Sunday, May 25, 2014

Through the Looking Glass with Rod Serling

Dear John,
 
I had a good lunch with you today. It was a perfect day for a picnic. The cemetery was crowded because of Memorial Day weekend. I haven't see so many people there since your funeral. There was a lot of cleaning up going on, lots of wreaths and flags going up.
 
I went to confession this morning. I talked (and cried) about feeling so much fear and anxiety, and not being able to get in touch with faith, peace, or gratitude at all. Father listened and said that none of this was sin, just the emotional consequences of starting a new chapter of my life. I thought about it, and told him after the liturgy that, since I'm such a head person, I have no idea what to do when my emotions take center stage. He understood, and said that I'm definitely more Vulcan than human. I laughed and told him that he's right - when I was a kid, Mr. Spock was the only reasonable adult in my universe.
 
And that's really what's going on here. The anxiety isn't about the job - it's about stepping into  a new life alone. And it isn't primarily about anxiety - it's really about grief. I've just recently become able to look at my future, and now I find myself in it. I'm through the looking glass, trying to find my way among hookah-smoking caterpillars, talking rabbits, hatters, and goodness knows what else. And I don't want to be here at all. It's no wonder I'm struggling.
 
I was looking around while I was eating my burger with you. On the other side of the creek there's a city park with swings, monkey bars, and slides. I can always hear the young families with children over there, and sometimes I can catch glimpses of them through the trees and brush that grow next to the creek. They never look my way; they aren't aware than there is a cemetery just across the creek. That's very much what this life is like. The young, happy, normal people are on one side of the creek and the grievers are on the other. They don't know that we are here. But we can hear them and sometimes see them. The creek and underbrush separate us from each other.
 
While I was pondering the significance of this, I saw a large family with a bunch of children leave the park and cross the bridge into the cemetery. Because this is Memorial Day, the family reunion included a trip to the cemetery to clean up the family graves, lay wreaths, and plant flags. It's the first time I've ever seen that bridge crossed. The happy, exuberant family was very quiet as soon as they passed the bridge. It's solemn and quiet on this side of the creek.
 
It was interesting to think about all of this, since I'm feeling so separated from normal people and ordinary life. I've said before that I like the year-long restrictions of Victorian widowhood - it is a practical way to protect the grieving during the hardest days. Now I realize that it's just an expression of reality. We widows really are separate from everybody else. The other people don't know it. But we're here, behind glass walls, or closed doors, or across the creek behind the underbrush. We're set apart from the rest of life, no longer part of a couple, not part of the dating scene, unfamilied, unfriended by our married friends - separate. We live in another reality, a sort of parallel existence. There's a feeling of Rod Serling about it.
 
I don't want this to sound self-pitying. It's just the way it is. Loss of a husband includes loss of self-image, self-confidence, social place, friends, financial security - it's hard to think of what you don't lose. Maybe all you get to keep is God. You have to learn to let that be enough.
 
Loving you amid the wreckage,
Joan. 


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