Always Surprise Yourself


I think one of the hardest things about losing people we love, is that in a way, we lose a part of our own history when they die. Or at least, we lose one of our living, breathing connections to that history. Without those connections to the history of ourselves, I’m learning it can be easy to get lost. I think this has been especially hard because both of my parents are gone along with Drew. I simply do not have a wealth of people in my life that I'm in touch with often who remember all the many moments of my history with me.

There are pieces of me that I wish so badly to reconnect to - parts of myself I’ve struggled to nurture in this new environment because of stress, busyness, my own self-critical nature… who knows what exactly. Parts of me that I think I was beginning to finally nurture a few years ago, but the upheaval of moving I guess interrupted that more than I could have known it would. 

They are pieces of me I wish for Mike to know also. Sometimes it feels like all he has known is this person who is constantly battling overwhelm, feeling homesick, trying to make order out of everything, while periodically having complete meltdowns about her inability to cope pretty much all adulting. I’m certain he would disagree of course, but quite honestly I don’t always feel like he is getting to have the best version of me, at least not right now. I know there is so much more in there. I know because I remember her.

For a while now, I think I’ve believed that losing my parents, my fiance, and proximity to my friends and family and the culture of my state back home meant I lost me too. No doubt, it's left me questioning... without any of that around me to help define me anymore… who am I supposed to be now? 

Well, I don’t really know the answer to that, but I’m fairly sure it should be something like “Whoever the hell I want to be” - which would be the same answer I’d give 2 years ago before moving, or 6 years ago before Drew died, or 10 years ago before my dad died.

I am still here. And that means that I have not lost all of that history that has made me who I am - no matter what changes outside of myself. Who else could possibly know my story better than me, after all? I am the one who has been there for every single agonizing moment of grief and pain and sadness and fear and anger and frustration and despair. Every moment of pride and overwhelming joy and love and peace and inspiration and awe-inspiring beauty. Someone has been here by my side the whole time - and it's me. And she knows how to reconnect to that history and help ground me. 

So the question stands, how do I begin to rebuild a new me in a place that doesn’t feel at all like me? A new me that doesn’t feel like I lost all the other parts me that I want to keep. I may be starting to figure that out a little.

This past week, I’ve been reading and journaling, spending a lot of time reflecting on this stuff. I’ve noticed a few things that already feel like sparks igniting in my heart. One of those happened last night.

We went to the amusement park yesterday and had an unbelievably fun time. An astounding thing happened while there, too… I rode a ROLLER COASTER for the first time in well over a decade. I realize you’re probably thinking, “okay, big deal…” Well, for me, yes. Even though I love skydiving and have done wicked loops and corkscrews and barrel rolls in an old WWII era biplane with glee… I HATE roller coasters. I hate the falling feeling of it, over and over again. I hate the fear before the drop. Nothing about it appeals to me. So I swore off them many many years ago.

Yet today… something stirred in me. Perhaps it’s all this stuff that’s been on my mind. Or maybe it was how bad I felt that Mike was having to ride all the bigger rides alone while Shelby and I sat on the sidelines being chickens. Or maybe a little bit of f*ck it in my system for once. Probably a bit of all three.

It wasn’t the hugest coaster by far, only about a 50 foot drop, but it had spinning 4-seater cars that twisted and turned as you flew threw the twists and spins. Needless to say, I had had zero plans to ride this when we arrived. Yet there I was, getting strapped in, raised up to the top, and telling Mike I was going to kill him for encouraging this the whole way up.

After that first horrific drop, in which I was definitely screaming louder than he has ever heard me scream… I had a moment of total surprise. I wasn’t screaming from fear like I thought I would be. I was screaming because I was having fun. Uh… what? I was seriously so surprised by this that it took me brain a moment to catch up and join in, but just moments later I was in full-on, total, adrenaline-rush bliss. So much so that we came back and rode it again, and I loved it even more.  

For the first time in my life, I enjoyed - loved even - a roller coaster. And the very best part of this? I surprised myself. Even if it was a seemingly small thing, it really is so much more. Because one small thing like this can lead to bigger things. And because, for a moment, I was being the person I remember myself to me. The one that evolved through years of hardships and loss, and in my years of knowing Drew's adventurousness, and in the years after his death which challenged me to surprise myself in even bigger ways. The adventurous, bold, fun-loving part of me who’s motto is to “Always Surprise Yourself”.

I remember her now. And I’m going to try like hell not to forget her again.

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  • commented 2017-09-11 04:40:35 -0700
    And it brings back the reminder, life is like a rollercoaster. In all its ups and downs, the reluctance to even get on, the thrill of it…and the fears and horrors. Sarah I thank you for your frankness and willingness to share these deep parts of yourself which we share in our own ways. We are all, us widowed people, rediscovering ourselves every day, and take courage in your adventures. Hugs.
  • commented 2017-09-02 23:41:45 -0700
    This is a side of widowhood I have struggled with so much. Five years after Tony died I had the opportunity to sit down with his closest friend whom I hadn’t seen all those years. It felt like coming home. For that one hour I had most of my whole self back just because I was with the only other person on earth who shared much of our history. I was my best self when I was married to Tony. I hope one day to find some of that girl again.