This time of year I get a little quiet. I’m taking stock of my life. Where I have been and where I want to go. The plans I made a year ago in relation to the progress I’ve made throughout the year. Some things I have passed with flying colors, others were mediocre and a few were complete failures. Birthdays used to be a time of celebration for me. Now it’s a bit different. I used to mark time in the years I have been on earth. Now I mark time by how long I have been here in the widow’s world. I am sure it will change at some point but I tend to be a realist and live where I am at the moment.
Since my birthday is in July, it was never anything big with my friends. My family celebrated it every year. Because I grew up in such a rural area, I never had friends there from school and we didn’t live in a neighborhood. In fact I actually never had a party until my 42nd birthday. It was five months after his death and my son threw the party for me. His is 2 weeks before mine and I actually think we celebrated together to keep from going insane. His friends and mine meshed together in one night. They stayed until dawn and it was okay. The darkness did not swallow me that night as it did many others and still does from time to time.
Last year I ran. I went to the coast and pretty much hid for the week. This year I’m going to face it flat footed. That is simply my personality. I don’t really have a fight or flight reflex. I have a “well it really can’t kill me” reflex. I’ve always been that way. Monsters in the basement? Let me go down there in the dark. A friend of mine told me today they are going to a family reunion with someone they aren’t related to because “they uncomfortable driving that far alone.” I simply don’t understand that mentality. I live in uncomfortable. If it makes me uncomfortable, I will do it or die. I’m not necessarily as much fearless as foolish I think.
My late husband was a manufacturing engineer who worked with metal. I learned a lot about the processes that were involved in his work. Then I look at my moniker of the real deal steel magnolia. All steel is made through fire. Forged in the flame the impurities burn off. Yes, I have walked through some fire. Granny always said “It takes an awful hot fire to make steel.” What she neglected to tell me is that steel is a raw material and it has to be made into something to be valuable.
That is the process that I am living through at the moment. It would be easier if it were a hot process. It would be comfortable. I understand fire. I have often said I vacation in hell. The best, most pure, strongest steel is cold rolled. Hellish pressure. At 50 degrees versus over 1000 degrees. It takes time. It hurts. I don’t understand the cold. I don’t remember life outside the fire.
I am learning to live in the cold. Outside the heated stares of people. Outside the flames of whispers and rumor. The fire I can do in my sleep. The cold is much harder for me. Cold is a cup of coffee on the steps with my morning cigarette with no one watching. Being forgotten in the world I used to inhabit. Cold is not speaking verbally to anyone for an entire weekend at times. Looking up at 11 pm from a book and realizing I haven’t eaten all day because I didn’t remember.
In some form or another I have always lived for other people. Worked hard to make someone proud. Lived in the sunlight of someone’s love and approval. I could have run right out and found another someone to live for I suppose. I would have still been steel but the hot rolled product. The cold rolled process is harder but it is best. The finished process carries less imperfections and impurities. In this method I am learning to live for me. To get my own approval. I am quite the perfectionist, so for myself I will be the best me and made out of the best materials available in heaven and hell. I have been through both and I desire to return to neither. The magnolia will be finished in cold rolled steel.