I was talking to a friend the other day about our lives, and the changes that have come with the start of the school year. We both admitted that the past few weeks have seemed harder than expected. We recognized that things could be far worse – we both had our health and our kids and our jobs. But something seems to have shifted as the autumn approaches. It’s hard to put my finger on, exactly, but I think it’s this realization:
This is just my life now, isn’t it?
Sure, maybe we will get it together as a country and manage to combat the coronavirus in the next few months and then we’ll all be able to go back to normal life. But really, in all likelihood, we’re facing this life – the one where everyone feels stretched to the brink – for a long time.
It’s hard to face that reality. It’s the one that says, this is the life I’m going to be leading for a long time.
In many ways, it’s a lesson I’ve already learned in widowhood. The early days were horrible of course, but they had a simplicity about them. Just get through each day, and then face the next one. Don’t think about the future. Manage this hour, and then the next hour, and then the rest of the day, and then repeat. I honestly never thought much about anything other than the immediate future for months. In many ways, early widowhood was a state of exception.
But there came a day when I woke up and thought, “my God, this is just my life now, isn’t it?” I am just going to keep living these painful days over and over again. Shawn isn’t coming back. I’m a single mom. Everything in my children’s lives depends on me. No one else is going to fix the clogged toilet. I have to pay all the bills. I cannot lose my job. I will be alone for a long time, and maybe forever.
I realized, in essence, that those days – the ones I was just barely getting through – they were starting to comprise my life. The future wasn’t something else. It was this.
It was a hard realization.
What I was figuring out was that my life wasn’t ever going to be like it once had been. The state of exception of early widowhood was over and I was looking at a future that was forever altered. Over and over in my head I repeated the same words:
This is hard.
This is painful.
This is real.
I guess what I didn’t appreciate was that life would eventually change. The kids would get bigger and easier. The grief would ease, at least somewhat. I would date again and I would find a way to make new meaning out of my life.
But in those early days, I couldn’t see how life would be years from then. I could only see the immediate future, and it looked almost impossible. I had to accept that the hard parts weren’t going to go away anytime soon.
That’s tough to do. Obviously.
So right now, I think it’s okay to admit that life feels difficult. It’s not that things are that much harder than they were a month or two ago. It’s that this “state of exception” of the early days of the pandemic is over, and much of the hardship of life remains. The pain we’re all feeling is just life now. And it seems like it’s never-ending.
It will be different, someday. Whether you’re a widow or not, time passes and life changes. It’s the one thing I could say was true back then, and it remains true now. Someday, things will be different.
But damn it’s not easy right now.