myself with my mother at six

Maybe, quite possibly, I do need to see someone.   The tests indicate that my heart is basically sound, I was reassured.  Yet I puzzled over the issue of her referral.

All my life, when I have been struggling with problems, significant problems, I have looked outside myself for answers.  I have read books.  I have talked with my friends.  I have googled what could be googled before there was a google.

But this time, I don’t think this is what I need to do.   I believe that I need to turn my search inward.

The truth is there cannot be anything much more devastating to me than to have lost my husband so suddenly, while we were both still quite in the fullness of our lives.

I see now how everything about me was so fastened to him and it was from our connection that I experienced meaning in my life.

We observed our friends, our children, the political process, the beauty of each day, even the despair that comes from defeat or tragedy, from the aperture of our relationship.  There was a unity of perspective and experience.

But now I am one again.   A lot of who I became in the relationship was unconsciously driven–what we ate, what we accumulated, the way we spent our money, the friends we made, the cultural pleasures we shared–and Lewis, more than I, was much more aware of his choosing and the need to simplify and separate the wheat from the chaff in our lives.

Now that he is gone, the choices are mine alone.   The friends I make and keep.  The books I will keep and the ones I will throw away.  His belongings:  where will they go, to whom will they be given?  Do I keep the house or sell it?  The boat?

Do I try to see more of the world or stay here near my sons, their families, the grandchildren?  Some of both?

One thing is for certain.  I am more conscious and grateful in my work with my clients.  To have the opportunity to share in the depth, struggles and triumphs of their lives is a rare privilege.   And without their understanding and support these weeks I cannot imagine how I could have kept going…

And my friends:  how fortunate I am to have them.  Lewis and I were so fortunate to have made such good friends.  My awareness of their kindness, goodness and generosity grows with each passing day.

Meanwhile, everything in my life is re-examined.   I am on trial, sitting in the witness stand, pondering in the jury box, standing in judicial robes pronouncing myself verdicts, and then watching from the seats in the court room and writing and reading my daily news, sometimes just a twitter.   I am given more days to live but what am I to do with myself?

I remember once being moved so much by a sermon of a chaplain in Huntington, West Virginia.  The chaplain worked with young students at the university and observed that when each student came there it was as if they had to sort through every value they had accepted in their childhood and examine each one and then decide for themselves what they wanted to keep and what they wanted to modify or discard.   He compared it to a cloak one would wear and there would be symbols or badges covering the cloak and each student wearer decides which figures would continue to worn and kept in their emerging identity.   One at a time.

I have to do something similar while I am at the same time losing what has been my comfort zone and I know all too well that I cannot be sure at all what number of days may lie ahead.

To turn inward at this time is challenging.   It is easy to glide, to let time pass and pretend or imagine that little has really changed.   Some part of me wants this bargain with reality.   And as a therapist I know that I help create my own reality and that often in life the best answer to any dilemma is to do nothing.   To let things be.   So I weigh these paths and choices in my mind.  A kind of to be or not to be sort of thing.

Often my loss breaks through and I find myself feeling as if I am broken and beyond repair.   I ache in every possible way.   Everything I touch, see, smell, or hear reminds me of what is gone, of him.   I rebel, moan and lament.  I mourn and mourn some more.  I am in a blind and altered state and I have missed the fullness that is left, the love that surrounds me.   The happiness of my grandchildren.  The morning air.  The delight and mess of my pets.

I readjust myself and just as quickly, almost, the experience is reversed and everything I touch, see, smell, or hear seems all the more significant, precious and irreplaceable.

My awareness softens and I can see more easily the whole of my life again.

One thing is for certain.  I must simplify and redraw the lines of my identity so that I am ME and not what WE were.

And while I am doing that I must deal with the task of reducing the stuff that was his and ours determining what to keep, what to sell or give away, and what I can discard forever not just put in a box somewhere.

I am just getting started.    I have a ways to go and a certain zest for the journey, tears and all.

Yesterday I talked with my office manager, Betty, about my decision.  I told her I thought I would continue without professional advice or medication.

I asked her opinion.  She says she thinks that I am OK and that she would be worried if I weren’t struggling like this.  She has assured me that if she sees that I am really faltering she will let me know.    She reassured me.

Her reassurance helped.  So do the words of others.  And so do writers and poets.

Take these poems for instance:

Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke

Ich liebe meines Wesens DunkelstundenI love the dark hours of my being.
My mind deepens into them.
There I can find, as in old letters,
the days of my life, already lived,
and held like a legend, and understood.
Then the knowing comes: I can open
to another life that’s wide and timeless.
So I am sometimes like a tree
rustling over a gravesite
and making real the dream
of the one its living roots
embrace:a dream once lost
among sorrows and songs.
Dich wundert nicht des Sturmes WuchtYou are not surprised at the force of the storm—
you have seen it growing.
The trees flee.
Their flight sets the boulevards streaming.
And you know: he whom they flee is the one
you move toward.  All your senses
sing him, as you stand at the window.
The weeks stood still in summer.
The trees’ blood rose. Now you feel
it wants to sink back into the source of everything.
You thought you could trust that power
when you plucked the fruit;
now it becomes a riddle again,
and you again a stranger.
Summer was like your house: you knew
where each thing stood.
Now you must go out into your heart
as onto a vast plain.
Now the immense loneliness begins.
The days go numb, the wind
sucks the world from your senses like withered
leaves.Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that he who began it all
can feel you when he reaches for you.
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