A new interpretation of maladies

Joey Garcia

Three years ago, my husband of 41 years got up in the middle of the night, walked down the street and shot himself. He had a chronic illness that was getting worse; I understand that he could not longer go on with his courageous struggle. Even so, this experience has wiped me out. I moved out of the house we shared into a home near a creek. I have also been seeing a therapist. My children and grandchildren are busy with their lives, and I feel lost and lonely. Before he killed himself, my husband held me and said: “This is goodbye.” I was so exhausted from his care that I did not process the words. How could I sleep through this and get up to make coffee while my husband was lying in the rain? I know I need to let go and that I cannot control another person’s path. What, if anything, can I do to regain peace and my faith in life and love?

Serenity will be restored when you stop arguing against reality. By blaming yourself for not knowing that your husband left the house and ended his life, you are fighting against facts. Insisting that you should have interpreted your husband’s words as a foreshadowing of suicide is arguing that what happened should not have happened. Honey, the facts won’t change. But if your interpretation of that day does, you will be healed. Begin here: You are human. You are not an omniscient god. Stop criticizing yourself for having a human response to a human experience.

And speaking of the divine, if you are a true believer in God, act accordingly. That means it is impossible to be lonely if you accept that God is always with you. Talk to God, not as a child does, asking for material things or a good life. Treating God like a great genius is a very immature form of spirituality. Instead, chat with God as you would with any good friend. In this way you will learn that your task here on Earth is to be a co-worker with God and then, to seamlessly become one with God, surrendering your will and allowing God to work through you consistently (admittedly, few people ever embody that possibility). If you do not believe in God, it is still impossible to be lonely. There are birds to sing with, roses to receive kisses from and praying mantises to converse with. There are plants and trees, stones and creatures surrounding us, ready to befriend us. Sound crazy? Yes, when your heart has been broken open, it is a crazy kind of love to choose to let it remain unlocked so you can fall in love with life and everything in it.

That doesn’t mean that you should not grieve. Healthy grieving means that we admit that we are profoundly wounded and are, at times, flooded with feelings of despair, anger, sadness, depression or confusion. Those feelings need expression. Share them with your journal or with God, nature, a friend or your therapist. Then, continue taking steps forward. If your children and grandchildren are busy, be joyful that their lives are so full. Don’t imagine that you should be on their schedules (that’s arguing with reality again). Invite yourself to notice and be grateful for having children and grandchildren. Then, expand your circle of gratitude. As you encounter “strangers” remind yourself that each one is kin in the greater circle of the human family. Wait until your heart welcomes that truth, until you feel it filling you with bliss. If you do, eventually your suffering will be healed, and you will have become a wise and content woman.

Meditation of the week
“The only journey is the one within,” wrote the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Where is your life map leading you?

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