Earlier this week I had a dream about my husband. It doesn't happen often, but I've had a dream similar to this one before. I'd just found out that my husband had actually been alive these long seven years (where he was, I don't know...had he been a CIA agent on assignment? The possibilities are endless) and I'd just heard that he was coming home.
As we all know, when we have powerful dreams, we usually wake up holding on to some of the feelings we experienced in the dream. For example: I've been annoyed with a friend the next day because she pissed me off in my dream the night before or stressed the moment I've woken up and have had to remind myself that I did in fact graduate from high school, so I don't have to worry about final exams anymore.
Stuff like that.
So when I woke up from my dream this week, I groggily thought, "I should feel so happy. I got to see Brad." But instead, I found myself feeling....
In the dream, I was sitting on a bench, waiting for Brad to appear, petrified that he was going to go through the list of decisions I'd made since he'd been gone and disapprove of every one of them. I sat there like a child, waiting to be punished.
Of course, I woke up before I found out what he thought about any of it. But that's not the point.
The point is that seven years into widowhood, there is still a part of me that doesn't trust myself.
In the beginning, the thought of being the sole decision maker did one of two things: It either scared the shit out of me or empowered me, depending on the day. The afternoon I picked out a new living room couch? LOVED IT. The day I started thinking about moving the family from the house we'd been in for ten years? Hello, Fear.
I've sat in hospitals alone with a child, wishing someone could be there to help me figure out what to do. And I've made financial decisions, somewhat grateful that I don't have someone here to second guess me.
The thing is that with every decision, there is a piece of Brad. Whether it's a "screw you, I like this paint color and you're not here to argue with me" or talking to him while I'm driving down the road and asking the empty car, "What would you do if you were here?" he always plays at least a small part in most of the decisions I make.
And I'm not sure I'm always happy about it.
I wonder what it would be like to just make a decision without having that little widow voice inside my head saying, "What would he think if he was here?"
I wonder if I will ever know?
I finished a manuscript a few months ago - yet another "widow read" but this time it's fiction. In the book, a young woman has lost her husband and one night she wishes he could come back. He ends up appearing in a way only she can see and helps her through a lot of her first big decisions as a new widow: going through his clothes, going on her first date...things like that.
At one point, they're having a conversation where she's telling him how much she's missed talking to him and getting his point of view. And this is what he says:
"I know," he said, looking at me sympathetically. "I missed being able to talk back and forth with you, too. But the point is, you knew me so well. You knew me better than anyone else. And because of that, there is a part of you that will always be able to talk to me. And a part of you that will always be able to hear what I have to say."
I don't know why that made me feel better. It was like I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she discovers that she's always had the power to go home. That I would always have it in me to talk to Henry and have him with me gave me a small sense of comfort.
"But it's not the same," I said, sadly. "It's not the same as asking you what you think about things or what you think I should do."
"I know it's not," he said. "But in some ways, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what I think about you moving or whether you date or whether you buy a new car. This is your life now. It's yours. And I don't ever want you to think for one moment that I ever doubted the way you lived it. I didn't before and I never will."
This piece of the book happened during one of my euphoric moments as a writer: When it just seemed to write itself and I was reading it as I went along. I remember finishing this and leaning back and thinking, "Where did that come from?" But like all writing, everything comes from somewhere deep inside you that you may not have even realized you were thinking.
Or, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz...that you knew all along.