Thursday, April 27, 2017


“How are you doing?”

I feel strange and pretty guilty when I reply, “Well, good . . . I’m doing good.”

It looks as if I’m no longer the weepy, fatalistic heap that I became at 6:06 PM on August 30th. Seems kind of right. But mostly wrong.

I wrote in my husband’s obituary that “the best way we can honor Jim's memory is in living happy and taking care of each other.” It’s taken me nearly eight months to even consider adopting what I wrote. I can do the “taking care of each other” part easy. I’m pretty good at caring for my people. But even though I wrote that it would be honoring Jim to live happy, actually following through on that has seemed more like dishonor.

If I laugh am I not giving Jim the mourning he deserves?

If I have fun does it look like I don’t miss my sweetheart?

If I go a week without crying, maybe even a month someday, am I forgetting him? Am I—gasp—moving on?

I’m a stickler for using the right words to say what I mean. So I am careful to specify that I’m working on moving forward. Never that I’m moving on.

Moving on sounds like I forget or brush him under a rug. Instead, moving forward means pocketing all my pieces of Jim so that they’re close and taking a step or two toward what’s next. Whatever the hell that is. I talk about him. I sigh at his photos. But I also think about permitting new stuff to enter my life. That has been hard. I still avoid watching new shows that I hadn’t before he died. TV series. Movies. Guys, I haven’t seen Rogue One. Me. There is a Star Wars movie I haven’t seen. I own it—thanks, Kay Kay—but I haven’t watched it. There are some strange stumbling blocks along my way “forward.” Evidently that is one.

I am proud of how I’ve grieved. I do it. I don’t pushed aside my sadness or avoid talking about the loss, even if my voice catches or my makeup runs. I can’t imagine not talking about Jim whenever I want. I wrote about him and talked about him constantly while he was alive (to the annoyance of pretty much all the people everywhere actually) and I don’t see a reason to stop even though he’s gone.

With that I think I’m left healthier than if I didn’t have a talent for emotional expression and a willingness to do it publicly. I feel that maybe I am even progressing toward acceptance faster than I’m comfortable with. Just eight months after my husband died should I really be ready to even consider the idea of someday seeking happiness? The only way I can stomach that consideration is by giving myself credit for immediately embracing grief and the recognition that I’m luckier than most in the constant support I have from family, friends, and people I didn't even know before Jim died.

I have always been bright, clever, funny, and useful. But Jim made me vibrant. I’ve felt like that vibrance died with him. However, you don’t live with Jim, gain so much, and at his passing just lose it all. His knowledge base was so different from my own. It awoke dormant curiosity. He loved to go, to do. It made me braver and even eager to try new things. He gave me more family—the kids, his sisters and parents, Victory Woodworks. It beefed up my team and left me more people to serve. I’d like to think what our love and marriage gave me is mine to keep. I just have to find the tools and gumption to dig it back up.

With Jim I was happier than anyone had ever seen me be before. He was his happiest too. That’s got to be one of the things that my family has had the hardest time with, that so many people have really. She was so happy! He was so happy! They were so happy together.

Is Happy still in me? If the qualities I gained or amplified in being Jim’s girl—curiosity, bravery, and a desire to live bigger and offer up my strength and spark to more people—still belong to me, shouldn’t at least the concept of absurd happiness also remain mine? I don’t know where I can find it or even if I will, but gradually I’m coming to a place where I can bear the idea of keeping an eye out for joy, of “living happy” and letting Jim’s memory be the thing that takes care of me.

1 comment:

Liz M. said...

I love this post. Something universal might happen between 7 and 8 months. For me, I was sitting at a bar in Tonopah, NV after a major overnight solo camp/hike, and when I looked to my left I saw a guy sitting next to me. And he was...cute. This was SO weird because the hottest man on earth could have stood in front of me before that and I wouldn't have noticed. Don't get me wrong, I was not interested one bit in moving forward in that way, but the fact that I saw something I hadn't seen since Mike died was really interesting. As a wise yoga instructor told me, when the shit train is not in station, embrace it! I'm so glad you are having periods where you are not in station. Sending love.