Moping in Paradise

There are few things sadder in life than someone who is living in the past, whether it’s an ex-football jock who peaked in college or parents who keep their children’s rooms exactly as they were, even though they are now grownups with children of their own.

I am writing this from paradise—the island of Kauai, where Bill and I shared some of our happiest times. Being here is an example of a mixed blessing. I feel closer to Bill here than anywhere else. I see him out on the ocean windsurfing and I look for his red helmet as he surfs the waves in his kayak. I picture him in one of his Aloha shirts (as he called them), smiling and holding court as he tells stories to our friends on the lanai of the house we once shared.

And I cannot help wondering if I am clinging to the past. Yes, I know it’s only been eight months since he died and I am “allowed” this indulgence but if it only takes three weeks to develop a new habit, what might eight months accomplish? I don’t want to live out my life like this; Bill wouldn’t want it either.

I teach and believe that you attract more of what you focus on and this period after Bill’s death is proving to be one of my biggest challenges to date. If this were back pain I am experiencing, what would be required to move forward is not surgery but an adjustment or two, like chiropractors do when they perform their magic. That’s because I know this pain is not chronic—unless, of course, I choose it to be.

If I can find a way to enjoy all my memories, then I know I will attract similarly happy times. But they will be new memories that don’t include Bill and therein lies the years of training for how we are supposed to grieve. I have had many people say to me, “It’s an individual thing. Everyone grieves differently,” and I know they are sincere when they say it. I also know that there exists, within our society, a certain protocol about how one should “be” after a loved one has died and it is attached to a timeline. If one is seen to be “moving on” too quickly, then they are deemed to be in denial, or not facing reality.

After my best friend Adele died in a car accident at age 17, our friends and I were out having pizza, sharing memories and finally laughing after two days of nonstop sobbing.  Another, older kid walked over to us and said, “How can you all sit here laughing when your friend is dead?” I felt shame. I have learned since then that what we were doing was healing and I’m sorry that we stopped because of one person’s lack of understanding.

There is a world of difference between, “I wish he were here,” and “Why did he have to go?” I know the former will come. My father died many years ago and there are times when I see a new, cool technological gadget, for example, that I think, “My Dad would have loved that,” with no twinge of pain attached to the thought.  Even now, I can share stories of Bill with friends and laugh with joy and no pain so I know it’s possible.

My friend Kathy who also lost her mate puts it this way:  the pain comes from “I’m not happy about this” (his death) and the choice is,  “I choose to be happy about this” (his life and what we shared.)

But first you must acknowledge that a choice exists.

I’ve been wrestling with this topic for a few days, as I generally do, trying to formulate what I want to write. A mentor of mine once said, “If you can’t get it down on paper, it’s not clear in your head,” and I have repeatedly found that to be true.

This morning, tea in hand, I went to sit on the beach and enjoy the morning with the ocean in my ears. That’s when the answer came. THIS is all that matters. This moment, this reality, this time…the gentle breeze on my face, the steady waves being pushed and pulled by the moon, the sound of birds…this is what life is.

It is true that mourning is a part of life. But living in the past because you are mourning is unnatural. If it were “meant to be,” then we would feel good when we did it. If I am to remember, let me do so with joy. Let me remember with laughter. Let me remember with love.

I have been moping around in paradise. What a waste. Bill would definitely not approve. After all, he really is in Paradise and having a blast. He would want the same for me.