My sister in law called me bitter. To be more precise, she called this blog right here bitter. I have been called so many adjectives since I started writing this blog. Hell, I have been called a myriad of adjectives my whole life, but none so much as when I started writing this blog.
Peter’s favorite movie was Forrest Gump. I was so proud of this fact because I introduced him to said movie. My only problem with this movie was I never understood them term Stupid is as stupid does. The term never made sense to me, so whenever Peter would snuggle comfortably down into the couch, to watch his favorite film, I was close behind. Always asking the same question. “What EXACTLY does stupid is as stupid does mean?” Peter would always explain to me that no one is really stupid. You’re only stupid if you act stupid. Well I just knew that wasn’t true. I was stupid (see blog post Dumb). I have spent my whole life trying to prove I am anything but.
When I heard the word bitter, my heart broke. ME, bitter? Can’t be. I can’t be bitter, I have modeled myself after Jackie Kennedy. My widow idol. I have been stoic and capable and responsible (for the most part). In the forty-eight hours it took Peter to draw his last breath, I scoured books about death, only reading the inspirational passages, conveniently skipping over the uglier truths of passing away.
Bitter is as bitter does.
All of this to avoid being bitter. Once it was determined that my husband was dying, I sat my children down on a daily basis and recited carefully crafted, inspiring speeches as I imagined Jackie did. I told my children that we already had everything we needed from daddy and that is why he is able to leave us. Really trying to convince myself more than my children. When asked, I deliberately down played the fact that I was a widow at the ripe old age of thirty-nine to seem, if not happy about it, content with the facts. I was working my ass off to be anything but bitter and I was succeeding.
Bitter is as bitter does.
The fact that anyone, especially a family member, would call me bitter or say that my writing was bitter was ludicrous…and true. Her exact words were “Your blog is so bitter, I can’t read it.” But I’m not bitter, oh wait, yes I am. I am bitter. When I look at Facebook and my friends are celebrating their fancy date nights. I am bitter that my children don’t have the love of their lives anymore, which Peter was. I am bitter that I don’t have MY person anymore. But most of all I am bitter that I spent so much time pretending not to be bitter. I get to be bitter, my forty-two year old husband died, not just died, but died in my arms. Fuck yeah, I am bitter and some days, not all, my life is shitty. Allowing myself to just be, has also allowed me to come to some other conclusions about myself. While I am in this orgy of grief and bitterness, I have decided that there are things that I will not do.
I will never use my bitterness to be unkind to another. I will never hold my pain in higher esteem than someone else’s. I will never shut myself off from the vibrations of romantic love, that friends, family or even myself may experience. I will never again disguise my pain, joy or any other feeling to meet someone else’s approval. And finally I will begin to accept that this journey is all things, excruciating, exhilarating, heartbreaking and blessed. The unexpected virtue in being called bitter is that I am released from my own expectation of myself. But wait there’s more, I finally understand the phrase “Stupid is as stupid is does”, and as it turns out, Jackie Kennedy was also bitter. The first two years after her husband was assassinated she stayed in bed, unable to parent her small children and cursing the world in which she lived. Maybe I am more like my widow idol that I first imagined.