Monday, October 14, 2013

Safe Place

A view I got to see this weekend because I left my safe place

After Dave died and the shock wore off, the big world became a scarier place.

If he could be snatched away, what else could?

 If I stay close to home, says this fear-logic, I can somehow make sure the last remnants of that life won't disappear too. My cats will be safe, my home will be intact and no one can hurt me more than I've already been hurting.

I've pushed against those fears all along, though. In the beginning, it was easier. I had this wild the-worst-has-already-happened attitude until the shock wore off. Then, the fears began to fill the spaces in my mind, crowding themselves in, arguing over space.

What should I worry about now? Money? Being alone, possibly forever? Having no identity? Losing my in-laws, too? The cats dying too? My friends abandoning me? Hard to pick. How about I worry about them all at once? Yes, that's what we'll do. And then we'll never sleep again! Good plan.

It's as though the worrying alone might somehow keep me safe.

And yet, I've kept pushing, moving inexorably toward the scary stuff, though staying put would've been so much more comforting.

The problem is that the safety of my little microcosm - home, cats, my neighborhood - becomes a breeding ground for my insecurities. I get comfortable and I have my eye on everything I know. Nothing new. Nothing scary. I've got it all under control. I also don't make new friends, discover new talents or desires, or have new experiences.

I need my safe haven desperately, but using it to avoid real life can't be good. Sometimes it takes someone else to invite me out, but at least I'm getting out. Sometimes it takes a ton of discomfort, but I do it. I try out new things, meet  new people and go to new places, even though I almost need to be dragged.

I spend the first hour of any social gathering feeling completely out of place and painfully self-conscious. I imagine the worst possible outcomes of every new thing I want to try. Those art lessons will expose that I'm really not talented. That master's degree will be too hard for me, or it'll be the wrong field and I'll end up hating it. I'm always the one who knows the least number of people at these gatherings and I'll feel like a weirdo.

The doubts are illogical, unreasonable and just plain wrong, but they still crop up and whisper convincingly "stay safe, stay home, don't risk". Acting anyway is my strategy. Giving those whispers a gentle "fuck you, I'm doing it anyway", seems to be the way to go.

I'm not able to jump into every new experience that comes my way. I say no sometimes. I go all hermit-style for a few days here and there. But, eventually, I push back again and claim what's mine - a life. A life I get to continue to live when he doesn't get that opportunity.

I'll keep taking leaps despite my strangling fears and doubts. And then sometimes, I'll stay home where I feel really safe.

I just can't give in to the fears all the time. I'm bigger than them. I'm more real than them. And beyond those fears is a whole world waiting for me.


  1. I feel this way too. A lot. Almost everything I do terrifies me, but I do it anyway. Great piece.

  2. "claim what's mine - a life." Amen.

  3. I have been wondering lately if it just me who is scared? Is something wrong with "me"! I was not this afraid right after my husband died, but know I have terrified and would just rather NOT do things. I guess the good thing is, I make myself do them, like you. Thank you for your message. Once again you wonderulf writers have validatad what I am gong through. Thank you.

    1. It's definitely not you. There's something about the death of a spouse that shakes your confidence so drastically. It's the sudden removal of your bedrock. It's just gone and so is your trust. It's just hard.

  4. Thanks for the post. Its nice to know someone else reverts back into grief but then lives life again. I'm not alone. Thank you

  5. Thank you, I can really identify with what you wrote. The fear is so strong. I'm not able to push through as well as you have though. Thanks for making feel less alone.

  6. I too get afraid, but force myself anyway. And sometimes I just say forget it and I don't leave the house. It's weird, some days I can shop(I get panicky out in places a lot). Other days I can be social and around people. Some days I can sort through stuff and tackle things with memories. Some days I can clean like a madwoman. Some days I can't do much of anything, the bare minimum is a chore. But there never seems to be a day where I can choose what to do, it's all about what I can manage for that day. I am around the two year point too, and reading your posts and Kelly's really help me. I thought I would be doing better at this point. People act like I should be better now. Then I come here and read the struggles of people where I am, and I think anyone that thinks I should be better off than I am can go... you can imagine. I think you are really brave for moving. I am starting to think about that too. Today I am just really, really lonely, and I really miss my best friend. How is it that over two years later the idea he is never coming home so hard to believe and so overwhelming?? Anyway, thank you for this post and all of your posts. And thank you to everyone that writes and comments here.

  7. I prefer the hermit lifestyle some days too. Still purging (3 yrs later), readying for the move in the spring. Seriously considering moving into a family cottage, even more isolated than I am now, even tho family and friends say "don't do it". They don't understand that I'm ok alone, surrounded by favorite books and music and pets; hopefully I won't always feel this way, but for now, it works for me. With my person gone, I just don't care to try to put on a happy face and meet people. I'll do it on my own terms in my own time. Yes, the world is there, I'll jump back in sometime, but not today.

  8. Cassie, again you have given my experience words and I appreciate it. I hadn't really understood the overwhelming fear others talk about until yesterday. I was in the woods of northern Arizona scattering my husband's ashes; I and he had been there many, many times and I know how to find my way in those woods. As soon as I had walked out of sight of the car I was overwhelmed with fear that I would get lost. I was almost paralyzed with my fear, but walked on another five or ten minutes, talking with myself about how I could do it. After I scattered the ashes I sat down with my iPad to write and started crying and crying and crying. I realized I was not only scared of getting lost in the woods, but also without Wes I am afraid of getting lost in all ways. He was my tether, my ground. (I did get out of the woods with no difficulty!) Thanks, Cassie, for telling us you struggle with this, also.

    1. Spunky: "getting lost in all ways" yes, my fear too. How to find my way at aging alone... I know there are agencies to help, but reaching out past my comfort zone is a step I have to learn to Myself.