You Just Need to Find Someone New

Have you ever noticed how much free advice you get when you’re going through something difficult? I can tell you…it’s a lot. Everyone has an opinion about what happened, what kind of person would do that, and how I should handle it from here. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’ve certainly given my fair share of advice over the years. So if you’re one of the people who has shared your thoughts on this subject, don’t get your panties in a wad. This is not a personal attack…it’s merely an observation.

There seems to be a common thread in people’s responses as I’ve shared my story of love and loss with those around me. From my ex-husband, to friends and family, to people who’ve read my blog and hardly know me, most people are quick to assure me I’ll find someone else. And that may be true. I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m not ruling out the possibility. I have a lot of love to give and I would certainly like to be in a relationship again someday. But what if finding someone new isn’t the answer? What if feeling lousy is just part of the process of losing someone you love? What if I’m not supposed to figure out how to get over it?

When my boyfriend left, my ex-husband told me I just needed to find a new man. I understand many people deal with a loss such as this by finding someone new. But that’s not my way. And what’s really important to me is I do this my way. When he suggested this, the wound was still pretty raw. And the thought of being with someone else made me want to vomit. I literally had a visceral reaction when I thought about it. Aside from the fact I wasn’t interested in being with someone else, I just didn’t think that would be very good for some guy’s ego. Hey…you seem really cool, but the thought of being with you makes me want to toss my cookies. I can only imagine what kind of reaction I’d get to that!

A few weeks ago my neighbor invited me to go to a blues festival with him and his wife. They are lovely people and I truly appreciate how much they care about me. But I still have my days where I don’t want to be in a crowd of strangers. And I still have my moments when I fall apart. So I’m pretty particular about who I spend my time with. It doesn’t always feel safe to break down in front of just anyone. I politely thanked my neighbor for the invitation and told him I’m just not great company right now. His response was pretty typical of what a lot of people tell me these days. If I don’t get out, I’ll never meet anyone. Apparently that’s the answer. Or not.

Part of becoming me is choosing how I deal with the difficulties of my life. In the past I would listen to other people’s advice and do what they suggested because I believed I was doing it wrong. I didn’t even stop to question it. Now I’m choosing to do things my way more and more. Even if my way doesn’t make sense to other people. Even if it doesn’t always make sense to me. It may not be right for you, but it’s the path I have to follow. Everyone, including me, gives advice based on their own experiences, fears and beliefs. While I know that advice is well meaning, I can’t follow it if it means ignoring my own inner voice.

I have also come to realize I wouldn’t follow some of the well-intentioned advice I’ve given others in the past. Are you guilty of this? I know I am. You tell a friend after a breakup, “he just wasn’t right for you.” Or, “there’s someone better for you out there.” And maybe that’s true, but it does not ease the pain of the loss. It’s amazing what you can explain away…until it happens to you. I may change my mind on this, so don’t quote me. But right now, in this moment, I don’t feel that relationship is replaceable. So many memories, connections over the years, shared dreams and hopes about our life together. I do believe I may find another relationship. I just don’t know that I will have another one like this.

I’ve been told by friends who know, that the pain of a devastating breakup is similar to the pain of the death of a loved one. I don’t know…I can’t make that comparison. But the thing I am grappling with is you would never tell someone whose loved one died, that they just need to find another mother, brother, friend. Those relationships are irreplaceable. When someone dies you encourage that person to talk about their loved one. So why, when a relationship ends, do we discourage people from talking about the person they lost? For me, those memories are still a part of my life, my experience. And I still want to talk about them. I don’t want to censor myself because we’re not together anymore. Or because it makes other people uncomfortable.

The bottom line is this. I don’t need a bandaid. And that’s what someone new would be for me right now. I just need to give myself the space to let the wound heal. In its own way. In its own time. However long that takes. This is where I’m at. And this is how I’m dealing with it. It may not be the right way…but it’s my way.

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What A Year Has Taught Me

The last photo of us together taken July 31, 2010

It has been a year since my life took an unexpected turn. Since the man I thought would love me forever said those words, ”I don’t want to be in a relationship.” I’ll never forget that moment. I didn’t believe him. Honestly, I still don’t. But he seemed pretty convinced. He took me to the airport, gave me a hug and never looked back. I walked away with my head held high. I was determined to be strong…I wouldn’t let him see me cry. But as soon as I went down the escalator to security, the tears started to flow. Other than two brief email exchanges, we haven’t spoken since. I have missed him every day.

I told myself I would give it six months. Six months to hurt and to heal. But six months came and went and still the pain persisted. Apparently you can’t put a time limit on moving on. You just have to live your life and follow where the pain leads you. A lot has happened in the last year. It struck me recently as I realized Labor Day weekend would mark the anniversary of that time in my life, that I have learned so much over the last 365 days. It has not been easy. But it hasn’t been all bad either.

I have often thought about what I would want him to know. What I would say if I had that opportunity. So here is what I would tell him; what the last year has taught me about life, love and being myself.

  • No matter how painful the loss, or how fearful you are of that pain, love is always worth the risk. ALWAYS. Even in my darkest hour, and there have been many, I never had regrets. Before our relationship, I had never experienced such a deep knowing, a sense that we were meant to be together. And that everything we’d experienced in our lives had led us to each other. As difficult as this has been, I would do it all over again, given the chance at that kind of love.
  • Loving you gave me a kind of courage I’d never known before. I’m not saying there wasn’t fear and trepidation. You know how many times I ‘pumped the brakes’. It’s just that loving and being loved so deeply, helped me push past my fear. The decision to move away from my friends, my family and the only life I’d every known was huge for me. But it paled in comparison to the thought of living without you. And as a result, I don’t have that same fear of moving now. In fact, the thought of it excites me more than anything. I look forward to the adventure someday.
  • I learned to step outside my comfort zone and take a new job even though I’d been with the same company for more than 11 years. After you broke up with me I kept thinking, “Why would you walk away? Don’t you realize life is short and you have to live it right now?” And then it hit me! I was doing the same thing with my job. Playing it safe. Doing something I really didn’t like, but not leaving because I was afraid it wouldn’t work out. So, I took a leap of faith, got a new job in a completely different industry, have met some terrific people and learned so much about myself in the process.
  • I realized I wasn’t spending my time doing the things I truly love and that make my heart sing. I had wanted to write a blog for a long time. I really enjoy writing. There’s just something about conveying my thoughts and feelings through words that amazes me even as I’m doing it. So I started blogging and have been jotting down ideas for a book. I am also working toward getting training to become a life coach. I look at my life and the choices I make now more in terms of how I really want to spend my time and what’s really important to me.
  • I’m stronger than I realized. When I left that day I had no idea we wouldn’t see each other or talk again. I really still thought it would all work out. Ever the optimist. But it hasn’t worked out the way I thought and dealing with that loss has been a day by day experience. I have felt the feelings as they come, but I don’t let them consume me. If I can get through the pain of losing you, and come out with more peace and clarity of purpose on the other side, I can get through anything.  There have definitely been some dark times. Some moments where I didn’t know if I could keep going. But I did. And I do.
  • I learned what it feels like to love deeply and truly…without limits. I loved you to the depths of my soul. Until you, I had never loved anyone that unconditionally other than my children. I had hoped it was possible, but I had never experienced it. Now I know that deep, “I will love you until the end of time” kind of love does exist for me. And it doesn’t go away just because you’re not with that person. Love that deep and true spans time, distance and circumstances. I would never settle for anything less again.
  • I learned I don’t have to try so hard; that I’m fine the way I am. I like that I’m introspective, love to read and figure things out. I’m not a morning person or a neat freak and that’s okay. Better than okay. It’s who I am and I wouldn’t change it. I’m neurotic, I worry too much, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I can’t take a hint or read between the lines. I think a lot and often over-analyze things. This is who I am…I make no excuses. There really is beauty in imperfection. I didn’t believe it at first, but I’ve come to realize it’s true.
  • I learned I needed to be alone, to not have someone to ‘take care of’ right now. Because it allowed me to see what I really want my life to look like. As painful as this has been, I needed to figure it out on my own. Oddly, I am grateful for the pain. It has been a doorway to finding my purpose in life. You gave me a great gift by walking away. And though it wasn’t what I would’ve chosen, and I still miss you so much, I don’t believe I would’ve discovered these things about myself in any other way.
  • I was reminded how much I enjoy cooking. Cooking feels like something I do for the people I love. It makes me feel like family. After 15 years of having to cook for someone who didn’t appreciate it when I was married, I had forgotten how much pleasure there is in cooking just for the joy of it. This last year I’ve spent more time in the kitchen, trying new recipes and spending time around the dinner table with friends and family. And you were right. Life really is easier with a good skillet. I am reminded of that every time I use the one you bought me.
  • I learned you can love someone even though their actions have caused you pain. It’s true you don’t have to feel things so acutely when you put up that wall of anger and blame and play the victim. But it doesn’t make things easier. The pain is still there. You can love someone for the person you know them to be; underneath their fear, shame and nagging sense of unworthiness. I understand those feelings. Because I fight my own battles with those very same things. It gives me compassion. You can love someone and not be with them.
  • I realized that life is good right here, right now. No matter what is going on I always have something to be grateful for. When I say something funny and Kyle actually laughs. When a friend calls for a spur of the moment barbeque. When I find myself in a great conversation or enjoying a lazy afternoon. When I make time for a walk outside in the middle of the work day. I’m living my life more in each moment than in the future or the past. I hope you know what that’s like.

Even though we’re not together, I am grateful for the time we had. I will always cherish those memories. Loving you has taught me so much about myself. I got to see the things that still need work, like communication and feeling not good enough. And the things I’m proud of, like how much I care about people and how deeply I am capable of loving. And all the things in between that are often less than perfect, but make up the incredible imperfect me. Loving you made me want to be a better person. Not just for you or for us, but for me.

I hope you have learned something this last year too…about yourself, about life, about love. That you realize with all your strengths and all your faults, you are worthy of love. You are sweet, kind, dorky, stubborn, opinionated, loving, funny, smart, messy, strong, fearful, open, withdrawn, introspective, protective, negative, handy, and so much more. You can be both the sweetest man and the biggest pain in the ass. But I hope you realize, as I have, that there’s nothing wrong with you. I still have my fears and insecurities…my feelings of not good enough. That’s just part of being human. But I learned, through this experience, I still deserve to be loved. I hope you learned that too.