Ringing in the new year without you is something I never want to do. This year, or ever. No matter how much time passes, no matter how my life changes; and no matter where I am standing on New Year’s Eve, I know that I will always pause and think of you. I will always want you to still be alive, here with me. And, always, I will want to kiss you at midnight.
I can not find it in me to ‘celebrate’ another year that you will be missing from my life. New beginnings are bittersweet for me now because part of me always wants to go back to the time when we shared our life together. Moving forward is hard for all people, and it’s especially difficult for widowed people. I resist celebrating New Year’s day because in my mind it puts more ‘distance’ between us. The time when you were alive gets further away from me and I feel desperate to somehow return to the life I used to have. When I get nostalgic I feel like my memories are more alive than me. This mindset is dangerous because when you live in the past, you are not present and you are not living the life in front of you. So, today, when you visit the past, go there and remember that:
The life you lived together is still there somewhere, suspended in time, untouched, and unchanged.
What you were to one another, you STILL ARE.
Know that the love you share doesn’t disappear just because you can’t see them anymore.
In the words of Rumi,
“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.
Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation”
I am learning that the past doesn’t need me to stay there and be a permanent caretaker. It’s not going anywhere. I do not need to stay there and tend to it. The past is always there untouched and unaltered. It is there whenever you need it. I visit my past life all the time; but I know that I can not stay there forever. I can not rebuild my life there. That life is over. Maybe if I say it again and again and again I will finally accept it…
I know logically that Mike isn’t somewhere hidden in the past; but, still, thirteen and a half months later, I can’t stop myself from endlessly searching for him. As I wander looking for him, I know that he won’t be found anywhere but in my memory.
I know that Mike is actually here, in the present, “with” me as I move through my life. But, honesty, it feels empty, even when I believe what Rumi says about there being no separation. For me, it is not always enough to have Mike “with” me without his physical presence. I feel badly admitting this because I feel like I’m letting Mike, Rumi and myself down somehow. But, it’s the truth… I still desperately wish that Mike could take my hand and lead the way again…
Today we are forced to consider the year ahead; and as difficult as this is, it is necessary.
As you say goodbye to 2017,
Stand still, and listen to the sound of the sun going down.
In that moment hear what is in your heart.
Take your own hand and lead the way…
New Year’s Day is a time to reflect on the year that passed; and, more importantly look forward to the possibilities ahead.
Last New Year’s Eve was particularly punishing for me because I did not want to say goodbye to the best year of my life. I will always think of 2016 as our vintage year. The year of us. This was the year Mike asked me to be his Wife. We had an accepted offer on our beautiful new house and we were so excited to live together under one roof as husband and wife. The boys were beginning to feel excited about our new life; and, the girls and I were planning weekly family dinners. We were busy creating new traditions that never got a chance to be. We thought we had the rest of our lives ahead of us; then Mike died, and our future died with him.
Last year as the clock struck midnight, I stood alone on a friend’s balcony,
I was broken and bewildered.
I looked up at the stars and wondered how the hell the best year of my life had come and gone.
This wasn’t real, it didn’t feel like this could be true, except it was.
As I began my life without Mike, I felt like I just landed in a foreign country and I could not speak the language. I stood at the baggage claims area and I didn’t know where to go from there. I wanted to ask someone for directions. I needed help. But, I was not sure how anyone could help me. Mike was dead, no one could fix that. So, I stood frozen in place for a long time.
Now, just over a year later, I’m standing here alone. I’ve got my baggage sorted out, but I am still aimless. I still don’t really know my destination. Where am I supposed to go? Where the hell do I want to go? Someone, give me directions, please. I don’t want to follow the crowds so I guess I will have to figure this out myself. Really, there should be a traveler’s guide for widowhood, or an App because nothing prepares you for this new life. Initially, I …
spent a fair bit of time bumping into things as I started down this road. Now, I feel like a somewhat seasoned traveler on this grief journey. In the early days, my grief was very heavy and I struggled to carry it. The baggage was just too bulky. I’d drag it with me wherever I went. It’s different now. Experience has taught me how to carry my grief more gracefully. Most days my grief now fits into a carry-on. I guess you could say that, with time, I have become fairly proficient at lugging my grief around with me. Some people might not even notice it’s there anymore. It’s become a part of me. But, I know it’s there. It will always be there with me. It’s my baggage.
I am still lost without Mike because he didn’t leave me a map for this trip. I have no sense of direction, all I know is that I have to keep moving. I have to go forward. When Mike died, my life was disassembled. I am left here to create a purposeful life with what’s left of me. This last year, I have spent a fair bit of time planning and re-arranging my life in my mind. But, I know, all too well, that life does not always go according to plan. So, I have decided I will take a leap of faith and build my wings on the way down.
My New Years resolution is more substantial than typical.
My resolution is to re-enter life. I want to live again. I need to live again.
I have spent countless hours re-assembling my life in my head. My big ideas live inside my head because they are safe there. I don’t have to commit to anything. The risks aren’t real and the failures don’t have consequences if I don’t action my ideas. If I don’t act on my plans nothing changes. When grieving we seek comfort and safety in the familiar because so much change happens when your person dies. Any further change is completely overwhelming; so, we tend to avoid change for this reason. But, to be accurate, after he died, I felt the need to change everything all at once too. Months after Mike died I painted some rooms in the house because I needed the walls to speak to me differently when the silence ricocheted off them. I seriously contemplated walking the El Camino Santiago ( and, I’m still considering it). I wanted to travel the world (and, I still do). I want to buy a plane ticket anywhere – and never come back. I want to go everywhere and nowhere fast. Death creates a strange relationship with change. We crave change and it becomes everything we want; and something we avoid, all at the same time. (I am sure this is a blog entry for another time…) But, in the end, during the first year, change wasn’t what I needed most. I needed to play it safe in the beginning…
But, now, I am growing uncomfortable in this “safe” place. And, this is a good thing.
I realize that I am in limbo, just doing nothing. I am really just avoiding life because I am scared.
Death fuels fear because we live in an assumptive world -death shatters this.
Yes, I am scared, but it’s time to stop planning and just move.
It’s time for change.
I have to unfreeze myself. I need to let go of the fear and have more blind faith.
That’s the plan for 2018.
Taking the Leap and Building my Wings on the way down,