When a catastrophic life event happens, it is a landmark on the map of ones life. Sadly, most of the people from your life before this event are not going to make it into the life you lead afterward. As I am coming out of this hellish season of my life, I am shedding most of the people who knew me before the storm began. Some left immediately and others left when it got a bit too cold or the flood waters got a tad too deep. Not all relationships are strong enough to bend when hurricane force winds blow though ones life. Granny always told me, “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.“ During these 18 months I have seen all three come to fruition. I am only now learning some things about me and the people I keep around me, as well as who I was before and who I am now. The panicked silence of my grief is lifting and I can actually hear what people who genuinely care about me have to say. My logical thinking has returned and I can examine things in an objective manner that is unclouded by things that were said and done in the fog of grief.
One of my friends, whom is also a widow, and I have talked extensively about our late husbands. When we speak of our lives before and after, the information we glean from one another can be an absolute revelation. The most important thing that I have learned from our conversations is that we must remove our rose colored glasses and look at whom we actually lost. Both of us are southern girls and were raised to “never speak ill of the dead.” Yes, I said the word. Not passed on, not gone home, not even lost, but dead. For all of the polite words used for what happened to them and the lives we knew, both are in fact, dead. They were human beings, and as such, as flawed as any one that remains here on Earth. Our relationships were living, breathing things that died the day one of us took our last breaths. We cannot truly grieve until we put these canonized ghosts that haunt our pasts to rest and look at them, as well as our lives, in the cold light of day. The details are lost in the thousands of words that make up the conversations with a good friend that change the way one sees the world. But the ultimate truth that remains is one of the truest statements I have ever made in my life. The heart cannot grieve a lie. The truth is, we loved them then for who they were. The lie is that we love them now for who we wish they had been. Unless and until we come to grips with the realities of the relationship, there is no way to heal. When the cracks in the lie begin to show, it rips us open anew.
Another dear friend and I have talked extensively about other things. He is the father of grown children and sees things through eyes I do not yet possess. He gently walked me through one of the hardest things I will ever do as a parent. Learning that I have to transition from my sons Mommy into his Mother. In my panic that my place with my son was shrinking, I was making myself obsolete in his life. Mommy binds up the wounds, cuts and scrapes that life deals our children. She forces her will upon her children because she simply knows what is best. Decisions a child doesn’t understand are met with the simple answer “because I said so” and the problem ends right there. What I couldn’t see is that my son is an adult and I was trying to remain his Mommy to make everything better. When I made the transition into letting him make his own decisions, right or wrong, I became his Mother. By letting him go I have drawn him closer to me. I am his confidant. I learned to say “How can I help?” rather than “This is what we will do.” In doing this I became unafraid to say “I don’t know.” The difference is that now I stand behind him rather than in front of him. While I have made my transition, he has made sound decisions and great strides to secure his future. When the pressure of one of us disappointing the other was removed, we could proceed into an adult relationship. I am not responsible for his life and it is his to live.
I was speaking with yet another friend and the topic turned to people who try to drag us into the drama that surrounds them. Our views on these people are very similar. Everyone has an issue every now and then, but if the nexus for your life is always in disarray, then the common denominator is you. If you are constantly looking for validation by causing conflict around you, perhaps the question should be, “What is missing within you that causes you to look for that attention?” I have, for the most part, extricated myself from the drama queens who were around me. I simply stopped answering their cries of wolf. I have made a conscious decision to be happy. I try to look at each day as a shiny new thing that will bring me to something good. The people I am keeping around me these days are positive and want good things for me. The last friend noticed a marked difference in my countenance. In his words, I am lighter and much easier in day to day conversation. He noted that I am a loving, supportive and gentle soul who loves the people around me right where they are in life. I accepted his compliment without a qualification from me. That is not something I would normally do but I am learning.
When I first started writing I stated that I could not crack the code on this widow thing. I am getting there. The correct combination is coming to me and now I can see the path I must follow. What I have discovered is that if I spend less time looking at what is gone, I can accurately see what is here. In order to reach for the solid things I want in my future, I must release my grasp on the vapor that is my past. I was always fascinated by storms as a child. My cousins would run to Granny crying but she had to call me inside. I was always standing fearless in the rain trying to watch the show. It was then Granny told me to remember when it was the coldest and the darkest during a storm, others would run from the thunder and lightening. She told me to always remember the louder the sound the further the danger and that flash of light was to remind me that daylight was just on the other side. This long night is almost over. Daybreak is coming.