Monday, July 9, 2012

Or...You Could be Nun!


I have a strange (and very strong) reaction to something people say to me. I'm curious about why I have this reaction and if I write about it, I'll most likely reveal to myself where it's coming from. (I love how writing is like a Ouija board to my innermost feelings.)

I've heard just about everyone I know tell me that they're sure I'll find true love again. My reaction to those words is so multilayered that I'll have to deconstruct the response to it before I can even begin to reveal the reason behind it.

Everyone from widowed friends to therapists have said "You'll find love again". When they do, my heart speeds up uncomfortably, my chest tightens and emotions come crashing in from several directions at once.

First, I hear cynical me say "Mmmhmmm....sure I will." with plenty of sarcasm. When Dave was sick, I tried to tell myself that just because he was sick, he wasn't going to die on me. I told myself that lightning couldn't possibly strike me three times. I tried to comfort myself with those proclamations (which were really heartfelt prayers) and he still died. So when I hear someone (even myself) say "You'll find love again", I scoff a little. "Sure!", I hear the cynical part of me say, "I'll believe it when I see it". The fearful part of me chimes in with "Let's not get our hopes up. Can you really be that lucky twice?".

Never say never has become my new belief system. Life is so precarious and you can't begin to predict what will happen, so don't tell me about outcomes as though they are going to happen. Might happen would be more realistic. As in "Dave might die now. He might die later. No one knows." Or "You might find true love again, or you might not. No one knows for sure."

The next thing I feel is fear. "You'll find love again" brings up thoughts of losing another love. Cynical me says "Sign up for potential widowhood again? No thank you. Just barely surviving this one. I'm good for the rest of my life being free of more of this." My heart can't take more pain. Even simple rejection right now is too much for this broken, patched-together, quivering little shattered heart of mine. A part of me is worried that every cough, sniffle and fever will send me into "he's going to die" mode and I simply don't want to feel that kind of fear again.

Then there's a part of me that thinks that the whole idea is ridiculous. Love someone again? Widowhood has left me bone-tired. It's a daily struggle to love myself. It's actually a moment-to-moment struggle if I'm honest. It's still hard to imagine working full time again, sleeping well, feeling at peace with my life, not being chased by fear at every moment. This road is long and often dark and scary. When will I once again be on solid footing enough to offer my best self to someone else? Right now it feels like it will take forever.

Then, down very deep, there's this primal part of me that responds with a quivering chin, brimming eyes and a heart afraid to hope that says "Do you really think so?". For so long I believed that Dave magically loved me despite my many faults and I was always a little surprised that he didn't hightail it out of there when I acted like an asshole (read: human). It was hard for me to believe that I was finally loved the way that man loved me. If I'm completely honest, I guess a part of me thinks that I'll never be loved like that again because I don't deserve it. Therapy and lots of soul-searching is helping me see that that's a story I tell myself, not the truth, but it lingers anyway.

You'll find love again. Such a hopeful, terrifying, bold statement. Seems so simple, doesn't it? I'm relatively young, not hideous, smart, adventurous and talented. Why wouldn't I find love again? Right? Turns out (as we widowed people know) It's not that simple at all. It's an emotional minefield.

Everyday, though, I see couples walking down the street, arms around each other or holding hands or sharing a meal and I feel something so primal and so deeply ingrained that I can't label it well. It's simply a longing. A longing for the feeling of someone else who fits with you so perfectly, that you can't believe you ever lived without them. Physical closeness. Flirting. Romance. Love. I'm wired to want it, but I'm terrified of it. I think about it all the time, but I'm not ready for it yet. I'm lonely, but the cure for my loneliness isn't a relationship.

One big conundrum.

So, if you tell me I'll find love again, you might see me avoid eye contact, change the subject, roll my eyes, or burst into tears depending on the day or what part of my brain is in charge at that moment.

 What do I want to hear instead? I have no idea. Maybe humor would help. How 'bout "Get comfortable with owning a lot of cats" or "Spinsters are pretty cool, too!" or "I hear being a nun is AWESOME!"

At least we'll both get a laugh out of it.



  1. Cassie - love this post.
    I too felt this was. I often feel this way now.
    And - yes I have found love again.
    Mostly I am terrified that they will get sick.
    Or they will find out I can be an asshole (yes, human)
    Sometimes, I don't know if I know how to navigate a relationship with anyone else. My husband and I had a 35 plus year marriage. We were GOOD at it!
    I don't need a relationship.
    I want love.
    I want the moments of joy I have found.
    I want to remember what it is like to not wake everyday feeling like life is not worth living.
    No one said any of those things to me > In fact they said "your relationship was so unique feel lucky you had that"
    or "how can you trust anyone will love you just for you and not your assets?
    Or from not so happy married friends "don't do it! don't fall in love again - be free for as long as you can" said as if I was about to catch something nasty.

    So - all I can tell you is no one can be sure of love, only that they will be open to it if it comes.
    I am in it.
    I decided that love is important to my happiness (not essential but important).
    But I hear independent women living on their own making hand knit sweaters from mountains of cat hair - is a burgeoning business opportunity. ;-)

  2. Cassie, I think as widows we all feel that way. I know I wonder about it all the time. At times I am hopeful, other times I am fearful it won't happen and almost do not want it to happen. I have just decided to allow myself these emotions, but ultimately I must be the one who creates the life I want or as close to as I can without someone first and then maybe during this journey someone may come along or when I am ready I will create the opportunity to meet them, but for now I must be patient with the process. I always have to remember it took time to meet my late loving husband, so this will too. Being older makes it more difficult, but at times I am still hopeful, because stories on this wonderful blog tell me it is possible!

  3. Thank you for putting my thoughts (exactly) into words!

  4. You just wrote what I feel. Thank you for putting into words what I didn't even know was going on inside of me.

  5. I know that longing, Cassie, I feel it and see those couples too, everywhere I go. I crave that closeness, that physical touch, and yet I can't go there yet either. Everything still reminds me of him, and I don't want to keep making make comparisons. Still making my way thru the midfield, no end in sight, only couples everywhere. I know my friends have good intentions, but I have politely told them I am not ready for another relationship, still working on (letting go of) the one I had. You'd think it would be easy after 2 1/12 years, I really do want to get out of this hole, but this summer has taken me down again. Thanks you for sharing, not sure if I'll find my way to the convent, but I'll keep it open as an option!

  6. Cassie...great post! I have had people, especially family members tell me about other widows/widowers who have found a new partner. I am not sure exactly why they feel obligated to tell me. Maybe to encourage me. I have discovered that it is not that easy.

    I understand the fear aspect perfectly. 28 years of marriage, my husband loved me for the asshole I could easily be. He wasn't running away and I loved the confidence I felt in our relationship. What if I meet someone and he runs? My heart is always in disrepair. Will I be able to handle anymore disappointment? Very scary and uncertain for all of us who would like to find love again!

  7. I agree with what everyone has written.
    Would like someone as a companion. Going out to eat, to the movies,long drives. But it's been almost 3 years for living alone & I find I like doing what I want when I want.
    Don't know if I could live with another man......
    I have 2 brothers who are telling me what to do & I don't like it.
    I haven't talked to one of them for over a month because he called me an asshole. No one ever did that to me & it hurt.
    one day at a time.

  8. Awesome Cassie, that pretty much sums up how I feel about the relationship thing. Except I also struggle with the fact that I am still very much in love with the man that I lost. I wonder how it will be possible to love someone else while I am still in love with him. I also don't believe that it would be fair to somebody else to not be able to love them with all of my heart.

  9. Cassie... so much of what you have written mirrors my feelings but at this point, my husband has been gone 4 years, I still yearn for what we shared. I know there is no one else who could fill that place. It took 30 years to build what we shared. I'm finally coming to terms with myself and that has been such a difficult road... far more difficult than I ever thought possible. I feel as you do when I see couples who share that same closeness that I shared with my husband. He knew me better than I know myself and I guess that's what I've been working on the past 4 years... getting to know myself. I know I've found strength and courage I never knew I had. I just miss that look when he would catch my eye across a room... that look that let me know I was the most important person in the room to him. I miss our talks... the spontaneous things we would do. I fill my life with work, children and grandchildren and that keeps me going. My husband believed me to be strong and it's important to me to live up to that belief. It's just such an emotional and lonely journey without him.

  10. Thank you for your really hits to the heart and soul of what has been running through my head lately. Although, I have to tell you not one person I know has ever said the words "You'll find love again". That leads me to believe that maybe they don't think I will or is it taboo for them to even bring the topic up because I haven't? Hmmm.
    I don't know what brought this wonderful person into my life and I haven't come to grips as to why he was taken from our lives but what I am becoming more aware of is that I don't want to face the next 30 years of my life alone..mind you I don't want to get married again that would be too much to ask. I just don't want to experiences all the wonderful things that life has to offer alone.

  11. Thank you for that post Cassie. I really needed to know that my turmoil about another relationship is "normal".
    My husband and I were married 38 years. I'm not at all sure I even want to try again, it would be starting all over again.

    Not to mention how my children and grandchildren would feel about it.

    My life is so much simpler right now. I do what I want and I want to do whatever.

    But like you, I see a world geared towards love and couples, and many times that hurts.

    Funny thing is, many of my peers envy me my freedom and independence. They don't see the positives that they have that I miss.

    Moral of the story is, every stage of life has it's good and bad. Our bad is someone else's good and vice versa.

    If I do embark on another relationship, it would be with eyes really wide open. I would have to willing to take the fall-out and deal positively with it. Not sure that is worth it. Not right now (been widowed almost 3 yrs.)

    I have noticed though something that has really changed since I was last single 40 years ago. Men don't like to do the chasing anymore, they want an indication from women that they are willing to try before they attempt to ask for a date. They also don't mind if women make the first move. That takes some getting used to.

    1. Boy have I noticed that too, and it's something my single girlfriends and I lament regularly.

  12. Thank you, Cassie. Well put - the hope, the fear, the longing....all of it. Hugs to you from the east coast!

    1. Hi Gwyneth! So good to hear from you! Hugs back at ya!

  13. Thank you Cassie, you have managed to put into words exactly how I am feeling right now.

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  15. Awesome post, Cassie! Sums up my feelings very well. I'm at 18 months. Thinking about dating but it's just so overwhelming. I was married 30 years. And loved unconditionally. I'm not sure I'm ready to be rejected, even by someone that I don't care about yet. But I do know that I'm not willing to settle for anything less the next time around than what I had the first time. I'd rather be alone than to settle for less.

  16. Cassie,
    The post sums up my emotions totally! Dave's been gone 19 mo. & I hear, often, the very phrase - "You'll find someone new,"; "You need to be open to the possibility...". Yet I run through the same gamut you wrote of plus the fear of comparing someone to Dave and how my teenage sons would deal with it - they have enough on their plate. Plus - when would I even fit it in? Trying to fit in time to work out is hard enough. Then the other topper is options. Who would want to take on my kids and emotional baggage? I'm in a pretty rural area - there aren't a ton of options & what guy would be ok w/ a pre-nup? It was one thing I promised Dave - who did tell me he wanted me to find someone, he didn't want me to be alone - but wanted what we had built together for our kids to be protected. Fair thinking on his part, but someone else may not see it that way.

    Yet, I hate going places alone, I don't go out much 'cause it's no fun alone - vacationing alone - seeing all of our friends with their spouses - I miss that connection with someone. Yet...I don't know that I even know how to create a new "history" with someone - how would mine & my sons' "history" blend into a new one? We can't & won't pretend Dave wasn't a part of our lives.

    Frankly, it scares the crap out of me.

  17. Ditto! I miss someone who "gets" me and desires to be with me. Not a "should" on someone's "to do" list.