I live in a wonderful city now. I've become more and more comfortable here. I like the weirdness, the outdoorsy-ness, the coffee shops, the rampant recycling and composting and organic gardening. I like the dogs and the green of the woods and the mist hanging in the west hills. I like the bridges and the dragon boats on the river. I like the people. Most of all I like the people.
This is a city where I often see people on their way to dinner or work, sit down on the sidewalk to talk to a person who is panhandling. Where they willingly sign up to help the environment or support gay marriage on their way to the office in the morning. This is a city where people will go out of their way for you. Once I was talking to a girlfriend at a bar and I was crying (can you guess what I was talking about?) and our waitress left the restaurant, went next door to get me chocolate and kleenex, and put them both on our table without a word and went back to her tables.
This is the city that brought me a dog walking job, a chance to get a degree in art, a choir to sing with, beautiful new friends who've changed my life, opportunities to meet and talk to people I'd never have been lucky enough to meet in my old life. It's welcomed me and gently pushed me into this new life. There's so much to see and do here that it isn't enough to stay at home.
I've stretched myself so much to find out what this city has to offer and I'm so glad I did. I've grown emotionally more than I thought possible in the past 2.5 years and so much growth was possible because of my move here.
And that's when things get weird. I wouldn't have moved here if Dave hadn't died. And I am so grateful I am here now. It is very difficult to fit both these thoughts in my brain at once. It seems wrong to see both as true. But they are.
It is simply a different life, I've finally realized. It's not better, it's not worse, it's just drastically different. The day he died, my life ended and a new one began. To make it really count, to make something redeemable out of such a terrible ending, I had to aggressively choose to LIVE. No living small anymore. No protecting my heart. With a heart that had already been shot through with the worst pain imaginable, I had very little left to fear.
It's because of that temporary breakdown and rebuilding of my heart and mind that I could find the way to a completely new life, one that is missing Dave, yes, but one that would make him so proud. And just as, if not more importantly, makes me proud and fulfilled. I haven't shrunken in fear. I have taken on that which terrifies me. I have been broken open. My heart is simultaneously stronger and more open and vulnerable.
The rewards have been more satisfying relationships, more learning and more emotional growth than any other time in my life. It's not fair that it had to happen after losing Dave. But it's proportional to the vastness of that loss.
Everything was torn out from under me. The foundation was dust. Unrecognizable. To build a life from the ground up could have either crushed me or turned me into a new human being. Actually, I suppose it did both.
There's nothing about losing him that I'm grateful for (goes without saying), but I am grateful that his death was not the end of me and my story. I'm grateful I have a chance to live on and make it worth it. He'd want me to. I'm going to make it as beautiful as I can and Portland has been my gateway. I am so grateful for the opportunities and people this city and has brought me.