|First grade assignment. (She's a much better writer now.)|
You might think I'd end up in fewer awkward conversations at almost seven years after my husband died.
Fewer, yes. But still pretty damn awkward.
It was one tangle and took all of three tense minutes. We were talking about my first husband's artwork.
Me: This is a piece by my late husband.
Random lady: Oh! I'm so sorry for your loss!
Me: It's okay. I mean, it's not okay, but it was almost seven years ago.
RL: Well, how are you doing?
Me: I'm doing okay at this point. It is a comfort that he left such a wonderful legacy as an artist. His work is appreciated by so many people. Of course, we have his work hanging in our home, and we look at it every day. One of my favorite pieces is a giant drawing of a bunny sculpture in the National Gallery gardens. My husband wants to hang it in his office.
RL: (Puzzled look)
Me: Well… my new husband. I am remarried.
RL: Oh! I'm so glad for you.
|The Bunny -- Cernnunos|
Me: (Feeling awkward that this other person was just feeling sad for me a minute ago, but also feeling that it's not fair to let her think that remarriage is what "fixed" the loss. But then, wasn't I just trying to avoid a conversation that included any pity for me? Because it's been seven years and I don't need that any more?)
(Pause while I also realize that I don't want to blurt out, "my new husband isn't what fixed my life. Time and perspective is what made it better.")
(Pause while I wonder if in my head I also insulted my new husband by implying that he isn't a big part of my life, or perhaps that he isn't number one in my life, which he is.)
(Realize that clarifying everything would turn this into a non-casual conversation and a teaching moment that might be better suited to a blog post.)
(A lot of over thinking happens during this long moment when I do not actually say anything.)
Me: Um… thank you. It was seven years ago. (Realize I just made her feel a scootch bad for no good reason.)
(Pause while I silently, without moving, hit myself over the head.)
RL: So you have remarried?
Me: Yes, and we are doing well, thank you -- he and I and my daughter.
RL: Oh, you have a daughter?
Me: Yes, but it is his (points to artwork) daughter….
(Pause while I think, "as if that fucking matters?" and find a way to hit myself again).
(In all this pausing, I am so absorbed with over thinking and trying to find my way out of it that I have no idea what thoughts are occupying her pauses, or what she can see on my face.)
RL: Oh! How old was she when he….. ? Does she remember him?
And then we have that whole OTHER semi-awkward conversation, which didn't need to even start, but which is, at least, familiar and which I sort of have a "spiel" for, which is a balance between a tiny bit of education and reassuring the other person that my life is not one giant trauma. At least, because I've had that conversation so many times, I am safe from over thinking or stumbling any further. I accept that people are curious about this, but I think, do I always have to be someone with history? I could have avoided bringing the whole thing up.
My attitude is such a contrast with the first six months or so, when I felt obliged to tell everyone I met. It came out all the time -- even in a grocery store line -- "my husband died" as if I were saying "awful weather, isn't it?" My personal needs came first; I couldn't have cared less about causing social awkwardness -- it was my truth and 100% of my reality then.
Now, at this stage, my husband still really, truly died (well, my FIRST husband). It shouldn't be ignored -- and it's not acceptable or okay for people to die young or leave a young child behind. And it's important to demonstrate that you can live on and it's valuable to share your testimony. But maybe not every day. It has truly been a while -- this is the first notable awkwardness in probably a year. Most of the time, these days, when I discuss my loss, the context is comfortable and appropriate. This is, in a way, a milestone.
(Another major milestone was the first time I forgot to tell someon...
Yes, it's good to "normalize" these things for other people, but how much did my awkward pauses and unnecessary raising of topics "help" this person understand better?
It wasn't her fault, not one bit. And I appreciate that I have developed "spiel" for part of it. Sometimes, I can balance all these different needs: social, advocacy, personal.
But sometimes I am just tired of having a backstory.