I have a friend.
I adore her.
Whenever we are together we talk nonstop, there is never enough time to say all that there is to say to each other. I feel like I have known her all my life. I think we may have been related in another life. I can't imagine what I did before I knew her.
And I never would have met her if Bob were still alive, and that is hard to reconcile at times.
She is a "new friend". That is the term I use for friends I have met since Bob died. People who know the woman I am today, the person I have become after clawing my way out of the depths of grief.
But they are missing a significant piece to my puzzle.
They can listen with interest, compassion and maybe a bit of awe to my stories of stem cell transplants and growing tumors and nursing infants and weeks of instant oatmeal for dinner. But they weren't with me. They weren't there to have me to dinner for the fifth time that week even though our children always ended up fighting, or to come over and organize my Tupperware drawer with a stack of tissues in hand, or to put their own grief and fear aside and stand beside me as the undertakers took Bob out the front door, or to listen, once again, to my lamenting about the injustice of my situation.
There was a time when all I wanted was to meet new people. I was desperate to meet people who did not know Bob and who did not see the big "W" on my forehead. I was tired of being defined by my circumstances. But when I began to meet these new friends I resented the fact that they did not understand my situation, they could not tell I was widowed just by looking at me, they did not understand what I had lost, what I had been through.
How could they really know me and not know Bob?
I found myself wanting to explain my situation, wanting them to know who I was when I was with Bob. It turned out I didn't want to escape my circumstances, I wanted to embrace them. I wanted to incorporate my whole story into this new person that I was becoming. This new person with new friends and old friends, all of whom have circumstances of their own that have made them who they are.
I am grateful for all the people in my life, new friends, old friends, live husbands, late husbands, in-laws, family, neighbors, children, step-children. No matter how or why I met them, I am grateful for them all. I am grateful that they know me and love me for who I am today.
We are all who we are because of our circumstances, maybe even despite our circumstances.
I can be changed by what happens to me.
But I won't be reduced by it.
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