Im not sure how popular it will be to say this and admit this, but I don’t really care. Popularity is the least of my concerns at this point in my life. Honesty is more important, and maybe someone else who has been through widowhood feels similar, and will relate or not feel bad enough those feelings.
The other day, I was in my car, parked at the Real Estate office parking lot where I work, and had my weekly therapist appointment. I was calling him from my car at work because my schedule was so crazy that day, and most days for the past couple years, and I didnt have the time to go home to make the call. Of course, all appointments are on Zoom these days, but thats another issue. Anyway, most weeks I feel like maybe I no longer need therapy, or maybe this guy who is now my therapist isn’t the right fit for me, or maybe I dont have much to say really. Don has been dead for nine years now, and really, it sucks and I miss him so badly, but how many times can you keep repeating that to someone in a therapy session?
This time though, he asked me the usual question about how I am doing this week and is there anything specific going on that Id like to talk about. My most recent responses have been a lot about getting through the stress of both my parents having covid-19, or about the exhaustion of quarantine life, or the adjustments of living with my partner in this strange new world. This time, though, when he asked me that question, I began to start to talk, and I couldn’t stop. It all came out about how Ive been feeling, and the crying came out almost accidentally, as if my body was not aware or in control of the release.
It all came out, as if I didnt even realize how much it needed to come out of me:
“Im feeling resentful. Resentful of nobody in particular, and of life, and sudden death, and of the way things have turned out for me. Im tired and stressed out and resentful and upset that the things Im truly passionate about are always put on the back burner or forgotten about all together because I have to work and make income and I cant figure out a way to do that with what I am passionate about. Before Don died, my life since age 18 was all about moving to and living in NYC to get into the world of acting, comedy, writing. My passion was performing. I got my BFA in Theatre, and then taught for 16 years as an Adjunct , along with lots of directing shows and other gigs, to pay the rent. When I married Don, he got a job in EMS in Jersey where we lived, and he often worked two jobs or worked overtime so that I could go on that audition or do that comedy show or invest as much time as possible trying to build that career I was so passionate about. He believed in me 100% and moved his entire life to a new state so that I could try and live my dreams. I had small breaks here and there, but never anything sustainable enough to try and make a go at it. The entertainment world is extremely difficult and almost impossible to make a living.
When Don died, for a long while, life became about just doing my best to survive , get by, and find ways to cover all the bills and rent that had doubled overnight without my husband’s income. I could no longer just go on that audition, or do even half the things I wanted to do when he was alive. With the help of amazing local friends in the entertainment industry who did their best to keep me onstage and get me work as much as possible, I was able to somehow remain in the NYC area for almost 5 years after his death. But I was often working 2 or 3 jobs to make rent, had no health insurance, no savings whatsoever, and was struggling beyond belief. Eventually, after deep thought and going back and forth in my heart, I had to make the excruciatingly hard decision to leave my NY life, my friends, my jobs, my theatre community, my comedy community, all of it. The plan was to return to my home state of Massachusetts, finally finish writing my book about my loss experience, stay with my parents for awhile, and then figure out life from there. I finished the book and published it in 2018. Living with my parents for “awhile” turned into almost 3 years. I dated a lot, and finally found new love 3 years ago this June. We got our own place together in March, just as the pandemic began. Because I needed a way to keep paying those bills that life keeps bringing, and an old high school friend had done well as a Realtor, I started working at the local Keller-Williams office doing social media, and eventually studied and got licensed as a Realtor. Now, I spend a great deal of my time writing up offers, going to home inspections, showing homes to prospective buyers, and many other things.
While I definitely enjoy real-estate and LOVE helping people find their ideal home, there are a few things going on here that are bothering me greatly. One – I havent made much money at all. Ive had 5 transactions go through in my first year as a Realtor, and there are fees upon fees upon fees associated with this business. Also, right now it’s a huge sellers market, and Im a buyers agent, so there’s that. Two – it’s not my passion. I like it, but it’s not what I’m passionate about. And three – what I AM passionate about, using my writing/book, speaking engagements, grief coaching, and everything else, to help other widowed people – is constantly being put on the back burner because it doesnt provide steady income or stability, and because Im so exhausted at the end of the day after running my ass all over creation doing real-estate related work, home duties/chores, and getting in at least 15 hours per week doing social media so I have a guaranteed paycheck of some kind , that I have no energy to put into what I really love doing. Then I get resentful and angry because I just want to spend all of my time helping people through loss, and be able to live that way. This year, I had about 4 trips planned where I was hired as a speaker for different events. A couple of them were paying gigs, and really good ones. Then the pandemic happened and now they are cancelled. I currently have about 12 books that need to be put together , signed, personalized, with nice cards, and shipped out – and I just haven’t had the time or energy to do them. I HATE that I cannot spend my time helping others through loss, and I get resentful whenever I am asked to cut down on the time I DO have for this passion, or when I simply cant fit it into my crazy schedule.
While talking to my therapist from the car, I just broke down sobbing and said: “I feel like I already had to give up on my dreams once, when I had to leave NYC and leave that life behind. I still love acting, comedy, performing – but its not the life I can have. Its not realistic. It was heartbreaking for me to leave that behind after investing almost 2 decades into it of my adult life. Now here I am almost 50 years old, FINALLY have rebuilt a life for myself that I love, in large part because I love helping others through loss, and now to feel like that has to be bottom priority instead of top in my life – I just hate it.”
My therapist not only validated my feelings , he went several steps beyond that. He told me that he read my entire book (I gave him a copy awhile back), and that my story is one that needs to be out there, and my voice and my talents are ones that need to be heard. He then told me that its never too late to live out your dreams, and that he sees no reason why I shouldn’t be able to live out mine. He said it would be a tragedy to keep putting this very important work in the background, and let it just fade away. But how?
He then offered to do some research for me about writing Grants, and maybe turning my grief coaching, my book, and my Speaking Engagements into a small business, or an LLC. He started talking about the details of this, and honestly, I was too overwhelmed to actually fully hear him because I was still in shock that someone had actually not only just listened to these feelings I was having, but didnt try to talk me out of it or inform me that not everyone gets to live their dreams or some other awful thing. He said “let’s get this dream going for you!” Right now, I dont know if I will be able to make this happen, or how, or what will come out of my tearful chat from my car with my therapist. But it was nice to be heard and to be told that what I do IS important, and that it matters, and that we need to find a way to make it possible for me to keep on doing it. I absolutely HATE that Im too exhausted to write WIDOWS VOICE or to participate in the SSI Regional Group Leader meetings, or that I fall behind constantly on getting back to the many widowed people who reach out to me for comfort or hope, or who want a book or a chat, or many other things. I feel like at this point I need an entire week to catch up on my real estate stuff, another week to catch up on my passions for helping others through loss, and then another week to just REST and hang out with my boyfriend without any pressures of having to DO anything for awhile except just BE.
Im going to be 50 years old next year, and its weighing on me all of the things that have been taken away from me in my life, all the things Ive had to let go of or sacrifice in order to keep living. I have fought my way back into living after devestating loss, and I am not willing to give up the thing that makes my heart pound and sing. The fact that talking about death is what makes me feel most alive – that has to mean something. It is my purpose, and that shouldnt be left on the floor to die.
I need to figure this out. Thanks for listening.