“…cause it’s a long road to wisdom but it’s a short one to being ignored…”
~Flowers in Your Hair, The Lumineers
Driving to San Diego is one of my favorite things. I love getting up early to travel the empty highways. I love the way the landscape changes as we ascend the dry, desert mountains on the Arizona side toward the moist, lush, green mountains on the San Diego side. I love the descent into the cooler, summer weather. I love the way my boys sit in the back seat together watching movies, reading, or listening to music. My big huddled with my little gazing out the windows excitedly waiting for vacation to begin…even though it already has.
I love driving. I love listening to music and watching the road speed by me. I listen to old, to new, rock, alternative, country, R&B, well, pretty much anything. I listened to The Lumineers for a while this time on the drive. I was thinking about the upcoming weekend and the upcoming experience at Camp Widow West while the music played. When Flowers in Your Hair played, a line of the lyrics got stuck in my mind: “…cause it’s a long road to wisdom but it’s a short one to being ignored…”
Throughout the weekend these words kept creeping back in to my mind. Since Dave’s death, it has been a very long road for me. Now I’m not saying that I am full of wisdom, but I am working on gaining some. It’s not really wisdom of knowledge I seek, but wisdom of the soul. This wisdom I value is the understanding of pain, love, joy, sadness and survival. I have worked very hard to come back to life over the past eight years. I did not want to come back to life in the first year or so. I wanted to go back and be with Dave. All I wanted was him to be with me…for him to be here… not dead. It was a very, very long time before I could even admit to myself that I wanted to survive and be happy again. In finding that truth and admitting it, I wanted to find the wisdom of surviving a heartbreak that I thought would be the end of me.
One of the paths of wisdom I chose was writing again. I also chose reading the words of those with similar loss, pain, and hope. I found Widow’s Voice http://widowsvoice-sslf.blogspot.com/ shortly after beginning my own blog. I was inspired by the truth shared. I was inspired by the openness in sharing loss. In my real world it was very often hard to share the truth and pain that was always lurking in my heart. When I shared my deepest pain, fears and loss it made my people around me worry. When I wrote it down and shared it with the widowed community, it helped. It helped me. It helped a few others.
Sharing with the widowed community through my writing lessened my need to share about my heartache publicly, verbally. I let my blog be the main voice of my grief. With that simple act, I decided to become more of a listener than a speaker. Now for those who know me…this is a difficult act…I’m quite the chatterbox…but, nonetheless, over the past years, I have tried to listen more than speak. When I think of the lyrics that stuck in my head, I think of this. Early on when all I could do is share my story with the people around me, I soon felt ignored. I felt like they couldn’t listen to me anymore. I felt isolated…hence, the name of this blog…I felt like I was out on an island alone with no way off.
So, this last week when I went to San Diego as a volunteer, I went hoping to be a listener. Now, I’m not sure how well I actually did it, but I heard the stories of many women and a few men. They openly shared their journey with me whether we were strangers, acquaintances or friends. I witnessed courage in many ways. I witnessed pain and joy, tears and smiles. My biggest hope is that one widowed person felt heard. I wanted to be a soul who really listened to their story, their pain, their struggles, their triumphs and successes. I wanted one less widowed person to feel isolated, alone.
I’ve worked so hard on my own stuff, that I was able to listen and it was about listening to them…not their words setting off my own stuff. I heard them, not me echoing in their words. Although there is always an element of this, it wasn’t about me; it was about the person in front of me who blessed me with their presence, their story.
I think part of the true wisdom of Camp Widow West and East is the gathering itself. The bringing together of people who don’t really want to see anyone or go anywhere because of their broken hearts and wounded souls. There is such wisdom in being present to another person, even if no words are spoken. This gathering is one of the only places in my life that I feel truly embraced with all my widow scars. I don’t scare anyone there or make them uncomfortable. I am not scared by their stories and am anxious to hear them share their wisdom, brokenness, the ways they heal themselves, the ways they survive every day.
I come home from San Diego wiser than I was when I left. This is not because I did anything in particular…I just went. I stood and sold t-shirts and books and listened. I was there…it’s really that simple. I just went. For those of you who haven’t gone yet, it is worth the trip. For those of you, who shared your story with me in San Diego and share your story with me here, thank you! You inspire me and give me hope. It is through our solidarity that we gain the wisdom of survival and hopefully peace of mind and soul.
It’s a long, difficult road, but in the end, the wisdom and understanding gained has changed me for the better. It is a change that I wish had been triggered by something other than the death of my husband…but, once I was able to breathe again, it is a road I now travel willingly because I know I am not alone on this journey anymore.