Monday, December 28, 2015

What Isaac taught me about love

I'm going to start at the beginning because as Julie Andrews suggested, "It's very good place to start." After our first date, Isaac was so sneaky and left a note on my car the next day thanking me for our date. I thought it was a hate note from my neighbors for parking in "their" spot (they thought they owned parking spots even though none were assigned). I was in shock. I can't tell you how many times that I had been told to "let him know you had a good time," "text him," "reassure him." I remember talking to my mom about two weeks after Isaac and I had started to go on dates and I started to cry. I felt so silly but the truth is no guy had ever treated me that way. Isaac was brave. He wasn't waiting for me to reassure him or decide for him. He was going to jump in and see what happened. So many young people hesitate to show love for someone. They want to feel certain first. But Isaac gave when he didn't know I'd give back. From the very beginning Isaac "loved" me. It's not that he had fallen in love with me. Love is a verb, and he decided to love me and see what happened.

When I first became friends with Isaac on Facebook I noticed that his profile picture was of his parents. I thought that was kind of strange but if you know Isaac, then you would understand that Isaac loves his parents, and Isaac is his family. Isaac really looked up to his parents and the love that they had cultivated through the years. I could see that Isaac really believed in marriage and that the greatest happiness in life would come from loving one woman really well. Isaac is a much more private person than me. If something good happens, I want to tell everyone. If I'm feeling love, I want to shout it from the rooftops. Isaac showed me that I didn't need to share everything for my happiness to be real. I didn't need to tell everyone on Facebook how much I love my husband or post each time he did something nice. He taught me that those things are personal and that I don't need the world to validate my happiness or love. It's not that he looked down on people who share these things but it did help create intimacy. Rather than sharing things with others, we became really good at sharing our feelings in person with each other. I can't really describe it but there is something really special about your spouse opening up and sharing his feelings with you for only you to know. 

Isaac was good at apologizing. When I first got with Isaac, I never saw an angry bone in his body. But kids change things. Ha! And he is latino, so I'm pretty sure he gets his hot head from all those hot peppers he likes to eat! Isaac would be stressed out from work and sometimes he would take it out on me. I would get mad at him for his attitude. And we had fights about real issues too. We went through a very difficult time after Rose was born. But Isaac was always good about apologizing when he acted in a way that wasn't loving. That built trust. I knew that I could trust that no matter what we disagreed upon, we would always come back together. I learned that even though we lost our cool or got lost in a fight, we both wanted this to work and we both loved each other.

Isaac always made me feel beautiful. Isaac never compared me to other girls. He never criticized my body. He didn't look at other women. It's so hard as a woman in today's world to feel like enough, but I always felt like enough with Isaac. 

Isaac cherished my role as the mother of his children. He was so great about being supportive through my pregnancies and expressing gratitude for the physical burden of carrying the children. Maybe because he wanted six more! But still, I'll give him credit for making me feel appreciated. 

Isaac has also taught me things about love through his death. When I look back on my marriage, I realize that there were times that I held on to hurt or amplified hurt because I would let a moment define our relationship. Sometimes after a disagreement, I would start to doubt that Isaac felt the same way I did. In marriage, you aren't always kind and you aren't perfect. I realize now that too often when we disagreed, I would worry that something was shifting in our relationship. And while that can happen in a marriage, I realize now that the worry was unnecessary. When Isaac died, everything in our relationship flashed before my eyes and now I'm not sure why I ever doubted him. I hope that if/when I remarry that I can be better about not letting the emotions of one moment define what I think about how my spouse feels about me. I feel like I could have avoided a lot of hurt if I had just taken a step back and looked at the whole relationship rather than focusing on what was happening in the moment. It's easy to feel good about your marriage in the good moments but it's more important to trust that your marriage is good even in the difficult times.

And now, I'm trying to learn another lesson about love. Maybe a broken heart doesn't love less. Maybe a broken heart can love more. In some ways, I feel that I love my children more now than I did before. They bring so much happiness and purpose to my life. I'm not sure that I needed that as much as I do now. I love my friends and family more as I've seen them sacrifice for me and support me. I feel more compassion for my clients. I am more aware of pain and the process that goes along with it. I feel more gratitude for the people and blessings in my life. I have felt of God's love more. So even though my heart aches, maybe the aches are just growing pains. 

Friday, December 4, 2015

There are no bad days

I joined a Facebook support group for widows and widowers. And while I enjoy being part of the group, I find that sometimes my experience is different from others' experiences. I often see people say, "Today was a bad day..." or "The holidays are bad..." I'm not sure why it bothers me so much but I hate using the word "bad" when talking about grief.

My Thanksgiving break was hard. I cried a lot more than I normally do when I'm at home living my everyday life. Isaac's absence hit me really hard. The space he used to fill felt so huge. I felt myself anticipating what he would say and do but nothing ever filled the space. At times I felt bored without him. I felt lonely. I felt alone. I'm beginning to understand what it means to truly miss a person. This experience let me see what I'm in for as I get further and further from the time when Isaac was alive in my life. But it wasn't bad. It was sad. It was really, really sad. But for me "bad" has such a negative connotation. I don't think that the pain I feel is "bad." It's good! I should feel this way. It should hurt this intensely. The pain reflects the loss of something great. It isn't wrong to feel this way. I feel this way because I loved Isaac with all my heart. And, I know that he loved me. It makes me sad because I know our future together on earth was going to be bright but now our future is very different from the one we had planned. And if there are days that I cry or can't pull myself together, I'm not going to feel bad about that. I gave all I had to our marriage and there is no way, no way, that I could ever turn off the grief that I feel.

Sometimes I think people talk about these being bad days because others can't tolerate their grief. I've heard many comment on how others have said things to indicate that their grief should be over or less weepy. No one should ever tell you how to grieve. One thing I see supportive people say is, "Be strong!" or "Stay strong!" What does that even mean? When someone says that in response to me expressing grief, it confuses me. I don't think sadness and longing negate strength. I'm not weak because I cry. That is a funny thing about our culture. If you refrain from crying when you are hurt, you are considered tough or strong. But if you have ever really let yourself truly feel all your emotions, without letting your emotions consume you, you will know what it is to be strong. Most of the time we avoid difficult emotions because we worry they will overtake us. And often that ends up being the case. If we put off grief, it eventually will consume us. Allowing ourselves to feel requires the courage to be vulnerable without knowing what will happen. So my goal is not to be strong for myself and my kids. My goal is to just be, just be whatever it is that I am today. But one thing I know, today will not be bad because there are no bad days.