Prior to losing Megan, I was an avid backpacker. 5 or 6 times a year, I would meticulously plan a trip to the mountains over a weekend, and disappear for a few days. No cell phone service, no emails, no TV, no distractions. I am at my most calm and reflective while I am in nature.
It was a way to recharge my batteries and spend time in a primitive space.
It's been two years since I last spent a night in the woods. Megan’s organ rejection, and her subsequent hospitalization put a complete stop to any outdoor pursuits. My gear sat, collecting dust until a week ago, when I finally felt ready to leave the world behind and disappear again.
I can’t say that, to me, this moment was any less significant than our first Christmas without her, her birthday, or even meeting and dating Sarah. It felt important to be putting a boot on the ground again, for the first time knowing that I wouldn’t be returning home after a long weekend to Megan. The thought did not escape me that it also meant that the guilt I usually felt, that of leaving a disabled wife with a young daughter, was no longer present either. I was unencumbered...truly “free” for the first time in over 12 years.
That freedom is important. I had always taken my trips around Megan’s various hospital stays, procedures, and during “healthy” times. When I was discharged from the Marine Corps, I didn’t have a regular experience for a 22 year old. Megan and I met three months after my discharge, and she went in for a two week hospital stay the next day. Our twenties were spent months at a time, depending on whether she was admitted to the hospital or not.
With that said, last weekend I dropped Shelby off at my parents, sent a “bye for now” text to Sarah, and stepped off into the woods.
As I write this blog post, I am preparing for a 10 day, silent retreat at a women's Buddhist retreat centre a few hours south of my home. I will be offline and encouraged to set aside all reading and writing devices for the entire retreat. The thought of this, I must admit, is a bit terrifying. I am well acquainted with being on my own and not talking much. I prefer silence to idle chatter. However, I do not go anywhere without a book or two, a magazine, my journal, and various pens and writing implements.
Writing and reading are my coping tools. I have used them since I was a child. I remember waiting with anticipation for the bookmobile to come around my neighbourhood in the summer. I learned to read when I was five years old, and from that young age, I consumed books like candy. They helped me learn about families and worlds far beyond my own, and I was soothed by the notion that other children struggled with issues and overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles, too.
And so just like that... I am about to put in an application on a rental house in Ohio. What? How the hell did this happen? It was only weeks ago that Mike and I sat down and had a serious talk about the idea of me moving up there... if I did, how would we do this? I decided, after having lived with Drew's parents since he died, I need to get a place of my own again and establish myself. It's the only way that feels right to me... moving in with Mike and his daughter would be too rushed right now.
Immediately when I thought about it – my fear began to subside and my excitement grew. To have my own place again... something I have yearned for so much since he died and I moved here. To be close to Mike, and also within a day's drive of my sister, my extended family, and many of my widowed friends I have met these past three years. No doubt, this is a good and positive new direction. No doubt this is the direction I am being pulled towards. So after that talk, I started to look for small rental houses casually... with the notion that I would actually move sometime next year, perhaps summer.
Well, the universe really doesn't like to fuck around. I should know this by now. Instead of the gentle ushering from here and moving there, it dropped a big ass grenade of NEW in front of me. There on my computer screen, the perfect housing situation pops up... one that was so good I could not resist calling on it. And now I am left with making a very big decision that I was in no way prepared to make (or so I thought)...