Mike and Sarah share Sunday posts, as they are two widows who are in a new relationship together.
Today’s post is from Sarah:
October has been a beautiful month in my life. It seems so strange a time to say that. When all the world is consumed by elections and pandemics and very valid fears of all kinds… when we have been through an experience like no other that leaves us exhausted with uncertainty… I am finding myself feeling as if I am standing on such solid ground. I am finding myself not without fears, but more accepting of them, and trusting that life will continue to be beautiful no matter what comes.
One thing’s for sure… it has been a full, messy, emotional, beautiful month. We chased the fall seasons from upper Michigan to North Carolina and back home to Ohio. An entire month-long journey of fall colors. We got married this month – two widowed people telling the world that they will risk the pain of loss again for the privilege to share love for however long we get. We said those vows the only way a pandemic would let us – at a courthouse. I cried every night for a week beforehand, missing my mom and wishing she were at least alive even if not able to be physically there. We went on a honeymoon the only way we could, too – in a little camper we bought with the money that was supposed to be for the wedding/honeymoon we spent a year and a half dreaming of and planning for. And it was an incredible adventure. And then we took his/our daughter on a family trip after that for hiking in the mountains and more adventures.
Those travels were all socially distant. We spent most of our time hiking and driving around exploring. We went to only a handful of stores, shops or restaurants, and did without a lot of things we might otherwise normally have enjoyed. Only it didn’t feel like we were doing without, at all. Because socially distant has meant being in nature more. It has meant being more creative and more mindful. It has meant paying closer attention not only to what brings me joy, but to what really deeply matters most. It has meant discovering that really, I need very few things: the people I am closest to (even if just via phone), nature, my spirituality and connection to my loved ones gone, and my creativity.
In a year of so much change, so much fear, so much uncertainty… I’m finding that important reminders. I have been falling into old habits of trying to control everything as a way to “prevent new pain” for the past few years, not really aware of that until now. I was becoming rigid, building castles in the sand to keep out any new pain. I remember doing this before. Before I was widowed. Before my entire world came crashing down, I had crafted this meticulous, clean, tidy life behind grand castle walls. I kept things secure, I kept anything emotionally messy out, and I felt safe.
It was beautiful, and then it was gone.
In the aftermath, I learned that life could be beautiful, still. In new ways. Even with pain at my side. Even when I so much of what I thought I had control of was destroyed… even when life took things from me and tore down all the careful walls I built… in the midst of that chaos, life was still beautiful and here was the important lesson: the pain didn’t make life less beautiful. Even without Drew, there was still a whole world of life and love and nature and adventure. Even with tears and triggers and pain always by my side.
This year has reminded me of that some. I have been lucky enough so far to not lose anyone important in my life to COVID. I have been lucky enough not to lose anyone significant in my life in several years in fact. But I also have some carefully built walls I’ve put back up again, and I’d begun to have an illusion of control again – which led to fear. Fear of new loss, new pain, new risk. This year challenged that. It took away control. It knocked down castle walls… enough for me to remember the sharp lesson I learned when Drew died: control is an illusion that wastes time we could otherwise use to live more fully. It is building castles in the sand and hoping they’ll stay up. This year is reminding me that letting go of control and trusting instead that life will be beautiful even if there is pain… that is where the truly solid foundation lies. Without walls at all.
In an odd way, I’m beginning to look back at this difficult year and the chaos it has brought with some gratitude. I am, at least now, mindful that this year has stolen things from me that I can never have back. It has caused new pain I didn’t see coming. It has killed dreams and forced me to rebuild them anew. It has required sacrifices I never imagined. It has also pushed me to be more creative, more focused, more trusting, and more loving. Even in all of the chaos, life has been beautiful, creative, full of nature, full of love, full of important lessons, and so worth living. It has reminded me that without all those walls, there is room to walk around, perhaps out of the sand and on to open, solid firm ground with a beautiful view of all landscapes, the joyful, the painful, all of it.