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My inner teenager

I guess I should explain why this long-distance thing is so hard right now. It’s not the geographical distance so much as the emotional distance I’ve been feeling for the last three weeks, ever since I returned from my visit with him. For several weeks leading up to my trip, we texted or chatted online every day. He was attentive, flirtatious, romantic – calling me things like “baby” and “sweetheart” and his girl. He would call me just to hear my voice.

We had a wonderful time together. Everything just seemed to fit. On my last night there we were curled up in bed watching TV and he looked over at me, smiled tenderly and said “I am so content right now.”

It feels like everything changed as soon as I left town. For the first week he still texted me every day, but there was much less show of affection. He wasn’t using the endearments anymore or signing off with x’s and o’s. Then the texts became fewer and further between. He’s been avoiding my phone calls, or at least that’s the way it seems – we’ve only spoken once in three weeks. He’s had some major stuff going on in his life the last week which I only know about through his posts on Facebook.

Something is not right, but I don’t know what changed or why. My heart is very heavy.

My inner teenager is convinced that it’s somehow her/my fault. This is her worst fear come to life, to have sex with a guy and then be tossed aside. She’s been wailing about how she/I obviously wasn’t good enough in bed, fretting about what mistake may have been made that chased him away. The rational adult side of me is worn out from trying to calm her down and keep her in check – and, at the very least, keep the goddamned phone out of her hands.

He’ll be in town for a few days next week. His mother is in the hospital, so the reason for his visit is not a happy one and he’ll be busy with family. But I’m hoping we can at least have dinner and a mature adult conversation about where things stand. My inner teenager vacillates between hoping that it’s all been a big misunderstanding that can be worked out once we see each other again and just wanting to dump his sorry ass for putting me through three weeks of emotional turmoil. The calmer, more rational voice in my head says that perhaps the best thing for both of us would be to agree that the long-distance thing isn’t working, put the relationship on hold and try again after he moves down here… if we’re both still interested.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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When I was a freshman in high school, my sister brought the guy she was dating at college home for Christmas. I don’t remember a lot about him, not even his name… I recall that he had blonde hair and a beard and a great smile, that he was some kind of scientist, and that he seemed completely devoted to my sister. And that the next summer he went to Alaska (or somewhere) to study… something… and in the three months he was gone, my sister had moved on to someone else.

I remember being so frustrated with her. I liked science guy; he didn’t talk down to me or treat me like a kid, and he was obviously crazy about her. And it wasn’t like he’d just up and left her… He’d gone away for a specified period of time to do some work, with every intention of coming home to build a life together. Why couldn’t she wait a few months? At fifteen, I just didn’t understand.

The guy I’m seeing now lives several hours away, in Nevada. I thought I was fine with the distance, kept telling my friends how it was a good thing because it allowed me plenty of time to live my own life… and then I went to stay with him for a few days. We made love every night, fell asleep side by side, woke up together each morning… We even shared a bathroom. And when I came home, everything had changed for me. Suddenly I’m SO not OK with this distance. It took me almost two years to get used to sleeping alone. The other side of the bed had finally stopped feeling empty… and now it feels empty all over again. I was finally getting comfortable with being single, and then I had a boyfriend for five days… and now he’s somewhere else and I’m alone again and IT’S NOT OK.

I think I understand a little bit now how my sister felt back then, when her college boyfriend left for the summer. My guy is planning to move back here at the end of the year. He’s talking about coming to visit in September and that’s only two months away. But that’s all just words, just promises… and how can I trust anything a man promises me, when my soul mate promised me he would never leave me less than a week before he took his own life? Maybe I’ve got some abandonment issues now, like my sister had back then. It’s easy to believe a man loves you when he’s lavishing attention on you, treating you like a goddess. But when he’s hundreds of miles away and you’ve got limited contact, it’s easy to doubt… And it’s so tempting to take refuge in the arms of someone who’s right here right now, making you feel wanted.

Nakedness

So, as I mentioned, there’s a new guy in my life. And sometime soon I’ll have the opportunity to get naked with someone for the first time since my surgery last August. I’m a little nervous about the prospect of my clothes coming off to reveal a six-inch scar right across my lower abdomen. I lost almost 10 lbs. when I had my surgery (the weight of my uterus and giant fibroid “baby”, I guess) but I’ve gained a few of them back. And I lost a LOT of muscle tone in that area. I guess it’s understandable that muscles are going to be weak after you’ve sliced through them, but it’s taking longer to heal and rebuild than I thought it would. Long story short, I don’t like the way my body looks from navel to thighs right now.

Clarification: I like the way my body looks in my clothes just fine. Everything fits much better than before my surgery and I’m even rocking the skinny jeans again. I’m not overweight by any stretch of the imagination. But my clothes hide the scar and the love handles on my hips and my flabby, untoned abdomen. I don’t like the way I look naked. If I’m standing at the mirror after a shower, I hurry to wrap a towel around my waist or put on some undies just so I don’t have to look at the offending area.

And there’s the root of my insecurity. New Guy has commented on my “fantastic” figure, and I’m afraid the reality of my naked body won’t live up to his expectations.

I’ve been dieting and trying to exercise more, and I’ve lost 2.5 lbs. in the last couple of months. But it’s not about weight loss or about the numbers on the scale; it’s about toning and firming, and I’m not seeing results there yet. I know I’m not going to see noticeable results in the next three weeks. So I just have to make peace with this body that I have right now, to trust that he doesn’t expect me to look like one of those 22-year-olds you see at the beach in a bikini with a stomach that’s almost concave. (I didn’t look like that when I was 22 and it’s sure as hell not happening at 47.)

He doesn’t expect that. My rational mind knows this. He’s not one of those overgrown boys who only dates women half his age. In an effort to reassure myself, I looked back a couple of years on his Facebook timeline to see if there were pictures of his ex-wife. I found a picture of the two of them in Halloween costumes from 2009: a pretty blonde with an hourglass figure – hips and waist and thighs all definitely wider than mine. Realistically, there’s no way she didn’t have some flab and cellulite under that pirate wench costume. He still thought she was gorgeous. And he thinks I’m gorgeous, too.

::deep breath::

Now about being emotionally naked and vulnerable, truly intimate with the first man since my husband… THAT is some scary shit. But I’m walking toward it anyway, arms wide open, because there’s no experience of love and joy that doesn’t involve the risk of pain. You can’t shut yourself off from pain without shutting out the good stuff, too. I was numb for too damn long. I’m ready to FEEL.

Under the Surface

Last night I went dancing with a couple of girlfriends. We had a great time… laughing, dancing our asses off, flirting with the boys in the band… I felt free, happy, empowered.

And then in the last set the band played Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” Halfway through the first verse, tears began streaming down my face and I had to get out of there. “Wonderful Tonight” was our last dance at our wedding reception. Hearing it played live, for the first time since that night in April 2009, I was blindsided by grief. In the parking lot I sobbed against my friend’s shoulder, remembering the way I felt swaying in my new husband’s arms, singing softly “my darling, you were wonderful tonight.” I thought our life together was just beginning. Less than a year later, he was dead.

It’s been over two years since he died. Most of the time I’m OK. I’m seeing someone new — it’s a brand new thing, just beginning to develop, and it’s too soon to know whether it’s going to go anywhere — but I’m enjoying it and he makes me feel special. I don’t feel lonely anymore. Most of the time I’m happy.

It was a bit of a shock how fast I could go from happy to sobbing, a reminder that the grief isn’t gone but only lying dormant under the surface.

Sneaking back in

Uh, hi. Remember me? I know I fell off the radar for a while…

I felt the need to go inward for a while, to keep  my personal stuff to myself while I worked through the next layer of grief and healing. And when I surfaced from that, or thought I had anyway, I got busy LIVING. I filled all my free hours with fun plans, joined a couple of dating sites (with less than stellar results and not even any good stories, damn it)… and then there was an unhealthy obsession with a completely unavailable man that kept me occupied for a while.

I stopped journaling when I decided to do NaNoWriMo last November, giving all my writing time and energy to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I finished the first draft, though I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything more with it… and then I never really got back to journaling or blogging. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve started to feel the urge to write about my internal life again. I’ve been scribbling in my old spiral notebook, making notes in a Microsoft Word document when I’m supposed to be working. And now I’m sneaking back in here, wondering if there’s anyone still listening.

Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me.

Dinner for one

I have recently resolved to eat healthier… to stop ordering pizza or throwing a frozen dinner in the microwave and start cooking. To that end, I visited a farmer’s market last weekend and picked up a bunch of tasty looking produce, most of which spoiled in the vegetable crisper before I remembered it was there. Today I looked through a stack of recipes, wrote a detailed grocery list and headed off to the store. I had a particular chicken recipe in mind for dinner, but I couldn’t find one ingredient (fresh tarragon) at the market. So I stopped at the seafood counter and bought a salmon fillet.

I have never attempted to cook salmon. I rarely cook at all. My husband was the cook of our household and salmon was his specialty. We had it several times a month, either grilled or pan fried, usually served with Japanese rice and fresh broccoli or green beans. Since he died a year and a half ago, I’ve only ordered salmon in restaurants a handful of times – and I’ve usually been disappointed. But how hard can it be, really? I’ve watched my husband make it dozens of times.

I start with the green beans, which I intended to steam until I realized that the only pan large enough is missing a lid. Oh well, boiled will be fine, right? I cheat a little on the rice, using a microwave-in-bag jasmine rice from Trader Joe’s. Nonstick skillet, a little olive oil, high heat… in goes the salmon.  I realize I have no idea how he used to season it. I settle for salt and pepper. While it’s searing, I open a bottle of pinot grigio. The rice is done. I taste the green beans and they’re a little tough, so I leave them in a little longer. The salmon smells heavenly and is beautifully crisp on both sides, but when I cut the fillet in the middle it’s still deep red, too raw for my taste. I turn down the heat and give it a little more time. I drink some of the wine.

By the time I decide the salmon is done, I’ve overcooked the green beans and they’re tasteless compared to the way hubby made them, stir fried with mysterious seasonings.  I force myself to take a large helping, because I need to eat more vegetables and not fill up on starches, and I douse them liberally with butter and salt. The rice, of course, is perfect. Not even I could screw up microwave rice in a bag. The salmon… well, it’s not my husband’s salmon, but it’s not bad.  It’s crunchy on the outside and flaky inside. If only I could figure out how he used to season it…

Maybe I really can learn to do this for myself.

Coming Back to Life

Apologies for the lengthy radio silence. The physical recovery from surgery was slower than I had anticipated, and being in pain and largely helpless sent me spiraling into depression. Not the kind of intense, soul crushing despair that I felt in the first months after my husband’s suicide, the kind of pain that demands to be expressed and released… just a flat, gray, muted feeling as if all the color had been leeched out of my life. I lost interest in everything for a while, and I lost any desire to try and express myself. I just lay around reading and watching TV and waiting to heal.

Once I was well enough to drive again and go back to therapy, I started to understand that the “time out” caused by the surgery was important for my emotional and psychological healing as well. I’d been keeping myself busy and distracted to keep loneliness at bay and avoid thinking too much. The weeks at home alone recuperating were hard, but they were a necessary step in processing and moving through my grief.

Slowly, I started to climb out of the hole. In the past week I’ve emerged once again into the sunshine. I’m back at work part-time, getting out and spending time with friends, and (at my therapist’s suggestion) making it a point to do at least one thing every day that makes me feel good. Yesterday that thing was a walk in the park at sunset, watching the clouds turn deep pink and the gift of a brilliant rainbow in the sky. Today it was wandering through the new farmer’s market in my neighborhood, sampling tasty food and carefully selecting some fresh produce.

I’m still lonely and I’m still hurting, but at least I’m feeling it. And I’m feeling other things again, like an impulse to sing along to the car radio. As I focus on appreciating the little things, I’m coming back to life.