At this time last year I was turning my life upside down, although that is not really how I saw it at the time. In retrospect I see the year as transitional in many unanticipated ways.
I moved. I bought a house, a house I loved and still love, although not necessarily the most practical house, and I began remodeling said house, even if the bulk of that remodel was refinishing a basement and making a laundry room. And yes, having a laundry room that is not just an afterthought ended up being important to me. But the significant part of that move was that I let go of my phantom limb. By selling the old house, a house purchased to meet needs that were no longer relevant to my life, I was in effect loping off a large dead branch, a branch that no longer fed me, a branch that threatened to fall and to drag me with it, preventing me from growing in new and balanced ways, although I didn't fully understand that until after I had made the decision to leave.
I learned to travel again. I've always loved to travel. I've always been a homebody. Both of these things have been true for most of my life and the tension between them enhances both experiences. But after George's death, travel became difficult. I still traveled but I hated it. When I was away I wanted nothing more than to be home; when I was home I wanted nothing more than to escape. I realized that this stemmed from two things: one, my old house was not my home, and once I found a home, a place of inner safety, I was happier and more confident leaving it. I also realized that as much as I miss being able to share experiences with a companionable partner, I can't be a person who shares life with a companionable other unless I can allow myself to experience life for myself, for myself alone, without saying I can't. Not doing something because I wish for someone to do it with, is, in its own way a kind of fear.
And that leads into the third big thing that 2017 brought, and which I am still working through. I realized that every time I say to myself "I can't do that unless I find a friend to do it with" I am actually saying that I am not good enough by myself. There is a big difference between being a full person who is capable of sharing all of herself with both herself and the world, and a person who feels that they can only be or do certain things as part of a unit. It is the big difference between saying "I want to share because I have a lot to give" and "I need someone to share my life because I feel incomplete". Of course both are always true. We are self-actualizing individuals, and yet we are not truly self-sufficient. We need others. We need to love and to be loved. The problems arise when we grow so self-centered that we cannot share, or we grow so dependent that we can't fully be ourselves without the other. The problem with grief is learning to be fully oneself, the self that remains after the tragedy, the new growth that springs up after the forest fire.
So, now that I've tackled some big things, it seems there are a lot of little things that need work.
- I go out to eat by myself when I travel but not necessarily when I am home. But I can go out by myself. I've never minded eating in restaurants alone. Why not enjoy both experiences, going out with friends and going out alone?
- I discovered that I had stopped going to movies by myself. Instead I waited for them to show up on cable and watched them at home. Why? After George died I went to movies all the time. I realized that I went to movies then because George didn't like going to movies, it was something I could do alone, but I was still defining the activity in terms of my loss, not in terms of myself. I like talking about a movie with friends, but I don't do that at home. It reminded me of when I found it difficult to go to concerts without George, but I worked through that. In December I started going to movies again, both by myself, and with friends.
- I'm not always comfortable going to events or big parties or fund raisers just because I want to go, not because I have a role to play, unless I go with someone. I tell myself I can't do that. Again why? I talk to strangers when I travel. Who am I afraid of? I decided to say yes. If I myself can't go and have a good time by myself, why would anyone want to go with me? I actually do have friends who will go to things, but the trick is letting go of the crutch, and sometimes going it alone.
I've done things I've never done by myself before. I've learned that by doing more for myself and by myself, I've actually become a better friend and it is easier to share. I've succeeded and I've failed, sometimes both at the same time, and sometimes pretty spectacularly. I'm sure I will fail again, and pick myself up again. But you know what? I'm gong to be perfectly alright no matter what happens. So let's get this new year started,