Monday, June 23, 2014

First person singular

The word "widow" is derived from Old English widewe which in turn is derived from an Indo-European root meaning ‘be empty’; it is related to Sanskrit vidh ‘be destitute,’ Latin viduus ‘bereft, widowed,’ and Hebrew alem 'unable to speak.'

I am all of these things . Empty. Emotionally destitute. Bereft. Unable to speak. Sometimes I can't string a sentence together. And sometimes I teeter towards functional if not yet okay.

The root of widow that I think is missing is "singular." I used to be part of something that was greater than the sum of my parts. Now I am less than half. In becoming less than half, in becoming singular, I have lost more than just my partner. I have lost knowledge, social standing and really an entire worldview.

I have lost much of my knowledge of the world. Part of being in a couple long term is mind-sharing. Not in the Vulcan mindmeld kind of way, but in the distributed knowledge kind of way. Kevin and I each took over different parts of our lives and, in so doing, we each became both more and less competent. Kevin took over electronics; I have no idea how our stereo, television or network are assembled. I used to know how to do those things. I took over cooking; Kevin was at one time a decent cook but was happy to delegate food and shopping to me.

It's more than just losing half my mind (some days I think I have lost all of my mind). It's a deeper kind of singularity that has significant social ramifications. The things we used to do together I now do alone. I've always been comfortable with being alone, but it was a choice; I'd get lunch by myself because I liked the experience. Now if I eat out it will be, by default, alone, unless I find someone to come with me. Sometimes this is a relief. If I'm having one of the days where I am alem, unable to speak, it's easier to be alone. But I don't like that it's now my default. What's more, this isn't a culture that is comfort with single (or singular!) people. I sometimes get crummy seats in restaurants because the nice tables are reserved for at least couples; more people equals more money equals a bigger tip. I sometimes am overlooked in social event planning because I throw the numbers off. It feels like I am an awkward extra.

And it's more than losing knowledge and social role. When we were together, up until the instant he died, we were a team. We solved problems together. We helped each other. We took care of each other. My worldview was based in this knowledge, that he would always have my back. Now he may still have my back, but it's from a much greater distance. I no longer have a sense of safety and of home in this world. I am living in a new land and my viewpoint is that of stranger, that of a woman navigating alone.

I am no longer part of a "we" I am now I an "I." First person singular.

I miss Kevin with an intensity that is only matched by my love for him and by my sorrow. I miss his touch, his voice, his mind, his presence, his everything. And I have no choice but to be present with first person singular. To do anything else would both be self-destructive and further remove Kevin from this world in his existence through me, which I will not do.

But still...
Unable to speak.

(c) 2014 Laura S. Packer
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  1. Flying solo. Tandem trained. Looking at the seat where your co-pilot always sat. Now the whole flight plan falls on you. It's OK to fly down the road Kevin always liked. It's also OK to not fly near it. It's one flight at a time. One flight to the post office. One flight to Starbucks. One flight to Anmol Indian Restaurant. As you fly by look down. I'll be waving hello. I'll be waving way to go. Sometimes I might even fly with you. I'll like that. I hope you will too. Hugs and more hugs and a cloud full of love.

  2. My mentor once said we grow around the hollow parts, like a tree.

  3. Thank you for the etymology lesson. I took an etymologies class once and found the class fascinating.

    I started dining alone regularly maybe about 5 years ago. I was so uncomfortable. I read articles about it to see if there was anything I could learn to feel more comfortable. I remember reading about how you'll sometimes be given the crappy table. One author said she always insists on the better table if they try to do that. I thought it was bold. I hated it at first but something curious has happened. I now prefer to dine alone. During the years when I had partners and friends who could afford to eat out regularly I thought that dining out was about the company. But after I started dining alone, I discovered that I enjoy my food more because I can eat at my own pace and really concentrate on the textures and flavors since there’s no need to speak or listen. Sometimes when I eat out with friends I find myself wishing I were eating alone so I could savor the food. The first time I noticed it, it came as a real surprise to me.

    I found that one way to make dining out alone less awkward was to go to the same restaurants and get to know the staff. Then at least I could count on a warm welcome and a friendly face and perhaps some conversation if I wanted. Until I started dining out alone I had never managed to develop friendships with restaurant owners and staff. It made the experience less lonely in the beginning. Although now when I want to be truly alone with my food I have to go to restaurants where they don’t know me!

    I don’t know if you’ll ever find joy in dining out alone. I’m sure you’ll always be thinking of Kevin. But perhaps the day will come when you’re twirling noodles on a fork or biting into a dumpling and you’ll notice that you’re really appreciating the aroma and the flavors so much you won’t mind that you’re dining with yourself.

    1. Thank you for such a lovely, thoughtful post. I actually like eating out alone. It's the fact that I no longer have much choice, that it's the default, that I find disheartening. Maybe we can get dumplings next time I'm in town.

  4. Yesterday I went for an outpatient procedure
    and I am fortunate I have a friend who drove me, waited 2 hours, took me home and spent the night with me.

    She will stay with me today and tonight too. I feel so blessed that I have this friend & 3 other great friends who would have also helped me.

    You seem to have a lot of love around you as well.

    Your Kevin and my Alan died within a day of one another.
    The good news we have people who love and care for us
    and the bad news is they are not Alan & Kevin.

    1. Hi Shell,
      I'm glad you have support. I'm grateful for the support I have, too.
      You're right. We are lucky to have such support and it is terrible that it's not the support and love we most need.
      Hang in there.


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