Hello Sunday Readers!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of TIME.
How it goes sooo fast when you are a kid (or maybe it doesn’t if you experienced a traumatic/unpleasant childhood), yet soooo slowly when you are older. How there are times when we all wish we could either speed up time, or slow it down, or simply freeze moments and live them again and again.
How people all over the place misinterpret time’s power; like with grief or trauma. How everyone says and repeats as if it’s fact that it will get better with time, that time heals all wounds, that time will help you heal from loss. While all of these sayings do have some truth to them, the fact is that the mere passing of time does absolutely nothing except pass on by. It is always what we DO with that time that will largely determine our healing path through grief and loss.
Mostly, though, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much my own concept of time and even definition of time has altered in so many ways since the death of Don Shepherd. How in the first few months and even years post-loss, there were some days and even weeks where I felt as if I had no control over the time, like I couldnt even comprehend the concept of it. Minutes seemed like weeks, weeks seemed like seconds, and sometimes my widow brain was too fuzzy to even know the difference. There were days inn early grief where I would quite literally sit and stare at the wall or off into some space-like place, for hours at a time. Or where it might take me three hours to accomplish the task of showering, or the act of getting out of bed. On other days, I couldnt leave our apartment fast enough. On those days, the walls were closing in on me, and I had to get out of that space where the life that we lived together no longer existed and now it was suffocating me.
Time played such a huge role in early grief. All of the counting … how many hours, days, weeks, minutes, birthdays, holidays, seasons of “Mad Men” or “Rescue Me”, has it been? How many “fill in the blank” since he died? Since our last conversation? Our last hug? Our last singing and strumming guitar together? In those days of grief, time often felt like a prison guard, and I was it’s hostage. I did not know if I would ever get away – if I would ever break free of being controlled by time and how it paralyzed my thoughts during grief.
The good news is, I did break free. After a whole lot of grief work and counseling and processing through all the emotions and thoughts and why they are important, I started to feel more in control of my time, and time as a whole. Somewhere around year five or six post-loss, I started to fully understand that while I have zero control over time passing, I had a lot of control over the ways in which I choose to spend my time. Who I choose to spend it with, what people I like being around, and which ones I don’t. People I get a good feeling from, and those I don’t. Nowadays, I see human beings sort of the way I see dietary needs. Just like with food and how we choose what we put into our body, people can either feed our soul, or harm our soul. If there is someone who makes you feel not good when you see them, and it’s someone you don’t HAVE to see, then it’s probably a good idea to back away from that relationship. If someone doesnt necessarily make you feel “bad”, but really doesn’t offer anything to your life, those are “empty calories” people. Just like my nutritionist told me I can eat popcorn as a snack if I like it and that’s fine – just be aware that popcorn is not a snack choice that is giving my body any nutrients. There are some people in our lives who maybe we spend way too much of our time with, and yet, they leave us feeling empty. They dont challenge us or help us move forward in any way, and the relationship always feels stuck and rather pointless. Empty calories for the soul.
These days, whenever possible, I choose to spend my time doing things I want to do, and with people who feed my soul, make me feel good, and make me feel nourished and fulfilled. I choose deeper level conversations, big belly laughs, and those I can learn something from. I choose people who make me feel loved and worthy, and who I can love in return. I choose people who have been through some shit in their lives, and people who have empathy and compassion and kindness as their biggest traits. And when Im with those kind of people, I am able to recognize it while Im inside that moment. Im able to know with certainty that this moment with them is precious, and this is where I want to be. And when I have to be somewhere with someone who is just empty calories or harmful to my soul (due to work or life obligations that sometimes put us in places we would rather not be), I do my best to not waste too much of my energy on that person or that time spent. It’s not always easy, and there are times I wish I could do whatever the hell I want with ALL of my time, instead of just some of it – but I’ll take what I can get and cherish it a billion times over.
So, those are just some of the things I have been thinking about as I go from 51 to 52 in a few months, and as I face the 12 year death-a-versary of Don Shepherd coming up on July 13th. Time as a concept, and how much it changes for us as WE change and evolve, and how for some people, maybe they live their whole lives without ever understanding how precious or how fragile time really is. I truly feel for those people. My post-loss self is, I believe, a deeper and more caring person than who I was before sudden death came crashing in and stole the life I knew. And while I will always, of course, wish that Don didn’t have to die so young, I now spend less time asking “why did this happen?”, and more time accepting that there are some questions that never have answers. And truly, it really IS up to me how I choose to carry his death and the grief forward, and I do have more control in this than I realize at times.
I choose to spend time with my wonderful husband Nick who I met as a direct result of me choosing to open my heart again to the idea of new love. I choose to spend time helping other people through loss, and being a grief counselor these past few months has given me a feeling of purpose and meaningfulness that is hard to put into words. I choose to spend time with the friends who stuck with me through the days of my deep grief, and who didnt suggest I “get over it” or “move on already”, and I choose to spend time with the countless new friends I have made who are on their own grief tsunami. My friends in the widowed community are some of my very favorite people, and that will never change. Lastly, I choose to spend time laughing and growing and evolving, and more than anything, always loving.
Thanks for reading and growing and loving with me, friends. Even though my widowed brain sometimes forgets to write in here, it is never because you are not important. It is always because there are still those times when TIME feels like my prison guard, and I’m a prisoner, just watching it slip away.
As soon as I return from it’s nasty grip, I choose you.
I choose to spend time here, talking with all of you.