Continuing my writing course, Writing Your Grief, we received a prompt on Day 28 all about the invisible space.
I decided to write about the invisible space of Jake, how it has affected me as a partner, and how it will affect my next great relationship (sometimes referred to in the widow world as "Chapter 2").
Dear Chapter 2,
You will never meet my husband Jake. But chances are, you would have liked each other. Not just because everyone liked Jake, though they did. He was a joy to be around. And not just because Jake liked people with good hearts, like you. He was an excellent judge of character. But also because you both like me, you have that in common, which is both strange and humbling and deeply meaningful.
So I want you to know him. I cannot ever truly show you what he was about, but I suppose you will come to know him through the effect he has had on me.
I want to tell you a little about that.
Before I met Jake I wasn't particularly good at dating or picking the right guy. I had been hurt badly and tended to distrust men. I wanted to love someone completely but did not really know what that could be like and had never let my guard down enough for it to happen. I was funny, but had never met a guy who really laughed at all my jokes and listened intently when I told a story. I was fun to be around, but didn't think that I would be exciting enough for someone to pick me to spend all their time with forever. And yet I had this ability inside of me to really love deeply and be vulnerable. Jake was the person who brought that out of me.
Because of the relationship that we had, I know what it means to love so deeply you can feel it down into your toes.
I know how it feels to laugh with your whole body. To completely lose yourself in laughter.
I know how it feels to cry and be held and be wrapped in empathy.
I know how it feels to be looked in the eyes and hear "I love you," and to know that it was really true and that love was really mine to have.
Because I have lived it once, I know that this kind of love is possible. It is not only possible, it is something I am extremely capable of. And I am not only capable of it, I am deserving of it. This kind of love is not only reserved for the incredibly good-looking or the undoubtedly charismatic. Great love can and should happen to a lady like me, who is insecure and awkward and occasionally socially inept.
Because he loved me unconditionally, I do not say "I'm sorry" when I've said something I needed to say. But I also don't go around saying hurtful things, doing careless things, or manipulating my way into some happy image of a relationship. I go for truth. I don’t fake it.
Because he really listened to me, I feel empowered to say how I really feel. I try, even when it is hard and the words get stuck in my throat and I am scared. I know it’s hard, but it is worth it. It is worth the difficult long talks and the confusing misstatements and wrong interpretations. Because after you slog through all of that, there is the warm feeling of being understood.
Because I have been understood, I have become a willing listener. And I have developed some high expectations.
I will expect that when I am talking, you will be listening, and we will both be trying to understand each other.
I will expect you to open up.
I will expect myself to lean in and be vulnerable, because I know I can.
We both can.
Because he loved me and then I lost him, I know how important each word is.
I feel the urgency to say exactly what should be said, exactly when it should be spoken.
I know we might not get more time.
I know the perfect moment may never come.
I did not hesitate to tell him I loved him.
I did not hide from anger or fear either. We dragged these feelings out into the open and confronted them and became stronger than these forces that threaten good relationships: fear, jealousy, complacency.
Because he died, I am hyperaware of the risks of loving again. The pain of loss is imprinted on me. It hurts. But I know the vast ability I have within me to love another person. I know because I took that risk once, and he showed me how beautiful the journey could be. I believe in great love. And I know it won't be easy.
I am scared.
I am fearless.
I am a fool for love.