Coats of Many Feels

woman wearing black sweater holding fleece cloth
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

I think I may kind of be a fraud. I know. It doesn’t really make sense. You either are or you’re not. There’s no kind of being one of these. It’s like saying you kind of gave birth. You either did or didn’t. But I’m not sure if I am becoming a fraud, am one now, or will be one in the future.

When Peter died, half my identity was ripped away from me which left me exposed. Peter and I were one. We became one when we married, maybe even before then. An old fashion idea? Yeah, maybe. Don’t get me wrong. We had our independent moments, many of those, but in the more important moments in life, we were one. We raised our kids as one. We made life choices as one. We traveled as one. We socialized and went to gatherings as one. We shared intimacy as one. We depended on each other to complete the name PeterandBetsy. So call me old fashion – and nobody ever has – but we were one.

Death put its knife in us and cut away Peter’s portion from me. It left me hurting from the rawness, scared from the vulnerabilities, and insecure from all questions and the anger left. When Peter was taken away from my life, ripped away by senselessly and suddenly, it filled me with an unfamiliar emptiness, one I know I have to eventually fill to become fully myself again.

During this time of grief, I have been trying on different coats life has given me, seeing what fits the best, the most comfortable, and is my style. It’s been a sometimes easy, sometimes hard, sometimes fluctuating process. My first decision of getting entirely new furniture for my living room was a gradual comfort, like breaking in a new pair of shoes which then become your favorite. Getting a dog for a minute was a quick act based on Peter and my love for dogs, his stronger than mine. I thought it would feel comfortable, but it was scratchy from nerves and awkwardness. A dog was always part of PeterandBetsy, but not Betsy, not yet.  Quitting my day job to pursue writing was something I knew instantly would flatter me and looked good on me in any light.  I knew I had to try it on because I’ve wanted it for so long.  And now, I am trying on the shiniest,  most brilliant coat of them all, moving downtown for a few months.

These past few weeks, I made many needed purchases for the apartment. I’ve walked around the area for the past two weekends in an effort to familiarize myself with the neighborhood. I secured a parking spot, and the biggest step of all, put down my security deposit. This is where the fraud feeling comes in. Most days, I feel comfortable, even a tiny bit excited, with life’s new apartment coat on me.

I love the city. I grew up in the city. I feel the city is really my home. For years, the town I live in, the town I love, was a spectacularly warm, gracious and special place for my kids, for PeterandBetsy, for my family. It was the best choice PeterandBetsy ever made. Yet, I was never sure it was THE place for me. And now that Peter’s dead, my kids are grown and have moved on, it seems like returning to my roots, where I was planted, is the best place for me to grow. Sometimes though, I feel pulled back to the cacoon of the PeterandBetsy place, the place filled with memories and the love of a small town. Even with the city girl in me calling out to my authentic self, the wonderful small town experiences, the memories, the love I hold, presents a solace, a solace which I know could stagnate me.

I’ve been told I am impatient. That’s not a new reveal for me. I know I am. I like the way a person once described me as a wandering soul, taking on whatever is thrown at me, and not waiting for it to take on me. Change and challenges have always caused my heart, my being, to grow restless. With the restlessness comes the fight of the Southside girl in me. I don’t hold back, including waiting. And I know big decisions should wait a year to make after a spouse’s death, or so “they” say, which is why my house isn’t going on the market anytime soon. But, I can’t stay in it. I can’t let Peter’s death, thrown at me from nowhere, take me on, take me down. Peter wouldn’t want it. My kids need me to not want it. Most importantly, I don’t want it. Still, sometimes, in my most exhausted, okay-you-win moments, I want to fall back on the cushy comfort of the web Peter and I weaved together, instead of threading my own silk. Those threads don’t seem real to me and therein lies my subterfuge.

I know some of these life’s coats I am trying on are going to feel uncomfortable. Those coats are too big for me because they were meant for one bigger than me, for PeterandBetsy. And, of course, some will feel great, right away. because those were the coats I have already worn, only a different version. But most of them, I have to try on and wear for a while because those have been tailored, taken in, redesigned, with the absence of Peter in mind. Those are the ones I may just have to grow into before I can feel genuine.