Monday, December 31, 2012

The Choice


I was telling my therapist all about the process I went through to decide to sell our house, quit my job and move to Portland after Dave died.

I told her about the epic snowstorm that buried me in 2 feet of snow on Dave's birthday and left me without power for two days and without contact with another human for four days.

I told her about putting the house on the market and getting an offer and selling it in less than a month. I told her about the day I woke up and had the thought "I'm going to move to Portland!"

Then I told her about finding my current home. I told her that the realtor didn't have my condo on her radar at all. We happened to drive by and I saw a for sale sign. I bought it days later.

I am in unit 1. My next door neighbor in unit 2 was widowed in her 50s. The professor who lives in unit 3 was widowed in September after his wife's battle with cancer. Three widowed people in a row.

When I told her this part, her eyes filled with tears. She said she was suddenly struck by what I'd been through and overcome. She said it gave her hope for herself and all her patients. I've never thought of it that way. That makes it sound heroic. It hasn't felt heroic. It's felt desperate.

All this time, I've felt desperate. I've made decisions I had to make to do the best I could for myself even though my compass was gone. I've leaped into the unknown with what I can see now was nothing but hope.

It was hard to see it as hope then because I was terrorized by fear and doubt. Other than having one clear moment when I formulated my plan to move to Portland, I didn't once feel absolutely certain or at peace about any of these decisions. They were all terrifying for me. I had doubts that kept me up at night, and turned my stomach. I deliberated and tortured myself over ever single decision I've had to make since my partner in life died.

I had to finally get a little more comfortable with the idea that the world wouldn't end if I screwed up. The worst had already happened so from that point on, I could get through selling our house, moving and starting a new life. Even if it all turned out to be a mistake, it wouldn't have been as bad as hearing the doctors tell me that they'd done all they could but hadn't been able to save my soul mate.

And yet...It's probably a product of my combined losses, not just Dave's, but I still expect more to go wrong, even as I grow more comfortable with change and making decisions on my own. I still expect what I have left (my cats, my home, my friends) to be simply gone if I don't keep my eye on them. I halfway expect a fire to take it all away from me if I'm not looking, or tragedy of another sort I haven't even thought of yet to come my way.

Logically I understand that nothing could be as bad as Dave's death, but my heart feels precariously patched together right now. I could survive more loss, yes, but would I want to? Would all hope be lost at that point? Would I have anything left in me with which to soldier on?

I have had hope all along. It's what drove me to jump into a new life when I was terrified to leave the old one behind. It's what keeps me going now. My wish is that hope is strong enough to withstand anything that comes its way.

Life isn't extra gentle with me now just because my husband died. The universe doesn't give a shit. It just keeps churning away, with its joy and sorrow, good and evil. I hope (ha!) like hell I have enough in me to sustain whatever else comes my way.

I'm not naive enough to say things (even to myself) like "everything will be okay," anymore. I have to learn to live with the light of hope and the darkness of potential tragedy. Holding them both together takes work. It's like trying to process things like school shootings. How does life go on after something that horrific? I don't know, but it does.

I suppose it's what we do in the face of all the horror. We reach out because we don't give up hope DESPITE the sorrow. It's all we can do. We make things better when we can. We hold onto each other when we can't. We breathe. We take leaps of faith. We don't give up.

I can't close up shop yet and hide away from everything because it might hurt more. That would be the real tragedy. Tragedy on top of tragedy. Dave couldn't help leaving. He would have stayed if he could have. I have a choice though. I can give up or I can keep hoping and fully living with all the risks it entails.

I'd better not squander that choice.


  1. This is such a powerful are right, hard things (and also good things) will continue to come our way, even in the wake of losing our spouse. But your strength and hope shines through in this piece and is inspiring. Soldier on we must...even if we do so blindly, through the snow storm, arms out in front of us trying to feel our way. When I met my husband, we both took a leap of faith. We moved across the country together after only knowing each other for 3 months. I'd never take it back, pain, beauty and all.

  2. Perfect expression of what I am feeling!

  3. Thank you Cassie.

    Not long after my husband, soul mate and best friend died in 2005 I was sent to management training. One of the exercises was about building and utilizing support systems, and we were asked to name a confidant. I realized at that moment the connection between the words "confidant" and "confidence," that I had lost both. It has taken a good deal of time, hope, stubbornness, healing, and the support of friends to rebuild my confidence - which is a work in progress.

    I also realized three years ago that everything is going to be all right - but that the Universe's definition of "all right" isn't necessarily the same as mine.

    Keep going, and thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Exactly. That's a great way to put it...the universe doesn't have the same definition of "all right" as I do!

  4. Nice Post. So true what you wrote including "we reach out because we don't give up DESPITE the sorrow...we make things better when we can."

    Since my spouse is gone, seizing life is important. I also recently relocated after selling a house where my spouse and I shared married life for many years, where we raised our family. The move to another state has been freeing and the decision remains one of the best yet hardest decisions I have made.

    Hope works and hope is work. How well we know. May you have a good new year.

  5. spot on timing- thank you. Most especially b/c I've started taking concrete action to move to Ptld. Didn't know you were there. Cool. The widoweds have landed.

    1. Portland, OR? Really? How great! You will love living here (assuming you haven't before). Yes, the widowed have definitely landed.

    2. haven't even been to the pacific nw before. Someone posted photos of a recent trip there, and I knew it was where I was going to live. Have been sorting and packing for a few months. Now taking the next steps.

    3. Oh wow. That's so amazing. What an adventure! I moved to the PNW from Ohio 13 years ago and I'm convinced it's the most beautiful place to live. Portland itself is my favorite city here, too. Seattle is great, but Portland is so much better. :)
      If you need anything getting settled, let me know. My email address is

    4. I'll send you an email. !!

    5. I'll send you an email. !!

  6. This post is so timely. You are echoing everything I'm feeling. Thank you

  7. Perfect, eloquent, timely, always, you give so much in sharing your deepest inner core. Thank you Precious Cassie for your bravery in holding up a mirror that helps so many others see what they cannot put into words. You are a gift!

    1. Thank for those loving words. You are also a gift, Anne Marie.

  8. Thanks so much for this post. I'm slowly beginning the process of developing a new life but right now, I'm still walking in molasses right now. Hope it gets better...

  9. Wow! so much of what you've said I have heard myself say. I recently was discussing with a friend how nothing seems to bring on the same terror it used to. When the worst thing you can ever imagine happening happens nothing else has the same power. Recently a bill collector warned me of how something would affect my credit rating. I asked him if having a perfect credit score would bring my husband back because if it wouldn't then his threat didn't scare me because a rotten credit score was trumped by a dead husband.

    I'm not naive enough to say things (even to myself) like "everything will be okay," anymore. This line reminded me of a day about 18 months ago (pre diagnosis) when I had an especially hard day at work and on the half hour drive home I went over it and over it in my head. About a block from home I noticed how beautiful the sun was shining that day and I realized in about 2 mins I would be home with my hubby and all would be right with the world because nothing ever turned out as bad as we think it will. Everything would be okay it always was.

    I used to always quote to my husband "everything will be okay in the end, if it's not okay it's not the end". For some strange reason it always brought me peace. Now it leaves me unsettled because nothing will ever be okay again.