"Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress." ~ Bruce Barton (American Author & Politician)
After Sue died, things drastically changed for me. Not in all of typical ways you might think, but, there was change. I imagine that many people, after losing a friend so suddenly (particularly when said friend was only 41), would take inventory on their life to see where changes could be made. After Sue died, I made a lot of promises to myself that never came to fruition. For example, I vowed to quit smoking - that was over two years ago....and here I go, lighting another cigarette. I vowed to start engaging in physical exercise - again, two years ago, not a lick of exercise has been done. I guess these promises were akin to making New Year's resolutions that never actually happen. Frankly, I think Sue would have been disappointed....not in my lack of commitment, but from me thinking I would change these things in my life simply because she died. In fact, she would have been wholly against quitting smoking, something that we tried to accomplish together when she was alive and never succeeded in past the 24 hour mark. At one point we attempted to channel the "just for today" philosophy and would attempt to quit smoking for just one day (with the goal of quitting again the next day, and so on). Yeah, it didn't work, but we had fun trying.
The changes I experienced were a little more philosophical than that. If there was any remaining doubt as to whether god existed or not.....that was finished. Probably unfair to the 'big guy upstairs' should he actually exist as someone dying likely isn't good evidence of his non-existence. But, that was the final nail in the ol' proverbial coffin (no pun intended). There was also a profound understanding that someone could be there one minute and gone the next. This was a lesson I had begun to understand with the loss of my previous relationship (see previous Africa entries); however, he was still alive, just figuratively dead. She was gonzo. And in beginning to understand that this was a reality of life - the understanding that life was extremely short became overtly pronounced.
To say I have wasted many years may be, in fact, a gross understatement. My sister once told me that the secret to life is that you don't know how short it is before you've wasted countless years of your existence. I think she's on to something because I have been kicking my ass over my wasted-years-a-plenty, of which I am solely responsible for. In saying this, I am also extremely grateful I have started to figure this stuff out by 33 rather than 43 or 53 (or never). I am also appreciative of the fact that during the years I didn't have it figured out, I did not produce any children who would have been forced to bear the brunt of my meanderings. If you read my profile, you know that I have admitted to suffering with chronic immaturity. I don't mean the kind where you get drunk and do stupid stuff (which I've done countless times) or the kind where you can't have a normal conversation with another adult or hold down a responsible job and lifestyle - not that kind of immaturity. What I mean is the kind of immaturity that results from not being nurtured in the way you needed as a tiny human, resulting in this kind of internal searching that is never fulfilled or complete (similar to an itch that you cannot scratch). The kind of immaturity that results from having attachment issues that were dealt with poorly (understatement) from an early age. So, wasted years....yeah, I have complied a astounding amount of them.
I guess the fundamental evolution that came from Sue's death was my understanding that my life needed to be (and could be) different in order for me to achieve genuine happiness. Rather than bumbling through life randomly (and destructively) I realized that I needed to become an active participant in my life. This realization took awhile to fully set in (awhile meaning at least a year) and took even more time to actually work into my "doing something." I am an idea-person, not an action-person. This was one of the things to change. Dreaming of Africa was also one of the things to change; however, doing that took some deep self evaluation and exploration that traversed many hours of reflection on countless numbers of my combined life experiences. Basically, I had to get to know me and that was hard and unpleasant at times, and enlightening and freeing at other times.
I miss Sue. On my recent annual summer holiday I visited her grave, as I have done every year since her death. I might miss our visit next year if/when I am in Kenya....but, that's jumping ahead of where we are in this story. When I visit her grave, I talk to her - which doesn't make a lot of reasonable sense because I don't believe in heaven, but I do believe in spirits....it makes sense in my head. Sometimes, I talk to her about the changes that have occurred in my existence since her death. Sometimes, I talk to her about how the immense grief of her sudden death, combined with the loss of my former partner at that time, was so intensely painful that I was forced to recognize that actually I survived it. And in that, I was able to make change - gradual change - that was profound and required strength. I got that strength partially from her death and some of that strength has gone into my developing journey to Africa. And for that, I am grateful.