Long-term Goals

The question came up in a 1:1 meeting with my manager today: What are your long-term goals? Where do you see yourself in three or five years?

I’ve been at this job for just over three years. I was hired shortly before my one-year anniversary as a widow. Taking the job was a big deal for me. It was an acknowledgement that I couldn’t linger on the island of grief forever, that it was time to get back to real life and try to be a responsible adult again. It was hard. Just making myself get out of bed every morning when the alarm rang took a Herculean effort for a while.

I took this job because I had decided I wasn’t ready to give up and die, and I needed money to live on. There really was no plan beyond that. Long-term goals? Are you kidding me? Every plan I had for my life died with my husband. Every dream was gone beyond recalling. My goals were things like getting through the day without crying at my desk and sleeping through the night without doping myself into oblivion. The furthest I would allow myself to look into the future was a few months. I could look forward to specific plans I’d made with friends, to taking some vacation days to visit my mom for the holidays, things like that. I couldn’t bear to contemplate a long-term future that didn’t include the only man I had ever loved.

If someone had asked me that question — where did I see myself in three or five years? — back then, I would have laughed. Or cried.

When my manager asked me today, I still didn’t know how to answer her. (I don’t think “I see myself winning the lottery and never having to work again” would have gone over very well.) I’ve drifted through these last three years, taking it pretty much one day at a time, with no particular direction — just letting the current carry me where it would. But in the last year I’ve started taking steps to pay down some of the debt that my dear departed husband left me with (and, by the way, if it turns out there is an afterlife, we’re going to have a chat about that someday), which is sort-of a plan, right? And I’ve realized that I do want to stay with this company and maybe, just maybe, I don’t want to be an admin assistant for the rest of my working life.  So perhaps it IS time to start thinking about long-term goals again.

And as I mull this over, I find that contemplating a long-term future on my own is not the problematic part anymore. The thing is, I have changed SO much in the four years since I lost my husband, I’m no longer the same person I was before he died. And I know I’m not done healing and growing and changing. So who the hell knows who I’m going to be five years from now or what that person will want to do for her career? Ah, if only I had a working crystal ball.





A Chance Encounter

A few days ago I was looking at TVs in Best Buy with my brother. A woman approached us and started asking questions about whether these particular models get internet and how that works. We weren’t either of us wearing khaki pants and a blue polo shirt, and we didn’t have answers for any of her questions, and anyway she seemed a little “off”… and I was just wondering how to get rid of her politely when she said the magic words.

“My husband died and I don’t know how to do any of this stuff.”

I told her that I was sorry and that I understand how that is, since I lost my husband too. “How long has it been?” I asked. “Eight weeks,” she said. The crazy eyes and the body odor suddenly made sense. I think I was showering regularly by the time I got to week eight, but I sure as hell wasn’t sane. When she told me they’d been married for 31 years, it made even more sense. I was lost without my husband after only six years together, stumbling around in a fog of grief for many, many months. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose someone you’ve spent more than half your life with.

We stood there in the home theater section of Best Buy and shared our experiences as widows. She told me that she can’t imagine ever being physical with another man, and I related that I couldn’t even stand to have my male friends or family members hug me for a few weeks after my husband died. Even the slightest physical touch from a man was a painful reminder that my beloved husband would never touch me again. “Are you dating now?” she asked me. “Is that man your boyfriend?” I laughed out loud. “No! That’s my brother. But I have started dating again, just in the last year. It takes time, but it gets easier.”

When we said goodbye, she told me how good it felt to talk to someone who gets it, someone who’s been where she is. I told her what a tremendous help my grief support group was in my first year of widowhood and referred her to the hospital that hosts them. I hope she gets some support. I hope it helps. She’s got a long hard road ahead of her, even with the best support system in the world. But I’m living proof that you can make it far enough down that road to where you can laugh again, where your eyes get back their sparkle and you’ve got a spring in your step… where making love with someone new is no longer unfathomable and falling in love again is a real possibility. And damn, that feels good.

Mr. Right Now

It’s been almost a year since I’ve written here. I’m still seeing the man I alluded to in my post of September 11, 2012 – though, honestly, I’m not sure for how much longer. It’s not that there’s anything wrong, per se. There’s even a lot that’s right. We enjoy each other’s company, communicate well, share lots of common interests and similar values. We have good talks and great sex. It’s not toe-curling-wake-the-neighbors sex every time, but it is sometimes… and after a year of sleeping together, he still takes such obvious delight in my body and is utterly absorbed in giving me pleasure, every single time we take our clothes off. He makes me feel wanton and desirable in a way that I haven’t since my husband died. He makes me laugh.

There’s just one problem. He’s not in love with me, and I’m not in love with him.

I heard a story today about an elderly woman and her husband of over 50 years. The woman has to get up several times a night to use the bathroom, as many older people do, and she has some trouble getting around even with her walker. When the power was out one night, her husband got up with her every time she had to use the bathroom. He walked beside her holding a flashlight so that she could see where she was going.

This is what I want. I want a partner to shine a light for me in the dark, to be there when I need someone to lean on. I want someone to wake up with every morning, to bring me breakfast in bed on Sundays, someone to grow old with me. And I still want what I wrote about last September, the kind of love where “every breath we drew was hallelujah”…

What if I miss my chance at all of that because I settled for Mr. Right Now?


The last time I got a manicure, the nail lady bruised the fingers of my right hand with her enthusiastic massage. I had to take off my wedding ring, which has not left my right hand since I moved it from the left to mark the six month anniversary of my husband’s death, because it hurt. Several days later, the bruises are gone but the ring won’t go back on my finger. It doesn’t fit anymore.

I feel naked without my ring. My hand feels weird. I keep absentmindedly rubbing my finger and looking down in surprise when I don’t feel the ring there.

Last night I dug into my jewelry box and brought out the “promise” ring from my late husband, which doubled as an engagement ring because we didn’t have the money to afford a diamond. It was always too loose on my left hand and I wore it on my right after we got married. It doesn’t fit my right hand anymore. It doesn’t even fit on my left.

I’ve gained a few pounds over the last few years. I weigh maybe 10 lbs. more than I did on my wedding day, when both rings slipped easily onto my fingers. Are my hands just getting fat? Or is this some kind of sign from the Universe that it’s time to put the rings away?

File This Under…

File this under: You Have GOT To Be Kidding

A month after I ended things with Nevada Guy, I logged into Facebook today and found this message from him:

“Sad I don’t hear anything from you anymore. No likes or comments. Nothin’… Sorry to say. It’s not like I don’t understand why,… Just sayin’ it’s unfortunate. Hope you’re well. Miss you…”

I haven’t decided if I will respond at all, but here are some of the things I’d LIKE to say.

What’s unfortunate is that you didn’t respect me enough to be honest with me. What’s unfortunate is that when you had a “change of heart,” you didn’t even have the guts to tell me but instead just froze me out for three weeks, letting me make excuses for your behavior until I felt like a complete idiot. What’s unfortunate is that I lost all respect for you.

Here’s an idea, dude. Don’t string a girl along pretending you want a relationship when you don’t. If you just want a playmate, someone to have a good time with in bed and out of it, try being honest. You might still get laid. You might get exactly what you want. And even if you don’t, you won’t end up looking like an asshole.

It’s unfortunate for you that by the time you realized you miss me, I’ve already found a new lover… a man who is honest and upfront with me, a man who doesn’t play bullshit head games, a man I respect. A bigger man than you, in more ways than one. And I don’t miss you at all.

P.S. In case you’re confused, “it’s unfortunate” does not mean the same thing as “I’m sorry.”

… and the unexpected sound of gunshots on TV can still make me break out in a cold sweat.

PTSD sucks.

Ramblin’ On

Well, it’s over.

My first relationship since the death of my husband lasted three months and ended with an exchange of emails. It’s been pretty obvious from the change in your behavior that this is not the right time for us, I said. He agreed. He said he was “sorry it’s going down like this” and that he’s not happy with himself at all for the way he handled it. That makes two of us.

Compared to the pain of my husband’s suicide, this hurt was like stubbing a toe. The sudden startling pain made me cry and I hopped around swearing for a little while, and then I limped for a little while longer… and I’m gonna have a little bruise there… But I’m OK.  Better than OK, even.

Last weekend I went to hear some live music, a solo performance by a talented guitarist and composer in a small, intimate venue. At the end of the first set he did a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which is one of my all time favorite songs (though I prefer Rufus Wainwright’s version). It moved me to tears, especially when the audience was singing a softly echoing chorus of hallelujahs back to him. There’s a line in that song that always reminds me of my late husband:

“Remember when I moved in you, the holy dark was moving too, and every breath we drew was hallelujah…”

Yes. Making love with my beloved husband was like that… every time, every breath was hallelujah. With New Guy it was… well, it was fine but the earth didn’t move, let’s put it that way. Now I know that it takes time with a new partner to get to know each other’s bodies and really understand how to please each other, and I think we could have gotten the physical stuff right if we’d kept at it. But there was something missing — passion, intensity, depth — that was there the very first time my late husband kissed me all those years ago. And sitting in a dark room, softly singing hallelujah, I understood that anything less than that would be settling. And I’m not ready to settle.  I’m not willing to accept that I only get one chance at that kind of passion, that kind of connection. I’m going to keep looking until I find it again.

It’s time to ramble on.