“Wait, let me get this straight,” the man running next to me said with wide-eyes, “you’ve lived in DC for fifteen years and you don’t know anything about our running group and you’ve never heard of Kelly’s Bar or any other bar around here?”
I smiled. It was my first time with this new running group, and I wasn’t divulging much about my life, though he was trying to figure me out. “Yes, I guess that’s all true,” I said.
“Who are you?” he said, laughing at me a bit, but also genuinely curious.
“I’m just a runner,” I said, “though I’ve got a somewhat interesting backstory I’ll tell you someday.”
He looked at me like I was mysterious, and I suppressed my laughter. I mean, really? I’m the goddamn picture of someone who is not mysterious. I was a high school cheerleader at 16 and a yoga-pants wearing mother of three at 35. I mean, I’m a schoolteacher for chrissakes.
But this was my week of trying new things, and maybe the fact that I was moving far outside my comfort zone meant that I was making myself a tad bit mysterious. At least to people who I don’t normally run into every day.
You see, I wanted a week when I really pushed myself. I’ve been on this whole kick of “trying new things,” and last week my big goal was to do something new every day of the week. So that’s what I did.
On Monday, I got CPR certified. Because one thing I’ve learned from knowing lots of young widows is that anyone can die at any time from any number of things. Be prepared.
On Tuesday, I got stood up for a date for the first time since 1999. To be fair, the plan wasn’t “getting stood up” because that actually kinda sucked. The plan was “go out with someone who is a total stranger.” And in the end, it didn’t turn out to be a total rejection from this stranger, though that’s a longer story than I have time for. Still, it was pretty awful in the moment…and I survived, so that’s something.
On Wednesday, I sang Christmas carols with a drag queen named Suzy Snowflake at a furniture store with some of my widow friends. This was not a surprise, because do you think these sorts of things just happen? No, they do not – they take a lot of planning by someone who really knows what would make us all smile. This was the highlight of my week, obviously.
On Thursday, I went on the run I described above and shared nothing about my life. Nothing. (That’s new for me, if you haven’t noticed after the 275 blog posts or so that I’ve written.)
On Friday, I ditched my previous “try new thing” plan and instead joined two old friends for some soup and we laughed and laughed and it was the best goddamn thing I’ve done in a month.
On Saturday, I learned to use a chain saw. If you are a woman and you are reading this and are reasonably in shape, you too can use a chain saw! I mean, have someone teach you. But it’s just not that hard.
On Sunday, I rested. (I mean, I didn’t rest at all because I have young kids and a teaching job and I wrote this blog post and graded a bunch of papers and made some soup and really I didn’t sit down at all so when I say “I rested” I really mean I just didn’t do anything “new.”)
And that was my week. The whole goal of this week was to “try something new every day” because I’m just trying to make it through December and I have been feeling down more than usual lately. I know it’s because it’s December and the whole entire month is fraught for me, but I also know that sometimes I have to kick-start my life to get me to a happier place.
I don’t mean I’m trying to forget Shawn. I remembered him a lot when I learned to use the chain saw, because he taught me how to use a reciprocating saw and it’s really not that different. I remembered him when I learned CPR and thought back to my last CPR class, which I took with Shawn when I was pregnant with Claire, and then I remembered how, after Tommy’s birth, we were glad we’d both learned infant CPR, even though we didn’t have to use it that night. I even remembered Shawn when I was watching the drag queen and thinking about what joy my husband got from other people, even (and maybe especially) when people were totally over-the-top.
I remembered him in all those moments, because he doesn’t leave me.
I guess it’s a bit creepy, in a way. My dead husband’s memory is always with me, even when I’m not exactly thinking about him. It’s more that his presence is there and is a part of me, in a way. Maybe that seems strange to people who haven’t lost a spouse who they’ve known their entire adult life. But Shawn and I grew into adults together, really, so even though he’s gone, he’s still with me. Even when I’m trying new things.
And that, I guess, makes me just a tiny bit mysterious to all of those people out there who haven’t walked in my shoes.
I’ll take it. Dammit, I need something at this point that makes me feel just a little bit interesting, and maybe even sexy. Because most of the time, I think people see the non-mysterious, practical-shoes-wearing, backpack-toting teacher and think, “there’s just another boring girl.”
But this week reminded me that I can be just a little mysterious too.
Image Credit: Becky Hale Photography.