This summer I hiked through Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon with a group of awesome ladies. The hikes were challenging at times, but a goal I had set for myself and achieved. Another example that life is still good.
It does if you want it to.
That’s how my friend, who has been a widow three years longer than I have been, responded to my question, “Does life get any better?”
Her response was a game changer for me this year in how I’m approaching life as I move forward. Honestly, what I expected to hear from her was something like, “Well, there are days that are easier than others; life will never be the same, as you know. You will have ups and downs.” All logical and true responses. But her directness about what I can control has been the best counsel I’ve received since my husband died.
Life gets better if you want it to. And I get to choose.
Her response reminds me that my thoughts drive my feelings. Here’s what that doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that I pretend that I’m not grieving–that I push down my emotions and slap on a smile. If I don’t acknowledge grief, it hounds me until I do–until I have that good cry or sit with that funky, angry mood. I lost a person, a love, a life that was very important to me. Grief is a part of my life now. But I don’t have to get stuck in it or be controlled by it. Facing it straight on is the best way to go through it.
I loved dressing up as a little girl.
I’m in graduate school working on a master’s in Family and Child Studies. Once a week this semester I get to observe three-year-olds in the university’s Child Study Center. Let me tell you, it’s magical. For an hour and a half on Thursdays I’m in the very real world of play and imagination that takes place in the lives and minds of these bright and curious children. There is an energy (and I’m not referring to stamina) that is noticeable; a buzz that comes from the creativity of unfettered play. I leave the class each week wondering, How can we as adults keep just a little bit of that magic from childhood–that inner compass we seem to be born with that tells us that play is healthy, that it’s important to hold on to all of our lives–even while raising families, paying bills, dealing with illness, and loss?
In child development, play is a child’s work because it’s important in the child’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth, as well as learning new skills. But I don’t think the need for play stops at childhood. In fact, many workplaces are recognizing the benefits of play for their employees–an increase in productivity, creativity, and health–physical and mental.
As a reminder to myself to get out from in front of my computer and play a little each day (and that can mean different things to everyone), I’ve posted a picture on my bathroom mirror of myself when I was a little girl dressed (or partially dressed) in bloomers, a big hat, and sunglasses. I loved dressing up as a kid; I remember the worlds I created when I put on my grandmother’s dresses and high heels. That’s probably not the way play looks like for me today; it looks more like gardening, going to the driving range, or writing. But there is something almost meditative about stepping away from obligations for only 30 minutes or an hour to do something that isn’t “required” of me but does allow me to be present. I come away with more creativity for work and an improved attitude about my life in general.
How about you? What do you learn from play?
The abruptness of the empty nest season can make you feel a little like you are back in middle school and overnight your best friend stops liking you and is now hanging out with a new set of friends while you sit at the lunch table alone, hoping someone, anyone, will set their lunch tray down at your table and slide in next to you.
Joann Filomena is October’s (and our very first) Reimagining featured profile. Joann is a professionally certified life coach and weight loss coach, as well as producer and host of the Widow Cast podcast and author of two books, Widowed and The Widow Coach. Through her business, Joann The Life Coach, she trains and certifies widows to become Widow Life Coaches.
Joann Filomena says about every 20 years she has the opportunity to reimagine her life.
“From 20-40 I was a wife and mom raising a daughter in northern California,” she said. “After my divorce, I met and married my second husband, Jim, moved to the Bronx and we were married 20 years. That was my second reimagined life. The third reimagined life I will have, the next 20 years, will be coaching.”
Joann’s husband, Jim Filomena, died suddenly at the end of 2014, and as she sat alone on New Year’s Eve, less than 48 hours after his death, two thoughts went through her mind: Jim didn’t know when they celebrated 2014 that it was going to be his last year, and she had no way of knowing if 2015 would be the last year of her life.
Well that stinks! Neighborhood skunk still doesn’t want to make friends.
She’s really the best dog, ever–loyal, playful, and always eager to greet me each time I walk through the door. There’s just one thing that has become a problem over the last months, she’s also very eager to greet skunks who wander into my backyard in the early morning hours.
I’ve lived in my house just under two years and in that time, Scout, my five year old Golden Retriever, has managed to come nose to nose, or nose to tail, with two skunks. The first time, I smelled her before I even saw her. I’d let her out and within minutes the smell of skunk wafted through the house. I walked to the backdoor and saw Scout whimpering with her nose pressed against the glass.
Recently I returned from Virginia to visit my newly married son and his wife. I was riding high with good feels from seeing the kids thriving in their new surroundings. For two days I had dinner around their table, visited their workplaces and church, and explored with them the places they enjoy on the weekends. It was tough, but I tried to not be clingy at the airport as I said goodbye.