Monday, September 26, 2011

Meaningful Moments

Lost CPP 1.1.98

This weekend I was out running a few errands with my daughter. We were at Lowes buying a replacement microwave oven. And, because I love gardening, anytime I'm at a store that has a garden section, there you will find me. I was walking down the isle, pushing my cart, and looking at all the varieties of plants. I had something specific in mind, but at the same time realized that I didn't really need another plant, nor did I have a place for another plant.

I began to wonder, what am I doing here? What am I searching for?

Suddenly I felt a bit light headed, and lost. I stopped moving, and looked to see where my daughter was. Within seconds she was walking up to me, asking if I found what I was looking for. I told her that I felt like I was wasting my time away. I felt like whatever it was I was doing at that moment was insignificant.

Why is it that after two years, my life still feels somewhat insignificant? I explained to my daughter that before Michael died, every moment was significant. I was always busy taking care of my family, researching cancer trials, filling prescriptions, and being mindful of every waking moment. Everything I did was either for Michael, or with Michael. Every moment of joy was spent with him. I didn't want to lose a single second of my time with him. I didn't want to look back and regret moments that could have been spent loving him.

I remember how after he died, I felt like time just stood still. It was like nothing else mattered anymore. Now of course my children still mattered, but what I was feeling was about my adult self, my married self. Suddenly my other half was gone, yet the void wasn't half of me, it was all of me. I have since struggled to regain a sense of feeling complete, and finding joy as a single adult once again. And, there is joy, and there is pleasure. Yet at times like this, walking casually down the isle in a nursery, with nothing, or no one to rush home to, time doesn't really seem to have the same value.

The rest of my weekend went the same. I did absolutely nothing. For many people, the idea of doing absolutely nothing is highly valued. Others complain about being too busy, and having no time to slow down and appreciate what they have. Yet for me, at least for now, I still have too much time on my hands. I think that in time my daily life will be filled with more moments of value, but I also think that I'm just not wanting to fill it with a bunch of insignificant moments. I don't want to busy myself, unless I become busy with things that truly mean a lot to me. What those will be I'm not sure.

So, I will continue to remind myself that as long as I find myself contemplating these thoughts while I'm out and about, then I'm on the right track. In time, moments like this will begin to feel significant once again, and I will find myself valuing every one of them.


  1. Dan, you always put into words what I am feeling, often around the same time. Last weekend was similar for me. Part of the reason was it was the year anniversary of spreading some of my Tim's ashes with good friends and family at Corn Hill, Cape Cod a vacation respite we shared for 28 years. But this year, there was no ceremony to mark the time. As I shopped for bird seed, I too wondered why I was doing this was just that, an errand that held no great significance except taking care of birds in the yard. But when Tim and I did this together, it was fun as we would plan the rest of the garden around attracting and feeding birds and butterflies.
    I am active and spend time with friends and family but whenever I go home alone or even while I am with others, I ask myself, "when will these times have more depth and meaning?" Its' a visceral heartache I have yet to soothe. Perhaps in time. Until then, it helps to read your experience and others' to know that time will come...someday.

  2. Dan, this is so familiar to me. Often I have a cart full of stuff at a store and stop suddenly with the sensation that I just don't care enough to continue. The stuff in the cart is meaningless and the idea of waiting through the check out line repulses me, so I abandon the cart and leave.
    And during the week, I worry about doing nothing all weekend. During the weekend, if I stay busy, I'm just going through the motions most of the time, anyway.
    But you're right. I have to keep telling myself that one day moments will have significance again.
    Love your posts, Dan.

  3. I recently bought myself a convertible after wanting one for years and a month of listing pros and cons and one day just pulled the trigger and got it. I have the time right now. To just drive, while kids are at school. For about a week or so I felt a sense of completion. Even my daughter said she felt it. I don't even know why, perhaps because it was completely a new experience, all mine, I didn't have to have a destination, the being, the driving was all I needed. Just in the moment. I too have large spaces of time and it used to scare me, I've recently filled the fall with house projects that are important to me. I do find myself searching at times and not knowing for what, because I can't quite find it. I lost my identity in life, being a wife, a partner, a homemaker/homeschooler, the planner of the family, lost the person I would do this for and with. I've been searching for who I am now.

    Thank you for your post.

  4. I can't speak for you, of course, but I can share my thoughts about life seeming insignificant in my past two years of grief. I also felt time stop when my husband passed. It absolutely stopped as I stood next to his bed, and it has never been quite right since. In my case, I think I have spent alot of time in a dissociated state. And I mean while functioning in the world. I am just starting to notice things I have not noticed in the past two years. Also, as a caregiver for six years, doing all of the running/researching you are describing (while in a state of terror most of the time), I hit a brick wall at 100 miles an hour when it stopped. Can you picture the void it leaves? I still don't know what to do with myself. Thank God I work full time, or I don't know what I'd do. Unfortunately, work has become 90% of my life since I don't have a family life anymore, and I don't like it but I'm in a state of inertia. Also, in my opinion, when you have seen disease, decline and death in someone you love so much, not much can match that in terms of significance. I'm moving one day at a time.

  5. "the void wasn't half of me, it was all of me"


  6. I, too, have abandoned carts in stores, just needing to "go", and wondering who is all this stuff for in the cart, I certainly don't need it. Early on, I would go out with my to do list, and would even abandoned that after completing one task. There just didn't seem to be any reason any more to get things done, if I didn't care about, no one else certainly would.

    The time issue is a big one, things do get better over time, as we're all told, but that yearning to have things as they once were will forever linger, I'm afraid. Nothing stays the same, except that void. Trying to fill it seems so pointless, but we all know we must try.

    Thanks, Dan, and all who posted thoughts, sounds like we're all searching for who we are.

  7. To Cathy above....Just want to say I hear you, loud and clear. One of the unexpected slaps to the head is how hard it is to shop, esp. grocery shopping. I think one of the biggest challenges is to continue to recognize that you are a person, deserving of the same courtesies you extended to your huband/family. Deserving of decent meals, a clean house, rest, recreation, love, a life. I have struggled with these things also, but I won't go down without a fight! It is a huge adjustment, but it seems that with us women, we continue to put everyone ahead of us, even after they have passed on. Honor your grief, take time to adjust, but fight for you. I'm still in process of it, at two years, it's two weeks of unorganized mayhem (very hard for me, the OCD person) then a week or two of order. Just breath and fight.

  8. I agree with all of the post and Dan's. I too have felt, what is all of this for. I would never kill myself, but can see how someone could if they already had a tendency. No project seems worth it, I just do what I have to do to maintain, but none of it brings joy. Then my job is something I can not leave, because I need the health Insurance which keeps going up. Having lived with someone with cancer, I know what not having any could do to you fiancially! I just want to give up- if it was not for my kids. I would do nothing too!

  9. Dan - this post is so honest.
    As with all the other writers. I can relate. I often wonder how is it that all of these things had meaning when my husband was alive. I mean the small things like grocery shopping. Now when I go, I look at my cart and it feels pathetic. Two bananas, a one litre carton of milk, a frozen dinner or two. I feel like people pass by and look in and then look at me - thinking alone, she lives alone.
    I eat in my car a lot. Because I haven't mastered eating in a restaurant alone. I usually keep driving because even sitting in the parking lot feels depressing. My husband and I were big gardeners. Now, the thought of planting anything seems depressing.
    How do we find meaning in these tasks when the other half of the reason we did them is missing? I agree with the post above, we are deserving of all of those things and I find I feel worse when I am standing at the counter eating my third yogurt of the day out of the container because I can't bear making a meal to eat alone.
    Every step forward is a healing step.

    thank you to everyone.

  10. Dan, I run to the garden when I feel sad. I think that growing things, planting things, harvesting things, digging things helps. Maybe connecting with nature is the significant thing....

  11. I guess the truth is that the things we used to find meaningful were mostly simple, everyday, "nothing special" things - what made them meaningful was sharing them with someone we loved. My husband and I did a lot of incredible things - motorcycling in the Alps, sightseeing all over Europe, trips to national parks, NASCAR races, and lots more. But it's the grocery stores that get to me. Allen just loved to go grocery shopping - we had so much fun. He liked Costco and the Air Force Commissary. Two years later, I cannot go into a military commissary. Yesterday I went to the new super-store, Wegmans, that just opened here. I cried when I saw the size of the international cheese department. Really, I did. One of my biggest joys in life was watching his joy in the things we did. It made him happy to show me the world he had seen. That's what's missing for me - seeing his joy.

  12. Yes, Diane. I think you've hit on it right there. It's the not sharing the experiences with them that makes the events seem meaningless.
    I think of traveling and then remember that if I see something amazing, he won't get to see it with me. And then I cross traveling off my list right now. It makes me too sad to think of it without him.
    One day...

  13. Dan this post is once again exactly what I feeling and their are so many similarities it's unbelievable. The time, our husbands name, all of it. I recently went to Home Depot very early on Sat morning and all around me were couples doing the same thing we used to do, go there super early to start on a day of gardening or doing any other home project and hit harder than normal, I couldn't wait to get to my car and let out my emotions. I miss him, I miss us, I miss what was, I miss everything that was. We didn't take each other for granted since his cancer diagnosis early on and everything became fun and special to us as long as we were together we were good and happy. I go thru the motions these days 2 years out, some days are OK, some moments are happy, but nothing in this life feels like I did when we were one and I was a happy wife of over 20 years with my best friend, lover and soul mate.

  14. Wow. I posted here yesterday and am reading the new additions tonight, and want to add something. I've been reading this blog for awhile now, and I must say these postings are the most poignant I've read. Everyone's offering SO captures the little, everyday, moments that make life so happy and unique with a loved one. A snapshot of what makes life meaningful, it's not becoming super wealthy or famous but the fulfullment found in gardening, grocery shopping, sharing a meal, just BEING with the one you love. Wouldn't it be great to scream this from the rooftops to those who still have the blessing of being together, and don't get it or live in the moment. I am deeply moved by every persons' story here and deeply grateful that you are all sharing. I am at two years, and I noticed several of you are, also, and it validates my experiences to read yours. Thank you so much, and God bless each and every one of you on your grief journey and beyond. It is my prayer that we all find peace and some measure of happiness again. Very grateful for all of you.