Who Am I Now?
Before my husband died, he seemed a bit confused about what he wanted. He announced that he was leaving. He said it would be good for us to miss each other. He said we fell out of love a long time ago. He wasn't angry. He didn't raise his voice. He didn't ask me to change or to fix it somehow. He was just going to live somewhere else. I was devastated, making it mean so much more than just the end of our relationship. I made it mean that he didn't want me anymore. That I didn't make him happy. That I wasn't enough. I felt rejected and ashamed. I felt like a failure. Although I hadn't been happy for some time, it never occurred to me to live life without each other.
I've always thought the idea of two people, two completely separate human beings, growing and aging and evolving side by side, moving in exactly the same direction over the course of many years seemed impossible. Or unlikely to say the least. In my past relationships, one person, or both, would lose interest after time and move on. But this was my marriage. He wasn't just a boyfriend. This was different. This wasn't something I was prepared to just walk away from. So when he did, I felt worthless and unimportant. Discarded. Dispensable. Not worth fighting for.
My shock from the news was soon replaced with disbelief. Not only was I unaware that he was planning to leave, but I was doubtful that he was capable of functioning without me. I am a caretaker by nature. The way that I show love is by doing things for people. Making their life easier. Feeding them and providing them with everything they need. I like to make people happy and to make them feel nurtured. I also like to be needed. I think I had subconsciously arranged it so that my husband needed me.
Without even realizing it, I unintentionally had control over everything. Not to manipulate him but so that he didn't have to worry about a thing. But also, maybe, so that he couldn't live without me. It was job security in a sense. So the thought of his living on his own was almost intriguing. I wondered if he knew how to access our bank account. I wondered if he knew how to cook a meal. I wondered how he would juggle picking up his dry cleaning and buying groceries and doing laundry with a full time work schedule. Mostly I wondered how he would spend his free time and who he would spend it with.
When he left, it seemed unfinished. I didn't feel final. There was no real goodbye. There was no explosive fight or the returning of rings or threats of divorce. There wasn't a plan or a timeframe. Just some awful kind of limbo. Just a speech about how he had to do what was best for him and needed to figure things out. There were just amicable arrangements and polite text messages with no real answers to anything. My life was changing. It was out of my control. I was still a mother. I would always be a mother. But if I wasn't a wife anymore, who was I? A single mom. A reject. An ex.
After he left, and he would come to see our son, it was awkward. Not because he was rude or unfriendly. But because he still treated me with the same closeness he always had while still managing to seem distant. It hurt. It was a constant reminder that he was still my person but wasn't mine anymore. It felt like even though I knew him so well, somehow I didn't know him at all. He was becoming someone else. He seemed distracted. Far away. Detached from us.
Before I could grasp what was going on, my husband ended his life. It was completely unexpected. I felt responsible for not seeing the changes in him for what they were. For not recognizing that he was depressed. I was so busy disassociating from it, to avoid all of the feelings I didn't want to face, that I was unable to read between the lines. I was so wrapped up in how I was being affected that I didn't see what was happening for him. I was judging and criticizing and blaming. But I wasn't paying attention. I didn't know.
His death came before I had even accepted the idea that our marriage may have been coming to an end. The other shoe dropped, so to speak. I hadn't processed any of my feelings of abandonment or shame or embarrassment. It was overshadowed by grief and guilt and loss. It was replaced by what could have been and what was a long, long time ago. I was still a mother. But I was no longer a wife. I was a solo parent. A griever. A widow.
Like most widows I know, a good portion of my identity had been stripped away. I lost myself in my roles as wife and mother. I focused all of my attention on everyone else's needs and tucked mine away. I lost sight of what would light me up. What felt like fun. What I could lose myself in. I accidentally forgot who I was. I kind of forgot that I was a person. But I didn't even know who she was.
So I set out to find her. And it wasn't easy. I had to step way out of my comfort zone. I had to try new things. I had to risk failure and rejection and making of fool of myself. I had to take chances. I had to get curious and I had to be honest with myself. I had to feel things that I wasn't sure I was ready to feel. I had to face judgement. I had to make tough decisions. I had to reevaluate. I had to trust myself. And I had to learn to love myself through it all.
I'm still a mother. I am a daughter, a sister and a friend. But I'm also a woman. An individual. And I'm discovering who I am. I'm a writer. I'm a storyteller and a lover of books. I am a seeker of knowledge. I'm an artist and a romantic. I am a believer in personal growth. I am a kind and gentle soul. I'm a joke teller. I am a recovering people pleaser. I'm a reality TV fan. I am an Excel spreadsheet nerd. I'm a spreader of aloha. I am a problem solver and a planner. I am an overthinker, an overachiever and an overcomer. I am a survivor.