Before the dawn?

I went to a Walk to Defeat ALS fundraiser yesterday. That’s a photo of my late wife above. I didn’t know there would be a photo of her on display. And I was kinda floored when I saw it. A bunch of stuff raced through my mind and I walked into the woods to put some thoughts into the ether. As I sat down behind a tree, out of sight of the throngs of people, this is what I wrote:

She was too young for this to happen to her.
I was too young for this to happen to me.
We were all too young for this to happen to us.
Six lives forever altered for no conceivable reason.
I walk alone.
Surrounded by people who have all been damaged by this same tragedy.
Almost nine years.
Why do I still seem unable to move forward?
Or maybe I do.
But I always fall back into the pit.
Or do I jump back into it?
Because it always seems like I bring it on intentionally.
I start something wonderful with an amazing woman.
And blow it all apart, just when it looks like there might be a future there.

I walked back to the banner and stood there. Right on the edge of tears. “Hello”, came a voice from behind me and to my left. I turned to find my therapist standing there. She mentioned that it was the first time she had seen a picture of my wife and wondered when it was taken. We chatted for several minutes. A retired friend from work whose brother had also passed away from ALS came over and joined the conversation.

As things like this tend to do, the topic of conversation drifted into a completely different territory. He triggered a lot of good memories and lightened my mood considerably. After he drifted away the walk started. My therapist walked with me.

I wasn’t walking alone.

We talked about relationships. And jobs. And the destabilization of growing older and losing purpose. Towards the end of the walk I said something to her about not feeling worthy anymore. Like I had nothing to offer and no one needed me. She stopped, looked at me and asked how I could feel that way after Ed had just sung my praises to her not half an hour before! And I realized:

I’ve never had to walk alone.

But I chose to. Over and over again. I push friends away. I push lovers away. I even push my kids away. Because I’ve been wallowing in a world of self-doubt and a crisis of confidence. This isn’t me. This has never been me. I can do anything. I’ve always been able to anything. And I believed that. Until Liz died.

Almost nine years ago.

After the walk I went to visit my sisters. I installed a new kitchen light for them. In the process I realized that this was such a simple task for me that I didn’t even give it a second thought. But it’s something of an onerous challenge to someone who has never done it before. Like my ex-girlfriend. Who was just asking me for a little help with tasks she found overwhelming. Tasks that I believed didn’t merit a second thought.

I blew it all apart over something stupid.

I woke up this morning looking forward. The future is unwritten. Liz’ plans are dust. The ex-girlfriend’s plans are in my past. It’s time for me to compose a new life. It’s time to put the fear of loss into its proper context.

I have nothing left to lose. I’m free. I’ve already lost the most important thing any human being can have. Someone they unequivocally love. I’ve been so blessed as to have had more than one of those. I’ve not only lost it, I’ve driven it away as well. But the future doesn’t have to be like the past.

So, how do I move forward? The same way everyone does. Stepping out of the comfort zone. In my case, the comfort zone became a pit of guilt and self doubt. Causing me to push away anything joyful or positive. I wasn’t exactly killing myself, but I wasn’t letting myself live either. I pulled Liz’ death over my head like a cloak to protect me from life.

So, with all this realization taking place I’m now resolving to do something that scares me. In fact, lots of things that scare me. Things that I’m not certain I have the tools to do. Things that build confidence with every success. Things that will bring back the guy who “isn’t afraid of breaking things” as one of my old bosses once described me.

I’m retiring in about nine months. With only a half baked financial plan for the future. But people leave (and lose) jobs all the time. I’ll figure it out. I’m also making plans to bicycle around Cape Breton Island as one of the last vacations I’ll take from this job.

I’m not making too many detailed plans after that because I know what happens to plans. They go up in smoke, generally to be replaced by whatever it is you’re focusing on. So I’m just going to focus on adventure and joy. ’Cause there’s never too much of either of those in a life well lived.

Thanks for reading.

father, motorcyclist, old retired guy who’s just a little lost on a blue marble corkscrewing its way to oblivion

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