A year ago, not too long after Hubby died, I relocated to Southern California where I learned to stay off the 405 during certain hours; enjoyed fabulous fish tacos from a hole-in-the-wall place on Venice Beach; rode DIL Denise’s pink-rimmed bike to grocery store, beach, post office.
And since that other lifetime ago, I spent three months in New Jersey while SIL Josh and Daughter Summer made two trips to Africa to adopt three little Ugandan brothers.
A week in Puerto Rico with Son Jeremy and DIL Denise. Moved back to central Oregon. Spent ten days walking through Switzerland. Visited Mickey Mouse World in Florida with the grandkidlets.
Thanksgiving in Idaho. Christmas in Jersey. A weekend in Seattle, where Summer and I had a preliminary discussion about meeting up on North Carolina’s Outer Banks this spring.
Maybe the reason this year passed with the blur of light speed is because I’m living it.
Unfortunately, loss is part of living. Loss of a loved one. Loss of health. A way of life. A home. A job. From our cancer and widow experience, here are 10 secrets about the saying-of-yes and the taking-of-risks and the living-of-life with loss:
1. Stay connected. FaceBook has done this amazing thing — it’s connected us to people from our pasts. Old high school friends, previous neighbors, co-workers from that job ten years ago. But here’s the catch: We need to put in an effort to stay connected. Invite people over. Meet friends for coffee/Chai tea. Chat on the phone with those who live far away. Because it’s critically important to have someone to love and to be loved in return.
2. Meet new people. I recently attended an 8-week widow’s grief class with the main objective of meeting other widows. Because I’ve learned that with each new acquaintance, my life is enriched.
3. Try new things. I’d seen these people standing on surf boards with long-handled paddles gliding down the river. And I envisioned dunking myself every time I tried to stand up on one of them. And then in Puerto Rico, the chance to take stand-up paddle board lessons. Talk about fun. Not to mention the exhilaration of beating back nervousness and trying something new.
4. Step outside comfortable places. This sounds like a repeat of #3, but I mean it in a different way. Number 3 is about adventuring; this is more about doing something you’re not comfortable doing — something that will stretch you and perhaps better someone else’s life. Public speaking did this for Hubby and me. The more we spoke, the easier it became. And while we were sharing hope, hope was gently showering down all around us.
5. Look for ways to give back. I was recently asked to serve as volunteer coordinator with the newly-opened Shepherd’s House Women’s Center for homeless women and children. Collecting volunteer applications; conducting phone interviews; running background checks; keeping of spreadsheets. I said yes. And yes was a good thing.
6. Invest in good eating. I’ve given up on cooking. Not because I don’t like cooking, but because it’s not fun to cook for just me. Hence, simple meals. A cheese quesadilla. Broccoli salad. Rice and bean bowl with veggies and avocado. Oh, and popcorn for dinner. At least once a week. Maybe twice. So while I’m not cooking much, what I’m eating is good for me, and I feel strong and energetic and healthy. And this matters.
7. Keep moving. I feel best when I keep a date with the great outdoors. As in, pumping out the miles on a SoCal beach bike, hiking up to Misery Ridge, snow-shoeing out to Todd Lake. Again, good health matters.
8. Maintain a gratitude list. I’ve blogged about counting my way to one thousand, inspired by Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. #370) Sun glinting on basket of fruit. #372) Movie and dinner with girlfriends. #381) Fabulous weekend in Seattle with Summer. #400) Snow falling, even as we speak.
9. See the good that can come out of the not-so-good. It was arm pain; numbness in my left fingers; and the inability to open a Ziploc bag—not a good thing—that brought me back to Oregon for medical attention. Only to realize this is where I left my heart. This is where Hubby and I spent the best ten years of our married life. A good thing.
10. Keep the faith. Our faith undergirded us throughout cancer and into widowhood, and has been strengthened in this hard process. It’s peace-producing to know that Someone larger than I has everything in His capable hands.
Ironically, this list of living-well secrets happens to be similar to our cancer team. What we did for Hubby to live well with cancer is basically what I’m doing to live well alone. And life is good and full. And peaceful and happy.
What about you? You’ve lost something unimaginably irreplaceable. Think about your strategy for persevering into a full and good life. It will take work and commitment, but it’s doable. It’s very doable.
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