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."