Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Unsaid

The Unsaid keeps me awake.

It visits me, mainly at night, as I'm trying to go to sleep.  Sometimes it's all of the things that I should have said when I'd had the chance.  But most of the time it's all of the things I should have said if I'd had the nerve.

It looms before me, this subconscious shadow, as I lay in my bed thinking about not just the day, but the weeks, months, and years before.  The few times when "I love you" should have been whispered and wasn't.  But mainly the times when "what you have done is unacceptable" should have been brazenly declared.

The Unsaid was born out of my need to avoid conflict and my overall belief that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But there have been times when I wish I had a little more vinegar in me. Because there is a difference between avoiding conflict...and allowing a swarm fed by complacency consume you.

Years ago, my therapist told me that I should eliminate the word "should" from my vocabulary - what I "should" have done or what "should" have been said.  Because in some cases that word self-implicates and implies that we've done something wrong.  And I can understand that we use it all too often in our thoughts and, therefore, are constantly condemning ourselves for things we "should have done."

But when it comes to the Unsaid...the word "should" comes back into my personal dictionary.  And sometimes it comes with a lot of regret.

It's strange to think that silence can be so peaceful and overwhelming at the same time, but it can.  Because I've come to realize that my silence has led others in my past to believe they were right to do whatever it is that they've done - and that I agree with the outcome.  When in reality, what they've done has hit me so hard it has stunned me into that hush.

And that means I've left things unsaid.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Memory Bomb

It's happening now like it happens every spring - I find myself cleaning out and cleaning up, getting ready for summer and usually needing some sort of a change.  This is usually the time of year I buy a new slip cover for my couch or new placemats or something equally frivolous just to make a room look a little fresher.  And it's the time of year when I look at all I've stored since last year and wonder, "Do I really need all of this junk?"

So it's no surprise that I decided to tackle my garage...again.  Seriously, this is about the fifth time I've tried to clean it out since my husband died.  And each time I do, I find myself feeling a weird mix of nostalgia and irritation at what was left behind by my loveable - yet packrattish - husband.

I've been through the tools several times, always wondering do I need that gigantic air compressor and four drills?  I've hauled out boxes and boxes of stuff and each time I feel kind of sad, but a little lighter...knowing that moving forward at a pace I'm comfortable with is okay.

But on Sunday morning, I started digging into a corner I don't think I've looked at since we moved into our house almost nine years ago.  Actually, I know I haven't because as I opened the boxes...I found things that I hadn't seen since 1996.

For you young widows out there...that was a loooong time ago.

That was the year my husband and I were married and that was the year I apparently packed a box filled with the letters I had written him during our year-long engagement while he was in Florida and I was in Colorado, some old sorority mementos, and all of the stuff that was bestowed upon me during my bachelorette party before our wedding.

I think it was the moment I pulled out the purple sequined bikini that I said to my kids, "Go inside.  Mommy needs to go through some stuff."

Almost six years - six years - since my husband's death and I am still experiencing the bomb that is boxed up memories.  We think we've been through it all - have purged, donated, trashed, and cried through mountains of stuff - only to find random things that have been left behind.

It didn't hit me as hard as it used to, but I did feel that slight sucker-punch.  That quick intake of breath and that moment where your mind tries to tell your heart, "It's okay, it's okay."  I think it was when I found all of the stuff that he had packed away from his first love - his Trans Am that he bought when he was at the Air Force Academy - that the lump in my throat began to form.

This is the impossibility of widowhood, isn't it?  The knowing that there are some things - some hurts - that will always be there.  It's such a sneak attack.  And even though those attacks don't feel as harmful as they once did...the sheer surprise of it is what gets to me.

I thought I had been through everything.  But I sometimes wonder if that's ever going to be possible.

I guess the good thing about being a more experienced widow is that by now I know it's okay.  It's okay to be sad for that minute.  It's okay to take a beat and hold those things in your hands as if you've just uncovered buried treasure.  And it's okay to put it back into the box and wait for the day that you're ready to either put it away for good, in a more permanent place, because you know that it's something that will always be important to you.

Or decide to let it go.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.