It has taken some time and a lot of soul searching on my part. At first, the guilt was strong — but has lessened with time.
I would have to say that it started when I decided to step outside of my comfort zone. I had been “settling-in” to my new home on the mountain for a few months when I decided that it was time to share the fruits of my labor. The patio that I had worked diligently on for months was now ready to be presented to the world — or at least a group of people who resided at least within a close proximity of mine.
I started with my immediate family and then branched out into long-time friends as well as people who had made an impact on my new life in some way.
It wasn’t the easiest thing I’d ever done, but turned out to be one of the best. I found myself running in so many different directions that day. I had never thrown a party by myself — and honestly wasn’t completely sure I wanted to still.
Once the guests had arrived and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, I was able to relax a bit and enjoy the day as well. We gathered around the firepit even though it was really too warm to enjoy a fire — it was July.
If I had to put my finger on the calendar and point to a day when my life began again, I would place it happily on that date. I had invited a few people with whom I’d bonded just since Andy’s death. I’m not sure what inspired them to reach out to me, or how I got up the courage to reach back. I only know that I am glad that I did.
I found that life became easier when I had people in my life who could relate to some aspect of my <now> mixed up world. From this, new and stronger friendships were formed. While sitting on the patio that day, plans were made. I can’t emphasize enough how big of an impact that day made on my life.
I’ve since discovered that apparently friendships can also be formed amidst a rant. Several weeks after the party, a group of us decided to have a “girls weekend” just miles from my home. We rented a cottage for the weekend, and while I had never done anything like this before, it too became a life altering event! I’ll spare you the details. Just know that I let off some steam at what hindsight tells me was misdirected. But something great came out of it. Let me just say that when someone has every right to “stomp you” but ends up making you laugh amidst it all, that person has to become your friend. At that moment, we crossed the bridge from acquaintances and old classmates to best friends.
One week later, a suggested friend on Facebook would put yet another missing piece back into the puzzle I call “Life.” With the reconnection of another member of the good ole class of ’83, another strong friendship was formed. This friendship has proven to be something I value very much these days. While I think it started out as an opportunity to redirect my life back to happier, youthful times, it has taken on a path all its own now.
It was also around this time that I decided to release myself emotionally from the vehicles we had bought together. This wasn’t just an emotional decision, it was practical. Why should I insure 2 vehicles, let alone keep putting gas in both. I traded in his truck and my little “soccer mom” car and bought myself a 2-door jeep with 4 wheel drive. On that day I changed my self image. While I will always be a mom to my kids and a grandma to two very special little girls, I did something just for me. I emerged into someone who could feel the wind racing through her hair and fully appreciate the view of the “big muddy” as she drove the beautiful scenic route that was now the daily path to her new home. In addition, it gave me the confidence to live the part of the “mountain dweller” I had become.
In addition, I returned to the workforce. It was strange how that happened too. I wasn’t looking for a job. Something just drew me in and I found myself talking to an employee in a little floating gift shop on the river. I decided at that moment to apply for a job, though she didn’t seem to think they were actually hiring at the moment. Just days later, I got a phone call asking me to come in for an interview. I discovered that the employee I was speaking with had told the owner that she felt I would be an asset, and within days I was employed there. It worked out well. As the job was seasonal, it allowed me to eliminate the stress of having to climb down the mountain on those snowy winter days unless I just really wanted to get out. With the winter as brutal as it’s been thus far, that was definitely a bonus. As the 2014 season approaches, I don’t know what’s in store for me, but have learned to welcome whatever it offers. I tend to “go with the flow” more now than ever before.
I’ve realized that now the face I see looking back at me in the mirror tends to be smiling instead of choking back tears. I had to accept the fact that I could be happy. I needed to be happy. It was a tough decision, and even required a conscious decision on my part at one point. I had to allow myself the opportunity to let the pain turn to joy. I found that I could be happy again and it could actually be a tribute to Andy, not an insult to his memory as I had originally viewed it.
Those who knew Andy best would try to convince me that he would want me to be happy. It took a little time for me to see that, but it makes complete sense now. He would have done anything in life to insure my happiness, and I guess on some level I always knew that. Now that he’s become my guardian angel, I think he still does.
I wish I could say that the tears never flow and that my days and nights are filled with joy and laughter. I actually have to say that the latter is definitely more prevalent these days. And now when the tears do emerge, they are generally a result of a happy thought, not a pity party for one! I have begun to realize one thing above anything else. I feel things stronger and taste things better. I now see that is a sign of one thing, and is a direct result of moving through the grieveing process. I am alive!
Andy, at first it was hard to smile. On some level, I always knew that you would want me to. I just couldn’t… I wasn’t ready! I’ve developed such strong friendships and know that I am never alone. I had to make that conscious decision to look at what I have, not what I don’t. What I have are special memories of a love that changed my life so many years ago. I will cherish those memories forever as well as the ones I create now with those who have become and/or remained a special part of my world.
I know that I could never begin to thank you for all you’ve done for me. So I have chosen to move through the pain and seek out the joy. That seemed to be the best way I could pay tribute to the life you gave me.
I love you Baby… forever and always.
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