Maybe, Just Maybe

Source: Maybe, Just Maybe

Maybe, Just Maybe

Maybe, Just Maybe

Another widow did this recently as she asked whether she was ready for a chapter two—the final chapter. Her response was, “Maybe.” Maybe is my word. While I know that I protest often and I have my own mother convinced that the word is never (and it might be a never), the honest answer is there is a chance, and more than that, a hope, that one day, some day, there will be someone who I can love well and who will love me well. I am not confident that my life, my loss, my fire, or my interests will mesh with another just as I wonder if my life is too much for another. I think my list is probably not a reality, but I discovered many years ago that I would rather be lonely alone than lonely with another person. I want the chapter two to be as much as my chapter one was in that we would be better together than apart. If, and that is one mighty word, I find love again, the love would be different from what I shared with Phil and it would not compete with or eclipse what I had with Phil. The relationship would just be unique and it would be with the Linda I am now. Phil got my youth and middle age. If there is another, he will most likely get my dying breath and a better version of the girl I once was.

  1. Faith
  2. Not married, engaged, and does not have another girlfriend. I have had those offers. It is a big bag of nope. I am not interested in being the tartlet on the side.
  3. Someone in my age dynamic—ten years up or ten years down. I am not interested in being someone’s sugar mamma or nursemaid.
  4. Someone who is active. While they do not have to run, they need to love doing active things. I run, scuba, snorkel, swim, hike, and I want to canoe, camp, SUP, and really anything outside, with another.
  5. Someone who makes me laugh.
  6. Someone whose eyes light up when I walk in the room.
  7. Someone who believes in family and who can handle being with my loud and fun family. This someone needs to have confidence in themselves and not want to compete with a memory.
  8. Someone who understands and supports the reason why I write and tell my story. This someone needs to know that it wouldn’t negate my feelings for him.
  9. Someone who is employed. Bonus if they wear a uniform or did wear a uniform. I kind of have a thing for a uniformed clean-cut man. Blush.
  10. Someone who is a little old fashioned in opening doors, pursuing, and wooing.
  11. Someone who makes me wants to settle down. No it doesn’t have to be CO—gasp—but someone who can make me believe that home is where we are.
  12. Good hygiene and nice teeth. I love the eyes and the smile. He must smile often.
  13. Someone who if he drinks it is not every day or a lot. This someone would understand why I have never had a drink. Drugs are non-negotiable.
  14. Someone who has eyes only for me and can’t keep his hands off of me. Listen, I get that I no longer have the body I had in my 20’s. I do not expect that of him either.
  15. Someone who loves traveling.
  16. Someone who would not be intimidated or jealous if I traveled alone to races or to my children’s. Yes, he would be invited to all of them, but if it were not his thing, he would be content to let me go knowing that I would come back to him.
  17. Someone who has a vocabulary outside of swear words.
  18. A POSITIVE person. I wake up cheerful and for the most part, I am a happy person.
  19. Someone who is not mean or who loses his temper very often. I am a conflict avoider and intense anger scares me. If a man yelled at me, I would probably be through with the relationship.
  20. Someone who would understand that there are still days that will hurt. The happy days such as the days that my children get married or graduate, or the anniversary days, will be bittersweet but in no way will it negate what is shared between the two of us.
  21. Someone who understands that it isn’t an competition and that he isn’t an option, but a choice.
  22. Someone who isn’t dirty or a slob (beyond the normal man stuff).
  23. Bonus points if he likes to play cards, likes dogs, CO, or trying new foods, traveling to new countries, etc.
  24. Someone who isn’t looking for a maid or a cook. I am no longer Susie Homemaker. While I can do those things, I would rather eat cleaner and save the cooking for the holidays.
  25. Someone with short hair—clean cut. Need I say more?
  26. Someone who can make a good cup of coffee—laugh.

As the other widow concluded, am I ready? Maybe. The list is long and I really have no expectation or thought that it can happen. I am not confident in dating sites and I am not looking for hook ups. I will live and in living, there is a small sliver of hope—just don’t tell my mother!

The Cost of Caring

Source: The Cost of Caring

The Cost of Caring

Maybe it is the weather, but I had a major blubbering melt down today. I couldn’t control the tears streaking down my face.  I was frustrated at my inability to know what is wrong with my car or even where to really start.  While Phil was not mechanical, the cars were his realm.  I don’t even like driving. It wasn’t just the car, but trying to figure out what next.  I hated how hard I had to fight to come back from those tears, but I didn’t understand why my emotions are all over the place the past few days until I got back to work.

I gave someone a compliment—someone who has had an active role in the base support for the two fallen soldiers. He began to weep.  Our emotions are catching up to us. Like he said, it has never been about thank you’s or recognition.  It never will be about that for either of us. It is about doing what we feel called to do for the people coming after us on the journey.  Both of us would do what we do without compensation, but there is a cost.

The cost is the ripped off bandaids of giving everything. The cost is the ripped off bandaids of caring and wanting to fix what cannot be fixed.  The cost is magnified by our own losses not long enough ago.  In the giving of the hard fought for knowledge and the genuine call to walk with others, there is a vulnerability that exposes our own wounds.  Hurting and caring are choices that will not change for either of us.  The tears are the acknowledgement that not everything can be fixed and that the depth of our caring is in the realization that as much as we have reached out, there is more to be done.

It takes a village to help the griever. Most people are ready for the griever to be done grieving after 30 days.  The height of grief seems to be about the 90 day mark.  Why?  The impact is felt then.  Initially, shock and all of the business that comes with funerals consumes a person.  When everyone  else goes on with their lives and the griever is left alone, there is the realization that the past is gone and the future dreams have ended.  It is in this realization that no matter what I give of myself, there isn’t a magic pill to fix the pain in someone else. I want

My tears came after an emotionally fraught weekend that meant more to me than many would have guessed. While I never have shied away from telling my story for those people that need to hear it or who have the power to change things that went wrong in my military world, my voice has never been for what I can receive.  I have received more than I deserve, more than I can wrap my arms around, and it was never about receiving to begin with.  I bear the weight of the world because my heart weeps for those coming after me.  I want to fix the unfixable.  In the recognition of a kindred spirit, I saw this man’s tears for what they were—a true calling born of events beyond his control.  This calling is the fire that blazes and will consume us even without recognition or request.  It is what it is and today the tears showed the humanity in our caring.

Fire Tested

Source: Fire Tested

Fire Tested

People say that I am amazing—strong beyond my years.  I am not, but that word is used to define me often.  It comes down to character and the realization that no matter how I reacted it wasn’t going to change the death of my Phil.  My father used to talk to me about having character.  I would roll my eyes (inwardly because I knew not to show him my teen antics) and wince as he harped on integrity, doing the right thing, and faith.  Strength is fire tested.  The day Phil was killed; I was thrown into a raging inferno of which there was no escape.  There were two choices.  The first was to live my days broken, stuck, and angry.  The second choice was to figure a way to endure the flames that had consumed me.

I have to admit, though, it was easier to be angry and to play the blame game.  It felt right to sit in my angry stupor reliving the past and pointing fingers.  Even my faith didn’t always escape my darkness because how could God not have intervened.  Surely he had heard my prayers and the prayers of many.  Surely God could have stopped the evil that rained down that day.  While it felt easier to stay cowered on the floor and it the haze of complete devastation, something sparked.

That day of reckoning came fairly early.  As I stared at my husband’s  broken body, I recognized that the anger and the hate were consuming everything:  my thoughts, my sleep, my actions.  In that simple recognition I saw a woman no better than Phil’s assassin.  I chose to relinquish those resentments and the real estate that it was taking in my heart.  Some days I had to fight for it more than other days, but I simply decided that the assassin wasn’t getting my life too.  I choose to find a way to live, love, laugh, and remember.

Fire has given me power because I am simply not relinquishing my breath and my limited days to wishing for something that cannot be.  Do I have hard days? You bet.  The fire still blazes, but in the choice to meld into the flames, I have become a person of character.  As my father lectured, “suffering produces endurance; endurance produces character; and character produces hope.”  Hope does not put us to shame. Character….yes, I have it….and yes, I have hope which has allowed me to shift my paradigms from anger, resentment, and wishing for what I cannot have to being thankful for the time I did have.  That slight shift has brought me here to the woman who stands slightly bent, but not broken.  This woman is living life and is filled with hope for an unseen future that goes far beyond the number of breaths I will breath.v

Learning to Live Again

Source: Learning to Live Again

Learning to Live Again

I am at a Tragedy Assistance Program (TAPS) retreat this weekend. A woman said something to me that hit really close to home. She is a year and a half out from her husband’s death. She told me that she feels like she is going through the motions and that she keeps wondering if she will feel happiness in her life again. She pondered enjoying life and looking forward to the next events unfolding. Four and a half years later, I wonder the same thing. I wrap myself in business so that I do not have to figure out how to fill the waking hours. I work full time, go to school full time, and I run marathons. When any one of those activities drops off, I spin like a broken top—off kilter and with a stuttering step.

I have to be on at work every day. There is no room for me to consider having an off -day because I feel (the word feel is the key word) like people look at me as a fragile person who is going to break if something is said or done wrong. Where normal people do have off days, I feel that I must put on the mask to prove how all right I am all of the time. I teach resiliency and procoping, thus breaking and hurting publicly negates what I am doing. I don’t feel like I can talk about how I feel because I am the only widow I know with my story at my age, thus while my work is very meaningful and helpful to make something positive come out of the worst day of my life, it isn’t a place where I can be transparent.

I leave work to go to school all evening. I wrap myself in my studies of how to help people dealing with loss. It gives me skills, confidence, and on some levels, it allows me to consider my own way forward. It is another area where my eyes are set on something higher than me leaving very little time for introspection or alone time.

Running is the place where I do allow myself to feel and to ponder the life I have now. Running is a small portion of my day. After four and a half years almost, I am at that point of looking at removing school and learning to enjoy life again. Until now, it has been survival shrouded in business. I do not know how to thrive versus survive to face another day. The laughter is long gone and I do not remember a time since Phil’s death when I got excited for something coming. It feels foreign and unwelcome to want to look at how to fill my empty school hours with something I can be excited about. I do not even know what would make me excited.

This weekend with other military widows brought me clarity. It is the place where I could see how far I have come and where I need to dare myself to go. My shattered heart is knitting together. Like a broken bone, it is stronger than it once was, but it will always bear the scars of being broken. My heart aches sometimes. It aches now. I do not want to have to figure out how to enjoy my life or how to anticipate my life, but I know that it is what comes next. I haven’t ever learned to navigate how to have fun alone and living in this mode of total immersion into business isn’t about thriving or enjoying life. I think the day has come to stop waiting and to start going. Perhaps I will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Maybe I will try out for Survivor again. Maybe I will join a running group. Maybe I will even go to a singles church group. The possibilities loom and I am poised to take the first tenuous step .