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Archive for May, 2011

I finally got around to reading The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a good, engrossing story from start to finish, and I enjoyed it. But the last few pages of the book really pissed me off. At the end Clare is an old woman, 82 — and Henry died when she was 35, and she’s still sitting around waiting to see him again. Despite all the poetic stuff he said in his final letter to her about going out into the world and living, some of which I quoted in my very first post on this blog, she doesn’t do it.

That kind of romanticism of a martyred widowhood pisses me off. I feel like stories of this kind are saying, “This is what true love is. If you really loved him, you’d spend every day for the rest of your life waiting to be reunited with him.” Well, I call bullshit. My husband wouldn’t want me to grieve forever, to give up on life. Henry didn’t want Clare to waste the rest of her life waiting for him. “Stop waiting and be free,” he tells her, but she doesn’t listen.

Maybe she doesn’t listen because the author thought it was more romantic this way — after all, because Henry time travels, he’s not GONE gone, and they can be reunited, however briefly. Or maybe Clare doesn’t go out in the world and live because grief beats her down, and she’s too tired to care about anything anymore, and it’s easier to just pass the days staring out the window and waiting to see Henry again. Believe me, I know what that’s like.

Henry wrote to Clare: “Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust.” It takes real strength to keep on going when you’ve lost that thread, to shakily get back on your feet and try again after the net has been pulled away, with full knowledge of how hard you can fall and how much it can hurt.

Friends tell me that they’re impressed with my strength, and I always tell them that I don’t feel strong. And I don’t. Most of the time I just feel tired and a little beaten up, and I wish there was someone to hold me and massage the tension from my shoulders the way my husband did. I’m already tired of doing this alone, and I don’t even want to think about the possibility that it could go on like this for a long time. I wish I had a time traveler in my life, someone who could just take a peek into my future and tell me, “Don’t worry. When you’re 55 you’ll be happily married to a wonderful man who adores you.” Then I could just relax into this business of living. I wouldn’t worry about when or how I would find this man; I’d just trust that it would happen when the time is right. But real life holds no such promises. There’s no way to know for certain that I won’t be a white-haired old woman, sitting in my rocking chair, trying to hold onto a fading memory of how I was loved, once upon a time. But there’s one way to guarantee that this is exactly what will happen, and that’s to give up, to shrink from life, to become a martyred widow who believes that all the good in her life is past.

My husband would be so disappointed in me if I did that. He wanted me to be happy, to find love again. I honor his memory, and I honor the love we shared, by embracing whatever life still has to offer me. If there is any possibility of an afterlife, any chance that I might one day see my love again, I want to have amazing stories to share with him when I get there.

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Monday night, very soon after I finished writing my last post, I got hit with a big wave of grief. I closed down my laptop, did the dishes, and then curled up in bed with a book, a mystery novel by Christopher Rice called Light Before Day. I finished the book and was sitting in bed with my journal when the grief just washed over me. I allowed myself to really feel how much I miss my husband, how empty and lost I feel without him. I cried because the memories have already started to fade and I no longer have the visceral recall of what it felt like to make love with him, or even exactly how his voice sounded when he said my name. To help myself remember, I played a couple of short video clips of him that I have on my computer. I laughed through my tears, and when I turned out the light I lay in the dark for a long while talking to him and then cried myself to sleep. I haven’t cried that hard, or for that long, in months. It’s like peeling an onion, and here comes the next layer.

I’ve cried a lot the last two days, and I don’t feel like I’m done crying yet. I had a good session with my therapist tonight, and she told me that it’s the nature of grief to sneak up on us like this, to wash over us just when we least expect it. She said it may still be happening to me another year down the road, or three years, or five. And then she pointed out that it’s not all grief all the time now, the way it was when I first came to see her. She asked me if I can let the grief come, embrace it, and not be afraid of what I feel. I think I can.

I’m not awash on the sea of grief as I was the first few months after he died. For the most part I feel like I’ve found my footing in my new life. I’ve got a good job, a nice apartment, a wonderful circle of friends. There’s a lot that I enjoy about my life. The grief is always there, just below the surface, and sometimes it hits me hard. But I know now that even if a giant wave sweeps me away for a while, eventually I’ll find my way back to shore.

For right now, I’m just drifting on this tide and letting the memories come up… I remember the way he looked at me when we said our wedding vows, the tenderness in his voice when he called me “baby,” that time after we’d had a fight when we went to the amusement park and raced each other in go-karts. I remember how safe I felt in his arms, how I felt that I’d come home, that finally I *belonged* somewhere. He gave me a sense of my place in the world. When I lost him, I was cut adrift. I’m still finding my way back, trying to find my place in the world without him.  It’s hard.  It’s lonely. I miss him something awful.

Driving home from therapy tonight, a Beatles song came on my iPod. “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad. Take a sad song and make it better… You’re waiting for someone to perform with. But don’t you know that it’s just you. Hey Jude, you’ll do.”

And I guess it comes down to that. It’s just me. And I’ll do. I can do this on my own. I’ve proved that to myself over and over these last fourteen months. Tonight it’s hard. Maybe tomorrow it will be easier.

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This Dating Thing

I was reading this novel recently that begins with one of the characters (female, late 30s) getting divorced and calling up all her single girlfriends, wanting to go out and party and meet guys. The single girlfriends have a hard time sharing her enthusiasm because they’ve been going out trying to meet guys for years now and they’re kinda over it. When I read that, I identified with the divorcee, newly single through no choice of her own (her husband left her) and trying to make the best of it. Just a few weeks later, I find I can relate to the other characters too. I’ve only been doing this online dating thing for a couple of months, and already I’m kinda over it.

Now, I realize that I haven’t given it a fair shake yet, and I’m not saying I’m giving up on dating or even on this particular dating website. But the bloom has gone off the rose.

I went on two dates this past weekend. Friday night was a second date with a gentleman I’d met for drinks a couple weeks earlier. The only thing I could fault him for on that first meeting was that he talked about himself a lot (and I didn’t feel like he was really listening to me when I talked), but I thought that might have been due to first date nervousness. I’ve certainly been known to babble on a bit when I’m nervous. So when he emailed asking if I’d like to go to Art Night with him, I said yes.

He was a perfect date — picked me up at my house, opened the car door for me (every time), got ahead of me to open doors when we went into the art galleries, perfect manners — except he still did talk about himself a bit too much. When we couldn’t find the promised food trucks, he suggested dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and he picked up the tab. Overall it was an enjoyable evening. But at dinner, enjoying a plate of delicious pasta and sipping a very good pinot noir, I caught myself looking around the restaurant at all the other men… and when he dropped me off at the end of the evening, I was relieved that he didn’t try to kiss me goodnight.

Sunday I had a first meeting with another man from the dating website. This one is ten years older than me, which is a bigger age difference than I would have considered, but he sounded like such an interesting guy — a former professional chef, a painter, making a transition from a lucrative career to something he feels passionately about: teaching art to young people. So I agreed to meet him for brunch. The eggs benedict were fabulous, the conversation was very good, and I would have enjoyed myself tremendously if it was just a meal with a friend. But he was making it clear that he was attracted to me, touching my arm frequently as he talked and gazing into my eyes, while I felt absolutely zero attraction for him.

And this sums up my dating experiences thus far. I’ve met some interesting guys and spent some perfectly enjoyable evenings, but there’s been no chemistry. The only one I’ve felt ANY physical chemistry with is Mr. Polyamory. We’ve been on two dates now, a month apart, and though there was some hand holding and shoulder rubbing the last time, we still have yet to graduate even to tongue kissing. And considering that it takes us weeks just to arrange a date, at this rate I’ll be old before we get around to sex.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of rushing home from work to shower, wash my hair, redo my makeup and get all dressed up… to spend a few hours with someone to whom I feel no particular connection. I have a better time hanging out with my friends, and I don’t have to shave my legs for them. As I was telling my best friend over burgers and beer on Saturday, I don’t really need new friends. I already have a wonderful circle of friends and a full social calendar. The only reason I’m even interested in meeting new people, to be quite honest, is to find (a) someone that I’ll want to have sex with and who will want to have sex with me, and eventually (b) someone I can fall in love with and who will fall in love with me. And so far, neither of these things are happening via the dating website.

Maybe I just need a break. For the next couple of weeks, at least, I’m not making any more dates. I need some me time.

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I’m reading a book I checked out from the library, a short story collection by one of my favorite fantasy authors, Charles de Lint. One of the last stories I read was about second chances, about actually being given the opportunity to go back in time to the place where you made the wrong choice and live your life over.

If someone had been able to give my husband the gift of a second chance, I know exactly which moment he’d have picked to go back — a moment during his college years where he gave up on his dreams and settled for a relationship that never was good for him. He used to talk about how strange it was to be able to look back and identify the precise moment where his life had taken the wrong turn. If I’d had the power to send him back in time, to give him a “do over,” I would have done it in a heartbeat… even if it meant that we would never meet in this lifetime. I can live with the bad choices I made, the years I lost. He couldn’t. And I would give up ever having known him just to know that he was walking around on this planet somewhere, happy and whole and free.

But that line of thought gets me nowhere. It just opens up a big gaping hole inside me and makes me miss him so very much.

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Fairy stories

My husband was in my dreams last night, for the first time in many months. It was similar to other dreams I’ve had about him, where he had failed in his suicide attempt and was still with me, but I was watching him like a hawk, afraid he would try it again. There was something about sleeping pills… but I woke from this dream in the deepest part of the night, fell back asleep, and didn’t recall any details by the time the alarm rang in the morning.

When I logged into my computer today, the top story on my Yahoo home page was about scientist Stephen Hawking, who was quoted as saying that the afterlife “is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” My husband, a scientist himself and an avowed atheist when he was alive, would absolutely have agreed with that.  I sat at my desk and wondered, is it foolish for me to want to believe that some part of him still exists somewhere? My dream last night, and most of my dreams about him, can be explained as just my brain trying to process his loss. Even the two dreams I have had that felt like something more, something real, could just be wishful thinking.

But I keep going back to the feeling that I had the first time I stood in the place where he took his life… the overwhelming sense of peace. I don’t think that was just wishful thinking, just wanting to feel something, because until that moment I wasn’t expecting to feel a thing. I wasn’t like some of his family, desperate for a sign that he was in heaven. Until that moment, I believed he was just gone, had entirely ceased to exist. The sense of peace that flowed over me didn’t come from me, not from my brain that was warped with shock and grief. I don’t know where it came from, but it made me question everything…

I’m still questioning. I still don’t have any answers. And maybe I am just telling myself fairy stories to make the darkness a little more bearable. Regardless, it felt good to see him last night.

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This week has been a real emotional rollercoaster ride. Most of the time I feel like I’m doing pretty well, but I spent the entire hour of Wednesday’s therapy session crying. I’m sad because I don’t see my husband in my dreams anymore. The last time was in October, more than six months ago. I wonder if he’s staying away on purpose, trying to make it easier for me to move on without him. And I am moving forward with my life — working, making plans with friends, even starting to date — but I still need those dreams.  I miss him so much.

Last night I had sex. It was the first time in over fourteen months. It was the first time with any man who wasn’t my husband. He’s a friend of a friend, and we met at her birthday party. He made me laugh, bought me a drink, rubbed my shoulders. I felt comfortable with him. When he offered to drive me home, I accepted. We left the bar holding hands, which was kind-of weird and kind-of nice. He walked me to my door and kissed me goodnight, and he offered to come in and give me a massage. He was a good kisser, and I didn’t think about it too long before I said OK. It wasn’t great sex, but after fourteen months without being touched, ANY sex is good sex. It was good to feel desirable again and to realize that I’m not dead from the waist down after all. I’d been worried that my first time having sex with another man would trigger a lot of emotions, but it was just good, sweaty fun.

The emotions came today. Having someone to hold, to touch, even for a couple of hours… It made me realize how lonely I am. I have a lot of friends. When I don’t want to be alone, I can always find someone to hang out with. But hugs from friends can’t take the place of a physical relationship, and that’s what I miss. And I desperately miss the man who knew and loved every inch of my body, who knew exactly how to touch me to bring me to ecstasy. I miss the deep intimacy we shared, the way it felt like our souls merged when we made love. I wonder if I’ll ever feel anything close to that again.

I’d give anything to put my arms around him again, even in a dream.

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