I tried dating. It didn't go...in my favor...shall we say. The whole thing felt like I was being jerked around by my heart. Not that he meant to or that he was malicious. Just that my poor, aching heart felt so torn up already and the experience of allowing myself to be vulnerable and hopeful again for a moment, only to have the whole thing blow up in my face really hurt. It really, really hurt.
But what I've discovered is that when everything else falls away - the humiliation, rejection, anxiety and pain that went along with it all, even the excitement, the affection, the companionship, the glimpse at happiness and joy, when all of that was stripped away and I had to face reality once again, it's still there. The gaping hole that is Dave's absence. It's still there and was exactly what I got to avoid in a small way for a little while.
Not that there's anything wrong with a little of that. The loss that I've suffered is too huge to take in all at once and all the time. I have to live and distract and try to find a new life.
It's a part of the process and some of it is healthy and normal. I need distraction. I need to feel alive again. I need to make mistakes and try new things and feel the fear of being vulnerable again. But, there, behind all of that was this pain I haven't fully addressed - the loss of this man I miss so much, that I can't look at that pain directly very often. I have to look at it peripherally just to not be taken down by it.
The truth is, that man I lost was the love of my life. He was my best friend. He was my everything. I suffered something so horrible and painful when he died. And I'm still suffering. Sometimes I think I'm not suffering LESS as time goes on, because I miss him MORE the longer he is gone.
After a last, sad conversation with this new man I had to say goodbye to today, I went for a run in the woods. So many thoughts crowded my mind as I ran, but I felt more peaceful than I had in weeks. I blasted the Bon Iver song, Perth through my earbuds until I felt myself begin to let go of some of the tension I'd been holding onto for days. The lyric still alive for you, love* reverberating through my mind and heart again and again as my feet flew above the dusty trail.
The woods are my church. The trees, moss, spiders, pine needles and ferns my cathedral and stained class. I feel closer to Dave when I'm there. At the halfway point, I turned around to jog back to the car, and without warning, a sob tore through my guts and out of my lungs and left me gasping. I stopped and bent over at the waist, my hands on my knees, as more sobs followed, one after another. It's just this, my heart said when it could no longer be silenced by the pounding of the jogging and the music, my husband was everything to me and he is gone. I'm lost without him and I try so hard every moment of every day to be good at this new life, but I'm terrified and I need him and I miss him. My heart is cracked wide open.
That one truth ripped through me like an explosion and I trudged back to the parking lot, winded by the racking sobs. At a bend in the trail, the sun pierced the thick canopy of leaves and shone a ray of brilliant light through several elaborate spiderwebs. I stopped in the middle of the trail, face raised to the sky. Tears I didn't know were leaking from my eyes slowly made tracks down my cheeks to my neck, and sweat dripped down the hollow of my spine, as I let the warmth of the sun soak into me.
It was so bright that I had to partially close my eyes, narrowing my view of the trees and glowing webs to a pinhole. It was so achingly beautiful that I wanted Dave to see it. I wished and prayed for Dave to appear to me in the trail behind me. His soul, his ghost, his spirit, whatever. I wished so hard. I turned around, opened my eyes and waited to see him coming around the corner. Just a memory of him, even. I prayed to feel his hands on me. I prayed to feel him wrap his arms around me and hold me. I prayed to hear him reassure me that I'd be okay and that he loved me. It didn't happen. He didn't appear to me. He didn't hold me. I didn't feel him.
But, I did feel my own strength resurfacing from somewhere deep inside. I turned away from the bend in the trail where I had hoped to catch a glimpse of his sweet face and I walked on. Toward the sun, the trees, the life I have to live without him. I have to keep walking toward it. Even though he can't physically walk beside me.
I know he wishes he could be here with me. I know he misses me too. But I've been waiting for him to come home and he's not going to. I've been avoiding that horrific, giant, unavoidable, black cloud of truth a little bit, nough to survive the last 15 months. Somehow, though, I'm going to have to face that truth completely. Bit by tiny bit, I will have to fully accept that he is gone and that his absence has been and continues to be shattering.
I have to allow myself to really accept that my heart is broken, I'll never be the same, and the whole thing has been unspeakably hard. I've put on a great show so many times. I've gritted my teeth and gone out in public and smiled and made words come out of my mouth when all I've wanted to do is lie in bed focusing only on breathing in and out. I've pushed myself forward when all I've wanted to do is live in the past and cling to what was. I've been hard on myself and had ridiculously high expectations for myself. I've felt ashamed of my failures and my shortcomings. I've second guessed every damn decision I've made. I've treated myself in ways I'd never treat a good friend. I've treated myself like a person who hasn't just lost her world and had to start over.
I'm not that person. I'm not okay. I had the shit kicked out of my heart and had to watch the life I knew dissolve before me like a mirage. That person doesn't function like a "normal" person who's not grieving. That person requires special treatment. That person needs extra TLC and patience and love and while my friends could always do that for me, I often couldn't do that for myself. It's time I did. It won't be easy. But I'll do it for him.
Still alive for you, love.*
*I just discovered that the lyric might actually be "still alive who you love" which bugs me because "still alive for you love" makes more sense and means more to me.