It's been about 3 weeks since I moved to Ohio... and I finally hit my first big trigger. A few days ago, I was listening to some country music when a song called “My Texas” came on. The lyrics wandered through familiar places... Enchanted Rock, Luckenbach, and my hometown of Corpus Christi Bay. Instantly I had images flooding my mind of all the many places I've lived and laughed and loved back home. All the family and friendships that are still there. But there was more to it than that. Which is why, in an instant, I spiraled into a total fit of grief. I must have cried for over an hour. It's only now, a few days later, that I am fully realizing it to be much more than just the normal homesick feeling.
I miss my home state, where I have lived all my life. But what's more, I miss the home of my heart – the person that is no longer here. Being homesick ties so deeply into missing Drew. Not only because our life there feels far away, but because he so embodies Texas culture for me. Western boots, dance halls, guns and beer... I was a city girl when I met him. He was the one who introduced me to that true Texas culture, and I fell in love with it immediately. Now years later, I am still drinking beer, wearing my western boots, going to country dance halls and enjoy going shooting. Or at least I was until moving here.
He infused into me this culture so deeply. In moving to Ohio, of course there are a lot of differences. There is plenty I like here that is new. A drive in diner called Swenson's, the beautiful waterfalls and rivers and woods to hike in, the close proximity of other states (that one is still so bewildering!). But the overall culture is just so different. I know it's normal to have culture shock... but having that be so wrapped up in a person makes it even harder. I cried just as hard for the life he and I never got to fully share together as I did for all the places and memories I miss. I cried because I realized that no matter where he and I moved across the country in our lives – he would have brought Texas with us anywhere he went. Leaving on my own, however, hasn't felt like Texas has come with me.
To a degree, I have to let go. I know that. I have to make room to enjoy what IS new and different about Ohio... about this new life I am living. I have to be willing to embrace this life, to lean into it. But that's hard. And painful. Even though I have Mike here, It's hard to fully lean into him. I seem to often times get a small amount of resistance – which I imagine is normal when you're in a new relationship after the person you loved dies. You know better than anyone that you could lose this new person too, and so leaning on them sometimes feels quite dangerous.
Until the moment comes that you melt into it... when you realize you had better just let yourself sink fully into this love because it's ridiculous to avoid doing so out of the fear of them dying. Because you cannot prevent that from happening, or know when it is coming. So you might as well just let go and love.
After a few hours of crying that night, I finally called Mike and shared my feelings of homesickness with him. He showed up to my place an hour or so later wearing a western hat and a plaid flannel shirt, carrying two six packs of my favorite Texas beer (thank God they at least have that here!). That was the moment I melted, and stopped resisting this new person before me. Because he cares a great deal about making sure that I never lose my feeling of connection to Texas, or to Drew. And he cares even more about making me feel at home here.
Last night, he took me out to a country bar around here, just so I could feel a little more like I was home. It wasn't quite Texas... The music selection was pretty awful. And got progressively worse as the hours rolled on. We're talking club remixes of Garth Brooks songs here. There was a decidedly lesser amount of western shirts and cowboy hats, and far more sneakers and loafers (which I'll admit, felt like sacrilege to me). Almost no one was two-stepping, and everyone was doing insanely complicated line dances which we couldn't even begin to get in on as newbies (to credit Ohio, we don't really line dance a lot in Texas, and man they have got this shit down). So no, it didn't exactly feel like Texas. But... they had my favorite Texas beer, which is HARD to find in restaurants and bars around here. That was really enough for me. So Mike and I sat and knocked back some Shiner Bock while we laughed at all the horrible dancers and bad music. Despite it all, there was laughter and fun and life being lived... and I did indeed feel reconnected to my roots.
This is not my old life. It's not the life I imagined I would be having 4 years ago, before Drew died. And most certainly, sometimes I resist that. Sometimes I want to close off and not allow anyone else to offer me comfort or show me a new version of happy. I'm incredibly stubborn about this sort of thing. Even after 3 ½ years, I still catch myself wanting to just sit and stew in my own pain. But I try to remind myself to keep on deciding to live, as hard as that may be sometimes. Mike reminds me of this too... and since he is also widowed, I can't play my widow card on him. Ha! He will call me out every time if I am just making things worse than I need to be. Which I love. One of Drew's best qualities was believing anything is possible. One of Mike's, is believing that it's possible to make something good out of anything. In their character, they often times seem so much like brothers. Both bringing me the lessons to help me along my own path.
Sometimes this new life feels a bit like a game of connect the dots – only without a pre-defined picture at the end. There are all these pieces of me kind of floating around, some near, some far. As I move forward, I am connecting those pieces together into the full picture of my new life and who I am now. As I move farther from some and closer to others, the shape changes. New pieces appear too, and I have to figure out how to connect those into all the other parts of my life, and still make the picture complete. It's a constant game of redrawing the lines, and trying new things, to try and get it how I want it. That's life in general I suppose... we keep redrawing our lines, adjusting things here and there, until something – like death - comes along and turns us to a blank page filled with random dots. I'm grateful to have maybe a half-drawn page at this point... but I never forget that the page could be turned again at any moment. That keeps me on my toes. It keeps me working to connect the pieces of my life, both the sorrow and sadness for an old life and the joy and excitement of new life, into one complete picture.