I'm writing today to you from Hawaii. I came out for a few weeks to visit a friend on Oahu. This is the longest trip I've ever taken away from home since he died, and the first real vacation I've taken without him or his family being with me. Leaving the shelter of home has always made me a little antsy, but now instead of just the usual nervousness, my mind is filled with new questions about how I will be able to cope with something so seemingly simple yet terrifying as vacation.
Will my anxiety strike? Will I have a complete meltdown in a totally public space because something triggered my grief or a memory? Will it happen totally unplanned and out of nowhere? Will I miss him so much that I won't even be able to enjoy myself? I've found that the answer to all of those things is yes. At least until you get there. I'd be lying if I didn't say that on the morning of my flight I wasn't riddled with anxiety. But I am learning that if I want to ever get out there and do anything, I have to be willing to accept that the grief factors are just going to be a part of things for now. If I want to try something, I have to accept those things may happen.
So I got on that plane and I flew over an ocean alone… knowing full well that all of those scary things might (and very well would) happen. The crazy thing is, for the most part, they haven't. I am on day 11 of this 14 day trip… and I am pretty okay. I had some anxiety for the first few days, and certain activities have been a little difficult, but no major melt downs. No insane anxiety. And his absence has absolutely not kept me from being able to enjoy the moment.
In an odd way, its been more of the opposite. I've felt more able to embrace the present moment and more appreciative of it all. Even in the frustrating moments or when things go wrong. Our helicopter tour got canceled due to rain (it was going to be the first time going up in a helicopter since he died in one… and the first time to have anyone behind the controls but him taking me up). I dropped my GoPro camera into the ocean while kayaking and watched it sink straight to the bottom. My DSLR camera quit working on me halfway through the trip - just totally dead (and thankfully now revived!). And I've gotten lost in the jungle a number of times and fallen into rivers getting soaked to the bone… and none of these things have phased me. I've responded to all of them with a calm resolve and clearheadedness that is so entirely foreign to my personality.
It's a very familiar reaction for me, just not one that has ever come from within me. It was how HE responded to things. Always very solid and logical, he had a way of responding to things that helped me to stay calmer and more rational. I was always the one getting worked up about little things or creating problems where there weren't any yet. I never liked that part of me, but I didn't know how to not be that way. Now, when faced with frustrations or minor struggles, I seem to have adopted those qualities that I loved so much in him. It's as if parts of him have been infused right into my own personality and soul… some of the best parts.
I feel like each new experience in this afterlife of mine is teaching me new things and bringing new depth, value, and meaning to his death. With every trip I go on, every new thing I try, every risk I take - I feel as though I am not only coming to know myself and what I'm capable of on a much deeper level, but also somehow that I am getting to know him on a deeper level too. I'm learning that embracing the now does not make me forget him or our relationship. Embracing this new life does not make him any less a part of that new life. In fact, the more over time that I am able to embrace the new life I was thrown into - the more I feel that he is on the journey with me still.
Sure, I still miss his body warmly next to mine. I still miss his eyes and his hands and his laughter. Sometimes excruciatingly so. But now, I am coming to know a different part of him. And a different part of myself. Parts of us that we would have never come to know had we not been sent on this journey. It still somehow feels like we are in this together. And in completely different ways, this new life together - this journey of walking alone, but still walking together - is just as beautiful.