By Diane Kenney
What the hell. I never planned to reinvent myself. In fact, I don’t know what that means. Actually it’s a false premise to say anybody has to reinvent his or herself.
However, when your lifelong partner has to die and leave you behind, you have to make some changes; Invent new ways of doing old things.
This means allowing or encouraging or coaxing myself to change, even if I don’t feel like it and I mostly don’t feel like it. Friends have asked me how this is all working, am I okay? I don’t know for sure.
First of all, I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, what the plan is… or exactly what my “life purpose” is now. Also, I absolutely do not know what anyone else should do in a similar circumstance. I look around me and I see the heroism of so many ordinary people, especially women, after suffering great loss. They get out of bed in the morning, for starters. They inspire me. I see them now in a way that I didn’t before. I keenly recognize that everybody is missing somebody, even though everyone looks pretty normal in the grocery store.
Time, grief and loss all seem quite mysterious to me now.
So where does the reinvention happen? It starts inside, but cannot stop there. I am no longer the person with a beautiful man steadily by my side. I miss him every minute and spend a lot of time alone. Re-runs of Antiques Roadshow are not so bad at all… I go to art events in town and meet up with friends and usually feel so happy that I did, but, admittedly, it is often hard to make myself leave home.
I have to change my pronouns, from plural to singular-at least when speaking about the present or future. I am not reinventing language, just changing my pronouns; however, I do have to reinvent a lot in my life, as a single person. “How strange the change, from major to minor…” as the love song goes.
The challenge is to change and transform grief into gratitude, or at least recognize that they are joined together, my new housemates. My heart needs to catch up with my head on this issue.
From the sublime to the mundane, some things I have to reinvent are: How to get the trash out, how to stay on top of snow shoveling, how to shop and cook for one person (also, why should I bother), how to spend holidays, how to never have to back the car all the way down the driveway, how to carry heavy stuff, how to be in public alone. Who is my emergency contact when I have to fill out a medical form? How to ask for help without being needy or acting helpless.
Reinvention is too inflated a term for this ongoing transformative process. I made a decision to try to experience this new chapter of my life, as an observant student. I am trying to take note of the fullness of the experience. I am asking myself to pay attention like never before to this drastic life change. I am asking, “What is this like?” And this is where I have to say, I know that I am SO not alone in this kind of loss. I am not special. I am simply (suddenly it seems) an older woman whose husband passed away.
The part of this that has to do with reinvention, perhaps, is that this experience is fertile ground for other words that start with “RE”, like resilience, rejuvenation, rebirth, recollection, rethinking, remembrance and reinvigoration. I am hoping for some reinvention in my own work as an artist. I also want to humbly practice compassion for others going through a similar process. I do not have answers, but I can share the journey.
“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for one another?” -George Eliot
Diane Kenney is a long time Crystal Valley resident. She is an artist, teacher, active Carbondale community member and founder of the Carbondale Clay Center. She is currently trying to reconfigure her life after the death of her husband, John McCormick.