Becoming Who I Need to Be

For a long time, I lamented that I hadn’t been changing, and I thought I should have been.

After the death of my life mate/soul mate, I was totally blindsided by grief. I’d lost my mother a couple of years previously, and a brother the year before that, so I thought I understood what grief was. Besides, I knew my mate was dying. We’d spent the last three years of his life disentangling our lives and severing the connection so we could go our separate ways — he to death, me to life alone. I truly thought I’d moved on, yet after he died, I experienced such agony and angst that it shattered me, my identity, my understanding of life . . . everything. An experience like that should change a person, yet month after month I remained . . . just me.

Now, two years and four months after his death, the changes are occurring on an almost daily basis. I’m still just me, but the person I am today is not the same as the one who screamed the pain of her loss to the uncaring winds. Nor am I the one so connected to another human being she still felt broken more than a year after his death. I left those women out in the desert somewhere. I’ve walked about 2,000 miles since he died, and a bit of that me evaporated with every step.

I am stronger than that person was, maybe even wiser, certainly more confident and open to whatever comes, willing to accept life on its own terms.

I no longer fear growing old alone as she did. I might not live to a great age, and if I do, I might not be alone, but even if I am, that woman will not be the me of today. She will older, used to dealing with the infirmities that come with age, perhaps even experienced in the ways of dying. She will have lived her life to the fullest of her ability, and might even be able to wake each morning feeling the joy of living one more day, no matter how painful. Or not. But the point is, I am not in that place today, and the person I am today will never be in that place. So there is no reason to be afraid.

For so long, I’ve been worried about what will happen to me now that I am alone. I worried that I’d become the crazy cat lady (sans cats) or the pathetic, lonely old woman that everyone whispers about (when they remember her at all). If I end up alone and lonely, so be it. I’ll be okay. I am quite comfortable with being alone. (I always was, to be honest. Grief skewed things, made me desperately fearful of loneliness.)

But I am not alone now. I have friends to go to lunch with, online friends to plan trips with, siblings to talk to now and again, an aged father to look after. I thought it would bother me no longer being part of a couple, but the other day at lunch when some women my age were talking about maybe meeting guys and falling in love again, I asked, “Why?” All of a sudden it seemed strange to want such a thing. Three of us had mates with compromised health, and now that they are gone, we are free to simply be. It’s not out of any loyalty to my deceased mate that I find myself unwilling to pursue a hypothetical relationship right now, but out of loyalty to me.

And that brings me to the biggest change of all. It bothered me that no matter what happened, I was always just me. Now I see that as a good thing. No matter what happens in my life, no matter what challenges I face, I will always be there, becoming who I need to be, even if it takes longer than I think it should.

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5 Responses to “Becoming Who I Need to Be”

  1. Susan Says:

    It sounds as though you are in a really good space and you have worked hard to get there, so you should be proud!

  2. leesis Says:

    Too often Pat people think its all taking “longer” than they think it “should”…sometimes due to those around them, sometimes due to the medical profession, sometimes just because they think it shouldn’t hurt so much. But the place you are now is what happens when grief is allowed its expression with no avoidence, no denial but with a willingness to howl for as long as it takes yet each day put one foot in front of the other. I’m so glad you’ve hit this space Pat and hope that those currently suffering the agony of grief will take faith from your journey.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      It was hard letting the pain flow, but by letting myself feel all of it, by dealing with my guilts and regrets and other issues as they arose, I don’t have sore spots that I need to stay away from. Too many people have to hold themselves in so they don’t inadvertantly hit a sore spot and start grieving again. It’s been rough, but from the beginning, I had no desire to spend the rest of my life in mourning. It didn’t seem right.

      I appreciate your support during the past couple of years. It’s been nice knowing that someone was paying attention in case I got mired in dangerous territoty.

  3. ReaderWoman Says:

    I have always hated the song “Eleanor Rigby” because I had a horror of dying alone. I see from your post that your struggles with “oneness” are not the same as being alone, and I understand my own mother, widowed at 64, who never remarried, not out of honor to my father and their marriage (which was a wonderful one) but out of desire to honor her own growth and being. Thank you for a marvelously moving post…


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