I had no idea that when I became a widow, I would become more selfish. And believe me when I say that I’m not writing this as a statement about widows in general...there is a very good chance that this just applies to me.
I’ve been having a bad case of selfishness lately and it’s really bothering me. I don’t remember being this way before I was widowed. But then again...maybe I was.
I’ve been dating someone for awhile and it’s about as serious as my little widowed brain can handle at this point. We see each other as much as possible and in my work and my personal life, he has become one of my greatest champions. If I have a problem or joy, he’s usually the first person I tell. I have complete confidence that when something is bothering me, all I have to do is talk through it with him and I will reach the right conclusion. What’s even better is that when my kids are on me constantly and I feel like I just can’t take it anymore...he defends me and asks gently that they give me a break.
I know. He’s polishing off his halo as we speak.
But this last week we hit a speed bump. A medical speed bump. And it’s just about made me want to throw my car into reverse and go in the opposite direction.
He’s been having hip pain, due to a fall at work. He fell awhile back but the pain has been increasing, so this week he went to the doctor who ordered an MRI.
And there was something on it.
Now, my husband didn’t die of an illness. He was in an accident so I’m not sitting here having flashbacks to something I’ve been through before.
What I’m having are flash-forwards and worrying 6 months ahead to something that is probably not going to happen. And all of these thoughts are completely about me. My head is filled with, “What am I going to do??” instead of my mouth saying, “It’s okay. I’m sure everything will be all right.” All I can think about is how something, even surgery to correct the problem or remove a cyst, might affect me.
Instead of focusing on what might lie ahead for him...even if it’s something minor...I can’t stop thinking, “I can’t go sit at the hospital. I just can’t do it.”
Me. My. I.
I know that I’m feeling this way because of my previous experience. If I hadn’t gone through the unbearable pain of losing someone before, I would have no problem sitting in a room, patiently waiting for someone to come out of surgery. If my husband had come home, years ago, with the same problems that my boyfriend is experiencing now...I probably would have just said, “Well, all right! Let’s get in there and fix this!”
Instead, all I can think about are hospital smells and sounds and I want to bury myself under the covers and pretend like it’s not happening at all.
I’ve been trying to keep this mental belly-flop to myself as much as possible. I mean...how screwed up is it that whatever is going on is happening to him...and yet he’s reassuring me? I feel so terrible every time he gives me a hug and says, “It’s going to be fine.”
I mean...shouldn’t I be saying that to him? What’s wrong with me???
Believe me, I’m well aware of how much time and energy I have wasted in my life, worrying like I do. There seemed to be a brief moment in my life, after my husband died, where I just felt like life was a crapshoot and I didn’t worry about anything. But now it seems like I’m constantly “borrowing trouble.” It’s hard to not picture the bottom dropping out of your life. Especially when it’s happened before.
But honestly...this whole way of thinking and my apparent inability to support this person...any person...because of what’s happened to me is just unacceptable. I’m so angry with myself. Even when my dad had knee surgery, my mom was telling me, “You don’t have to come down the hospital! We’ll be fine!” because she was worried about me. Really?? The man had just gotten over a major infection and had to have his knee replaced again...and they’re worried about me???
I don’t want to be that person.
The other day I thought, “Maybe I’m not ready to be in a relationship. If I can’t take the bad with the good, I probably shouldn’t be here.”
Well. That’s great. Then I guess I should stop interacting with all of my friends and family and resign myself to a life of complete and utter solitude. ‘Cause you never know when something might happen. And I just can’t take it and, therefore, am unable to be there for anyone else.
Is this what widowhood has taught me? To actually have less compassion for other people? I could be wrong, but if there was a lesson here in all of this...I’m pretty sure that’s not it.
Life’s too short to live in a state of “I.”
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© Catherine Tidd 2011