It's been a few weeks since I shared about going on my first date with someone since my fiancé died. I have been through every wave of emotion imaginable since then. I have cried buckets of tears for how much this experience has made me miss my fiancé. For how much all of this is bringing up old familiar memories and joys I shared with him those years ago. For how much it makes me miss the safety and rock solid trust that I had with him. I have felt paralyzed by the fear of being vulnerable with another man in ANY way. Of allowing any man into that space in my world again - the space where I cry, the space of allowing myself to be comforted. The space my fiancé has held so powerfully in my heart all these years. His space.
I have also felt joy, and butterflies in my stomach, and a giddiness that has been so delightful. I have felt excited by the idea that someone is thinking of me in this light. And I have enjoyed thinking of them in this light too. So all of this, both extremes, have been rushing through me at the speed of light.
My guy is currently on his way to learn to paraglide. I couldn't go with him because of a prior engagement so I'm waiting to hear that he is back on the ground. I know he's more likely to die in a car crash than on this contraption in the air today, but many things could go wrong. Most likely they won't, but they could. I'll be anxious, but only in the background. The foreground of my brain will be able to function today. I'm not a puddle of tears or anxiety. Hopefully I won't even get a migraine.
Dave was safety man. Safety first was his motto. He didn't take big risks. He never flirted with danger, ever. He didn't have any desire to chase after adrenaline rushes. I didn't have any cause to worry about him. Until I did. Nothing could have kept him safe from myocarditis. I had no inkling that I needed to worry about that. So, even if my warning signs were going off now about paragliding, what reason do I have to listen? I had no warning signs back then. Or they were kaput, who knows. There's just no way to know when tragedy is coming.
Being here in the United States on my own this week has been a very enlightening experience. I have had moments of feeling vulnerable and isolated and also moments of incredible confidence, like I can take on the world. After my husband died it's been a struggle to adjust to being alone again. I know I can do things without him - I just don't want to. Travelling to America was at the top of the list of things we were excited to do together and it was a pretty big deal for me to book this trip without him, it was always going to be a tough one.
When I started making plans for this trip to Camp Widow I was initially going to be heading over with another widow from Australia and was really glad to have a buddy with me. To be honest, I don't think I'd have had the courage to book this holiday if I knew I'd be coming on my own. But about a month out my friend had to cancel due to some financial issues and for me it was too late to turn back.
As an artist, I believe that every piece I create is coming through me from some other source and meant for one person out there. I've come to believe this because of it happening to me with many of my photographs and written pieces. Someone will come forward to share how important my image was to them, and how perfectly it aligned with something in their world, and I will know instantly that it found its home.
Nothing made me more certain of this idea than finding this painting last weekend. My girlfriend and I went to a local art festival, and as we walked into this woman's booth, my friend gasped and called my attention. As I looked up, I was speechless. There on the walls of her booth hung an almost exact painting of MY photo of my fiancé and I. And I knew instantly - I was the person she made that for, even though she did not know me at all.
Of course I bought it. And as I was paying her, I looked up the photo on my phone. I told her the story of my fiancé passing and then showed her the image - and she was as blown away as I was. We both teared up a little. I've had it resting on my writing desk since I came home… and it lights me up inside to look at. Not only because of the photo it represents, but also of the story this photo reminds me of...
I have so much now in my second chance. I'm forever scarred and forever missing someone I expected to be with until I died, but I get to live on for some reason and I'm doing it well. I've been lucky in some instances but in most, I've worked hard to be where I am now. I have a lot.
I'm in a healthy, loving relationship. I have a beautiful home, healthy pets, a new career field to explore while going back to school for art. I live in the best city EVER. Seriously, Portland seems like a fairytale more often than not. I'm healthy, my guy is healthy, I'm financially okay and I have the love and support of wonderful friends and family.
I'm finding that even still it's hard for me to accept the good things. My mind is rigged to search vigilantly for the disaster right around the corner. When will the next bad thing happen, not will the next bad thing happen is the question I ask the universe over and over. I wake up early in the morning with my mind on automatic pilot - listing things to worry about that haven't happened yet. To stop the thoughts and focus on the positive is uncomfortable because it means I will no longer be vigilant. It means that bad things could be coming and I'd have my back to them. Face them head on, says my subconscious. Be ready for them! Worrying is more uncomfortable, but my brain has its patterns and it likes those patterns, regardless of how awful they make me feel.
Here's what I'm noticing as I begin to build a life with someone since Dave died. I'm struggling to let myself be helped.
I fight against the idea of my boyfriend doing things for me. I'm torn between the desire to let myself be a part of a couple again and split the work up - You do the finances because you love it and I'm terrible at it. I do the gardening because I have the green thumb. You do the litter boxes because you always remember to and I leave them for weeks before I remember- and continuing to learn to do it all by myself.
Being with Dave for almost half my life meant that I got away without doing certain things. I never had to learn to a whole host of tasks that he took care of. Just like he never had to learn to do certain things too. He took care of his stuff, I took care of mine. All those tasks he did, I'm learning to do now. From scratch.
In less than 3 weeks, it will have been 3 years since Dave died on a heart-breakingly beautiful June day. It has been the most terrifying, wrenching, altering event of my life so far and I will spend the rest of my life dealing with it to some extent.
I'm beginning to understand just how much we learn to carry our grief rather than get over it. It's not that it never fades in intensity. It does. It's just that it's not something I can finally set aside. It colors my every moment. It won't always be in the forefront of my mind. It won't always cripple me. It's impact on me is permanent though. Like scar tissue.
I'm not sure how I'll be able to handle my new partner getting sick, especially. I can imagine the fear being almost too much to bear.
Life marches on so relentlessly. Dave's memory fades as time passes.
The way to make his memory stay clearer would be to pull out his pictures regularly and talk about him constantly. Doing these things can be comforting, but for me, they've also been incredibly painful.
I talk to him still. I think about our life and our love. I look at pictures sometimes. I'll get out his wallet or his watch and hold them. But, not often. That leads to a vortex of frustration and pain and ends with me finding it very hard to breathe.
Two writers stepping down in one week?!?
First it was Melinda. Now, it's my turn.
This is very bittersweet for me. I am so incredibly thankful for the platform that Michele has given me to open up my heart and share my journey. I have learned so much just from watching my life unfold in my own words and processing through it, as well as reading alongside the rest of you the posts from the other great writers here.
This weekend as we traveled to Indiana, Michigan, and back to West Virginia in 3 short days, we logged a lot of hours in the car. Sometimes I dread long trips because let's face it: we have 5 children packed into our vehicle like sardines, who we lovingly refer to as "the pee and flee gang" constantly asking us to stop, fighting over what movie to watch next, and just in general making our trips a little more, well....complicated. But most of the time, I enjoy the time just to sit and veg out for awhile, to listen to music, to read with my husband, and to dream, talk, listen, and grow with each other while the scenery passes by us.
As we made our way home starting at 9pm Sunday night, we had a nice silent car ride with our children sleeping almost the entire trip - which made for lots of great conversation to keep us both awake (ok, I may have dozed off for awhile...) But Steve asked me a question in the midst of our drive that really resonated with me.