Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Back in the Water .....

3_30_11.jpeg... another wave comes and smacks you from behind .....


I love the ocean.  Always have. 
Jim did, too.  We were a "beach family".  Loved taking vacations to a beach .... any beach.  Even the one in Galveston ..... where the word "beach" has a whole different definition.  But hey, when it's the only beach you have within an hour's drive or so, you take what you can get.  Even if the water is brown.
So I find it a bit ironic that I've always seen my widowhood as being in an ocean. Always.

Anyway ...... just when I thought it was safe .... just when I thought I had things under control ....
It wasn't.
And I didn't.
I was surprised by how much I didn't.
Other people were, too.

I was having lunch yesterday with 8 other friends.  We are all on a tennis team together. We were celebrating all of the summer birthdays to come, before our season is over in 2 weeks.  We were having a great time.  Just 9 women having lunch and celebrating each other and how well we've done this season.

Then the captain of the team announced that our "year end party" would be a barbeque at her house, in May.  Sounds like fun, right?
Spouses are to be included, too.
Still sound like fun?

I am on a team with 9 other women.
Nine of us are married.
One of us is ..... not.
Guess which one is ..... not.

And .... for some reason, this came at me like a wave .... smacking me from behind.  I didn't see it coming, so the force of it came in much stronger than it would've, had I been able to brace myself for it.
Once the excited chatter about the event died down, I looked up at our captain .... who is a dear friend that I've known for years.  She was sitting directly across from me.  She knew, from the look in my eyes, which must have been on the "wild" side, that all was not well.
I have to add .... that out of these 9 women, I've known a few of them for years.  And years.  And years.
Jim and I knew them.  We did things with them .... and their husbands.
I know their husbands and care very much for them.
But ............
My friend looked at me .... studied me for a moment or so .... and asked, "You'll come, right?"
I paused ..... tried to gather my thoughts and figure out where this wave came from ..... and then answered, "I'm not sure.  But really .... I don't think so."
She looked a bit surprised.
I felt a bit surprised.

Our conversation was heard and passed on down the table.  There was much murmuring going on while she and I looked at each other.
Then I heard, from the other end of the table, someone exclaim .... in a rather loud voice, "Are you kidding me?!".  Those four words were translated to my brain into these words .... "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of!!!" ..... by a friend who knows me well.
Or so I thought.
I wanted to scream at her ..... at all of them .... "You DON'T get it!!!  You CAN'T get it!!!  And you should be VERY thankful that you don't .... that you can't!!!"
But I sat in silence, staring at my good friend from across the table.
She quietly asked, "You won't come?  Even though you know M, and J, and D (the husbands that I know well)?"
I told her no.  She looked puzzled.  I felt puzzled.  I thought I was past this.
I was wrong.

I tried to explain to her what I was feeling.  I told her that it was one thing to hang out with one couple or two.  Couples whom I love and who love me and who loved Jim.  That was a small group and I felt safe there ..... for some reason.  But .......
.... the thought of being in a group of 9 couples ..... 18 people who belong together, who love each other, who are bound together through the years ..... and being the last number .... number 19, was overwhelming me.
She asked me again, as if trying to break out of the fog of incomprehension ..... "Even with our husbands?  Those you love and feel safe with?"
I looked into her eyes for a moment, struggling to find the words to explain the panic that was forming in my stomach .... and in my heart.  But instead of words .... tears started to form .... and I had to look away.
I said, "I just can't.  It hurts.  It hurts very much."
She saw the oncoming tears ..... and she stopped.  She knows me well enough to stop.  And she said, "OK."

And that was exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed to hear that she "kind of" understood, even if she didn't really.
I needed to hear, "OK".  I did not need to hear, "Are you kidding me?!!"
She asked me to not make a firm decision just yet, but to play it by ear.
I told her that I would.

And I will.
Though I doubt that my mind will change over the next month or so.
I am not a "couple".
I was.  For a very long time. 
I was supposed to be ..... for an even longer time.

And then, one day ..... I wasn't.
After over 2 1/2 decades ..... I had to learn how to live differently.
And I slowly became used to it.

After a couple of years .... I met someone.  And I became a couple again.
I didn't realize how much I had missed that ..... until it was gone .... again.
I'm back to being single.
To being the "third wheel".
Even though the other people in the room don't feel that way, don't think of me in that way .... it doesn't matter.
It's what I feel that matters.
It's the fact that my heart hurts that matters.
And it's the fact that I know my limits now ..... I know a wave when I see one.
And I know a wave when I feel one.  Even when I didn't see it coming.

So I probably won't go to a function where, out of 19 people, I am the odd number.
I will not go and stand in an ocean full of waves.
I may feel differently on that day.  And if I do, I will go.
Anything is possible.

I am strong enough now .... to know myself.
And know my heart.
And know when I can ..... or cannot, withstand the waves.

Yes, I am almost 3 years "out". 
One would think that I'd be "over" this, wouldn't one?
One would be wrong.
I .... was wrong.

I am stronger.
I am happier.
I am living .... and living well.
I am content.
I am ..... blessed.

But I am also living in a world that still has a few waves in it.
Not a lot.  And not very often.
In fact, the waves are almost a rare occurrence now.

And I'm still here.
I have survived.
And I know myself better than ever.
I am strong.
Strong enough to say "no" when I need to.
No matter what anyone thinks.
Or what anyone feels.
It's my heart.
And I'm the one in charge.

I think I'll go for a wade in the water .....

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