I'm writing this on Tuesday. It would have been Mike's 61st birthday. My heart is breaking.
Honestly, I didn't expect it to hurt this much. Last year all I can remember is the day passing in numbness and disbelief. This year somehow I feel more alert to the pain, and it's been very hard. Over the past 21 months - 21 months yesterday, by the way - it's as if the panic and shock of his death have faded into a deeper, more guttural state of grief. A year ago it was still reverberating like a constant ringing in my ears; now, it has settled into a knot in my stomach, or maybe, a hole in my heart that I must learn to carry around with me.
So many people wished him Happy Birthday on his Facebook page along with many soulful wishes he was still with us. How much they missed him, how special a man he was, how he still holds a place in their heart. Some, that they even still feel his presence. That is nice. It made me feel happy to know he affected so many people while he was here...and so deeply sad that he is missing from us now. I know a lot of his friends, not to mention family, still mourn him very much indeed.
My world seems deflated without him. It seems ho-hum without him. You have to understand - when I met him it was like I was suddenly able to perceive another spectrum of light. The world changed for me; something shifted and a bright, sparkly radiance entered my field of vision. And don't get me wrong - not every moment was magical. Some were arduous, yes, as in many relationships. But a lot of them actually really were magical indeed. (No really. You have no idea. He blew my mind from the moment I met him.) It was truly amazing to have been a part of his world. I am forever changed, and will forever feel blessed for the experience. He taught me so much, and I am, forever, grateful.
But now...as much as I know I can have a future, as much as I know I do have a lot to live for, as much as I know there are some really amazing people around me now, and as many fun and lovely moments I can be sure to have...it still feels...somehow...not as bright. Waking up with him each morning was always an adventure. Believe me. But that magic that was Mike, that vivid energy that filled a room and filled my life, died with him, and all those sparkly bits fell to the ground and went out like dying embers.
If my world was black and white before I met him, life with him was in color. And now, the colors are fading again. I try to keep a brightness in my heart, the memories of him and what he taught me, as I carry him with me into this next chapter - but it is hard. It will just never, ever be like it was again when he was around.
I tossed and turned all night last night, waking up several times to stare at the ceiling and think about what we would have done together this day. Whatever he wanted, that's for sure. And they were always lovely, these special days. A drive up the coast, or a swim at the beach. Maybe a matinee at the theater. Always a special lunch, or dinner. Usually sushi. Sometimes Mexican, or pizza. A glass of wine on the lanai. Perhaps a small gift or two. But always cards. Greeting cards were just one of our things. We both pored over the racks at the store for each other, and I saved them all. I have a huge stack of them in a drawer, and I kept thinking about them all night. There would never be another card added to that stack.
This morning I dug them out and started going through them. I think I've only done that one other time since he died. It was wonderful to relive, for small moments anyway, the joy we shared giving them to each other. And also terribly excruciating. Each one brought more tears.
The pictures above are of the one I gave him for his 59th - our last one together. Love is togetherness through time. It was, on that day, a perfect card. Because it's not as if I wasn't aware of the magic and adventure while it was still happening. I was. And learning to live without it has been torture, because I am so keenly aware of what I have lost. You might see a seemingly strong person out there doing her best, but she is, and always will be, hurting inside. I've had to screw my brain back the other way or something...I've had to partially revert back to some older version of myself, even though I'll never be the same again...I've had to try and make peace with an alternate reality, one where magic isn't real again, because the magician has left the stage.
But I like to think that one day, I will continue the adventure with him, in another magical place I cannot conceive of yet. That thought keeps me going. That thought helps me appreciate what can still be a beautiful experience here, to encourage me to still do good and enjoy it all - because that is, I know, what my magic man believed about his own life.
Happy Birthday, my dear Michael.
(P.S. My grasshopper, which I haven't seen in a couple weeks, made another appearance as I was writing this.)