Unraveled Like an Old Sock

“Joyce Carol Oates sincerely regrets that, her life having unraveled like an old sock, she is unable to aid you in knitting up your own.”


Joyce’s husband died four months before mine did, and I’ve been reading her memoir A Widow’s Story. She uses the “W” word. I won’t. I never will.

Life changes when you lose a spouse. Maybe “change” is not the right word here. Life is over when you lose a spouse. Keeping on doing what you were doing before your spouse died – in the messy, chaotic tangle of grief – is a futile attempt at keeping some semblance of your life together. At some point, though, it’s going to fall apart. You are changed, different, you are frenetic, you have new responsibilities and less time, you have little patience, you feel agitated and antsy, your emotional pendulum swings faster and wider, and yet people hold you to what you were, clawing at you until you are bloody.

I’d kept my life pretty much together – pushed myself and pushed myself to keep on going, for three years and ten months – until the spring of 2012, when something happened that shouldn’t have happened, and it changed me, and I found my life finally unraveling. I was tired of it. I’d had enough, I was filled up, I couldn’t do it anymore. I just couldn’t go on.

For ten years my life had been devoted to helping others, mainly writers, knit their own lives up. I did a lot of volunteer work in the local writing community. I gave inordinate amounts of time … and money … helped market the books of others … put writers in contact with those who made a difference in their lives … gave up a year of my life to work on an anthology. I was burned out and worn out from it all. As it turned out, I wasted ten precious years. It’s a “taking” world. People are selfish. They push and pull and squeeze the last drop out of you and spit you out. I was stupid to not see that sooner.

For eight years I edited and published an online journal – a place for emerging and established writers to be published. I published the works of nearly four hundred writers. I wanted to do it. I loved doing it. I thought it was a good thing; it was a good thing. It was rewarding and fulfilling, and I wanted to keep it up forever. But then came the spring of 2012, and I couldn’t do it any more. It broke my heart. And I felt guilty for having to let it go.

And then I read Joyce’s statement. I found peace. And I let go and floated in my newfound freedom. I felt Self emerging. I found “my resting place.”

I think this will be the title of the memoir I am writing.

Thank you, 2012, for bringing this all home to me, and thank you, Joyce, for telling me it is okay to take care of my own sock. Now, I am learning to knit.


2 Comments on “Unraveled Like an Old Sock”

  1. My daughter in law doesn’t like being called a ‘widow’. That’s for ‘old people’ like, ‘help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ old people. My son has been gone six years, she had adapted very well but she has three girls to raise and a job that keeps her very busy. I admire her and I admire you for coming through. Keep your ‘sunny side up’, as the old saying goes.
    Hope we can meet for coffee sometime in the near future and just talk about life in general.
    Blessings on all you do.

  2. Beth says:

    Here’s to knitting your own sock.

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