I am drawn to books about widows. In the early months after David died, I read the widow how-to books or how to widow -- widow as a verb? Next came, the memoirs, especially those written by writers, and I think I’ve commented about every one. I’ve run out of those for the moment and I am on to the novels. It is as if I am checking my form, my progress. I am not an Olympian griever. At least, I don’t think so. Am I a creative amateur?
In novels, the widow, usually in her 30’s or 40’s, goes into shock, resurfaces to resume life but hits rock bottom -- my favorite character tried to eat raw flour when she could not find cookies in her house, drinks to excess, and goes to work in pajamas before a mandatory leave without pay was imposed. The widow slowly finds her way up from the mire, maybe she sells her house and rents an empty B&B or a loft or sublets something very modern from a professor. She finds work that is completely different from what she did when she was a wife. It is always more fulfilling than her previous occupation. She falters, she doubts herself, she backslides, she cries and then she succeeds brilliantly. The widow’s new occupation is inherently social as if to testify to the importance of getting out there after losing a partner. Along the way she meets men and begins to emerge from the cocoon of her grief--a hair cut, new clothes, and high heels are part of the transformation. By the end of the narrative, the widow begins, consummates or formalizes a new and wonderful relationship. The new partner is broad minded enough to allow the widow to display pictures of her dead husband and even to mark the first anniversary of his death. Yes, all of this happens within a year. A widow for one year. John Irving wrote a book by the name. When I first read this scenario, especially the one year part, I was rather bitter that the whole process happened so quickly, but from where I stand now, I think I understand. I’d want to write my story to happen in one year too. One year of pain, of grief, of process is conceivable. Purgatory, that limited time hell that the nuns taught, was always bearable, according to the teachings, because the soul knew that eventually she would “see God.” Purgatory for a year sounds plausible.
And just not to rag on the novelization of this journey, Joyce Carol Oats’s process from death of her spouse to re-marriage was about a year. Nice job, Joyce!
So, if I was to write the story of my grieving, I would shorten it as well. Who wants to know or believe that at the two year mark, I am probably a bit more than half through my process? Not quite seven months. I’ve read over and over that the grieving process is individual and the widow should take as long as necessary to work through it, but I would not wish more than a year in grieving concentration camp on anyone.
I am grumpy this afternoon. I yelled at Julia before I took her to clinic and then I went shopping. I hate the yelling and I hate shopping. Throw in having the broken compressor on my car’s air conditioner fixed today and handing over my credit card -- oh, I am bleeding money this month.
Do I sound crabby yet?
Julia was tough today -- not just on me but on her therapists as well. She was more distracted than usual, less able to focus on the people and tasks at hand. She could not listen, and I lost my temper. The temptation to yell at her is so strong because Julia listens when I yell. She has trained me very well. And I did, and she did as I wanted. And I felt awful and apologized afterwards. It left me crabby for hours. Until we worked it out and were able to be right with each other again. Part of the crabbiness is fear, of course. A child who is unable to focus . . . . how does the adult focus.
The best of me with Julia is when I can focus and stay in the present. And I practice and I practice. And sometimes all the practice in the world is not enough.
Then, after I dropped Julia off at clinic for a therapy session, I went shopping. Oy! I do not shop. And this is an understatement. I am ok when I shop for someone else. I can almost enjoy shopping when I do it for my girls, but for me. Just never. Comes from being fat as a kid, comes from always feeling like I should not spend money on myself.
And I whine, why don’t clothes last forever!! If I could only buy clothing that I could wear for the next 20 years. Well, I have. As I was going through pictures during the grand sort, I was startled to see how many of my clothes are really old, not worn out but old. Well, maybe in some instances worn out as well. And there are things that wear our rather regularly and need to be replaced. Underwear is one of those things. I haven’t bought new underwear in . . . . well, at least not for three years and I think it is longer. I hate looking for bras and trying them on and paying so much more than guys ever have to pay for undershirts. There, I said it. I want to buy bras that cost what a pack of jockey undershirts cost.
And I am laughing now.
What a curmudgeon! I could be David. Not about underwear, but way to many things throughout his life. And so, now me.
Of course, I don’t buy a single bra or a few pairs of panties at a time. Instead, I wait until everything I own is just about falling off me to replace anything. Then I need a healthy bagful and that is expensive.
Oh, I have to laugh at myself! The curmudgeon is gone. And I have new underwear. Maybe, just maybe, I will learn to be better. Somewhat more moderate in my shopping habits. I need to love myself just a bit more.