The feeling of “different” in this new year is hard to ignore. The blustery and yes, chilly, air here in this Hawaii January at our altitude somehow serves to remind me that changes will continue to happen, and the unexpected might still be lurking around the corner. When I woke up this morning I lay there for a few minutes thinking about the day ahead of me and I was remembering the feeling I used to wake with when Mike was alive. That sense of routine and comfortable familiarity I never thought would change so soon. I also again remembered one of the many little things I miss: I always woke to really good hot coffee. That was one of Mike’s happy duties, as he woke far earlier than I did. That first morning, February 17, 2013, when I woke to a cold carafe, I knew something was terribly wrong. Of the millions of small adjustments we make in the wake of our spouse’s deaths, for me, learning to make a decent pot of coffee was one of the first I had to tackle. So today, as is now my new routine, I got up to start the brew myself.
I often wonder what else will change in this new life. How long will I be able to live in this house, with a foreclosure imminent, and with these dogs (our pets never live long enough, do they?) How long do I have to build up and complete my current projects; what will happen in my new relationship? The shock of Mike’s death has mostly worn off, I have to admit. In a way, it makes me sadder that that pang-y, heart twitchy feeling has faded. I still have moments, but they are fewer and farther between. I’ve almost gotten used to him not being here. I've almost gotten used to the idea that I will have to fill my life, and the seat next to me, with other people, other ideas and new plans. There is no alternative, really. That choice has been made for me. I still catch myself trying to imagine him here, sitting next to me, walking beside me, laughing, shuffling around the tile floors. His spirit remains very strong with me. But his body is gone. He will never sit beside me ever again. That cold hard reality mimics the frozen landscape on our mountains after the storm we had here the other night.
So I am grateful that I’ve happened upon little warm spots in my life too. Earlier this week, Sarah bared her soul here to write about something deeply personal and traumatic: an experience with another man. I know several other widows who have gone through something similar. It is terrifying to open ourselves to new people - and devastating when we are tossed aside. My therapist and I talked quite a lot about my abandonment issues: it is a very real thing, and nothing to be trifled with.
So I know I am lucky to have this new guy in my life. When I met him, which was kind of a fluke, I didn’t realize what a difference it would make. And it wasn’t an easy thing to adjust to, for a lot of reasons - the first being that feeling of guilt that I was somehow cheating on Mike. The panic that something might happen to this new person too. And in the beginning I did feel the judgement of certain people around me but I finally realized that at the end of the day I really didn’t care, because the the cold hard reality of Mike's death was far worse than the iciness of their uncomprehending stares. And though some of those people have gotten very good at ignoring and avoiding me, I've been blessed with a lot of very lovely friends who are able to see me as my own individual person trying to make a new life for myself, instead of just the wife of the man who was so admired and worshipped. And some of them came into my life through the new guy. So there is that.
What I am becoming in the wake of Mike’s death is not necessarily someone new...well, I guess in a way it is. Because aren't we all becoming someone new every day? Aren’t we all trading our yesterday selves for the wiser, more adjusted person of tomorrow - or simply falling by the wayside, unable to adapt or move into the future as it is thrust upon us?
I am occasionally asked why I don’t write much about my new guy here. But it’s just not about him (and he knows that). I still grieve for Mike (he knows that too), and my writing reflects that, with or without this blog. Non-widowed people might never understand the complexity of this situation and all the feelings that come along with it. But the fact is, new guy is here. He doessit beside me. He has encouraged me as I’ve struggled to move forward - and he has been there through a lot of my very bad moments of tormented grief. He does, as much as he can, understand how I will always miss Mike; that he is not, and never will be, a replacement for him. That I didn’t divorce or break up; I was abandoned only to death. He actually likes talking about Mike. He asks questions often about how he was and what he might of thought of this or that. I tell him lots of stories and he often exclaims how amazing he must have been; how he wishes he could have met him. He never questions all the pictures I still have of Mike up on my walls, or why I want to keep some of his stuff around me in my house. He’s respectful. And that’s important.
Do I agonize about losing new guy too? Yes. To death or break-up: yes I agonize. But I hope, when and if either of those things happen, that I will be stronger. That my scars will have toughened me. That I will always find a way to pick myself up again. Before Mike died I never thought about that sort of personal resolve. But now, it is in my head, and my heart, every single day. And that, I think, is a change I can live with.
I take a sip of the coffee I brewed myself, in the same, favorite old chipped mug I’ve had for 20 years, long before I even met Mike.
And it’s pretty darned good.