The Widow Protection Program
After all the hell that Pete went through health-wise–the stroke, the heart failure, the VAD implantation–it was pretty clear that life was tentative and therefore our life together was tentative, but I certainly didn’t plan for that inevitability. He did. He planned things financially to make sure I’d have a good running start at life should anything happen to him. I didn’t do any of that type of planning, but I did sometimes let my imagination run away with me.
I could not envision having to live my life without Pete or having to move forward into a new life. I knew that I might have it forced upon me, but the only way I could picture it was nothing like how it actually turned out. I would try and imagine what life would look like, in an actual setting, if I was by myself. Since I’d had no experience with losing a spouse, it was only a story that I wrote. It never took into account just how incapacitated I might be emotionally.
My story–the one I would tell myself, went something like this: If anything happened to Pete and he were to die, life as I knew it would be over. The only way that I could handle it would be to almost pretend it never happened. I would shutter my business, sell my house and move out west somewhere. Probably to McGuire’s Landing “Way out West” (for those of you who follow the ML saga). I’d move to an obscure small western town, with just a few thousand people. They wouldn’t know who I am, or what my story was. They wouldn’t know I was Pete Huttlinger’s wife or that I made an entire career in the music business. I would become a substitute teacher or work at the local newspaper. I would cut off all my hair because who cares, right? It was my own version of the Witness Protection Program or in my case it would be the Widow Protection Program. Protecting myself from pain and loss.
As I often do, I recently listened to a podcast, “Aspen Ideas To Go” from the Aspen Institute. It was about coping with crisis and adversity. One of the speakers spoke about life being a sine wave. Visualize the ups and downs of life–the highs and lows. One bit of advice he gave, and I think we’ve all heard it in some form or another, is to not make major life decisions when you are at the bottom of the sine wave. When things are really, really bad, a person’s judgement may not be at it’s best. Probably comparable to the stereotypical things people do when they have a mid-life crisis.
So I often wonder while even though I had it all mapped out, I didn’t go into the WPP. It seems like maybe I knew intuitively that after Pete died was not the time to make those huge life decisions–sell the house, move out west, cut my hair, etc… Maybe I’ve been too shattered to make the move even if it had been the right thing. Or perhaps it is this life–the one I love so dearly, the one I created with Pete by my side–that holds within it everything I need (even if it lacks the one thing I want most).