Sunday, October 22, 2017

50 for 50, days 45&46: With gratitude for Kevin and Charley

This is post 45&46 of 50 celebrating my 50th birthday. You can read the rest here.

I am so lucky. I have been blessed with amazing partners in my life. Each has given me different gifts (even if I didn't see them as gifts at the time) and each has helped me learn about myself, my capacity for love, and what being in a relationship means to me.

My partners before Kevin helped me understand how I wanted to be treated in a relationship, what parts of myself I was willing to give up and what parts must remain. They loved me to the best of their abilities, just as I loved them. I am grateful for their part in my history.

I have written so much about Kevin, about how he loved me, how he welcomed me into his life and his family, about how well we worked together and the love between us. He was a gift to the universe and especially in my life. Our relationship certainly wasn't perfect, none are, but I still marvel at the fact that we were at all.

The love between us was so powerful that when he was diagnosed it was never a question of him being ill in isolation. We had cancer, even though we both knew I would physically survive this illness and he would not. He told me once that he had the easier job of it. I don't agree particularly, but I understand what he meant. He didn't have to learn how to live without me. I had to learn to live without him.

Kevin helped me learn and grow and love. He helped me learn to be strong and embrace my strength. He gave me permission to never dumb down. He helped me see myself as powerful and able. He saw me as someone who could conquer her fears, whether of writing or standing up for myself or any of the other gremlins that haunt us. He helped me learn to love myself in ways I never would have thought possible. After all, if someone I admired so very much found me lovable, how could I tell him he was wrong and I was not worthy of love? I am so grateful for his presence in my life as my friend, as my lover, as my partner in the world, as my beloved, as the love of my life. I am so lucky.

After Kevin's death (and I have to say, that phrase still shocks me) I was stunned to find that I, too, didn't die. In some ways I did. Parts of me died with Kevin and will never return. I miss who I used to be sometimes, but what I have found, much to my astonishment, is that those vacancies inside of me are making room for new growth. Some of that growth is welcome, there are ways that I think I am a better person than I was, while some is dark and uncertain. But it is there, I am still growing.

What's more, I don't know if I could have survived his death had I not been loved so well before he died. He loved me so deeply and so thoroughly that I thought I would never love again. In fact, the power of his love gave me the courage to open up my heart.

I haven't written much about Charley directly. Where Kevin was extroverted and comfortable in the public eye, Charley is introverted and private, so I have worked to protect his privacy. This post is written with his permission and approval, so you know.

I didn't expect to find myself in another relationship, and certainly not within 18 months of Kevin's death. Charley and I met with different expectations of what could be between us, but his gentle nature, his intelligence, his own gifts to the universe, and his acceptance of Kevin as a constant factor in my life and my heart, helped me see him as someone whom I could love and accept love from.

Once I made that leap it became possible to imagine him as my partner, my friend, my lover, my beloved, the love of my life now. It isn't easy. There are days when I miss Kevin and am inconsolable. When that happens Charley embraces me as I cry or, if I ask, leaves me alone. I can't imagine how hard it is to leave the person you love alone when they are so sad, but he does it. And there are days when I feel guilty that I am so happy with Charley, that I am not still in widow's weeds, or guilty that I make Charley live with Kevin's ghost. Through all of it he tells me that he loves me, that he knows Kevin is part of the deal, and that it's okay. Some days I am able to believe him.

Most of the time Charley and I simply have a life together, doing all the things partners do. We laugh and bicker, talk and are quiet. Externally he and Kevin are very different, but in the essentials they are similar, both good men. Both smart, funny, kind. Both love me and care for me as best as they can. Charley takes extraordinarily good care of me and I am humbled. I don't know of I could have accepted his care had I not had to offer care for Kevin, care he accepted with grace and love. I know I am better at accepting care and love now than I was. They both have taught me about that.

I think the idea of soulmates has some merit, but the way we interpret it is wrong. Kevin was my soulmate. I have a different soul now, my old one died with Kevin, so Charley is also my soulmate. I am so profoundly lucky to have these two extraordinary men in my life.

I am so grateful. I am so lucky.

This is what 50 looks like. Loving for all she is worth and knowing that love sometimes looks like grief and sometimes looks like joy.
(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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