Who Am I?

Who am I?

It’s been nine days since I left Michigan to go on my first solo drive to Florida, and I’m now on the way back home.

As the trip progressed, I started to feel more like myself, but also like a new person. There are things about traveling alone that I liked intermingled with times I was lonely and missed Rick terribly.

This morning, I had to rearrange my plans because I mistakenly only reserved six nights at the motel where I’m staying. I had planned to stay seven, so I suddenly was confronted with checking out this morning and deciding what to do and where to go next. But this sudden change of plans made me realize that I felt a sense of empowerment I had not felt since Rick’s death.

I can go anywhere and do anything I like.

So I pondered ideas.

How about I go to the place we used to go, about 1 ½ hours north of Treasure Island, and revisit that place? Get another bit of closure?

But I don’t want to miss this final sunny, warm day, so how about if I go and lie by the pool and read when I get there? That way I’ll be sure to have one more day of sun and relaxation before heading back to frigid Michigan.

My friends had offered to let me stay at their place when I checked out Sunday. When I told them  I was checking out on Saturday, they extended the offer to the extra day. But I didn’t want to stay with anyone. I like staying by myself. I like the independence. I like planning my day totally around my desires for the day. I don’t want to be polite, or work around others’ schedules, likes, and dislikes.

If I have to live my life alone, I need to do it my way.

If I have to live without my love, let me enjoy it the best I can.

I packed, stopped by to say goodbye to my friends, and decided to stop for a sandwich and work out my next steps. Where would I stop next? What hotel would I stay at?

I sat and enjoyed my lunch while I searched online. The motel where Rick and I used to stay was full. In all honesty, it had some rough elements staying there – there were some drunken episodes a couple of nights when we stayed there last time, so maybe it was for the best. I stayed at a nicer place just down the road. It cost $30 more, but I’m justifying paying more for hotels because I’m traveling so much more economically as a lone traveler – and safety is my priority.

I drove to the hotel, unpacked, decided I’d like a swim, then decided I’d like to sit in the sun and read Sue Grafton’s last novel. It became a bit chilly as the sun was about to set, and I felt like having a nice hot shower and relaxing a bit. I became hungry, and went to Hardee’s – one of Rick’s favorite vacation fast food joints – first time without him, and more closure.

I ate there, working on a crossword puzzle. (I also noticed that there were two other separate single adults eating alone – something I’m noticing more, now that I’m paying attention.) I finished, gassed up the car in preparation for leaving early tomorrow, and was driving down the street, headed back to the hotel, when I suddenly asked out loud with some surprise, “Rick, who am I?”

Who is this woman contentedly traveling alone in a state 1200 miles from home? Who is this woman who drove there herself, spent a week vacationing alone, visiting beaches, and restaurants on her own? This woman who met a new friend from Facebook for drinks, met friends for various evenings out – cards, trivia, and dancing – and then returned to her own motel room to relax and write?

Who is this confident, SINGLE woman?

Who am I? What will I do next?

The sky’s the limit.

Yes, I still miss Rick terribly. Yes, many times throughout the day, I am stunned anew that he isn’t with me. I feel his loss, my loss. On this trip, I missed my travel companion and I often felt lonely.

But I’m also beginning, just a little, to enjoy the adventure. As the grief still flows around me, I have more times of hope – hope that maybe I’ll be alright, that maybe I will feel joy again someday. I’ll just keep moving forward – alone – because I have no other choice.

Somewhere along the route, maybe I’ll discover me.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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