Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Circles or spirals

Last night I was driving over to my friend's for a massage, listening to music and pretty pleased with myself as I thought about an e-mail from an acquaintance I'm negotiating with to start a musical duo (with the hopes of finding a drummer and becoming a trio at some point). She'd told me that she'd shared some of my tracks with some of her friends, and they were "quite impressed," and that she's excited to get started. I am, too.

The thought popped into my head that this might well have been where my life was heading before I met A. My unique circumstances mean that, unlike for most widows, my life now looks very much like it did for years before I was widowed, and before A came into my life. It took me aback, the idea that the last 7 years has basically been a detour of 2 years of a gorgeous, wonderful dream and nearly 5 years of slowly receding hell, just to drop me back where I was: Married to E, with dogs, in the same house, at the same job, making my way into some kind of amateur music career.

Granted, I am not at all convinced (though A was) that I would be a musician today without his influence and encouragement. But in any case, it's weird and more than a little disconcerting as I think about it. Is that what's happened?

On the one hand, getting back to normal is the dream of the bereaved isn't it? Even when we know it's impossible. On the other hand, I cannot pretend the last 7 years didn't happen, either; it wasn't a detour—it's been my life. I just don't know what to make of it. My life, on the outside, may look very much as it did, and was going to, before A, but my life, lived from the inside, feels so very different from then. So it's weird that the comparison would've occurred to me at all.

Perhaps the conflict is in the constant tension between past and present. Sometimes I think, "If I had no past, if all I had and all I knew were what's going on in my life today, I'd be pretty happy." But there is a burden of prologue, and we must carry our joy and our pain and our lessons with us. I don't think there's any avoiding that, unless you trade it for the burden of iron-willed denial; either way, it's heavy, and there seems to be no option to set it down, short of amnesia.

I fantasize about that kind of amnesia sometimes, about forgetting the events of recent years, and even the idea of not remembering A, not remembering how we loved each other, not remembering everything he taught me, nauseates me.

The best I seem to be able to do is to decide when and how much I will let the past influence my current choices and actions. But the awareness of his absence and my sadness whenever I consciously confront that fact again, that doesn't go anywhere. It may not be flowing unchecked over the bar, but it's always on tap.

As I sit here in my cubicle at the same job I've been complaining about for nigh on a decade, and consider last night's epiphany, I have to wonder if the fact that my life now so resembles my life before is my fault…that I haven't done as much as I might've with the time, and rather than the universe playing a nasty joke on me, to put me through all that and drop me back right where I was in the end, that it is some kind of stagnation on my part.

Or possibly, what I'm looking at is a personal victory, in that I have managed to steer out of the rocks and get back on course. Because if I consider only the present, it's all pretty good. I'm pretty good. It's not a bad life at all. The problem, as always, is in knowing what you're missing.

In early grief, the signs that you're improving are pretty obvious: less crying; an occasional smile; being able to tell the story without a meltdown; feeling like you don't have to tell the story to everyone you run across. As you get further out, and you integrate the loss, it necessarily becomes more difficult to separate the widow experience from the life experience, and evaluate how you're progressing.

Maybe the answer is not in evaluating it at all.


How do I (not) do that again?


  1. "But there is a burden of prologue"…loved that line. Also these: "On the other hand, I cannot pretend the last 7 years didn't happen, either; it wasn't a detour—it's been my life. I just don't know what to make of it."

    I feel similar, in many ways, to everything you wrote here. The details are different, of course, and my life isn't back to what it was in 2002 before Charley and I got back together--it's much different--but it's a bitter pill to swallow that I got everything I wanted back in 2001, 2002…with one catch: the price was the man I loved, and our marriage.

    No, I never chose this. And if it hadn't been, as you said, for the prologue and the grief and pain and the past, I have what I wanted back then; I would be happy. But I can't unknow what I know…and anymore, I agree that sometimes not evaluating it all is a wiser choice.

    I really enjoyed this post. =)

  2. There's wisdom in the house of mourning . . . maybe this will all work out to show you're being who you were meant to be. Good luck making your music and singing your songs. I'm sure they're lovely. Glad I found your blog today.