Friday, September 23, 2011

Don't Stop Believin'

"Some will win, some will lose -- Some were born to sing the blues...."

Everything happens for a reason.

I can't think of a phrase that I hate more than that one. To me it somehow implies that people "deserve" what happens in life, and this would include the good and the bad. And why would this be? Why do some people manage to go through life and nothing bad ever touches them? And others have to deal with so much tragedy? Most of us, I think, are somewhere in-between, but whatever events happen in your life, I can't believe that it is all part of some "grand plan" the universe has to control and manipulate your life. I just refuse to believe in a God that would have this be so.... because if it was true it would be awful to imagine that some of the worst people out there somehow "deserve" to get away with their evil, while some really good people only suffer. It makes no sense that this would somehow be on purpose.

I think, and prefer to believe, that everything is just sort of.... random. Life happens. Or better yet, as one of my favorite quotes (by one of my favorite people, John Lennon) puts it, "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." In other words, although we, or anybody else, doesn't exactly control what happens, the world keeps on moving in the same way it always has. Sort of like the idea of evolution -- that it is all random events, but when the random events wind up being a benefit, nature grabs a hold and "selects" these things by virtue that more individuals in a given generation, who have just the right traits, go on to survive and more importantly, reproduce, thus passing the trait along to the next generation. Those with the right traits for the right time win. Those without will lose. So is our everyday life -- life happens, and how we manage to cope with the changes presented to us dictates our next move and how well we will go on to survive and thrive. Not everyone wins. That too, is life.

In the context of my own life, I've spent a lot of time pondering about what happened, and how it happened, and why it happened the way it did. There are so many chain of events I could (and often do) try to trace in my mind, it quickly becomes apparent that either everything, including every single mis-step and tragedy that has ever befallen me has been carefully orchestrated to get me to where I am now, or that everything is, in fact, just a random sequence of events, in which I have selected my path from a series of choices as I've moved along in life. I mean, I don't really believe that my whole life with my late husband was "destined" to end the way it did, nor that he was "supposed to die young." I do believe it was just random, plain old rotten, bad luck that he was born with a mutation in his chromosomes that would cause his heart to grow too big to work properly & then one day it just gave out. I don't know why this had to happen -- I don't even think there is a good answer to the "why." I had to just stop asking.... you can't go on to live your life if you get caught up in the "why me?" mindset.

One of the things I always admired about my late husband was his ability to deal with reality -- no matter how bad it seemed to be. The moment something happened, traumatic or otherwise, his mind had this ability to accept it and quickly shift into gear to tackle the problem. He was the guy you wanted around in a crisis.... he was the one who would always keep the level head. I always need to panic a bit first. Then I have a lot of denial -- it takes me a long, long time to even begin to start thinking about what to do to fix the problem. I usually waste quite a bit of time wishing I could undo whatever thing it was that caused the crisis in the first place, no matter how futile. He was my rock. The solid ground to stand on when your world felt like quicksand. So when I had to face his death, I was so, so very lost. Just when I needed him the most....... he was no longer there. And would never come back. I had to learn how to deal with his loss all on my own. Without a doubt in my mind, this has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Which is why I will never stand here before you and for a single moment, accept the idea that this all "happened for a reason."

When I first set out to try to deal with this I felt completely alone. I remember sitting in the house that had been "our house" for hours.... just sitting there listening to the complete silence. I don't think I've ever experienced a silence like that. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the place when they took my husband away, and left behind was.... just this big empty. I didn't know what to do, or how to feel, or how to act. I walked around in a sort of dream-state, the world kept happening around me but I was only there watching it, I was no longer a part of it. It took me a long time to start to rejoin those around me again, and it certainly did not happen all at once, and I did not manage to do this all on my own, either. I found others, who were like me, and were also trying to come back to the rest of the world, and we helped each other along. When I first reached out to other people, other widows, I found a lot of comfort knowing that I was not alone. I know that I had family and friends who desperately wanted to help me, but  they just couldn't. I needed people who understood me, exactly where I was, and what I was going through. Knowing old people who had lost spouses did not help either, because part of my grief was the anger I felt losing him so young. I was cheated. Cheated out of the life we were supposed to live together. Cheated out of the children I never got to have. Cheated out of so much that we had planned, but would never get to do. I needed others who could relate to these feelings.

I am not sure where it came from, but early on I read a story called "The Journey." It is a story about how grief is like a journey through the mountains.... that we climb up, only to be thrown back down along the way. But sometimes down in the deepest pits of our journey, is where we find the most hope:

                       Sometimes when we are in the deepest part of the valley, we just sit, exhausted.
                              And we might notice some things around us that we never saw before: flowers
                              and animals and a gentle breeze in the cool of the valley. There is a world down
                              in the valley that we never even knew existed, and there is beauty in it. And
                              sometimes at night, when all is quiet, we can hear the others who are in the valley
                              weeping. And it is then that we realize that we are not alone, that others are making
                              this journey too. And we realize that we share an understanding of the journey and
                              of the world of the valley that most others don't. And it gives us strength to start the
                              climb all over again. 

It was here, in my deepest valley that I began to find the things I needed. I found other young widowed people, people who like me, did not know anyone near them who knew what they were going through. We found each other online, and in some cases that led to me being able to meet and become friends with people, who happened to live near me, that I would have otherwise never knew existed. It was as if a divine hand, although could not prevent tragedy from entering my life, provided me with ways to make it through. And once I began to think about it that way, I no longer felt so alone and so abandoned. I've thought about how fortunate I was that, if it this had to happen to me, I was to be where I was when it did happen. I had finally found a good job, a job that allowed me to go away and deal with what I needed to and waited for me to come back. I had people around me -- friends and family who cared about me and continued to reach out to me even when I was too weak to reach back. I found new friends who stepped in when some of the old could no longer be who I needed and walked out of my life instead. And finally, when my heart had started to heal and I no longer tried to get my old life back, a new life began to emerge. This is what led me to then find the best part of it all.

                             As we make this journey, we start to notice that we are becoming a little bit
                             stronger. When we get to the rough patches we now see that we are shaken
                             but don't always fall. We find that sometimes we can walk upright now, instead
                             of just crawling. And sometimes we can see a rough spot ahead and manage to
                             find a better way around it. And once in a while we crest a mountain and see
                             that the top is very flat and very beautiful, and we get to spend quite a while
                             resting and recovering on the top before starting down again. And we notice
                             that we are getting closer to the edge of the mountains; they seem to be getting
                             a little smaller. The mountains are not as tall, and the valleys are not as low or
                             as wide. In fact, we can now see the foothills, and it gives us hope.

                             And throughout this journey, we see the others who are traveling it as well,
                             sometimes at a distance, and sometimes up close. And we encourage each other
                             to keep going and to watch out for certain things. We talk about the journey and
                             the world of the valley. Finally, someone else who understands! And we cry together
                             when it is just too hard. And sometimes, we catch a glimpse of someone who has
                             made it to the foothills. And we are so excited for them, and we become even
                             more determined to keep going because someday, we too, will make it to the

I won't say that it was easy to just start a new relationship, or that it instantly made me happy again. I am sure if you asked, that Boyfriend would tell you how I would call him up at 1 AM crying because I missed my husband. Or how hard it was for me to not feel guilty because I was feeling good again. And it is terrifying to think about how I am risking putting myself through this all over again, because in the end we will all die. I may not have waited long enough for some people, and for others it may have been too long -- but I just followed my own instinct and my own heart. I have decided to take a leap of faith, because despite it all, the good that you get from sharing your life and your heart with someone will always outweigh the risk that it will also be broken someday. At least I think so. And so far it has worked out for me, and with each passing day it only seems to get better and better.

"There are no happy endings. Endings are the saddest part, So just give me a happy middle, And a very happy start" (Shel Silverstein)

They may not have been obvious when I started out, but I have indeed found the foothills. I am now preparing to begin a whole new journey, as Boyfriend is soon to be Husband. So, although I still won't believe anyone who tells me that "things happen for a reason," sometimes good things do happen, and sometimes these good things come out of our most tragic moments. For those of you who can't quite see them yet, I am here to tell you that the foothills are, in fact, out there, just, as the song says: "don't stop believing," and you will find them. And I'll be there too, hoping my happy middle lasts a long, long time......

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