Today was a cottage industry day. Mondays are good days to get all the book orders from the weekend off to the Post Office. It’s always interesting to peruse the stack and see who’s buying what and where it’s going. Today there was a book on mourning going out. I couldn’t help myself, I had to look into the table of contents and see what helpful and insightful pearls of grief I may have missed. Philosophical or practical nuggets on this subject still pertain, right? So there I was, reading about identity and widowhood, and it still struck a chord. How am I almost 50 years old and still not sure who I am? I have been working really hard on this for 3 and a half years now. I am working on updating relationships, working on being as honest as I possibly can in order to face myself and my changes directly. I am working on my memories a bit more slowly, I suspect, because I don’t live with my kids who share those memories, and I don’t mention all the ones that occur to me when I’m with Steve (not that he’d object in any way). What do I mean by “working on my memories” anyway? Well, I guess I mean identifying the emotions associated with them. Maybe the primary work is the identification of attachment and expectation and the acknowledgement of the suffering that produces.
Jim was my first love, my high school sweetheart, my only husband, and my best friend for 30 years. I expected to be reminded of that head-over-heels falling in love stage on a daily basis for the rest of my life. It’s starting to fade. I see my daughter and her boyfriend together, and I am reminded of that youthful, giddy feeling…and I realize that I don’t feel it anymore. It’s an attachment I developed. It’s not necessary in any way. Many people don’t feel that way and never did. Why can’t I just get over it already? Jim was a singer. He sang to me frequently. I expected to be serenaded throughout my life, I suppose. It’s not happening. I miss it. The fourth finger of my left hand feels occasionally naked, and I will twirl the phantom ring that is no longer there with the surrounding fingers every once in a while. I wish I could just stop doing that. In brainstorming with my kids about possible homestead arrangements, it feels weird that Jim isn’t part of that family meeting. I suspect that I have a million small expectations and maybe a couple of dozen rather large ones that I have not been able to exorcize.
Grief seems to be the gift that just keeps on giving. My identity was very much associated with being Jim’s wife, and I am working on getting to know myself as just myself. And I keep on working. Here are a few things I know about me: I am a visual person; I like pictures. I like figuring out how to do stuff. How do you treat deer skin after you’ve field dressed your kill, and turn it into leather? (I wake up in the middle of the night wondering about stuff like that. No kidding.) I am an introvert. I managed to live without “partying” and “dating” for my entire life so far. I am a “natural woman”. What do you mean by that? I liked getting pregnant and having babies. I like taking care of people. I like preparing food. I also like being silly and childlike and entertaining. I like sensual experiences: fragrance, textures, tastes, sounds, sights, juxtapositions. I like enjoying them unhurried. I have a million insecurities and anxieties and a huge desire to be a good person. I have fantasies of being really good at something and recognized for it. I am a bit on the “dreamy” side and rather afraid of meeting the world head on, but I work hard at being practical. Relationships are really important to me. I want to be loved, and I want to be loving.
And all of this might change. What happens if I get to know me and get attached to me and then develop Alzheimer’s like my dad did? Best to stay light on my feet and light in my thinking, not get dogmatic about it.
Life is suffering and life is wonderful. And sometimes I just feel sad about the attachments I’ve developed. And that’s the truth.