Monday, January 14, 2013


Seems like there is almost always some new revelation or event that sparks a Monday post idea for me. This time, Sunday night snuck up on me and I realized I didn't have anything that seemed to want to be written.

Then, I was making dinner when I realized I was out of lemons for squeezing over steamed asparagus and broccoli. Trying to improvise, I mentally scanned the contents of the kitchen for something that would work for the tangy part of the dressing. Suddenly, I remembered a dressing I'd make all the time before Dave died and happily pulled out the ingredients and began to whisk them together. As I stood there, tasting it to check for the proper ratio of flavors, I realized this was the first time I'd even thought of this stuff, much less made it since Dave died. I used to make it all the time. It wasn't a favorite of Dave's, so it's not as though I just hadn't had him here to remind me. It was one of many recipes I made for me alone because I liked it. Somehow it got stuck in that life and didn't make it over into the new life until that moment, almost 19 months later.

And it got me thinking. How many other parts of that life are just left behind that I don't even know are gone? What else is missing?

I've lost so much, and to think of what's been left behind causes panic to hover just nearby. How much has fallen through the cracks? Inside jokes, favorite meals, facial expressions that translated into complete sentences, a whole new language born of our relationship of 15 years, moments we had together? All are in danger of slipping away forever to be stuck in that old life. They might be gone forever. They might come back (like my dressing recipe). I don't know. Not knowing is scary and losing what little I have left of that old life feels like another tragedy.

So, to counteract the sucking power of grief, I did a little self coaching out loud to make it really sink in and told myself that it's okay that some things were left behind because nothing stays the same and starting over doesn't have to be all about loss. There are many good things, and not just recipes, that I've incorporated in my second life. I may have lost both the irreplaceable and the relatively unimportant in this explosion, but I've picked up what I could from the remains and added to it.

I've added even healthier eating habits. Dave was never really comfortable going as healthy as I wanted when it came to our pantry and refrigerator. I shed an emotionally stressful job for the opportunity to pursue zoology. I picked up crossfit, Bar Method and hot yoga, and ran a 5K. I started a blog or two and I've traveled. I've made new friends I can't imagine not knowing now.

As much as I want to cling to those little bits of my previous life, the more I do, the less I'm able to let the new in. I don't want to spend so much time looking back and trying to preserve the details of a  life I had to part with that I miss out on now.

So, it's being grateful for those pieces of the old life that can work their way into this new one. It's being thankful for having that old life at all. It's making room for my new life to unfold and bring with it the newness, the unknown. It's getting the chance to run everything that comes my way through a new filter: Do I alone think that will enhance my life or diminish it?

I have the bittersweet opportunity to be selfish and single-minded. When the focus is entirely on my needs and development, I get to sculpt my second chance as much as humanly possible. Of course, this is no easy task, but it's my second chance and I don't want to squander it trying to make that old life work when it's missing its center. I'm the center, now.


  1. yes, these are exactly the moments I was referring to last week, the pieces in between. I think we may lose some, but every once in awhile you get a gem like your recipe and it brings him a little bit closer. Praying you find some more pieces.

  2. "I don't want to spend so much time looking back and trying to preserve the details of a life I had to part with that I miss out on now."

    Wow Cassie, it is amazing and hopeful to see how much growing you have done. I have had one of those"spending too much energy looking backwards" issues in terms of parenting lately and I hope I can learn to be more realistic and not be held back.

  3. Wow Cassie! So well written.
    After 36 years together - you can imagine how I understand all of those pieces. I love the last part. Such a reminder that we can't live today if we try to hold ourselves back and live in the past.
    My son reminded me last night when i said something like "sometimes, I just want to stay still. I am afraid to risk" he said "imagine if Dad was here and he heard you say that!~ He would say "who is this woman, not the one I married!"
    and he was right.
    That's not me. That is the me trying to hold onto the past.
    This message was perfect for me today.
    Thank you!

  4. It's hard to swallow that it really IS all about me.
    Learning how to run things through MY filter not ours. I can't turn to look at him and see what initial look he has on his face. You know, the one that let you know if you were crazy or nor :)
    Yes, without that old life, I wouldn't have this life. I am profoundly grateful for having lived that life.

  5. I love, love, love your fourth paragraph where you so clearly state with words a portion of what has been lost....facial expressions, inside jokes, a whole new language....YES! Initially, after I lost my Marty I was driving somewhere with my adult son and I got a vision in front of me of a Jenga tower that came tumbling down right before my eyes - my life with Mart was gone, bit by bit, shattered. Every day it seems like more of what I have lost is revealed to me because as a couple so much of our lives were intertwined, things I never realized and the secondary losses are many. Anyone who is not a widow has no clue how connected spouses can be. It's true that you grow as one. I struggled knowing where he ended and I started. So often, now, I feel like my sense of "self" (whoever she is now) just abruptly stops, like hitting a wall.
    It has been 23 months and I am rebuilding a new life - a life I am not much interested in but forcing myself to lay up brick by brick. Tiring to keep trying new things. Tiring of making all the decisions, all the plans so that I have people in my life and doing all the errands. Tired of having all the responsibilities.
    I just got back from a week long Cruise with two of my adult children. We also cruised last year over Christmas as our way of coping our first year without Marty and it worked. This year we decided to stay home, it was time to face Christmas and Cruise afterwards. Marty and I had never cruised so it is a new thing. The difference in me from last year to this year was astounding. Last year, I was there and sorta present, but also sorta a blob of nothingness. But I went and that was HUGE. This year I was doing the Conga and the Limbo, much to my kids chagrin I think! This year I had some moments of pleasure and even fun. Do I ever not miss Marty - NEVER! I think it may be like that forever. I don't know and I don't spend much time thinking about how it will be, I am just managing each day.
    The week on the cruise was so so nice to take a week off from "rebuilding my life." The biggest decision I had was if I wanted Baked Alaska or cheesecake for dessert! It was grand. Plus I could "rely" on my kids to fill out forms, make choices about transportation etc, because in my new life, day to day I don't have anyone to "rely" on except myself. Sure, I have support people who are there when I call or make a plan, but in the moments of each day, it's all up to me.
    One day as I went to sit on the deck of the Cruise ship, I was deciding which direction to place my chair and I could hear "the Voice" of my Marty who loved boating...."Mary, it's always best to be facing the direction where you are headed to see where your'e going, rather than looking behind at where you've been." True words for cruising and also for my new life.....his way of still speaking to my heart. Exhausting to execute, but one step at a time - sideways or forward or backward, I'm still moving.
    Thank you for saying it like it is for me.