I am dating someone.
This is probably not the travel email my readers were anticipating. But I thought since I'm on the topic of firsts, the area of dating again after marriage as a young, single mother definitely falls into the category of firsts to be noted and explored.
He is not Belizean. He is comfortably Minnesotan and we've been dating for several months.
Why has it taken me so long to write about him? I have had this conversation with myself numerous times. Is it because I feel guilty? That I shouldn’t write about anyone besides Shawn on this blog?
Is it because I feel like it is too soon? Too soon to date or too soon to share? Too soon to determine if this is real?
Definitely not, many people have asked when I will finally be ready to date again. I think in terms of “widow-hood” I have waited longer than most. Still, the timing on dating can’t be compared from one person to the next. I’ve learned that love isn’t a science to be counted with exact parameters. In fact, I’m not even sure how to measure new love. It is unique to itself. Like having a baby and wondering how I could ever love another as much as my first. Then I had a stunning little girl and it happened...I have plenty of love for them both.
Am I embarrassed? Am I trying to hide him?
Just the opposite. I love introducing him to my friends and family. He is confident, kind, fun-loving, humorous, and fascinating to talk to.
Is it too personal?
I don’t think anything could be more personal than talking raw and real about my spouse’s death. I'm not afraid to be personal.
Am I protecting my kids?
Well, they don’t read my blog, although someday they might. As many of you may guess my children's opinion matter more to me than my own. That may sound strange or self-denying. What I mean is that if my kids don’t like the man I’m with, it will ultimately be a deal breaker.
A new relationship has to work for all of us in order for it to work at all. I don’t want to live in the middle of a battle. Realistically, I know the balance of sharing me with someone else will inevitably have its moments, swaying to find a comfortable equilibrium like a pendulum in swing. I get this. And so does he. The bonus is that my kids really like him. He is warm and tender and they seem to respond well to his engaging personality. He is fun without being intrusive and I know that Maddi and Jordan pick up on this quality. There are wobbly moments. Still the comfort zone for my kids to be themselves around him (including talking about their dad) is what I notice most.
So, why is it? Why haven’t I written about this new first in my life? Why has it been my longest blog-world secret?
The truth is, I feel loyalty to a certain reader—the widowed audience that stumbles upon my blog late at night when there is no one else to talk to or at least no one who would really understand.
I’m protective of this reader; I want to make sure she is not betrayed. This might only make sense to the widow herself (or widower himself). Shortly after losing Shawn I discovered the blog of another widow. I followed her faithfully, a mentor. I studied her words wanting to find someone just like me with a story just like mine who could tell me she knew exactly how I was feeling.
The number one thing I lost when I lost Shawn was the profound comfort of living in relationship with someone else. And I found myself craving this like a morphine addict craves the promising comfort of their drug. I had an intense need to find someone who could relate.
For weeks I reviewed her entries, my heart making the connection to someone else’s trauma. Until one day she wrote about a new guy. And I had the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as the day the police officers came to my door. There was immediate loss of appetite. My face felt pink, warm to touch. My mouth was dry and I hurriedly clicked the red X in the corner of my computer screen--my only way to shut the port I had been traveling to link to her world.
I felt betrayed. I didn’t understand, my pain was too fresh to imagine ever dating again let alone really finding someone I wanted to be with. I could no longer connect and I so badly wanted someone just like me so that I could compare the details of our journeys and be able to say I will survive just like she has survived. I wanted to know that if I was alone, someone else somewhere in the world was also doing this all alone.
What I didn’t see was that her new relationship was indeed hopeful; it was yet another level of proof that survival was reachable.
The struggle for me however, was the question “What if I never find someone again, will I survive? Will life still be good? Is there anyone out there living single and happy?” These are troubled questions. Even for someone who isn’t widowed. American culture places our value, our status, even the definition of who we are (Mrs. So and So) by who we are partnered with. Being single isn’t viewed in our society as a joy-filled option. I wanted to find someone living, breathing, fighting with life after loss on their own to tell me that I could do it too--even if I remained single for the rest of my life, my life could still be good.
What I found and continue to find is that whether single or coupled, the happiness we experience in life is defined by the decision of our heart. Severe loss will bring indescribable pain and unhappiness. It also holds the power to provide depth and meaning to our lives like we've never understood before.
I determined that the widow whose blog I had read was committed to finding good again, not because she was with another person, because she decided to follow love and live life. Love takes on many different shapes. For some this will be in a new romantic relationship. For others it may be new or old friendships. Still others may find new life vocations, hobbies or pursuits. All I know is that the different shapes of love are what heal us.
All this said, I am cautious of my reader because I care about her grieving heart, a heart that has already been painfully hurt and disillusioned. I do not take this lightly.
Just last week a woman wrote to tell me her husband, only 27 years old, had been killed in a car accident on his way to get a haircut. 69 days ago. I’m thinking of her today, pregnant with their third child and only days away from labor. If she reads what I write about, whatever entry she reads, whatever time of day—I want her to find hope. I want her to know she can survive. I want her to know that love will find her again in some shape, at some moment, in some way.