A year ago, I sat in a military training that I had been selected for.  I was adrift.  I felt an acute sense of not fitting in, but worse than that, I felt like I had no connection to anyone anywhere.  Yes, I have children who love me, but they are flung all over the world with four out of five of them electing to serve in our military.  I  woke every morning feeling like I was unnoticeable and really had minimal value in my day to day life.  It is indeed sobering to recognize that it would take weeks before someone at work thought to come and check on me. My children do not call me every day and would think that I am busy if they called and I did not answer for a few weeks.  I was crushed as I realized that if I were to become sick, I had no one, not one person I could call to take me to the hospital–that I could do the same for.  As I stared at the woman in the mirror, a dawning of realization washed over me.  The person that could change this aloneness and disconnected state was right in front of me.

 

I hated the person I was becoming.  A pity party kind of girl looking for a hand to yank me out of my stupor and out of my darkness.  It didn’t work that way because I discovered that the power was in me all along.  I just didn’t know it.  I have power because there are so many people who believe in me and who have carried me, but it became about standing on my own two feet, carrying my own weight, and carrying the weight of others at times.  I want to be a giver, not the girl that people look at and run the other way.  I had to decide.If I do not like the person staring back at me, I need to make the changes and to reach out.  I recognized  why spouses often die within three years of one another.  The  loneliness and the lack of connection drives people to their knees and it causes a total shut down of sorts.  It is hard.  The life I thought I was going to have and the person I thought would be there far longer than I actually got, was stripped away in an unfathomable sudden horrific death.  No words can explain or assuage that event, however at a certain point it became my choice.

It is my choice to be courageous and to change the girl I have been.  I am comfortable in myself and in my shyness, however loneliness looms too large to not try to adapt.  I made a choice right then.  While the change involves many small steps, I am on my way.  The first step was in embracing a new purpose and a new direction for my life. I had signed up for school to use my education benefit that I received when Phil was killed, but I kept putting off doing anything.  I lived in a haze of a widow’s fog where I couldn’t read, couldn’t watch a movie, couldn’t sit still, and couldn’t remember normal day to day things.  I simply survived and sometimes not even that well.  This widow’s fog brought on by my heart being broken, no sleep, and irregular eating patterns kept me stuck in a state of inertia.  

The single best thing I did for myself outside of running and writing was going back to work.  It gave me something to get up for in the morning and something to keep my mind focused on for at least part of the day, but I had moved beyond that.  I just didn’t have the energy, self-confidence, or motivation to do anything else until that day in May.  I had been selected for a military training in resiliency.  While the military has used resiliency training the past ten years, I talked about resiliency and hardiness as part of my master’s degree in 1985.  At the training, a light bulb went off and to my amazement,  I found that the one school I had applied to had a master’s program in military resiliency.  Though I lacked the confidence in my abilities, I decided that if I wanted to change, then I needed to take the first step.  The first step was terrifying and I wasn’t fully committed, but I pressed on.

Through the course of that small step of faith, I have ignited a passion and a fire that is meshing with a degree that I am finishing in 11 months.  That small step of setting a goal and taking the first step has given me courage to take bigger risks.  While I cannot do anything about connecting while I am in school and working, the story isn’t over yet.  My second goal is a job change either as a teacher and volunteering to do what I do now in the summers, or it is this job that I am detailed into.  The time is coming for me to shake the dice and risk it all.  I want my life to count.  In that quest to find meaning and purpose out of an unthinkable vile act of violence, my widow’s fog and inertia have for the most part been torn away.

The last component is the hardest for me, but I have small steps of action mapped.  I will finish school 9 May–8 weeks from now.  At that point, I intend to take the train to Boston most weekends and to find either a running or triathlon group.  When I peered into the mirror last May, I knew that the time had come to pony up and to be brave.  I knew that the person that needed to change was me.  Change is not done overnight, but through a series of small steps and goals, and with faith, I have started to slowly turn my life into a new day dawning.  Yes, I am scared and yes, I still fill adrift and that the widow’s fog is there sometimes, but I am learning to be comfortable in taking risks and challenging the Linda I once was.  I may not be connected yet, but I know that I need to change and to be the connection first.  It takes an act of courage.  My act of bravery started last May and continues on.  I think my Phil is smiling and saying, “I always knew you could, Linda.  Go get ’em!”

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