I’ve kept a journal since I was eleven. The pages were never filled with artful passages but high-pitched strum and angst. I’ve avoided reading them but it’s a pretty safe bet that 90% of the strum was about boys. They are all (except for the current one) packed in a box, topped with a note in bold Sharpie: “Destroy Upon My Death.” (The note is for my sister whose curiosity and hunger for drama outweigh any sense of integrity.) The curious thing is that it is not a large box. There are only two journals for the entire 18 years I was with my husband. Lots of things happened during those years. Lots. But I was rarely sad and/or filled with angst. My marriage wasn’t boring but it was relatively calm and steady. These past four years have been anything but.

I have probably filled more notebooks during these past four years than I have my entire life. It’s not just the grief, I’m lost.There seem to be too many paths to take; a luxury, I know. My kingdom for simply a fork (versus a loom) in the road. I have tried so many roads, and gotten lost or reached a dead end more times than I can count. These journeys are probably invisible to everyone else, as they are more about my perspective and/or trying new things. I have tried work, play, dozens of volunteer gigs, politics, religion and apathy. I have dated people I considered good matches and people I knew were anything but. I have grown my hair and shrunk my wardrobe. And when none of it feels enough or right, when the loneliness and loss come crashing upon me, I grab my journal. I’d be embarrassed to read what I wrote a year or two or three ago. I fear I would discover little if any personal growth. If my journals were a therapist they would probably tell me it’s time to shift my narrative.

Life IS loss. My rabbi once told me that not everyone experiences loss. I argued (yes, with a rabbi) that was impossible. To be alive, in any real sense, means you have suffered loss. Even if it was “just” the loss of a dream or one’s youth, it is still loss. I accept that the cost of survival is learning how to live. There is even something to say for the creative freedom it allows. At least that’s what I tell friends over lunch or drinks. But I’ll tell you the other truth; it’s hard and sad and very lonely. I know I’m less lost than I was, but I still struggle for direction. This is particularly frustrating for a gal who has an exquisite sense of direction (seriously, my husband used to say you can spin me and I’d always point north.) I am learning self-care, which is huge progress. I am also learning not to say “yes” to everything but to trust my own judgement again.

Regaining trust of judgement is nothing to sneeze at by the way. The thing about being lost is one tends to ask for directions (regardless of one’s gender!). This is not always a great strategy, as no one knows you as well as you do. I’ve received some rubbish advice these past few years! I saw a therapist…once, who told me that the reason I still had sadness was that I made no difference in anyone else’s life. She said I lived a very self-absorbed life and I’d always be unhappy. So…I turn to my journal. I write and write and write, in the pursuit of clarity. I rely, as I always have, on my dreams to reveal my inner thoughts. And I live. I put one foot in front of the other. I do the things that make me happy whenever I can. I seek out experiences that feed my soul and spend time with people I love. That’s all I know to do. But oh do I miss the assuredness I had when married. I so miss feeling solid in my life…feeling I HAD a life.

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