Despite this grainy picture that was taken a decade ago at a makeshift bar in Gettysburg, the memory of the laughing and silliness still resonates with me after all these years. I was with two of my teammates at an offsite gathering when we took a break from our studies. I don’t remember what we were laughing about, but I can feel the pure lightheartedness of that evening. Finding this picture reminded me of something I had forgotten: how important it is to have fun.
For the past few years, my life has been tumultuous and sad. My husband and I believed he would overcome his long term health issues, and we worked hard to find solutions for his failing heart. When he died over a year ago, I felt the most intense sadness I’ve ever felt. Yet, in the midst of my sorrow, I could feel happy. It didn’t happen quickly, but it has begun.
When we feel invincible, there is an illusion of foreverness. This is the way it should be when we are young, and perhaps even later in life, living with optimism for the lives we are about to build and the unbridled passion for all that we can create. Though our perception often changes as we live longer, this can be a good thing, too. As the saying goes, we can live each day as if it is our last, knowing life on this earth can be short. At some point, I remembered that my situation was not unique and I changed the story of my widowhood, which led me to experience the happiness I thought would never return.
The thing about life is that when we are able to live without holding on to the negative emotions that seep in and out, we learn more about ourselves. We then have the chance to grow into that knowledge. We can love and be loved by those who remain. We can grab the opportunity to explore what we don’t know. And, we can find peace in the most simple moments.
Over time, it became important to have more happy moments than sad ones because I knew my health depended on it. I also knew my husband, the love of my life, would want it to always be this way. I started feeling grateful again. As I held on to these ideas, the synchronicity of life, those unexplainable events I’ve experienced so often in the past, began to materialize.
I decided to change my FaceBook profile and uploaded an image of the Golden Gate Bridge. This was definitely a statement about my decision to live on the west coast, even though I was still feeling somewhat uncertain. I didn’t have a permanent place to live or a community of friends who would help me call the Bay Area home, but my children and grandchild were around and that was enough for me to make a commitment. I set an intention to find a new home, meet new people, and create a new beginning for myself.
A response to my profile seemed to come almost the second I made the change. A colleague I had known, but had not spoken with for over 30 years, had replied. Through mutual friends we knew of each other’s lives, but only on a superficial level. She wondered if I was really living in her backyard. That weekend we reconnected and this generous soul offered me her home as a temporary respite. She has shared her realtor, banker, dentist, and other contacts who might help me transition into my new life.
She was so incredibly welcoming that I felt comfortable to be sitting in my robe at her kitchen table late one morning, in the middle of a storm. The power was out in some of the neighboring homes, which accounted for the fact that four of her friends were making their way up her walkway in the rain. You can sneak downstairs if you’d like, she offered. Considering I had rolled out of bed and hadn’t even taken the time to see what I looked like, that was a nice suggestion.
I thought about it for a split second, but decided to hang out with these people, despite what I looked like. It was the best decision I could have made. Her friends were just as welcoming as she has been. One of them insisted that we had met before; I also felt the connection. There I was with good food, drinks, entertaining people, and feeling like I was in the middle of a pajama party. It was fun!
It’s not easy for me to admit I can have fun after all my husband went through and how I’ve suffered without him. But somewhere along the way, I could hear his voice in my mind, reminding me how short life really is. I didn’t want him to suffer any longer and he wouldn’t want the same for me. I’ve let go of my expectations and those of others, and have decided it is important to make fun a part of my life.