This book seems to be about a middle-aged widow making the adjustment to single life. But it isn’t. Not really. Although it opens just after my husband’s death, it is not about grieving. He had been ill for many years and had suffered so much, my grief was almost all used up by the time he left. Although I missed him and was lonely and disoriented, it was a relief to let him go to a place where there was no more pain.
This is about women. Single women who are also perhaps mothers, friends, credit card jugglers, carpoolers, entrepreneurs, lovers, workers, gardeners, even grandmothers. In short, women who are trying to be everything to everybody and still have a life. I know there are some serenely, happily coupled women out there who do all of the above and do it well. If you are one of them, I don’t want to exclude you. You never know when you might need a reference guide to what it’s really like out there as a single woman. And male readers? Sure. Come along. It wouldn’t hurt for you to learn something about how women really think.
But this for those of us who talk self-sufficiency but are furtively casting about for that guy who will defend the entrance to our cave. With all of our bravado, we are still whistling in the dark to keep ourselves safe. And no matter how successful we are, how many clothes we collect, how many pedicures we pay for, how many trips we take, how interesting our jobs, we cringe when we hear the question “Are you seeing anyone?”
Our secret is that we feel deficient without a man. We are apologetic to our families for being single. We give reasons and excuses to our friends (there’s no one out there). We put pieces of our lives on hold until “he” comes along.
I wasn’t aware of how prevalent this kind of thinking is until my husband died. I had been married for quite a while.
This book did not start out as a collection of letters and poetry. I wrote the prologue poem, “You only get a minute./The stone has not been set/before you hear the question/‘Are you seeing someone yet?’” just for fun. I could not believe that people were asking me a question like that almost immediately after my husband’s death. It made me frantic. Panicky! Desperate. I had to replace this man. Plug up the hole. And I mean – now.
Don’t think I am exaggerating when you read that on one sleepless night, at 3A.M, I was counting how many men I knew whose wives were sick and were likely to die soon. Who could admit to such a shameless thing? But you see, I didn’t know you were going to be reading this. I was writing for me. Kind of an exorcism. Poetry is the way I get my feelings out.
The poems grew and grew. One day I shared them with my friend Arlene. She said, “Make a book. The poems tell the inside story. Tell what is happening on the outside in your everyday life.” She suggested that I share my journey in letters because everyone is an eavesdropper at heart. And there is something exciting about receiving letters. E-mail and the telephone just aren’t the same.
So Arlene is to blame for this whole thing.
Will this book change your life? Are there big answers for you here? Probably not. If you are looking for a how-to book or life-changing strategies, you won’t find them here. I promise you if I discover something pivotal, I’ll let you know.
This book is one woman’s story—my story— entwined with family, friends, lovers, and assorted dropins. A voyage from numbness to rebirth and from confusion to some clarity—with a lot of detours!
Addresses and some names have been changed and events have been altered to protect privacy. But what I found, and what you might find here, is the awareness that women, no matter what age, situation, or color, are more alike than different. There is some comfort in that.
The inspirational books we read make a thunderous announcement: No thing and no one outside us can save us. Not even a soul mate. Serenity and peace cannot be found except in our own hearts. That realization is our ultimate target. But most of us are not there yet.
Glimpses—even epiphanies—come and then seem to vanish on this roller-coaster ride we signed up for. However, in between the hairpin turns and the high skydives, it’s helpful to know where we are going.
If there is one message in this book, it is this: The most powerful instrument women have is our intuitive talent for nurturing, whether in our homes or our businesses. We must broaden our vistas to include more women. We need to help each other more. This is not a rally to exclude men. Bless them. We need them. But we could steal a page or two from their good ol’ boy network manual.
Our experience can support a new mother who is determined to nurse a baby successfully. Our wisdom can mentor a woman who is challenged with a personal or career decision. A favor done at just the right time can make all the difference. In many instances, being present and listening are enough. The best thing about talking to girlfriends is that we permit each other’s difficulties to remain unresolved.
Even if we say, “Why don’t you quit that job?” or, “Get rid of that jerk,” we allow each other the option of taking no action on a problem. Ultimately we know what to do. We appreciate direction but don’t need advice. We just need someone to hear us out.
So now, after saying that, I am going to give you some advice. No matter what your situation this minute, you can survive whatever heartbreak and loneliness you are feeling today. What they say about time healing wounds is true. But how much time you need is up to you and not some psychological calendar.
It takes as long as it takes. I can’t tell you at which point I started turning into myself, but it did and still is happening. It can’t be hurried. Don’t let anyone tell you when.
And if there is a right person—a soul mate—I believe he will show up at the perfect time, which is somehow not determined by us. We just have to follow our intuition and be alert to what is around the next bend on the roller coaster.
Neale Donald Walsch, in his beautiful book, Conversations with God, recounts that the most important question we can ask in any situation is “What would love do now?” I have those words taped on my computer screen. That guidance holds up under most circumstances. Remember to include your own happiness and welfare when you answer that question.
Some famous authors were kind enough to give me endorsements for my book. I am grateful. But comments from women, ordinary people like you and me, are also encouraging.
Linda, who is thirty-eight, said, “It’s all here. I laughed. I cried.” Dawn, twenty-nine, wrote, “I could not put this book down.” And Susan, forty-eight, called to say, “I thought you had been reading my mail!” Different ages. Different situations. We are all writing the same story.
Thanks for listening to my story. You may find some of your mail here. I hope it will make you know you are not alone.
My mother’s favorite expression was “In the light of all Eternity, most things don’t matter.” She was probably right but the events in our lives sure feel important today.
Even if things don’t really matter, go for the gold anyway! Every way you can. And every day. You are a beautiful, extraordinary woman—with or without a man. And you have a unique contribution to make to yourself and to your world.
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