There was a point where writing was my main activity outside of work. Too exhausted to talk to friends, too snot covered to go out without looking like a crazy lady, too heartbroken to even sing in the shower, I retreated to my bed with my laptop to spill my soul to you – strangers on the internet. Gradually, I let snippets of joy re-enter my life. I promised myself I wouldn’t let my wife’s death define me. I was 27 when I was widowed and I was going to make damn sure that I had things to look forward to. Here I am, a year after I started blogging (here’s the first ever post!), and two and a half years after the worst day of my life. I’m truly happy. I’m alive. I miss my wife, but I love my life and it wouldn’t be like this if she hadn’t died. I got myself to this point. Nobody else. Me (and some wine).
The first foray into ‘normal’ life was to get back on the horse and start dating again. I could never fill the gap, but at least I could have some fun. My Tinder tales (here), of women with overly right-wing views and raised in a cult (this one), may have been ridiculous but they reminded me that I am desirable and that it’s ok to have sex, even thought it’s not with my wife. My boobs are still perky and my vajayjay still screams, ‘fuck me now!’. It’s biology. Grief isn’t getting in the way of that. I accepted it and stopped feeling guilty.
The second was to travel. As I gallivanted across the globe solo and accumulated thousands of air miles, I felt the confidence creeping back into my life. ‘I can do this shit,’ I’d think to myself every time I successfully stretched to apply suntan lotion on the hard-to-reach bits, didn’t get trampled to death by an elephant in Thailand, or won back ten dollars on a Vegas slot machine. Every time I struck up conversation with a stranger, I’d be amazed I was actually having a conversation, rather than reciting the monologue about my wife’s suicide that I’d told far too many times before. OK, so I had some dodgy moments like waking up naked in my hotel room with the door wide open, but you live and learn.
I met my mentor, a retired retail chain CEO, while sailing in the Caribbean and despite him witnessing me drunkenly singing atop a baby grand piano in a luxury resort, he spotted my potential and has coached me through tricky conversations, helping me find direction (see these posts). My job may not be perfect, but I’m present. I’m contributing. Sometimes I actually churn out some good shit. It’s only taken me thirty years, but the other day I figured out how to do conditional formatting on an excel. #TechnicalSkills. My accountant late wife would have been proud / appalled it took me so long. Widow brain fuzz slowed me down for a long time, but it rears its head only occasionally now. I’m looking to move on and change industry, building on my experience – that’s an exciting, rather than exhausting thought.
Re-connecting with the old me, the attention-loving performer who adores the stage was one of the best things I ever did. If you are a widow reading this, I urge you to cast your mind back to the time before you met your late other half. Happiness cannot possibly derive just from one person. Figuring out where the happiness came from before I met my wife reinforced the fact I objectively knew was true, but subjectively didn’t believe yet – that life can be happy even though the worst happened. I sang. I sang and sang and sang. I did intimate gigs. I sang to myself walking down the street. I sang to 3000 people and a giant dinosaur skeleton at the Natural History Museum (this post). I did way more karaoke in a year than most people do in a lifetime. When I sing, the world stops and I’m 100% in the moment. I’m not the widow. I’m not the girl from the UK. I’m not the adulteress. I’m me. Pure, raw, buzzing me, and I love her.
What I’m most proud of is that I’ve given myself permission to fall in love again. I teeter on the edge of feeling guilty sometimes and perhaps I talk about my late wife a little more than I should with my girlfriend, but if you ask me whose arms I prefer being in, I truly can’t make the decision. I love my girlfriend, and I love my wife.
I recently conquered my first wedding since my own . It was terrifying, especially seeing as the bride had me singing STRAIGHT AFTER THE VOWS. I spent the whole ceremony shivering and shitting myself with nerves with my girlfriend holding my clammy hand as I did the rap from the Spice Girls’ Wannabe in my head to avoid engaging with what was being said at the front. It got to ‘my bit’ and I sang without bawling. I didn’t even shed a tear! It’s one of my proudest performances, even though my singing was crap. When I sat back down, my girlfriend was silently crying. She never cries. They were tears of pride, she said. As I whispered that I love her into her ear, I felt my heart soar. I’m not alone in my journey anymore.
I’m conscious that this post may come across as boastful. I’ve never been one to be modest, I confess, but what I really want to convey, especially to people who have suffered a massive setback, is that life gets good again. However, you have to believe it can happen and go and seek the joy out. It’s not going to land on your lap. That’s why I’ve been largely silent here. I think that’s a wonderful reason, don’t you?