What a sense of victory it was; all those firsts! Each time I survived a holiday or milestone I did so with shock and awe. When I made it to the first year anniversary of his death I felt as if I was crossing a finish line. I did it! And I did, gritting my teeth and with white knuckles. Each and every little thing that I had to do by myself for the first time, shook me to the core while filling me with pride. I did it! I made it through the birthdays, anniversaries, lawyer’s appointments, financial decisions, travel, health issues, and holidays completely on my own. Twelve months of firsts and I made it.
Over four years later it occurs to me that those firsts may have been the easy part. The adrenaline of “I can do this!” mixed with my shock and numbness helped ease the way. Now it’s no longer about “getting through” anything, it’s about the stunning and cruel fact that this is my life. Doing it all on my own; the financial decisions, the legal affairs, my health and happiness, all of it, are my one-woman show. It shouldn’t really be so startling to me. I didn’t marry until I was a ripe old age of 32. I had lived on my own for a decade, coming home to an empty house and being my own counsel. If anything it should be easier now. I was stupider then (isn’t everyone?) and had zero professional or financial safety net. I certainly did not have the confidence acquired sometime in my 40s. So you would think that now; devoid of the unflattering perm and having a modicum of security I would find it if not easier than at least comparable. Alas, no.
If you’re a math person you’ll have no doubt noticed a bit of a mathematical formula in the paragraph above. Call it the Happiness Formula if you will:
Youth – knowledge – confidence – resources = 20s Happiness
Experience + confidence + resources + knowledge – perm = 50s Happiness
But there’s a factor missing, one that can’t really be quantified: my broken heart and spirit. I may be stronger on paper but I’m less than whole in reality. I am wounded. It’s that simple. Yes, I am capable of love and happiness, but I am fundamentally bruised and changed. Each difficult task or setback feels bigger and darker now. It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are times I feel I’m owed a break and even happiness after what I’ve been through. I feel that every time the world is not nice to me that it’s personal. I feel resentful that on top of everything else, I still need to fight with the co-op board about my cable bill. I know it’s utterly absurd and unpleasantly self-absorbed but it is how I feel.
I’m disheartened to realize that I did not in fact cross any kind of finish line. That victorious feeling of surviving the first year was a false victory. There is no benchmark, there is no end point. I am not owed a happy ending or even kindness. There is no epiphany waiting around the next corner. For each day I wake up and think; I’m okay, I like my life, there will be an evening that I cry myself to sleep. This is my life now.