Learning to Trust and Date Again

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be trying to figure out how to be single and how to navigate a blossoming relationship in my 50’s.  For so many years I was just mom or just Phil’s wi…

Source: Learning to Trust and Date Again

Learning to Trust and Date Again

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be trying to figure out how to be single and how to navigate a blossoming relationship in my 50’s.  For so many years I was just mom or just Phil’s wife.  I was and I am nothing special, but in my little world I shone.  I didn’t need or want for more and I didn’t notice time marching on.  On 27 April, 2011, my life imploded in the most traumatic manner ever.  I became adept at uttering words like assassination, funerals, military loss, widow, and I could go on.  I simply have a vocabulary far beyond my years, far beyond a normal person.  After five years (in April), I realize that I no longer fit any where.  I am no longer a mom of children at home.  I am no longer a key spouse of a man who was always a super star.  I am no longer a teacher and I am not the normal 50 year old single person.  As the cloak of despair started to lift, and as I noticed how set apart I was, I gave up on ever having a chapter 2, or even dating.  I recognized that my life and story was eclipsing and that I am somehow not the same as others dating.

 

I have seen too much.  I no longer know how to play games or how to hide my feelings.  It is daunting to not be able to control the giggles or the blushing, but more than that, I recognize that I am no longer capable of hiding my feelings.  I don’t want to.  I tell people how I feel, show them that they matter to me, and I invest in people.  The problem in the dating world is that isn’t the way things are supposed to go.  Not at my age.

 

I recently had to swallow my fears and my beliefs of never ever and when hell freezes over when something sparked between a friend and I at the Marine Corp Marathon.  For many months, I talked myself out of my feelings and convinced myself of everything that could go wrong.  Then the day came when I realized I wasn’t running.  The problem is what next.  I know that as a widow it is too easy to put too much validity into relationships too fast.  In fact, I often feel like I am far more into him than he is into me.  He is my priority and he only kissed me after I asked him too.  I am not asking for anything else.  I share this because I don’t know how to date or how to play the games.  I am either all in or all out.

 

In my teens and early 20’s, I played the game well.  I wouldn’t be sitting waiting for messages, waiting for the quiet phone, or asking a man to kiss me.  The friendship is growing and he is who I want to run to.  Fear makes me want to run.  I understand that how I am feeling will play out if I am patient, but at times I just want to hide.  Nothing about this is easy.  I still can’t believe that I am standing toe to toe with someone and even considering what next.  He makes me dream again.  There is raw vulnerability in that statement.  I have lost everything and yet to receive the unexpected gift of a man who sees beyond the story and beyond my public persona to a girl who is very much alive.  While I run when I am afraid, I have fought to stand the line.

 

He may or may not be it.  Time will tell.  I do know that I need someone who is gaga over me and who wants to chase me.  I have to know that I am the only—no options.  I won’t compete and I won’t compromise to try to convince someone that I am the one—either we are both all in or we are both all out.  There is fear in knowing that I have opened my heart and that these feelings may be lopsided.  I find myself retreating mostly because I have absolutely no confidence on navigating these unchartered waters.  I just know that for the first time since 1988, someone has caught my heart.  In that moment, I realize that maybe, just maybe there is room for a Chapter 2.

Apparently Hell Can Freeze Over

Many men have asked me out or pursued me in the past almost five years and while I have gone out a time or two, I had slammed the door shut. I kept myself closed off and wary in large part because these men either treated me like a broken winged bird who could not fly or made me feel like I needed to quench and hide my fire.  Some wanted to hitch their wagon to my story and a status they valued more than I ever will.  While I have received many wonderful blessings, each of those opportunities and connections came at a price that I was never willing to pay.  In the past, I was my story and nothing more or I was just seen as someone to take care of a need or want.  I was never willing to play those parts, thus I shut down and shut out any possibility.

 

Over time, I became hardened and I began to believe those words and thoughts of never, ever, and when hell freezes over. I retreated to the point that the only men I trusted were either related to  me, long time married men friends, or my military brothers from that day. This shell and distrust was never intentional, but from the start I was the brunt of people making bets as to how long I would take to date and remarry (you all lost), married men hitting on me, or women not trusting me around their men.  No matter how I lived or what I said, it was as if people thought my moral compass had changed or that I was desperate enough to compromise and sleep with someone just to sleep with someone.

 

People think I am joking when I talk about the Savage from Savage, MD who hit on me in my first marathon less than one month after Phil died. My running group all knew who I was and they surrounded me for that race (love the Marathon Maniac people in my life).  This guy was someone I didn’t know.  When I passed him at mile 20, I encouraged him.  He started running faster to keep up with me.  In two miles, he shared about why he had started running and that his wife didn’t understand him.  He went on to say that he had needs, I had needs, and why didn’t we do something about it.  It was in that one simple horrifying conversation that I realized that people no longer saw me as a wife or as anything other than just broken.

 

Sadly, my experience has been men who have pushed too hard and too fast. Over time, I changed.  I had always been more comfortable around men and I always trusted people.  When I consumed myself with school, work, volunteerism, and running, it didn’t leave time to consider how lonely I was  to share my time and heart with someone.  I just never thought about it.  It wasn’t until someone took the time to develop a deep friendship with me, that I felt my heart thawing and those words of never ever coming back to haunt me.

 

I didn’t make it easy and I am sure I am still not easy to always read. I don’t know the simple rules of dating or the games.  Loss has made me totally transparent and my feelings are worn on my sleeve.  I need more reassurance than I have ever needed because I still feel like people see me as “that girl.”  Initially, it took me months of talking myself off of the ledge of shutting down and running because I was afraid of getting too close, losing another person, of the motives, and  all the reasons the relationship couldn’t work.  I also know that many widow and widowers put too much validity into relationships too soon which was another huge wedge I had to work through.

 

I know that people have asked me if I compared him to Phil–no, I never did.  Apples and oranges and when  I realized that I was dreaming again and hoping again, my heart melted.  It took patience on both of our parts and I am sure that there is much to navigate, but the foundation has been laid.  The friendship is fun, deep, true,  and it runs to my very core.  I don’t have to wear my masks when I am with him and I don’t.  I have exposed my vulnerabilities and doubts.  The building of a unbeatable friendship has given  me the comfort to leap–no cannonball– into something I do not know, something I did not expect, and the  hope of  being caught.  Perhaps the key is that friendship because I am no longer using words like never, ever, or when hell freezes over.  Apparently, hell can freeze over and I am so glad it can.

 

 

 

The Grief Journey and My Adult Children

One of the most difficult aspects of losing Phil was that I could barely help myself. I couldn’t fix my own hurts and I couldn’t fix the hurts in my children. It wasn’t that we invented to i…

Source: The Grief Journey and My Adult Children

The Grief Journey and My Adult Children

 

One of the most difficult aspects of losing Phil was that I could barely help myself. I couldn’t fix my own hurts and I couldn’t fix the hurts in my children. It wasn’t that we intented to implode the closeness we had once shared, but we couldn’t make our way out of the darkness. Nobody wanted anyone else to feel worse if they were having a hard day, so we kept in our own lanes. the collateral damage was that we all ached and hurt alone. That pain scarred some of us more than others and as a mom there is an incredible sense of having let my children down. It took most of us about three years to want to figure out how we could come back together to celebrate our family and to try to figure out new traditions and practices while honoring the memories. This past week, though, I have come to realize that we are all on a different trajectory and all five of my children are navigating another aspect of the loss of their father—my letting another man in to my life.

It is easy to say the words and to even to believe and know the words that dad would want mom to move on, but it is a whole other thing to consider and watch mom letting someone in. I made one of my sons cry this evening. He asked questions about the man that I have slowly let in. At a certain point, I heard the sniffles and he asked me to stop for the evening. He said it was all he could take for the night. He asked me if I remembered his father and if I would love another like I loved his dad. Well, first, it is too early to define where this relationship is going, but I am comfortable enough to make plans months out. In terms of loving? That is the part that made my son weep.

This conversation wouldn’t be a thought had Phil lived. Had Phil lived, I would still have been the same girl who quietly stood in her family’s shadows. i liked in there and it was comfortable. None of my life is comfortable now. I am different and I am who I am because Phil did love me well and because I had no choice but to change when Phil was assassinated. The person standing in front of the guy I am letting in is different and the relationship is nothing like the one I had with Phil. I don’t see Phil or think of Phil when I am with him. While the relationship is still unfolding, I recognize that I behave differently and I need different things than I once needed with Phil. While I feel vulnerable and incapable, I am not running scared. My children see that and as they grope with accepting that there is going to be a man who is not their father around me must be hard. I know that it has ripped off some of the bandaids they thought they had on.

As for me, my children do not see the woman who blushes and giggles because she has no idea how to be in a relationship and how to start. I have nightmares because I am afraid of losing another person through death or through the relationship ending. It is hard to go home after my race weekends now because I recognize how nice it is to have another person to lean on, who believes in me, and who makes me happy. It is hard not to put expectations on the relationship or not to be too vulnerable, but even as I navigate my own self-doubt, it made my heart hurt to see my children struggling. It was a defining moment to recognize that while I am in a good place, my children might not be as they navigate anew what the loss of their father might mean.

Is it enough to end the budding relationship? I can’t. I have started to dream again—not just the nightmares, but of depth and growth. Maybe this relationship will end and if it does, I will cry like crazy, but I have been through worse. Maybe this relationship will continue to flourish. I hope that is the case, but it will never negate what I had before. It will just mean that I have been doubly blessed. it isn’t a replacement or a substitution. It is just magical. I recognize that my children need time to process this relationship—or any relationship. I acknowledge that they might have mixed feelings watching me with another man even as they accept him into the fold. I also see that the day is coming where they need to meet him so that they can see that he isn’t asking them to call him dad nor is he trying to replace their father. He is just trying to care for me. It is in this facet that I believe my children can allow him in. My children love me and they will like anyone who is good to me and loves me well. Sure there will be those moments of strangeness and of grief realizing that someone else is in mom’s life, but it is in these moments, I will be strong and I will be the mother they need. I will simply give them some space, reassure them of my love, their father’s love, and I will allow the difficult conversations to come.