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.