I was taking a bath when I had a thought that finally crystallized. It was a thought that had buzzed around in my brain for years, maybe decades, but that never landed. It just never felt true before. But, somehow, I could finally see it.
I realized that even in my darkest moments, I've always loved myself and at times, it was the only love I had.
I've lived with so much self doubt and even self hate that the love I've had for myself all along was hard to identify.
But as I lay there in the water, thinking about the fact that it was a Saturday evening and I was alone at home, I realized with jolt that I was not unhappy to be alone and home on a Saturday night. I was taking good care of myself and liking it.
If every person in my life suddenly disappeared, I'd be devastated and lonely and heartbroken, but the one person who would remain no matter what, was me. I would still be there to take good care of me and to love me enough to never give up on me. I would still be there to pick up the pieces.
Dave died and with him my life as I knew it disappeared, but I continued to be there, believing in myself, taking care of myself, loving myself. Sure, there's a lot of self-doubt still and I am hard on myself but almost like having two parents in my brain, one part of me just unconditionally loves me while the other is a little too demanding and a little too critical and doubting.
That loving part of me is what I believe sent me to Camp Widow in the early days of my new life without Dave and it pushed me to pursue a new life in a new city, go back to school, try out my hidden talents again, meet tons of new people, travel alone, find an amazing therapist, cook, clean and fix things for myself, and make my new life as beautiful as it could be out of the rubble of tragedy. Sometimes that loving and accepting parent in my brain won the argument with the critical parent and got to say "We believe in you. You can do this."
It's always been there. I've mistaken it for stubbornness or selfishness but what else but love could it have been? What else but love would never give up? What else but love would continue to believe in me no matter what terrible thoughts I had? What else but love would accept me, ugly parts and all?
This is definitely not to say that I suddenly believe that I don't need anyone or that self love is all I need. I need other people. I'm human. I'm biologically made to want to connect and form bonds with other humans, and I want to. If anything, that's the biggest lesson that's come of Dave's death. My priorities shuffled around so that connecting to others and loving others rose to the top and outweighed just about everything else I've ever cared about before. And I know from experience that life is easier and better when you can navigate it with your soul mate.
But, my experiences have been heavy on the loss side. The people who were supposed to care for me most, couldn't or wouldn't. There's no way I can blithely expect people in my life now to always be there for me. They could leave, die, disappear, give up on me, they even might hurt me. This is just the way the world works.
The only person I can guarantee will always be there is me. Until my last breath, I will have someone. I wish I had Dave there with me until my dying day, but I don't. I do, however have me and there's some comfort in that.
Notice I said some. I've gotta find comfort wherever I can.