, but it does. I have learned to sit with 37 emotions at the same time. That is what this widowed life is. That is what it does. Instead of fighting that, I have decided to just let it happen. Sure, its exhausting and complex and really, really hard. But it's also a hell of a lot more fun to actually be alive inside my own life, instead of just sitting around waiting to die.
Which brings me to the title of this piece. Pray to Live. I am not a religious person. I do believe in God, but I believe that God is whatever we want God to be. A concept, a symbol of love and all things good, a power or force of energy that nobody can really ever totally understand. I am not big on religion, as I feel it generally seperates people more than not, and that it uses itself to promote hate and judgment more than love. But that's another post for another time. Today is Good Friday, and Sunday is Easter, so I want to leave my widowed friends or any friends who are struggling, religious or not, with this thought to ponder .....
There was a time, for a long time, after my husband's death, when I kept just wanting to die. Or, to be slightly more accurate, I was not interested in living "this" life, the one without my husband in it - the one that was shoved at me without my permission or consent. There was a time when I begged and begged, and maybe even prayed and prayed, even though I am NOT the praying type, that God or nature or the universe or whoever, would just take me in the middle of the night while I slept, so that I wouldn't have to wake up to yet another day of this unbelievable pain.
The only thing that stopped these thoughts, or made these thoughts come less often, was making tiny and microscopic movements toward life. At first, it was taking a shower that day, or getting an errand done that my husband would have normally done for me. Later, it was accepting lunch invites from friends, or getting through my workday without falling apart. Right away, I began writing everything down, because it felt like a lifeboat to me, to be able to put my emotions into words and then release them. I began meeting other widowed people, and finding many ways to honor my husband. For a long time, that is what my life was about. Honoring him. I didnt really see a life for myself personally, so I would live for him. I would live because he did not have that choice. This is what kept me going in those early days, until, eventually, I started to be able to see pieces of life , mixed in with all the pain. I was still in tremendous pain, but there was life. Still there.
Now, 4 plus years later, there is still pain and grief. There always will be. And there are still days and weeks and moments when it ovetakes me again, or when I feel like Im going backwards again. But Im not. Thats just grief, and that is just what this is. It is ALWAYS going to be hard. And now that I know that, I can handle it better. Recently, I have heard a lot of my widowed friends having these same thoughts that I had early on. I have read their words or heard their voices, and the ones who are religious, they keep saying that they keep praying to God that they would just die, and that God never answers them. They say "Why cant I just go and be with my love in eternity?" Well, I don't know why. I don't know if anyone does. But praying for death and praying to die - it doesn't work. I don't think it works that way. I don't know what the reason is, and none of us do, but I do know that life has meaning, and life has the meaning that YOU give to it. For me, being here is about connecting with people, loving as much as you can possibly love until your last breath, and then leaving behind something good in the world, something that made a difference to someone, or to lots of people. It is in this way, that we all live eternally, through the beautiful lives and stories of other people. I don't think we were brought to earth to live a life of loneliness and sorrow. There is sorrow in life, and there is grief - but there is also Love. So much beautiful love.
So what Im asking from you today, those of you who are struggling - is this: Instead of praying for or begging for death, or for God to end your time here, maybe you could begin a new thought. Maybe you could start praying for life. Pray for the courage or the strength or the shift to happen, where you begin to see more life. Pray that you are able to see or smell or feel a simple little joy today. Pray that you are alive to hear a gorgeous piece of music, or to witness a beautiful sunset, or to accomplish something new and strange that you never saw coming. Instead of praying for the desire to die, pray for the desire to live. And then just keep living, one microscopic moment at a time.
It is what your loved one who died wants for you. And eventually, it is what you should and will want for yourself.
Pray to find that meaning of life for yourself. Pray for more love to enter your heart, when you are ready to accept it.
Pray to live.
And then go live.
I promise you won't regret it.