I don’t think I ever anticipated how difficult one aspect of dating a widower with kids would be for me… my own self-imposed comparisons. I don’t think I was equipped to handle this, and honestly I’m probably still not doing the best job of managing, though I am trying.
It was and continues to be tough that I moved into someone else’s life that was so established and so different from my own. To move into the house Mike and his wife raised their child in together. The house they were first married in together. To know there's a whole history here that does not include me. And what I still think I may be having a lot of trouble with as someone who is dating a widower is constantly holding myself up to this reflection of his wife. In particular, her as a mother, and their relationship as parents.
It is a never-ending self-imposed expectation that lives inside my head… mainly because - as I have come to know her through stories and memories - we were very different women. All Megan wanted in the world was to be a mother, and to raise up her little girl and soak in every single moment with her beautiful family. I on the other hand, never even dreamed of having children and was relatively indifferent about marriage or anything traditional - even after I fell in love with Drew. That stuff wasn’t even on my radar.
While she and Mike were creating a living, breathing little miracle of a person… I was making art and dreaming about having my work shown in galleries and museums one day. What I have birthed in my life is not a living, breathing little person… but they are like my children nonetheless. They are the things that have been birthed from the depths of me. Things that took pain and bravery and faith and love to bring into the world. My art was and always will be my first and greatest love.
Aside from her illness, Mike and Megan’s life was largely the conventional sort. I think it’s been a very hard thing to feel always a little bit like an outsider in that world. And it isn’t anything anyone is doing… it just, is. It’s there in every moment Megan’s parents have to greet me instead of their daughter. Or every moment where I hear stories of the past, knowing that the bond I have with Shelby will never, ever be like the bond she had with her mom… and that Mike has forever to feel that absence. It’s the knowing that, while I love this kiddo and will always take care of her, I still don't often feel like a mom really. It’s the guilt I feel when I would rather be making art or spending time around other artists than spending time with her, which is sometimes so totally true, and so totally hard to admit that I almost never voice it.
Largely, I know, we just need a better blending of our two worlds. I think Mike is still trying to discover who he will be in this new life too, so we both are a bit lost and scrambling at times. One thing I do know though… is that I am a happier, better person for them when I’m surrounding myself with the things that make me feel like me. Honestly, I’ve been ignoring those things a lot lately… trying - maybe without even knowing it - to fit into this “idea” of what I “need” to be to make everyone else happy. It’s always been one of my hardest problems… and is one a lot of women struggle with, that we need to be a certain way to make everyone happy. Only instead you just end up being someone else, and usually making no one happy. Most especially yourself.
I suppose the best thing I can do is spend some time remembering the things that help me to feel like me... And making some efforts to bring them into that world with me. Certainly working with my counselor late last year we defined some of those things, only I haven’t made any movement towards them really just yet. So I guess I’ve got some work to do.
Mike wrote the other week about missing the old him. And I certainly feel the same in my own way. I know the old me is in there somewhere. And this year, I’m going to do everything I can to reach a hand out to her and pull her back to the surface.