California, USA
August 10
When I figure it out I'll add it, one blog at a time. I illustrated "Travel Tales I Couldn't Put in the Guidebooks" written by Lea Lane. You can get it at Amazon and on Kindle!


BuffyW's Links

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 12, 2010 11:37AM

Separating the Me from Us.

Rate: 61 Flag


I never gave much thought about who I am, until lately.  To be fair, more like when my husband died.


Things become so ingrained, so subtly infused with “us”, the couple we were it was often hard to see where one begins and the other ends.  Yes, two do become as one...if you are lucky.


But, what happens when you break up or when one of you dies?  You are left with layers of each other’s likes and dislikes, good and bad habits until you become the onion, crying with each cut, wondering how many layers you will have to peel off to find the core of you, the essence of who you are, who you can now build upon to become the complete you.


For me, I am finding just how much of myself I willingly, but stealthily turned over in my ongoing effort to making my husband a complete man.  I was his legs often, which meant I was often many other things too.  It was an impossible mission, but I never saw it that way.  I would give it my all.


I suppose my biggest self-realization about this was just last week.  I was annoyed because someone had left one of the kitchen chairs pushed out from the table.   Besides symmetry, it disturbed me on some subconscious level.  Why?  I pushed in the chair and went on with my day.


A day or so later, after my subconscious had sifted through all of the facts, the different scenarios that may have caused me to feel so adamant about the damn chair it had come to me in a “eureka” moment.  If a chair was left in the pushed out position it would interfere with the space needed for his wheelchair to pass by.  


I cried.  I didn’t cry so much for the grief of missing him, I cried because of the knowledge I spent my last 30 years making things perfect so he could exist somewhat normally.  I ignored who I am, what I needed while doing this.  This was a revelation to me, another step in the process of living, grieving, and yes dying.


With the passage of time, sometimes quickly while other times ever so slowly, I found myself acutely aware of the differences between us even as I tried to erase, through our frequent adjustments necessitated by his declining mobility.  Some of them I made on my own while others were imposed upon me slowly while pervasively urgent.  I am amazed at what I am finding out, and surprised at how controlling I have become, an extension of the man I loved and lived for.  He controlled me and I looked for things I could control in turn. His necessities became extensions of me, fully morphed into a fake sense of what I like or dislike.  In reality much of the habits of my life are no longer necessary now that he is gone.  It's so weird.


His brother is now in my sights frequently, as well as pointing out the likenesses between them, I see the differences also.  The pain of seeing his living body (so eerily reminiscent of my husband) sitting in a wheelchair at my husband's desk, the same disease present, sometimes overwhelms me.  I’ll be discussing some business matter when a pang of familiarity stabs at my consciousness...they have the same hands...I know how they would feel in mine.  It is confusing, comforting and disconcerting...a jumble of emotions I often do not want to feel at the time.  I spend so much time in the office trying to remind myself that my husband is gone.  I subconsciously expect him to wheel into whatever room I am, smiling his smile.  Reality tells me he won't be back but my soul expects him.


Other times, the differences in their personalities serves to point out why I married the brother I did.  But every day at work with him makes me want to put even more distance between us.  I no longer feel like a member of the family.  I am now the outsider I probably always was, the one tolerated, yet loved also for what I could bring to my husband’s life, some sense of normalcy.  It was a pact, a vow I took seriously right to the end.  The end, such a finality to those words.  It was by its very nature a dysfunctional family I joined.  A loving one, but not the norm.  I suppose it is why they accepted me, I too was not the norm.  A loving woman, but one outside the realm of most people's realities.  We were in many ways a perfect fit.


The problem with this is now evident to me.  I grew into  a role that had a finite run.  I embraced it even as it strangled me.  A symbiotic, enabling relationship which passed all musters of measure in the eyes of the world.  What lay below this veneer I am finding out is unsettling.  I am lucky to have the ability to see it all, digest it and move on.  I've been told how strong I am.  I laugh, flinching because I see all of me, and at times I see so many weaknesses.  However, were it not for my weaknesses I would not have the strength.  It is not the end.


I remember the first time I typed those words, "The End".  I wondered then how I would know when a book I was writing ended.  I discovered it ended when there was no more to say... the words just seemed to type themselves.  As I hit the typewriter key with the period it seemed so...final.  Now, I wonder if we ever get to finish the essay of our lives so easily.  I think not.  I’m still learning about the end of his and the new beginning of mine.  


Perhaps it is all good I see no end in sight, because I still have much more work to discover who I am, not who I thought I was in my other life.  It’s extremely exciting, confusing and sad...but completely necessary.  I was never more aware of the preciousness and precariousness of our lives than a few weeks ago when I was so ill.  I have never been more scared either.


But here I am, growing stronger, and still sorting out this wonderful phenomena called "life".  I raise my glass in a toast to the new things laying ahead, sipping the wine I never liked in my other life.  Yes, I am on my way. 



hit counter

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Into the brave, new, scary world with a spring in my step!
You know the funny thing about life is that "The End" does not come in a neatly wrapped final scene with the credits rolling afterward. Life's end marks new beginnings and you, my dear, sweet friend, are beginning a whole new Life. You are growing, you are changing, you are morphing into something more than before and it is beautiful to watch. I salute you as the strongest woman, besides my own sweet wife, that I have ever known.
It is a great adventure. Finding you in the maze of the world. I have no expectations of being significant to anyone but myself, still I wish you those things you need. To find what there is for you and the luck of anyone who becomes a part of that with you. You gave me the will to continue when I was down so I thank you. If I am so fortunate as to be considered a friend albeit an invisible online one then I am proud to have that place in the world of such an amazing person as yourself.
wonderfully nuanced. it matters not to leave any stone unturned, and amazing how the stones that were never turned can come to haunt the survivor. In his book on "Trauma Bonding" Carnes has three of four paragraphs on the suffering caused by "unfinished business." it sounds like you got a lot of that done. i didn't given the circumstaces in my case, and the pain is at times unbearable even if its been over two years. i have no interest in being "strong" i just have an interest in experiencing the feelings fully with no agenda imposed by myself or anyone else.
you're so good at this, sheila: looking inward and also from a distance, analyzing, stitching together. and then, of course, writing about it. isn't it amazing how much we still have to learn about ourselves and people we've known for years? an upheaval like a death spins the rubik's cube and shows us an entirely different mosaic. thanks for taking us along on your journey.
Sheila, you bring up many great points here! There are so many ways that the partners can feel in a marriage and certainly many successful marriages have been described as a kind of give and take in which each takes into account the needs of the other. It sounds like you did a fantastic job of embracing this idea.

There are so many thought provoking ideas here and one that encapsulates feelings that many should reflect upon is expressed in the following:

"I grew into a role that had a finite run. I embraced it even as it strangled me. A symbiotic, enabling relationship which passed all musters of measure in the eyes of the world. What lay below this veneer I am finding out is unsettling. I am lucky to have the ability to see it all, digest it and move on."
Beautiful essay of rebirth, just filled with wisdom earned. So well done, and I'm sure that many of us can relate to these conflicting feelings as we find ourselves whole again.
Being in a long term marriage myself, I see many things here I relate to, the control, the things taken on as likes and dislikes that are second hand. Your ability to see yourself and your honesty is refreshing. To your journey, all the best!
You remain one of the most admirable people I know.
There can be no "end" without a "beginning", and every "beginning" eventually has to have an "end". Such is life.

A brave person is one who takes the fear that paralyzes the coward and uses it as an impetus for moving forward while still feeling the fear.

I find that each time I think I've "found" myself, there's more to find. Wishing you many smiles and successes on your adventure, Sheila.

Wow. Powerful stuff. You're on the move.
The journey of self-discovery never ends, does it?
Good for you.
This is a poignant, insightful post, Buffy. No one could have prepared you for this process. I especially liked this: "I no longer feel like a member of the family. I am now the outsider I probably always was, the one tolerated, yet loved also for what I could bring to my husband’s life, some sense of normalcy."

I get that. Thanks for writing this and sharing it with us.
Oh, Shelia, this was wonderful. Wonderfully written (it's great to see you back here writing) (and healthy again).
"In reality much of the habits of my life are no longer necessary now that he is gone." I learned this through divorce, rather than death but there were so many things to ponder in your essay for all of us. Thanks for this and good luck to you on your continued journey!
And you will be fine. I have been where you are, so I can relate to how you feel. Sort of like a butterfly still in it's cocoon, slowing emerging to greet the sun. And you will. You will flutter your wings and soar in all your glory and Buffy, he will still be there. And it will be okay. God bless you.
Torman--You always honor me with your words, your friendship...thank you.
Bobbot--You have been a constant in a world of my changes...thank you for your unwavering support.
Ben Sen--Nice to see you again. I’m going to check out the book you mention. There is so much to life, and I’m with you, feeling with no agendas imposed is the way to do it.
Femme Forte--I was just over checking your 101 blog and felt immediately close to you. Thank you for your kind words and understanding.
Designator--When I read my quote in your comment I did not recognize it...I suppose when written from the heart and said aloud we would not...thank you for allowing me to “see” me. Cool.
Lea Lane--You are an excellent role model in wisdoms gained, I thank you.
Rita Shibr--I was hoping people would relate both in and out of a marriage. Thank you for making it know I did.
Boanerges1--Likewise my friend.
Bill S.--Thank you, I hope we both get stacks of both!
Gordon Wagner--Yes, I want no grass growing beneath my feet! Thank you for stopping in.
Spotted_Mind--Apparently not. I hope all is going well for you...you make me smile when I picture you.
Kathy Riordan--I’m glad you get it, and I understand why. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Trilogy--It is grand to even feel like I have something to say, and feel healthy too! I’ve missed writing. Thanks for always taking time to let me know you care.
Fay Paxton--If it were not for those who went before me on this crazy path I am sure I would feel lost...thank you for your support.
and i'm wishing you well on the journey. cheers! there were so many quotables. loads of effective literary devices. for example the onion crying paragraph. but it's the self-realization. self-actualization that rings with the loudest resound.

enjoyable read.
Your insights leave me speechless.
I once wrote a song *Life Is Strange* ... but now I understand that life is many journeys—complete, begun and waiting for us. How exciting!
Poignant, bittersweet, a celebration! Thank you for sharing this with us, Buffy! ~r!
As you have learned so much, so too, have you taught us some valuable life lessons. Bravo YOU!
All of us who've been married for a fairly long time can certainly relate to what you're saying. In your circumstances, it was even more extreme, but in many ways, that sublimation of self into "us" is what makes marriage worth it. I can't imagine how hard it must be to unwind after thirty years....I guess one day, one of us will find out...
Don't really know your whole story, but this post makes me want to continue reading about it
Well written, insightful. My first reaction is that a new environment is needed to go with the new changes in your life. Above all I sense a need not to confuse one brother with the other because the role is familiar. You have many opportunities in forward steps taken. Rated.
What a wonderful and honest post. I love this. Your honesty and vulnerability, so representative of doing what needed to be done for your husband, but now that you have the distance and the space, you can look back and see how you became in order to accommodate him. Women do this often as a second nature it seems. And I don't mean this in a terrible way because I know how much you loved your husband, but I think it's why women, unlike men, don't often remarry when they lose or divorce a spouse. They are finally enjoying the space and time needed to discover oneself. This post is a poignant and loving exploration into this. Thank you so much for sharing this.
Buffy, what a beautiful read! You sound like you are weighing things out in a proper direction for your life. Self-examination often brings out strengths, or at least, revelations about ourselves, that only we could could have made ourselves aware of..beware of people that tell you how you should grieve..in time, the light that is the true beautiful you, will shine. Great post.
you know yourself much better than most do. Excellent writing.
You have such an interesting viewpoint to share -- even beyond the loss of a spouse, the loss of a way of life and a way of seeing things. Those accommodations you made and took for yourself as necessary. Such practical things that add up to something largely altering. I hope you can begin to rearrange and undo and find your full range of motion again. I think you will.
This is what EPs should be about. great stuff, Buffy ... among your best!

~I raise my glass in a toast to the new things laying ahead, sipping the wine I never liked in my other life. Yes, I am on my way. ~
Wonderfully subtle and intriguing, Sheila: beautifully told. I always enjoy your writing. Rated.
I read this some time ago, and have been mulling it . . . there is much truth in what you write here - whatever the reason for the separation, reclaiming oneself as an individual is one of the most intensive tasks of re/discovery. Well worth the effort, though really exhaustive, at times. You are an inspiration to us all, Buffy - in all the many aspects of life and love and life.
I can understand this and I needed to read this today. Thank you for your wisdom and insights. Wishing you well on your continued discovery.
So beautifully written! You say it so well, Sheila. However, you are such a dynamic personality, I have always been aware of the "you" that was there. Your dedication to Lance and the way you adjusted your world to make him happy is just part of the "you." Bless you and know that I am pulling for you as you continue to peal the onion.
After 30 years of loving and giving your all, you need a lot more time to find "you" again. It will probably be a slow and sometimes painful process, but I can read your writings and tell how strong you are. Also, what a beautiful person your are. Keep on searching, you'll get there an be amazed!
Real and intuitive. Thanks for sharing. ~R
Me and Us -- perfect... I think I understand. My wife of 30+ years is a surviving stroke patient -- 5 years -- but I have lost so much of her and us -- you say it very precisely and eloquently -- thank you.
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear." C. S. Lewis--A Grief Observed

After Yves died, I did a lot of reading. And thinking. And writing. And hiking in the woods. I spent a lot of time simply trying to "wrap my mind" around the idea that he was dead. Suddenly, death did not make sense, this idea that you could be here one minute, and the next you were gone. I, too, was the outsider. I was, by accident, the woman who had been with him on the night the aneurysm burst, and if not for me, he would had died alone, as he had been for hundreds of nights before that night. So many people read so much into that fact, and while your complexities are so different from what mine were, I recognize the confusion that death and grief brings.

But Sheila. You are doing so well. I look at your photo and I see this smile, this playful look, and while your heart is broken, I see your life going on in a wonderful way.

All I can tell you to do is to keep writing. You'll want some record of this process. (Let's face it: this "material" for whatever you choose to do with it: book? )

I read a lot, as I said, but Lewis said some thing in his book on grief that just struck at the core of me. One was the quotation about grief and fear: sometimes I felt panic and didn't know why. The other, and I'm paraphrasing went something like this. "She is dead. Why are the words so hard to write?" Simple, but piercing for me as I worked my way through the morass of feeling.

Just know that, even though we've never met, I care.
Renatta--Coming from you I find it a very high compliment. Thank you.
Littlewillie--Awww, I was expecting some invisible ink here.
Chuck--It is exciting, I know you know.
Kit--Thank you so much.
OESheepdog--Thanks...and I must say you look great!
Just Cathy--Thank you, it’s wonderful that we are able to share our lessons. I learn from you and your sister all the time.
Blue in Texas--I appreciate your comment. I wish none of us had to find out.
James Kastenholz--Thanks for coming by. Sometimes the whole story is too much, I hope not.
SheilaTGTG55--Sometimes you don’t get to choose the help you need immediately, but one day soon ...thank you for your comment. (Great name.)
Marytkelly--I take no offense at your observations. Thank you. I don’t think I’ll be one who chooses to be alone, as long as I am clear about me and so are they.
Cindy Prochnow--Thank you very much for your kind and supportive words.
hyblaean-Julie--And so much I still don’t know. Hope things are going well in your life now.
Bellwrther Vance--Thank you! I believe I am finding my way, sometimes I want to push forward, other times it seems so slow...but either way I will get there!
Sueinaz--Thank you.
Rod Emmons--You and I go back a long way...I toast you too my friend, my role model of many years.
Thoth--Always a pleasure to see you here. Thank you.
Owl_Says_Who--Thank you for your attention. You always make me feel like my time here is not in vain.
ladyfarmerjed--Glad I could be of help while helping myself. Thank you.
PlannerDan--My dear friend, thank you. It’s no wonder I am happy to be in the company of such friends.
Bonnie Russell--It’s not all bad, I need help with the business and who better to do it? The time is coming when we will go our own ways. Life is very interesting.
Scanner--Thanks for the advice. I am finding this journey always something eye-opening. I’m sure I’ll get there a day at a time.
Strawberry Girl--You would know. Thank you.
Marty’s Husband--What a story you have, in some ways more difficult than what I am going through. My mother had a stroke which made me keenly aware of some of what you may face daily. Take care and know you are admired. Thank you for your comment.
Fingerlakeswanderer--Thank you for sharing, caring always. Death is a very confusing time indeed, and I must check out this book that helped you.
Oh, Buffy...I understand so well...you're breaking my heart because I have been there...and I know...I just know...love to you, dear one. xox
You seem like such a strong and fabulous person. The good thing about great relationships is that no one keeps score--sometimes ones needs to give more, then it shifts, maybe you were always in the place a give more because it was needed. It sounds like you have a strong and solid foundation to build on and a great deal of love to remind you of the whys and hows. Great post.
Your words show strength, honesty and grace. You will prevail. Thank you for your writing.
These reflections are invaluable. I thought as I was reading that you are going to fall in love again very soon, only this time it will be with you.
It took a friend of mine more than two years before she could paint the accent wall red as she had always wanted, because he didn't want it. It has been more than 4 years and his voice is still the voice you hear when you get her voice mail. She calls it on occasion, now less often than before, to hear his voice again.

I suspect we all make concessions to each other, adjustments that would take time to undo. May your journey of self-discovery continue.
There are times when I wonder what life might be like without Kathleen. The very concept scares me, it frightens me to death. What you've been through... well words fail me. Good luck Buffy!
"In reality much of the habits of my life are no longer necessary now that he is gone. It's so weird."

a wonderful breakthrough moment... shared in your typical candor... happy new habits to you!
You are a very strong woman and have been vastly unappreciated by your husband's family. I hope that all is better as you discover yourself again. I understand how difficult it is to withdraw from "we" and "us". It has been years since I had heard anyone use those words about me and himself and it was odd to hear it a few weeks ago when even dinner plans were discussed with a third party.
i'll add my prayers for your strength and bravery too
What a scary crazy journey you are on... full of promise, pain, and more promise. I am so pleased for you that you are finding out that 'the end' need not be more than the end of one piece... and seeing that that one piece is connected to another beginning.
What a genuine piece.I loved how you noticed your brother in law hands....so familiar...and imagining them holding yours.Im sending you a huge hug for your courage and pure heart.I havent read your posts before ,it was a pleasure.
Ah, Sheila, you're getting it just fine. I've been a widow for nearly 11 years, after a 33-year marriage. For the first 27 or so years of the marriage, he was pretty well in complete control of "our" lives--and that was OK. I didn't think I minded at all. And then he got sick. He was ill for the last 5 years of his life, getting sicker and weaker each day, it seemed. And I rearranged my daily schedule each time he needed more of me, without complaint, without (too many) feelings of resentment. And then he died. And I suddenly had so much time on my hands. And I was so exhausted.

It took me some years to finally come to terms with being alone, with doing things for me only, even for being able to leave the house without first checking to make sure everything he would need was available until I could return.

And I finally realized I liked the "me" I had become! What a revelation that was! And how I gloried in it. And you're well on your way to finding out that Sheila is a strong, happy, intelligent, sensitive, compassionate person who needs only what *she* needs--no one else.

Oh--and the family thing? The last time I saw or heard from anyone in his family was at his memorial service--11 years ago come October. They don't return my calls. And I haven't called any of them in about 10 years. I don't even know if they're still alive. I was pretty sure most of them didn't like having me in their circle--and now I know for sure! And it's OK. And I'm OK. And so are you.

Great post. Well-written. Insightful. Beautiful. Thank you. Rated. D
You do a fantastic job of reporting the ups and downs of your life in the last year... and I always look forward to reading more. The best writing, like yours, is done without a filter.
You do much probing here, into the past and the present, into your relationships and into your core. You are brave, and you are strong: able to face the truth and the tears of each layer of the onion. Impressive lady; impressive writing.
"I still have much more work to discover who I am, not who I thought I was in my other life. It’s extremely exciting, confusing and sad...but completely necessary. "
You are so wise to realize this. I wish you well on your journey. There are many paths off the main road, so explore to your heart's content. (r)
You are a brave and insightful woman! I think while it may feel at times like you were not so much who you were when you were bending to make things normal for your wonderful husband I must say...it sounds like by doing so you were being who you are--a kind, caring, nurturing, loving, devoted woman. Now you can pull from the strength you gathered from caring for him and put some of that energy into caring for yourself, feeding your soul with things that make you happy. The wine sounds like a great start! If I could give you a big hug through my computer I would. Thank you for continuing to share your journey with us with honesty and insight. It helps us all to see life in a clearly and understand that it's perfectly ok to be in a constant state of figuring ourselves out.
Loss is something that is shocking, even when we're watching it approach. Mine was 5 and 1/2 years ago, totally unexpected, and devastating. Suddenly, we are faced with a new reality, not of our choosing, but somehow, we must go on. So now what?

I found comfort in reading "Surviving The Loss Of A Love" authored by a doctor, poet, and psychologist. Simple, straight-forward, short, and organized extremely well.

For me, the journey has been about who it is I want to be for the rest of my life. I am still on this journey, and thankful for it. For me, like most I suspect, I have good days, and some not so good. But that is life. What I do know is that I appreciate the fact that I am still exploring this world, and my role in it every day, and I think that is a gift. I know people that have lost a spouse, and their life is over, what a loss, one compounded upon the original loss, and so unnecessary.

So I applaud your explorations, and your willingness to share your pain, joy, confusion, and life. This is a process, and I'm along for the ride with you.
Raising my glass, as well. Here's to you and the exciting future that awaits!
Buffy/Sheila, I just read this through twice and haven't gotten near to the root of what you are saying. I love the form this took, the way you ambled into new realizations. Your gift for self-analysis is rare and I beleive that's why there are so many responses. You have much to teach us as you unpeal the layers of the 'us' vs. the 'me.' You are teaching me so much with this post/essay/beautifully worded work of art. Your life is art. You are so rare! thank you, r
You are an extremely insightful human being. I loved your comparison to the onion. Poetic.
This is some of your finest writing to date. Strike that (not O'Really? style). This is> your finest writing here to date. (IMHO) Highly rated.
Trying to get rid of the italics. Delete this if I fail and I'll try again. GAH!
So painful to read yet so brilliantly written. You take your reader into the heart and soul of your life, your depth and your very soul.

I'm honoured to have witnessed first hand a little of the life you shared with Lance and to be humbled by taking for granted how much easier life is for the able bodied. Considering another's needs at all times is a special gift you had.

But as you say, it may be scary but you have many more varied chapters of life to experience and record. Highly rated.
I'm so happy that you are writing again. There are so many layers to this piece, so many nuances, so many reveals. Keep writing, my dear friend. I'll be here reading.
Love you,
Great piece. In one of the relationships after my marriage ended, I realized that I always agreed to whatever my boyfriend wanted. I thought I was just easygoing! As a child, my mother's wants and needs were most important, not mine, so eventually I stopped wanting anything for myself. I buried those desires so deep inside that they are still hard to find. And then when I do figure out what I want - the difficulty of asking for it! It takes courage to make changes to the way you've been living - but you have it - and you absolutely deserve to have the life that you want to live.