Friday, May 6, 2011

The Weight of Guilt and Grief

Sometimes I feel like Ross Perot's running mate Jim Stockdale when he was in the vice presidential debate. "Who am I and what am I doing here?" I get asked a lot "Where have you been and what are you doing?" The easy answer is "Oh I am around, just sort of quiet these days." The truth is a tad more complicated. I am working hard to progress out of my dark place and to find the light. I laugh and smile a lot more these days. I am trying to learn to embrace my new self. Yet at times I feel guilty. Guilty that I want to move on. Guilty that I want to be happy. Guilty that someone might think that I have forgotten. I am guilty of many things, but these are not among them.

I have reentered the dating world. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much. I've opened my heart. It was so much  easier to be cold and unfeeling because everything hurt. I still have some cleaning up to do as I am still dealing with some cobwebs and some peeling paint from the remodel after the storm. Trust me FEMA ain't got an insurance policy for a demolished heart. So I packed it away in its many pieces and have slowly began to reassemble that part of me. Now I have to be watchful and not allow it to be injured as the newly rebuilt heart settles into position. I have to be willing to lose someone in order for me to even get a glimpse at what the future could hold with them. How much I am willing to be hurt depends on how much I value the person I suppose. I am into self preservation these days. If that is a crime then I am guilty.

I have put men on the friend list for many reasons. I am learning to be selfish. It's not that I cannot share, its that I simply don't want to share. I take up some room in a man's life and he needs to be able to accommodate me. I am unwilling to sit in the backseat of some one's life because of other obligations that were there before me. Needy children, neurotic parents, psychotic exes, unreasonable paranoia over passed illnesses or just plain baggage made up of crazy are not things that I am willing to step back for in my love life. I don't blame the fellas for having lives before me, but when those things bleed into my relationship with him, that's when I will pick up my keys and walk away. I have been told that I date like a man. So be it. I date like a woman who will not settle. I have raised my son and am ready to have a man to myself. If that is a crime, then I am guilty.

I am ready to shed my formal widow's title. I am tired of being either villanized or canonised because of my loss. I am tired of people judging me or my life because of the loss of my husband. I have grown tired of explaining color to the blind. I have my own identity and I want a life that is mine. People will always judge me. I understand that completely. However, I said long ago I would not wave my flag forever. I think it would be most unfair to a new man in my life to lament and forever be identified as a widow. I want to be the new me. A little older, a little wiser and a whole lot more myself. Although I spent well over 20 years in that one relationship, it will not define me. I cannot, nor should I be expected, to grieve myself to death. If that is a crime, then I am most certainly guilty.

I will always write about my journey through grief for I will always be on that road. The losses in my life have been many but none of the wounds to my soul were mortal. I will not always lament what could or in my mind should have been. I want to progress through this and grow.  I have spoken to many widows who feel the same and yet are afraid to voice it to their peers because they fear they will be judged. They want to be happy mothers and girlfriends and yes even happy wives. It doesn't make them or me any less than the ones who will judge, nor their grief more valid. It simply means we are working our grief rather than being a slave to the pain. Our children, family and friends need us. They need to feed from our strength and watch us bloom again. Even if you and yours aren't ready, me and mine are. So, if that is a crime, once more, I am guilty.

Lastly, the weight of grief is relative. The weight you give mine is relative to the weight I will give yours. My loss is no more profound than yours. Your loss is no more profound than his.  I get really tired of seeing people climb up on the rooftop of their lives and shout to hear the sound of their own voice. You're yelling to hear yourself above the noise in your own head. To me that is a symptom having no idea who the hell you are and not a result of losing a spouse. You built your life around someone or something, I did the same thing. But never doubt that before I knew I was a widow, I knew who I was as a person. I was lost in the mix for a minute, but I can stand flatfooted and say I know who I am. You have suffered a grievous loss. You are on a rough road. We hear you. The fact that you have small children, you have grown children, that you have no children, that you are a female, that you are male, that you are young or old, has no weight in this conversation. We are all in this hellish club that we didn't want to join and if listening to you yell is the price of being your friend, let me off this bus now. Because I am healing and if that is a crime, yes ma'am I am guilty as charged.

If you want to talk to me about your journey, grief, or recovery, I am here. If you need to vent, laugh, cry, question, measure or try to understand something, I am here. But if you come to me with issues that show that your grief out weighs mine because of the circumstances of your life, I will have no time for you. I want to move forward, learn, live, laugh and yes love. If that is a crime, I am guilty.