My motto, since Chuck died, is push your boundaries. Stretch your comfort zones. Go where you've never gone before.
It hasn't been difficult to do this, honestly.
Chuck died in southern CA, in our 4th year on the road.
I had no home to return to; we'd sold it, and our belongings, years before, to go adventuring.
So I was already well accustomed to living outside my comfort zone. Already living a different life each day, as we traveled from one state to another...hiking, climbing, visiting National Parks and monuments, meeting new people.
Living the traveling life suited both of our personalities.
And then he died...
And I packed the contents of our rented condo in southern CA into our car and hit the road.
Sold that car, bought another, painted it pink, bought a trailer, painted that pink, and set out on my Odyssey of Love.
I couldn't bear to travel the way Chuck and I had; staying at military lodgings, inexpensive hotels.
Emotionally, it was a big no.
I knew, too, that money would quickly become an issue, even living in a travel trailer.
So I started looking around fb, asking questions, allowed myself to be vulnerable with the world...and learned of all the possibilities.
How to earn a living? There are soooo many ways beyond what we think there are, having nothing to do with settling in one place.
I discovered workamping. Seasonal jobs that allow me a place to park and a paycheck.
An opera camp in the Ozarks was my first one. I'm returning for my 3rd season this summer.
The students, the set designers, the orchestra, watching professional operas performed...I realized that the theater world carries a huge appeal to me.
The magic. The costumes. Characters and personalities...I loved it all.
And then I began working at a Renaissance Faire where I had to dress in costume. Me, having to dress up? I'm there!
I pushed my comfort zone and took a job working the front gate, which put me in the way of thousands of people. Huge crowds. Personalities of every sort. It was intriguing and I did my best with it, and came away feeling stronger for the experience.
I'm in the midst of my second season at the same Renaissance Faire, and even I recognize the changes I've undergone.
I've learned to project my voice. Yes, I've always been comfortable in front of people, on a stage or otherwise, but this is up front and personal.
I have to keep a line moving, tearing/scanning tickets, while welcoming each patron. I talk to the small kids that come through in costume, exclaiming over them, make eye contact with as many people as possible, keep up a continual chatter, while keeping an eye on everyone coming through, raising my voice to keep order in my line, bantering back and forth as I stop them to tie off a sword or dirk, teasing and flirting.
At the end of the day, as we stand at the gate to bid farewell, I've learned to duck into the crowds to retrieve alcoholic drinks, and held up signs to make the guest laugh.
I've stepped outside of myself in colorful ways, and I've become more determined than ever to never live a traditional life. Ever.
My voice is stronger now than it's been for these almost 6 years since Chuck's death.
No, I don't consider this one of those gifts we're supposed to find, and appreciate, in grief. I don't believe grief has ever offered me anything that I'd count as a fair trade for Chuck's life. It just is what it is.
What I do know is that life without Chuck requires much more of me than living inside a traditional box.
And how cool it is that I discovered, last week, while at the faire, that there is actually a character who plays the part of professional mourner!
Shit, I can do that character with my hands tied behind my back. Black clothes, leaking eyes, broken heart...I wouldn't even have to pretend, right?
Talk about walking right into the jaws of the lion called widowhood.
I'm already thinking of auditions next year for that role. And developing a character that I can take to all the faires around the country.
Pushing boundaries. Pushing comfort zones.
It's the only way I maintain this shattered heart of mine~