Home, Heart and Facing Fears

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Written Jan 2:
Last I wrote, I was really struggling with this move, and trying to learn some patience with it. I was on my way to my first backpacking trip with Mike. I’d have to say, I found so much peace in the woods. We’ve been hiking nearly every day we get a chance in the past month now… and it really is helping to settle me.

To fill you in, I was down in Texas visiting Drew’s family last week for Christmas. It is the first time I have ever “visited” Texas… the place that has always been my home. I had fears before leaving that it would dredge up so much emotion. That visiting the cemetery where Drew is buried would be so painful. That I would find myself missing Texas so much that leaving to come back to Ohio would be really painful. I feared all kinds of pain leading up to that trip. But, I am back now… and it wasn’t as bad as I’m anticipated. There were hard moments, but what I realized from those moments is that I have missed the experiences of my life with Drew in Texas, far more than the place itself.

I realized, I wasn’t sad just for western boots and plaid shirts. I wasn’t just sad for country bars and dance halls and the wide open Texas skies. I was sad for times I shared all those things with Drew. Going back there meant going back to all those things without him. Suddenly, they didn’t have the same meaning anymore. They felt empty. I also realized something else. Something that surprised me… I missed Ohio. In only a few months of moving, somewhere else is starting to feel like home. I can tell you, I never in a million years thought I’d be saying “I miss Ohio” haha. But it’s true.

I’ve had a new sense of appreciation for my new home state since coming back to Ohio last week. A feeling that I am more ready to embrace this life. A knowing inside that Drew is not down there in Texas… he is right here with me on every new adventure that Mike, Shelby and I go on. In this new life, with new memories, is where he will always live.

I want to end this post with a little side note. Like everyone, I’ve been reflecting on the past year. A year ago this week, I shared with you all about the debacle of my New Year’s Eve in this post. On that day, a man I’d been on a date or two with basically took advantage by messing around with me and then bailed on me. It was horrific, and one of the worst triggers I have had since Drew died… particularly because it was the first romantic encounter I’d had since his death. I still cannot even describe how traumatic that was.

This New Year’s Eve, I was sitting in the kitchen of my own house (my own HOUSE!), drinking beers and dancing around in the kitchen with Mike like a fool… to such old hits as the Fresh Prince theme song. There was laughter. So much laughter. And so much joy. And goofiness. And there were no triggers, and no sadness. Just life, and love, and joy. And everything felt good.

A year ago, if you had told me I would meet some guy in Ohio and end up moving my entire life 1400 miles away within a year in order to date him, I would have laughed in your face. Like really hard. Because I was never leaving Texas. And I do not make sudden moves in my life, ever. And I didn’t feel ready to be in a relationship at all. AT ALL. I believed 100% that my 2015 would be spent focusing on trying to get my career as an artist and writer going a step further in the right direction, and that’s it.

Then Mike shows up at Camp Widow, and turned all of my plans upside down… as men do. As life likes to do. (Does anyone else ever feel like life is just laughing at you when you start trying to make plans?) Before you know it, we’re flying to visit each other, meeting each other’s families and in-laws. And then bam, we’ve been dating for 8 months and I am flying up to look at a rent house in Ohio. Um, what? How did all this even happen?

Every step of this “after” life has been new, painful and terrifying – including this entire past year of beginning a new relationship for the first time since Drew died. I have walked through the fear that I could never love again, only to find that yes, I can… and that I am an even better partner now because of all I’ve been through. I have walked through the fear that I could never be a good role model or mother figure for a little girl because I lost my own mother so young… only to find that I am exactly the sort of woman this little girl needs in her life going forward, precisely because I lost my mother – as she has – young. I have walked thru the fear that I am fragile and cannot handle much since he died, only to find that I am handling more each day. Not always with the grace I would like to, but still, I am handling it.

Every step along the way has been scary and hard. But it’s taught me that it’s worth wading through the fears to see what else is out there for my life. To see what’s on the other side. It’s worth enduring some sadness and some scary new things now and again – even if I don’t know where they will take me. By enduring all the parts of life that are challenging, and stepping through them, I have almost always found joy, love, and fuller life on the other side. As always, I have Drew to thank for so much of this.

Doing It Anyway: Pushing Through Fear

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Written Nov 21:
So my latest update on moving and homesickness and new places: it still fucking sucks. Don’t get me wrong, being close to Mike is wonderful… and things could not be better between us. The joy he brings into my world is immeasurable. But as the weeks go on in this new landscape, other things are actually feeling worse, not better.  Things are starting to wear me down… like the house still being in complete chaos and not being able to find anything when I need it. And not knowing how to get anywhere without my map on my phone telling me what to do. And not even knowing how to find some of the things that I am looking for – like a good community of artists or writers. And not having anything figured out in regards to work yet.
Okay, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, these are all good reasons to be freaking out. It’s a lot. And it hasn’t even been a month since I moved here. It’s completely normal to feel all of this. So why can’t I just accept it? Why am I fighting it so hard? There’s a good reason for that too. After Drew died, I fought tooth and nail to find my joy again. I battled day in and day out with the pain and the sadness and the lack of motivation and the chaos of grief… and finally I had begun to pull out of that. Finally, I’d found my way back to joy, and groundedness, and peace. Finally, I could sometimes go to bed at night only feeling normal tiredness and not complete emotional exhaustion. Finally, I could wake up and not STILL feel exhausted. Finally, I felt like I was living. I do not want to let go of that. I do not want to have to sit in pain again.

I can’t avoid it though. I mean that is life. Struggles won’t stop happening just because he died. And just like the darkest days of grief… I am feeling exhausted all the time again. Suddenly, that joy I fought so hard for, is feeling harder to get to. That groundedness within myself is feeling shaky. The peace I had begun to find is feeling distant. A change this big is no doubt trying to pull apart the very foundations I have worked so hard to build. And suddenly I am feeling myself very much in fear and feeling lost. Fear of losing myself, fear of becoming bitter or isolating. Fear that I won’t be able to adjust to all of this. And especially fear that I will not be able to figure out the next steps for my work, which is very much my life as well. As an artist and writer, I’m still at the very early stages of building a career. I am on the cusp of continuing on and maybe one day “making it”, and giving in and going back to working for someone else. I am living off of savings just to give this a shot. So right now, I’m feeling paralyzed with what steps to take next to balance bringing in some better income with my art and writing. And that is where it ties into grief a great deal.

The unknown can sometimes be an exciting place. Other times, it’s terrifying. Like grief. This whole minefield of unknown pains. It’s so easy right now to see my unknowns as the same kind of minefield. I feel like I am just waiting for another explosion to happen somewhere nearby. Almost 3 1/2 years after Drew’s death, I am still trying to figure my life out. And I am just tired of trying to figure shit out. I am not in the depths of grief any longer. I have met someone new and wonderful and he has brought so much joy back into my world. But there is still so much that I do not have figured out… and sometimes it just gets scary, and exhausting, and frustrating beyond belief.
I forget sometimes that I somehow did make it this far. I am even still HERE and I have worked through a huge amount of grief and pain and heartache and anger in these years just to get to today. I have created a beautiful series of photography and essays on grief in the process of all this, too, and it has taught me much about healing with creativity. I have learned so many things that I still wish to shared with others who are grieving… things that can help. Lately, I’ve forgotten all of that. And all I’ve been able to see is my fear. Fear about how I will sustain doing this meaningful work. Fear about which directions to take it all in.
In the process, I’ve forgotten that the only way I got this far, was by choosing to push through the fear. It’s the only way to make room for things to begin to happen. I already know this. Ugh. I mean WOW how our minds tie us in knots sometimes. I have felt so small and confused and lost lately… being in a place where I know almost no one and everything looks and feels very foreign. How quickly I’ve lost sight of things, and of myself. It was by pushing through fear that I ever made it to Ohio. I was terrified on the drive up here from Texas, and I did it anyway. I was petrified to begin to date someone new for the first time since Drew died, and I did it anyway. I guess I just need to remember all those experiences, take a deep breath, and ride it out… because indeed – despite my fear – I am going to push through, do it anyway, and trust that things will work out.

Connecting the Dots

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It’s been about 3 weeks since I moved to Ohio… and I finally hit my first big trigger. A few days ago, I was listening to some country music when a song called “My Texas” came on. The lyrics wandered through familiar places… Enchanted Rock, Luckenbach, and my hometown of Corpus Christi Bay. Instantly I had images flooding my mind of all the many places I’ve lived and laughed and loved back home. All the family and friendships that are still there. But there was more to it than that. Which is why, in an instant, I spiraled into a total fit of grief. I must have cried for over an hour. It’s only now, a few days later, that I am fully realizing it to be much more than just the normal homesick feeling.

I miss my home state, where I have lived all my life. But what’s more, I miss the home of my heart – the person that is no longer here. Being homesick ties so deeply into missing Drew. Not only because our life there feels far away, but because he so embodies Texas culture for me. Western boots, dance halls, guns and beer… I was a city girl when I met him. He was the one who introduced me to that true Texas culture, and I fell in love with it immediately. Now years later, I am still drinking beer, wearing my western boots, going to country dance halls and enjoy going shooting. Or at least I was until moving here.

He infused into me this culture so deeply. In moving to Ohio, of course there are a lot of differences. There is plenty I like here that is new. A drive in diner called Swenson’s, the beautiful waterfalls and rivers and woods to hike in, the close proximity of other states (that one is still so bewildering!). But the overall culture is just so different. I know it’s normal to have culture shock… but having that be so wrapped up in a person makes it even harder. I cried just as hard for the life he and I never got to fully share together as I did for all the places and memories I miss. I cried because I realized that no matter where he and I moved across the country in our lives – he would have brought Texas with us anywhere he went. Leaving on my own, however, hasn’t felt like Texas has come with me.

To a degree, I have to let go. I know that. I have to make room to enjoy what IS new and different about Ohio… about this new life I am living. I have to be willing to embrace this life, to lean into it. But that’s hard. And painful. Even though I have Mike here, It’s hard to fully lean into him. I seem to often times get a small amount of resistance – which I imagine is normal when you’re in a new relationship after the person you loved dies. You know better than anyone that you could lose this new person too, and so leaning on them sometimes feels quite dangerous.

Until the moment comes that you melt into it… when you realize you had better just let yourself sink fully into this love because it’s ridiculous to avoid doing so out of the fear of them dying. Because you cannot prevent that from happening, or know when it is coming. So you might as well just let go and love.

12239557_10153617396530306_99357831669911175_n.jpgAfter a few hours of crying that night, I finally called Mike and shared my feelings of homesickness with him. He showed up to my place an hour or so later wearing a western hat and a plaid flannel shirt, carrying two six packs of my favorite Texas beer (thank God they at least have that here!). That was the moment I melted, and stopped resisting this new person before me. Because he cares a great deal about making sure that I never lose my feeling of connection to Texas, or to Drew. And he cares even more about making me feel at home here.

Last night, he took me out to a country bar around here, just so I could feel a little more like I was home. It wasn’t quite Texas… The music selection was pretty awful. And got progressively worse as the hours rolled on. We’re talking club remixes of Garth Brooks songs here. There was a decidedly lesser amount of western shirts and cowboy hats, and far more sneakers and loafers (which I’ll admit, felt like sacrilege to me). Almost no one was two-stepping, and everyone was doing insanely complicated line dances which we couldn’t even begin to get in on as newbies (to credit Ohio, we don’t really line dance a lot in Texas, and man they have got this shit down). So no, it didn’t exactly feel like Texas. But… they had my favorite Texas beer, which is HARD to find in restaurants and bars around here. That was really enough for me. So Mike and I sat and knocked back some Shiner Bock while we laughed at all the horrible dancers and bad music. Despite it all, there was laughter and fun and life being lived… and I did indeed feel reconnected to my roots.

This is not my old life. It’s not the life I imagined I would be having 4 years ago, before Drew died. And most certainly, sometimes I resist that. Sometimes I want to close off and not allow anyone else to offer me comfort or show me a new version of happy. I’m incredibly stubborn about this sort of thing. Even after 3 ½ years, I still catch myself wanting to just sit and stew in my own pain. But I try to remind myself to keep on deciding to live, as hard as that may be sometimes. Mike reminds me of this too… and since he is also widowed, I can’t play my widow card on him. Ha! He will call me out every time if I am just making things worse than I need to be. Which I love. One of Drew’s best qualities was believing anything is possible. One of Mike’s, is believing that it’s possible to make something good out of anything. In their character, they often times seem so much like brothers. Both bringing me the lessons to help me along my own path.

Sometimes this new life feels a bit like a game of connect the dots – only without a pre-defined picture at the end. There are all these pieces of me kind of floating around, some near, some far. As I move forward, I am connecting those pieces together into the full picture of my new life and who I am now. As I move farther from some and closer to others, the shape changes. New pieces appear too, and I have to figure out how to connect those into all the other parts of my life, and still make the picture complete. It’s a constant game of redrawing the lines, and trying new things, to try and get it how I want it. That’s life in general I suppose… we keep redrawing our lines, adjusting things here and there, until something – like death – comes along and turns us to a blank page filled with random dots. I’m grateful to have maybe a half-drawn page at this point… but I never forget that the page could be turned again at any moment. That keeps me on my toes. It keeps me working to connect the pieces of my life, both the sorrow and sadness for an old life and the joy and excitement of new life, into one complete picture.

 

Building from the Grief Up

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Written Nov 8:
We took a trip to Pittsburgh yesterday. It was my first time to ever visit Pennsylvania. I’m not sure why, but I’ve wanted to visit this state since I was a kid. As we approached I was so surprised. The city itself was so beautiful… and the landscape was nothing like I’d expected – although I am not entirely sure what I expected it to be. The hills all around were steep and towering, the city itself built up within the twists and turns of the natural world. It felt inventive, and sturdy, and wonderfully adapted to the landscape. Tall, skinny houses on steep slopes. Narrow winding roads to accommodate the inclines and declines. A system of bridges to connect things amidst the two rivers that surround downtown and meet on one end.

I’m always fascinated by cities built up in areas like this. Even more impressive is that this city is 400 years old. You could feel the history of this place just driving through it. There was a certain feeling of grit and determination about it. A sense of the ingenuity and adaptability it took to create. I started to consider the idea of a place like this as a metaphor for human life and all it’s struggles…

Sometimes in life, we are born into a place with steep inclines and deep valleys. Other times, we are delivered to such a place somewhere along the way… by events like the death of a spouse, parent, child or other loved one. Or by some other catastrophic event.

The city was a reminder to me of our ability as humans to be adaptable. Despite the harshest of landscapes that life puts in our way, we can survive and create amazing lives. This city was also far more interesting and beautiful because of the hills and valleys that people had to work around to build it. And so I think it goes in life. Grief is the harshest landscape we will likely ever have to build the city of our hearts within. As we adapt though, we create something breathtaking. Every beautiful street in our hearts is influenced by the slopes of our grief. Each step took hard work, but work that was meaningful. We might start out in the bottom of the valley, where things feel overwhelming, but over time, we build up. We reach higher up the slopes. And eventually, we are looking down over the landscape of our grief and seeing a thing made beautiful – not in spite of the difficulties, but because of them.

Visits of Comfort

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Written Nov 1:
It’s been a week now since I made the big move up to Ohio, to live near Mike. I’ve had a roller coaster of emotions going on. At this point I’m just feeling like it’s a miracle I’ve made it through one whole week. While I don’t have any reservations about my decision to move here, still I’m having anxiety and headaches pretty much daily. A lot of change always does this to me. This is the farthest by far that I have lived away from home, and the homesickness has already kicked in too. Feeling vulnerable doesn’t help things. Having grief wrapped up into it all doesn’t help things. Needing to find work still doesn’t help things. It hasn’t taken long for all of this to constrict around me and start creating anxiety. I’ve caught myself spiraling into my own thoughts and fears about all this newness. The irrational sort of stuff that doesn’t to any good to focus on. And for a time, this strong, resilient person that I am is worn down and overwhelmed too much to be so. I hate being in this state of overwhelm…

It’s not unlike grief itself. It makes you vulnerable. It takes your energy away and leaves you depleted, less able to function like you normally do. It creates limitations. It creates irrational stories in your mind. It gets your mind running rampant on you. In this sense, how similar my grief and the change of moving have felt.

I’ve wanted to be able to just enjoy this move, to open my heart to it and just let it all happen. To meet it all fearlessly and in a positive light. It’s clear though, it’s going to be a battle for me to relax and be able to trust. It is just how I am now after so much loss and so much painful change has happened in my life.

For the last few days at least, I have had a small break in the anxiety of it all. My best friend came up from Texas for a first visit Friday. It’s been so comforting to have her here, and so much fun. Halloween has been our holiday since Drew died, and so the plan was to celebrate it up here in a new way. She, Mike and I went out Friday night to the bar for a costume party – all dressed as pirates. We danced and enjoyed the night, and for a little while, I didn’t feel the anxiety or the fear or any of it. Yesterday, Mike chauffeured us around the area. He took us to a bunch of the best nature areas and parks. We saw old barns and waterfalls and gorges and lakes. With the fall leaves in full effect, it was nothing short of breathtaking. Getting to see it all for the first time with my best friend made it even more special. And watching Mike and her together, talking and laughing and getting along so well gave me such joy. Especially being that she has been my closest friend through all the years dating Drew and through his death and these years or surviving after. And now she not only approves of Mike, but she has gained a wonderful new friend in him too. For this new person in my world and my best friend to get along so flawlessly feels like the most comforting and beautiful full-circle kind of thing.

In an eerie way, these past few days, it has started to feel like things are exactly how they should be – despite how painfully we arrived at this point. Having her here and getting to see new sights with her has helped to switch my panic mode off some, and help me see this new adventure as just that – an adventure. A new and exciting journey that she and I will be going on together, even if from very far apart much of the time. It’s beginning to sink in, that things will be exciting, and new, and beautiful. Grief will still be here. But There will be new landscapes to explore… a whole new winter world soon unlike anything I have ever experienced in Texas. Sometimes, all you need is a good friend to remind you to shake off your fears and find the positive again.

To Choose Pain

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Written Oct 11:
It’s been a long week. Most of my stuff has sat in storage since Drew died three years ago. And before that, probably half those boxes hadn’t been opened in years. With the move to Ohio in just a few weeks, it’s time to finally tackle this.

I decided that I didn’t want to take any extra baggage (literally) with me on this new venture, and that means I’m opening up every last box. I’m pulling out a million different little pieces of myself from long ago… and deciding which pieces I want to keep and which I want to leave behind.

It’s been emotional. To dig through my past and remember who I used to be. A lot has happened to me that isn’t just the grief over my fiance. Death, alcoholism, family dystunction, abuse…I haven’t had the worst life by far, but it hasn’t been easy.

Revisiting the boxes reminded me of how I spent the first 25 years of my life in survival mode. There was never stability, or healthy relationships, or a feeling of safety in my world. There was never room to put down the armor and just relax into life. Not until I met Drew…

He helped to give me the kind of stability and healthy love that allowed me to just enjoy life for those few years we shared. For me, it was one of the biggest gifts… to understand what it can feel like to live life from a place of security instead of always being based in fear.

These years since Drew’s death, I have started to find that sense of security again. This time, it’s coming more from within me though. There is a solidness that wasn’t there before. And it comes from having survived such immense trauma that I know in a much deeper way that I can trust myself to handle things. I am rarely in survival mode anymore. It’s is probably one of the most important gifts that he could have given me – one that will affect the entire rest of my life in really important ways.

There is also a newfound sense of security in having Mike in my life too. And I believe 100% that Drew brought him here for a reason, at this very time in my life, to help me with the next chapter of moving forward. I will admit, Mike’s solidness has helped give me the courage to take some big steps – like this presentation I’m about to give in just another week on using creativity to greive. And moving across the country for the first time in my life. Despite all of these bold decisions as of late… one thing is never far from my mind: That Mike could be gone at any moment. In fact, its been on my mind a lot with the move approaching.

Drew and I were at a pinnacle in our life together when he was ripped away from me and gone suddenly. We were moving forward, looking towards marriage, his career as a pilot was just getting off the ground. Things were going our way. Then BAM, all of it gone, with one phonecall.

Now, I’m at the edge of a first big pinnacle with Mike. The closer this move gets, the more nervous I become that something will go horribly wrong. After all, it happened before… Now I know, I am not immune. None of us are.

It’s scary to let someone matter this much again. It’s scary to begin building a life with someone new. It really really is. It’s far scarier than most people in my life realize, because mostly, I am quiet about it. It takes a LOT of courage to step into love again after death. Now having lost Drew, I know just exactly what I am agreeing to. I know in a very real way that attaching my heart to anyone outside myself will inevitably, someday, end in pain. Mike is of course just as aware of this as I am, after losing Megan.

Some day, one of us will die, and there is no way of knowing when that will happen. All we can do is hope that we are lucky enough to dodge the accidents and the illnesses that could take us early. That’s all we’ve got: hope. Hope and the attitude that we aren’t going to let things like that stop us.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop having this thought though. It’s an awareness that’s ingrained in me now. Instead of letting it get to me though, I use it to my advantage. I allow it to be the thing that reminds me to be grateful of what’s here today. The thing that keeps me constantly aware of how beautiful every little moment is between Mike and I. That is also Drew’s gift to me. His way of still loving me and being in my life.

Drew will forever be there to remind me. Even if this wasn’t what I had planned before, to never take this life and this beautiful new love for granted, ever. To never let the fear of pain get in the way of pursuing happiness again. When we choose love, we also choose pain. He reminds me to take responsibility for that choice. To see pain as a part of the journey, not as something to avoid or let hinder me. He reminds me that pain should never stop me from taking hold of what joy I can in this life and riding it till the end. To choose the inevitability of pain – time and time again – for the privelage of love. Love others. Love ourselves. Love life.

Love, he has taught me, is the worthiest of reasons to hurt.

The First Big Departure

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It’s official. Last night, I signed a lease agreement for the rental house. (As you can see, Mike’s daughter Shelby is just as excited as I am) So… as of the end of next month, I will be packing up everything I own and moving to Ohio. This whole thing is so surreal and honestly doesn’t feel real at all. The house is amazing… twice the size of anything I’ve ever had. It sits at the end of a beautifully wooded street on the outskirts of town, with small 5 acre farms and little ponds dotting all along the road. For a gal who’s only lived in 600 square foot city apartments her whole adult life, it sure is surreal to imagine waking up to a view of trees and gardens and ponds and flowers. In the winter, fields of fresh snow blankets will stretch out several acres from my front door. I can hardly even imagine this little slice of heaven practically jumped into my lap. I’ve been totally terrifified to move so far from home, but I really do feel like all of this would not be aligning if it wasn’t meant to happen. So despite my fears, I am trusting the universe, letting go of the fear, and leaning into it.

So, how does this feel, to be leaving behind the state I have lived in all my life and all the places I built memories with Drew before he died? To be leaving behind my closest friends and some of my family? It felt really sad at first, I’ve cried a lot in the past few months over the prospect of moving far away. Until I got up here and realized… I’m not leaving any of that behind. We’ll still talk all the time, and I’ll still be sharing everything that happens on this new adventure with them. And in that way, teveryone back home is always with me. Similarly, Drew is always with me too.

It still feels very eerie… almost like I am in someone else’s life. I’ve been down in the pits of pain for so long, and suddenly it’s as though I got plucked out of it and set into a lovely bright field. Part of me I think is confused about that. How did I get out of the pit? How did I get here? How on earth did I go from waking up in tears every morning and hoping for a semi-truck to just run into my car and end it all… to waking up in love again? How on earth is that even possible?

I honestly do not know. But it is. Despite how unfathomable it STILL feels that I have all of this grief and all of this new joy living inside of me… it’s there. Despite how unimaginable it still seems to me to be able to love both Drew and Mike so completely… it’s there. I really did think that our hearts only had so much room. It’s not true. They stretch to accommodate whatever love grows within them. And so that is miraculaously what I have watched happen since meeting Mike. My heart at least twice the size it was, because the part of my heart that holds Drew didn’t shrink at all.

Last night, Mike and I settled into bed after an amazing and exciting day… and I burst into tears. It was simple. I just missed Drew. I missed him so badly. More than anything, I wanted to be able to call him and tell him about this exciting new part of my life… which seems odd. But he was my best friend, and so yes, that is what I wanted. Another part of those tears are because this big step of moving reminded me yet again of the life Drew and I will never get to have together. Signing that lease was deciding to take a different fork in the road. To officially say, I am letting go of that life and I am choosing this one. It’s so painful. It deserves tears.

There will always be this alternate path that could have happened, had he not died. And it will only ever exist in my heart. Every new place I live, every new experience that happens in it… there will always be that other life in my heart that I will think about, wonder about. I will always have a melancholy about that.

On the other side of it though, it IS because he died that I am where I am today. It is because of him that I met Mike. It’s because of him that I am moving to Ohio and going on all sorts of grand new adventures… so part of me does feel like he’s here. That’s his way of still being around. He affects every single thing that will happen going forward in my life. He is a huge part of the foundation that this entire new life is rooted in. And he always will be.

As I cried in bed last night, Mike held me tight, and I told him all of the above. It is wonderful to be able to have someone who understands like he does, even though I hate why. I should mention, not for a single moment did I not want the beautiful love that was right in front of me. Not for a moment did I wish Drew was there instead of Mike. It is never an either/or kind of thing. I love them the same. I honestly can’t believe that’s possible still, but boy do I. I suppose sometimes, like in those moments, I just want to be able to be in two places at once, and live both lives out – the one I have now with Mike, and the one I was going to have with Drew. I want to be able to see how both of those beautiful lives pan out.

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It will always be hard that I only get to see how one of these directions unfolds. But it is still beautiful and wonderful nonetheless, I cannot have both of those lives, but I do get to have one life that is influenced deeply by both of those people – and by many more people who are here because of both of these men. And I am excited to not know where any of it is going. Despite all I’ve been through, and all the catastrophies I can imagine happening now, I am still going to choose to be excited about this first big departure from the life I’d planned. I am not going to let death take the color out of my view of life. No, I’m going to make death give my life more color than ever before.

Turning A New Page

I’ve gotten behind on posting some of my blogs here recently, so this one is a catch-up. Written Sept 13….

I am sitting in my hotel room in Toronto writing… trying to find the best and most concise way to describe all that has happened in the past seven days of my life. I say “most concise” because I’ve got a bag to pack, and many wonderful widow friends to still say farewells to before leaving Camp Widow Toronto. In a nutshell, the past week has been an enormous roller coaster. My first day visiting Mike in Ohio, I met his parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. Oh, I also viewed the house I am looking to rent… because yes, its a great idea to go looking at a house the very first day you have ever been to a state halfway across the country from where you lived with your fiance. Yeah.

On day two, I met Mike’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, Megan’s parents, and her brother. On the same day, I looked at a new car, which I would be driving around in this new state halfway across the country when I move. This is because my in-laws want to keep Drew’s truck, which they told me just days before leaving to Ohio. Since we weren’t married, that one isn’t my say. I’m grateful for their help financially to get a new vehicle, but the idea of leaving his truck has added a whole other layer of grief to the idea of this move.

During these first two days, Mike and his daughter Shelby also drove me around and showed me their city and the various interesting things about the area. Even this was overwhelming, because I wasn’t looking at it as a place to visit… but as a place I will soon live. A place I will soon live that is NOT any place I have ever been with Drew. It felt foreign, very foreign from Texas. I felt so tense, like a part of me was resenting every last thing in Ohio because Ohio is taking me away from my beautiful home state. Ultimately, taking me away from the world I knew with Drew, and with my parents. It is another layer of loss. Despite how wonderful it’s been to meet all of Mike and Megan’s family and to see this beautiful part of the country and to fall in love with this house I want to rent, my heart has been honestly pretty pissed off since arriving here… because I do NOT want to endure any more fucking loss. Like seriously, no more.

And then on Friday, Mike and I packed up the car and took a road trip up to Toronto, for Camp Widow. I really have to say that, yet again, I am leaving Camp completely transformed. I brought so much resentment and fear with me to camp. So much resistance to change. And I am leaving with none of it.

I am leaving instead with laughter and smiles. With a renewed lightness and trust about things working out. With an even deeper assurance that Mike is the person I want to uproot my life for. I’ve shared moments of tears and opening my heart to others who understand. Moments of being able to talk about how scary it is to be changing so much of my life all over again. I’ve shared about how much I really really REALLY hate that opening this new chapter in my life also means turning the page on some of the old chapters. But most of all, I am leaving Camp with HOPE.

There’s a feeling of excitement now about this big unknown future I am about to jump into (even the snow, which for a Texas girl, is a hard thing to say). Over the past few days, I’ve started to realize that just maybe there will be even more goodness to this change than I could possibly imagine. Just maybe there are so many more reasons for living in this new place than just being near Mike and Shelby. There will be a chance to deepen relationships with many other people who I have previously lived very far away from… widowed friends, artist friends, and even some family.

It is nearly official now… I will be signing a lease agreement in just a few days. I will be moving at the end of October. I’ve decided. And I am committing to this leap, no matter what. It’s still scary as shit, but now it is also exciting. Having my community of widowed people this weekend was EXACTLY what I needed during this time. And I cannot thank them all enough. You all remind me that I am safe, and loved, and strong, and I can do this. You remind me that we are all capable of doing big things. Michele’s keynote address reminded me that, even though I am starting a new volume of my life, I can always go back to the previous books. They are always there in me, just waiting for me to pick them up, sit down with them, and flip thru the pages. The volume of my life that is Drew will always be there… and his volume will go with me everywhere I go. Just as all the others will.

At the end of this whole crazy week, I am seeing that what’s waiting in the next chapter could still be some of the happiest years of my life… not the same happiest years I had with Drew, but different happiest years… with new love, new friendships, new laughter, new memories, and new life. Drew is going to be a part of this chapter too, just as he is going to be a part of every chapter ahead. And his volume in my life will come right along with me and my moving truck. And it will be okay. And life will still be beautiful.

Leaving & Arriving Home

Well, it’s been a long but good day. The drive went pretty well, my cats surprisingly did not cause me to crash, nor did they poop in their carriers (always a bonus). Oh they howled, but not constantly at least. Yay for sedatives! It’s inspiring to me how fast cats adjust. They’ve been totally removed from the place they have called home for the past 4 years – and within just a few hours they are both napping happily on the bed beside me. It’s as if they’ve lived here for years. Cats are so cool.

This was the first time doing the drive down to Seguin by myself – and five hours is a good amount of road time to think. There were certainly some tears. Leaving Dallas was very hard – it’s been home for the past 8 years and I have many good memories and amazing friends there. I’m not gonna lie, I have been pretty terrified the past few days about all this. But that’s to be expected anytime we face a big change in our lives. Since Andrew moved on, I’ve just decided that “scared” just isn’t a good enough reason not to do things anymore. It’s just a feeling, one that can be faced and overcome.

So the morning began with all this apprehension and uncertainty. It began with leaving home behind. For those who don’t know me too well, my mind truly thrives on blowing ideas like this up into huge things. “Oh my GOD I am leaving EVERYTHING I have known and ALL the people there and ALL the memories and its SUCH a big deal!” That is my brain. I have to remind it that we don’t really need to be a drama queen like this.

One way I do this is by imagining what Drew would say to me in such situations. Today though… I thought to myself how he would handle a situation if he were doing something really big and scary in his own life. Like when he was about to start his flight instructor rating. He was totally intimidated by it, worried he wouldn’t be able to get a job once he was done. He had doubts like we all do. But when it was time, he picked himself up, stood tall, and faced it head on. And with that image in my mind, I sat up a little taller in my seat, told myself this was NOT the big deal I was making it, and off we went.

After arriving in Seguin and getting the car unpacked, his folks and I went out to dinner. Somewhere in the evening all my apprehension went away. I realized that although I had just left home behind, at the end of the day, I also arrived home. This may not be a very new concept to other people in their 20’s, but since I haven’t had my parents around for quite some time, I have never really had that other home to return back to… I’ve only ever had the one I created myself. So for me, this is a very special thing. I’m going to bed feeling peaceful. Goodnight all!