This was me, back in 2009. The week Drew and I began dating, we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. It was a pivotal experience for me... and changed my beliefs in myself and how I dealt with risk and fear in my life. I have always been a cautious person, but every so often, I discovered after this day, I am able to make some pretty big leaps. I'm learning now, that even though sometimes I can make big leaps in the face of risk... I'm not always that person. Especially after his death, I have had to learn to accept that that it can take me longer now to take leaps in my life.
Something really hit me last week as we began to clean out Mike’s basement. For the first time, I started to see a space that I could make my own. A space where my art studio and office could live. I spend more than half my week over at his place, so I’m starting to feel the need for some small bit of “me” over here. That got my mind going about moving and suddenly it hit me… I only have 6 months until the lease at my house is up for renewal. As busy as we’ve been and all the energy I’ve put into just trying to adjust to a new place, that timeline completely snuck up on me.
Before I know it, my mind is in a tailspin about whether or not this fall will mean yet ANOTHER move to merge with Mike. He wants me to move in, and there aren’t actually any real reasons why it ISN’T a good idea… at least not practical ones. No, the only reasons I had were emotional ones. And somehow in my mind those didn’t seem like real enough reasons and so I started to pressure myself and thus the freakout ensued...
On top of all this, I’m up to my eyeballs in planning and research for my creative grief e-course. It’s the first time I’m doing anything like this, and though I haven’t a clue what I am doing, I’m passionate about it and pouring every cell of myself into the creation of this course… so, I already have a lot of new things on my plate as it is.
Then there’s the added bonus: I haven’t actually lived with anyone - excluding my in-laws, after Drew died - for ten years now. After living with an abusive boyfriend in my early 20’s, I decided never to move in with a partner again until that was the person I was going to spend my life with. I take this VERY seriously, and it takes me a LONG time to make that decision. Drew and I were together 3 years and I was only just beginning to feel ready to move in with him. We’d had enough time to have our relationship truly tested in those 3 years, and finally I was confident that we could handle anything that came our way… though he died just short of us realizing that together. Another layer that stings, knowing that he and I never made it that far.
So with ten years of living alone, moving in with someone isn’t just a big change, it’s also a big loss. Yet another loss. For all these years, I have LOVED living alone. It’s a time in my life I have come to cherish so deeply. Without the distractions of others in my home space, I have been forced to come to a closer relationship with myself… and through all the pain and heartache, I have learned how to truly be there for me and how to love myself more deeply. I think I needed the complete and total privacy of my own place to do that for a time.
That being said, deciding to move in with Mike will inevitably mean the end of an era of my life. The closing of a large chapter and the opening of another. I know this in my bones. I also know it is not only a loss, but a gain. I know that truly, the gifts I will gain will outweigh the losses. But that isn’t how it feels right now. Because after becoming widowed, every single loss is magnified times a hundred thousand. Every new loss seems to trigger my major losses. Like tremors after the earthquake, they aren’t as severe, but they are still felt throughout my entire body. And when you’re whole being shakes, it’s hard not to react.
For now, I have decided that I am not ready for this step. After a week of freaking out and blindsiding Mike with my emotions - poor guy - I’ve had to ultimately admit this. It’s a hard thing to admit, both to him and to myself. I realize it’s silly, and not really that huge of a deal, but it feels like letting him down, and letting myself down too maybe. I want to be excited about the future, not fearful of it. I want to be able to focus more on the good and less on loss. But I have known so much loss already in this short life, that it’s hard not to wonder when the next shoe will drop. It’s hard not to think things like “what if I move in and he dies? What happens to me? What happens to Shelby? Would I stay here and be in her life? Would her grandparents take her?” What if, what if, what if...
I work through it though, I never let the what-if’s get me for very long… I’ve come to realize that at some point you just have to decide that choosing to live your life means accepting any and all what-if’s that are going to arise. You simply cannot let them stop you. So, I will get to where I want to be. It just may take me more time - to make peace with some things, to make decisions on some things, and to accept the next level of risk for the next level of love.
The biggest takeaway I’ve had from this past week, is that it's okay. It is perfectly and completely okay that I am not ready for any more risk just yet. I took a huge leap last fall in moving my life here from Texas... And another huge leap in deciding to pursue teaching workshops. With all of that, I am just not feeling up to any more diving just yet. It doesn’t mean I love Mike any less or that I see any problems with moving ahead, it just means I need a little more time with my feet on the ground before I'll be ready for another jump.
Having Mike respect and understand that has been huge, especially since that isn’t where he’s at with things. That is a beautiful medicine after being widowed… to accept where we are and have our loved ones respect and accept it too. For many of us, it’s going to take a lot longer than it used to for us to decide to risk again. We may have to start out with 100 tiny little risks before we can even think about bigger ones. That is 100% okay. It’s all a process of building ourselves back up, one small risk, and one day at a time, remembering all along that we can't be skydivers every day.