TIME: The perception of time, lack of time, beating the clock, deadlines, time heals all wounds, free time, time line myths, schedules and time for change.
The following insights come from my experience as a widow. I'm not sure if others have had similar experiences. I am relating them now because they have frustrated me. And I'm trying to get a handle on them so I can make some positive changes in dealing with these issues.
1. First of all, since I have been widowed and stopped working outside the home, people seem to assume that I have loads of free time. There doesn't seem to be any recognition or sympathy toward the fact that in losing a helpmate, I now have to handle a job previously handled by two. The sad part of the matter is that when there is more on your plate to handle, you're also more tired and consequently the jobs getting done are not up to your usual standards. There is a lot of just making do or getting by. You also have to figure out how to handle a lot of jobs and duties you don't know how to do because in the past, your spouse took care of them. It is frustrating. Also, suddenly having to worry about everything on your own takes up time because you have to figure out new ways to plan and do things.
Maybe this misconception comes from the fact that people don't see what is going on inside our homes. They don't see the piled up laundry, the stacks of bills, the weariness that exists in our souls from managing all of the shopping, cooking, lawn work, car maintenance and child care. So while I haven't worked outside the home for much of my widowhood, the work load within my home and life has increased. There has been minimal time off for relaxing or down time which is another matter as well.
2. Despite the time constraints of having to fit too much into a day that is too short, the world still expects us to meet all the established deadlines. I have also found that with people it is the same thing. I'm expected to go out with someone or meet with them according to their time frames and schedules. Rarely has anyone expressed an interest in trying to accommodate my schedule. When my husband died I lost the power of two and the power of being in a couple. I honestly believe that I became diminished in importance, value and worth since I am alone. As a result, people have been less polite and respectful to me. In a way, it has sometimes felt like people could walk all over me because my husband wasn't around to "protect" me.
3. My grief intensified over time. The first year it was centered around shock, disbelief, fatigue and pity. In the second and third years, my grief matured into a greater realization of what the boys and I had really lost when my husband died. In the beginning, you don't have the perspective of time to really acknowledge this. And the world believing that popular myth that we should be over our grief in a year, isn't around to help support us when we really need it. Maybe for some of us, the second and third years out are when the real grief work starts. Not to say that the first days, weeks and months of grieving are not important. Looking back for me at least, the grief I experienced and had to work through was far more difficult after the first year. Then there are the losses that come with the passage of time. Maybe financial hardship, loss of a home, having to relocate...
To be fair, part of the equation factoring into all of this is that by nature I have always been a non-complaining, people pleasing "Yes Man." But as I continue to navigate the widowhood road I am gaining strength to be able to state my needs and wants more securely. I have the power to say, "No, Saturday night is not a good time to meet. We're going to have to set another time." I'm no longer reluctant to refuse to participate in car-pool duty. There are other parents out there with greater flexibility and ease to pick up those duties for the parents like myself holding the short end of the stick. And I am more confident in stating what for me is my reality. That even if a number of years have passed since my husband died, it doesn't mean that I have gotten over it. Nor does it mean that I can face new losses like a divorce and losing my home with greater ability and ease. Through this blog and in my interactions with the people in my life, I am trying to paint a picture of what it is like to live with grief and loss. Maybe it is not a pretty picture and maybe people feel uncomfortable knowing that a cloud of loss surrounds me. But I will stand tall and tell it like it is. No longer will I just nod my head and say, "I'm fine." If someone asks or even cares, I will speak my truth: "I am facing and working through a number of major losses that came at me in a short period of time that resulted in me feeling great pain, and I am doing the best I can to go on living a happy, meaningful and productive life while I regroup, catch my breath and figure out where to go from here."
If the world isn't willing to cut me some slack for circumstances largely beyond my control, then I suppose it is up to me to stand up for myself and my needs. I only wish it had not taken me six long years of wearing myself ragged to reach this point!
I am grateful for:
1. The time to write this post.
2. The time to do the dishes in an overflowing sink.
3. Alarm clocks.
4. Bit and pieces of free time granted during the day here and there.
5. The sacred time before bed for reading a few pages.