Saturday, January 29, 2011

Attitude Adjustment

Well, I'm settling in to Austin okay, but slowly. I think I'm dragging my feet a little because I just don't quite know what to do or how to start creating this entirely new life, entirely on my own.

I realized the the other day that I'm thinking in a negative way a lot lately -- when things go wrong for me, I think, "I wouldn't be in this position if Brian were still here," or "I never should have been facing this, let alone on my own." I think that when I can't get something hung on the wall correctly, when a few texts exchanged or a little internet "research" show me that the cute guy at the bar is not a viable prospect for me, when my phone breaks, when I struggle to figure out the next step in my professional and social life. I'm playing the victim card. Well, not playing it, I guess -- I'm not using it as an excuse, or hoping people will cut me some slack -- but it is in my hand, and I'm well aware. It's time for me to put it in the discard pile and draw a new card.

I don't know how to go about this, exactly. I realize that I struggle with decisions, especially those involving guys -- should I start dating? How? Should I actually call this guy? How do guys know when it is a "just friends" thing or a date? What did he mean when he said x or y? How can I tell if he is into me? My uncertainty stems from a lack of experience. I've literally never been through the traditional "start dating, then enter an exclusive relationship and call each other boyfriend and girlfriend" thing. Never. Brian and I started "going out" and holding hands in the hallway when we were 15 and 17, before I was even allowed to go on "dates." How do adults do this? Do I even want to do that yet? Is my fear and hesitation because I really don't want to date, because I'm not ready, or because I'm afraid of the unknown? I don't know, in part because I don't know myself. I'm still not used to being on my own, to making my own decisions, and I'm terribly self-critical and self-analytical. Am I over-analyzing everything, or I am giving decisions the appropriate amount of thought and critique?

I've realized that I'm still discovering what I like and who I am, compared to who I was with Brian. In every relationship, each partner's personality changes a bit and each person bends a little to accommodate the other. No one is exactly the same in a relationship as they are outside one -- show me someone who is, and I'll show you someone whose relationship is doomed for failure. You compromise everything, from what to watch on TV to when or if you will try to have children. I'm finding that I don't care as much about mixed martial arts as I once did; I guess that interest was mostly due to Brian's influence. I love football more than ever though; that is now wholly a part of me, even without him in my life. I definitely am making braver fashion choices -- glittery eye makeup, feathered hair accessories, skinny jeans, knee-high boots. I've even bought things in the past year thinking, "Brian would have hated this, but I like it, so I'm buying it," knowing I wouldn't have done that before. I'm eating more vegan and organic foods, though I rarely watch The Food Network, as we used to do frequently.

So who am I? Am I outgoing, or was that part of me developed to cope with/compete with Brian's loud, boisterous personality? I've become more and more of a homebody. Is that who I am? I'm taking more chances in life -- was that always a part of my personality, one that got suppressed for the sake of happiness within a loving and happy marriage to a man who was much more risk-averse? Or am I taking more chances because I have nothing left to lose? Not only do I not know who I am, but I also don't know who I ever really was. How much of my personality is due to Brian's influence? Due to his death? Due to my inherent nature?

In the end, I suppose it doesn't matter why I am who I am now -- just that I am. It doesn't matter if I always had more wanderlust than him or whether that is something that is just developing in my personality. The fact is, I want to explore and travel, and I've indulged that through several trips this year and by moving to a new city and starting fresh. Does it really matter why I want what I want, so long as I know what I want?

The problem is, I still don't know what I want or who I am....I guess that is part of the journey. Realizing this, though, is definitely a bit discouraging -- it makes me feel insecure, unsure about myself and the next step. It's also a reminder of how severe and long-lasting the impact of losing Brian is in my life. Okay, so I know I can survive without him -- I've made it over a year already. And I know the pain lessens, and the many, many happy memories remain and give me reason to smile. I'm even getting to some measure of acceptance, of knowing that his death was what was pre-destined, part of a greater plan. I might not ever understand it, but I do believe that. But I'm still struggling with carving my own way, with discovering myself, with knowing how to strike out and make a life on my own. I guess this is one way in which widowhood is different than most other types of grief -- you lose that other half of your life, your goals, your plans, your dreams...the other half of you. And then you no longer know who you are.

A lot of books I read about grief, particularly widows' grief, likened the loss of a loved one to a feeling of being in a foreign land with no maps and no guidebooks. For some reason, that analogy never really resonated with me until now. Maybe because I'm ready to start my new life, finally, and I realize it's terrifying and unknown, and at a time where I feel incomplete, like I'm missing my other half. I have to take steps toward something --some new goal, some new life -- but what? How do I know which way to start walking when I don't even know who I am, what I want, or where I'm heading?


  1. But you do know, Wendy! You moved to Austin, a place you love. That's a huge step. You're listening to your heart and finding you want to make different choices. That's okay. You're becoming yourself. Don't fret. It's happening.

  2. I hope someday you publish your blog into a book. Not only is it extremely well-written, but you are just a brave and beautiful soul if I've ever seen one.

    I was thinking of what I wanted to say as I read...but then you answered your own question in the way I was planning to...that the why isn't as important as the knowing what. And I don't think it matters if you don't know what you want right seems to me you are doing a beautiful job of learning as you go along. You know yourself better than you think you do, and you already used one of my favorite keywords (resonate) :), so I know that's how you will figure these things out as you go. Plus, you've been doing it all along. You don't strike me as impulsive; you strike me as someone who's very in tune with knowing what's right for her and has the courage to go towards it. Keep on trusting that instinct, because I think yours is stronger than most people's.

    I don't think anything you did during your relationship was false or only for him...I think it's part of the natural bending process and also just part of being well-rounded and being open; maybe try to let go of putting yourself in a box and just let things flow how they need to at the time? I do, however, understand the need to redefine yourself after a person dies and the questioning of who you are now. I kind of still look at time periods in my life as "before Mom died" and "after Mom died." Of course, this redefining (or maybe the better term is "rediscovering") your identity is ten times a bigger issue when it's your spouse that you lose. But I think at some point, I stopped trying to figure it out and just let it happen.

    It's beautiful that you can take away so many new characteristics you gained from being with him that still resonate with you and that you also give yourself permission to let go of the ones that no longer do. <3

  3. I second that, this definitely needs to find its way to book pages. Love the post.

  4. Thank you guys. Jen, I so appreciate your input. I can't express what it means to me.