The Scenic Route

I just ended a relationship with someone I had been seeing for about 4 months. Like me, he is widowed, and I met him on a dating site. I guess you could say we “broke up.” Is that still what the kids call it these days? I have no idea. I didn’t word it that way when I ended things between us. The phrase “breaking up” almost sounds too childish and immature and teenage-like, for everything that we both have been through in our lives up to this point. “Breaking up” doesn’t really gel for two middle-aged people who have suffered through individual trauma, grief, loss, illness, and the death of their beloveds.

No. Instead, I worded it like this: “I think it’s time that we transition this relationship into more of a friendship, and no longer a couple. I don’t see a future for us, and it feels unfair and wrong at this point to continue in this way.” It was all very mature. I was mature, he was mature in the way he handled it, everything was mature. But it still hurt. Inside of my soul and my heart, it did hurt. It hurt him, I am quite sure, even though he downplayed it. And it truly hurt me to be the cause of pain to a fellow widowed person, and someone I care about very much. But if we had stayed together any longer, with me not being able to reciprocate the feelings in that “you have my heart” way that everyone deserves, the pain would have been multiplied down the road, and so I ended it.

But please don’t spend any time feeling sorry for me or feeling sad for me, or for him. Yes, it was difficult. And yes, I will miss a lot of things about dating this person, and the time we spent together. However, we mutually feel like there are good things waiting on the horizon for the both of us, individually – things that are still yet to be discovered, that haven’t fully formed yet, or that can’t quite be seen at the moment, because they are too far off in the distance – hiding behind the foggy mist of fear and uncertainty. And this person and myself – we will remain friends – always. Which is why I prefer to call this a “transition.” Not in that Bruce to Caitlyn Jenner way, but in that “adult and widowed” way that two people have to collectively decide what is best for them, and their hearts.

To be completely honest (and when am I ever NOT in my writing), I am very proud of myself, and it usually takes a LOT for me to say that. The first four years after my husband died, I had no interest in dating, and the very idea of “someone else” made me sick to my stomach. Nauseous. And even though all around me, other widowed people were getting into relationships and dating and finding ways to “get out there again”, I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t even think about it. For over four years, thoughts of intimacy or loneliness or being part of a couple again, didn’t even cross my mind really. I was much too busy grieving, and in massive amounts of pain from the loss of my husband, my forever love, to even consider the idea of anyone else. People judged me constantly. I was asked weekly and sometimes daily by strangers, friends, family, EVERYONE, over and over and over again: “So, are you dating yet? Why not? You should be dating. Be happy. You’re not getting any younger. He would want you to be happy.” Yes. He would. I do know this. But he would also want me to do things when I’m ready, in my own time, when it feels right, and not on some fictitious, made-up timeline, or because people who are well-intentioned but clueless, are pressuring me.

So I waited. I lived my life. I tried to get by. I existed and breathed in and out as best as I could. And then in June of 2015, I received a beautiful email from someone who had just found my blog, and who happened to be widowed also, and who also happened to know and worked with my husband , many years ago, as fellow EMS / paramedics. He told me he found my blog, and he thanked me for the words in it. He said lovely things about my husband, and told me how him and his wife who died and my husband who died, all knew one another and worked together all these years ago. And we started talking via email, and then on the phone. And thus began what has turned into a lovely connection, a wonderful friendship with so much potential for more, one day. We met in person, in March of this year, and it was organic and natural and real. It was effortless and familiar and new. It was a blanket of warmth and safe things, and all things good. It was that place that felt like home.

We spent a few days together, hanging out, connecting, getting to know each other more. The connection we had on the phone was even more undeniable in person, and we marinated inside of the moments spent honoring our forever loves, while also finding peace and joy in one another’s company. But because we are “adult and widowed”, emotions are complicated, and hearts are damaged from ill-intentioned people and the wake of self-doubt and darkness they leave in our souls. And so, our connection and our bond and our “what could be” remains in neutral, idling in the driveway – or like a pot of Sunday sauce, that just needs to simmer a lot longer before it’s truly ready.

In the meantime, meeting this incredible person made me realize that I was now in a place where I was missing having intimacy, dating, being part of a couple, having someone to do things with, having someone to hold hands with and share kisses with, and cuddle with, and hang out on a weekend with and watch movies or walk around a lovely neighborhood on a nice summer day with. Just having those few days with this new person who felt so familiar, made me so very aware of life again, and of that feeling when someone makes you feel alive. So because he wasnt ready to further explore that with me, I did something I never in a million years ever thought I would do – I joined dating sites. Plural. Three of them. All the free ones. I started chatting with people. I met some people. I had dates. Some were total disasters. Others were total assholes who literally called me “fat”, and others would build a phone relationship with me for weeks, only to completely fall off the face of the earth and stop all contact. I learned, in the dating world today, there is a term for this. It’s called “ghosting.” How ironic, for a widowed person to be ghosted. I also learned that some people just plain suck. The site called “Plenty of Fish” should be called “Plenty of Fucking Douchebags”,but that’s another story altogether. There were endless jerks and weirdos on these sites, and a whole slew of people who just want to crawl into bed with anything that moves. Or doesn’t move. I don’t think they much care, as long as it’s female.

But while sifting through all of the garbage, I was able to find a bit of my own self-confidence again. I was able to SEE firsthand, actual proof, that there were real men out there in the universe, who actually found me attractive. And lots of them were very nice men, too. We didn’t click or connect or things didn’t work out for whatever reason, but they were good, decent men, who thought I was beautiful. This shocked me. One of my biggest fears after losing Don, was always that not only would I not be able to love again, but that nobody out there would ever love me. I was pretty convinced that nobody would be interested in old, overweight, broken, traumatized and with issues, PTSD and anxiety-ridden, forever in love with my dead husband, weird, me. But the more people I talked to, the more I understood that having someone who was actually attracted to me again, might be possible. Maybe Don isn’t the only person in the universe that doesn’t find me repulsive, but who thinks I am special and worthy and pretty and amazing. Making that discovery was worth all of the douchebags I had to meet along the way.

And then, after a few dates with others on the site, I met the guy who I just ended things with, and we were the exact right thing in each other’s lives, in the exact right moment. There was a chemistry there from the start, and it felt so incredible to feel wanted again in that way. We gave each other confidence again. We gave each other confirmation that others would find us desirable again. I had my very first relationship post-loss, my first full intimacy, my first entering into the world of being a couple again. We also helped each other heal in many ways, and provided each other with some new tools on the road of widowhood. And now, I am very certain that the dating I have done and the experiences I have had these past 5 months or so, were all necessary for me in my process. It was time. I was ready, and now because of these experiences, I know with absolute certainty, where my heart lies. It was not easy. It was extremely messy. I didnt know what the hell I was doing. There were times where I was getting to know 3 or 4 guys at the exact same time, and I didnt know how to stop it. I didnt understand how this was all supposed ot work. But I was doing it anyway. There were lot of tears, triggers, grief-attacks, and mistakes made. But I have never really put much stock into “mistakes.” All they are to me, is the universe telling you that you are supposed to be somewhere else. Sometimes you just have to take the scenic route to get there. But you do get there – in time. When you’re ready. When the time is right. And when you grow tired enough of where you currently are.

So, I’m proud of myself. Anyone that knew me in my first 3 years or so of widowhood, could tell you how cynical I was and how negative and non-believing I was, at the idea of even the possibility of ever loving or being loved again. But what I have learned is that sometimes, you have to go the wrong way for a really long time, in order to find the right way. A different way. And that “wrong way” isn’t even wrong, technically. It’s just not the right path for you. So after all of this traveling down all of these scary and foreign paths, I now know for sure, where my heart wants to be. And it’s going to take awhile to get there, because it’s still very far off in the distance, and there are never any guarantees. There is no guarantee that I will get there at all, or that I will be welcomed with open arms when I do get there. Nothing is guaranteed, and there is a whole lot of this that I have zero control over. I might get my heart shattered into a million pieces. But the heart wants what it wants, and feels what it feels. I am powerless to stop it. And so I’m willing to take that risk.

Because my heart, my intuition, and my beautiful dead husband, are all pointing me in that direction – to that place that felt like home. So I don’t much care how long it takes to arrive, or how long that Sunday sauce needs to simmer – because being inside of the adventure and appreciating every tiny moment of what it is right this very minute, is really all that matters to me. I will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Right now, I just want to stay inside this warm blanket place, where my heart feels everything good.

For I keep hearing my dear, dead husband’s voice, whispering in my ear:

“You’re on the right track now, Boo. Keep going. I got this. It’s going to be okay.”

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7 thoughts on “The Scenic Route

  1. Kelly I so hear you. I knew right after Billy died I wanted to remarry someday. I had a great love, a great husband a great marriage not perfect but perfect for me. I tried dating off Christian Mingle and the two older guys only wanted to figure out how they could have sex at 70 and 77 lol discretely orchestrated but nevertheless total turn offs. LOL They both had other woman one was going to Hawaii with one and one had a live in and bike companion. I could not believe they were wanting me when they already had someone, lol. One date with each was enough and I was in public. Then I met a friend’s brother and he is half Italian, need I say more totally romantic on the phone for hours had my head spinning with all the “right” things he said and in face he is old fashion and prepared to care for a woman…..but in person he was selfish, stingy about little things and angry a volatile volcano waiting to erupt at any stupid little thing and all he wanted was sex. UGH I went off my reservation for minute and friends and church members knew something was wrong because I was probably acting weird. All I saw was I was going to be rescued and taken care of. I never cared about being taken care of before I was young and independent had my own money and business before I married Billy.

    All I can say I was ill prepared for a Don Juan type to come into my life because he swept me off my feet, loaned me money, paid for my plane ticket etc but then he switched like he owned me and criticized my work and me! I am so relieved once I saw him and his unacceptable behavior and attitude I realized I was in love with an Italian suave voice on the phone not the real person. I was delivered and instantly knew I was not in love and this guy is already with someone else saying he is in love UGH! So I guess I am saying don’t be deceived ladies by a guy who knows how to romance, has a nice home, job and car and says he wan’ts to take care of you if you just come live with him…..because he maybe just not as sweet or normal as he appears.

    On the bright side I have reconnected with an old boyfriend from the 70s and again in the 80s and he is now living for Jesus as I am and we have so much more in common now. We are just friends and will see each other on Thanksgiving holidays. I know this guy his past and his character and he is safe for me. Say a prayer for Tim and I that God will let us both know if we are meant to be.

    I miss Billy every moment of every day yet I know he would want me to move on and be happy.

    Gladys

  2. i know how you feel. i had a short relationship back in september. actually 4 months just like yours lol. i just didnt feel he was the one and i didnt want to waste time on someone that wasnt going to go anywhere, cause as we both know life is too short to be unhappy. and besides he was very unsupportive of my loss, telling me it time to ” get over it ” and ” move on “. well i moved on, away from him. im glad you felt loved and appreciated again though. you are a beautiful person, inside and out and deserve nothing less than the best. im just into my third year and i feel this is the year of change for me. i need to get my own life straightened out before i let someone else in. i am not giving up hope. im just not actively looking at this time. i figured it took me 48 years to find my henry so i am in no hurry to find someone else. if it happens it happens, and if not its ok. so proud of you kelley for everything you do. xx

  3. I am a fair amount older than you — old enough (early 60s) that if I say “I don’t want to date”, no one is going to question me that much. I am 3 years into my own journey and I feel less interested in dating than ever. I lost my libido entirely after menopause and that pretty much rules out most men, especially today with their little blue pills. And the truth is that I’m finding that men just don’t age well. I never saw my husband as “old” for all that he would call himself a curmudgeon, because we had been together for 30 years and to me he was still the guy I went nuts over when I was 28 (even when I thought I could not stand one more day with him). But I look at age-appropriate men now and they are OLD MEN — lost souls who seem to not know what to do with themselves now that they are retired or aged out of the workforce against their will. I am short and overweight and was never a great beauty. I just happened to luck into a gorgeous, funny guy who had no idea how gorgeous he was. Until I met him I had a string of failed relationships and crazy people, punctuated by guys who felt I wasn’t thin enough or pretty enough…and I lacked the confidence to think any differently.

    At one point I went to an event with my widowed group and it was a joint event with a singles group. And I could visibly see the guy who ran the other group identifying each woman as “fuckable” and “unfuckable” — and I knew which line I was put in. At my age, who needs this? At my age, I prefer the company of women.

    It’s so hard for you younger gals, because you have many more years ahead of you. It’s almost necessary for you to go through this drill. I’m glad that you know your heart enough to wait for what’s right for it.

    • Thank you . I too had a string of bad relationships before i met my fiance henry. He was so different, treated me like gold, always calling me beautiful. Maybe thats why its hard for me , cause i dont want to go back to abusive idiots again and i know i wont find another henry but now i know what i deserve and wont put up with less. sorry for your loss and im sure you are a beautfiul person. Your hubby seen something no one else did so dont think you are anything less than beautiful xx

  4. I’ve been a widower 14 months and your observations about post-loss dating are all on point. This has been a very good read for me. Thank you for inspiring with your spirit of optimism.

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