Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Virgin Widow by Andrea Gould

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That my moods diverged so drastically might seem strange to some. But I had come to this man and, eventually, to this marriage at a pivotal time in my adult life.

For as long as I can remember, although I was a whimsical child who loved magic and mystery and fantasy, I had known that I would follow a professional path. At the age of twenty-five, I had completed my Ph.D. and had entered my chosen profession, secure in the knowledge that I was a respected member of a close-knit community.

A college romance led to an early marriage. I was eager to be a wife, mother, and career woman, and very quickly, my dream came true. Though my son and I have a special, enduring bond, the connection between my husband and me faded quickly, and we soon divorced.

At thirty--three I was a single mother with a thriving practice. My life was full, my friends were many and varied, and I was at peace with myself and had faith in what the future held.

And then I attended a professional conference. It was a last-minute decision, really. I remember that a colleague had implored me to travel to Washington D.C. “Go, a change of pace will do you good, and you never know…you might meet someone.” And we had laughed. Little did we know…

Though it sounds like a typical clich├ęd romance, the man I met at that event seemed in every way I could imagine to be my soul mate. We were perfect for each other with the exception of geography. We lived thousands of miles apart; he in the west, me in New York and neither of us could relocate.

We tried to make it work, but the reality was that his shared custody restrictions were as limiting as mine. It was bittersweet because one of the things I loved about him was his integrity and commitment -- he simply couldn’t abandon his children. What’s more, he completely understood that nothing would induce me to leave my son.

When we decided to end our love affair I truly thought I would lose my mind. The despair I felt was beyond words. I had found that rarest kind of love that poets speak of, and I had needed to let it go and walk away. Knowing he felt the same was paradoxically a comfort and a complex, impossible tangle. Two hearts forever joined; forever broken.

Somehow, the days unfolded. Friends and family did their best. Though I buried myself in my work and cherished the time I spent with my son, every fiber of my being was utterly and completely shattered. Every nerve ending was numb. I could not and would not smile.

Life went on, of course. It always does. And I went to work and raised my child and found the strength to keep on keeping on. In time, my appetite for life returned and I found my curiosity and zest growing back in a whole new way.

Five years later, in a purely professional context, I met Richard, my future husband. He was highly respected, admired by his peers, much loved by his students, attractive, intelligent, charming, and compassionate. We collaborated well. We enjoyed each other’s company. A relationship seemed possible. “But wait,” a voice inside my head insisted, “he’s not your type.” (It can be troublesome how many people carry illusions about what defines a workable partnership.) So, I chose to move slowly and give myself the space to consider this new man with my expanding intuition. I began, gradually and completely, to change my view about what constituted a ‘meaningful partnership’. Through our differences, our struggles revealed major insights about honesty and vulnerability, and these became our guiding forces. Eventually, I surrendered to the learning, and to the love I was offered.

It took four years before I saw that something deeper and more intimate was evolving. It took nine years before I was ready to put away my dream of that forever lost love of mine and say, “I do.”

“Let me be your landing lights,” Richard had said. “Let me be the one you turn to.” His logic and persistence appealed to me.

And finally, I did. And we had a good life. While at times, our very public, committed-to-career-and-community kind of life stressed my more flamboyant ‘gypsy’ parts, somewhere within me I knew we’d find a way to allow our differences to enhance rather than divide.

We all have many personalities that live within each of us, and we do ourselves a disservice to ignore them — or worse deny their existence. And I wanted to be sure I did not do that to the ‘gypsy’ part of me, the part who dreams, who rebels against schedules, whose lyrical mind crafts poetry and song, and who resists consistency and craves novelty.

And that was why it took me so long to allow the merging of our lives to happen. In time, I learned to let his strength be mine, and to seek that gentle shelter from life’s storms. I learned to trust that he would always be there, because he’d said he would. And then he died.

 

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The Virgin Widow is a memoir– a self-help/personal growth book for individuals who have recently lost a partner, written for those who are aware that lifelong partnership is never guaranteed. When the reality of partner loss is thrust upon us, we are most often unprepared. The grief that accompanies the loss is typically overwhelming, as painful as picking one’s way through rubble after an earthquake.

Not only do we acutely mourn the specific comforts and familiarity of the beloved– we are forced into a new, unwelcome, and radically shifted world-picture that eerily enough contains many of the same objects, people and places, in a different light. “Virgin Widows” are innocent, first-time widows and widowers who have an unexplored base of experience upon which to draw the wisdom, philosophy and behavior necessary to find a way through the myriad, intricate and immobilizing situations demanding their attention.

The book provides guidance on how to navigate this kaleidoscopic and confusing time — opening up a variety of ‘windows’ on the process of moving through this altered life landscape, and consciously working with change and transition.

The Virgin Widow traces the compelling and universal journey of the author, Dr. Andrea Gould, a successful psychologist, through the spectral phases of her own widowhood. Follow the author’s personal journals, the reader will study the healing journey — replete with all of its uncertainties, challenges and triumphs — of a trustworthy and sensitive sister. Like millions of women, Andrea became a “virgin widow” overnight, thoughtfully willing herself to survive the challenge with grace.

As a psychologist she is almost by definition, sensitive to the nuanced shades of psychic change, and so as she mourned, her journal entries became a repository of conscious reflection on the process of adjusting to change and transition itself. These notes from the ‘front’ are meant to guide others on their own healing path, just as a field guide’s penciled drawings of blue jay sightings and deer tracks assist fellow voyagers in the natural world. Intended ultimately as an interactive tool, experiencing The Virgin Widow will help readers learn about what quotidian pitfalls lay ahead, receive solace, and encourage thinking and reflection about how to cope with change and sudden loss.

In fact, The Virgin Widow presents a larger philosophy about change and transformation through the structures of its format, and the presentation of its distilled wisdom. The Virgin Widow models a process of conscious choice within the upheaval, and embraces the vicissitudes of interior monologues. It frankly acknowledges just how difficult it is to manage these internal voices, shifting from one world-outlook to another.

Finding her way through the grieving process, the author relied heavily on her practices of meditation, internal self-talk and journal-keeping attempting to make sense of her new and tenuous life as a widow. What emerges is a pattern of evolution, and a distillation of how coping tools can work for the average person. Making transparent the experience of loss and transformation helps readers know that they are not alone– that the healing cycle has a dynamic rather than a static, stepped rhythm helps mourners as well as caretakers relate to the unfolding of healing from personal crisis.

The Virgin Widow is a special book because it addresses difficult matters with a light and humble touch. Existential problems around the “ordinary” arise, and these issues are treated with humor and anecdote throughout. Moreover, The Virgin Widow provides a high degree of wisdom and objectivity about these matters through its psychological commentary. The memoir is thereby lifted into another realm of educating readers about how to develop creative competence for adjusting to change.

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Genre – NonFiction

Rating – G

Connect with Andrea Gould on Twitter

Website http://lucidlearning.com/

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