It reflects, in better words than I can find, what I've thought since Mark's diagnosis of cancer in June of 2006. That diagnosis, his struggle to live, and his eventual death were reasons to be sad and "depressed". Some encouraged me, at the slightest sign of what they considered "depression" to seek help of counselors and support groups. I could have done so. I wasn't adamantly opposed to such things and I am still not. However, an inner voice kept telling me, "Isn't this a sad thing that has happened to you and Mark? Shouldn't you be sad about it?" I wasn't crippled by sorrow and unable to live life and be happy with him for the time we had left. Our happy times were magnified by knowing that our time together was limited (so it is for all, not all have to experience truly knowing that).
And so I feel about my bereavement, my grief walk. This isn't an illness that I have. It's a huge emotion that I experience every day to varying degrees. There are happy moments, good memories, important work to be done as well as the simple chores of house and home. Under it all runs the current of grief. It has to happen, it has to be lived and experienced in order for me to move on. I truly think that.
Excerpt from an article by Nancy Colier:
"As a society, we have no idea how to experience and be with sadness -- or fear, anxiety, anger or frustration for that matter. We are not educated on how to manage difficult emotions, one of life's most important skills. Rather, we are taught (and are teaching our children) that sadness is the enemy and that if we allow it to exist, it will destroy us. As a result, we will do anything and everything to avoid feeling it. Even funerals are designed to make us happy, to celebrate the wonderful life the person enjoyed, but certainly not to feel sad that they are no longer here. Our entire self-help industry is tailored to help us avoid feeling sad, to teach us how to arrange our lives so that we never have to feel anything difficult. Where these programs fail however, is when we end up in a situation where we cannot control or deny our sadness. Then what? Then we are deemed weak, and worse -- failures for feeling what is actually appropriate.
In truth, we can learn to be with sadness, not to fear it, but to simply accept it as another of life's experiences that can be lived through. The fact that sadness appears is not a sign of our failure. Its absence is not a sign of strength, other than perhaps the strength of denial. Sadness is simply a part of life. The sooner we allow it a seat at our inner table, the sooner we can get on with the business of living. When we allow ourselves to feel sadness when it arrives, to embrace and bring kindness to it -- not judge ourselves for experiencing it -- it is then that we grow truly strong. We know that we can confidently face whatever comes. True strength can only arise out of the truth.
So too, when we are able to feel sadness, we are also able to feel joy when it shows up, and the gratitude that accompanies it. We cannot deny the emotions that we don't want and expect ourselves to be able to fully experience the emotions that we do want. We do not need to expend so much effort trying to control our lives so that sadness is kept out; such is a task for Sisyphus. What we need is to teach ourselves and our children that when sad things happen, we are sad -- that sadness comes and goes (as does happiness) and that ultimately, we can stand like the big oak tree and weather whatever winds pass through us. To be strong is not to outrun sadness, but rather to learn to embrace it when it is here, to take good care of it so that it can heal. This is a warrior's strength, a wise parent's strength. The sadness will pass, as all emotions do, but we will remain, stronger and more solid in our ability to
live -- and love -- with what is. "
I'm a liminal person. That word popped out at me as I was reading Margaret Roach's And I Shall Have Some Peace There. Roach was an executive in the Martha Stewart empire until she left it all to live in rural New York State and work in her garden. She describes how difficult that voluntary transition was for her. She has similar experiences and fears that I have had in my involuntary transition to this new life. She described herself as a "liminal person", somebody on a threshold or boundary, looking both back and ahead. I feel like that. I'm on the threshold. I look sadly and longingly back at my life with Mark; all those years together of love and creating our family and our home. Ahead is a life without him. What will that be like? Who will I be when I stop lingering on the threshold?
My first year of filing taxes on my own brought a surprise. I received a 1099-Misc tax form from the Boeing Company two days ago. Last fall, after Mark's death (hard to write that word, but I have to use it and not a euphemism), I received his residual pay, and vacation pay. It was nice but not the million and a half that Boeing said I received! Today, I and over 500 others, received another letter telling us that a new form was coming and sincerely apologizing for the error.
I think what is hardest so far about the tax situation is that I have to check myself as "single". I certainly don't feel single. I don't want to be single, can't bear to think of removing my wedding ring.
And I really dread Valentine's Day without my first and only Valentine, my true love and best friend.
Over 100 days ago. The worst, saddest day of my life. In this century of days, I am slowly beginning (to learn how to be a different person. I must be more independent, more willing to take risks, and make my own decisions. In this time, I've changed my financial framework from us to me; learned how to build a fire in the wood stove, and get through a major storm on my own. I have endured the month of December: my birthday and Christmas without the one who cared most about me, loved me the most, and made my life a joy.
What will the next century of days bring to me? It will be the middle of spring, my yard should be looking as good as I can make it on my own. I will be truly by myself: Michael will be living in David's apartment while he is out on the Pacific Crest Trail. In a way, I dread it and in another, I anticipate seeing who will I become.
I hate changing the bed but I do like the feel of clean sheets. Mark usually did that odious chore for us, even up until the end. Now that I do it, I wonder how he managed it. It was always perfect, crisp, with tight corners. He complained about my cute eyelet bed skirt but didn't insist that I get rid of it. It must have been a terrible effort for him at the end with his sore joints and painful, chemo damaged hands. A Tempurpedic mattress is heavy and that bed skirt gets hiked up under the sheets and blankets unless one is very careful. I may get rid of that thing myself!
This morning I stripped off the old sheet set. As I pulled "his" pillow out of the sham and tugged off the pillow cover, I thought why am I doing this? I can keep that pillow in the sham, in the slip as long as I like. No one has laid his head on that pillow for over 12 weeks now. It's not dirty, not even close. But I did it anyway. The outgoing sheets are blue; the incoming silver. It would be wrong to have unmatched pillow slips even though nobody but me would know.
It feels wrong in the same way that it feels wrong for me to be alone, unmatched, the only one in that bed.
Happy? Not? Something in between? I think it will be the latter. 2012 is the first year in my life without Mark somewhere in this world. Even when we were children, teens, and young adults, he was here, 3 and a half years older than me. We didn't know each other but I wouldn't be surprised if our paths crossed now and then especially when he lived in Renton. I like to think of us as waiting for our true loves and we found each other in October of 1976. Now only I will see, barring illness or accident, who wins the presidency; how Dexter will turn out, whether the spring is warm or ugly like last year's spring.