I just finished mowing the lawn.  I thought the saying was “third time’s the charm.”  Well this was the third time, and I was just as nervous and shaky as the first two times.  It’s a riding mower.  Isn’t that supposed to be easy?  So why do I get so scared on the hilly bits – and there are a lot of those – and why do I feel like I’ve run a marathon when I’m done?  Not that I’ve ever run a marathon or would run a marathon, but it’s how I imagine one would feel.  The irony that I’ve protected my skin from the sun for most of my sixty-two years only to be forced into the sun to mow the lawn is not lost on me.

This is the new normal.  It’s what happens when a marriage dies.  Thirty-four years together and I always thought that it was forever, till we were old – ok, older – and gray – ok, grayer.  A month ago I never imagined this.  And that is how quickly a new normal can come to be.

So now it’s mowing lawns and trying to remember what shuts off the water should something blow and getting used to being alone at night.  The last is the easiest, except for the quick terror when the dog looks at the window when it’s pitch black outside and growls and barks like he’s seen the devil out there.  Lots of outside lights and a gun erase that momentary panic fairly quickly, though.  Other than that, being alone is not so bad when you don’t mind your own company, and I don’t.  I’ve never been one to be bored either, and in fact could never understand how anyone could ever say they are bored.  I feel I have never had enough time, and still feel that way.  So many things to do that I already know I love, and even more to try.  The worst thing of this new normal is the fear of what the future holds.  Or more precisely, not knowing what the future holds.  Clearly that was an illusion all these years anyway, so what has really changed?

It would be easy to just curl up in a ball and give in to feelings of despair.  And there were times initially, when I was alone, that just a quick thought of what was happening would make me cry.  But you know, despair is overrated.  Fine to cry and carry on for brief spells when you just can’t do otherwise, but I think despair just makes you more miserable.  So I’ve been forcing myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone.  A visit to the senior center just to meet a few people and see what it was like.  Applying for a job (it’s been thirty-four years).  Using an ATM for the first time EVER.  A road trip to pick up a couple of birds.  I know – none of these are earth-shattering accomplishments, but every time I force myself to do something out of my comfort zone it is an accomplishment.  Setting small goals and actually doing them does wonders for your self-esteem and self-confidence.  I used to be fierce, oh so many years ago, and I want some of that back.  I need it back.  And I’m getting it back.

The biggest goal now is to try to stay here.  I am a homebody.  I love my home, my pets, my stuff.  I have lived here for almost thirty-three years, and I love this spot.  It’s peaceful, quiet, and beautiful.  Right now I don’t know if I will be able to stay or not, but I know I can make it through till spring, and after that I will reassess my options.  A lot can happen in the coming months.  Who knows what may come from this new normal of mine.

I was reminded this morning of an article I read once.  They did studies and found that when you are happy, a smile is automatic due to your brain.  I believe it was that the chemicals released by your brain when you are happy just trigger the smile.  Something like that.  The point of the article was that it also works the other way.  If you plaster a smile on your face – whether you are feeling it or not – that will tell your brain that you are happy.  If your brain thinks you’re happy, those same chemicals will be released and then you WILL be happy!  How perfect is that?  The old “fake it till you make it” has a real basis in science.  So I’m vowing to be more aware of my expression, and wear a smile as often as possible.  Besides, it’s a great fashion accessory and it’s cheap.  And it goes with everything.


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