“You’re so strong”

I lost count of how many times I’ve been told that. It’s happened so often that I’m almost inured now. In the beginning I wanted to demonstrate how strong I was with one swift kick. They meant well, and it is true, but it felt dismissive and to be perfectly frank I’d love the option of not being so strong. I look around and see people who aren’t forging ahead and making scary lonely decisions. I see and know people who have suffered loss and have a village of family and friends swooping them up and into their lives and homes. When you’re strong, no one volunteers to take care of you.

So I forge ahead, through sheer will and a shark-like sense of how to survive. I don’t stay in the past, musing how it’s the pictures that got small. There is no shrine, no visible reminders to the unknowing eye. Of course, I know that the mini wooden giraffe perched on a cabinet was a shared joke. My husband was heading to Africa for business, during that insurance ad campaign which featured a mini-giraffe. When he asked what I wanted him to bring home I did my best Veruca Salt and demanded a mini-giraffe. Two weeks later, he handed the 6-inch carving over (with a small bag of precious stones.) There are little things like that scattered around and in my closets. It’s not that they’re a monument to him, it’s that they are us.

I’ve consciously fought being a living monument to my husband. I’ve seriously considered changing my last name and I had my wedding rings reconfigured into a necklace. However, I could throw out the entire contents of my home and closet and you know what? It wouldn’t matter. As long as I’m alive, I will be a living monument. It’s not that “love never dies” or anything else terribly twee. It’s that we were together too long and too much that I can no longer discern where he ends and I begin. And maybe, just maybe, that makes me stronger than I know.

 

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