High Five. I made It through the "Year of Firsts". Now what?
(8 Minute Read)
As you can imagine, my first year as a widow has been full of sadness, contemplation, growth, melancholy, frustration, love, anger, laughter, and appreciation—and sometimes that all happens within the same hour.
As I look back on my inaugural year I’ve come to realize a few things…
#1. I’ve learned that I really hate the term widow. I know it’s technically what I am, and I’m trying to embrace it, but I cringe when I use the term widow. Look, I even had to write it in italics because it’s just that kind of word. I googled it one night (don’t ask me why) and this is what showed up; Noun; Woman with dead husband. It sounded so…final, and quite honestly, creepy. I mean it was final of course, for him, but it just sounded so limiting and restrictive for me—the surviving wife—to have this label attached to me as if I had a desperate child clinging to my ankle screaming for attention in the middle of a supermarket checkout lane. Saying the word not only choked me up emotionally and reopened the wound, but it felt like I was 1) a frail, tender, old woman that might break in half if you looked cross-eyed at me, or 2) someone who’s really been through the ringer and now has some sort of superpower strength.
I’d like door number 3 please. I’m still me, just a few extra dings that’s all.
Sure, I get that by definition what the word means, and I do understand that losing your life partner creates an enormous amount of strength. And if I was 90 years old and a recent widow, then yes, I could be tender and frail. But who defines my life or gets to decided what label I wear? Dictionary.com?
I’ve only said the word widow maybe a handful of times this year when describing my status, and the instant I try to stutter it out or write it down, I have all of this emotional and justifiable baggage that unintentionally comes along for the ride and for some reason feel the need to vomit explanations as to how I became a widow. It’s like I have no filter at all.
Describe your marital status: 🔲 Married 🔲 Single ☑️Widow . Please allow me to explain…wtf?
I understand that the term may feel comfortable for some, er, widows, and I am not trying to be disrespectful in the least. Circumstances are different for everyone. But for me the term only echos the feeling of loss and sorrow which is not how I like to roll. And yes, I understand the need to feel all the feels, and I still feel them. But I also know that progressively feeling all the sad feels can be debilitating and hold me back from all the other feels I want to feel, like the happiness feels and the joy feels. Ya feel me?
I believe that over time grief can become self-indulgent and for the record, I would much rather indulge in a nice cabernet and some bitter dark chocolate because at least I’d get some guilty satisfaction—and quite possibly—a bad hangover out of it. I can easily recover from both of those. Calling myself a widow just makes me feel stuck in a perpetual state of limbo and hell—I’m only 50 years old. I’m just starting the first part of the second half of my life and I’ve been in limbo far too many years already.
It’s also a real buzzkill. Having a nice conversation at a party? I can drop the word widow and the vibe just went from peppy to pity in 2 seconds flat.
#2. I’ve learned that it’s never too late and I’m never too old. First of all, just saying the words I’m getting old predicts my future. Yes, of course I’ll get old, but how I get there matters. My body hears my words and if I frequently say I’m getting old—even as I joke—my body will age in front of my eyes like a bad magic trick.
One of my spiritual heroes is Louise Hay. In 1984, and at the age of 57, she established the Hay House publishing firm which is the primary publisher of over 130 authors, including Deepak Chopra, Gabrielle Bernstein, and Abraham-Hicks, as well as many books by Wayne Dyer. Her publishing career didn’t even begin until she was almost 60 years old! (Notice the italics there?) She continued to learn and seek out new ways to improve herself all the way up until her death at the ripe young age of 90. My goal is to be like Louise when I grow up and never, ever, stop.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 20 years and decided at 50 years of age and 2 months after losing Klink to go back to school to do the thing I love more than anything else. Teach others about healthy living. I am also going to walk a 500 mile journey across the northern half of Spain in the fall and feel I am in the best physical condition of my life to be able to do so.
Did you catch that part where I said walk 500 miles across Spain? I am never too old to do the things I am passionate about and it’s never too late to try.
This is what keeps me young at heart, what keeps me always exploring and always being curious. I even had a little write up in Prevention Magazine on just this subject last summer. As I started to look forward towards what I wanted from my life instead of backwards at what I lost, I started to be pulled through my darkest days and I could feel my heart heal. My sister Eden and I were saying just yesterday how we still feel like we’re 25 years old inside our heads and that when we’re 90 years old we hope we feel the same way.
I say onward and upward.
#3. I’ve learned that being alone is good for healing. At least for me it was. I’m like the injured cat that hides under a dark, quiet bed, only to come out when it’s healed and well. Not everybody needs a grief support group and not everybody needs to be around people to help themselves through the rough spots. Being alone and not talking about the things I didn’t want—like sadness and loss— was the best way for me to let it go and to heal. (Binge watching all six seasons of Downton Abby in 2 weeks didn’t hurt either.) I needed to find my own alignment within myself and to get my head in a good place, plus, I like my own company and if I can’t be comfortable with myself and my thoughts, how can I be comfortable with another? My friends and family gave me my space because they all knew if and when I needed them, I’d reach out. And I did on many occasions.
Being solo has also given me the time to process things that would have been impossible to do had I always looked towards another to fill the void. Who was I without him? Who was I without the conversation of cancer? Who am I going to be moving forward? What story am I telling? I knew I had to be alone for this. Klink was sick for 10 years (14 if you include cancer #1) and we were together for 23. There was a lot of processing to be done, and still is. Lot’s of feelings and emotions I needed to sort through alone and without the reflection from anyone else.
Sometimes silence is golden.
#4. I’ve learned that running away doesn’t work. But hell, it sure was enticing. No responsibilities, no house to look after, no business to run, no one or no thing to take care of—not even a plant—just me, myself, and I. A pack on my back, shoes on my feet, and a one-way ticket to anywhere but here. I was close. Like really close. I had received some advice at the funeral in which a person whispered in my ear not to make any big decisions for a year, and, well, ditching my company, selling my house, donating all of my belongings and going on a six month trek across Europe would be what I considered, a few really big decisions. It’s a good thing my rational mind jumped in and saved me from what wouldn’t necessarily have been a mistake—because who would consider total freedom a mistake—but would have taken away a pretty special year.
Ok. I admit. It would have been big a mistake.
I wanted to remember Klink the way he was when we first met when he was gregarious, full of life and inspiration—not worn, torn, and battered by years of treatments and illnesses. A hard-working man with a quick joke and a big grin that made you feel as if you were the most important person on the planet. The guy who wore red high-top chucks to our wedding, built me anything I asked for, and sang James Taylor songs to me as if he wrote each one of them himself and only for me. One of his favorites was, “The Secret To Life Is Enjoying The Passage Of Time” and I soon realized that I needed to experience and enjoy exactly that for myself—the passage of time—right here where we spent our life together and not in some foreign country where the memories I was starving for would always elude me. Probably because they were never made there.
So much came back to me because I worked in the yard and on the house over the summer. Years ago—and working side by side with our friends—we took this once little green house with it’s oddly-colored orange door, and turned it into his personal masterpiece. As I repainted and refreshed the inside this summer, the memories of laughter and love and friendship filled my soul and when I worked out in the yard and garage, I felt his presence surround me with the flashbacks of happy days together.
I’m grateful I stayed.
#5. I’ve learned that I would like to apologize in advance to you—my first date—whomever you may be. Dear Mr. First Date Man, your going to get the brunt of it I’m afraid because no amount of healing and processing will negate the fact that you, you brave brave man, will be the first date I’ve had in 24+ years. And considering that my last first date was with Klink, makes for an amusing and totally awkward time we’ll have together. Plus I’ve got the whole food allergy/intolerance thing going on so you’ve really got your work cut out for you. For the record, that’s celiac, dairy, soy and onions.
There might be some tears, enormous bouts of confusion, and complete befuddlement, but it’s okay…I promise to completely understand and pass you the tissues.
I’ve always said that I’ll feel sorry for the Mr. First Date Man after Klink was gone. Klink adored me, spoiled me, challenged me, and more than anything else he made me want to be a better person. I would never except anything less than that from any other man moving forward.
So really Mr. First Date Man, if you’re honorable and kind, just be yourself and you’ll do just fine. But oh, I forgot! I’ve got to write a book this year so you’re off the hook for awhile.
Whew. Wipe that sweat off your brow.
#6. I’ve learned that I’ll be okay. I typically plan out my personal dreams and schemes for the upcoming year on New Year’s Day and write down the things I want to accomplish. I’ve done it since I became and entrepreneur as it’s a great way to stay focused and to grow both personally and professionally. We’re told to “dream big!” and to not sell our goals short and I did that for many years, but the last few years before Klink died, I would read my goals that I had set at the end of the year and felt like I had failed as a human being. My big goals always had an invisible but if something happens to Klink after them which made them basically unachievable.
It’s hard, dare I say impossible, to dream big dreams when you are in a situation like I was. How do you possibly plan together when you don’t know what tomorrow will bring? What the afternoon will bring? How do you possibly travel alone and enjoy yourself without immense guilt? Simply put, you don’t. It’s just the way it is and so you have to adjust your sails.
My goals became simpler: 1) Learn a headstand. 2) Create a Last Will & Testament and Health Care Directive (yes, that was a goal). 3) Hike local.
Instead of hiking in Yosemite National Park, I chose to hike the state parks here in MN. I could leave for the day, feel comfortable doing so and Klink was good with it too. He knew I’d be back by dinner so if anything happened I was not far away. It was a good trade off and allowed me to have some personal space to accomplish my goals and for him not feel alone or abandoned. He understood my need for “me time” and he never wanted to be a burden (which he never was). I understood that he respected that, and in turn adjusted my sails. This is what unconditional love is, and during those final years we both received a crash course in it.
But last year, on New Year’s Day 2017, Klink had been gone only five weeks, and it felt so unusual and somewhat wrong to have any dreams at all. I just wanted to make sure I got out of bed everyday, brushed my teeth, combed my hair and made an attempt to get dressed. I suppose those could suffice as lofty goals but some days I failed miserably at them. While everyone else wanted to punch 2016 in the throat, I simply wanted to breathe.
Instead, I wrote a letter to my future self to be opened on New Year’s Day 2018. And so this year I sat down with a glass of champagne and opened it—reading the kind and loving words I wrote to myself. Dear Lorri, I hope you found peace. I hope your house is full of laughter and love again. I hope you were good to yourself. I hope your sadness has lightened and your days are full of health and hope. I hope school was all you had hoped for. Whatever you decided to do this year, I hope it was good for your body and soul. And whatever you did decide to do, know it was enough.
And then I grabbed my pen and a blank sheet of paper and started writing. Big, fat, lofty, goals for 2018: Graduate from school. Start a Health Coaching business. Write a book. Learn a handstand. Hike two national parks. Walk the Camino de Santiago – 500 miles across the northern part of Spain…
Yep, I think I’m gonna be just fine.
Breathe Deep & Live Well,