As I write this blog post, I’m sitting on the deck of an oceanfront house, looking out at the bluest water I’ve ever seen. Next to me is a half-eaten grapefruit and sand covers my feet. My two best friends Kelly and Paige are in the chairs next to me, laughing about something we did last night.
I am in paradise. But it’s not paradise because of the incredibly nice real estate or the perfect weather or the great company. It’s my paradise because – for the first time in a month – I’m happy.
Yes, I said it: happy.
I know, for my family and friends, everyone is thinking: thank GOD Marjorie has gotten to a place where she feels better.
Maybe, for the widows who read my blog, you are thinking: well, great. Marjorie has found happiness but I still don’t have it.
So I’d like to pause and say this: I am happy NOW. I make no guarantees about how I will feel in a week or even in an hour. That’s not how grief – or life – works. I don’t find a happy moment and then live in it for the rest of my life. No one does that. But it’s strange that society seems to want me to do that – find happiness and then stay there. That would make a good story, or at least a good Hallmark movie.
Kelly, my therapist friend, is in the chair next to me and I just read her what I wrote above. “Yes,” she said, “when I’m with a client in therapy, we talk about this sort of thing often. The goal is not to get yourself to a certain place, but to remind yourself that things can change. When you are happy, it’s helpful to try and recognize those happy feelings, not so that you can recreate the happiness at will, but so that when there are harder times, you can remember that you CAN feel happiness.”
It took a few days into my spring break before I realized that I was feeling bits of joy. I spent most days writing, breaking to stare out at the sea as I listened to house music playlists my friend Pete sent me to cheer me up (everyone finds their own way to help – his is through music.) Sometimes I’d break to eat some grapefruit. Sometimes I’d break to cry a bit.
About two days in, I stopped writing and looked out at the horizon. I started to think about what I wanted out of my life. I started to think a little bit about the future.
Maybe, I thought, I could contact one of my editors about an article I’d always wanted to write on parenting. Maybe she’d take my pitch.
Or maybe the big kids and I should go ride rollercoasters one day when my dad can take Tommy. They’re tall enough now, and we haven’t done that yet.
Maybe I could call up that pastor I met who wanted me to talk to a group of therapists about grief. Maybe I could try out my public speaking.
Maybe I could sign up for a cooking class downtown. Or better yet, maybe a class where I learn how to make great mixed drinks. Maybe I could get a friend to come with me.
Maybe I could do something experimental in class next week. We do have that weird day when I don’t have to follow the curriculum exactly. Maybe we could try something really out-of-the-box.
Maybe I could sign up for the next 10K in DC. Maybe I’d do it alone or maybe I’d find someone to do it with me. Maybe even Claire.
It was funny – in all those “maybes” I started to see possibility. And that thought – that I could have something other than dread in my life – made me feel something new.
It made me feel happy.
Maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was my friends. Maybe it was the break from the monotony of daily life. Maybe it was the grapefruit and the million dollar view.
Or maybe it was the idea that life is not over for me.
Life is full of possibility. Sometimes that’s overwhelming. Sometimes I feel trapped by the million things I have to do.
And sometimes I think: maybe I can try something new. Maybe there can be something exciting in my life. Maybe all the best parts of my life are not just going to be in the past.