Monday, October 6, 2014

The Big Picture

You'll have to forgive me with this post because it's more for me than for you.  You know how it's sometimes helpful to find a good friend and think out loud?  Well, this is my version of that.

Just be glad you're not on my speed dial.

One of the biggest running themes of widowhood is "the big picture."  We're scared of it.  No, wait.  We were scared of it before our spouses died - what happens if one of us loses a job or we can't pay a bill or our car breaks down? - but in the wake of widowhood...the big picture is nothing short of terrifying.

I've always been a big picture person because I'm a control freak and a planner.  You'd think that the death of my husband would have cured me of that (obviously not something I had on my calendar) but it hasn't.  I think it did for a short while when I went through my "I can be as self-destructive as I want to because life is short and I could go tomorrow so why not live it up" phase.  But that didn't last long and pretty soon I was back to my old ways.

I think that sometimes I get "big picture" confused with goals.  Goals are good.  Goals are what keep us moving through our day and growing as human beings.  But I think focusing on the big picture is bad.

Scary and bad.

The big picture is either one of two things for me:  It's either so overwhelming I can't even wrap my head around it (what if we get Ebola?  What if the economy crashes?  What if, what if, what if?) or it looks bright and sunny and how in the world can I achieve all that I need to in order to make that happen?

As my therapist says...I operate in absolutes (either all good or all bad).  I'm working on that.

 You see, I've gotten myself into a little bit of a pickle with this whole big picture thing because I really envisioned that my life would be different by now.  I thought I would be well past every ounce of grief I would have and settled where I wanted to be in my life, both personally and professionally.

In other words...I thought I would be happy. 

And I am.  Sometimes.  But sometimes I'm not.  Because the problem with this fairytale way of thinking is that it's not permanent.  Happiness is not a constant for anyone.  Unfortunately, even if you have all of your shit together, your car can still break down, you can still catch the flu, and there is always a never-ending list of things that need to be fixed around your house.

Even lottery winners sometimes have issues with their plumbing.

Happiness is fleeting.  For everyone.  It comes and goes and as much as we try to chase it, it's usually the things that we didn't even count on when we think about the big picture that make us happy.

I don't know about anyone else, but my big picture usually includes all of the things I need to do to get where I think I want to be.  But that's just not realistic because every day brings so much change, it's impossible to completely stick to that step by step process.  It can be good and bad things, but not knowing what's ahead makes it impossible to completely take control of the overall scope of our lives.

In other words...the big picture, whether it's awesome or scary, is really a load of crap.


The other day, I was writing a scene for a novel I'm working on and I was in that mode that I love, when I'm so completely into the story it's like I'm reading it instead of writing it.  And even though I had outlined the general story (something I almost never do), something happened to a character that completely shocked me.

And I was the one who was writing it.

What happened changed so many things going forward - how this woman operated, how others reacted to her, and how I related to her even though she's a fictional character.  One incident that wasn't even on my radar completely changed the story I had planned.

Just as it would in real life.


This has completely altered the way I think about my life.  In fact, I didn't even realize that I thought this way until these last few months when I've had to truly digest that life is so different from what I envisioned.  Yes, I have moments of happiness, but I still have moments of sorrow.  Yes, I've achieved a lot of the things I wanted to, but there will always be something else I want to experience.  I've had to pause every once in a while and think, "Even if everything you wanted to happen had happened...what do you think your life would look like now?"

And then I have to stop myself from fantasizing about the "perfect life" that, even if everything had worked as planned, would really not be happening.  I have to remind myself that even if everything had unfolded as I dreamed it would I would still need new tires on my car, I would still need to figure out how I was going to get all three kids to the dentist, and that there just isn't this perfect "happily ever after" for anyone - as much as we would all love that to happen.  There isn't a magical moment when we feel like everything has been wrapped up in a perfect Disney ending.

It all ebbs and flows, evolves, changes constantly, and provides us with the ups and downs that everyone experiences.

That's the big picture.