Moving through the emotional spectrum I arrive at relief and release, and no grief is yet to find her roots in my heart – wandering around in a misty universe.
The constant shadow of keeping alert and being never fully present to where I was when I was away from the house where my love laboured has lifted. A new discipline is being invited in to regulate my outings as I experience a loosening. Others induct me into new spaces and bestow new titles like widow, wife of the deceased, executor of the will – these are unfamiliar roles and I am discovering are endowed with many assumptions.
The assumption that flew like an arrow to my heart this week, was being asked: When did I last have a job in the workforce? Completely gobsmacked I answered by explaining my recent role in palliative care and the death of my love. My response to being asked this question revealed so much to me about what I hold dear. This is my litany and the answer I wish I had given.
I do not define my time by whether I get paid or not. Time is my currency and how I spend it is what matters. It is priceless to spend time with someone you love, be it a sick child, a friend in play, a husband dying. These appear on the balance sheet of life and have no place in an accounting system and their worth goes beyond anything money can buy.
I do not define roles I play as being transactional as a paid employee. All my life I have volunteered, cared for others, walked alongside, acted in solidarity, played. These roles are invaluable and while not monetized they bring a value to the national accounts by public or personal funds not being spent on home care, mental health, housing, the arts. I am never short changed in these roles and have reaped plenty of bounty over the years, and expect to for a long time to come.
I do not know why my grey hair and hitting sixty in a year, is not valued as a sign of knowledge turning into wisdom, experience accumulated over years of trying, testing, learning. This treasure trove of mistakes is at the disposal of my peers and younger generations. It is shared in a spirit of generosity, with no expectation of a return, for it is giving we receive as the saint said. In the giving the gift is already returned through the attention of eager learners and the ability to celebrate others achievements. Why is generosity viewed with suspicion?
I do not know why gender was a factor. and because I cannot imagine a 59 year old man being asked when he last had a full-time job for a role that did not require employment, I think gender was at play. The underbelly of the question implied my passion for equity for all and gender justice was more of a hobby than a life-long pursuit.
I do not know why movement building for systems change at scale is such a big idea – in a week where the same-sex marriage survey results were released – movement building is visible to all. And while there are visible leaders, it is in the grassroots groundswell we all get to see ‘blessed unrest’.
For the record, I haven’t earnt any new money for a couple of months. I am having a break that I give myself, being my own boss I will decide when I go back to that piece of my life. I will continue to volunteer, share my time with all kinds of value exchanges and my movement building activities are cranking up a notch or two. I am not ready to be released from paid transactions and will be returning to those roles in due course.
I doubt I will ever get used to be given the new title of widow. The root of the word widow, comes from an Old English word meaning to be empty and in many cultures was aligned with the concept of being destitute, and in the Latin from viduus – to be bereft was to be widowed. When I was asked that question, my mind raced to these meanings of less than, a vacuum and my life is not like that – it is rich and full, I am sad, not bereft, I am certainly dealing with changes at many levels, but there is relief and release as well.
These new questions apprenticing me into my new state, are joined with the enormous consolations and support, both visible and invisible, holding me through this time. The essence of me is still here, and I am not being diminished but enriched, by these new beginnings. I will take my time. I need to get more practice at holding fast when being defined by the assumptions of others.
My promise to tomorrow is to confidently rest into myself and not be held to definitions of me, made by others. I will remind those who seek answers, that not all transactions are monetary, and the fruits of love and passion give a harvest not measured in dollars. I will test my own assumptions, more often, as no doubt, this is the lesson from that question.