Love and Mourning

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was slipping down the rabbit hole, consumed by grief again. I knew I would survive, I knew I’d be whole again, but I knew there was a lot of rocks on the road between then and now.

In the past year, I’ve gained a better perspective, I think, on what Dustin was and was not, what he was capable of giving, and what he was not. I was convinced he was my soulmate. I had just come from a devastatingly awful 3-year relationship, abusive in every sense of the word, and I was not removed from that experience enough to be able to objectively judge this new man who’d come into my life. But he was kind and sweet and caring and very protective of me, all of which were things I craved. I didn’t realize he was an addict at first, didn’t realize how troublesome his past was and how it would come back to haunt us, didn’t realize way too much until it was way too late.

I have a confession: I thought about leaving. All the time. I couldn’t abandon him–but I needed to. We were both drowning in his pain, and while I was sitting atop my fence, I went to bed one night with goals for a shared future, to get him the professional help he so desperately needed…and when I woke up the next morning, all those dreams and goals were ashes and dust. ‘Devastated’ doesn’t even come close to covering it. The guilt. Could I have tried harder? Did I give him enough? I rolled it around and finally let it slip through my fingers. What was done was done. Nothing would change that now.

So. Flash forward to August 2013 when the man who would teach me what it really meant to have and be a soulmate walked through the door of an anonymous barbecue joint. And from that moment on, it was pretty much all over.

And so. Now we’re planning a wedding. Yes, a wedding. Me, the woman who would never be a bride. Me, the erstwhile widow. Never saw that one coming.

The Newlydead Salt and Pepper shakes, and our future wedding cake toppers.

The Newlydead Salt and Pepper shakers, and our future wedding cake toppers.

I love this man with everything I’ve got, would do absolutely anything for him. He is also kind and sweet and caring and very protective, but he is also stable and mature and smart as hell. He is everything Dustin was and more, the happily-ever-after to the original Grimm’s fairy tale, the Disney instead of the Shakespeare.

It took meeting Adam to put my relationship with Dustin in proper perspective: a great, but ultimately flawed, love. It took meeting and loving someone like Dustin to make me fully open to loving Adam, because Dustin taught me how to love wholly: without fear, without reservation, and how to survive the consequences of loving that way. Dustin took my broken spirit and shattered it so thoroughly I had to rebuild from scratch, instead of patching holes and covering up cracks.

Now I’m in a bit of an odd position. I still love Dustin, of course. A part of me always will. Adam not only knows that, his own experiences with grief allowed him to anticipate and understand it. As he puts it, “How can you be jealous of a dead man?”

Adam was the man I was meant to be with, inasmuch as I believe in things like ‘meant to be,’ but I never would have been able to love or appreciate him the way I do if it hadn’t been for Dustin. So, in a way, I owe the success of this relationship to the spectacular loss of the previous one.

I told Adam early on that Dustin and I were a bit of a package deal. I could no longer separate who I am from that experience, because who I am now owes so much to it. In a way, it feels like I’m about to marry them both, which makes my head warp just a bit.

I don’t talk about this much…actually, not at all. I am expected to give up the old love in favor of the new. It doesn’t work that way. I have always believed that you carry a piece of everyone you ever loved with you, and they, a piece of you. In this case, more than a tiny piece.

Although I’ve accepted this as pretty much inevitable, I can’t help but feel ambivalent about it. Isn’t this a strange position to be in? I guess I’ll put it down to yet one more fucked up consequence of love and loss and grief, but I am really looking forward to not have this rolling around in my head and heart like a spilled bag full of broken marbles.

Interlude #11

Dustin~

This is not goodbye.

How could it be, ever? You live on: fueling my heart, shining my eyes, whispering in my head and warming my soul. There is no longer any separation between us.

Your death still weighs on me, but not as much as it did. For all the mistakes you made, for all your missed opportunities, all your regrets, I have forgiven you. For all the things I should have done, should have said, should have seen, I forgive myself.

I can hear you in my head still, telling me I’m worth it when I wonder that I’m not, telling me I’m not alone when I’m cold in the night, telling me not to be so hard on myself when I make a mistake.

I know you heard the conversation he and I had about whether or not I’m a ‘good’ person, as opposed to a decent one. I could feel your anger at my answer, the one that sold myself short, the one that was too harsh.

You are right. I am a good person, after all. My inherent ability to divorce emotion from a situation makes me think I am harder, am colder, than I really am. You knew better, felt the heat of my heart and the warmth of my soul, felt my fears and my pain. You are the one who taught me to love on that grand scale, who took my scarred and beaten heart and broke it wide open.

I have promised you that I won’t date assholes anymore, the ones who use and abuse. I have promised you to only allow those people into my life who are good to me and for me, who give as much as they take. You taught me that I deserve better, and I will honor your dreams for me. 

Now the time has come to try to sort out how we move on together, as two made one. How to rejoin life, how to love again. How to be brave.

Come, love. The road is clear, the light is green. Let’s go.

Interlude #10

Dustin~

Oh, baby, here I go again. Nine months gone. I thought it would be better, less painful this time. I should have known better. 

I feel like someone is pulling glass-covered strings out of me, one at a time, a thin slivering pain. I am running out of ways to say I miss you. Still, and always.

I felt so strong today, so alive. My life is moving in the right direction, I am finally happy. I thought of how you loved me, how that set my soul alight. How I glowed with it, how I still do. How I did the same for you.

But such light creates shadows, creates the spaces for the loss to move and breathe and curl. To be reminded, once again, that this is an endless process. Yin and yang, balance. Joy and pain, love and loss. 

There is a part of me that isn’t ready to hope for more than what I have. Six months ago, I couldn’t even imagine being where I am now. Isn’t that enough? When did I become afraid of hope?

The loneliness has come back tonight, as deep as it ever was, swelling like still water suffering dropped stones. It’s been so long since you held me last…since anyone has. 

But I know I have to walk this road alone. No one can do this for me, take this pain and carry it in my stead. I know you would have spared me this if you could have. I know, baby. It’s all right.

Even after all that’s passed, how hard it’s been, it was worth it. You were worth it, forever and always. 

I miss you. I love you. 

Ascendant

Full MoonWomanRisingFromTheOcean

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
~Lao Tzu

After months of grueling mourning, after months of anger and pain and sadness, after months of struggle and heartbreak and endless loneliness…I cobbled myself together, went back to school, picked up a paintbrush.

After weeks of sleep deprivation and juggling of school and work and assignments and artwork, of nary a moment to myself to just breathe, I slid sideways into Spring Break and inhaled deeply.

And in the midst of all of this, all this fuss and bother and rushing here and there, when I finally came to a moment to breathe, I found a new woman waiting there for me. A bolder, stronger version; broken but whole, the cracks welded together with gold and silver. Still hurting, but my star is rising; I have become ascendant. I am finally rising above Dustin’s loss.

I still miss him, his warmth in the dark. I miss his insights and his sense of humor, his kindness.

I don’t miss his love, because I never lost it. And the strength and courage born of the love we shared has given me everything I needed to not only survive, but relearn how to thrive.

I have opened two online stores recently to sell my artwork, I am doing well in both my classes, I am eating better and losing weight. I found myself taken by surprise when someone asked me for a coffee date. A just-getting-to-know-you, pressure-free thing. And when I didn’t immediately shoot the idea down, I realized that somewhere in all my busyness, I had come a very long way indeed. So I accepted, all bewildered at myself.

I am not to the point where I can deal with things like expectations or hope for more. I am going and I will be open-minded, and those two things are so monumental that they’re more than enough.

This life is enough.

 

Wish

This one requires a bit of explanation. Many moons ago…oh, 12 years ago now, I was involved in a long-distance relationship that wasn’t going as I would have hoped, and I was stuck in a low-paying job with no prospects of improving my position. I was tired and angsty, and my new eyeglasses prescription had given me a raging migraine that had lasted for days. So I was bitchy, to put it mildly. It also reveals a tendency of mine that probably led to my initial involvement with Dustin, instead of heading for the hills at the first sign of trouble.

These days, the poem perfectly captures the angst and frustration I sometimes feel over Dustin’s loss. I am not currently in such a state, but I stumbled across this in an old box of papers, and I thought I’d share, after a bit of tweaking.

Wish

I’m bored and I’m lonely but after all
it’s all my fault
the days slip past and I don’t even care but
I’m one day closer to you
that should matter, I suppose
I don’t want to go to out, I want
to stay here and whine but
sometimes I annoy myself and I
throw myself to the wolves
so I can say I did something new

There’s a glitter in my eyes lately
The doc says it’s all right but
there’s an empty spot in the lives of my days and I
wish Prince Charming hadn’t been such a prick but
sometimes I don’t want what I wish for
(I’m such a bad girl, you know)

wish…
what a word
all the hopes and dreams rolled into a
dirty
little
four-letter word

I’m sick of insight
my head has hurt for the last three days and
I’m tired of searching my soul and today
I just want to sleep the time away
I’m sick of pretending that
nothing ever hurts and I
wish I could hear you say
just once
that you still love me, that you still need me
right now it’s just an intellectual exercise and I
I’m tired, just too damn tired

Copyright Miss M Photography

Copyright Miss M Photography

Amicus Alter Ipse

Amicus Alter Ipse: A friend is another self

Amicus Alter Ipse: A friend is another self

Dustin was my best friend.

I don’t think I can emphasize that enough, or adequately describe exactly what that means to me. I’ve always been a bit of an outsider, always a half beat off from the rest of the world. I used to wish that I could be truly oddball, an outlier, because there are plenty of places for oddballs to find their own. But for someone not quite like you, it’s a challenge.

Dustin understood me, and he loved me. That had never really happened to me before. But he understood where my darkness came from, and how I’d gotten that way. It was the same place his came from. When he would give his snorted half laugh and shake his head with a twisted smile, I recognized my own gesture. He understood how compassion can come from pain, and how a hardscrabble existence and a spotty past doesn’t make someone a bad person. He looked beyond all the superfluous stuff and saw right through to the core of a person. To me.

You don’t have to know someone long, or at all, to recognize your own soul staring back at you.

Someone asked me once if I’d rather have love without understanding, or understanding without love. At the time, I thought it was a stupid and unrealistic thought experiment. How can you have one without the other? You can’t love someone you don’t understand, right? And then I was understood without being loved, and that stung. And I have been loved without being understood, and that was just tragic. Someone saw me for who I really was, and didn’t love what he saw. Someone else loved me but couldn’t truly see me, so we were constantly just missing each other, and never truly coming together.

The same things had happened to Dustin, of course. We had been charting similar trajectories our entire lives, so when we finally crossed paths, the magnitude of what we had nearly blinded us both.

“How do you feel about us?”

“To be honest, my heart is in the middle of an all-out war with my head.” He blinked at my answer. I don’t think he’d been expecting such a direct response.

“What does that mean?”

I squirmed next to him in my bed. “This just doesn’t happen to people! Fairy tales aren’t real, they don’t happen in real life!” I sighed. “But I’m giving up. I can’t fight this. Fairy tales are real.”

He laughed softly and pulled me close. Hand buried in my hair, his kiss burned my mouth, the way all his kisses did.

“I love you,” he whispered.

In the beginning, when I was still bargaining with a God who wasn’t listening and I didn’t believe in anyway, the hardcore survivalist part of me would grab me by the back of my neck and drag me in front of my new reality. Here. See this. He. Is. Gone. Deal with it. You can’t run from this. And I would stare into it, eyes burning, chest aching, my own apocalyptical sun.

Sometimes I fall into a deep well of I-miss-you. It surrounds me and I just sit with it, and let it happen. Because these days, I don’t have to dwell on it. It’s stamped into my dna, carved into bone, and there isn’t anything that can separate me from this truth: I loved, with everything I had, someone who loved me the same way. And he is gone.

Bête Noire

I don’t remember how the road to sleep
became dangerous. Potholed. Treacherous
Afraid to sleep, afraid of what was waiting
He would be coming home drunk and any minute now
Terror
Best to stay awake
But that was then

Now the road to sleep is lined, like a dark parade
attended by the hosts of the dead
waving flags of doubts and could-have-beens
I should have gone to get you, why didn’t I?
Questions unanswered

Tension simmers
Hard to walk the parade when my knees
are drawn to my chest and I
I am relearning how to breathe
Did we have what I thought we had?
Fighting in the street

So much broken glass to get through
I’ll line my feet with pills until I don’t feel a thing
Numbness, the patron saint of the perpetually bleeding
We were going to eat lobster in Maine, we were going to be old together, you promised
I’ll get drunk on ashen wine

I’ll just try his number
there’s no one to call
But I need to know
there’s no one to explain
But I need to hold him
He is gone
I need to see him
Too late
But I need
Doesn’t matter
But I want
What you can’t have

I scrabble and I fight
but the pills do their business
I feel sleep sliding warm up the back of my neck
Ignoring my struggles in the dirt
Pulled under sighing, giving up
Oh love, oh my very dear