Since becoming an involentary widow almost 8 years ago, I have changed in many positive ways.
I am more empathetic.
I am more sympathetic.
I am less judgemental of people's lives and situations and circumstances.
I listen better.
I stop to talk with people more.
I find more meaning and beauty in very tiny things.
I exist in the moment more.
I love profoundly and deeply.
There is one area, though, where I have changed in perhaps a more negative way,
depending on how you view it:
I no longer have patience for certain things.
I cannot stomach too much "small talk" or pointless conversation.
I dislike phony people or people who spend time thinking about superficial things.
I can no longer listen to someone complain on and on about silly things, such as sitting in traffic or the store being out of their favorite cereal or some other mundane nonsense that people get way too upset about.
Honestly, even before my loss, I was never one to love small talk, and never one to enjoy people who don't have much depth.
But now, its gone from a minor inconvenience, to "I could die tomorrow - I dont want my last day on earth to be wasted talking with this moron about how he stood in line for 25 minutes at the Post Office and it's pretty much the worst thing he has ever endured in his entire lifetime."
Im sorry if this sounds rude or snobby or whatever else, but I honestly have much better things to do with my precious time than to listen to that drivel.
For context, here is just a small sample of conversations and topics I either had directly, was involved in, or witnessed in person or in the widowed groups I belong to; over just the past few days, with some of my other widowed friends:
A discussion with a recent young widow friend, who found herself being flirted with by a man for the first time since her husband's death, and had a lot of unexpected and heavy emotions surrounding that.
A widower who recently took off his wedding ring, and then only lasted 3 days with it being off, because he felt like he had betrayed his wife and marriage.
A remarried widowed friend who made the decision to end her marriage, because her new husband refused to honor her right to always hold love in her heart for the one that died.
A widower friend, whose loss is pretty recent, dealing with his adult son who is an addict, and feeling like a failure who doesnt know how to help him in the ways that his late wife would have been really good at doing.
A widower, talking with a few other widowed people, recalling how on the night that his wife died, she had spontaneously woken up in the middle of the night, and asked him to dance with her in their bedroom. A few hours later, she died in her sleep.
A widow friend telling me how she has finally found beautiful joy and new love, and she cant stop feeling guilty and sad because she doesnt spend as much time "grieving" anymore.
An older widow friend who took care of her husband for years with cancer, who has now received the same diagnosis of the same type of cancer, and she has to go through it alone.
A widowed friend and I having a deep talk about how good it feels to get to the point in your loss where you can take the pain and turn it into something helpful for others, and how purposeful and beautiful of a thing that is.
A widower whose wife died in a car accident, leaving him with 3 very young children, dealing with thoughts of overwhelming grief and some whacked-out widowed version of "post-pardum" depression, and having no idea who to talk to or what to call it or what to do about it.
Laughing with a fellow widow friend about finding ourselves coming into all of the scary and depressing symptoms of "peri-menopause", and how one of those symptoms is that anxiety is severely heightened. Wonderful.
When you become widowed, it colors every aspect of your life, even years and years later. It blends into everything and affects everything, and so these are the kinds of conversations that widowed people often have with one another , that most outside people simply cant understand. We talk about these effects, and how it sprinkles into our daily lives. There is laughter, sadness, anger, joy, and everything else, just like most humans - except we are seeing things through our widowed lense. Because of this, it is a great comfort and feels natural to talk with other widowed friends, or other friends and people who have been through loss, trauma, or hardships in their lives. After going through and living with this loss in my life, I no longer feel a connection with people who dont have a lot of depth. In truth, I never really did. But now, time feels more fleeting, and Im always very aware of how I spend it.
So, its not that I dont care about how you sat in traffic for 2 hours longer than normal on your commute from work - its just that my mind and heart are thinking about all the possible reasons for that traffic. Maybe there was an accident. Maybe someone is very hurt or died. Maybe an entire family's life changed on that day, forever. Maybe your day of minor inconvenience was someone else's first day of a new, hellish reality.
Im bored by the small talk of life. The weather, silly gossip, and other things that just dont hold my interest.
I want to hang out with people who talk about science or earth or nature or the power of love or sweet memories they carry around forever, or the 457,000 reasons they miss their person and always will. I want to talk with people who have crawled and struggled through life's biggest storms, and who keep getting up every time they get punched in the gut. I want to talk about what you think might happen when we die, or what your thoughts are on how to live better, more meaningful lives. I want to laugh with people who know real pain, and whose laughter feels like its not just hobby, but necessity. I want to watch sporting events or go see great art or hear amazing music with other people who spend more time living in those lovely moments together with humans they love, and less time focusing on things and paying attention to things that are just so pointless and insignificant.
In every aspect of my life after loss,
I want to focus on all the things that matter,
and I dont want to waste precious time on anything less.