The Weaving

Nope, I’m not imagining it. I’m pretty much dropped from local social life. You could blame my failure to reach out and make wellwishers feel comfortable. You could blame others’ own insecurities or insensitivites. At this point, I’ve stopped assigning blame. I’ve just been facing the fact that I’m treated differently. At first I felt the sting of exclusion, then after living with it for awhile, I felt alienated. Each time I’ve traveled this summer, I felt my heart sink upon returning to this town, where I am treated as a tragic figure, or a heroic mother, or a person who makes others uncomfortable. I can’t say what it is that runs through people’s heads when they run into me, or when they don’t invite me to parties. I just know that I feel objectified rather than a human being. I long to move to a new place, where I can start over, my past unknown, and just be treated as a person.

I can’t go anywhere, though, so here I stay. This got me into a funk, and I’ve been trying to fight it. A few weeks ago, when I started to feel the pangs of loneliness, I reached out to a few friends for coffee, or a movie, or a drink. That was nice, and that sustained me for a little longer.

Last week, when I returned from the utopia road trip, I wrote some cards to relatives and friends. I delivered some gift bags to local friends. I extended myself past my zone of loneliness. It felt good. Then I spent the weekend alone, just me and the kids, invited nowhere, not checked in on. It wasn’t so bad, though. I can extend without expecting anything in return. What’s important is the act of reaching out. I had a lot of cleaning to do. I took some naps. I kept the kids busy. I owed the dogs some good walks. I was left alone but didn’t feel alienated.

I went into the office on Monday after steering clear of the place for all of June and half of July.  The secretary was visibly excited to see me. I was touched. When we emailed later in the day, she finished with, “It was so nice to see you!”  I believe her. And it was so nice to see her, too.

Any social life I had was shattered.  I can admit that I am being treated differently in town. I have to just accept it. I have to accept that my old world was destroyed. It is another loss. There are been so many losses.

But, hey, loss? A world destroyed? I know how to deal with them. You just keep on going. You learn to live without a foundation. Without a foundation, you learn to teeter, and to hang on to the threads around you. You look around and realize that the people in the “inner core” of support are genuine and caring and awfully brave, and that these threads are strong. Then you learn to connect the threads around you. And so you ask a friend out to coffee or a movie. You leap at the opportunity to do favors for them. You throw threads out to the outer rings. When someone exudes love and care, you receive it, return it, sit in that moment together. When someone stops you in the grocery store and asks how you really are, you let them see another layer, assuring them that you’re all okay, but you’re suffering, it’s hard, it’s really so hard. When that someone pauses and says they had a recent family loss…that helps them understand your loss much better now, you read between the lines. You say you’re so sorry. You welcome that person into the circle of grief and the realm of the inexplicable. You know that you should savor these moments, not because you’re a loser and this may be the only time a grown-up talks to you, but because this here is real. This is what your social life looks like now–there is no superficiality about it. The threads that you cast out, the threads that are thrown to you, are real. The bonds are strong, the connections are now twisted into a rope with all your mutual experience. You are weaving a new social life. You know that it’s a good one. And you know that any connection could be cut at any time. And you hold on anyway, throwing, catching, weaving. This is how you do it. This is the rebuilding. You accept that you’ll never get back what you lost. But you can’t imagine what you’re capable of building. It could suck. It could be amazing. But you are so chastened that you stop looking ahead. You toss a thread out. A friend catches it, and you throw back your heads with laughter. This is it. Here, now. You stop lamenting what you don’t have and see what you have, what you can build, what you have already woven.

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10 thoughts on “The Weaving

  1. Wow, what a great metaphor! Looking back on my own widowhood, I realize now that people have cast out threads for me to catch but for one reason or another I didn’t bother to catch them. I liken it to coming out of a flog and finally seeing those threads laying on the ground. I’m guessing most widows come to a time when we’re finally ready to start weaving a new life for ourselves, and to forgive society for not making us the center of their attention. I see so much progress in this post since I first started reading here.

  2. I’m glad you see progress, Jean! I guess I want to make it clear, though (for myself, even), where I’m progressing. This isn’t about friendships (I’ve forged strong ones) or being the center of attention. It’s about living in a small college town and being excluded from standard social life in a place where the social and professional are inextricable. It’s about sitting in a committee meeting and not following the conversation because I wasn’t invited to last weekend’s cocktail party. It’s about being invited to the occasional dinner party and feeling like the people were insufferable. I don’t fit in here. I’ve been excluded, and I’ve removed myself, too, because I’ve been too raw to be superficial. I wasn’t sure how I could survive another few decades here feeling like an outcast. It’s only been in recent weeks that I’ve realized that my friendships on the margin do constitute a social life, and I can build it into something more enduring if I weave together my friendships.

  3. I keep writing different versions of a comment along the lines of “Most dinner parties are pretty boring,” but I’m not sure that’s relevant here. But I believe it to be true.

  4. I can see how being in a small, close knit town would make it tougher to fit in after such a traumatic event like you’ve gone through. Though I wonder if feeling like an outcast and actually being one aren’t two different things. Don’t discount the fact that sometimes others can sense that widows are not ready to socialize so the invitations aren’t forthcoming. Better they should let us decide for ourselves but I don’t think they mean to make us feel isolated and rejected by not giving us that chance.

    A plan to weave together friendships that are on the margin sounds like a plan I should also give some serious thought to doing. People are there and some make overtures but timing is everything when the threads are thrown our way.

  5. That’s a good point, about sensing vs. being an outcast, and it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, so I suspect it is very good advice for me! I’m open to the possibility of a rosier picture than I’ve presented. The good thing, though, is that the horrid feelings of alienation I’ve had the last few months put me in such a low place that I had to claw my way out of it, work through some stuff, and I made some progress. I’m feeling much better about it now.

    We’d discussed on your blog, months ago, the difference between being alone and being lonely. I haven’t been feeling as lonely or excluded this past week or so, even though I still spend a lot of time alone.

  6. In my last blog post, I wrote that I’d lost my voice last week. Reading this, it occurred to me why; with all that I’ve got going on, it was hard to think about anything else, but I also didn’t want to go on about it; much as I couldn’t stop thinking about it all, I didn’t want to talk about it all. Too much me, me, me. What’s happened since Philip died, and particularly more recently, is that I want to reach out, I want to make connection, something I’ve not been at all good at in my past. Last week was a holding pattern.

    So good to read this; thank you.

  7. By the way – this is techie question you probably can’t answer, but I’ll ask anyway. I’m following you, but WordPress hasn’t been notifying me when you post. Any idea why?

    • Thanks Denise. I’m glad you connected with it. I was quite moved by your post this week. We found ourselves in similar places, it seems.

      Has something been wrong with WordPress this week? I went nearly all week without any new posts in my Reader. Either nobody was posting, or something was wrong with WordPress. Other than that, I don’t know anything about their notification process.

      • I’ve been getting new post notifications as well as updates in my Reader. I’m wondering if the problem is between you and WordPress? Maybe you should email them??

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