It's hard to get used to being alone and break the rhythm of the years that Andy and I lived together. Even after 7 years, I still looked forward to seeing him when I got home, and got butterflies in my stomach when he would approach. I felt whole. Complete. And now I feel broken and scared. This feels like a nightmare that I haven't woken up from yet.
Obviously I need to learn how to do this. I have to learn how to be alone, at least for now. I need to learn how to go to bed at night by myself. How to divide up the roles he was for me to my closest friends and family. How to accept the missing piece to our beautiful puzzle called Life as permanent. He's gone. He's not coming back. I might be able to say and write that, but in truth I haven't actually accepted it yet, and I dread the day that my mind will finally come to terms with my new reality.
My old reality was just fine. Why has it been taken away? Why do bad things happen to good people? That's also the title of a book that my therapist recommends I read: When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Harold Kushner.
In the 5 weeks and 1 day since It happened, I have improved. Life is still hard, but I'm learning how to act in this play called My New Life. But I can only move as fast as I can. That's what Monday's therapy session was about: not pushing myself harder than I need to. Like pushing myself to learn how to be physically alone.
It started with everyone returning to their normal lives-- the friends who had traveled in for the funeral had to go back to work. My family who lived in other states had to fly home. I knew it would happen, but I still felt left behind. It's not like I could go home. Home was where Andy and I lived (past-tense still kills me). Home was where It happened.
Then came the times when my local friends and the friends I am living with needed to start returning to normal too. Again, I knew this would come. It needed to happen and it was part of everyone's healing process. But I was terrified. I still wanted someone with me at all times. Being left alone with my thoughts was suffocating, miserable, and physically painful. And yet this has to happen eventually, right? I need to learn how to do it.
I'm the rip-the-bandaid-off kind of person. Get it over with. I can't keep my friends from living their lives, so I might has well expose myself to being alone so I can get used to it. This is where I went wrong.
"I don't want my friends to feel like they're babysitting me."
"Ok, I need to stop you right there," my therapist said. "I know that if the tables were turned and it was your friend in this situation, you would never refer it as 'babysitting.'"
He was right. My friends care about me and want to make sure I'm okay. 'Babysitting' is not what's happening here; it's love.
"So what do I do? I'm not ready to be alone, but I can't keep them from their lives."
"If you're not ready to be alone yet, don't force yourself to do it. You need to focus on healing and taking care of yourself. Make sure you have plans when your friends can't be there."
That night I told my friends my fears. I was worried that they would think I was moving slower than they thought. They didn't, but what did it matter if they did anyway? I can only move as fast as I can, and before this realization I wasn't moving at all; by forcing myself to move faster than I was ready for, I was just exposing myself to suffering.
My calendar is my new best friend. Ok, not literally, but I'm adding to it constantly. One of my friends suggested the "never say 'no'" policy with plans: Oh, my co-workers are going out for drinks? I'll be there (I don't drink, but the socializing was great). There's an episode on Saturday you want to watch? Sure, I'll join you. My parish is having a young adults event on Thursday? Count me in. Oh, it was great meeting you too at the Young Adults group-- yes let's grab coffee this weekend.
Lessons: Don't over-expose yourself to anything. You'll know when you're ready because you can only move as fast as you are able. Do what is necessary to heal.