I am celebrating a small, yet significant, victory this week: I stood up for myself without having to think it through first. When it was time to let another person know what I found acceptable or not, my response naturally flowed out of me.

My good friend and I attended a concert a few days ago. In order to sit as close as possible to listen to one of our favorite groups, we purchased the most expensive tickets available. We arrived early and found our seats. Before the concert started, I decided to walk around to stretch my legs. When I returned to our seats, I discovered that the person sitting directly behind me had hung his big leather jacket on my chair. I also noticed that his coat had a big collar, which I knew was going to poke my back. Needless to say, it would have been very uncomfortable for me to sit in this position for two hours. Now, I had to decide what to do about this situation.

Not so long ago, I would have handled this issue very differently, Actually, better said, I would have let someone else (either my husband or, in this case, my friend) handle it for me. However, this time I didn’t even think about what to do or say. The words just came out calmly, yet firmly: “This is my seat.” His response to me was, “Oh, are you not comfortable with my coat hanging on your chair?” I responded back, “No, I am not OK with it.” And with that, he simply removed his coat from my seat.

I gave it no more thought … until after the concert.

Years ago, I would have ignored my feelings of discomfort because, after all, my feelings were always secondary to the feelings of anyone else. Today, I realize my feelings are neither less nor more important than anyone else’s. They are equally important. I know that my feelings matter,

Since becoming a widow, I have learned it is up to me to speak for myself. In a way, I’m realizing that rather than bemoaning that I have to do everything for and by myself, this is actually very enlightening and liberating! Although it seems like a nice idea to have someone who will speak up for me, at the same time, knowing that I can speak up for myself feels pretty good. Moreover, it reduces my dependence or need for a man or another person to do things for me. This allows me, the man in my life, my friends and my family to foster our relationships out of desire and choice vs. need or obligation.

As you are all very aware, it’s very difficult having to deal with the challenge of losing a spouse. And I know that for me who had a 35 year relationship, I got used to the idea of someone speaking up for, and even defending, me at times. However, in its own strange way, being a widow has liberated me to realize that I am powerful enough to speak up for myself. I have a voice and a mind that God gave me to use. Using them has supported me in knowing that, no matter how challenging the prospect of losing a spouse can be, I am still alive and strong enough to deal with whatever else life may have in store for me!