I really wish I could take credit for the title of this blog, but it actually comes from Anne Lamott's brilliant book "Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy" - which I highly recommend. Reading this quote was one of those hair-standing-up-on-your-arm moments and I couldn't wait to share it with this group.
After all, isn't this what we face on this journey?
Widowhood is a long list of necessaries - at least it has been for me. I've met other widows - more evolved widows - who seemed to have their shit together right from the beginning. While I was stuck in approval-mode, hoping to make everyone happy, other widows were saying, "No. I don't want to do that."
I didn't even know that was possible.
We all have have-tos in life, but the necessary stuff gets compounded when you're widowed. Yes, widowed or not everyone has to pay their bills and make sure the kids get to school, but then there's other stuff, too. Now, this list is just my own, so you might not think that these were necessary things, but I sure did.
- Feed the kids. Like, every day. For the next 25 years. By yourself.
- Get the kids to school. Like, every day. For the next 25 years. By yourself.
- Make others feel better about the thoughtless things they say so you don't find yourself completely alone.
- Get the dog to the vet and try to get that stupid cone on all by yourself.
- Get up in the morning knowing that sleeping in will not be possible until 2030.
- Making time to cry in your car.
- Give everyone else suggestions for Christmas presents for their spouses knowing you won't get one.
- Kids therapy.
- Car maintenance. Enough said.
- Taxes. On everything.
- Decisions. About everything.
- Does my dog need therapy?
- Unclogging the vacuum.
The list of necessaries goes on and on.
But there does come a point when you get used to it - or at least most of it - and your head starts clearing. Then something else gets added to the list.
Figure out what to do next.
And that's when possibility kicks in.
I don't know if we can really grasp "possible" until the fog clears - and sometimes it's hard to see even then. It's always there, it's just sometimes hidden and nothing hides "possible" better than grief.
"Possible" includes everything from making major life decisions - like moving, switching jobs, going back to school - to little things like taking care of ourselves in a way that REALLY makes us feel taken care of (something that I don't think is possible until we get over the "necessary" part).
I remember talking to my sister a few months after Brad died and saying, "I don't know what to do next." I didn't mean it in a self-defeated way; I felt like everything was open to me and I was overwhelmed. I'd been a stay-at-home mom long enough to make my resume almost obsolete, so my options felt endless. And I had no idea what to do.
Over a decade after losing my husband and raising three kids on my own, I feel a little like I'm moving out of the necessary phase and into the possible. In a few years, my time will be my own in a way that it never has been before. My youngest told me that she was talking to a friend the other day and they were both somewhat in awe of the fact that I've raised the kids completely on my own. But it was necessary.
Now it might be time to see what's possible.