A part of me surely died the same day as my late husband.
Most widows would probably say the same thing.
When you spend so much time wrapping your life around someone else, it takes a while to unravel yourself from what is now just memories.
Honestly, sometimes I feel like my unraveling has gone relatively quickly, though.
Bret has been gone five years now, nearly to the day.
And while there are multiple facets of myself that will be (and have been) forever tied to him, I have spent these last years relearning me.
When I was growing up, my mother would swear that I could out-argue the devil himself.
I bowed to no one.
Idealism was my religion.
I was often told that I was too determined, too ambitious. (As if that’s a bad thing!)
Adulthood wore me down, though.
Failed relationships, bad marriages, and career dead ends had sufficiently clipped my wings.
This line from a Concrete Blonde song describes my situation, perfectly:
Whatever became of the child I wasI never want to lose her no I won’t give her up And now my heart is harder, My skin is getting tougher and tougher That was another world then That was another time
By the time I met Bret, I was not the same Layla that I had been in years gone by.
Bret was a ball of fire that mowed down any obstacle in his way and I found that incredibly inspiring. I wanted to reclaim the momentum of my youth and he was seemingly inviting me to do so.
It didn’t take us long to become quite the “power couple,” which I loved.
I thought I was thriving; I was soaring once more, being guided to the highest and the best.
But that high was temporary, as it is with the ugliness of narcissism.
Soon it became clear that in trying to keep up with my life with Bret, I just wound up flying too close to the sun.
I have discussed, in some detail, my late husband’s mental health issues, in previous blogs. And it is very safe to say that I lost sight of much of my old self in the years that I dealt with all of that.
Not long after Bret’s death, I wound up in a new relationship that was obviously problematic from the get-go. I found myself falling right back into those old patterns of going out of my way to accommodate the other person at the cost of myself. (And my children.)
It was actually the breakup of that particular relationship that woke me back up.
There was another me inside – she had been buried, shushed, and stifled for too long.
She was done going unheard.
It took a while, but I let her start eking her way out.
Honestly, she scared me a little; she was so glaringly strong in the face of all the madness I was dealing with. This presence oftentimes made me feel as if I wasn’t fully feeling the gravity of this loss; that I wasn’t mourning Bret as I should.
The beat-down version of me tried to push her away, but she was having none of it.
She did, however, allow me to acquiesce at my own pace.
I decided that I needed to trust myself again. And that was really the ticket.
After so many years of unfortunate circumstances and terrible decisions, I no longer trusted myself.
But I gave that girl another chance, and she did not disappoint.
I am still letting her take the wheel, and so far the ride has been a pretty good one.
It was the most amazing thing to quite literally wake up one morning and say “Oh yeah! I remember this! This was totally me, back when!”
Don’t get me wrong, I have still had hiccups along the way. I have backslid several times.
But it’s so much easier to recognize and then correct when a mishap occurs.
Bret truly did, at times bring out parts of me that I hadn’t yet discovered. He also contributed to the burial of parts of me though, too.
I vowed to never again silence myself for the sake of someone else’s comfort.
Bret’s death not only reminded me that life is short, but also that I did not die with him.
In a sense, actually, I was reborn.
And I kind of like that girl.
Image via Aliceinwonderland.net/Alice Through The Looking Glass