As I've stated a few blog posts ago, I'm dating MoU (my code name for him). Things have been going great, he's smart, successful, fun and lovable. I really, really like him. The date before last, though, he said that "this is a lot to take on". I didn't know what he meant. I'm a very independent woman, don't ask anyone for much of anything EVER. I blew it off, thinking perhaps he meant my teenagers, but then again, it's never been a secret that I have kids. Then Friday night, after another fun evening together and while kissing me goodnight, he says abruptly that he's still working out if I'm right for him--after telling me not too long ago that I was perfect for him, that we were incredibly in sync (which we are for the most part). Mixed signals galore. Then it made sense--it's the suicide thing, the widow thing, the only parent thing, and, oh, yes, my age (even though he's older than me it has come up because he may want a baby of his own and I'm "old" at 44). Basically, the "a lot to take on" is the stain I carry of having a husband who took his own life and children who will forever be haunted by that decision. The "a lot to take on" is my life. It's who I am. It's also who he knew I was before date one ever happened.
I hear it a lot--people raising eyebrows over Sean's death, the comments about how I mustn't have been a good wife to not see "the signs", the former friends who suddenly stopped calling after he died and who avert their eyes when they see me now. I've grown accustomed to it, actually. I can testify that certain types of pain begin to feel normal after awhile.
I guess I thought that once I "proved" to people that I could be successful (two published novels and a third in the cue) and raised two kids who are both honor students, athletes and good citizens of the world, that somehow the stain would disappear, that people would start seeing me for ME. I'd hoped that I could move beyond it all, celebrate my life and find someone who would enjoy this new normal with me.
But maybe that's too much to hope for. My life is messy. I have teenagers who know how to throw tantrums, deadlines always looming, a budget that seems tight most of the time, a house that seems to be in constant need of something, and, yes, a dead husband who will always somehow be a part of our lives whether I want that or not. On the flip side, I'm very fun, cute, smart, adventurous, successful, creative, sensitive and loving. I've been told I look great for my "age" (geez, you'd think I was 80 or something!) I am all of these things, but so much more.
I never wanted Sean's death to define me or the kids. I now see that was idealistic of me. I am defined by it and so are the kids. The kids have some anger over it and I'm the living parent who is the perfect scapegoat for them to lash out on at times. Despite their normalcy and successes, they will forever miss the father they barely remember.
And that's what I'm writing about--tragedy has permeated our lives despite all that we've done and how far we've come. It's shaped us, changed how we perceive the world, deepened our compassion for others and strengthened us as a family. When I said I refused to let it define me, I wasn't realistic at all. Redefinition of who I am as human being was inevitable. I'm not "stuck"--perhaps that was the true fear I had, being stuck in that hellish time--instead I've been molded. There's a difference.
I like to think of myself as low maintenance, easy going, fun and uncomplicated. For the most part, I think I am. But underneath the laughter is a depth that is simply who I am. Beneath the smile is a complex person. And, perhaps my life is tainted by a major life event that happened seven years ago. I can't change that. I've moved forward and overcome so much, I'm actually proud of where and who I am now.
At this advanced age of a woman in her mid-forties (ridiculous), of course I have a past. Anyone who is my age who doesn't have a past or come with some battle wounds is highly suspect in my mind! Does this mean, though, that I'm really "a lot to take on"? I prefer thinking of myself--and the kids--as assets rather than liabilities.
As Tom Petty sings in his song, Square One, "it took a world of trouble, it took world of tears, it took a long time to get back here." That's how I feel. I am finally, after so much pain and darkness, embracing life again. Is it so much to ask for to have someone who wants to celebrate that with me?