Being in a feisty state of mind


The thing about widowhood is that from the moment it happened to me, I felt like I had fallen on this conveyer belt that just carried me through life as unwilling cargo from day to day.

No control over my destiny. No control over what had just happened to me. No control over a future that just looked black in my mind. No control over the moment I was in for that matter. Just bumping along on the belt, with the hum of life in the background.

Family and friends helped me through the initial days of course, but at some point, someone handed me the reins to my life and said “Carry On.” I still bumbled through. I have since the end of 2010 when Jim died from pancreatic cancer.

Lots of trial and error. Lots of second-guessing myself. Lots of insecurity on so many levels.

Until recently.

Recently, I actually picked up the reins of my life on my own accord and started giving my wagon some direction. I find myself making my own choices — real choices — instead of letting the choices just happen based on other people’s choices. I find myself standing up for what I think and believe. I find I have some self-confidence.

I seem to have rediscovered the feisty part of my personality, and it shows in small but really significant ways.

Self-confidence means being able to make choices.

I recently traded my husband’s hallowed truck to get a mid-sized SUV that works for me with my four Brittany dogs and the dog sports in which I participate. That is a decision I would not have discussed even a year ago.

My new-to-me vehicle.

But the decision was very easy for me when my van needed major work I could not afford, and after attending a dog event using the truck — the truck soooooo did not work well for me — that left me concerned about my dogs’ safety when traveling.

The actual cleaning out of the truck and trading it in didn’t seem to bother me either. It never really was Jim’s vehicle. He did not have it long enough; it also never felt like mine. And I was so happy with my new-to-me vehicle.

But then I found myself dreaming about the truck, and I really haven’t dreamt that much since Jim’s death. And it bothered me that I might see the truck around town. All of a sudden, it was not such a simple decision.

The used vehicle dealer I had done business with called me one day looking for the owner’s manual to the truck, and I could hear the new owner in the background. I can only think that the dealer must have told the new owner about the truck’s history, because the new owner said to tell me he would take really good care of the truck.

I liked his deep, confident voice, and knew he and Jim’s truck were a good fit. I had wanted someone to get it who would enjoy it as much as Jim would have had he had the chance.

The dreams stopped. My little anxiety over trading the truck ended. And I knew I had done the right thing. I owned my decision.

Self-confidence means power to accept things as they are. It also means you do things with a certain pep in your step, undaunted by a little adversity.

I should feel overwhelmed by the tall grass on my lawn, but I don’t. I’ve made arrangements for my mowers to be serviced and when the rain stopped for a day, mowed what I could with the push mower because the battery was dead in the rider mower.

Recharging the dead battery in the rider mower.

I tried to recharge the battery in the rider — yes, I know how — but it was pretty dead and didn’t charge right away. Night fell. The rains came again. And I charged the battery for a long time on Sunday. When I unhooked everything and turned the key, the rider mower started with gusto.

I wasn’t worried about possibly having to get a new battery. I found it annoying, and expensive, but not a crisis. I know how to change out a mower battery. I’ve done it before.

But the successful recharge made it unnecessary.

As for the rest of the lawn: I mowed the thickest parts with the push mower Saturday and know I will get to the rest when it stops raining and when I can. I feel no anxiety over it; only ownership. A sense of timing, but not a sense of defeat.

I am not in this situation because I am a widow. I am in this situation because it’s been a very rainy spring thus far and everyone is in similar situations.

Self-confidence means strength to be who you are, wherever you are.

My approach to interpersonal relationships has changed too. I say what I think. I have definite opinions, and I own them too. I’m not unkind to people, but I’m not afraid to take my own path either.

Even though there’s more to do than one person could ever accomplish in one lifetime, even though I still really have very little control over some things in my life, and even though I usually approach things like getting ready for a dog show (think scaled down Westminster) with high anxiety, I find my attitude has changed.

I am choosing to take part in some things and not in others. I am making time for myself to slow down a little, or to not complicate really busy times in my schedule by trying to pack even more in than is physically possible to get done. I am doing things in pieces, rather than all at once, and think I am accomplishing more in the long run.

I am making decisions. Telling people like it is. Not shrinking from life. Being okay with it if some things have to go undone. Setting priorities.

I am redefining myself. I won’t ever be the person I was before I was married — nor the person I was when Jim was alive — but I can be a person who loves family and friends, who has commitment to work and hobbies, who has passion for the life I have.

Definitely still a work in progress, but I feel more open to life’s many possibilities. And that has certainly put me in a feisty state of mind.


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.