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.