For the first few years after Drew died, I lived in between lives. Back then, I remember distinctly feeling that way. Many of the photographs I took spoke to this. I wasn’t in my old life, nor was I in what I would define as a new life.
I recall wondering what it would be like to one day live in a new life, instead of the in-between. Back then, I couldn’t even fathom that idea… and largely, I didn’t want to. I had found an odd comfort in my in-between world. It’s the place that first began to rebuild myself - this new self. I actually didn’t even know how that new self would be able to enter into a new life. I didn’t know what a new life would look like.
I also remember those first glimpses into a new life… it was an internal feeling inside me. A feeling I don’t know how to explain, other than it being a shift that I didn’t consciously make myself. It was as if my soul, or the universe, or something began to whisper to me, saying that it was time… that change was on the horizon. I could feel it in my bones, even before meeting Mike - which I would define as the catalyst that throttled me into new life.
I was in no way prepared for my “re-entry” into life. I had grown so comfortable in the space of my grief, to the point that we became friends. I didn’t really want to leave that space, though I knew I would one day have to. I had spent years exploring in my own emotions and soul… through words and photographs and paintings and such. Creating from my grief became such a part of me, that I didn’t know how to keep creating as I re-entered life. I really still don’t know how, to be honest...
This is something I’m still struggling with. Especially in my creative and artistic world. Life has been so full-speed-ahead lately, that I haven’t even had the time or energy to understand what’s happening.
It will be two years next week. Two years since I sat down at the meet-and-greet at Camp Widow and the second man to change the entire course of my life was sitting next to me. I can’t even fathom that two years have gone by. Much like I cannot fathom that five years have gone by since Drew died.
I want to talk about how beautiful and joyful these two years have been, because they have been rich and full and beautiful. They have been full of adventure and laughter and learning and living and loving. But that’s not what I need to talk about...
What I NEED to talk about is that re-entry into life (and love) after loss is a goddamn bumpy landing - no matter how joyful it is.
What I NEED to talk about is that moving to Ohio and changing so much of my life so quickly, has made me feel insecure. It’s made me feel extremely vulnerable. It's put a part of me into fight or flight mode. Uprooting your entire life will always do that I suppose - especially so after being widowed. I guess I just really underestimated how much this change would challenge me.
So for the past year, unknowingly, I have spent a lot of time inside my own insecurities. A lot of time worrying about what everyone else thinks. I’ve worried whether I’m being a good enough partner to Mike. Whether I’m being a good enough influence in his daughter’s life. I’ve worried what both his and his late-wife’s family think of me (despite them welcoming me with open arms). I’ve worried whether I pull my weight enough, because I make very little money and Mike is supporting things almost entirely - which is new and weird for me, having always taken care of myself financially up to now.
I’ve worried whether I’m being a good enough friend, as I now have less time to devote to my closest friendships. I’ve worried that my relationship with Drew’s family would fade when I moved far away (thankfully, it hasn’t). I still worry that all this insecurity in me is keeping me from growing in my creative and professional life.
The theme of all these worries is starting to become clearer… “Am I enough?” Out here... in a new landscape, trying on new roles I've never had before... am I really enough?
It feels ludicrous to be having that fear. For 3 years after Drew’s death, I was completely enough. So rarely was I ever concerned with being enough back then. I told my story unapologetically. I expressed my emotions in words and photos and paintings in a raw and honest way. That in-between world is where I finally became enough for myself, in a deeper way than ever before. In that space, I was finally being the person I’d always hoped to be... with a confidence the likes of which I'd never known before.
Removing myself from the safe-haven of that in-between world has felt like taking 10 steps back in a way. It has shaken that solid part of me more than I realized it would. This has been an especially hard topic for Mike and I - because for him, it often feels like equating our relationship as a negative in my world. Or that him coming into my life has created a lot of struggle. It's taken us quite a long time to begin to acknowledge that yes, actually, it has created a lot of struggle for me. It's taken us even more time to get to a place where we can accept that and be okay with it. It doesn't mean I regret him coming into my life - because never once have I. It doesn't ever mean I don't want this new life. All it means is that I'm still adjusting to a lot of change, which inevitably means there will be some struggle.
Creatively… this time of insecurity has felt like flying with one engine jammed. Like running on only half my cylinders. It’s felt like there is a short circuit in connecting with my soul. All of that is really hard to put into words. That’s the best way I can describe it though. Creatively stuck. Too caught up in my insecurities to even begin to create from a soulful place.
It’s getting better though. Mike and I have had enough time together to begin to learn each other more. We’re finding our dynamic, and any misunderstandings or arguments have only proven that we are a solid team and we can work through stuff together. Shelby and I are closer all the time. I find myself worrying less and less about what everyone thinks. I find myself more and more confident in all these many new roles I am learning. Slowly, life is beginning to feel more settled and I’m starting to feel anchored within myself.
I guess I just wish someone had told me that it would take 2 or 3 years to begin to feel solid under my feet again after re-entering life in the way I did. I wish I’d known to expect that uprooting myself would uproot my creativity - and my connection to myself - so drastically too. But I guess no one can know that for you. And I couldn’t have known it myself having never moved or dated a widower with a daughter.
I guess in life sometimes you just have to leap out into the unknown and build your wings on the way down, as they say. It’s taking longer than I expected for me to build these new wings… I probably have some part backwards or in the wrong places, but I’m getting there. I’m figuring it out. They’re not flying just yet, but they are starting to catch me.