It’s been a very long time since I’ve attempted anything creative at the computer. When Larry died, I stopped editing the websites. Stopped painstakingly processing wedding photos. Stopped playing with graphic design, and although I was still writing, it was all too intensely personal to share – I filled journal after journal with angst and grief and agonizing questions about purpose and time and loss. Time is a funny thing. Tomorrow marks five years since he died. Just yesterday and a million years ago. Neither is easy.
After all this time, I’m resurrecting my blog. Having combined the one from Timberwolf Creek with WrightClick and stepping out into this new Magic Wine Glass world, I’m finding that I can’t just dust off the old posts and keep going. Not only have I lost the muscle-memory of how all this works, the technology has changed, and so have I. There’s so much to learn! And as I clumsily climb this learning curve, and get the old posts organized, I came across this one below – it was stored in a draft folder, never published. My widowed friends will recognize the emotions, and the process. It was written at the beginning of the new year, in a new decade, and I was just coming to grips with my new life. Everyone has their own timeline for grief. For me, it was just about two years before I could exhale. And that’s when I wrote the following, at the beginning of 2020…
There comes a time when you have to start from scratch, and recreate yourself out of thin air. Well, not quite thin air. You have to use the materials at hand, which aren’t quite what you’re accustomed to using. Some familiar ingredients are missing. Some strange ones have appeared. Quantities are different. And the chemistry is all off kilter.
This happens throughout a lifetime. Changing jobs, relationships, moving across the country, each upheaval requires at least a bit of re-evaluation and reorganization. But then, life throws you something big, and everything -everything- changes.
I was fairly certain I understood what it would be like, when Larry died. I knew that being part of a deeply loving relationship, so involved with each other, that I’d have to be something entirely new after he was gone. Intellectually, this made sense to me, and I felt prepared to face that. What nonsense. First of all, I was only thinking about what approach I’d take to life. Maybe activities. Career. I thought I’d be inconsolable for days, and then accept and move on. More naïveté and blind ignorance.
The reality is, when Larry died, first I had to die with him. First I had to sob and grieve and be zombie-like for weeks on end and be lost and sad and in constant unrelenting agony. First I had to miss him horribly and look for him everywhere and ache in ways in which I’d never conceived. I’ve heard the process compared to losing a limb. The pain is excruciating. The phantom pain is no less. And you just want to die. To escape the unending sadness and depression and loss. And then, through a fog of unfathomable pressure, you learn to deal with the prosthesis. Eventually to manage without help. To walk again. Even to understand that, if you’re willing to do the work, you might even run again. But make no mistake: the pain is not gone. The grief is not gone. You’ve just learned to manage your reactions to it, to skim over the emotions, to save the frustrated tears for private moments, and to press on. It’s never gone. It’s always right here, in the throat, pressing constantly just under the surface.
I thought I was prepared. After all, I had years and years of alarming news from his doctors. So much, that, “I’m sorry Mrs. Wright, there’s nothing further we can do for your husband. Call the children. Put your affairs in order,” was absolutely commonplace. After hearing this from so many doctors, for so many years, I’d stopped reacting to it. (This displeases doctors, by the way. They’re sure you haven’t heard them, and they start over. And over.) I have to say -had to say- that I understand, thank you, I know that’s difficult information for you to deliver, and I’ve heard it many times before. They’re still displeased, of course, because they are certain It’s Time and that I’m not paying attention. For the record: nobody was predicting anything of the sort when Larry actually died, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have that drama. But I was woefully unprepared.
We had talked about this. We had explored all of the emotions, the outcomes. We had years to prepare. Larry was no more prepared to die than I was prepared to lose him, but we did our best. I am so glad we had those years of warning, because there was nothing left unsaid. We said our goodbyes ten years ago, when predictions were dire and he’d taken a bad turn and our mornings began with tearful farewells over coffee. But we remembered, together, some excellent advice: you can be living every day or you can be dying every day: pick one. So we navigated that together.
And that’s the thing. There’s no more together. Solo flight is freakishly scary when you’re accustomed to being the copilot. At least I wasn’t just a passenger – I already knew how to manage a business and a household on my own, and I wasn’t managing Larry’s healthcare any more, so that weight was lifted. But I didn’t have a clue how to do all that and grieve, by myself, without my partner, my best friend, my whole world.
Two years have passed, in horrifying slow motion. But they have passed. And I’ve been holding my breath for so, so long, barely breathing. Today, the fog is lifted a bit, and I can make out shapes in the distance. I can put one foot in front of the other. Accomplish small tasks, and even make some plans for the future. A long exhale. I am indeed having to reinvent myself, but I find that incorporating the things I’ve learned from Larry have made me a better person than I was. Little by little, life is becoming routine, and normal, like a slow awakening. And there’s a good deal of peace, in that.