Getting Up Slowly

By Joan Lovelace

Getting Up Slowly

My husband died one fall in the cruel way that Mother Nature always does. Before we lose her, she bids farewell in breathtaking reds and golds, soothes us in breezes cool enough to invite companions beneath light blankets, but not cold, never cold. Jeffrey was autumn to me – gentle, calm. He was the warmth in my often restless, frightened heart.

When he died that October morning eight years ago, it was hard to believe I would not see his vivid colors again. I imagined he had run off, like nature, blooming somewhere across the world, still living, just not in front of me. I thought I would see him again. After all, I’d seen him nearly every day for more than half my life. After his death, year after painful year, the irrational thought persisted. I would wait for him. I would raise our children, then twelve and nine, while he did what he had to do and finally, re-appear. Letting go is not for the faint of heart.

It was eight years ago this month. A random heart attack in the middle of a short daily jog sucked every hope and joyful breath I’d ever taken from my lungs. I sob even now as I think of it and miss him. But I am not here to focus on the pain. I am here to focus on the restorative power of perseverance.

I began gingerly, with one tiny, practically minuscule step, every day. Sometimes I still ended up doubled over on my bedroom floor cursing him for “copping out” on me. But I got back up, made dinner, helped with homework, took a shower, read a book and went to bed. I did the same things over and over, day in and day out. I found comfort in routine, if not excitement. The days turned to weeks. Weeks to months and you know how it goes. At first I did everything for my children. If it weren’t for them, I would gladly have thrown myself on his grave and melted into the earth to be with him. I was dramatic, but certainly not brave.

The only thing I could say to myself was, “One thing at a time.” Some days the best I could do was curl into a ball and call a babysitter. After awhile I could, and did, do much better. Focusing on our children kept me from my selfish grief. Helping others saved me from myself. Three years ago, five years after he died, though there had been joy and family fun with just the three of us, I realized I wanted something for myself again. My daughter, through her own herculean efforts, walked through her fear and is away for her third year at college. My son is a high school senior with more options than most. As this time approached for them, I pursued a master’s degree in writing. I am teaching my first class.

A strange thing is happening. I am afraid again. Routine comforted me. Focusing on my children kept the focus off of me. But that little spark that surfaced those few years ago and led me to further my education now has me calling its bluff. I am alive. And the only thing I have to decide is what I’m going to do about it. It is both a privilege and a precarious place to be. A paradox, as they say.

So I am back to putting one foot in front of the other. I have learned a lot about myself in these last eight years. I am strong. And, I have choices. I can be a victim or I can be not only a survivor, but a person who thrives. I choose the latter. It is ridiculous to me that I am as nervous as I am teaching a class of first year college students about public speaking. It is what I did for two decades in the television news business before my husband’s death derailed me. But fear no longer stops me. The thing about being afraid is that is accomplishes nothing, so I try to give it very little space. I feared all kinds of things as a younger woman, but I never feared I’d become a widow with two young children. The things I worried about never came to pass. The things I didn’t? I would have missed what we had by the haunting pain of knowing it would end.

As I approach fifty, I have a freedom I have never known. I am not afraid of failure. I am not afraid to be alone. I am not afraid to try new things. I am not afraid of death. Life can hurt me, but I can handle it. I’ve learned that if I am patient with myself, and not blinded by anger or self-pity, life makes up for what it takes away – maybe not in the same way, but in some way.

About this writer

  • Joan LovelaceAuthor and humorist Joan Lovelace worked as a television news anchor for twenty years, from 1980 until 1999. She spent most of her years at WSVN-TV in Miami and WBBM-TV in Chicago. A series of personal struggles, including the loss of her husband, forced Joan into an early retirement to care for her children. She is now working on a memoir, teaching part time, and writes because she likes to.

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4 Responses to “Getting Up Slowly”

  1. Sheila says:

    Bravo, Joan! The journey continues…

  2. Jack says:

    how are the kids!

  3. Jim Gassmann says:

    Joan your story brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. Hope your doing great. You deserve all the best. Merry Christmas!!!

  4. Ruthie AW Harper says:

    My Darlin’ Media Daughter… You came across my mind and I decided to look you up. I am so very proud of you and your accomplishments. You’re living proof that one can gone throw many storms in life and come out standing tall.. I Love U Dearly

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