Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Category: life

To Live Again

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Friends, both near and far, have helped me navigate this past year without Lisa. For that, I will be forever grateful. The current world in which I now find myself is both dystopian and exciting, but mostly just foreign. No amount of research could prepare me for the world in which I now live. The changes I have endured over the past year have been as dramatic as they have been challenging. Moving from Texas back to Rhode Island was the smart thing to do, and I appreciate being near family more than I ever have. To be close to my mother, sister, and brother brings me comfort and peace as much as living in Rhode Island brings me reconciliation, familiarity, and appreciation.

Attempts at a social life have so far resulted in few successes and some crushing defeats. This is one area in my life where, while I am incredibly grateful to have my children at home with me, I know I have few prospects. Having the kids around since their graduation has kept me moving forward with purpose. Getting used to a new home is difficult enough, but to have to do it alone would have been far worse. Starting a new social life is very hard for me. I am not the most outgoing person in the world! But starting to reach beyond my comfort zone is what I now find myself confronted with if I ever want to “have a life.”

Unfortunately, a problem far greater for me beyond getting out of the house is my constant need to get out of my own head. This has always been an issue for me. I tend to overthink everything while pessimism erodes healthy feelings or hopes.  Some friends have been kind to me beyond all reason as if they signed a pledge with Lisa to look out for me. Other friends have been standoffish, probably unsure how to address my situation. I cannot blame them for their squeamishness; it is a difficult situation and one with no easy solution. I find myself mourning one friend in particular who ended things with me after telling me we were headed in different directions in life. She was right, but that doesn’t make the wound hurt any less.

I cannot help but think that I am destined to be alone now, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, I long to be in a relationship, feel I still have much to offer and need, while on the other hand, I feel guilty for having these thoughts because I will forever miss Lisa. One year has gone by now, and I’m both better than I was following her death and more confused than ever. I don’t know if this is normal, but the “normal” I am now living is very different than the normal under which we have been living for the past eight years. No longer do I see cancer hiding behind every smile, determined to undercut our happiness. No longer do I go to hospitals and doctor’s visits; no longer are we Hospice clients. But too, no longer do I have that epic battle to wage every day on behalf of someone for whom I would gladly have given my own life. I tend to do better when facing a crisis than normal life.

Ultimately, a new life will require me to get out of the house regularly and out of my head even more. Any thoughts on how I can do that would be greatly appreciated!

Sparks and Shadows

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I hesitate to mention this, but I think there may be sparks returning to my life. I say I hesitate to mention this because there is still the inevitable sadness, anger, and pain. However, for the first time in forever, I’m starting to see the flashes of life returning to me. I know I must go on. I know I must live. I have that option denied to Lisa and must make the best of it.

Friends have helped immensely in bringing me to this point. They have been patient and compassionate, insistent and decisive, unlike me. But I’m getting there.

One effect of these flashes is the shadow it places on my old life. This can be very exhilarating if the flash blots out the pain of these past seven years or if it casts a warm shadow on a pleasant memory. Sparks of a new life are all around me. Now I need to corral them into a consistent fire that will keep me warm and light my way. Wish me luck.

Phoenix (or Ashes and Brambles)

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Too often during this process of grieving, I have been angry. As I addressed in the last post, I had been charged with creating an imaginary entity to which I can assign the anger. I chose God. The next chapter in this process is to determine what will make me happy. How do I want my life to look in five years? As one who has been burned by planning in the past, with ashes the only remaining vestiges of the future I once built, this is an immeasurably more difficult assignment.

I want my children to be happy and successful in whatever endeavor they choose. I want them to live wherever they want but I want them to remain close to me emotionally. I want to be the person from whom they seek advice or from whom they seek comfort when life throws them a nasty curve. Outside of that, I want to continue in my job, which brings me joy and satisfaction. I would like to travel. I want Sam to be my tour guide in Italy and Cam to be my guide in the UK. I would like to learn French or Italian. Not because I plan on living there of traveling extensively, but because I have always had problems learning a foreign language and I like the challenge. I would like to learn to play the piano. I would like to read all of the classics. I would like to learn art history.

But will doing these things make me happy? What will people say of me five years from now? Will they say that I survived my wife’s death well? Will they say that I was able to move on and formed a new life outside of my new identity as a widower? Will I be alone? Will I find love again? Will I survive?

The answers to these questions plague me. In many ways, the question is the same: What will make me happy and what will people think of me five years from now? These both boil down to having a fulfilling life following a major upheaval. When I applied for the job I currently hold, I was asked by my boss’s boss where I saw myself in five years. That was four years ago. Rather than dazzle him with my ambition and tell him that I wanted his job in five years, I reflected on the future which lay in tatters before me. And so, I told him that I did not know where I would be in five years. That I respected that I was new to the company and that I would need to learn the company and the industry before laying out a career path. I don’t know if that was the perfect answer, but he told me I was correct to temper my ambitions with reality. I got the job.

Today I feel that I am being asked the same question. Where do I want to be in five years? But rather than a career path question, this is a life path question. Again, I feel that I must have the same response. I need to learn the landscape of this new life, acknowledging that it is new and different than the life I lived before. In many ways, I am newborn. I have the second part of my life before me. But I must respect that I have little in the way of plans or ambitions that bear any resemblance to the life I led before. True, I’ve always wanted to travel, but now I face the prospect of travelling alone or as a third wheel when my children take their eventual families on vacation. This does not excite me. It’s a little like being the afterthought invitation for a party after you’ve heard about the party but hadn’t been originally invited.  Other ambitions (reading, learning a foreign language, playing the piano) are nice wishes, not life plans. True, they will bring me joy and occupy my time, but are these life plans? I don’t know. My life plans before were to work until I was ready to retire, then Lisa and I would travel together around the country and around the world, with or without the kids, depending on their station in life. We would spend our time in our home together or on the Cape. But as I pull at that thread now, there is little desire to travel alone and the thought of an empty, silent home (soon to also be devoid of our little white ball of canine love) terrifies me.

And so, to this question, I have no firm response. The future before me is a blank slate, equal parts terror and excitement. Perhaps over time, I will see the shimmering outline of a path through the thicket, but right now there are only brambles and thorns, silence and loneliness. And so I read my classics, look forward to studying piano, and tackling French or Italian. My future, in ashes, will rise like the phoenix, whether I want it to or not, whether I plan it or not. Better to have a say in the process than be overrun with other’s expectations. To the question, how do I want people to see me in five years, I can only say that I hope they see me as living my life, a different life, maybe a better life maybe not, but a life denied my wife.

Opportunity Cost

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There was a time when everything the world had to offer seemed available to me.

But the decisions we make to go in one direction close off avenues in others.

Economists call this opportunity cost.

What would have happened if I had gone to the University of Maryland instead of UConn?

What would have happened if I studied more or partied at all?

What would have happened if I had gone to grad school instead of taking that first job out of college?

Where would I be today?

 

Perhaps I would never have married.

Perhaps I would never have had children.

Perhaps I would never have known their love, or

Perhaps I would never know the pain of losing my wife to cancer.

Perhaps.

 

What would have happened if I had never met Lisa?

What would my life look like now?

Would I be even madder than I am now?

Would I even be here?

 

Perhaps I would never have left Rhode Island.

Perhaps I would never have left the island.

Perhaps my world would have remained small and I would have remained closed off.

Perhaps it would have been nicer that way.

Perhaps.

 

But while there is always pain in expanding ones horizons, there is often no choice in the matter.

Activism reaches out and grabs some.

And in spite of all of the pain I have both endured and caused,

I would never wish I had not met Lisa.
I would never wish I did not have my children.

I would never wish that I hadn’t been born at this time and in this place.

Never.

 

And now I stand at a crossroad.

The path I choose will carry me for the rest of my life.

I hope to have my children with me always, even when they are far away with their own families.

I hope to find peace internally for the rage and guilt I feel following Lisa’s death.

I hope to find peace externally in dealing with the issues facing the world.

I hope to never stop learning, to never stop reading.

I hope to continue that which is deemed positive.

And I hope to jettison that which I feel is negative.

I hope.

 

I promise to try.

I Hate This Life

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The bell strikes one. We take no note of time                                                             But from its loss.                                                                                                                                 – Edward Young, Night Thoughts. Night I, l. 55, 1742.

I hate this life. In fact, it is “life” only in name. I continue to inhale and exhale and my heart continues to beat, but I really only exist. The day begins with my alarm at 4 am. I open my eyes to the empty space in bed where Lisa used to sleep. I get ready for work and feed Delbow, whose pancreatitis and pneumonia are being treated but for whom I can do nothing. I leave for work at 5 am and listen to a book on the way. At work, I am either busy or try to stay busy until 3 pm when I drive home listening to the same book. I open the door and greet Delbow, giving him a cookie. I change and sit in the living room. It is 4:30. And time stops.

I prepare everything for the next morning. I ready Delbow’s medications. I feed him. I feed myself. It is all mechanical, devoid of interest. The house is no longer a home. It sits unused. The gardens are overgrown and weedy. All of Lisa’s belongings still reside where she left them. Her glasses. Her purse. Her walker stands folded in the laundry room. I watch television because it passes the time. It too is lifeless. Hours of “How It’s Made” on the Science channel. After an interminable amount of time, I look up. It is 7:30. Is it too early to go to bed? To escape this mental prison? I go to bed deciding to read a book. My mind is incapable of concentrating these days and I gloss over a page of text before realizing I have absorbed nothing of the story. I put the book down. I cannot sleep yet. I turn the television back on. There is a Modern Family repeat on. I’ve seen it twelve times before. I anticipate the lines of the show, wishing I could  sleep. Finally, after a marathon of Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory reruns, I turn off the television and shut off the light. My mind races and thinks of all things Lisa. I cry. At some point, I fall asleep.

Oh, I know what Lisa would say. First, she would give me a Cher to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck slap and tell me to snap out of it.Then she would tell me that I need to live because I can and she cannot. She would tell me that I have to stay healthy, physically and mentally, for the kids. That they are relying on me and taking coping cues from me.  I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want a shoulder upon which to cry. I want Lisa. Everything will get easier with time, they say. Time. I have time! I have too much time and not enough answers. I understand all of these things in my head, but my heart is broken and empty, grieving for what it cannot have.

At 3 am the phone rings. It is Samantha. She has had a bad dream about Lisa and wants to talk it out. I am grateful for her call. She relates the details of the dream and I cry too. How can I not? It is heartbreaking. I tell her I hate this life and she says she understands. We talk about her art and try to change the subject. Eventually, she says she feels better and apologizes for calling. I tell her I’m glad she called and she says she can go back to sleep. I say I love you, she says she loves me, and she hangs up. It is 3:40. I lay there replaying the conversation until the alarm goes off at 4 when I look over at the empty space where Lisa used to sleep. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.