Monday, January 7, 2013

Comfort Zone

Two widows in a convertible

I just got home from a fun widow's trip to California. Just two young widowed women on the road, balancing carefree silliness with conversations about things most people our age never have to consider.

I can never fully prepare myself for the onslaught of sadness that is waiting for me back home.

As is true every time, arriving home after being away is a minefield of grief triggers for me. It's back to reality and a vivid reminder of who is missing in the crowd, waiting to greet me when I walk off the plane.

On the drive home, I was so lost in thought I missed my exit and had to drive nearly a half hour out of my way to get home.

I thought about why it feels so good to come back home after even the most wonderful trips.

It feels good because you're back in your comfort zone. That's your car with all your junk (in my case) scattered in the passenger seat. That's your route home you can (usually) drive with your eyes closed. That's your neighborhood, with the familiar people strolling down the sidewalks under those trees you have memorized from walking under them a million times. That's your pet greeting you, your bed that smells like you, your night sounds that settle into you and make you feel at ease enough to drift off.

What made me start to cry on the way home was that it dawned on me that although I did feel this way about my new home, it's Dave who was the person I felt that way about.

I had known him nearly half my life and stared into his eyes millions of times. I'd heard his voice over the phone and across the room so many times I knew it better than my own. I'd pressed my cheek against his chest so many times that I was sure there was a dent there shaped just like my profile. The shape of his hand in mine was something my skin had memorized. I'd known him intimately for so many years that no matter where I was, if he was near, I was home.

There is no one else on earth for whom I feel that way. I have known this all along, but it's almost as though I rediscover it every few months and it is able to sink into my psyche a little more each time.

I've learned that in order to keep myself from slowly drowning in the suction of a grief whirlpool I need to comfort myself, even if at first it feels hollow to do so.

So, I tell myself things. I tell myself that I will feel that way again. Maybe not that exact way, but I will, some day, feel at peace. I will feel a level of comfort and intimacy with another human being again. Maybe, if all my hard work pays off, I'll feel that way with myself, too.

So, after I took my little grief detour (literally and figuratively) I began to quell the tears and think of the life spread before me.

While on the trip I had a moment, overlooking elephant seals sprawled out in the sand in Big Sur, when I realigned with what I knew to be my greatest passion - wildlife. I told myself right then that I'd go back to school to get a degree in zoology. I told myself I'd do it even though I wasn't yet sure of anything else.

Elephant seals on the beach at Big Sur, California

All I know is I want to find a way to learn as much as I can about, and to be surrounded by, wildlife. Since I can remember it's the one thing that has lit me up from the inside out.

So, I have that to plot and dream about. I have today. Every day I wake up is a good day, because I can try again.

I'll always grieve the loss of my comfort zone in the form of a quiet, steadfast man named Dave who loved me till the ends of this world, but every day I get to be here, I get to make my new dreams come true. Hopefully, one of them will be a career in wildlife and the other will be a new but different comfort zone.


  1. Thank you for sharing your pain and your hope Cassie, as always they comfort and inspire me.

    1. You're welcome. It inspires me to hear that!

  2. Thank you for saying it so well. "I get to make my new dreams come true"
    For me, i am sure that someday a vibrant red will be just that. Not muted. The deep rich flavors will return.
    I look to the day when I will be able to feel and live to the my fullest. I do know that time is not now...but it will come when I have done what I need to do to get there. That's when my new dreams will come true.

  3. go and live out that dream, you have the entire world ahead of you now. Time for a 2nd chance. I know it'a 2nd chance none of us want to have to take, but, at least we have it...discovering my 2nd chances these last 16 months have been amazing and sad at the same time. Amazing because I can try things I never thought I'd do, but sad because he's not with me to experience least not in the physical. Good luck to you and your studies!

    1. Thank you, Ariana. Good luck to you too!

  4. Cassie - those smiles inspire me so much.
    Thank you.
    I too have a new dream. I am writing fiction.
    I don't know where it is going but I know it is the thing that inspires me.
    Yes sad and amazing.
    So true.
    Thank you for the inspiration and reminder to dream bigger.

    1. Fiction! That's wonderful, and such a worthwhile and brave pursuit. Writing has been one of the most healing things I've done on this journey, so I know intimately how wonderful it can be.

  5. Cassie, I'm so happy for you (and a little jealous) that you know what 'lights you up' and that you have a dream to follow.
    And reading your post has made me realized that after 2 1/2 years, I no longer dwell on, or am overwhelmed by the fact that my Dave is not here to greet me. Maybe it's because of that I've determined that THIS is the year that I will sell our home of 18 years and get something more sensible for me. If I'm successful this means that I'll finally be forced to sort through his and our belongings and keep only what I need. As difficult as I know that this will be I'm kind of looking forward to it.

    Anyway, thanks for the post and for this blog in general. There's always something here to help us move through the day.

    1. Wow, Valerie. That's huge and very exciting/terrifying. It will no doubt end up bringing you so many new experiences (in addition to the strain of sorting through those things) you never even dreamed of. Maybe even finding what it is that lights you up. Who knows. How far away will you move or will it be in the same area?
      Good luck and I'm so happy to hear that you're looking forward to it.

  6. I visited my husband's grave late this evening and the tears wouldn't stop flowing. Since May 4,2012 (my husband passed), the roller coaster ride has been unbelievable. I made it through the holidays with a hopeful outlook for 2013.I do have a reason to celebrate and it will be a better year. My grandson is due in 5 weeks. Reading your posts have kept me focused more than you guys can imageine.

    What I'm trying to say is thank you so much for your comments and posts--Icouldn't have made it this far without you guys!

    Cassie, you always inspire me!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I posted that you were a month ahead of me exactly, but I was wrong. I sometimes have a hard time realizing how long it's been since I last saw my baby. It's so so good to know that WV has brought you comfort.

  7. Loved this post. Wildlife? Yes!

    Embracing you in my mind, Idgy.


  8. Cassie, this post and all your posts are always such a inspiration. I have been living through this widow life a lot longer than you, but your words always resonate in me. You are a blessing in the truest sense of the word.

    1. And you have no idea what a blessing those words are to me! Thank you.

  9. Inspiring and very positive words, to hear you've found what lights you up from the inside. I think I may have found this same thing in Birding, a few weeks ago at the local Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. Felt a gladness and interest in something that makes my heart sing. (which in turn gives me HOPE)

    Glad you had a chance to see the elephant seals in my 'neighborhood' of the central coast during your road trip. (Anyone interested, it's at Piedras Blancas at the very southern end of The Big Sur. Docents help watch over the broods as every year they get bigger!)

    Finding joy and gladness in nature is elemental to our being human. First, we had to watch and interact with the natural world just to survive! Now we can garden, care for animals, raise our own food for fun or profit. Husbandry of another living thing can bring great solace--I wholeheartedly endorse it!