Chances are, you’ve heard of the “One Year Rule” as it applies to grief. Plenty of experts, and many more people who have been through the loss of someone, will tell you not to make any major decisions for at least a year. I’ve been considering this guideline quite a bit lately.
Recently, I have come across articles and stories about grief-stricken individuals who sell their homes or give away their spouse’s belongings or any number of other rash decisions only to later regret what they’ve done without thinking. It’s not necessarily the decision itself they regret, but often the timing. They would have likely given away those same clothes at some point, but they did it too soon. They are upset that they didn’t hold onto their houses long enough to take more pictures or carve their name on a wooden stair for posterity’s sake or any other number of reasons why they simply made the decision too soon.
I’ve discovered a way to somewhat bend this one-year rule. Or perhaps I’m merely amending it a bit. Either way, it serves the purpose of the desperate need to be in control of something – anything – without having later regrets.
I have come to the conclusion that the same purpose of control is served by making (and here is the key) non-permanent decisions, decisions that will have no long term effect on the decision-maker either way. Whether it was subconscious, or instinctive, this is exactly what I have been doing by constantly rearranging and updating my bedroom. Doing this allows me the opportunity to do something without any long-term consequences if I make the “wrong” choice. It is something I can easily come back from.
I’ve had dozens of people ask me what my plans are now. What they mean is now that my husband is gone and there’s nothing keeping me away, when am I coming “home”. That’s a tricky question and a difficult one for me to answer just yet, mostly because my foggy, intermittently functional brain is incapable of thinking that far in advance.
Thoughts come and go, not always sticking around long enough to actually stick. It’s sort of like being in that tornado in the Wizard of Oz – thoughts keep flying by like the debris in a vortex, but I’m unable to reach out and grab them before they are again out of reach. I need to ride out the storm and hope to land safely.
My son, my youngest child, is in his senior year of high school. I have the perfect “excuse” for not wanting to decide just yet what my next steps will be, an ideal reason to stay rooted right where I am and let the time pass and fog lift before taking my next steps. People accept this reasoning more easily than citing my “one year sentence”.
It seems all of my children have inherited their father’s nomadic spirit, and each has long considered being “somewhere else”. Although I would no doubt miss them if we all ended up in separate places, I understand the raw need to spread one’s wings and leave the nest. I accept this as truth, and would never stop any of them from following their heart’s desire.
My mother once reprimanded me for moving so often, stating that my kids needed a home. I told her that she didn’t understand; I was home. I explained that home wasn’t a place, it was a feeling. That we, as a family, may have moved locations many times (some would say too many), but we were always home because we had each other. Our stability didn’t come from a place or material things, but from an emotional connection. No matter what was going on in our sometimes chaotic world, we never changed. Some families live in the same house for their entire lives, or even several generations, and still don’t have stability. Or love. Or a home.
It may be that we all end up in far-flung corners of the world. If that is the case, and they do all chase different dreams in different locations, it would leave me unfettered, not tied to any one place and free to fly myself. There are literally hundreds of places on the planet I would love to see one day (or visit again), and if there were no financial restrictions or other responsibilities, I would pull an “Eat, Pray, Love” and travel to many of them – although I’d likely not stay as long, and probably not spend time at an Indian ashram. That old idiom comes to mind – “it’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
I’ll watch a movie or read a book these days thinking “now there’s an idea”. After watching Robert Redford and Nick Nolte in “A Walk in the Woods”, for example, I had almost convinced myself that walking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish was an amazing adventure. Then the practicality of that surfaced and I realized that it probably wasn’t the trip for me. While I could likely do portions of the trail, and enjoy doing so, pushing myself through all kinds of weather, blistered feet and using a little “poo-shovel” on a daily basis doesn’t exactly hold much appeal. (Truth be told, it was the possibility of bears trashing my camp in search of food that was the final straw. Not going to happen…)
In all actuality, I’m sure the next phase of my life will probably involve much less danger, although risk in and of itself won’t be the only deciding factor. After all, being in the center of an emotional cyclone isn’t exactly the safest place to be, yet here I am, waiting out my one year sentence, merely trying to avoid the wreckage of the others caught here before, and with, me. I’m certain I will land unharmed eventually; I only hope my ruby slippers are waiting to return me to where I belong, wherever that may turn out to be. Because we all know, there’s no place like home.
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