One of our first photos together ever and one of our last, 1989 & 2014.
We were married 25 years, my husband and I, and I’ve been a widow for three years now. Both things, marriage and widowhood, have taught me so much about life, about myself, about others, about God – as it should and, whether I want to learn it all or not. I’m sharing these things 1) because it helps me and 2) maybe it will help someone else.
I’ve learned that even though I didn’t/don’t want to be a widow, that’s what I am. Sound strange for me to learn this? I still wear my wedding ring, I still talk about David in everyday conversation – I present to total strangers when they meet me as married. Not as ‘was married’, but as married. I have learned that I was married and now I am a widow. It’s hard to go on in life, go on with life, especially if you don’t learn who you are. Grief has taught me who I am. Hope has taught me that it’s not the end of my story, it’s just who I am today.
My mother introduced me to the word ‘biorhythms’ when I was a teenager. She had, at the age of 29, endured a lengthy, serious illness and near death experience (I was five years old at the time) and afterward, to this day in fact, years later, has physical memories of that time each year during the same months that it originally occurred.
I have learned first hand that there are also biorhythms to grief and to trauma not just personal illness, as happened to my mother. I had physical reactions to my husband’s illness and death; my hair fell out in huge clumps (so I cut it short & donated it to a charity using real hair to make wigs for cancer sufferers), my body broke out in spontaneous bruising that the doctor said was indirectly from the trauma of bad news (I clenched my fists & knees so hard I ended up bruising myself, I clenched my teeth as well and ended up with TMJ), I woke up every morning vomiting for months, my vision degraded, etc. That was then and now, three years later, I’ve broken out in spontaneous bruising, I have the dry heaves in the morning, my hair is falling out in clumps, so once again I have cut it short, and my vision is worsening and I know this because my current recent prescription trifocals are no longer doing their job effectively. If the last few years are any indication my vision will right itself somewhat and I probably won’t need new glasses this year. Time will tell. The bottom line is that I’ve learned that biorhythms are real. I’ve also learned that it will pass. Just like it did last year and the year before that.
I can make it through this hard season for the most part because I know it will pass. My hair will grow back, the bruising will go away, the morning heaves will cease and my vision will settle down. Grief has taught me how resilient we are. How resilient I am.
I’ve learned to manage grief but not expect things of it. I manage grief by talking about it, by writing about it, by not letting it be an elephant in any room that I’m in. I am honest and forthright with myself and with others to the best of my abilities about my sadness and struggles, walking a fine line so as not to be a kill joy to any group I’m in, I don’t want people to run screaming from any room I enter because I’m so sad and depressed. So far, folks only slink away unobtrusively …
I’ve learned that people don’t unfollow me, they don’t unfriend me when I’m at my saddest. I expected grief to separate me from life, and from people. I was wrong. I thought it would whittle my social circle and media following down to my mom and a few stalwart family and friends who love me, but instead it’s garnered me friends from all around the world, strangers who care about me and my “grieving out loud” story. The international community that I’m a part of now is beyond anything I could have imagined. Three years ago I was writing to an audience of one, myself, and now I’m writing to an ever-growing audience of the universe. And this brings me to my cat.
I’ve learned that my cat is popular. My “daily shot of Whiskey Kitty” on Instagram is a by-product of my grief. For almost a year now I have been sharing an IG photo of my cat Whiskey to Twitter and Facebook every morning because I wanted to appease beloved family and friends who were lurking around my social media watching to see how I was doing without outright asking me every few minutes. When I would go a few days without posting anything, not because I was doing poorly, but because I had nothing to post, people close to me panicked that I was not doing well and they would call, write, private message me, etc., asking if I was “okay”? I was always puzzled by this deluge of behind the scenes concern and when I finally asked why they were worried, across the board the answer was “you haven’t posted anything on Facebook in a while”. Around this same time I had read a magazine article entitled “Offline is the new Luxury”, the magazine, Flow, even included a gift poster with this statement and I thought this was a sign that I was over posting generally but specifically about my pets (not just my cat). And I, without telling anyone, withdrew from technology significantly not thinking anyone would notice. Folks noticed alright! “So, okay”, I thought, “I need to post something everyday to fix this problem” and the easiest answer was to just post a stupid picture of my cat very early in the morning every single day so everyone would think I was fine, whether I was or not. I didn’t think it would last. I certainly didn’t think people would look forward to Whiskey’s photo every morning or that they would miss it if I stopped. I did think I would probably lose another huge chunk of my friends and family as a result because, let’s be honest, a photo of my cat everyday is just obnoxious. I thought wrong. Boy, did I think incorrectly …
… People are starting to think my cat, Whiskey, is something special and that I am intentionally documenting her specialness daily toward some lofty purpose. Oops! Unintended consequences strikes again! Over ten months ago I started posting a single photo of my cat at the crack of dawn on my social media everyday using the hashtag #dailyshotofwhiskeykitty because I was already posting lots of photos of her, almost daily, anyway.
“Are you writing a book about your cat?” is a question that I’m getting a lot these days, so much so that I have joked with my family and friends that the title of my next unwritten book (I have titled dozens of books I’ve never written) is ‘I Am Not Writing A Book About My Cat’.
My cat is cute, cranky but cute, but she’s not that special. I love her, don’t get me wrong, but she’s certainly not book worthy special. Other cats have already cornered the special feline market; there is Grumpy Cat, Garfield, Maru, Morris, Hello Kitty, etc. and now there’s Whiskey? Nope. That is not why I post a photo of her everyday on Instagram that gets automatically shared to Twitter and Facebook, but no one believes me. Grief has taught me that my cat may just be more special than I even know and I may actually write a book someday and not just title them.
Grief has taught me much but I’m afraid it still has more to teach. I’m probably not out of the sad woods yet. I hope you’ll follow me, edgehillherbfarm, on Instagram to see my daily cat pictures and see what else I’m learning along grief’s way.