Saturday, October 29, 2016

About the hierarchy of need and the criticism of others...

I had two really good conversations over last couple of days which seem different but they really tie together.

My daughter and I were talking about living your life and not "should've-ing" others or being "should've'ed" by them. The old adage about walking in someone else's shoes is very true. Unless you are "in" someone else's life, living it as they live, you have no comprehension of the intricacies of their existence that compel and propel them.

People have subtle and not so subtle ways of should've-ing you. Grief does not give you a pass card on that.  I've felt the should've-ing and the barely veiled innuendos about how I should behave or embrace aloneness, be strong, be independent, how some other way is the more noble way or whatever. This usually isn't about my happiness; it is about how how someone else wants to see me handling sorrow  and being thrust into aloneness. It's for their own benefit, not mine. Certainly it is not about what is helping me to survive.

And that is where the second conversation comes in - survival mode. In talking with my friend last night - whose walk has many similarities with my own - this came up. When you are in survival mode, you do what needs to be done to get your through the day or through the night. Things that might be important to those should've-ing you fall by the wayside.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Need portrays several levels of "need" that motivate human creatures. The first, most basic layer, is physiological needs - food, water, sleep, shelter, homeostasis. Let me tell you -when you lose your closest companion many of these get WHACKED OUT. Some people eat too much, some people forget to eat. I'm a forget-to-eater. Sleep becomes elusive. I spent a couple of months flailing around trying to find homeostasis again. The second level involves safety needs. Security of the mind, body, property, health, employment, family, morality, etc. Right away I freaked out about my housing ("How am I going to afford my house with my husband, the main breadwinner gone?") and personal security ("How will I feel safe with my strong, protective husband no longer by my side?"). I went out and learned to shoot my gun, got my Conceal Carry Weapon license, put in new locks and bought a security system. I got a second job to cover the costs of my health insurance (which Pat had always carried). My need for safety has definitely been a dominating motivator. My need to protect my health has led me to drop some activities to prevent burnout. Working at school, working at the gym, and working on the children's Christmas program are what I know I can handle right now. Since I trimmed demands on my time, my blood pressure has gone down, I've been sleeping better and have been slowly working towards a state of stability. It might not be the ultimate state, but it is what works for now.

The next level - love and belonging. That's harder. Especially when you have other people that are dealing with grief, too, and trying to find their own homeostasis at the lower levels. A father dies and you lose some of your sense of safety and security,no matter how old you are. I know I felt that when my own Dad passed away in 2011. Sometimes I still feel like a lost little girl with him gone. Within that whole motivation for love and belonging is the "not wanting to be the fifth wheel" and not wanting to be an outsider or in the way. When you have been married and had a constant companion for 33 years, you always have someone to talk to, as Pat always said, "the other half." Rip that half away and you feel half a person, half-baked, half-lived. You can be silently condemned for not embracing your aloneness and have them assume that you "don't like yourself" because you don't like being alone but it is ridiculous. It goes back to: unless they wear your shoes and experience the complexities of who you are and exist, it bears no rank. If someone widowed for years never dated or remarried pointedly expresses that their love for their husband didn't permit them to "move on" that is THEIR walk in THEIR shoes. Not yours. So are any arbitrary time limits - you can't date for month, for six months, for a year, forever... if you do or don't, it has nothing to do with lost love. It has to do with SURVIVAL.

Needs for self-esteem and self-actualization are the next two levels. For me, they often manifest in the midst of other levels. Achievement, self-confidence, respect of others, respect by others  As Maslow said, "What a man can be, he must be." Accepting who you are, finding your creativity, navigating the world in morality. I feel that accepting my strengths and weaknesses now doesn't prohibit me from discovering or developing more strengths later.

With that - I accept that I am in survival mode. I accept that there are those both close to me and on the periphery who may be chalking up "should've-ing" my way or disliking decisions I make, such as the big one: not to remain alone. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone’ ” Genesis 2:18

My need for morality in alignment with scriptural principles is a guiding factor in decisions I make in that area. I do know that for my *survival* sitting alone with my dogs, my cat, the cat that owns me, and my porch possum is not beneficial for my feeling of security, belonging and safety. And while there are those who think "strong, independent women are sexy" I could care less. My dad used to call me his "Little House on the Prairie" daughter, If you recall, people go crazy out in the frozen plains alone. Even Tom Hanks' character in Castaway needed Wilson to maintain a semblance of sanity.  Someone else said to me something about "survival of the fittest" in the last couple of weeks. Well, this is what this is for me -- and this is where I can truly say my personal strength lies, fighting for survival. No matter how many times I've cried and visions of driving in front of a train, off a cliff or whatever have flashed across my psyche, I've beat them down and captivated those thoughts in obedience to my Lord.

1 Samuel 16:7 "“for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Psalm 138:3 "In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul."

Friday, October 21, 2016


The rain beats against the house
And my heart beats inside my chest
In silence, cold beneath the ground
Your heart beats no more

It's grey out there in this downpour
And it is grey, the sorrow in my soul
No crimson, yellow, hue of elation
All color is buried in that grave with you

They think I'm moving on too fast
Racing away from your memory
In that dirt, you and I
We know the bitter truth
102116 - gep

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How long is "okay" before you are allowed to live?

Apparently, in order to satisfy the world - or adult children - the way to truly grieve is to be locked away (where they can't see you cry) but be mourning, alone and miserably unhappy for long, long periods of time. Too busy with their own lives to come around much, to see all the stuff that has to be done with their father's things (too depressing for them), but the widowed mother is still expected to sit, alone, in that home...grieving. Grieving and surrounded by the chaos of a life that has ended all too soon.

I *am* grieving. I will never stop grieving my husband and the loss of the life we shared. However, I have a new life that I *must* come to terms with. I simply adjust and adapt. I realize fully and clearly that my husband of 33 years is NEVER coming back. How can you be "disloyal" to someone who is in the arms of Jesus, who is enjoying the presence of God?

As Morgan Freeman's character, Red, said in The Shawshank Redemption, one needs to either "Get busy living or get busying dying."  I choose life. I choose a chance at happiness.

If that makes someone unhappy, then so be it.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

No turning back, so why not head forward?

How do you move on? You move on when your heart finally understands that there is no turning back.
— The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Teetering on the edge of loss
And on the brink of being found
But not shattered
But willing to mend
Could it be that falling
Leads to flight?
Or sinking into despair?
It's all in the shift of balance
Forward or back
The focus on loss or possibility
Slip backwards
Or leap in faith
---GEP 10/15/16

My heart understands there is no return to what used to be. I'm a practical, logical soul. I can grieve without wallowing now that I've found my bearings and adjusted to this very real fact. I can't stand frozen in time, sinking in despair and mired in self-pity. I can't do it; I just can't. Does this mean I love Pat any less? Absolutely not. I just don't see any purpose to "honoring" him with unending grief. After all, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's with the King. He's in heaven where some day I'll join him. I know that where he is there is no sadness or jealousy; therefore, he's certainly not rolling in his grave that I'm moving onward. I love him, I loved him. I needed him, I don't have him. I have memories and a multitude of "things" I have to figure out what to do with. He's lost to death and I must live.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

If I were dropped out of a plane...

"If I were dropped out of a plane into the ocean and told the nearest land was a thousand miles away, I’d still swim."
- Abraham Maslow

This is so true for me. Flashes of perhaps wanting to just sink under the water might have appeared (and will likely still appear) on that inner mental screen, but those are shut off quickly by the absolute necessity of being and doing "whatever it takes" for self-preservation.

I've had three months to think about what self-preservation is to me. Or rather I should say, somewhere in the midst of three months, it occurred to me what I was doing out of self-preservation and what I needed to stop doing in order to actually attain self-preservation. First, it was just staying afloat and that meant keeping my head above water with finishing school, then work, dotting some "i's" and crossing some "t's." Then I began to realize that in my zeal to cover all my bases and not feel the void, I had over-booked myself -- said "Yes" to too much, left no time for basics like laundry and unwinding in fuzzy pajamas with a dog's head resting on my lap.

In the doing of stuff that needs to be done daily, while still trying to fit in the contemplation of the doing of stuff that needs to be done to create order in the shift from the old life to the new, there has to be time allotted for finding happiness and the swim for that safe harbor. In other words, I can't be so busy doing "stuff" that I don't leave time for something I don't want to become a

Psalm 68:5-6
"Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
this is God, whose dwelling is holy.
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land."

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Friday, October 7, 2016

And truly, this is limbo...

When your spouse dies, people tell you many things  - not just about grief - but about finding yourself, about how this can be a time of discovery, about an adjustment period.  In other words, a time of limbo, where you are neither here nor there. You can't live your old life, it is over. You are supposed to be acclimating yourself to singleness and making a new life after you find out all this stuff about yourself that has been exposed by grief and by suddenly being thrust into the realm of Being Alone.

I already know things about myself that I know won't change. Since I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be a wife, a part of a team. I'm not aching to embrace being the Independent Widow who lives a life of singleness, dedicated to other pursuits. In fact, I'm pretty resistant to that idea. Over the yearns, I learned very well that you can be part of a team and still driven, dedicated -- just with the bonus of a support system. That is something I want to have again - hopefully, for the remainder of my days. Some people do very well with aloneness, with this "I can make all my decisions, be empowered, etc." Not me. I like taking care of someone and I like being taking care of. I like the mutual give and take. Being told I'm beautiful, telling my love he is strong. I know these things about myself and I don't forsee them changing, even in this horrible place of stagnation.

People will tell you - you have your kids, your family.  When kids have kids, their time is consumed. You don't want to be a burden. You also don't want to be the proverbial fifth wheel. You simply have to find your own circle or circles to move in. Now, while I love my dogs, coming home to just them is a blessing. However, I do know deep in my heart that my desire is for human companionship and I can't be in limbo forever.  I know that He heals. I know that mourning should not last forever. Although you will always grieve and miss the loss of the loved one, that peace of knowing Who they are with *is* very comforting.  Should you then mourn and stay in a place of limbo forever? Is there some time limit that other people are stipulating?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
"Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)