My motto for widowhood is “Say Yes!” but in my frantic attempts over the past seven-plus years to stay too busy for sad and bad memories to take root, I have stayed too busy, too organized and structured, too proactive to react and say yes to last-minute invitations that promised joy-filled moments with family and friends. And sometimes I have said yes to things that I really didn’t want to do, just to fill the hours.
The mystery is why I have taken so long to find the right balance.
I know, for instance, that I need three weeks at home between trips if I don’t want to spend every waking moment at my desk; but when I scroll back through my 2016 calendar, I see that I was home for three full weeks in October, almost three weeks in April and six weeks at the beginning of the year—but that included knee surgery and rehab. This is insane. The real insanity was scheduling a May trip to Europe, two months on Nantucket last summer and a September trip to Japan. All wonderful. That is what pushed me over the edge. I finally (I hope) learned my lesson.
Here’s where serendipity comes into play. I gave away my all my football tickets to Baylor games and scheduled no big trips for the rest of the fall, knowing that I would want to be in Dallas for Partners Week and opera and for family holiday get-togethers. (I hardly count Dallas as travel, since I have a second home there. It gets rough when I leave Texas.) And that has freed me up to react to others’ invitations.
This morning a faithful friend called with two invitations. To her surprise and my delight, I was free to say yes to both. I was free to say yes to an invitation to spend one weekend at my son’s lake house and another at a friend’s beach house. I was free to say yes to a quick trip to Chicago to see Hamilton. I was free to react to the news that my daughter’s family will be in Dallas in mid-December and to organize a day when all 11 of us can be together for an early Christmas celebration.
I am all-too-slowly growing more comfortable with the risk of being home alone with no place to go and no one to see. I am slowly growing accustomed to solitude. When my annual pre-holiday anxiety didn’t kick in in September, I smugly thought I was “over it,” but I stumbled into a major sinkhole when November arrived. Later, in my push to finish a lot of chores before Thanksgiving, I spent too much time in isolation, and I threw a huge pity party for myself on a recent Sunday.
I worried about Thanksgiving this year, with multiple gatherings in Dallas and Corpus Christi for small combinations of family. But despite the lack of planning—or perhaps because of it—I experienced at least four great moments of serendipity.
- The oldest grandson got off work early on Wednesday and wanted to have dinner with the family before they went out of town Thursday.
- At noon Thursday my son, daughter-in-law and I went looking for a place that was open for lunch. We ended up at Savor, in Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas. It was a gorgeous day, sunshine and high 60s. We ate outside and lingered over cappuccino to watch the crowds—children playing, a parade of dogs going by.
- And finally, after untraditional meals at my condo Thursday night and at my son’s house on Friday evening, I returned home on Saturday to cook for my daughter and her family. That intimate casual meal, with three of us gathered around the breakfast table, was a relaxed and meaningful ending to the holiday.
- Almost. Sunday I looked at the leftover tenderloin, rolls, sweet potato pone and molasses cream, good cheese and wine; and I called friends to share.
No, it wasn’t the perfect traditional family Thanksgiving of my romanticized memories. But it was five days of memorably good moments with the people I love most. Serendipity.
Photos: From top to bottom, by Leonard von Bibra for stocksnap.io; at Savor Gastropub, Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, Thanksgiving Day; with the grands for a belated Thanksgiving gathering.