If the first injunction of aliveness is to survive, the second is to “connect with my environment”. Survival may seem like a one-person job, but that is mere illusion – for I survive in an ecology of relationships, actions, structures and infrastructures and nature herself.
This “I/me/mine” depends on right behaviours, responding to cultures and engaging in the social rules, regulations and laws of the We/It/Its of reality in which “I” am embedded.
Ironically, I am discovering that my former identity “wife” connected to her environment differently than this new identity “widow”. “Widow” engages the environment both inside and outside the door of the household with assumptions that have transformed with a finality that startles. Cooking for one not two. Cleaning for one not two. Washing for one not two. Most daily acts of household management require half the time and half the resources. But they also require only my energy and my time. The burden of lifting has now doubled.
At the same time, this former “wife’s” act of caring for her partner has disappeared in a flash. The “widow” finds the garden of caring for another has been plowed under. Has the weather, the seasons, the interactions of care ceased? Or is the garden of care just lying fallow until “widow” finds new seeds to plant, plants to nurture and harvests to enjoy?
As “widow” stretches back out to the world of work, this old familiar environment has also taken on new aspects. Whereas “wife” negotiated work, based on time/space/moral decisions in conjunction with partner, now “widow” discovers engaging with purpose, passion and priorities impacts collegial agreements, client contracts, creative outputs and a variety of geographies. It is now all mine alone to conclude. This is both a powerful responsibility and a lonely freedom.
It is a disorienting feeling to sense the basic elements of my environment are much the same, but my relationship to them has changed. Because I have changed both on the inside of my self perception and on the outside with others’ perception of me. Those self-centered changes mean the environment calls forth a whole series of recalibrations.
Maybe this is how honeybees feel when they swarm from their old hive to find a new one? Moving their chief “identifier”, the queen, along with the whole family and home (hive) to a new location? That natural act certainly requires fundamental adaptation to a new environment. But it also taps into the deep-time intelligence of the bees themselves. They can be successful in this adaptation because they re-member how to do this not just as individuals or even the hive but as a species.
I find, recalibrating from “wife” to “widow” is a strange sort of metamorphosis – perhaps because I am focusing on the experience as mere individual? Now I see that it requires repositioning my very aliveness in terms of adapting to many layers and perspectives of life in my environment. But, while re-positioning involves re-storying myself (identity), re-structuring my space/time, re-working my passions and purpose and re-acting to old expectations in new ways, it also taps into an environment full of “human hives” who support me as I work through the process.
Luckily, these hives are populated with companions who re-mind me that this tumultuous and turbulent process of adapting will, in its own time/space bring renewal. I am re-assured I can begin a new cycle of aliveness in a new environment to which I will connect in a multitude of ways that I learn from the wisdom of the environment itself.