I’m not anyone’s number one priority anymore. There. I put that out there. I know it sound ominous, maybe even whoa-is-me, perhaps too dramatic. I don’t mean it to sound any way other than honest. And the truth is not being anyone’s number one priority anymore is part of the many fallouts of widowhood. It just is.
There wasn’t this gradualness of being pushed back to the middle of the line, the end of one, the there in-the-front-section-but-not-the-first. It was pretty instantaneous. I know people in divorce have experienced this with a perhaps a more gradual recognition than mine. When a marriage or partnership weakens so does the prioritizing of each other. It’s the biggest signs of an eroding relationship, when people, things, jobs, fill-in-the-blank start coming before you partner, your spouse. But the outcome is the same. I’m not sure if having no adjustment makes a difference or not. All I know is as I advance into my second year of widowhood, my being someone’s number one priority has become all too apparent.
My kids have moved up to the shared number one spot Peter vacated, yet I don’t expect, nor want to be, their number one. That is not the way life goes, or the life I want for them to go. They’re young adults. They should be their own number ones as they navigate this world, become who they are meant to in life. A partner, or a pursuit, should step in front of me in the line. It’s more than okay. It’s the way a good parent wants it to be, knows it should be, and I do try to be a good parent. My mother was a good parent. I was at the the top of her priority. And then she died, seven months Peter.
Friends and family have weakened my place in their priority line as my months go on without Peter. Again, it’s the way it has to be, should be. For awhile after Peter died, they held a space for me in front for their own families, their own jobs, their own interests. They held it long enough to know I would not crumble. And when I didn’t, they returned to their norm, and I returned to where I once stood in their lives, my proper place, to spot I used be at when Peter was alive.
Back in the days when Peter lived, my life paced independently along side the lives of family and friends. We crossed our paths when our lives slow down – mine and theirs – and we could find the time, schedule a time. I didn’t even think about my place in their lives because honestly, I didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong. I made time for family and friends. I sought them out, scheduled time, and enjoyed all the minutes I could with them. Yet they weren’t my number one, nor I theirs, and this was normal, even okay. There was an unspoken acknowledgement we had and were others number ones.
When Peter left my world, it was this same acknowledgement that pushed them toward me, to focus on me, to put me in a high priority spot. I don’t know what last year would have looked like without their selfishness. But now, as I showed them I could survive, even show my strength, they have returned to a norm they had with me, a norm my life is not even touching anymore and never will. But it is their norm and the only one they know. And I do not need, nor want, any other sacrifices from them. During my altruistic moments, those times where loneliness doesn’t bring me down the path of self-pity, I know, to the core of me, it’s not their time with me anymore. Other times, I know it, and hope for more. Most times, I straddle both.
Part of me blames COVID for make me sit with all of this, all the truths on the second year of widowhood, the knowing of my change in priority status. Oh, I’m sure I would have felt it all without COVID. What I am not sure is the frequency in the reminders because of COVID. COVID has erected barricades for everyone. I am no exception. For me, COVID has closed the door to some opportunities for growth, meeting alike people, getting out of my own head. It has narrowed down my choices of distractions and moments to have my own busy times like the other people in my life. Instead, COVID has kept me still in my house, waiting, hoping and wanting human interaction, pondering my place in people’s priority line
I want to make this clear. I am not drowning in a deep pool of self-pity and pushing out huge splashes of guilt onto the people close to me when I write this down this morning. All of this, losing my own number one priority in Peter, as well as my own diminished status as a number one priority, are no one’s fault. It is part of the shrapnel I received when the huge explosion that took place in my life from the bomb dropped labeled “Peter’s Death”. I would say I believe this to be a normal part of widowhood, but nothing is normal about widowhood. I will say instead, in the strange, abnormal world of widowhood, I think this is just what happens, especially in the second year of widowhood.
Loosing priority status is one of the realities in this stark second year of widowhood hold. Sometimes, these actualities are so obvious, they hurt as equally as the pains brought on in my first year. A woman newly widowed, once told me the second year was harder for her than the first. She broke down for me what I am experiencing. Everyone has moved on. The phone calls stop. The checking-in texts stop. And you, as a priority to them, lessens. She wasn’t wrong. I can’t get angry at them. I won’t get angry. It wouldn’t be fair. My own guilt will point that out for me. Moving on is what is supposed to happen, for them and for me.
In this second year of widowhood I feel as if I am standing among the ruins of a collapsed life. My first year was spent in the pain of missing him, the uncertainty in moving, the disintegration of a life wanted back, the longing for my man, my mister, my lover, my best friend and knowing he will always remain wherever Death took him and not here in this Life. Now, with the strength I gained in my own second yea, I stand in the rubble widowhood gave me. I look out at all the shattered destruction and struggle to think, to process, to figure out my next steps. Amid the sharp broken pieces of cutting realities, ones I know I am strong enough to walk on, I have begun to understand the painful truths the absence of him left for me. One of them I stare down this morning – I am no longer anyone’s number one priority.