“You will never be your old self again. You are forever changed.” –Ashley Davis Bush, Transcending Loss
New Year’s Resolutions…a very common theme this time of year. Each year I plan, I contemplate, and I make a list. I make the resolution to follow through with the changes. Somewhere, about 2 weeks in, the resolutions slowly become a burden and not as appealing as they once did. Then I’m over it. I’m no longer resolved, and I’m ready to move on to the next thing…or back to the old thing.
But, with a new year…there’s a chance at a new start, perhaps the perfect time to look forward rather than in the rearview mirror. Since becoming a widow 5 years ago, each New Year I find myself caught at the crossroads of looking back at the life I cherished while also trying to create a picture-perfect future. Hanging on to the past is the only connection I have to my husband…and I’m reminded that looking forward to the year ahead does not include him. Life is permanently divided into two parts. The before and after. Our life together. My life moving forward.
Moving on…moving forward. All part of the journey and certainly a necessary evil. In my book, “Finding Norm, Rediscovering Joy Through a Season of Loss,” I share the painful process of becoming untangled and unmarried. The stage of life when I realized I was no longer married hit me about two years ago, around the New Year. Not only was I a widow, but now I was unmarried, too. Single. Alone. Becoming a widow was not a choice I made or had any control over, but becoming unmarried and single was the painstaking choice I had complete control over.
It may have taken me several years to recognize this stage of widowhood but once I started to realize it, I couldn’t stop the train. This was the phase that I took the ring off in spite of earlier predictions that I never would. At first, I felt defiant. Why do I have to take it off? I like my ring. No, I LOVE my ring. We picked it out for our 25th wedding anniversary when we were in a better spot to buy a ring that had a diamond that we could actually see. So why can’t I just keep wearing it, for me! Not anyone else to judge, no, just for me because I love my ring. It provided a sense of security I suppose and often reminded me of my wonderful marriage to Randy. It was my decision and no one else’s if or when I would choose to not house it on my left-hand ring finger.
But eventually, I couldn’t ignore that gnawing feeling inside telling me that I needed to take this step forward. I needed to become untangled. Like those nasty Christmas lights that got all tangled up in spite of the careful packaging done just the previous year. Hard to unravel and at times, I just want to throw them away and get new ones.
Becoming unmarried and untangled was a bit similar to the lights. Frustrating, hard to unravel, and at times I just wanted to throw in the towel. But unlike the lights, I couldn’t just go buy new ones. I had to revive myself and take a step that forward. Becoming single again, exploring and finding new things.
Each new year that circles the calendar brings us hope for the future yet reluctance to let go of the past. It’s one more year to say goodbye to the memories but also another chance to be encouraged by the possibilities of life moving forward. But as I look to 2020, I see a new version of myself; myself experiencing new things, myself making new traditions, myself working on my new title as Nana Jana, and myself praying for continued peace in my heart as I navigate the world as a single, unmarried person.