Cowboy Take Me Away
I’ve been listening to The Chicks a lot lately. I like their new album and I’ve been remembering back to when I re-discovered them in the fall of 2018. At the time, I was starting to re-discover a lot of things about myself, and the song “Cowboy Take Me Away” made me reflect on how I was struggling with men. I decided to write a blog post about it. Here’s an excerpt (from “Smash the Patriarchy,” November 14, 2018):
When I heard the song the other day, I sang along, and I felt that same emotion – a yearning for something else. But it wasn’t particularly for a new lover. Instead, I realized that what I was feeling was this:
I want to be rescued.
I want a cowboy – or really any other man – to come and rescue me from my life. Of course, I want Shawn to do that most of all, but since he’s unavailable, I just want someone – anyone – to come and save me.
Save me from single parenting. Save me from being the only person who deals with my kids’ emotions. Save me from taking the car to the damn repair shop yet again. Save me from being the only person who’s arriving solo to parties in my neighborhood. Save me from the guilt I feel when I can’t attend yet another event at the kids’ school.
Save me from my life.
As I re-read this blog post, I reflected on how self-aware I was 18 months ago. Yes, I was still in the first year of biting grief, and my thinking wasn’t often clear. And yet, I was able to articulate 1) how much I wanted to be rescued by a man who could somehow “save me from my life” and (later in the blog post) 2) how I knew that wasn’t a useful way to be thinking about my life.
I knew I had a lot of growing to do.
I often reiterate to my boyfriend Chris how important it was that we met in the spring of 2020. Yes, we knew each other for a long time before we actually started dating, but we didn’t start anything up until this spring. So, in theory, we could have dated much earlier than we did. But as I’ve told him on a number of occasions, it would have been a disaster if we had started dating sometime in 2018.
He doesn’t believe me. I tell him that I was in a bad place back then, and he tells me that he would have helped me through the terrible times. “We would have made it work,” he says.
Maybe that is true. I think Chris and I are so well-suited for each other that we probably could have persevered through my shaky emotional state. So in that way, he’s right.
And yet. I’m not really talking about whether or not Chris and I as a couple could have made it if we had started dating six or eight months after Shawn’s death.
No, when I say, “it wouldn’t have worked,” I’m really talking about something that’s totally separate from him – or from any relationship. I’m talking about my own independent emotional life.
I needed time after Shawn died to forge my own path and I needed to forge that path without feeling that I needed to be rescued by a man. I needed time to quiet the voice in my head that said that I was only okay with someone by my side. I needed time to feel constantly lonely, and then to wake up one day and think, “yes I’m lonely, but actually, I feel okay.”
I needed time to become a new person, in a way. Sure, I continued to appreciate a good glass of wine and swinging in a hammock on a summer afternoon, but what I needed was to be able to figure out who I was as a widow. And I needed to do it without anyone else by my side. I needed to figure out how to stand on my own two feet, without wanting constant rescue.
I’m not saying everyone needs to have this same kind of timeline, or even that others have a similar process to me. It’s not like I reached some sort of “widow enlightenment” and then I met Chris. That’s silly. After two years I still had many lonely nights and many times when I hated single parenting and many days that I just wanted to bury my head in the sand. It never really got easy to be alone and I still had a lot of tough days.
But eventually I got to the point where I could face the world without constantly wishing someone would come and save me.
So when I tell Chris, “it wouldn’t have worked,” I don’t mean that we wouldn’t have been able to date each other. It’s more that I may have seen him as my cowboy, as the guy who was going to swoop down and rescue me. And that isn’t what I wanted for myself.
Instead, I got a partner who stands by my side.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.
I really appreciate your forethought and insight. Im a widower myself. What drew me to you website/blog is I read a article you had written about your initial foreray into attempting to date as young widower. What i find compelling and interesting is for all the talk where people say they want something real when it comes to relationships they truly in so many ways don’t want this at all. Or at least at a minimum they want a very controlled world of dialog thus relatiinships. Being a widower things can and are at times messy within our own psyches. This doesnt mean we can’t or aren’t capable of dating and or having a relationship. Its called being real, being open, bring honest. Thank you for your article and your writing in general.
Thanks for reading! I had a terrible time dating in the beginning, but ultimately things did get easier as I learned how to spend little time (and more important, emotional energy) on dates that were bad, and to really dig deep when I felt a real connection (which wasn’t often!) Good luck. It’s tough out there!
I love this blog! I lost my fiancé Julie at age 44 on December 6,2019. The loneliness was getting so unbearable so I went on a date. After reading this blog I realize I need to find myself and take the time for my own identity. Dating will have to wait. Thankyou!!
Thanks for reading – and for sharing. It’s so hard to take all these steps.
What are your thoughts on marriage? Has your cowboy hinted along those lines?
My cowboy does, and it makes me feel an abundance of mixed feelings.
It is something I thought I would only ever do once in my lifetime.
Oh, boy, that sounds like a topic for a blog post way in the future! But I’ll say this – I think people come to the idea of marriage again (after widowhood or divorce) in totally different ways. There’s no one right answer. I think you just have to feel out your own relationship and comfort with the idea. I do know that my grandfather had a “lady friend” for a quarter of a century after being widowed….and they were very happy.
It is very easy for me, too to wish someone could come and take some of the responsibility from my shoulders. I know that’s not the best way to move forward. Thank goodness for the times where I have made it through the challenges of life successfully, researching, getting bids and getting installed a new AC/furnace, or getting a kid on vacation to an urgent care after splitting his chin open, etc. It helps me know I can do it. And yes sometimes I perform much worse than when there were two of us managing the household, most recently navigating a cat surgery recovery and me ending up yelling at my kids when it was my fatigue literally missing the opportunity to show the kids how to be a strong caregiver. Fortunately, I wake up in the morning with a much better outlook, apologize to my kids and let them know the right way to approach challenges, especially when we are afraid.
I think our kids don’t need to see a perfect parent – not at all. I think they need to see a loving parent, which you clearly are. That doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of overwhelmed moments, but rather that we show they how to keep going through the hard stuff and hug them when they really need it.
Oh boy, you have touched on something I am dealing with now. 10 months after Shaila passed away, the COVID pandemic in full swing I went online (thanks to you) and found someone I really like…. I mean love. Wow, was this even possible after the grief I felt? Well 6 weeks ago I got the devastating blow that this relationship was not working for her. Talk about heartbreak. Losing someone to cancer is so different than losing someone to….. me! Your words… you need to forge that path without feeling I need to be rescued, or have someone by my side to feel whole. Damn, I am so scared of feeling lonely. Even with all the love of my kids, family and friends, loneliness has become that un-welcomed visitor. And I am okay with that. I need the time to explore my life, built it up so I can emotionally handle being alone. I can then be ready to be there for someone as me, not the broken, lost person that I really am. What a hard lesson to learn, but i am thankful. Thankful that I can feel love, feel heartbreak and still feel optimistic about my future. Thank you!
Oh, that first heartbreak is SO HARD. My goodness, I remember it really well. Hang in there. I am pulling for you. No matter what, it gets easier, that I am sure of.