Three sisters. Writers. Trauma survivors. Strong and courageous, yet oh so very sensitive and empathic.
I have been busy sewing and knitting this last while. And I have also been revisiting the lives of the Bronte sisters, Emily, Ann, and Charlotte, through documentaries and series.
It’s comfortable for me to watch while I create. Especially during such tedious processes as turning and stuffing doll limbs or other tiny shapes. I have learned to do all the sewing or hooking or knitting (the fun stuff) first and then do the finishing while engaged with a program, preferably one I have already seen, so I can listen if needs be.
I recently viewed a creator’s page in one of my magazines where she made widow dolls out of dried gourds, of all shapes and sizes, wearing typical widow dress (black with white lace caps) and then set them in old china pieces. It’s interesting how life’s changes make you even see creations in crafting journals from a different perspective.
So does it have me reconsider the lives of those writing genii, the Brontes, who walked invisible for years, using gender-less pseudonyms until their true identities were revealed out of necessity, not real desire. I have always identified with these famous narratives and their authors from the time my mom, who was also my high school librarian, handed me a copy of Jane Eyre to read one end of June. I was 12 years old, I think, and really didn’t catch on to the whole love-anguish thing between Jane and Mr. Rochester, but I sure remembered “Grace Poole”, her hysterical laughter, and the strange goings-on in the Rochester’s attic.
But really it’s their lives, their biographies that fascinate me the most, especially Emily’s. She, who feared the world and kept to her imaginings and her routine of home as much as possible during her thirty years of human existence. It is she with whom I often love to spend time in my imaginative hours.
Emily was a walker. The moors were her escape from reality, even though the harsh winds, dampness, and cold were very real. I am sure there were many fair weather days as well when the sky went on forever. She always had a fierce behaving, loyal dog and so we are told, a trained falcon. I think she was full of fear, and thus anger, and struggled to keep things always the same. I imagine she fought change and lived in denial at times.
But holy man, when she let loose, she created a classic piece of literature and an unforgettable character, in the forms of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff. The moors and her writing, and maybe even her incessant bread making were her definite coping strategies.
I would love to do the widow walk with her.
But of course I cannot, and really I am coming to realize it is one you have to do on your own if you are ever to truly come to terms with what has happened, to you, personally. And to move forward in order to discover what and whom lies ahead.
So, I am taking the paths I am comfortable with and building on those to gain strength and confidence. Like Emily baking her bread, and training her falcon, and roaming the moors.
Widowhood, the label, the status, is complex. It communicates vulnerability, creates expectations of “proper” behavior, and in developing countries, and, I would argue, even in supposed informed cultures, compels ostracism, both physically and emotionally.
While it is no longer necessary to wear black veils and starched lace, I sometimes think restrictions and expectations exist for those of us who have lost our partners, even today.
I also believe that it is very easy to slip into a certain anonymity when your life crumbles. When you can and when you are ready, begin discovering yourself again: that “magnificent you” who continues to make mistakes around every turn, who perhaps takes yourself less seriously, but at the same time sees your value, be it small or significant, to the world, and to the 5 year old who tells you he messed up on his worksheet and doesn’t know what to do.
Find your voice, not only for yourself, but for those of us who became lost because our status changed? The ones whose security snapped in the blink of an eye through sudden death or a diagnosis even yet to be processed.
Do you know that every term I have come across with the word widow connected to it is somehow negative: widow‘s walk, widow‘s peak, black widow. But it doesn’t have to be. As a born romantic, the word widow is kind of okay for me. It’s worth working with, and for, in the sense that its umbrella is very wide. It includes all genders, for starters. In some countries we are considered the “marginalized” and “unclean” just as we were in Jesus’ time. But that is changing. Organizations have been formed to help people who have lost their spouses retrain and become educated.
Relying on one’s self is scary. Or it was for me. It still is sometimes. But then I realize I am not alone. I have Vicky, Jonathan, Penny, Rhi, and Lisa. I am actually part of something pretty big.
And I am not walking alone, but rather at my own pace.
I would like to end with these words from Emily Bronte, whose passion for life still gives me goosebumps whenever I read her words:
It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
To me, this describes what finding and accepting widowhood has done for me.