Catchy title. Catchy, but I find myself struggling to learn how to live again. I wake up every day, I go to work, and I sleep at night. All the routine motions of living continue, but my heart beats differently and my mind thinks differently. Basically, I am a different person now. The things around which my life once revolved have drifted to the farthest recesses of my mind. For the last eight-and-a-half years, I haven’t permitted myself the leisure of thinking too much. I should’ve followed the advice I read in hundreds of articles about grieving; I should’ve been easier on myself and given myself the time to heal. I didn’t. Instead, I pushed forward while focusing on a promise I made and spent too much time worrying about how my grief affected others. I regret that. I don’t imagine there is a “proper” way to heal, but after so many years, I believe that worrying about what others think should be at the very bottom of the list, if at all.
My lack of foresight results in unexpected and abrupt flashes now. A couple of weeks ago, I was washing some dishes and gazing out the window and in an abrupt and unexpected moment, my mind recalled a distant memory. There he was, mowing the hill where I was gazing. I smiled. Then, I wanted to cry. I don’t allow myself to cry, so it took a lot of strength to hold back tears. I suppose the memory popped into my mind because I was thinking that the grass is growing and I need to start mowing. I suppose the memory popped into my mind because he is never far from my mind. I suppose that instead of analyzing the mechanics of what prompted a memory, I should try focusing on my instant reaction to it, which was a fleeting smile. The smile was not one of those manufactured smiles that widows practice in order to appease onlookers; the smile was sincere and without thought.
These glimpses into the past are coming more frequently now. This morning, I was sitting under my dining room table, cleaning the parts I seldom find time to scrub and I saw Star Puppy Ruth with his paws draping the table legs. We lost our beloved Star Puppy six months before Doyle joined him. Again, I smiled. Star Puppy Ruth was almost a permanent fixture under Doyle’s legs. That was Doyle’s favorite place to sit at the dining room table and Star Puppy was always right there. Sometimes, I had to slide that 60-pound puppy across the floor while I tried to clean. Sometimes, I scolded him. Sometimes, I laughed at him and rubbed his belly while telling him what a big baby he was. The memory of him was completely unexpected. It just popped into my mind, much like the mowing incident. This time, I didn’t analyze it; I just soaked it all in. This time, I didn’t fight the tear that came to my eye.
Perhaps these abrupt and unexpected flashes of the past are the stepping stones to learning to live again. I don’t claim to know the answers. All I know is that the motions I’ve been making that resemble some semblance of normalcy do not represent living.
I recently shared an old piece of writing and a few friends asked me to continue writing. I’m giving it a shot. I started writing because I thought it would help me heal faster, but I learned healing is not something that can be controlled. I stopped writing because I wasn’t healing. Healing from grief is not like healing from a physical wound. The heart, once broken, has to learn its own path to healing. There is not a pattern and there is definitely not a specific timeline. Each person and situation is unique. I can’t follow one person’s advice any more than I can follow one widow’s advice; I have to follow my heart.
I’m going to take my friends’ requests to heart and try writing again. It helps me to know that a few people actually enjoy reading what I write, and who knows, I may find that writing will help me learn to live again. This time, I won’t write with any expectations or intentions. I’ll just let my heart express what it needs to express. If it does lead to living again, then I’ll know it’s time. For now, I plan to treasure the memories of happiness that pop into my mind.
©2018 Relinda R.