Does it have to take a tragedy for some people to love the life they have right now? I'm sorry to say that's what did it for me. It took the death of an incredible man, husband, and father to make me love more purely what's right in front of me. I'm not proud of this, but it's the truth. My husband? He loved his life before he got sick. There are plenty of people just like him. But I was not one of them. So please forgive the rant I'm about to make. This is not a holier than thou speech. Because if you ever feel like you're dissatisfied too much, or complain too much, or aren't as happy as you should be, or feel stuck or purposeless, well, I can relate. I used to feel like that too often too, until I lost my husband and the dream of growing old with him, parenting our kids together, and pursuing our new life, as just a couple on our own after the kids grew up.
Sometimes we young widows and widowers just want to shake the rest of you with your intact families, your healthy spouses, your regular routines, and a big old list of complaints. Here's what we want to shout through a big megaphone:
This is it folks. This is what the good life is: your to-do list, your kids who are great sometimes and annoying other times, your professional or domestic work, your vacations, your family trips in the car, your driving the kids around to their activities and sitting on the side of soccer or baseball fields, having your spouse there to help you, helping your spouse, the books you read, your warm home, your friends and neighbors, your plans for your children's or your own continuing education, your pets, the trees outside your house, your garden, your dreams for new possibilities, enjoying or making art or music, volunteering your time, your body that can walk and run and stretch...that's what the good life is. It doesn't get better than that even if you're stinking rich or scary smart or imagine you could be doing something different, there's really nothing better than what's you've got right in front of you this minute, so enjoy it. Because there's no guarantee it will be the same tomorrow. In fact, it's all going to change, repeatedly.
As soon as I realized I could never replace my old great life, I made a commitment to myself that I would do my very best to remember how lucky I am right now. There is nothing better I could be doing right now and I am excited and open to finding out what's going to happen next.
When the worst happens, like it did to me, I gained the freedom of knowing that I can survive anything. When Ken died at 52 years of age with so much left to give to his family, friends and profession, I felt an imperative to love the life I have, that I'm lucky to have.
As a young widow, I would love you to know this without your having to lose anything at all. I wish I had figured it out sooner.