I don’t believe in soulmates. So when I was pouring my heart out to my therapist the other day and she said to me, “It’s so hard for you because Shawn was your soulmate,” I had to stop and say, “no, I don’t believe in soulmates. We just really loved each other.”
I didn’t mean to be rude. She was being empathetic. When people hear me talk about Shawn, they can feel the love in my voice. They can hear about our almost-always-happy marriage. They think, “well, they must have been soulmates.”
But I don’t believe in soulmates. Neither did Shawn. In fact, one time we tried to explain this to his parents (who thought we were terribly unromantic for saying this) and Shawn said, “think about it this way: Marjorie and I wake up every day and we choose each other. What could be more romantic than that?”
And also, what could be more depressing than thinking that my soulmate was gone from this earth and I was left to live out my life, forever adrift? I hurt terribly because Shawn is gone. But what if I thought I’d never, ever again find someone to love? Well, that would probably make the future really hard to bear. I may not find anyone new, but….at least there is some sort of chance that my love life may not be over. And whether or not I find a new love, at least there is some sort of chance that I’ll live a fulfilling life without Shawn.
You know what else I hate hearing? That “everything will work out when you least expect it.” What does that even mean? It’s like some sort of secular version of “God has a plan” (which people have actually said to me about Shawn’s death, if you can believe that!) So, is the idea behind “everything will work out when you least expect it” that I should just sit back, relax, and let life come to me?
Or, worse, that if I’m actively trying to change my life, I’m doing something wrong?
That just doesn’t make any sense. So, under this theory, I’d need to just wallow for some undefined period of time in the bad shit I’ve been dealt? That sounds great. It also sounds like advice someone would give who’s never walked in my shoes.
Listen, maybe it’s true. Maybe there are soulmates. Maybe I shouldn’t be striving so hard. Maybe I need to stop trying to find a new career and a new man and instead sit back and be grateful for the life I had for many years.
But let me tell you who would hate it if I did this: Shawn.
I can imagine a conversation in my head with him. (In fact, I do this a lot. Maybe it’s some sort of weird widow thing because I know other widows who do this.) I think it’d go something like this:
Me: “Maybe it’s better if I just hunker down, focus on the kids and be happy with the life I have right now. Maybe I don’t need the new writing gig. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about fixing the crumbling garage. Maybe I should stop flirting with men when I’m out at bars.”
Shawn: “Are you insane, Marjorie? You’re smart and you’re hot. You didn’t die – I DID! Go out there and LIVE. And dammit, I spent too many years trying to keep that garage in shape for you to let it fall down.”
It always makes me cry to think about these conversations in my head because I can hear Shawn loud and clear. In those moments, he’s alive for me, cheering me on.
“I just know things will turn out for you someday,” said someone kind to me at a school event the other day, “but maybe you need to stop looking for it. When you least expect it…..” I stopped listening at that point.
All of the people who say things like this to me are trying to be compassionate. They are trying to be encouraging. But what does this say about my agency over my own life? What does this say about my own ability to try something new, to strive for a better life, to hope for a future that has career fulfillment and maybe even romantic love?
God doesn’t have a plan, or at least she isn’t that involved in my daily life. God – or the universe, depending on your religious point of view – gave me a brain and an ability to MAKE CHOICES.
And dammit, I’m going to make those choices. I’m done with waiting.
Maybe I’ll start with the garage.