To summarize a dialogue between two stuffed toy characters in a children’s book, “real” isn’t how you are made, it’s something that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts; it doesn’t happen all at once and by the time you’re “real” you’ve lost a lot of your attractive features and your parts are worn out. But that stuff doesn’t matter because once you’re “real” you aren’t ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
I began this blog by warning people that it wasn’t going to be about sugar coating life, that it was going to show the real me. Perhaps after reading the story of our journey it’s more clear now that the realities we faced have stripped away masks and concerns over letting people see who we are and what we’ve been through.
Sometimes people think it’s safer and more productive to only talk about good things and share positive opinions because anything negative invites more negativity and encourages dwelling on the not-so-positive aspects of life. I’ve disagreed with that for years, but never as strongly as I do now that I’ve learned the importance of people being real with each other no matter what that reveals of our inner weaknesses, sufferings, or fears.
We can spend a lot of time trying to be someone we’re not and hoping that others believe it, or we can free ourselves from the game and choose to take the risk of being real. For me it’s been worth it because it has not only deepened my relationships with others, but it’s also opened the door for others to free themselves to be more real with me. We are who we are and the games we play just add layers that make our lives more complicated, and create more discomfort for us. The game wastes valuable time and we have so precious little of it to play with.
Sometimes there’s a moment that marks time in a way that will forever divide your life into two parts, before it and after it.
I was chatting with my daughter the other day about what life will be for us now, and we realized that we can’t just go back to our lives as they were before the accident. We don’t really relate to them much anymore and so many pieces are missing. Coming through this tragedy of the past two years has changed us all in ways that only others walking the same path can know. We’re all different people than we were before and we carry something within us now that colours our experiences and our perspectives differently. We have to find our “new” way of life and we will; we are trying. It is both a sad reality and a new beginning of sorts, for all of us to discover ourselves again now, apart from this event that locked us together in what was almost like a pause in a movie where everything stops. Now it’s as though the play button has been hit again and we are to keep moving but we’ve forgotten our parts and our lines, perhaps because they no longer matter and it’s time now for a different script.
I can’t imagine how this will go, what life is going to be like as I move forward now without Pat to share it with me as was the plan – as it is with married couples who look forward with shared dreams to what will be their retirement and golden years together. It’s hard to get excited about ideas that don’t involve him anymore, but he spent many years taking care of me and working hard to provide whatever would make me happy so I know he would still want me to enjoy living. I don’t know for sure who I am without him next to me, but I know he’ll always be with me and he’ll help me find my way. I recently had to answer a question about my marital status on a form – for the first time since Pat died – and it took me a moment to find the answer because I will always feel married to him, regardless of any legal statement otherwise.
I still don’t play my piano, and since playing my guitar and singing for Pat’s enjoyment was so much a part of every day the past two years, I haven’t been able to pick it up again either. In time those things might not be so hard to do without heartbreaking memories, but for now I feel no need to rush myself to do anything other than what makes me happy and peaceful in my new state of life. I don’t expect this to be easy, but I do expect to make it.
Our family has a motto, likely adopted from somewhere else but fitting and used often in our conversations: YOLO (you only live once). We remind each other that in the end everyone dies whether they’ve really lived a life or not, so we need to do the things we care about doing, go on adventures, try new things, tell people how important they are to us, and make sure we aren’t just waiting around for the “right time” because now is the right time to live.
There are so many people to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for the love and support they have shown to us throughout this experience, people who have been there for me from the beginning and have never stopped helping, offering support, making it possible for me to take proper care of myself, and not only staying in touch with how Pat is doing but checking on me and our children regularly to make sure we have what we need. These are the people who make living a life like this more bearable. They are the people who know the value of time, who in the midst of their own busy and sometimes complicated lives take time to reach out and concern themselves with how ours are going. They know the importance of a phone call, a letter, a card, a visit. They are the people who are here for the long haul. While many of them deserve special mention, naming any of them here would make me risk forgetting someone and I’d never want that. They know who they are, and I will never forget all they have done for me.
This won’t be the end of the story; it’s just the end of one leg of a journey that will continue to take me places and show me things I haven’t experienced before. It will take time to figure out what’s to come from here on and what reinventing Ann is going to look like, and while my posts will continue in a new way and likely on a much lighter note, there will always be memories of Pat that come through somehow in all I do, and some of those will end up here on my blog in whatever I write. As I move forward, I know he’ll be watching over me and smiling every time I learn something new about life that he now already knows. He always was the wiser one. ❤️