I received a call last weekend that took me a week, and much anxiety, to return.
Back when I first met Michael, I was quickly introduced to his best friend. He's a wonderful guy, the perfect and loyal friend to Michael, and he was also his first boyfriend. They basically grew up together as adults. They saw each other go through many triumphs and downfalls, and were always there for each other.
What was most interesting is that he had been single for many years when I was first introduced to him by Michael. Then just about the time that Michael got sick, he met someone. Unfortunately, his new boyfriend and Michael never got to know each other too well, as Michael was beginning to decline at that point. Michael always worried about who would be there for his best friend, as he had his share of health problems over the years. In the end, it was his best friend who was there with me, getting Michael through his illness, and there when he was dying.
Fast forward to the present, and it is I that is left alone, and Michael's best friend is happily in a stable and loving relationship. He appears to have it all, and I have the remnants of a life that once was, and the beginnings of a life that is to be.
When I finally returned his call tonight, he seemed to understand the complexity of our connection at this point. We enjoyed catching up, but he thoughtfully acknowledged that breaking away from my prior life in San Francisco was probably the best decision for me. He knows that he, other people, and places, are a constant reminder of what I lost. He knows that while I am very happy for him, the life he is now living is the one that I thought I would always have.
I suppose it all serves to remind me that I need to keep looking toward the future. The past is the past, and it was a lovely past. It was a past that met my every expectation, and it was a past that took me to the depths of despair. In a very short time, I was taken through the full spectrum of a loving relationship. I was able to live out my marriage vows, and truly be there for the man that I loved. And, in every sense of the word, he was there for me.
Yet, in spite of all that is behind me, I can't live in the past. I can't recapture the past, and I shouldn't try to recreate it either. I need to cherish what I had. I need to find a way to accept, and carry on. I need to remain open to a life that can be just as happy, just as fulfilling, and, I suppose, just as complicated. I don't want a consolation prize of a future. I don't want to look ahead with the perspective that it can only be second best. I know that it will be challenging, but I want to be happy. Easier said than done. Yes. But possible.
I am learning to live with the past, but careful to not live in it.