With my husband’s death, I really needed to find my Plan B

We all make plans and hope, or in my case pray, that all will go according to the script. But life is not that way, and our happiness depends on our ability to negotiate the curves that come up suddenly in what we thought was a straight path.

If I have learned anything, it is that there is no straight path in life. As a person in my mid-50s who has been widowed for nearly five years, I know what I’m talking about.

Julie and her dog Thistle

Julie and her dog Thistle

My husband and I had a plan for our lives. It was a first marriage for me; second marriage for him. But we had figured out a retirement schedule and a post-retirement plan and all of a sudden, he was gone. What I thought was a stable plan for the future poofed in front of me and the chasm left in the middle of my life’s road seemed uncrossable. That was when my mind went into survival mode, and for a while, I simply went through the motions of life.

But survival mode is hard on the body and the mind, so at some point, I began to evaluate my situation. I had a career, not just a job, that I loved; I had shelter and the necessities of the body; I had my church and thus the necessities of my soul; I had family and friends, who bolstered me until I could stand on my own or were there if I needed help; I had reliable transportation; I had dogs that made it necessary for me to function at a certain level to meet their daily needs; but my most important asset was my brain, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

As I thought about each of these things, I could see I was building a bridge across the chasm, unstable as it seemed at the time, but definitely providing the bones for something more permanent.

The most amazing thing to me during this process was realizing how rusty I had allowed my brain to become. Before I was married, I knew how to deal with simple mechanical issues, home repairs and home maintenance. Somewhere along the way, those things became the purview of my husband and I took for granted they would get done without my intervention.

Suddenly they were all my responsibility again and I found the simplest tasks to be a major deal because I hadn’t performed them in so long and lacked confidence to handle them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am the Queen of Lists. I stopped making lists of the tasks needing doing around the house because it simply overwhelmed me, and I became immobilized. Now, other than routine tasks like mowing the lawn and cleaning the house, I do the odd jobs as they pop into my mind or my sight. I get more done that way, and feel more accomplished.

Adapt. Use your brain. It’s all good.

I always have a Plan B. It’s good to have a Plan A, but Plan B simply gives me a second pathway to the same or similar end without the stressed panic response when Plan A gets blocked. With my husband’s death, I really needed to find my Plan B — a new path to a fulfilling life. What I’ve learned is that it is not a direct line to an end goal; it is a journey.

I invite you to walk this journey with me.

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Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.