Technically, A rudder is a primary control surface used to steer a ship, boat, submarine, hovercraft, aircraft, or other conveyance that moves through a fluid medium (generally air or water). Without a rudder, the conveyance tends to go in circles rather than the intended direction.
During a conversation with my sister-in-law Diane whose husband Mark Sr. died recently after a long illness, while we were comparing our "states of being a Widow," she said she felt rudderless.
I knew what she meant as I felt the same for a while after Gregory's passing, although not using that word. Her use of the word rudderless got me to thinking.
In the beginning, the time I no longer had to devote to Gregory's care was devoted (not necessarily by choice) to mourning and taking care of the details in his death. Once the mourning was less overwhelming and all consuming, I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hands.
I would get up early, have breakfast, go through my e-mail, pay bills, write for a while, have lunch, go grocery shopping, put the groceries away, take a nap, make dinner, clean up the dishes, watch a few TV programs ... and then it would be only 7:00 and I was ready to end the day. 7:00 fucking o'clock!
I didn't want to watch more TV or read or take on another project. But go to bed at 7:00? Not possible. Sometimes I gave in by 8:00. I felt like I was biding my time until it was my turn to die.
After a while, that schedule widened and before I knew it the clock was telling me 10:00 or 12:00 and it could legitimately be bedtime.
After our conversation about rudderlessness, I got to thinking is that so bad? After so many years (five for Diane, twelve for me) of such intense focus on caring for our spouses, was it so bad to allow ourselves time to do just nothing, or do something if and when we felt like it?
Did we need to keep schedules, fill our time, have direction or could we allow ourselves to live in a state of relative emptiness as we mourned and missed our partners and as we recreated a new life in which to spend our time? Being older and having taken care of our partner for such a long time could we not take the time to rediscover how we wanted to spend our time or discover for the first time new ways in which to do so?
Often people in general, even without experiencing the loss of a life partner, pressure themselves to fill their time and not only to fill it, but to do so in a meaningful, productive way.
Sometimes the busyness is a way to cover not dealing with things with which they need to deal but are afraid to face. Sometimes it is because they are just not comfortable with free time, with empty time, with time to think, with silence. Sometimes it may be because they feel that the only measure of who they are is what they accomplish.
I think the lesson here is to learn how to be comfortable in not always needing to listen to the "noises in our head," to keep busy, to have purpose 24/7/365. We need to learn to like oneself enough to ignore other people's expectations for us. be comfortable being alone, and to enjoy being quiet with oneself.
I believe that in emptiness there are lessons to be learned, fuel to help run life when it needs to be run, and time to reflect and to grow and arrive in new places in that growth. Going in circles can clear the mind and open new avenues on which to walk life's path.
Gregory and I loved the term Flaneur. Flâneur"stroller", "lounger", "saunterer", or "loafer". Flânerie is the act of strolling, with all of its accompanying associations.
The flâneur was, first of all, a literary type from 19th century France, essential to any picture of the streets of Paris. The word carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street.
Some of our best vacation times in Paris, Tuscany, Madrid, Barcelona, Puerto Villarta were spent wandering around the streets without any predetermined plan, seeing what would come across our path, what might be discovered, what new experiences might lie just around the corner or on the next block.
Maybe allowing yourself to be rudderless now and then, to be a Flaneur, is a great way to really live life to its fullest and to be surprised along the way!
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