(#2) Dear New Man.

“Pure and complete sorrow is as impossible as pure and complete joy.” ~ Leo Tolstoy 

(#2) Dear New Man,   

I’m sorry to tell you, but whatever you do, you’ll fall short. Not because there’s anything less about you, but because my broken heart insists on comparing you to my deceased beloved.

With him, sacred love sweetened my everyday into ecstasy and then, in a blink, I was brought back to normalcy.

To you, Kevin is a name, a man who loved me, someone who died and left his mark on my life.

To me, he’s everything. Still. It’s unfair. It’s wrong.

He was the most right thing in my entire life—not just in hindsight, but while we lived our love and relished each other.

He proved the reward for my fortitude. He ignited my authenticity, welcomed my weirdness, and still encourages my joy, happiness and success, wherever I may find it.

I can’t stop looking in the rearview mirror. I ache for yesterday.

I strive to move forward with you, New Man. I see your character and kindness. I’m awed by your congruency.

I yearn to feel with you the way I felt with him. I only know I can’t force it.

Damn, if it doesn’t hurt that you’re like a dessert after a delightful meal, but I can’t taste a thing.

I have a friend whose taste buds have gone awry after her sister’s death. Maybe my feel buds have gone numb.

I try to put myself in your position and imagine how you feel. I think I’d be gone. Part of me wants to say it’s your own damn fault if you stay, but please don’t go.

It’s not fair, it’s not right, what I offer you. Only truth. It’s all I have.

The truth is I don’t trust my feelings and sometimes what I feel is nothing.

I see you. You’re here. I’d like to celebrate. Lucky me.

Instead, I contemplate. I try to remember my resistance to Kevin in the early days, but our early days came decades into our friendship after dozens of phone calls and a history of conversations.

When he called to tell me his mother died, he cried his vulnerability into me and I drank it full.

I called him on road trips. There were many between the time I left my ex-husband and after I landed in Ohio to live with my sister. Kevin and I talked about divorce and death, his ex-wife and current girlfriend, the guy I was seeing at that time, and how our lives had changed since the early days back in Champaign, IL when our friendship formed, in spite of me.

I took Kevin for granted for 20 years. I don’t want to do that again—to anyone.

However, as I did then, I must trust my gut. I only know that I’ll know when I know. Right now, I don’t know much.

Maybe the resistance isn’t about my deceased boyfriend, any more than it was about my sister or the distance with Kevin.

Maybe it’s just my nature. Maybe you and I don’t have a future. Maybe we do.

Right now, all I know is you’re the new man and I’m still undeniably in love with the old one.

He may have died, but my love for him didn’t. People tell me to stop looking back, but that’s like telling a girl at the beach to stop watching the waves.

Yesterday blocks my view. Yesterday also taught me we can’t imagine the packages love will arrive in.

So, I remain open to surprise. I’ve always found it by feeling my way.

If you choose to go on yours, I get it. This is new to you, too—building a relationship with a woman who’s in love with another man, a dead one.

Oh, New Man, I feel for you. That’s compassion. I care for you. That’s appreciation and gratitude.

Still, every time I go to unfold the map to my heart, it points to yesterday. Where there lies a sacred love that was blown out like a candle in the dark.

The only thing I can swear is I’m looking for light.

 

 

Grief is Life’s Little Sister.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” ~ Vicki Harrison

Grief never really goes away. She fades into the background at times.

Other times, she insists on being the center of attention.

As an indeterminable amount of time rolls on, Grief makes larger circles before she gets back to you. But, she always returns.

The more time that passes, the more shocking her arrival seems because you—of such faith—believed Grief already had her way with you.

The truth is she’s just getting started. Grief is a force—both softer and harder than death. She’s only given to the living. In fact, the more alive one is, the more likely to experience her.

See, Grief is Life’s little sister. She’s a tag along. Death is their brother.

The longer you hang around with Grief and listen to her, instead of assuming she’s a nuisance, the more she reveals her wisdom and light.

Grief is nothing we imagine her to be—not enemy or friend, not a season or a time.

She’s both sickness and cure. She’s resurrection. Grief is a thousand stairs to climb, but she’s worth every step.

I Signed up for This.

“You ask for what you want and you pay for what you get.” Maya Angelou

God/the Universe has plans for me. I signed up for this.

Sure, I was probably in a hurry and running late and only listened to the part that said, “After 49 years of challenging relationships, you’ll be blessed with crazy, sexy, cool sacred love and your heart will be full.”

I doubt I read the fine print—the part about him dying.

I’m not a fine print gal. Details and contracts? Yeah, yeah, where do I sign?

Like the time I put my precious belongings in storage and moved to Mexico. I didn’t read the tiny words that stated if I was late with my meager $30 payment my stuff could and would be sold to some guy named Daryl. Oops.

Then, one of the most important contracts—a marriage certificate—I resisted signing the first time because I knew there would be a few uncomfortable clauses in there. Turns out, the officiant and the best people have to sign, but guess who doesn’t? The bride and groom. Maybe I mentally used that as my out. I didn’t sign a thing!

Oh, but on round two, I knew. I was committed, ready, in love, no doubts. But damn, I couldn’t see how that future would play out.

I’m not disregarding my responsibilities, but I believe it’s all been a part of my divine destiny: the love and the loss, the success and falling on my ass, sweet summers and brutally cold winters.

Sometimes I think, why me? A part of me knows.

I came here to love, learn and grow into a compassionate heart, surrendering to life’s seasons in order that I may be a more full, authentic, feminine force for good—using my voice, listening, standing beside those whose ride is bucking them like a bronco and leaving them flat on the ground with the wind knocked out of them.

Sometimes the most soothing words aren’t advice, stories or questions, but simply, “I’m here.”

Yes, I’m here. I signed up for this.

Grief is the Brave Dance We Do.

“Life is a continuous balancing of love and loss, because in order to have any loss mean something, we first have to have something we truly value.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

On the front of my 9×11 hardcover calendar book it reads: “2017 is a good year to have a good year.” But, am I?

There’s a chasm between wanting to be over the grief of my beloved dying and clinging to the chaos born from his death.

After losing a loved one, this is the brave dance we do. We wrestle, grapple, fight, resist, and take ownership of our grief. We acknowledge, admit and attend to the full array of feelings which arrive with sorrow’s storm.

Many choose not to undertake this step. They prefer denial and bucking up. I don’t blame them. I’ve been there. I’ve tried the detour.

Folks are free to choose any path that works for them.

However, this time, I just can’t go around. I’m in the mess as much as I was into the relationship with the man I love who died a year and a half ago. A man I called Fire who burned bright right up until the night he died unexpectedly in his sleep (damn heart attack!).

He said to me, “I’m all in,” and he was. Until he was out. Not by his choice. Nor mine. I was all in, too.

Since his death, I’ve grieved like it was my profession.

Grief has been an honor, a spiritual opening and a building of my emotional biceps. And yet, even athletes don’t stay in the gym all day.

A friend recently asked me, “Do you think it’s true that the greater the love the deeper the grief?”

I said, “Yes, with a caveat.” (Because I love saying that word.) I had great love, as did my sister. So did the woman standing before me asking the question. We each still experience deep grief.

And yet, I don’t think the longer and harder one grieves is the measure of their love. With hard loss comes pain. How people cope is as individual as the paths to love.

For me, grief is a challenge, gift and opportunity bestowed upon me by the grace of a sacred love I was lucky enough to live. The aftermath is wretched. And it’s beautiful. In this moment, I vow to do my best to grow from it.

There’s no right way. There’s no wrong way. There’s only grief.

I Really Was Such a Baby About the Whole Thing.

“Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit.” ~ Anne Lamott

My friend’s husband cheated on her. I’m not going to tell you the details, but let’s just say there were circumstances. Because there always are, right?

Still, in her mind, the action was unforgivable. Her family agreed. But, what about her kids? He was still their dad.

My friend loved this man and never imagined him cheating. She trusted him. They were the kind of couple that fit like puzzle pieces. They made a beautiful picture.

How f*cking dare he?! Well, you know—circumstances. No, not excuses. However, yes, in hindsight, I saw his humanity and how he came to be with that other woman, practically unapologetically.

Betrayal like that breaks something in a person.

Still, for a handful of years, my friend—you know, for the sake of the kids—continued taking family vacations with this man she meant to divorce. She had every intention. Because she couldn’t forgive him.

A couple years ago when I saw her, she mentioned his name without disdain or discussion of divorce. The way his name rolled off her tongue was casual and light.

I looked into her eyes and asked, “Are you guys back together?” The answer was yes without explanation, apology or fantasy. Just solid.

“How did that happen?” I asked.

She laughed. “You know, I was really such a baby about the whole thing.”

Ha! I’d say she’d been grieving. In grief we cry. We bitch about what happened. We analyze. We decide something different every hour of every day. We turn in circles like a dog, never finding the right spot. Until we do.

Grief is a game changer. It shatters the ground we stand solid on. It takes us with it like being sucked into a sinkhole. When our foundation crumbles, so do we.

My friend is one of the most balanced people I’ve ever known in my 50-plus years. She’s not naïve or gullible, more like strong, sensible, genuine, and yes, loving.

However, in her early stages of grief, she almost checked herself into a mental hospital because she met with rage that wanted to kill and sadness that wanted to die.

Instead, she learned to rise. So did her husband—after she determined she’d be okay either way.

It took time. In her case, years. Grief—whether from betrayal, death, divorce or tragedy—doesn’t come with an expiration date. It’s not linear and each case is different.

I recently read an article about a woman who was burned—face, hands, and body—life-threatening burns, in a camp fire started by her husband. After she arrived home from the hospital, her husband hit the road because she was just too much for him to handle. However, her young daughter needed her mother. The story revealed this woman’s resilience, faith and determination.

All I could think was, F*ck! I’ve been such a baby about this whole my-boyfriend-dying thing.

Maybe. But, like my friend, I can laugh. I went into the depths of my pain and came out with my lessons. I’m coming back to myself with new awareness and understanding, compassion and certainty, which, in this chapter, this time, could only be gained by going in.

This was master’s level grief. It required more of me. It demanded I go through the dark and crazy, and invest the tears and time.

Babies cry when things are sad. They naturally honor their emotions, rather than trying to buck up. Then, they stop crying and get back to playing—after they’re all cried out. Or had a nap.

So, yeah, I guess I was a baby about the whole thing, too. And yet, I don’t regret a single tear.

My Heart Broke in the Midst of a Party.

Grief is bittersweet. I have the most beautiful vision of a place I can never go again.

People say, “Don’t look back.” “Don’t live in yesterday.”

I miss my young spunk and the belief that all great things were coming to me. They have. They did. However, when we’re young, we don’t acknowledge all that can fall away or the price we may be asked to pay.

I thought I’d paid upfront for legendary love. I thought my lessons before Kevin and I became a couple were my ticket to fly with him. And, oh how we did!

For a brief time. We were so in when he was taken out of this world. I wasn’t young or full of naïve hope. For two decades, Kevin bitched about women and I bragged about men.

Shortly before we got together, Kevin said, “Hey Icey,” (his nickname for me), “Am I your only guy friend you haven’t slept with?”

I laughed and said, “No, there are a couple others.”

In all those years, I never imagined I’d be Kevin Lentz’s girlfriend. In fact, I thought he was an ass.

Don’t get me wrong, I was quite the brat when we met back in our Britannica selling days. Somehow, I overlooked his bullish, but Southern behavior and we became friends.

Still, I didn’t envision or desire anything more until after our time together in May of 2014. I was staying in Kevin’s home for Mother’s Day. We talked until late in the night, huddled on his living room floor.

We told stories about our moms, their health and deaths, our connections with them and the challenges these strong women delivered us as kids. Kevin and I shared the good and bad about our moms and ourselves.

It’s like I’d always been standing outside the house of Kevin. We’d been close, but on that visit he threw open the door of his true self and said, “Come on in!”

How many people stand outside the house of others believing they know the interior? How rarely we really reveal the depths of ourselves.

Kevin did. He invited me to do the same. As much talk as there is about authenticity, there’s a level so much deeper than most of us ordinarily go.

Kevin invited me in—not just to the living room, but to the bedroom and basement of his soul. I walked timidly at first, trying to express my fears and explain how I’d been hurt in the past.

The way he said, “I’m not those other guys” was like walking into a friend’s basement when you fear it could be a dark scene from Law & Order, but he says, “Don’t be scared.”

So, I stopped being scared. When we got into the basement, I had as much fun as those kids on That 70s Show had in their basement.

And riding in the car with Kevin was like that, too. If you’ve watched the show, you know the feeling of singing and laughing, the feeling I had with Kevin. Then, our show was cancelled.

I know I’ll fall in love again. I’m lucky like that.

But, I’m not new at this game called life. I’d been on earth for 49 years—some 17,885+ days—before Kevin and I became Fire & Ice. He held my heart for 660 days and those were my favorite of them all.

I thought all beginnings were good, but Kevin said, “No, they’re not. This is different.” He was right.

Kevin was convinced his mom, from the other side, brought me back into his life because this was the kind of relationship she always desired for him. He made me believe and even assured me we’d “just keep getting better and better.” We did. Until he died.

Now, I’m trying to adjust to the idea that my life will just keep getting better and better, even with my Fire burning on the other side. That’s a big idea when my heart broke in the midst of a party in the basement of our souls. I was crushed, buried in my grief.

I’m crawling out. I see the light. I feel his love. I’m finding my divine direction again, but this grief still tastes bittersweet.

Grief is my Advantage.

Dear New Man,

If you want to be with me in this chapter of my life, it’s a package deal. Some women have children. A man needs to know that going in.

Well, know this about me. I have a boyfriend; he just happens to be dead.

If you tell me to put the past in the past, you communicate a lack understanding and compassion for the depth of my love, the richness of my relationship that was ripped away from me, or the ongoing agony of grief.

Maybe you’ve been dealt the death of loved ones, too. So had I before I lost my beloved. I’d experienced the deaths of my brother, mother, and brother-in-law. This is different.

Maybe you’ve been in love before. I, too have been blessed with that heart-expanding experience a handful of times, including two marriages.

However, the kind of relationship I craved to create out of each of those previous relationships never came to pass.

Until Kevin. As I neared 50, I found everything I’d been looking for.

Not that he was perfect. And I was the other part of the equation. So, you know, not perfect.

Yet, somehow we shaped a world in which the two of us danced free, passionate, happy, open and engaged.

That relationship continues. He’s the Fire inside me that never goes out.

Some people think it rude to talk about previous partners once you’re with a new one. I say, until someone can convince me of the benefit of holding back, I’ll continue speaking Kevin’s name.

If you listen, you’ll hear my soul speak, loud and proud and feminine.

If you want to fall for me, take all of me.

Grief isn’t my baggage; it’s my advantage.

See, I’ve inhabited that space where wondrous, life-enhancing love exists. So, I know I can go there again. I just can’t tell you when, how, or if it will be with you. There’s much I don’t know.

I see you standing before me, saying you want to walk with me. It may be a hard road for you, as it may never be just us two.

Kevin is my constant, still. He’s the music in songs, the flavor in foods, and my mind reels with memory like the ticker tape running across the bottom of the TV screen.

Here’s the breaking news: I have no desire to dismiss my past.

The reality that I’m with another man—any other man—feels foreign to me.

It’s not that I feel I’m cheating on my beloved. It’s that a part of my heart lives outside this world and a part of Kevin’s remains in me.

It’s—to quote Glennon Doyle Melton—a brutiful thing. You can wish the brutal away or deny its existence. You can even disappear for fear you can’t compete with a dead man.

Trust me, there’s no competition. And no, I didn’t put him on a pedestal in the aftermath. I rose into love like a bird swoops on the wind.

Better than fantasy. it was my reality.

Good. Pure. Right. Until his lights went out. Out of this world.

You tell me not to dim the lights on us because of my past. I refuse to pretend to feel any more or less than I do.

How dare you accuse me of wallowing? Oh, not that you did, but that’s how it feels when you seem to insist I’m letting my past get in your way.

I honor my grief and if you respect me and want to get me, you will too.

You’ll understand Kevin’s love for me is an essential ingredient that goes into making me the woman you want to make yours.

Here’s the cool thing about my boyfriend being dead: I can take on another man if I choose. I can take on you.

I can take your hand and your kiss. We can date and I can appreciate your presence, even while missing him every single day.

A while ago, I would’ve told you I miss him every moment. So, progress!

It’s like this. When I was in junior high, my friend’s dog bit me on my face. I was rushed to the hospital for stitches. It left a scar on my lip, one which people felt compelled to comment on for years.

A boss once assured me I could get my scar fixed by a superb surgeon. When he saw me wince, he tried to convince me it was hardly noticeable.

As if I didn’t see my scar every time I looked in the mirror. As if I couldn’t see people staring and suppressing the question: What happened?

Now, it’s been decades and people rarely ask this adult woman, What happened to your face?

This happened: I got hurt. It left a scar on my lip, just as Kevin’s death left a scar on my heart.

Do you know scar tissue is stronger than the original skin?

I think Kevin knew. Only one scar shows on my body, but Kevin loved them all. By doing this, he made way for me to love what I once considered my inadequacies. He insisted they were all a part of the ICE (his nickname for me) package—unique and beautiful.

His love opened the door for me to be more of who I am.

I’m the woman who you, new man, now claim to want. And yet, you want me to close that door?

Not happening. I’m still healing. The scar forming on my heart doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be seen.

If you really believe I’m the one for you, see my scars. See the pain, but look for the beauty.

This scar sews together the seam between where I got hurt and where I need to be loved.
My dead boyfriend isn’t an obstacle or a hurdle to leap. He’s not your competition. He doesn’t stand in the way of anything you and I might create.

My grief is a gate.

It opens to all of me—my wisdom, resilience and feminine essence. It lives in my heart. Do you have the courage to go there?

I promise only this. I offer you no less than my real self, the scar upon my broken heart and the sagacity born from my soul’s searching.

So new man, don’t be afraid of what happened to me yesterday. Lean in. Love my scars.