Among my favorite movies of all time is the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. Of all the characters in the story I’ve always understood the Cowardly Lion the best. Despite being told that I was courageous for going into architecture without knowing how to draft, completing college as a single parent or not losing my mind after Gus’ passing, in my heart I’ve always felt like a coward. It never occurred to me that any of these accomplishments required any courage on my part; I was sure I could figure out how to draw lines; being in a bad marriage seemed a waste of my time and I had no choice but to accept Gus’ loss. To me courage meant only one thing – facing my greatest fear – insecurity.
For most of my life I tended to shy away from anything that made me feel vulnerable. While I can be perceived as a loud mouth, I don’t like speaking in public. Expressing my opinions makes me anxious because I am afraid of being disliked. I refrain from asking for help because I don’t like to feel indebted and above all I hate to be dependent on anyone for anything including my husband.
I always balked at the idea that losing one’s child is somehow different from losing one’s parent, spouse, sibling or friend. I maintained that a loss was a loss. It occurs to me now that I was likely saying this to remove attention from myself and the implied sense of awe that I was surviving our loss. Losing one’s child is different however, not just because it defies a sense of the natural order of life but because it exposes the limits of our ability to perform the most basic duty of parenting – protecting our children. We work so hard to nurture and provide for them that it feels like the universe’s greatest betrayal to snatch them away from us in ways that seem unconscionable. The only blessing in this kind of grief is that it makes all other fears appear small and insignificant.
In the last five years, I’ve been chipping away at my insecurities one by one. I’ve spoken in public on a few occasions; expressed my thoughts on politics and church law, and allowed myself to be helped by my family and friends. This year it was time to tackle my biggest fear yet – allowing myself to become dependent on my wonderful husband.
For the last twenty-two years I have been a full-time employee at the same place. While I’ve enjoyed the work, there were many times I considered quitting to be a full-time mom but did not because I was terrified of being fully dependent on my husband. What if the economy turned? What if despite all evidence to the contrary he suddenly decided not to work? What if we didn’t work out? What if we didn’t save enough for college? The “what ifs” were interminable not to mention that it was empowering to contribute to our household finances. It must seem counter intuitive to change my working conditions now that I have no children to look after but this is no longer about being an at home mom – that ship sailed long ago. This is another step (if not the final one) in learning to let go – to trust that my husband and by extension the universe will always take care of me. So as of this week I am no longer a full time employee….. I am part-time. WHAT? I said I was a coward…..but I am starting to get better. LIVE – LAUGH – LOVE!