Last Thursday, I had a conversation with our cousin, which sounds kind of incestuous to say it like that. She is really James' cousin, but we hit it off when we first met and adopted each other after James and her mother died a month apart. So now she is my cousin. We are actually a lot alike, only she is MUCH stronger than I am.
In addition to being cousins, James was one of her best friends. And she was the relative he was the closest to. As a result, I sometimes feel she best understands my loss. At first, there were some things I was hesitant to talk to her about because I knew her loyalty would be to James and his memory, as it should be. However, in April, she spent a weekend with me and I was able to talk to her face-to-face about the things I had been afraid to mention, which actually went very well, and I was greatly relieved with her telling me she 1000% (yes 1,000) wants me to move forward with someone else someday. His whole family wants that for me.
So Thursday night here I was playing on Facebook when I should have been packing for the camping trip when she started a chat with me. The timing was perfect as I needed someone to talk to but didn't know who to call. After chatting online for a few minutes, I ended up calling her. I think she understood most of what I was saying through my sobs. She answered like she did. A benefit of having kids I guess-the ability to understand "sob talk."
The thing she said that most stood out is that I am way too hard on myself and that it was okay to want to move forward but that wasn't going to happen until I gave myself permission: permission to move forward and permission to let it take as long as it needs to take for me to be ready.
I thought about this a lot over the weekend and have realized a few things in the process. First, I am wrestling with some lingering guilt. If I had cooked healthier, promoted a healthier lifestyle, would James still have died? Logically, I know he probably would have. Emotionally, I feel I failed him by not taking better care of him.
Second, I am not practicing what I preach. Time and time again, I have told other widows that this is an individual journey that takes as long as it takes. There is no timeline, yet I am trying to force myself into one. It has been over a year and a half, so I should be over it by now, right? Wrong. On average, it takes 3-5 years to recover from the death of a spouse. For some it takes less, for some longer. It will take as long as it takes. The problem is I am primarily Scottish and Italian and as a result, I seem to have been born without the patience gene. I also find I am comparing myself to others and using their progress as a benchmark for where I should be. This is unfair to myself. I don't fully know their stories and even if I did, their story is not mine; their grief journey is not on the same road as mine. I need to stop worrying about where I think other people think I should be at this stage and allow myself to be where I am at. True friends will still love me and will not abandon me. (And there it is-I have FINALLY figured out what has been bugging me. I am afraid that if I am not "better" soon, everyone is going to get tired of dealing with me and just leave).
Finally, I do not want to be alone anymore, but I am not ready to start a new relationship either. I can only offer friendship at this point. I have said several times that James and I just jumped right in and were a couple from our first date. Right now, I cannot do that. I need to start with friendship and have it blossom into more. I know myself well enough to know that I am going to have a hard time with dating someone new-with feeling like I am cheating on or betraying James even though I know that is what he would want for me. That I am going to fight like Hell against letting anyone get close. I need more time. To this end, I have decided to cancel my subscription to eHarmony and focus on my meetup groups, where there is no pressure. I am starting to see an increase in activities now that summer is winding down. Also, now that school is starting, my volunteer shifts at my favorite organization will be starting up again. I like to practice flirting with the guy that works there, and Lord knows I need the practice! (And as my co-worker pointed out, this could lead to me becoming a cougar now that he is single. Meow! Although it was much easier to flirt when he was "safe").
I joined the YMCA. Sadly, the Village People were not there to serenade me as I filled out the paperwork. (I should download "YMCA"). Today, after work I went to exercise for the first time. It wasn't too crowded and definitely not a meat market (3 HS/college age kids, 4 post-retirement age men, 1 married man, 2 seemingly single but possibly gay men-one of which sounded like he'd been sucking helium when he talked, one unknown status man, and 9 women). I stuck with the treadmill since I knew how to use that without looking like a complete idiot. I have decided to start slow and work my way up to taking classes. I am hoping this will help to boost my currently non-existent seretonin levels which will, of course, boost my overall mood. I know getting back to activities will help too and September is filling up fast. I feel like I have something to look forward to and it is a good, hopeful feeling. Now, I just have to figure out how to give myself permission to enjoy it. I really wish James would give me a sign (remember Honey, it needs to be a nice big one since I am pretty much the least observant person on the planet) showing he gives me his blessing. I think that is what I need more than anything-to know it is okay with him for me to move forward without him by my side.