Saturday, September 18, 2010

Acceptance of Fate

I'm sitting here in my room surrounded by four legged creatures. Me, who was never really an animal lover, has a cat, and two dogs, all laying about in my bedroom as I type this post. I initially had to wait until they had all settled into their spots of choice, as none of them wanted to let me begin typing. There was a lot of competition for my attention, which included pushing my computer out of the way, walking across my computer, jumping up at the sides of my chair, and trying to nestle under my hands. It was all very cute, but I truly prefer the calm state that they are each in at this moment.

This afternoon I finally managed to go grocery shopping, as that is one thing that I just couldn't get myself motivated to do this week. It is something that takes more strength of mind than it looks, and something that always depresses me, so in turn, I don't take the task on when ever I am feeling depressed. Coming back from the store, and putting all the groceries away, it was clear that our lives have changed. I didn't shop the way I used to shop a year or so ago. In the past I would be buying all kinds of fresh groceries to cook. Not that I did all the cooking, as Michael was a much better cook. But, since he was sick most of the last year, I did most of the cooking. Now I rarely cook anymore. At least I made some fairly healthy choices by buying some quick and easy meals from Trader Joes. When the boys realized that the house had been restocked they were both in heaven. All afternoon and evening they have been going back and forth to the freezer, asking if they can cook this, or cook that. I probably should have put more limits on this, to not have to return to the store too soon again, but today I just couldn't be bothered with any limits. "Sure, just make sure you eat what ever you cook."

It's funny, but I have gone most of this summer rarely watching anything on television. Then this week I watched three movies that were on, and all about widowers. This wasn't planned. It was just a matter of timing. I watched The Boys Are Back with Clive Owen, Love Happens with Aaron Eckhart, and Everybody's Fine with Robert De Niro. Each of these actors portrayed their characters well, giving this widower something to identify with.

One of the themes that I picked up in each of these movies was 'where do you go with your life after your spouse dies?' So much of who you saw yourself as, dies along with them. So many of the social situations that used to fill your time no longer exist for you. So many things get left unsaid, unfulfilled, and unresolved. There is anger, sadness and loneliness. There are all of our prior poor ways of dealing with life, that just get magnified with grief. And in the end, we end up feeling lost, isolated, and wondering what we now want out of life.

And this is what I find myself pondering tonight. What do I want out of life? I know what I had, and I know what I have, but what do I want now that the dust is beginning to settle?

When I was preparing for the next phase of tattoos to put on my arm, I wanted to find some Kanji that symbolized where I am, and where I am going, now that the first year has passed since Michael's death. The main theme of what I wanted was about acceptance.

I want to focus more of my energy on acceptance. I need to accept that Michael is gone. I have spent plenty of hours wishing that this wasn't so. Now that a year has passed, and he hasn't returned, I need to move away from that type of thinking. I know that it is tied to the illogical emotional desires of a man who lost the love of his life. Knowing ahead of time that Michael was going to die didn't really help me deal with the finality of it all. The moment that he died I was likely as devastated as any other widowed person.

Sitting here, at year later, and in a new place, I can't escape my reality. I am a widower, and my husband is gone for good. A year has passed, and I have done a lot of crying, a lot of grieving, a lot of therapy, and a lot of soul searching. Now I need to start doing a lot of growing. You see, life has given me many things. One of the best things that life gave me was Michael. Many people feel like it was fate that brought us together. I've never really understood what that meant, but I do have an idea of fate in the sense that this is what life has given me. Whether we were meant to meet, and that he was meant to die young, is not so important to me right now. What is important is to understand that this is what I have. This is what life has given me, my fate. My challenge is to accept this fate.

Acceptance of fate is a bit of an oxymoron in my way of thinking. What exactly is there to accept. If it is fate, then I had no choice in the matter. It is what it is. Perhaps this past year was about self preservation. The trauma of this type of loss makes it hard to accept the reality of it. We know that we can't change it, but our hearts hold out hope anyway. So here I am, a year later, ready to accept fate.

In Japanese symbolism, or Kanji, there are more than one type of acceptance. In researching the correct type for my tattoo, I looked into the various ways of looking at acceptance of fate. The one I chose may seem odd to others. It may even turn some people off.

My new Kanji tattooed to my arm says this: Acceptance of Fate/Happy with your Fate.

At surface level this would seem like I am happy with what fate has brought me, but that is not what this says at all. What it means is this, given that I have accepted that this is my fate, then I challenge myself to find happiness with what life has given me. Not an easy task at hand, is it? I can choose to be sad, angry, miserable, etc., for the rest of my life. Or, I can try to find happiness in spite of it. It would be far easier to accept misery, and wear it everyday. I'm not saying the misery is easy, as we all know it is not. But, it would be easier to stay here in misery, wouldn't it? It takes less energy to stay put, than to put ourselves in motion.

Optimism is at the root of this type of symbolism. How can I remain optimistic about life, or regain my optimism? In my studies of Buddhism, I have found much focus on the human condition of suffering. Life becomes about having the courage to face this suffering. By facing my loss, and suffering, I can then choose to not get totally lost in it. If I completely identify with my suffering then I would never recognize the movement toward healing. I have to believe that through my suffering, given what is my fate, I am moving toward something different.

I want to be optimistic about life. I want to believe that there is more out there for me, and that I will find happiness. I know what grief is. I know what suffering is. I want to start identifying my healing. I want to actively pursue happiness. Without looking for it, or identifying it, I might just miss out on it.


  1. Love this post Dan.
    Much love to you,

  2. I love this post too - and the new Kanji tattoo. Agree with so much of what you've written tonight. Your statement about the effort that it takes to be happy versus remaining miserable... "I'm not saying the misery is easy, as we all know it is not. But, it would be easier to stay here in misery, wouldn't it? It takes less energy to stay put, than to put ourselves in motion." cuts to the chase. Do we want to stay still and try to maintain the status quo of our misery, or should we attempt to break free of the misery and search for something else? In truth, it *does* take a lot more effort to push ourselves back out into the world instead of seeking refuge with what is familiar. In fact, it's damned hard. However, it seems worth it - even if we don't find happiness immediately. At least life becomes more interesting and less like a jail sentence, don't you think?

    Glad to read that you went to TJ's and got some food the kids can make for themselves. Good move. Probably actually cost effective in spite of the expense. Better to buy food that everyone eats, than a fridge full of vegetables and other stuff that goes unused and ends up getting tossed out (a stage I went through for a pretty long time last year - but it's getting better lately).

  3. Great post! Your hope and optimism radiate from your words. I appreciate the important reminders this morning.

    Love Deb

  4. this morning's homily was about telling yourself the truth of a situation, reviewing your options, and taking action on one of them. Felt appropriate to this. Here is this life we have been given. That it sucks is a grand understatement of fact. What are the actual options? As my m.i.l says, you can actually go crazy, if you'd like, but I doubt you'd be happy there. We are here, like it or no, agree with it or no. Acceptance is not resignation, or making the best of it. It is looking it full in the eyes and saying "you are mine." After that, I think it is an experiment in how to live with that reality. To reclaim some goodness in this life, for however long is left, inside this truth - idk, it's slippery for me, but that's how I hear that kanji.

  5. megan - I think it is an experiment in how to live with that reality.

    agree. it is. maybe it's worth trying to make something good come of that.