When my husband was alive, he would say that my constant sacrificing and never-saying-no personality were self-inflicted wounds. If I complained about how tired I was because I took on a task I didn’t really want to do – because no one else would do it – like being “cookie mom” for a girl scout troop, he would say, “That’s a self-inflicted wound!” He was right. It was, and I wish that as I raised my girls, I thought or cared more about myself and my own needs and desires than I did. I suppose that is the plight of many women, many moms, everywhere.
Before my husband died, he talked me through the files on his computer and told me some of the things he would need me to do when he was gone. Things like ending subscriptions, transferring his business documents to the man who was taking them over, providing other documents and files to previous clients. And then when my husband died, I began the slow and agonizing process of dealing with all his other “life” stuff, too. Things beyond winding down his small business… like returning his work computer to his employer, canceling his cell phone number (that one was really hard to do), shutting down his Facebook account, and going through his clothes, shoes, and all his accumulated belongings. It took a while, but eventually I got a handle on all the things I had to do to close out a man’s active existence in a modern life on this earth.
But there were some things I didn’t close down or change out. Some things I kept alive. And six years later, they remain. I call these little things my self-inflicted wounds.
My husband was a good golfer. He was a member of the USGA, and each year, he’d renew his membership, and the organization would send him a US Open ball cap and a name tag for his golf bag. I didn’t renew the membership, but I never informed them that he died. So, each year, I get the annual renewal in the mail addressed to him with a little USGA notepad inside asking him to renew yet again. I wonder how long it will go on, this ruse I continue with the USGA, this lie of omission that indicates he just might rejoin again someday. I keep the notepads and use them for the grocery list, just as I did when he was here. And it hurts just a little bit, this self-inflicted wound.
I had a joint checking account with my husband, the same exact one we had when first married many years ago. His name is still on my checks and on the checking account as the first account holder. For me to take his name off, I have to call the bank and fill out a form. The last time I talked to the bank about something else, the representative asked me if I wanted to remove his name. I thought I was ready to do it. It had been five years at that point. But when I was confronted with the question outside of my own mind, I realized I was not ready to give up that little bit of hurt just yet. Every once in a while, when I need to pay a bill that could easily be paid online or through an app, I will pull out my checkbook and pay the bill the snail mail way…just to see his name with mine and feel the pain of the self-inflicted wound.
Recently, one of my widowed friends told me that she went to the courthouse and changed her married name back to her maiden name. Her husband has been gone for six years, and they had no children, so she just figured she needed to do it to help herself move on. One reason I keep my married name is because my daughters have his name – even the married daughter kept it. But there is something that makes me feel like I have no right to change my last name. I know it’s silly, but every time I see my name or write my name, a name I have signed onto countless documents, it hurts just a little bit…and I have learned that I still need that hurt of carrying his name around. I probably won’t ever remarry, but if I did, I think I would keep my dead husband’s name anyway. It’s been my name for well over half my life, now just another reminder of all that was lost, one of my self-inflicted wounds.
There are others, too, of course. The clothes, socks, and shoes of his that I kept and wear as my own. The men’s deodorant I put on every day – it was his brand, his scent. His wedding ring that I wear on my middle finger – his favorite finger. It is fascinating to me how much we need the stabs of pain at times to make us feel alive, to make us feel that they lived, that the life you lived really happened…and that our husbands are still living through us in some way…this way…through these self-inflicted wounds.
What are some of your self-inflicted wounds?
PS: March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Chadwick Bozeman is one of the more famous “younger” people lost to this devastating disease. My husband was one of the “younger” people lost to this horror too. He may not have been famous, but he was beloved and so needed and the ripples of his loss persist and will continue forever. Read the research and the journal articles and news stories coming out about the rise in colon cancer among people under 50. Doctors “do not know why.” But the best guard against it we have are earlier screenings and changing our diets and knowing our family history. Be vigilant because your families need you.