Sunday, August 21, 2016

Closure & Journey

I have had some really interesting conversations recently regarding the words “closure” and “journey”, so regularly used when discussing the state of my widowed positions. I’ve used those exact words myself many times, casually flipped out there like a business card to anyone who is interested. Just for the sake of conversation, I looked up the Merriam-Webster official descriptions of these two heavily over-used nouns:

Closure: a feeling that a bad experience (such as a divorce or the death of a family member) has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way

So, umm, let me think for a moment … my wife died after we were together for 35 years (yup, a bad experience, her dying that is, not the 35 years), so while her being next to me ended, my memories and her impacts on me will never end. I haven’t stopped living, in spite of Bunny being gone, and living in a calm and normal way? Truthfully, I have no idea what the hell that means.

Calm and normal was when she was alive and healthy. Calm and normal would be me coming home from work to find her sitting in her studio working on one of the designs, a dog on her lap, the TV blaring, with her talking on the phone to who-the-heck-knows and then me getting shoo’d away when I kissed her on the top of the head because I was interrupting this delicate balance of work, yakking and the nightly news. After 35 years, that was calm and normal. So I can’t go back to calm and normal, no how, no way.

Now, just about two years from the start of the really significant decline in Bunny’s health, when the whole world went to crap, I can say that I’m calm. Or, calmer than I was when she was in trouble and fading. But it’s not a calm in the way that it’s suggested in that casually flipped out phrase. It’s entirely different.

And normal? There will never be the normal that I knew for well over half of my life. That ship has sailed away and will not return. Normal now is a completely different set of parameters than it was in the past, not necessarily better or worse, but most definitely different.

So, do I have closure? Nope, not by that definition …

Journey: an act or instance of traveling from one place to another

Bunny’s death wasn’t any type of journey. It was getting full body slammed by the entire defensive line of the NY Giants for the 4th time, directed by her nemesis, cancer. There was no trip, no longer any forward progress, just a huge F-U by a seriously pissed off group of cancer cells that were sick and tired of her beating them down. Her “journey” stopped with the proclamation “stage 4 metastatic cancer”. Stopped dead in its tracks.

My journey? I guess when actually thinking about it, I’ve always assumed a journey implied something with a bit more positive ending than “I’m sorry for your loss”. How about the word “detour?” Now that might bear some fruit, because I’ve rarely taken a detour that wasn’t shitty in some way or the other. It always slowed me down, made me late, pissed me off and generally was not a positive thing.

All of that being said, I think I’m giving “closure” and “journey” the old heave-ho from my daily lexicon. While I generally try to look at a poor circumstance and seek a way to not get stuck in the quagmire of whatever the bad stuff might be, I’m very sure that there will never be any closure for me with my wife dying. Period. I’ll learn to live with it but it is not closure in any way.

Bunny’s journey instantly imploded, stopped right in its tracks. I’ll continue to live, moving forward and living out my life. But it’s not a journey; it’s a whole brand new trip. I’m lucky to be able to have found another partner to travel with as we explore completely new things. She, too, had a journey come to a screeching halt … “sorry Miss, it’s the end of the line, the journey is over” and will have no closure, either. But together we can go in a whole new direction and we’re taking our departed spouses with us every step of the way, grateful for the many years we had and equally grateful for the new opportunities that await us.

For me, getting bogged down in platitudes like closure and journey do a significant disservice to both the wonderful 35 years I had with Bunny and to the possibilities that await me as I start my next chapter. I’m finding that thinking of my existence as a series of chapters in an on-going life more accurately describes how I view the world and aids in my ability to get past the bad stuff and keep on living. I can look for closure or I can go on to the next chapter, where the next part of my life is awaiting me. So I’m turning the page, excited to see what is in this next chapter, but remembering every detail of the story line that I’ve already read.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Counting Days

I no longer say “my wife died (5,6,7,etc) days ago”, now it’s “a few months ago”. And before too long it will be “last year” and then “several years”. When I first realized I was saying “a few months ago” it sounded cold & unfeeling to my ears, as if I didn’t care that much or that her death was somehow much less important now. But that’s not it at all. I think a few things happened that started to change my approach to mourning, and in turn, affected my telling of her passing and my outlook on life.

First, folks are just not interested in hearing the specifics of Bunny’s death; it’s easier to say “a few months” and it’s easier for folks to hear that. Although the actual # of days at first seemed VERY important to me, no one else cares for that type of specificity.

Second, no matter whatever else may be going on, one thing I can be positive about is Bunny isn’t coming back. No amount of praying, crying, begging or onerous date counting is going to change that. So why am I making myself crazy, tracking every single minute/hour/day that she isn’t here? What do I gain from that?

And last, Bunny would have hated me performing such a countdown (countup?) ritual. In my case, and I know not everyone has this situation, we knew this was going to happen. Maybe not to the specific day, but it was clear over the last year of her time with me that Bunny would die. She was never, ever going to get better. So what is the purpose of continuing the pain of day counting? Bunny would be furious with me for doing that.

I’ve allowed myself to come back to the world of the living, a place where people don’t care how many days Bunny has been gone. This is not to say that they have a callous disregard for her, it’s just that they don’t need to know it’s a certain amount of time. I’ve learned a lesson from them … I don’t need to dwell on that, either. Having a laser focus pointed at the past, just to be sure I’m exactly positive how long it’s been since my life went awry, serves no purpose for me, either.

Coming back to the world of living I’ve begun to see things differently. Now, nearly two years after Bunny’s health started that downward spiral and one year of waiting for her to die, I don’t face a dark cloud of looming death every day. While it at first felt selfish, I now realize that my being completely miserable because my wife died serves no purpose other than to feed that misery. I cannot fix what has happened, I cannot bring Bunny back.

So now, in the “few months” since my wife died I have emerged a newer, possibly better, person. I look at the good things that surround me instead of the darkness of my loss. I reflect on the huge number of positive impacts Bunny made in my life and I’m grateful for them, rather than regretting she is no longer able to contribute anything. I have developed a new friendship that is becoming more than just a friendship and I’m starting to smile far more often than I did for the past two years.

I know exactly how many days it has been since Bunny died, but I’m not dwelling on that any longer. And I don’t want to count that any more, unless someone can give me a good reason why I should.