Today I attended one of those all-day meetings we usually dread. Mine was actually quite nice and I had an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend, pray with a peer facing surgery and take in some pretty inspirational stuff. Not a bad day all in all....until my way out the door. I was leaving at dinner time and just happened to hit the door at the same time as another pastor friend. He held the door and quite corgially said "hello", and asked me how I was doing. I replied, "Oh just fine." And wishing to be honest (as honest as superficial smalltalk will allow) I qualified the answer with, "Just fine...for a widow". I chuckled and so did he. And then he said, "Well that's good, I guess, if that's your point of reference".
HMMM. That definitely falls under the category of "things that make you go Hmmmmm.
So I did that most of the drive home which took the greater part of an hour. That's a lot of hmmmmming. Here's what all that reflection produced:
That pastor friend is a kind and considerate man and I believe his comment was genuine puzzlement not judgement or indifference. I trust his heart to be true.
Nevertheless, the phrase "point of reference" is a curious statement. Does it mean that if I would just choose not to think of myself as a widow I wouldn't be one or at least not live in its reality? Widowhood IS my reality. I am reminded of it the moment I open my eyes in the morning and it is the last thing I am reminded of as I lay my head on my pillow at night. And all throughout the day in dozens of ways I make choices with that point of reference. Because I am a widow I drive to most places alone and often eat at restaurants alone. These events are just reality and most of the time that reality doesn't make me sad or angry - it just is. I deal with that with a matter-of-fact, positive attitude.... most of the time.
But make no mistake about it, it is my point of reference. I can no more forget I am a widow than I can forget I am a woman or a redhead or an American. It is what I live every moment of every day. To think by simply changing my perspective I can live above or aside from my widow status is naive. If I am anything, I am a realist and I try to live with both feet firmly grounded in reality.
Now widowhood is not who I am. We are far more than the titles we hold or the roles we play and those titles and roles change with the seasons of life. Five years ago I was a full-time wife and mother; Now my children are adults and I am not a wife.
I am a widow and sometimes that makes me sad or lonely or a bit frustrated but so does being broke or being overweight or being over 50. Life is full of hard stuff and being a widow is hard stuff. But for all the hard stuff of life I do believe I'm doing "just fine".
Perhaps the next time someone asks me how I'm doing I'll just tell them what they want to hear and not qualify the answer with a hint of reality.
And then again... probably not! I will continue to try and "keep it real" as I share my life with others. For some that will be uncomfortable. For some it will be an invitation to share their reality with me and I consider it a privilege anytime someone trust me enough to "be real" with me about their life. It's a sacred kind of thing and I pray God helps me to respond with understanding and compassion. Before widowhood I know I did not always respond to other's hurts as I should. Widowhood has helped me to "get a clue" and that's a good thing. You see, I really am doing just fine...for a widow. How about you?
Keeping it real,