1 1/2 years.
That is how long it has been since I last saw James alive. It was a Wednesday morning that started like any other and with absolutely no indication of how it was going to end. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact it has now been 18 months. Part of me still expects him to come waltzing in any time now. Part of me accepts that is never going to happen. I think that part of me is getting bigger as my life with James is starting to feel like it was a really long time ago. Some days, I even wonder if it happened at all. Looking around me, or down at my right hand where I now wear my engagement ring is a reminder that it did.
The raw pain is gone, but still creeps back from time to time. In its place is a deep sadness and a longing to have my life back. The loneliness is the hardest part-not so much the coming home to an empty house, although that does suck, but the loneliness that comes from not being able to share the funny little things that happen during the day-the things that don't really matter until there is no longer anyone to share them with. And the loneliness that comes from not having anyone to discuss the things that do matter with. It makes me wonder what the point of living is when you don't feel alive.
I long to feel alive. My head has come to accept that I will not be spending the rest of my life with James. My heart knows this too but doesn't completely understand how I can sit here and think of betraying James by loving someone else. It may not have been in front of God and all our friends and family, but in my head and in my heart, I vowed to love him and only him for the rest of MY life. I did not put a disclaimer in there that says "null and void should he die at the age of 41." Who the hell thinks that is going to happen at our age? I did not get to say good-bye; though I know he would want me to find love again, I wish he had a chance to tell me that is what he wanted for me. Maybe I wouldn't feel so guilty about wanting to move forward if he had given me his blessing, though I doubt it. I know myself better than that. I wish we would have had the chance to say good-bye; that we were both alive for our last kiss.
I have seen signs of forward movement-painting the hallway and bathroom, donating most of his clothes, mentally starting to earmark what to do with his other belongings. I gave away my desk and took over his. His things are in a drawer in the bathroom instead of on the counter. I donated his glasses to the Lion's Club. Some things I have not been able to change. His half empty water bottle is still on his night stand. The bag with the clothes he was wearing that day is still in the downstairs closet. His car is still in the garage. His Steeler's memorabilia still takes up the top two shelves of the display case with my Braves stuff on the bottom two because I don't know what to do with a half empty display case. I still have 6 cases of Pepsi we bought the weekend before he died because it was on sale so we stocked up. I stopped drinking pop in 1998.
It feels like today should be a milestone, though I don't know why. 18 months. One and a half years. Said that way, "year" is no longer singular. Maybe that is the milestone. I want to move forward. Several months ago, I met someone who confuses the crap out of me. I don't know where that is heading, or if it even is heading anywhere at all, but our friendship has shown me that I am still capable of feeling and for that I am grateful. Maybe that is the purpose of it. Last night, I took a leap and responded to a Craigslist ad a friend sent me for "Cute Guy with Pug." Part of me hopes he e-mails me back-who doesn't want to feel attractive? (Plus it took me three frickin' attempts to get the damn e-mail to go through and I really don't want all that effort to go to waste). Part of me hopes he doesn't-then I won't have to betray my love for James by getting to know someone new where the intent is romance from the get go. Ugh, getting to know someone new. How did I get to a place where that is even a possibility? I guess that's a sign of moving forward.
I'm not confused. I know I want a happy, fulfilled life. I know I can't have that with James, but I still want it with him. I'm sure part of me is always going to want that and will always wonder what would have happened if he hadn't died (our wedding would have been a kick-ass party, that's for dang sure!). My eyes are being opened to new things, through meetup groups, new volunteer opportunities (which I would have done anyway) and now behind the lens of a camera as I take up photography to honor him. I am learning things about myself-it turns out I actually enjoy (light) hiking. And in a couple of weeks, I am going camping for the first time since I was 12. I am getting out there. I am trying.
I am sitting here listening to Tom Cochrane's version of "Life is a Highway"-one of the two songs on James' memorial DVD ("Only Time" by Enya is the other). "I love you now like I loved you then" is one of the lines and it is true. I love him now like I always have. I'm afraid of losing that; that as time goes on more of him is going to slip away. So I hold on tightly to the past to prevent that from happening. But that prevents me from truly moving forward as well.
Highways come with instructions in the form of road maps and signs. They tell you if you are going the right way. Life does not come with an instruction manual. It's a dance you learn as you go (yes, I am channeling my inner John Michael Montgomery). There is no right or wrong way to do this; it is an individual journey and I am traveling the path the best way I know how, and that is so hard to do without my co-pilot and a map. I am lost, but ever so slowly, I am finding my way.