I Outed Myself

Sigh. I don’t lead with my widow foot. There was a time when I would if I thought there was some advantage to it. I was all about easing my burdens through any means necessary through the caregiving years and right after Will died. But these days, I am vague about my status.

Vague?

I talk about Rob, the fact that I have grown step-daughters, that he and I are raising a seven year old still and that we’ve only been married for going on three years. I don’t elaborate on the how’s, why’s or huh’s – because the math could lead a person to speculate all manner of options leading to the bottom line that is my life.

It’s not that I am ashamed or even overly worried about the effect that my having been widowed once – a while back now – has on people. It can vary but normally people are a bit taken aback and by the time they find words – if they are inclined to words at all – I’ve moved the conversation along.

I do that because I don’t feel new people need to offer me condolences or feel sad for me.

But yesterday at yoga, in the course of being drawn out about my writing, I got backed into a bit of a corner – mostly because I’d tried to talk around the topic of my memoir instead of just laying it all out – and I revealed, in as few words as possible, the whole widow thing.

Later, during a discussion of the vritt’s – I posted about them recently – I used going through the motions after the death of a spouse as an example of how sometimes sleepwalking through life is not a bad thing but is instead a cushion to help a person get by. I framed it in light of my own experience.

One of the great things about moving away from Iowa was leaving behind those who knew about Will. People who could bear some witness to the me of that span of time. It was nice to be shed of them in a way.

Gradually I have revealed this part of my life to people, but as I talked about my memoir to the women in my training, I admitted that what keeps me from finishing it is the fear of it being published and widely read. Mostly, because I don’t want to be known as a widow. Someone who went all “boot-strappy” on her life and overcame … adversity? Is it really adversity if it’s a normal life event that everyone will go through at some point or another if they partner up and stay together?

“Some people find my life interesting,” I told the group at one point, “but I don’t want to be a guru or self-help maven. This is how I did it and have someone think it is the right way, the only way instead of just a way.”

Someone commented here once that I was her grief guru. That is something I can’t be. I believe only in the process of life under which all the details fall and one of them is coping with death and moving on with life at some point.

Ach, I am rambling. I don’t know what to say to people anymore about grief, which is another problem with finishing the memoir. I feel removed from it though never safe from it, if you know what I mean.

Time to hit the showers, me thinks.

13 thoughts on “I Outed Myself

  1. Hi Annie,
    As you know, I am a fairly preachy person and I love to give others advice. It’s just my “type.”
    BUT
    Most of the time the difference I seem to be able to make is pretty different from that: it’s just testifying that I survived, had sex again, remarried, etc. I know when I was the most messy, finding someone who had and just knowing they had been through it, and were alive and smiling (f they were on that day) was hugely helpful to me.
    So it was a senior role that had nothing to do with actual advice or words or any assumption that they had done anything particular, or anything right.
    Just testimony.
    And I still feel this is one of my missions: to share my experiences because they help, in whatever voice I use.
    So I look forward to reading your memoir as a friend, a peer, and to hear you witness what you see and what you went through and how you see life today, and tomorrow. Not because I have any intention of following you, or any expectation that you’re a teacher.
    Does that make any sense?
    So git back to writing, gal.
    X
    Supa

  2. I hear you on this one. Having actually published my memoir, I can tell you that in doing so there is a piece of my widowhood that I was able to put away. A been there, done that sort of feeling. That said, I still get emails from other widows, their stories, their appreciation for mine which is both glorious and difficult. I still get into that rat’s maze of “so what’s your memoir about?”

    No one wants to be the widow forever, and there are times when I worry that by writing the book I have placed myself inside that box. But as time goes on, and I am discovering the joys of fiction writing, I realize there are other ways to explore widowhood and all the junk that goes with it.

    I think what I am saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid of your memoir. Putting it out there won’t necessarily result in knitting you permanently into that widow yoke, but it will open up new ways of exploring it.

  3. Yep. I find it difficult to not “out” myself sometimes here…. When your children go to school and we have frequent “playdates” with other parents… it’s always the brick that drops at some point in the first playdate at our house (being as Ryan’s picture hangs right above our antique fireplace….)

    I usually try to quickly move the conversation along… only downside is that as soon as someone finds out, the “other” questions always come up… I’m usually quickly to answer and then often emphasize that my children still should not be looked upon as different or ever given extra leverage when it comes to bad behavior… one of our main rules in this house is that under no circumstances are our behaviors (unless it is genuine tears) excusable by what happened to us.

    I also feel ya on the grief… being the “advice” center for some… all though I do try to listen to a point and I share some of my (being MY journey) thoughts on the subject if asked. I don’t do it often because it can be very draining to my psyche however I know that when Ryan died, I was only 26, and couldn’t really find anyone my age to identify with… so that’s probably why I do it for others (my age… and surprisingly there has been quite a few!) on occasion πŸ™‚

    Yet you’re 100% correct in saying that it is everyone’s OWN journey. We all have our own roads to walk down. And yes, we will all experience it at some point in our lives. It needs to be met and dealt with. πŸ™‚

  4. I get what you are saying; however, every experience in our lives define who we are and what we become. We tend to be a sum of our life experiences. Like it our not you are a grief guru, especially to those who have not experienced it and are forced to face it head on. You are a second marriage guru, because you have successfully walk through that gate and lived to tell the tale. You are a writing guru, because you experience words and practice daily.

    I know there was a time in my life when “widow” totally defined me. There was a period of time that “teacher” totally defined me. There was a period of time where “single-parent” defined me. But more than all, I am defined by each of these experiences in unity.

    I believe we are relational beings—designed for “community”. These experiences are what we bring to the community. To share…to learn…to live…

    Sorry that last paragraph was disgustingly “Halmark-ish”—
    Marsha

    1. Valid points. I still cringe away from grief guru and even relationship/second marriage guru. I went to school and learned to write and taught it for years, so I can claim to have knowledge to share, but my way of surviving the loss of a spouse or my journey into dating and remarriage are pretty me-specific. I am probably a bit more qualified than some when it comes to giving advice, but I even hesitate doing that anymore because I don’t want anyone to base their journey on mine. There are certainly pitfalls we’d all be better off avoiding, but sometimes only you know what is best for you and sometimes you have to make mistakes in order to move on.

      You are not hallmarky when you state fact.

  5. There are times when it’s hard for me to separate out life experiences that have brought me to this point. If I err on the side of not sharing that part of who I am, what is lost in the building of that relationship? I often back off and remain silent, possibly denying someone the benefit of my experience.

    1. Yeah, I get that. Perhaps it is laziness or worse -selfishness – that keeps me silent. Sometimes though, discretion is the better part of valor.

      At the end of the training weekend we were talking about Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. We were discussing expectations and non-attachment. A younger woman, whose husband is oversea’s in the Middle East, was talking about his deployment and how she handles the periods when they have no contact. She mentioned that she has a low expectation of hearing from her husband more than the three times a week that they do talk and even then she has cautioned herself about reading anything into a long silence because military protocols dictate communication blackouts for all sorts of reasons, not all of them bad. She mentioned though that some of her fellow wives have higher expectations and don’t handle blackouts well or in fact, handle the deployments well.

      I wanted to point out that relationships are the hardest area in which we could practice non-attachment. Intimate relationships and child/parent especially demand a certain level of attachment. So far the Sutras haven’t delved specially into this, they stick mainly to material and ego-centered things, but I am not sure that non-attachment means what people assume it does in this area.

      Are ability to attach or not, just like how we react or not in an relationship is built on a history of experiences. My yoga compadre is military trained and perhaps come at her viewpoint differently from some wives without that background and her personal history might be one that has made her practical and pragmatic in her outlook. Nothing wrong with that, but nothing superior either. It’s not necessarily the best thing to allow your fears to rattle you without cause but how do you learn to tell the difference between mountains and molehills if you don’t know what either one looks like, experience them and learn to react accordingly?

      After Rob and I became a couple, married, it took a while – for both of us – to learn to trust that neither of us was going to die suddenly or freakishly. If he was late home or I didn’t call when I said I would, we both ran to worst-case scenarios. Why not? We have dead spouses in our background?

      We are better about that now. I forgot to call and let Rob know I’d made it to the city this morning. He teased me a bit about it when I called to let him know I was on my way home this evening. Mountains and molehills – oh, and perspective – from that springs non-attachment, which is really just acknowledging that everything has a path through life and we will only travel certain distances with each other.

      I rambled. Sorry.
      ,

  6. I remember being quite startled the first time I met someone new and didn’t feel the need to say, “Hi. I’m Alicia and myhusbanddiedofabraintumorjustoneweekafterdiagnosis.” It was something of a self-revelation to realize that Nick’s death was no longer the focus of my identity.

    Regarding the memoir: I’m also stuck on it, and I can’t figure out why. I don’t think it’s fear of being known as the widow, although that whole overcoming-adversity bit does rankle. Maybe I’m just lazy!

    1. I don’t think it’s lazy. There is the fear of being known in this respect. There is the annoying guru thing. And it’s simply like picking at scars which is a whole lot different from scabs.

  7. Yes, I know what you mean. Just because you’ve dealt with grief on a deep level doesn’t mean you can serve as a guide for anyone else. We all have to face it on our own terms, and no two of us are cut from exactly the same leather.

    At least, I think I understand what you mean. I may be totally off-base here, but I think this is true for everyone. Having done it once doesn’t make anyone an expert at something like this.

    Or I’m wrong, in which case I hope my interpretation didn’t offend you. I think there’s much wisdom in what you’ve said here.

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