Firstly let me apologise for the length of this post. Please don’t read it if it’s too long for you. I know I look at some blog post and think, “ain’t got time for that”. I totally ramble on and on, but I’m leaving it how it is, cause it shows my processing, and how I get to where I (eventually) end up.
I was aware when I became widowed that this would throw my life into the air and it was destined to lead to me inevitably pouring over and investigating every part of my shattered life that remained. I also suspected that I was being dropped in a minefield (figuratively speaking). Imagine all the things you potentially could discover when you think through the different parts and things that have happened in your life when you have gone out of your way not to do that at every stage. It’s not an easy process but it felt inevitable given everything that happened with John and my sister Paula. I was pretty scared if I’m honest, but I’ve learnt that if something causes me to fear then I should look it square in the face. That is a new development. I used to bury my head in the sand, I still do with many things but I am much better than I was, it might take me a while but I will face up to things eventually now. I have stepped on a few landmines this year or so along the way. And yet part of me knows that the impulsion behind those mistakes came from a desire to be honest with myself and to find a real authenticity that I have always felt I don’t have. What the people I admire the most hold in common is that they are authentic, and whenever I see a certain level of authenticity in someone it’s like my heart comes alive and I yearn for it for me. I wish I could not be so ambiguous as I feel I am being and totally contradicting exactly what I am saying. On one hand, I say I want total authenticity and integrity and on the other, I write ambiguous posts on my blog and social media. Yeah still got a long way to go then. I have always maintained since the moment John passed away how conflicted I feel, about so so so many things. Clearly, that hasn’t changed. Or has it? Many things have changed for me, and in me too, not least the way I think and feel about the world and theology, but what I am realising as I type that hasn’t changed is my pride. I am prideful, I always have been. I haven’t figured out why. It was pride that held me back from God as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had never really felt loved other than by my Gran when I was a child, and it took years of being a Christian for me to finally acknowledge that. Then my pride held me back for years from admitting that I never felt loved by God, and when my pride finally let me admit that a tangible, visible and I think measurable healing began to take place. I had and still have pride that I was married, and I’m not saying that is a bad thing necessarily, of course I love that I was married and I loved John with every ounce of my being, however, the level of my pride about my marriage is inflated beyond maybe what it should be, and that is me being totally honest. Marriage to me may have been an idol. There I said it. I can’t believe I have said that and my pride is kicking off. All I ever wanted to do was be married. From the moment I realised that marriage didn’t have to be like what I had witnessed from growing up I wanted it. I wanted to feel close to someone, to love and cherish someone, for someone to love and cherish me back. And when I became a Christian that was my prayer, week in and week out. I have witnesses to this. The only answer to my longings I believed was marriage. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that my marriage was a mistake, no not at all. It most definitely was one of the best things ever, truly it was and I loved it, even the really hard bits. We didn’t have the perfect marriage, is there such a thing? But we had an amazing life together and we both totally adored each other and I am not taking anything away from that. But I was proud, beyond proud that I was married and our marriage wasn’t like what I had seen growing up, proud that here I was a married woman and my marriage was strong, proud that I was married and happy, blissfully so. And this may be an overshare or a little on the edge but I know I would have done anything, anything at all to stay married. It may be unfair to say this but it also may be absolutely on the nose that I used being married as an easy route to know who I was. I was a married lady, who was gonna follow her husband wherever he went. Please know I dont think that’s necessarily a bad thing, there are people who that is right for some people and thats honourable. What is not honourable which is what I am trying to articulate is using marriage as a tool to avoid having to think about who you are and what you want to do and be. John and our marriage provided all the answers I could ever need. Who was I? John’s wife. What was I gonna do? Whatever John was doing. What was I gonna believe? Whatever John believed. What was I gonna think? Mostly what John thought. (There was the odd occasion I didn’t think like him but it was fairly rare… he would totally 100 per cent disagree with this statement! Ha!) but he was such a kind, tender generous soul, why would I not want to think like he did? I put all my identity into our marriage and I knew it and I was relieved when we got married that I had found a way to not have to know what I was about and who I was and what I wanted cause now I could have it all handed to me on a plate by someone else. So when John dies guess what? My whole identity is lost. I think you can see me realising and acknowledging this throughout my various blog posts. A question that bothers me is, how come other people seem to have this identity thing more on lockdown, why has it taken me until I’m 37 to do this? I have looked over my life and I think its not just one thing. I think maybe my childhood was too turbulent and I didn’t get the chance with all the stuff that went on with my mum and dad fighting and their alcoholism. All my focus was on just getting through one day after the next as a balanced human being. After that, I guess at every opportunity I had to work this stuff out I sidestepped. Why? Always comes down to one thing: Fear. I was (still am if I’m honest…) frightened that there is no good in me and I will never come to anything good. I am useless and have nothing to offer. I’m just weak and can do nothing right and everything I think or do is a mistake. It haunts me all the time, it wakes me in the middle of the night, it lurks throughout the day… and I worry this is false humility… wow, complicated. What I have been learning the past year or so is in direct competition with my fears, when I have looked back honestly over my life I haven’t found someone who is weak, I also haven’t found someone who has made terribly awful decisions, yes, of course, I have made some and some absolutely massive ones, but haven’t we all? But not as many as my inner narrative wishes to tell me. And I have realised the decisions where I have had no option other than to trust my own decision have 9 times out of ten been absolutely the right and the best outcomes have happened because of them. Woah, Woah, what about the Lord? I hear you say. What about Him in the decision-making process?. Yes, of course, He was there in it, as He is with everything, right beside me in the good decisions and the bad ones. Sometimes He doesn’t say anything though, and in the times he hasn’t, looking back I still made the right call. This is somewhat of a relief, but then I skirt with not wanting to become puffed up and proud at myself… vicious cycles all round. Where is this all heading? I think it’s fair to say I can look back on my life and recognise which were the good decisions and which were not because they were made out of fear. I am currently reevaluating a decision I made totally out of fear many many years ago and looking at what some of the consequences of that decision are. Since I have looked this thing square in the face and not been afraid it is akin to a part of me that has been silenced, bound and kept in a far distant corner being rescued and cared for. I know ambiguity is reigning again now and, to be honest, it has to as I am still processing and evaluating all that I am discovering about who I am and how I operate. So, for now, you shall just have to accept my authentic ambiguity.