It’s recently come to my attention that perhaps I’m being grossly misunderstood by readers of this blog and, in some cases, people who call themselves my friends. It seems that some people have mistaken the topics I chose to write about as rants that reflect deep psychological obsessions or anger issues. In talking to a good friend on this topic, I’ve learned that perhaps the common joe does not quite understand how a writer’s mind works and I’m slightly disturbed. So I’m going to take a paragraphs here to describe to you all just how a writer’s mind works in the hopes that we can reach an understanding here. I know some of you probably already innately understand what I’m about to describe–some of you are writers as well so you see the world in the exaggeratedly slow tempo of a writer. Just bear with me a moment or two if my words preach to a choir whose song you know by heart.
My friend, a non-writer, described it best. Say you are widow, like me, and you walk into a restaurant with your current significant other and, for just a second, a memory flashes in your head of the last time you were in here. You were with your late spouse and it was one of those Friday nights you went out in the infancy of your marriage. You didn’t do anything overly spectacular that night, but you just remember the smell of him or his hand clutching yours. Maybe you felt a sense of contentedness at that moment because you always felt content when you were with him. It’s just a fragment of memory, something you never think about on a daily basis, but seeing the decor of the restaurant triggers the deja vu moment and suddenly you remember this one little memory in the pool of memories of just regular moments you had with this person. Having not seen your late spouse for almost seven years, you can’t help but hang onto a scattered thought of him because it’s like finding that old Valentines Day card or some CD he made for you when you’re going through boxes after a move. You didn’t know it was there, you’d completely forgotten it, but when you find it, you’re touched and it’s like living the moment again. For just a few seconds.
Well, most people, those who aren’t prone to analyzing their every thought and writing about it, would live this memory and go on with the evening. I, and other writers, note this moment and tag it for further thought later. We go on with the evening, too. It’s not like my mood is now soured by the memory of my husband while I’m enjoying what could be an equally wonderful evening with my current boyfriend. Maybe several years ago, I would have hung onto that moment with both hands and let it disrupt my thoughts to the point of tearing apart every “not-Mike” thing about the person I was there with. I might have indeed let it sour my mood. But I’m not like that anymore. I’m living in the moment and recording new memories of life each day.
You can’t escape what you were, though. And that’s all I’m saying when I try to describe the experiences of my life to you. With my widowhood experiences, it’s vastly important that I relate to an audience because I want people–others who have gone through a situation similar to mine–to know that they are not alone. This is not something I had the luxury of knowing when I was going through my grief. I felt more alone in those days, for six years, than I perhaps have ever felt in my entire life. Because I was hurting and people didn’t know how to talk to me about it, my phone didn’t ring. I could have asked for help, but I didn’t want to burden people either. So the blame goes both ways on my loneliness. People didn’t reach out, and maybe when they did I rejected their extended hand.
The only thing that got me through was a young widows list group on yahoo groups. Though I had no one to talk to directly, I heard the voices of many people my age (sometimes) and older (most of the time) who were going through what I was going through. These people kept me sane. They made me realize I wasn’t alone. Though, I must admit, words written on a computer screen can’t make you feel as a part of a community as actual human touch can. Still, it was that little bit that kept me going. That’s what I’m trying to give to other people.
In addition to speaking to an audience of young widows and widowers, or those going through griefs of other losses, it’s been my mission to try to describe my point of view to others who have not gone through this sort of loss. Because I felt a desperate lack of understanding people out there to help me, and because I heard a lot of really bad advice from well-meaning individuals, I am on a mission to educate–proselytize–about grieving. Grief is a topic our society loves to shove under a rug. I’m trying desperately to bring grief into the open because the problem with ourselves is our dysfunctional inability to talk to each other about these things. When you hide something you’re feeling–when you’re forced to hide what you’re feeling for the sake of public politeness–they fester and become much worse than they need be. Thus, our society’s unhealthy reaction to death.
But more to the point of this entry, I want to explain that a writer’s mind, if you will, works such that everything he/she records becomes fodder for later dissertation. We can’t help it. Those who enjoy writing are people-watchers. We sit in cafes or restaurants by ourselves and we watch people interact. Sometimes these people become stories in a fiction. We can’t help but dissect little sound-bites of our own lives, concentrating fully on a single thought, and turning it into the focal point of an inner dialog with ourselves. Every moment of a writer’s life is significant.
We look for patterns, symbols, significant discoveries in the moment that make them interesting to discuss in writing. If I write about walking into that restaurant, I might realize that it was raining the day I came there with my husband. Perhaps it’s raining on this day too. I see this pattern and I think something completely different than what you’d first suspect. Perhaps I begin my paper with the memory of walking into that restaurant with my husband. But maybe through the course of relating my memory, I realize that the person I’m there with now has said or done something that reminds me of an aspect of being in love. Maybe it’s not the same love I had before; maybe in the process of self-analysis, I realize that walking into that restaurant was a serendipitous moment because now I was there with someone else, making new memories. I’m fascinated by the contrast. It becomes a great piece on finding a good friendship with someone else that holds promise.
Or maybe I go somewhere completely different with the thought. Perhaps it turns inward about missing my husband. It just depends on the mood the memory invokes. When this happens, and then I blog about it, the guy I was with in the present at that restaurant may feel jilted because instead of focusing on the beautiful moment I had with him, I’m writing about missing my husband again. And then he, as well as my readers, think that I’m still in love and won’t let go of my husband.
The fact is, I just chose, that day, because it tickled my fancy to do so, to talk about my husband. My idea came from a two-second moment I experienced when walking into a restaurant. It was a passing thought, not something I obsessed about the entire evening I was out with the new person; it’s just something I thought about and noted that I needed to write about it later. Why? Because the process of writing is healing. It helps me let go of the pain. It allows me to analyze what I’m feeling, why I was feeling it, and in the process, maybe other people out there can find some solace because they too had a two-second thought while walking into a restaurant they frequented with their late spouse–or grandmother, or favorite uncle, or father–and they felt discouraged by the thought (perhaps because society has told them that “moving on” means “erase forever and never bring up again”).
I write about things that come on my mind at any given moment when I’ve decided to sit down a write. That’s just what I do. I may choose to expound upon the many reasons I find Giant bicycles superior to Treks, or dry wine superior to sweet wine. I may express my disgust with the consumerism that changed Jacobs Field, a more true-to-Cleveland name, to Progressive Field. I might exhibit undying school pride for my alma mater, Hiram College, by proclaiming it the best school in Northeast Ohio (which it is, dammit!). Whatever I choose to blog about on that particular day does not mean that my mind is obsessed with the topic twenty-four hours a day/ seven days week! I’m just writing!!
If I seriously wrote about the things I’m truly thinking about most of the time, none of you would read this blog. I’m just like everyone else in that sense–things come in, things go out. The boss comes around and gives me work. I concentrate on that. I’m not upset or angry or obsessed about my husband’s death. I’ve gotten as “over it” as one can get. Yes, it still haunts my dreams. Yes, I still find myself barraged by a memory of two that I didn’t expect. Yes, sometimes I still miss him. But we miss everyone we’ve loved and lost, from grandparent to spouse to pets. We miss our childhood innocence, a stuffed animal we had as a tot, the neighboorhood we used to live in. I miss people I don’t see on a daily basis, like my friends in Colorado. Oh, hell, I miss Colorado (okay, that one may be an obsession!).
You can’t tell me you don’t either. I won’t listen if you try to deny it. We’re human, we think about things, I just choose to write about them. End of story.
I guess it just bothers me when people suggest that I’m an angry person because I’m really not. I’m at the most level, most content period of my life since Mike’s death. Yeah, I could use a better job situation. But that’s a demon I’ve battled since I graduated from college. I still haven’t found that job that fits quite the way I want a job to fit. So sometimes I rant about that too. The good news is that I’m working on that situation, exploring new avenues.
I’m having fun. I’m living life. I’m finally on track with myself. The last year has been extraordinary because I very consciously chose to let go of my anger and I did it. I don’t think people really understand how much I’ve changed, except those who are extremely close to me and been through my ups and downs over the last six years. I’m happier. I’m stronger. Gone are the days of jealousy and sadness and fits of rage over what I saw as the profound unjust nature of life. I understand that things don’t always work out the way you planned them, that tragedy occurs randomly to even those who don’t appear to “deserve it.” I’ve made my peace with life, God, and the untouchable forces of chance. I’ve learned that I can overcome. I’ve learned that I have to just take each day as it comes and deal with it the best I can. I’ve learned that I can deal with my pain and not dwell.
So, to those of you who think I have anger issues, I’m just writing to let you know that I am fine. How are you?