Don’t you just hate it when you can’t fall asleep? Every once in a while I’ll have a night (or two or three in a row) where every fear or fright from the past, present and future makes it presence in my brain and no matter how many tricks I use to try to clear my mind so I can asleep, they don’t work. Last night I was up wandering the house several times with only the soft glow of a nightlight in every room to keep me company. First it was three o’clock in the morning, then four, and earlier I’d ready tried meditation, mindless games of solitaire, counting sheep (there were 200 in the bedroom when I gave up), making warm milk, and raiding the refrigerator. Thank goodness I made sugar-free chocolate pudding earlier in the day.
At one point in the night I concluded that I’m profoundly lonely. Yes, Virginia, a widow can look like she’s doing all the right things to go on with her life but looks don’t always tell the whole story. I can take care of business of living like every other person on earth. I can go to one social event after another and make small talk with the best of them but that doesn’t stop the emptiness of knowing that everyone who knew me inside and out is dead. Everyone who loved me unconditionally is dead---well, except for the dog but he’s a schnauzer and they are not known for having affectionate personalities. Levi is no exception. If I want to hold him, he has a three minute rule, and then he’s off making the rounds of the windows. Varmint patrol---searching for birds, rabbits, cats and squirrels that might attack the house---is his life and no widow’s woes are going to stand in the way of his destiny and sworn duty as the Dog of the House.
The rational side of me knows there are other people besides the dog who care about me and my well-being---a brother, nieces, a nephew, in-laws and a few life-long friends but their lives are busy and full and we only see each other in the rhythm assigned by the gods of family and friends to those types of relationships. But rational thought does not rule a sleepless night and then there is Facebook. Like a voyeur at a window you get to see firsthand how crazy busy and/or happy your Facebook contacts are and if the stars are lined up just right that can make you feel even lonelier than you were before tacking your happy little notes at the bottom of their postings. I have one niece who refuses to use Facebook and guess what, she’s the one person who will text or call me for no reason at all. If the math works, you must condemn social media and pronoun it guilty of being bad for one-on-one human contact.
At the culinary college luncheon I went to last week there was a classy looking woman at my table who’d been widowed about the same time that I was and she was happily chatting up her “significant other” a guy who apparently takes her to a LOT of nice places and loves to cook for her. On my left was another woman who’d been divorced for several decades and still seems to be carrying around a lot of anger about it. The other three women sharing the table were all in various stages of widowhood. Sisters in Arms, all acting happy and companionable as we traded small talk. Small talk. I get so tired of small talk. I want a REAL conversation someday. Even in the last twelve years of my husband’s life when his language was limited to a couple of dozen words I could actually have better, in-depth conversations with him than with all the people I’ve met since his passing. And that came from decades of knowing how he thought. I could literally put words in his mouth for him to verify or reject.
What’s it going to take to make me happy again? Not fake happy like so many of us widows pretend to be when we’re out and about trying to form new friendship or are interacting with family and friends. Real happiness that helps you sleep at night and wake up in the morning knowing that you are loved and will be missed when you are gone? Of course we all know that happiness has to come from within, you can’t hang your well-being on another person. It’s a hard and fast rule written in stone and as old as the other rules written on stone tablets. And a rule that is hard to swallow in the middle of a long, sleepless night. ©