A week ago, I had a really big moment. It was defined the by a very simple difference in word choice. It was not something anyone else would have noticed or defined as big - unless of course you yourself are widowed perhaps. While at the gym, one of the other girls in class asked if I was married and had kids. And I said - in this effortless, matter-of-fact way - "No, I'm widowed, so the kids thing is pretty much out of the picture for right now". And then I just continued about my workout. Just like that. No big emotional breakdown. No desire to run and hide. No real care for whether or not this other woman was pitying me. It just rolled out naturally. A fact. Plain and simple.
This was a big deal. Something felt really different about it. The more I thought about it, I began to realize what it was. I said "I'm widowed". It's the first time since he died that I have said it that way by default. Every other time I have said "I'm a widow". I AM a widow. It's a small difference in words, but it feels like a huge difference in perspective.
In that moment, I realized that a shift is happening. I'm starting to feel like this is something that happened to me, and not that it IS me. For the past two years, my world has been so completely consumed by his death and by my grief that it's been hard so see myself as anything other than a widow. I hate that. Because I was so many other things in my past life. A rock climber. A kayaker. A skydiver. A lover of hockey. A friend. A sister. A photographer. When he died, suddenly, I was just a widow. I stopped doing a lot of things I enjoyed - although not all. And even though I was still a friend and a sister, it's like I was wearing a pair of glasses in which the grief tinted everything and made any other parts of me very hard to see.
But lately, I've poured myself into my photography and writing in a way that I never have before. I've had a different kind of focus and a feeling of purpose about it. It's helped me reclaim that part of who I am. I've added new things too… things that the old me in my old life would have never been gutsy enough to try. In February, I signed up for Crossfit class - a very high-intensity, total body workout that's been a big trend the past few years. I have to explain this by saying that I've never been very physically fit in my life, and Crossfit is definitely something I never in a million years would have imagined I would sign up for. Not only has it been healing to try something I'd have never done before his death, but seeing my body get stronger over time has in turn helped my mind and soul to feel stronger, too. Each day I go to that class, I lift a little more weight, or run a little farther, and that progress in strengthening my body seems to be carrying over to my mind and spirit too.
For the first time since he died, I feel like I am more than just a widow. And don't get me wrong - I am actually damn proud now to call myself a widow. It means I am part of an incredible community of some of the strongest people I've ever known. But you all get it - it's still the club you wish you didn't belong to. And it's still important for us to find other parts of ourselves on this journey so that we can begin to see ourselves as more than just widowed. Rediscovering the other parts of ourselves - or perhaps discovering them for first time - is what helps us to be able to find something about our new life that we can feel proud of and even joyful about. It helps us to embrace the new life, which in turn helps us to better honor the person we will love forever and the life we shared with them.
Photo Note: This is photo taken of me by my best friend just a few days ago at Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. One more thing that I never imagined that I would ever do is visit this place. Upon seeing the Grand Canyon just a few months after Drew died, I decided to visit a canyon every year somehow. This is the third. Both a humbling and empowering place to look out on.