Friday, March 16, 2007

In my 20's, I used to yearn - actively - for perspective. I'd be in the middle of some crisis - personal, employment-related, as a mother, a wife, a girlfriend (the latter two never overlapped, I hasten to add) - and in agony I would recall one particular incident when I was maybe 6, staying overnight with my grandma and grandpa (my dad's folks) when I got sick. Vomiting, diarrhea, the whole bit. And my grandma was so placid and competent and gave me such a golden feeling of being cared for with love - and just knowing what to do and what to expect - that even at that young age, I remember thinking: She's been through this raising four kids and it's no big deal and I will be OK. Perspective was the word didn't know when I was six.

I'm fifty-six now, and I finally do have more perspective. I raised a son - as best I knew how - and he's turned out to be a fine man, for which I give him most of the credit. I've been through a divorce, and now I'm learning about widowhood. All those years and joys and mistakes and learning and striving and agonizing have an accumulated weight that seems to stabilize this little boat bobbing on the waves.

I've learned that divorce brings lots else in addition to freedom - including never-vanishing regrets. What I know now is that there are armies of counselors who would have loved to help us, if only we'd know there were out there, and if only we hadn't been so afraid of self-examination. We may have been able to weather the problems, and even have emerged stronger and better people, if we'd known. Our son paid the price. Regrets.

In losing my second husband and in the months of his suffering before he died, I learned that all those things I'd agonized over for so long - all those points of stress and subjects of discord, all the resentments and power struggles - they were nothing - nothing, compared to the depth and strength of our love. They burned away and disappeared like toilet paper in the blast of concern, then fear, then horror when at last it became clear that he wouldn't be coming home. I consider myself so lucky to have been able to let him know in those months, by my actions and words, how much I loved him. I have no regrets on that count. He knew.

In addition to the many things I've learned through this experience, about my husband, myself, and us - I've learned that we have - I have - the best family and friends on Earth. They supported and loved us every step of that cruel path, and continue to do so. I lost my dear husband, but because of family and friends, I count myself among the luckiest of human beings.

Gratitude is the great antidote to so many habits of thinking and feeling that could twist and stain and cripple my life. Resentment, envy, feelings of inadequacy, fear - all of these are parts of my personality and - [checking...] - yes, daily I grapple with every one of them. But thanks to my husband and years of honest effort on my part, I have the tools that help me work through them. I cannot ever take it for granted that I'll succeed. Every rearing of one of those ugly heads requires my serious and honest confrontation. I don't imagine that I am always - or ever - 100% successful. But this blessed perspective helps me keep both my successes and failures to a human - not an overwhelming -scale. I have learned to judge when it's appropriate to forgive myself, and when I need to work harder.

It's funny - I had no idea what I was doing, in my 20's, in the thrashings of emotion and usually self-inflicted crisis - but in yearning for perspective, I was wishing for exactly the right thing.

I am so, so lucky.

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