Today was a gorgeous day, and the sooner I got outside the sooner my mood improved. I’ve been struggling a bit since Wednesday, the 13th anniversary of the death of my wife. We were married for 13 years, and I’ve now been without her for the same length of time we were married. That’s a very depressing thought. What’s more, I have not found anyone else I could love as easily as I loved her. Nor have I gotten very close to that experience. I suspect that’s more to do with my inability to open my heart like it was before. It’s just hard for me to believe that I’ll ever meet anyone whom I can grow to love as I loved Tish.
But, as I stood outside in the yard, all the critters of nature were busy doing their work. I guess they don’t have Amazon or Grubhub to take care of them. So they’re out finding what they need in their lives, spending a lot of energy in the process. It reminds me that there’s life beyond the computer screen. Hmmmm. Whoda thunk that?
Dinner With Ginny
Clearly the best thing that happened today was that I got to have dinner with my daughter. During our conversation, she shared with me that she was aware perhaps four years ago that she had crossed a threshold when her life after her mom’s death was now longer than her life while her mom was still alive. Somehow that threshold was important to her (as in being an emotionally significant event) as well as it was to me. We both remarked that her mom was such a profound influence on us both that her passing altered how we reckon time in our lives. I guess this should not be too surprising.
Ginny is an amazing young woman, it seems to me. She has many skills that I don’t possess, and many ambitions that inspire me. But I also wish she had people at home to model who were more resourceful than I am. She’s done a magnificent job of finding other people to model out in the world. But I wish I could have kept her mom around. Tish was a formidable and successful person. She was able to achieve great success in her life. Her results are noteworthy. I would have loved it if Ginny could see that example as clearly as I was able to during her latter formative years. I was not able to show her that myself. Still, she seems to have achieved great success in her schoolwork and her facility with mathematics. She certainly didn’t get that from me!
In my life I have struggled with a sense of worthiness. I often don’t feel that I deserve to be successful. And yet I know intellectually that there is no standard for deserving what you want. You simply adopt the beliefs, values and behaviors that will earn you what you want, and there is no deserving required. That’s simply part of the belief system in the science of achievement. Yet, in life, some people seem to struggle for this sense of worthiness. Resilient people don’t seem to ever doubt that they deserve whatever they want to achieve in their lives. This ingredient has been called shame resilience. So what I have struggled with is a sense of shame.
There’s no rationality about shame. That is, there’s no cause and effect that produces shame. It’s a belief system that one learns early in life. And I think I came to learn it from my family. I see it clearly in my brothers. I remember it in my parents. And I must conclude that they all came by their shame as I have mine.
The savage thing about shame is that it’s simply the most important predictor of success (in the case of having resilience to shame) or struggle in life. So even as I tell myself that there will never be another Tish in my life, that belief probably comes from a belief that on some level I don’t deserve another woman like Tish in my life. There’s utterly no reason to believe that. It’s not a rational conclusion at all. I deserve it as much as anyone, and probably more so, since I’ve already had such a profound love affair with an amazing human being and soul mate. Yet, in the moment, I really have to try to catch myself and remember that this voice is my unconscious shame talking. The only antidote is to try to stay conscious and question those shame beliefs as they pop up. The truth is that I can have whatever I want. I may not have as much time to create whatever I want as I did when I was young, but I’ve already created a terrific life. It’s not too late to create a life together with another person like Tish.
I just wish it could be with Tish herself.
Anyway, since this core belief system underpins pretty much all other aspects of life, the subject of worthiness (or self-worthiness) pops up. I guess it’s one of my life’s primary themes. And it’s been on my mind on this anniversary of Tish’s death. She would always shake her head whenever I said or did anything that would betray this flaw in my makeup. She saw nothing to justify any such belief. She had a total belief in her own worthiness. That’s one of the things I miss most about her. Wherever she is in the universe, if it can be said that she is someplace, I send her my love and gratitude and my everlasting respect.