Many years ago in an airport I met a woman in her eighties who was returning home from a cruise. She wasn’t with an old friend or a family member. She had taken the cruise with a total stranger. Another older woman, also a widow had met her the day they boarded the ship. The two women had been put together by a mutual acquaintance. As we chatted this lovely lady Grace explained how the cruise had come about. Six years earlier Grace had lost her husband after fifty nine years of marriage. Her daughter lamented that they had not reached the sixty year mark. Grace was of a different mind set. They had fifty nine. How wonderful. She felt blessed.
After the funeral Grace was showered with invitations for dinner and coffee and walks. So many friends and well wishers wanting to help her heal. One of her friends gave her a bit of advice one day. She said that as Grace moved through the days she should never say no to people. Eventually people would stop asking and Grace would be very lonely. And so Grace muddled through her grief. Tired and sad she accepted every invitation. Her calendar was full yet her heart was empty. Time took away some of the hard edges of her grief and eventually she began to feel normal. She spent a lot more time doing things she had often thought about but had never had the nerve to try. One Sunday morning after Church, Grace was having coffee in the church basement. She overheard a conversation about an older lady who wanted to go on a cruise. She was having trouble finding a companion. Grace immediately broke into the conversation and said “I’ll go!” And that was that. She had spent her life living safely and in her eighties she was jumping in with both feet. Now in an airport on the final leg of her journey, she met me. As we parted I thought to myself, what a wonderful story. Since that time I have shared it with many people. My niece Tami took it to heart and her life is as full as it can be.
So. Having said that, since I lost my husband many people have given me advice. Naturally this particular sage wisdom has come around to bite me in the ass. Frankly its just not me. What I am rethinking since Rene’ left us is this. I need to stop and think before I give any more advice to people. I have spent my life trying to say no. In a nice way. I’m not good with lying but I admit I have done so in order to spare someone’s feelings. Given my well known “crusty” nature I tend to stick with honesty. After all these years few people are surprised. Oh its easy enough with my kids or siblings. I just say no. Easy peasy. They don’t care. Frankly they ask very little of me anyways so there is really little need to say no. But now I am exhausted. Everyone said after the funeral people would move on and I would become lonely. I couldn’t wait for the world to leave me in peace. I wanted to crawl into a ball and escape the big void I faced. It is true that people slow down on their contact. Frankly it gave me breathing room. The life long friends are there regardless. They check in and at the same time keep distance. Waiting for signs that they are needed. I appreciate the fact that people from the distance past have called and reconnected. It takes me a little time to call people back but they seem to understand. All in all the journey thus far has been bumpy. A lot of up and down. It is good to know people care. Yet I still say no lots.
When you are a loner, being alone is not lonely. I love my privacy. I love solitude. Oddly enough I had that even while I was living with my hubby. Freedom. To do or not do. To come and go as you wish. To never look at the clock. Freedom. When plans are made with others there is an obligation and often when the time comes I just don’t feel like following through. I love impromptu. Years ago a gal I know would call me late at night to fill a golf foursome for the next day. She knew me well enough that it would not insult me. Rather, making the plan a week in advance was hard for me. It gave me too much time to want to back out. My Naturopath says I live life too much in solitude. He says that a lot. Crazy guy. I guess we are social animals for the most part and that saying “No man is an island” has some truth to it. We do need each other. On the flip side I feel I have made my contribution to society. I left my offspring with caregivers in order to go out into the world and sell my soul for money. When I had enough money… I quit. Now I chose a lifestyle that is easily attainable with the income I have from the money I have. When is enough enough? Well that’s pretty personal. We all need to take some risks in life and one of them is deciding when to get out.
There are so many people in this world and I find that I “feel” who I need to be around. Even then I sometimes have to say no. I recently attended a Wedding in Victoria. I made it into a road trip. I originally intended to stop and see lots of people on the way there as well as on the return trip. I piled into the car a few days later than planned which is par for the course. An eclectic assortment of CD’s by my side. Flo Rida and Eminem filled my rap needs. Pink and Sheryl Crowe always fill my heart. From Muddy Waters to Pokey Lafarge, Best of Bread to Joe Walsh. I had them covered. Even the classics. My fave’s Vivaldi and DeBussey. Frank doin’ it his way and of course the love of my life Mr. Robert Plant. It didn’t take too long to realize this would be a trip of massive emotional ups and downs. The wedding and the island were good for my soul. Old friends and new people brought pure joy to my days there. I felt a certain peace and as I prepared to leave I was on top of the world. The grooms sister told me that when she heard I was coming to the wedding, she knew I was going to be alright. And I will be. The feeling was short lived as the exhaustion caught up to me. I chose not to visit on my journey home as I was spent. I spent a night in my cabin as I passed by and when I returned home I spent three days in hibernation. Music soon made me cry and I realized I had been pushing my grief away by trying to stay busy. The trip made me realize that I need to feel my grief. Let it out. It also taught me that I can pick and chose who I want to be with. Who helps my soul heal and who hurts me without even realizing it. I’m so glad I went. Everyone needs friends like Keith and Nicole. Being witness to a union such as theirs was an honour. It brought more to me than to them.
We never know who will be there for us. I’m here to tell you that good advice and kind words come from the strangest places. I have my rocks. The true blues in my life who I knew would always be there for me no matter how much time there was between visits. And they are there. In the wings. Yet there are random people who reach out. Strangers. Peripheral friends. But also people from the past. And even if I say no, they come back around to me again. Just to check in. No pressure. Just say howdy do. Once in awhile I step of the comfort zone and its just a little too much. But then again sometimes it is wonderful. So I say no lots and when I need someone I reach out. Sometimes on a whim I commit. Like the other day at the golf course. I signed up for the ladies league. And paid. All because a sweet gal I know called and asked me to come out. I was there picking something up and boom… I just did it. I always golfed with my hubby. Not something I saw myself doing a lot of now that he is gone. A phone call. And now I will do lots of golfing. It will keep me busy and frankly there are lots of gals from my past in the league. It will be healing. So far outside of my comfort zone but laugh or cry it will help with the journey. As for the next few weeks, I need to finish my bathroom renovations. Spring is around the corner and my garden is calling me. Don’t call. I’ll say no. I’ve learned its ok.