In the almost 6 years since my fiance has been gone, so much life has happened. An unbelievable amount really. It’s felt like warp speed living. In part that was due to how much higher my emotions have run since he died… but it’s also in part due to having had so much change happen and having faced so many fears in such a small time in my life.
In no other time in my life has every single aspect of it changed so dramatically. I didn't choose his death, but I chose a lot of other scary things... I left my career. I moved away. I began a new lifestyle and career direction that honestly had no direction to it all ("artist"). I found new love, or more accurately, new love found me. I became the partner of a widower and the mother-figure to his daughter. I moved across the country. It has been a never-ending journey of fear-facing for half a decade now.
The past few weeks I’ve been attending a women’s wellness class. We do yoga and journal and talk about feelings and well being and all that touchy-feely stuff. There was a time when I would have been too sarcastic to walk into a room of woman like this. I would have thought it was a joke - mostly because of my own insecurities to open up to people about my deepest pains.
In a way, Drew’s death shook that up for me. It got me talking about my pain more openly and facing this fear of being vulnerable with others. It helped me learn HOW to be more open with my pain, and how to share it with others… especially women. It humbled me, and it made me take my armor of sarcasm off and let people in. In some ways, it was the best gift he could give me, because this is something I’ve always struggled with.
So last week in class, we talked about the things that bring us fulfillment, the things that drain us, the ways that we take care of ourselves. One of the questions was about the bravest thing we’ve ever done. And I think to myself “Hell Yes. I’ve got this one. I’ve got bravery in spades.” Until she changed it up…
“What is the bravest thing you’ve done this week?”
What? Uh… huh?
Everyone was thrown for a loop. And that’s when I realized that bravery hasn’t even been on my radar in a very long time. Which in some ways it good - it does mean I've essentially re-entered what we widowed people would define as "normal life" - or at least as normal as we can return to it. But it bothered me a little still... because of course, we all want to feel brave.
Making brave choices was a top focus for me after Drew died. I took a lot of chances and tried a lot of things and explored myself a lot in the aftermath of his death. I truly said “Fuck it” for a few years. Part of that was his presence in me. He was always taking risks and it was always inspiring me.
But as the time went on and the distance from his risk-taking spirit began to feel farther and farther away, I think I slowly lost focus of that idea... I think the fears sort of got the better of me a little bit.
So when she asked this in class, I was totally blindsided. The bravest thing I’ve done THIS WEEK? I have no idea. And nothing I’ve done this week has felt brave. Sure, I could muster up some sort of an answer to that - like “oh I’ve made little choices that are incredibly brave”. But truly, in my heart, I knew… there had not been a single thing in the past week that felt risky enough to actually require bravery to do. Not even a small thing. Mostly, if anything, I've just avoided scary things.
I guess the best answer I have was that I signed up for that class in the first place. That in itself required some major vulnerability, and required me to put aside the voices in my head that told me not to do it for many different reasons. It was a small “fuck it” but it was one.
If nothing else, this question got me thinking that maybe I need to start being more mindful of bravery and courage in my day to life again. For a time I was following a motto to “do something each day that scares you”. And I want to get back to that. Not just in big ways, but in small ways too. Like approaching my relationships with others in a deeper and more vulnerable way, which always scares me. I want to devote myself more fully to artmaking, and expand the ways that I do that, which scares me. I want to try new things that scare me - like scuba diving or backpacking alone in the woods. And I also want to give myself better credit for the things I already to each day that do in fact take a lot of bravery - because I'm quite aware that I'm not giving credit where credit is due there.
I think the single best thing that Drew’s death gave me was a lot of practice at facing fears - and thusly a much closer relationship to my own fear. It gave me daily exposure to being with my fear, because every single thing was scary after he died. Even normal things that would never scare most people, like driving a car or going to the store alone or being in crowds or in a hospital or hell even just waking up alone in your bed every day.
I want to start remembering my courage. And honoring it. I want to remember the joy it gives me to discover myself over and over again through fear-facing, and notice more closely all the ways that I do this already - and all the ways I can do it more.
And just in case the universe is listening right now, let's keep death out of it please. I have reached my quota for now of facing any fears related to anyone dying!!