Starting a New Chapter – Emerging from the Cocoon

Image of the butterfly saying that we may need to cocoon before we grow
Cocoon Before Emerging

I haven’t posted for a long time.  It’s been two years this month since my husband died, and I’ve just started a new chapter.

Because of COVID, I spent 380 days mostly alone.   Since nothing much was happening externally, I figured I had nothing much to write about.

Having moved to Florida only 5 years ago with no family nearby, I had no “pod” with whom to shelter in place with. I had a friend I walked with a few evenings a week.  Lots of people I Zoomed with, both friends and clients.  But I ate almost all those 1140 meals alone.  Filled all those many many hours alone.

But as I’ve started to emerge from my cocoon, I realize it helped me to learn a lot about taking care of myself.  The first year without Larry the neighbors rallied round, inviting me to lunches, dinners, parties.  I was living our couples’ life, just alone.  I did a lot of things to fill time without thinking whether I wanted to do them or no.  And some things I did to allow others to feel they were helping me.  I wasn’t spending much time figuring out who I was or what I wanted.

This last year I had plenty of time to think.  To meander through past memories, both good and bad.  To ponder the future.  To explore and experiment with what made ME happy, what foods I liked to eat, what I wanted to do and when.  I had no excuses to make about why I didn’t want to go out.  I didn’t even have the responsibility of deciding whether or not to go out and about.

I started to learn Spanish, played the piano more than I’d had in years, swam laps every day, did hula hoop fitness in the back yard, and did a lot of writing and painting.  I took on a healthcare client who wanted to provide stress relief to their staff and did lots of research on resilience and mindfulness.  I meditated and journaled a lot!  For the first time I joined my art and writing and work with weekly resilience messages coupled with a painting.

I finally decided it was time to move.  I’d known I wouldn’t keep the large house for myself from the beginning but it was lovely to have so much space while I was house bound.  With no family around, the work and cost to maintain it didn’t seem to make sense and Florida was never a forever destination for me.

The problem was I didn’t know where I wanted to move TO.  The 15 months without family made moving close to family seem so much more important than ever before but my kids live in the most expensive cities in the country on the opposite coast!!  I think grief hampers decision making for some of us – everything compared to care giving should feel easy but for some reason making decisions alone seemed hard (even though I had been making decisions alone for years – but with a sounding board that was now gone.)

The work of getting the house ready to sell, choosing how and when to sell, and starting the process of shedding so many possessions was incredibly daunting and had me procrastinating out of fear for many months.  Fear is so sticky – I couldn’t move in any direction.  Finally I decided that if I could find the strength and skills to support my husband while he was deteriorating daily and still find joy for us in each day, then I could support myself through this next big thing!  And I have.  I moved 3 weeks ago.

When feeling fear we have to look at how we’ve come through difficult things in the past, look for our strengths, look for courage to continue to face difficult things.  Without self-pity.  Without carrying a list of all the bad or tough things we’ve had to go through.   But we also have to be compassionate and gentle with the scars we carry.  It’s a fine balance, but the only way to move forward.