I slipped into the last spot on the elevator going up to my hotel room last week. As I fumbled in my purse for my room key (so I could push the button to my floor) the man standing next to me said, “quick! You better show us your room key so we know you are allowed up!”
He meant it as a joke, but it felt like a strange thing to say, and I sort-of half smiled/half frowned at him while continuing to rifle through my purse. He beamed at the other people on the elevator, who were clearly friends of his. I got off at my floor, and when I exited I heard him say, “well! I think I scared her!”
I almost turned around and said, “duuuuuude. Seriously. You did not scare me. I’m a widow for chrissake. Nothing scares me.”
It’s true, in a way. Once you’ve held the love of your life in your arms and watched him die – well, nothing can really be much worse than that. I mean, really, elevator guy, do you think I’m so easily spooked? Or so worried about how I might come across to others? Do you think I worry about that stuff anymore?
I don’t. And in that way, I’m scared of nothing. Yes, I could lose my job or have my car break down. People could think I was desperate or crazy when they read my writing. I could get turned down for a promotion. Someone could get sick and I might have to miss a lot of work. All of those scenarios would suck, but at the end of the day, I’d make my way through it. I know I’d survive it because I survived the worst thing ever. Hence, under this logic, I can survive whatever it is that may be thrown at me.
Except sometimes I’m not actually that strong. Sometimes, I cower at the idea of going out on my own to a restaurant. I worry about how I’ll feel, and whether I might cry. Sometimes I avoid those parties where I know I’ll be the only single person, because I’m nervous that I’ll feel out-of-place. Sometimes a rude comment by a stranger can ruin my day, so I try to appear to be the perfect mother.
Sometimes, it seems, I’m scared of everything.
Take dating. In a way, I’m not scared of dating. So what if I get rejected by a man? I know I was loved deeply. I know I was desired. I know I was perfect for someone, once. So if I meet a man I like who doesn’t like me? Well, who cares.
But then, I could fall for a man and give him a bit of my heart and it could be crushed. Not as badly as before, but still, my soul is fragile in many ways. I am scared of getting hurt and that makes me think I actually don’t ever want to date again.
Or take parenting. Sometimes, I don’t worry about the little things. So what if my kid does something annoying or obnoxious? So what if they have to endure a few slights? It won’t be as bad as losing their father, so I know they’ll survive it.
But then, one of my kids could really get hurt by someone, and because they are my everything, it would crush me. If something actually tore at one of their hearts, well, it’s terrifying to think about how I might react.
Or take simply living on this planet. In so many ways, I’m not scared of living a full life – of eating great food and laughing at the bar with old friends and taking trips to far off places. I’m not scared because I know that time is short and I have to live. I have to enjoy whatever time it is that I have here on this earth.
But then I remember the thing that scares me the most. If I decide to live – to really live – and build a life that brings me joy and happiness, I’ll have to do it without Shawn. Finding real happiness, the kind where I’m living so fully that I don’t think about the sadness of losing Shawn quite as often….well, that’s actually quite scary.
I’m a widow.
I’m scared of nothing.
And I’m scared of everything.