While dusting the fireplace mantel today in my bedroom, I picked up a porcelain figurine given to me in the first year of my painful journey navigating widowhood. At the time, I was working for the administrative offices of a school district. I had obtained this job after a 17 year career with a locally owned company that had been acquired by a large corporation, based in another state. As often happens with business acquistions, the old regime is put out to pasture to make way for the younger, less jaded and expensive labor. This period of my life, I optimistically, (through gritted teeth) called my year of change. This was the year, my daughter graduated from college AND got married, my husband was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer, and I was downsized from a job I was accomplished at and compensated for. On the psychiatric scale measuring the impact of certain life stressors, I had hit on the top four. Although the School district job itself provided little intellectual stimulation or challenge, when held in comparison to my previous headache producer, it provided me with a comfortable little nest to snuggle into and begin the healing process. Additionally, the health coverage that came along with the new employment, took care of some really expensive medical bills incurred in my husband’s final days. I recognized that blessing later, and was grateful.
After his death, and the overload of the previous year, my brain wasn’t operating at full capacity, and emotional intelligence was about at the level of a two year old toddler. Collegues were understanding, empathetic, responsive and generous; traits that weren’t present with my previous corporate blood-suckers. Once, again, much later, I saw that God really placed me exactly where I needed to be. As instructed by grief counselors, good friends and a stack of recovery literature, I stayed put, no major changes for at least a year they said. I knew at some point this job wouldn’t provide me with enough to fill the void left by the loss of not only my husband, but all of those things that came with being a busy, social butterfly, married to a like minded adventurer. A year into my grief, I felt like I was walking in quick sand, and if I didn’t do something, make a change, try something new, I would be buried alive by pain and mediocrity. The real fear was that I just might find myself quite comfortable there. Sometimes, when we are in situations that agonizingly twist us into limp dish rags, we don't have enough energy to do much more than get complacent with the misery. I knew I needed to stick my baby toe into the overwhelming project of rebuilding a life for myself.
I made several significant decisions. One, to leave the comfort of my current job. Second, to go back to school, and third, to work part time in a venue that would challenge my grief process on a daily basis, but also, perhaps, aid in my healing. An intuitive and kind friend from the school district, bought the figurine for me as a farewell gift. This “Precious Moment” statue was a wide-eyed little explorer, carpet bag at her feet, lettered with the sentiment, “On My Way.” Hoovering above her head, many signs pointed in random directions; This Way...That Way.... Over Pass.... Under Pass. Sitting on the edge of my bed, holding her in my hand and studying her today, my mind spun back to when I first got her, ten years ago. All I saw then, was the message, “On My Way.” And, it was true, I was. Venturing forward into the unknown, yet with a clear vision and projected outcome. It was not until today, really looking at this treasured gift, that I recognized these past ten years have not been what I planned when I received her.
My life today does not come close to resembling what I saw back when I was “on my way”. It has been a bumpy road of fits and starts and do-overs. It’s been trial and error, emotionally, spiritually, professionally, and romantically. I thought I saw the sign post pointing this way, and when I arrived, a new crossroad, and the best I could do was pray and hope that I was headed in the right direction. Often, I got lost. Sometimes just long enough to resynch my internal GPS and take the overpass. Other times, wandering deep into parts of me, yet unknown for rather long stretches. And, sometimes, arriving at places of the purest, sweetest serenity, adventure and love. Essentially, when I look at the life I have today, with it’s many changes, losses, sweet surprises and pleasures, I am glad all I knew those years ago, was that I was on my way. I don’t need the arrows and signs to point me in a straight line. Wonderful adventures often await when we get lost. For, it’s been in losing my way, that I am finding my way, and learning to savor it, moment by moment.