I wrote the following post in December 2007. I just read a different post about learning about yourself after your spouse dies, and am struck once again, by how similar feelings and life can be for widows. Regardless of geography, age, social status or any of the other labels we give ourselves. You can read my post below, and hunibuni’s post here.
>Finally, at age 32, I’m getting to know myself. For the first time ever. For almost half my life, I was part of a couple. That’s a pretty big defining factor; I was Mark’s wife, the second half of “MarkandSherry”. Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.
It doesn’t seem to matter how strong, independent, or otherwise self-sufficient someone is, when you have been part of a couple for very long, you become one (and not in a spiritual, lovey-dovey way). So one of the many things that changed when Mark died is that I became a solo entity again. Something I hadn’t been since I was 16.
We all know that at 16 you don’t really know yourself. What are you doing when you’re 16? Hoping that the cute boy will like you? Choosing a college? Worrying that you aren’t getting enough playing time on the basketball team? Copying your math homework from Tara? Choosing your life partner? I knew when I was doing the first four (yes, it’s wrong to cheat off Tara, but it was math!), but had no idea I had found myself a husband! [It’s at times like this when I shake my head at Mark and me, I can’t believe how young we were!].
I lucked out and found a good man. Nope, he wasn’t perfect (as I’ve written many times), but he was a great guy and I loved him. He was good to be the other half of as long as I got to be. But, we grew up together (he was 19 when we started dating), and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for exploring your own interests and thoughts. I know other couples who probably have been able to do this, but Mark and I just did things as a couple when we learned new things. Also, we had a lot of the same interests already (books, music, movies), so it was a pretty natural thing for us to do those things together.
I think the first shocker for me was when I realized that I don’t like to cook. I know, I know, you can’t believe it. It’s true though. Mark and I cooked together all the time. In fact, that was our main hobby together. We’d watch cooking shows and then find a way to experiment with what we had in the fridge and pantry. I became a wicked prep chef. I can chop with the best of them. We laughed and talked when we cooked, so I loved it. Because of my warm fuzzy feelings around cooking, it took me a little while to figure out that I don’t actually like to do it on my own. I appreciate and enjoy good food that others have cooked, but I’m not a big fan of cooking it myself.
After the stunning revelation that I don’t like cooking, I started really trying to figure out what I DID like. Do I like to read? Yes. Do I like movies? Love them! Do I like C.O.P.S.? Hate the show with a passion [I sort of knew this when Mark was alive, but “let” him watch it anyway]. So there are a lot of things I genuinely like to do that Mark and I did together, but there are a lot of differences.
Some of the big, more important, things had to be figured out too. Long before Mark died, I paid all the bills, so luckily I wasn’t one of the widows who have no idea where policies are or how much the rent is. Even though I paid the bills, I was amazed at how often I’d “let” Mark make financial decisions that weren’t great. I say “let” because it was easier to do the fun stuff or buy what we wanted if it was because Mark had made the decision even though I knew in reality that it was a bad choice. After he was gone, I went a little nuts for a few months (stupid credit card), and now I’m paying for choices we made as a couple and the ones I made right after he died. I’ll be paying for those choices for a long time, but I learned that I hate to be in debt, and cannot stand to owe anyone anything. Can not stand it.
Also? I don’t like to sleep with music on; but I do like to read myself to sleep. I don’t like to ask people for help; but always appreciate it when someone does it anyway. Except for a few things, most of the stuff I’ve learned about myself is pretty simple, but it really adds up.
I have a friend who has recently divorced after a lot of years of marriage, and like me, had been with her ex for half her life. She said to me, “It is strange to realize that you are living a life you don’t recognize.” I have a lot of that feeling when I look back at Mark and me, man were we stupid a lot. I do know for sure, though, that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for Mark and the many stupid and wonderful things we did as a unit.
Now that I am by myself, I’m getting to know me. What I like, what I don’t like, my stren
gths, and God knows my weaknesses. It’s an amazing [and scary] thing to learn about yourself. Everyone should try it.