I woke up one morning and I was a widow. That made no sense. I am a member of
the forever-young generation, after all. I still didn’t feel like a grown-up; how could I
possibly be a widow? I wrote AfterImage: A Brokenhearted Memoir of a Charmed Life, in part, to try to make sense of this odd, new state of being – to try to
make sense of what was going to be the rest of my life.
Now that my book is newly out in the world, I find myself having to field questions
about the experience of losing my husband, the experience of transitioning to young
widowhood, the experience of telling my story. Struggling to answer these questions
has offered certain revelations: notably, I’m not afraid of very much any more. I am less
limiting of myself. I am less concerned about what people think of me. Cliched but true:
I don’t sweat the small stuff… as much.
But I sweat some new stuff, too. I cannot sit in a doctor’s waiting room without my
blood pressure rising. When I recently visited a friend in the hospital (more high blood
pressure, fiercely pounding heart), I apologized that I could not join him on a walk
around the halls. My hospital visit was something of a surgical strike, pun intended.
Straight to the room and out of there.
And, as it turns out, I’m still scared of speaking in front of a roomful of people, as I
did at my first book-signing a few nights ago. But I practiced my remarks. And my
reading. I practiced for days. I practiced first thing in the morning. I practiced while
taking long walks around the neighborhood. I practiced in bed late at night. And some
of the anxiety subsided. I was grateful that what lay ahead was something that could be
eased by rehearsing… unlike widowhood which, no matter how I envisioned it or, more
accurately, suppressed envisioning it, could not be rehearsed. Like childbirth, there is
no real preparation for losing a loved one, your most loved one. You may have attended
every Lamaze class and perfected your breathing techniques, but when that first wallop of
contraction surges, you know you are unprepared. Such is widowhood. There is no dress
rehearsal. You just wake up one morning and you are a widow.
The good news is: even so, I still don’t feel like a grown-up.