Excellence–excelling at some task–was something I was taught throughout my life. It is a trait ingrained in me–a trait I know some would think of as competitive. But I am driven to get things right and this “widow” thing is no exception.
Since returning from Florida I have struggled more and more–some would say it’s the weather over the last several weeks in Wisconsin. It’s been unceasingly gray, gloomy and cold with bone-chilling dampness and sharp winds off of Lake Michigan. There has been what has at times seemed to be enough rain that a person might seriously consider building an ark. And I suppose there is an element of that in the downward slide I have made emotionally and spiritually these last weeks. Some would say that the fact that I have been fighting bronchitis for six weeks now and that I have a deadline for my next book looming have been major contributors to my feelings of depression. All valid assumptions.
But as Oprah would say, here is what I know for sure: I am so very tired of starting over, of having to adapt my life to circumstances not of my own making, of finding a way to move forward…alone. And then came this last week and four events that shifted my outlook albeit ever so slightly. I started reading Joyce Carol Oates memoir about widowhood; the Boston Marathon bombings kept me riveted to the TV for hours on end; the West, TX fertilizer plant fire and explosion reminded me of the town where I grew up in the hills of southwestern Virginia; and the film “42” about the life of baseball great Jackie Robinson touched me in unexpected ways.
So here is the second thing I know for sure: when L and I were facing together the end of his life our mantra became “It is what it is.” In an interview with TN women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt who is facing life with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s I heard her add a key second line to that statement: “It is what it is and it will be whatever we choose to make of it.” I have choices I can make, roads I can take or not, self-pity that I can either wallow in or reject.
My therapist has told me several times that Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way time and again and expecting a different result. I do that a lot–always going back to the same perceived slights and issues and how I would like for them to change. It is way past time to let go of that kind of pettiness…L always counseled that and it made him so very sad that I would be “better” for a time but would eventually circle back around to the same whining. In the play A Raisin in the Sun, there is a line about how life is not a circle but an unending line–one we cannot see the end of and one we can only move along addressing the situation we find ourselves in at this moment and making plans for the future with the full understanding that those plans may change.
I was married for over four decades to a man who knowing his future with a certainty that most of us never have CHOSE to live his life with grace and humor, CHOSE to place the focus of his days on me and on others; CHOSE to have no regrets when the end came because he knew that he had done everything he could for as long as he could. He had never given up but rather let go of pieces of that life as the reality of his limits dictated. Surely in honoring his memory and that life so well lived, I, too, learn to “let go” and move forward with purpose so that whenever my end may come I too will be able to look back without regret.