This letter was hard to write and has left me feeling pretty raw… I think it’s the most vulnerable I’ve ever publicly made myself. But when I started this blog, I said I would remain as honest as possible and not filter my thoughts and feelings… and I’m going to hold true to that, as uncomfortable as it may be. Let’s be honest, real life is messy. I’d been reading this quote to myself over and over before I finally found the courage to hit the “publish” button on this entry:
“To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” – Criss Jami
In the early morning hours on Saturday, March 28th I awoke from a vivid dream. In this dream my sweetie and I were sound asleep in a beautiful state room aboard a luxury cruise ship. I was awakened with a massive jolt and heard screams and cries and the sounds of shattering glass. I jumped out of bed and opened the door to the hallway outside of my room which overlooked a beautiful rotunda. It looked as though a bomb had gone off inside. There was a gaping hole in the ship with water rushing in, broken glass and screaming, injured people everywhere. I turned back in the room to see if he was OK only to find out that he had disappeared and I was left in the middle of this sinking ship alone.
I didn’t have to think terribly hard to decipher that dream at all, being that we had just broken up the day before and my entire life as I had come to know it the past 2 years had been completely destroyed. I’ve never been in so much pain at the loss of a relationship as I am now. Truthfully the only other relationship I’ve lost and grieved over more was my relationship with you, Brian. While the situations aren’t the same, I think this has so deeply triggered everything I felt after you died and I’m experiencing similar feelings making it more difficult for me to move on. I wasn’t ready to lose you, either. Our relationship felt “unfinished” and “unresolved,” too. I am again feeling abandoned… and empty…and inadequate– as though I “wasn’t enough” because I really wanted to be with him for the rest of my life, just as I expected I would grow old with you, too.
It’s been a whole month and yet I still can’t eat much more than a few bites in one sitting. I still wake up in the middle of the night and cry. I cry at work. I cry in my car. I have to avoid anything that reminds me of him or I start to cry in public… and that means avoiding a LOT. It means avoiding ever hearing Tom Petty or AC/DC, Uncle Ben’s brown rice, bluebonnets, Jameson Whiskey, NPR, spaghetti and meatballs, Shawn Colvin’s “Never Saw Blue Like That,” Ford Explorers, eggs, Alamo Drafthouse, pinball machines, the moon, carnitas, Gettysburg, boxed wine, hiking trails, Glacier National Park, Sudoku, lightning bugs, thunderstorms, turtles, fried chicken, crossword puzzles, Mark Knopfler, tubing on the river, a sky full of stars, rental cars, New Orleans, Gerald Wilson, Hot Sauce Festival, literally every single show or movie we ever watched together, KOOP radio, The Beaumonts, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Nature’s Own Honey Wheat bread, the drive-through taco place, Sprouts, Twin Liquors, Grace Potter, HEB’s salsa ranch dressing, Ritz crackers, Metallica, bagged spinach, Maudie’s, pets wearing clothes, Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With the Devil,” Hornitos Tequila, Café Dumonde’s chickory coffee, couples holding hands, Gary Clark, the sound of a recorder playing, Memphis, cardinals, Bender Bar, canned tomatoes, COTA, Irish Fair, cast iron skillets, Redd Volkaert, candles, The Jackalope, karaoke, The Peterson Brothers, Moody Theater, The Whiskey Sisters, South Austin Moonlighters, country drives, HEB, afternoon naps, Baker Street Pub, Scrabble, the sound of the rain, puzzles on my Kindle, garlic, South Austin Gallery coasters, dart boards, Bad Company, chicken wings, Skee Ball, Def Leppard, word jumbles, Willie Nelson, cheese and crackers, The Saxon Pub, Mexican martinis, The White Horse, crab cakes, The ’04 Lounge, chicken thighs, Irish Car Bombs, instant potatoes, pool tables, broccoli, dogs, Dripping Springs Vodka, meatloaf, Austin Gift Company, airports, Roppolo’s Pizza, The Rolling Stones, love scenes in movies, my hiking shoes, bacon, the intersection of I-35 and William Cannon Drive, Academy Sports, asparagus, classical music, Live Oak Market, campfires, Torchy’s Tacos, veggie burgers, RUSH, parmesan cheese, Gruene Hall, Mc. Pac-Man, beards, Central Market, Delbert McClinton, Papa Murphy’s pizza, flannel PJ pants, flasks, potstickers, crockpots, comedy shows, Sturgill Simpson, rotisserie chicken, The Black Crowes, salads, King of the Hill, hot wing sauce, ZZ Top, football, weddings, Red’s Porch, biscuits and gravy, Casino Southside, the sound of an acoustic guitar, Big Bend, The Smoky Mountains, Wilco, Dale’s Pale Ale, Tiva sandals, ribeye steaks, Hal Ketchum, my Spotify playlists, tents, David Grissom, camp stoves, tambourines, couples kissing, Bill Burr, bleu cheese, Stevie Nicks, Family Feud, onions, music festivals, The Whiskey Sisters, The Continental Club, Pedernales Falls, road trips… pretty much anything you can name would trigger a memory I have of our life together and for now, those memories still hurt like a mother fucker. Just like after you took your life, I found myself avoiding all reminders of you out of fear I would lose my shit and have a complete meltdown in the middle of a store. I’ve been doing that lately. It’s horribly painful and embarrassing. Like I said before, I think the end of this relationship has hit me smack in the middle of the very place in my wounded heart where I’ve been grieving for you for the past 4-1/2 years so this pain has only hit me that much harder.
This was undoubtedly the most meaningful relationship I’ve had to date, Brian. I laughed more with him than ever before… I was more open and transparent about myself than ever before, I was more comfortable with him than anyone before and it was more passionate a relationship than I’ve ever had before. It’s terribly hard to let all of that go. I truly loved coming home to him and waking up next to him each morning. I loved making him laugh. I loved that he made ME laugh. I loved our spontaneous songs and dances in the house and in the car. We were fantastic road trip partners. Honestly, even just grocery shopping together made me happy. Like I said, I’m having trouble letting go of all that was so great about us. Besides, change frightens me… I want things to stay the same, I want to know what to expect. I feel safer that way. I realize this is not always healthy nor the best thing for me… but it’s true and I’m working on that (among many other things) in therapy.
I’m doing my best to get through this. I force myself out of bed and into the world where the people are. I force feed myself bites of food here and there though I’ve not eaten a full meal in an entire month. I listen to meditation music in my office all day mostly because I know that I won’t hear any song in that playlist that will bring me back to a wonderful moment in time where we stood laughing and hugging and dancing in our kitchen while we cooked dinner together. And also in the hopes that it might calm my nerves a bit. So far it hasn’t helped much. But I’m going to keep getting up in the morning and maybe, little by little, it won’t hurt so much. Having gotten this far after your death has proven to me that I can overcome the unspeakable so I just have to keep reminding myself that “this too shall pass.”
I guess I just don’t want to be forgotten… and I want to know that I mattered just as much to him. And I believe I did matter to him, we had something really special. I want to know that the fond memories far outweigh the troubling memories. My last breakup, far less difficult for me, was quite different. It ended with both of us ultimately realizing that we weren’t meant to be together and with him actually saying to me, “I haven’t seen you really smile in a long time and I miss that. I don’t want to be the reason you don’t smile anymore. I want you to find happiness for yourself. You were a really wonderful girlfriend. You are an amazing woman and you have changed me forever, you’ve made me a better person for having known you and having been allowed into your life.” It made me feel as though I really mattered to him, that I made a difference and that I was worth loving, with all of my faults and all.
I realize that I’m a very messy work in progress and I’m absolutely hard to live with sometimes. But then again, everyone can be. We both brought our own hang-ups and baggage to the relationship… honestly, at this age, who of us DOESN’T have baggage? Maybe it’s a matter of loving each other enough to figure out how to get our baggage to work together and create something meaningful and lasting. We didn’t have the best communication with one another when it came to working through conflict together. It didn’t happen terribly often, but when it did it really derailed us… hard. I may be naive for saying this, but I really think we could have worked it out with a little help; I think that is another reason I’m having so much difficulty in letting go. I’m torn between wanting to keep looking through all the pictures I have of us and wanting to get rid of them all because, after all, am I just torturing myself with them? I see a picture of us hugging and it only makes me miss his arms all the more. I know that now I can look at pictures of you with fondness and not the constant, stabbing pain that used to be there… so maybe in time that will happen with this loss, too. And who knows, maybe with a whole bunch of time he and I will both be in a better place and realize that this was the right choice for us. He was a very important part of my life and always will be.
I think another aspect to my grieving process with regards to this relationship is related to the stress levels I’m experiencing because of all the moving around I’ve been doing. I had literally handed over the keys to the apartment I was vacating only 6 days earlier though I’d already been moving into his house over the course of a few months. I finally finished moving in and then had to scramble to find somewhere else to go when we split up. I landed in a suitable place for this past month– found a room on Craigslist to rent in a house with a single mom and her 2 kids who live there part-time. So following a week crashing at a friend’s house, Easter weekend I moved for the 2nd time in a month and tossed most of my belongings into a storage unit. I did just find an apartment of my own now so I get to move again next weekend– that’ll make the 3rd move in a few months. I got rid of so many things when I moved in with him because, combining our belongings together, I didn’t need as much… and now I have to replace those things.
I’ve never taken the whole “moving in” thing even remotely lightly; I’ve had two previous boyfriends break up with me when I wasn’t “ready” to move in with them… it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t do it. The only other man I’ve ever lived with was my ex-husband and we were engaged when we moved in together. So it’s a bit harder of a blow to me after giving it so much thought over the past 2 years. I didn’t even know he’d lived with someone else before… but then again, I never specifically asked him that question, either. Maybe that was part of the problem– I didn’t feel comfortable asking, nor was the information ever offered. On top of all of that, I’m just exhausted from battling my own recurring depressive episodes without all of the added weight of this turmoil in my life at the moment. It all just feels so heavy and unmanageable most days.
I don’t know that I’ve ever believed in the whole “soul mate” thing but I do believe that if you find someone you think you can spend the rest of your life with, that it will, in the end, be worth all the hard work that goes into keeping a relationship alive, healthy and strong. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. When you’re that exposed, sometimes you’ll be angry with one another and want to quit because it is hard work and you won’t always agree, but that’s what makes it worth it, I think. It’s still what I want for myself. It’s not that I believe you have to be in a relationship to be whole, another person can’t make that happen for you. But I would absolutely PREFER to have someone to share my life with because having had that experience only makes me desire it more for my future. I came across this quote today and I believe it to be true.
“To say that one waits a lifetime for his soul mate to come around is a paradox. People eventually get sick of waiting, take a chance on someone, and by the art of commitment become soul mates, which takes a lifetime to perfect.” -Criss Jami
Maybe someday I’ll get to a point where the thought of meeting someone new, or of him meeting someone new, doesn’t completely make me feel physically ill… because that is exactly where I find myself today. But, like Tom Hanks as Sam in “Sleepless In Seattle” said:
“Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breath in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breath in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.”
And now, like Tom Hank’s as Forrest Gump said:
“That’s all I have to say about that.”
Brian, please send me some hugs and strength from wherever you are now. I sure could use them.
Missing you more than ever,