I met my husband five years ago yesterday.
Okay that is kind of false for a couple reasons. First, we actually met in kindergarten and grew up in the same neighborhood, I just didn’t remember him. Secondly, it is 11:15pm and we all know how long winded I can be, so it may be tomorrow by the time this is published.
I re-met my husband five years ago on Sept 19, 2012. And it seems like yesterday. I went into the local pub to visit my best friend as she was working behind the bar. Sat at the bar and ordered some lunch. In walked Chris and his brother Andrew. He sat down next to me, and for a while we all just chatted. I didn’t realize that he was trying to flirt with me when a maxi-pad commercial came on the TV and he turned and asked “Is that what all girls sit around talking about?”. Yeah – he was that smooth.
The part that I usually leave out of our love story, is that at the time I met him I was completely head over heels for someone else. There was a very special man in my life. We weren’t together. But I loved him anyway. I’m pretty sure he loved me too in his own way, but he didn’t want to be with me. We shared a wild and crazy month or so as lovers and then settled into a dynamic of best friends. I tried to be more, and there was always that “What If”. What if life got easier or the timing got right or he woke up and realized we should be together for real. Always that “Someday” in the back of my mind.
And then there was Chris. Smiling and goofy and sweet and funny and completely interrupting the plans I had in my head as to how what I wanted was supposed to play out. And I had to make the decision to choose to be happy with him rather than wait to hopefully maybe someday be happy with someone else. But I still remember that it hurt to make that choice. To give up on the love I thought was right for me, and take a chance on the unknown. I can still recall the conversation with my friend, telling him “I met someone.”
Life put in front of me the best thing to ever happen to me and I wasn’t even looking for it. And we went on our first date and the rest, as they say, was history. No games, no drama, no questions about it. Just “So, what are you doing tomorrow?” And every day after that. It was easy and simple and pure from the very start. Like we had always known each other, like he was home.
So it makes thinking about how to “move on” with life after losing such a special love extremely complicated. How can you possibly love again after losing your soul mate? How do you justify simultaneously having feelings of excitement over someone new while at the same time grieving the person you miss the most? I can tell you from conversations and group chats and hours of discussions with other widows and widowers, these are some of the toughest questions to grapple with.
There’s the guilt. The guilt that comes with the idea that moving on somehow means you don’t love them enough to just shrivel up into a ball and die of heartbreak. Robert Baratheon started the entire plot of Game of Thrones because he lost the love of his life, and I’m considering Tinder? The guilt that comes not only from within and the feeling like you’re somehow cheating on someone who isn’t even here anymore, but also about what other people will think. Is it too soon? Will people look at me like I didn’t give it the appropriate amount of time? In reality – those who love you won’t judge you one bit. They will be happy for you, over the moon even, to see you trying to be happy again. But the inside of your own head is a place that tends to forget all logic and reason when you’ve lost something so special.
There is also the fear. The fear is huge. Of being crushed again. Of opening up your heart and having it broken into even smaller pieces than the ones you are still actively trying to fit back together as it is. Of rejection. Of loss. Though to be honest, that is nothing compared to the fear I have of something working out, and the pain I am going to cause someone new when I can’t love them the way I loved Chris. Of how unfair that seems to ask another human being to willingly accept a heart that will never fully be whole again. And be okay with that. My biggest fear is the day someone calls me their soul mate, or tells me I am the best thing to ever happen to them, and the only response I can give is “Thank you” instead of saying it back.
That doesn’t meant I think I wouldn’t be able to love again. I do think I could. I know my heart is big enough to let someone else in. To care again. To feel excited about someone. To find someone I want to share my life with.
I have this theory, that there’s a sliding scale of compatibility. Say your soul mate is your 100% match. Man that is rare. Most people go their entire lives without ever finding it. Or coming close to finding it. The odds of those two hearts connecting…. I truly believe its nothing short of divine intervention for it to happen. You can’t look for that kind of love or search for it. You can’t swipe left or right and hope to find it. It is not a checklist or the prince at the end of some fairy tale. It only happens when the universe just puts that person in front of you and you instantly know it is right. I had that. Chris was my 100%. Most people don’t even believe that exists, and I wouldn’t either if I hadn’t experienced it.
But people are in love at way less than 100%. Those cute old couples you see in the grocery store that have been married 65 years and have 4 generations of offspring and are ridiculously happy? Some of those aren’t even 100%. They could be like 95%, 90% – who knows I mean this isn’t a mathematical science it is simply the ramblings of my brain when I really should be sleeping.
My point being – you can be happy – REALLY happy – with less than your soul mate. I truly believe that. Now – that doesn’t mean you go and settle for some 75% bullshit and blame me. No. I didn’t say that. I said the 90%, the 95% – those are going to make it the distance. The long haul. And those aren’t as rare. Those come along every so often. They aren’t once in a lifetime. They aren’t every Tom, Dick, and Harry you meet on the street – but they are out there and you can find them. And you can be happy again with less than perfection.
There is no “one” person and one person only. Watch one season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette and that is apparently clear. One of my good friends from the We Do Care family asked the group of us once “How do you reconcile liking someone, while still feeling so sad about losing your soulmate?”.
All I could offer was – “there’s enough room in your heart for both? Humans are incredible beings capable of feeling extremely complex combinations of emotions often times simultaneously? We can laugh and cry literally at the same time. We can look at a truly happy moment and feel so much joy and gratitude and still feel the deepest sadness that the person we love isn’t there to experience it with us. We can be hopeful and heartbroken at the very same time. The depth of the layers of everything we have to feel, all at once, after going through what we have all gone through is insane. So yeah, we can feel attracted to and excited about and find like or love for someone while still loving someone we have lost. It’s mind blowing really. But it is possible. You don’t have to chose one or the other. You can do both.”
Okay – so it is possible. Fine. But how do you know when you are ready? You don’t. I think it just happens. There is no set timetable. It is different for every person. Some quicker, some later. Some are ready to go right straight to dating. Others start off more casually.
(Mom and Dad and the rest of my family can stop reading now…. seriously…. as awkward as this is to think of my in laws or my parents reading – it is a huge part of what life after losing a spouse or love looks like and it needs to be talked about so…. here goes….) It took me over a year to let myself think of being with anyone else. And when I did, I wasn’t ready for emotions and romance and feelings and thoughts of a relationship or a future or even a date. I didn’t want to date. But I needed physical intimacy. So for the past six months or so, I have gotten back out there and I have had my share of fun – safely of course – and I don’t feel guilty about it and I don’t feel ashamed of it. If anything I feel like Chris would be shocked it took me so long. And some people are capable of separating emotions from sex and some people are not, so it may not be an option for everyone, but it was what I needed.
But eventually you do want more. And you miss having someone to go to dinner and a movie with. You miss the kiss on the forehead. You miss the cuddles and the snuggles and the emotional connection that you had. You miss the idea of sharing your life with someone.
And sometimes you’re ready and you don’t even know it. Or you’re waiting for something to happen to force your hand. Or you have this idea in your head of how you’d like things to go…. much like I had in the beginning of this blog post… and your current “what ifs” and “maybe somedays” don’t work out the way you fantasized and you’re left having to face the terrifying realization that it has to happen. Dating. Oh dear god no. Please no. But you have no choice. It is either dating or cat lady. Plenty of people choose cat lady by the way. And this is not a dig at any lovely cat ladies out there.
But I didn’t walk through the fire and hell of the last year and a half of my life to give up now and be an old lonely cat lady.
So I went on a date. Last night. Okay – it is past midnight now. So whatever, two nights ago. Sept 19, 2017. I went on the first date since the death of my husband. 5 years to the day that I met him. And it was great. He was sweet. We had dinner, he was outgoing, he told some funny and some not so funny jokes. We talked about life, shared a meal. Laughed. He chatted up the old couple that they sat next to us at the Cheesecake Factory, because well they are in your lap anyway. That old couple – so cute and so happy. Adorable. Retired. Probably only a 93% I’d say.
We went to the movies. We saw IT. I am a huge baby at scary movies. I gripped his arm and he held my hand and okay okay my knee (sorry again mom). And I felt comfortable with him. He opened all doors, including my car door and he paid for everything and he asked when he could see me again and said he wanted to take me bowling and apple picking and to see one of the previews. And there was flirting and chemistry and a really decent kiss goodnight.
And then today he dumped me. Because…. well dating sucks. Lol. But that’s not the point. I didn’t expect another first date turns into a love story. I’m not gonna lie – I didn’t expect it to end THIS quick after how great of a time we had. The point is – I did it. I went. I got over the “I’m not ready” bullshit. I was terrified, and sad, and felt guilty, and scared, and nervous, and every other emotion under the sun. But I did it. I let my guard down, and I took a chance. It didn’t pan out… because as I have mentioned… dating sucks. And yeah, today I was hurt. And it probably hurt more now than it would have hurt before I met Chris. I took it harder today. It has been a tough few days. But I’ve been through so much worse. So much worse. That all I can do is laugh, let it roll off my shoulders, and try again.
I know Chris is proud of me. I know he thinks that dude is a moron. But I know he is proud of me. Life is way too short to let fear keep you from trying. There is a song out now by Old Dominion…. and I know it is how he wants me to go forward…..
You know you can’t keep the ground from shaking,
No matter how hard you try
You can’t keep the sunsets from fading,
You gotta treat your life like
You’re jumping off a rope swing,
Baby cuz the whole thing’s really just a shot in the dark.
You gotta love, like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.
You gotta love, like there’s no such thing as a broken heart.