I still share too much, sometimes. I started learning about not sharing so much when I first started in Al-Anon, where wise women helped me learn how to say no. "All you have to say is no," they said. "You don't have to explain why, or sound guilty, or talk about how you wish you could say yes, or apologize. Just say 'No, that won't work for me.'" I'm still not very good at saying no, but the idea that I don't owe the whole world an explanation of every decision I make was liberating and instructive.*
When John died, I had much to learn about a specific kind of oversharing. I've written about that here before, about the need to explain where Maddie and Riley's dad is even when no one has asked, about elaborating on my single status when no such elaboration is needed. When I keep things to a Need to Know basis, I'm more comfortable as are most people to whom I'm talking. I don't mean close friends here, but just the people one encounters in everyday life: the checker at the grocery store, the librarian, the customer service agent on the phone.
It's that kind of oversharing about John that I still sometimes can't avoid. I want so much for everyone—even those people with whom I intersect in only the most incidental of ways—to know that I had a partnership once, with a person who was a devoted father, an individual full of ideals and character, good grace and humor, and love, so much love. I don't feel unworthy on my own, or less than, it's not that. It's just that it was such a pleasure for everyone he encountered to know John, and such a pleasure for me to have him in my life. I miss sharing that with everyone I know, and even with the those I don't.
I was on the phone yesterday with a mortgage broker. He was really nice, and we soon discovered that we are both parents of twins. We did the twin-parent bonding thing. Then he asked me bunch of really personal questions because that's what people do when they need to get all up in your credit. I mentioned that I had some money available in the form of a life insurance policy that I could liquidate. He asked me the cash value of my policy. Instead of simply telling him how much was left in the account that I got when John died, I said, "Oh, the policy isn't on me! It's on my husband. It was on my husband. Then he died!"
We quickly moved on to a discussion of the other places I stash my vast sums of spare cash, and the moment was gone, but yeesh.
As I reflect on this particular moment of oversharing, however, it's clear to me that this was not one of those times when I wanted, needed to tell a stranger that I had once had a partner. This was a moment of fear and vulnerability. I'm thinking of buying a house. This is scary business! It's a huge decision and a life change, one that I was not sure I ever wanted to make again. And while it feels right to be strongly considering the option and I have all my ducks in a row and I'm perfectly capable of doing this on my own, it's still scary.
On an emotional level, I miss John. On a practical level, I miss shared risk. I am lucky to have many good friends (including one who acts as my stand-in spouse when I need one; I'm looking at you, Erk) and a supportive family who are happy to discuss things with me, help me work through things, make pro and con lists with me, and gently tell me when I might need to consider another point of view. But at the end of the day, they are not there to enjoy the daily ups and downs that are the result of that decision making process. There's a simplicity and ease to always getting my way in life's big decisions, but all the responsibility can also feel like a burden.
This is not to minimize unpartnered life or glorify marriage. It's just to say that my marriage was good to me. My partner was good for me.
*The conundrum of then writing about that on a blog—home of more oversharing than any other form of communication—is not lost on me.