Friday, June 30, 2006

A Tale of Two Goodbyes

Anticipatory Grief is a term used in psychology to explain the process of bereavement that begins before the actual loss has occurred. For example, when a loved one has a terminal illness, family and friends tend to begin feeling the loss before the loved one actually passes. The past few months have included a lot of loss and to be honest, I've rather resigned myself to the fact that it's just going to be a rough patch for now.

A while back I wrote in my journal that I could handle anything so long as I knew I could redeem in through writing at some point. And while I'm sure that I still believe that, right now, I just want the pain of parting to be over.

The losses I'm grieving are all intertwined, though somewhat independent. I'm not sure if that makes it easier or more difficult. At this point, I can't really analyze it, I'm just living it, and that's okay for now. I've been listening to the audio book of When God Doesn't Answer Your Prayer by Jerry Sittser. What I've appreciated about the book so much so far is the freedom I've found in being really, brutally honest with God about how I'm feeling. I didn't realize how much I've held back from being authentic. I suppose that if, as a child, you learn to put your best face on for your parents for no other reason than you want to be okay, that you learn to approach your heavenly Father in the same way. I don't want to seem ungrateful for all the things He has given me, so I'm hesitant to tell Him how it hurts me to be denied the things I really desire. But, Jerry tells me, isn't it better to come straight to God with our unfiltered feelings and let Him absorb them? David's Psalms often start out with him railing against God and then, ultimately, end up with him making peace not only with God, but also with his situation.

David's Psalms give me hope that this anger is only a dot, not my destination.

A few months back, I was experiencing probably the sweetest time in my life. It seemed that everything I had hoped for was finally coming together at just the right time. Ever since my head injury, my personality has become less accomplishment-oriented, and much more relationship-oriented. Relationships have always been a challenge for me, but the two types of relationships I most yearned to experience were, for the first time in my life, fulfilled at the same time.

The first relationship was family. A few years back, I was asked to move into a smaller office to accommodate a new co-worker. When he learned I had to move, he invited me to have dinner with his family to make up for it. This family of four is now a family of six, with the youngest daughter being my god-daughter. In addition to adopting two little girls, this couple adopted me into their family in our own formal way. For the last several years, I never had to think about where I would spend Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, my birthday, or any other occasion that historically has triggered a sense of loss. When I visit my biological family, it's "Mom's house" or "Dad's house." I don't belong there. I have a key to this family's home and I know I belong there. This family has done more to heal my heart than anything else I've experienced as an adult. They have shown me unconditional love and modeled family in a way that has utterly transformed me. I've been able to watch a husband and wife run a full gamut of emotions where leaving is not even a thought. I've watched patient parenting in action and loved on four of the best behaved kids on the planet. I never even really wanted kids until these kids wiggled their way into my heart. Now I long for a legacy of my own. In this family, I finally have a vivid picture of what I want to create for myself.

And they're moving. Not just out of the neighborhood. Not out of town or even out of state. They are moving to the other side of the world and the thought of it makes my heart hurt so much I can't breathe.

I have no doubt that they're doing what they need to do. Though they don't move until August 1, they will be gone from the neighborhood most of July, starting on Sunday. Less than 48 hours away.

I've known this day was coming for more than a year. I do feel a sense of progress in that, when I learned this news, I didn't pull away as I would have so often in the past. I made the most of the remaining time we had together. At the same time, not a day has gone by when I haven't prayed that God would bring someone into my life so that I can start creating my own family. The time has come, I believe, when I shouldn't have to settle for being the add-on to my friend's growing families.

This winter, I thought I found him. I've always been so cautious, so full of fear and anxiety when it comes to dating. I was wary of those who got emotional too quickly. After all, you've gotta be wise about these things and I had just the checklist to help you along. But then it happened to me. I met someone and he was everything I wanted and more than I could have thought up myself. And amazingly, he wanted me too. For once, I was pursued, hard, by a good guy...a great guy. No red flags anywhere, just green all around. I met his friends. He met mine. We all got along. The first time I walked into his house, I felt like I was home. (The first time I met him, I felt at home). I could see our life together and I loved what I saw. It wasn't just exactly what I had been hoping and praying for, it was better. We both felt so confident that we started making plans, seeking counsel, planning our budget, dreaming our future. Finally, talking about marriage with someone filled me with joy, not fear. The timing seemed so perfect, I was losing my family, but gaining MY family. It balanced out. It made sense. It was finally my time!

I had been struggling at work. I had known for some time that though I was fully recovered from my head injury, I was not fully healed, and I was not the same. I couldn't do the job the way it deserved to be done. I could give 20 good hours, but if I tried to give 40, the rest of my life suffered...and it did suffer. But I needed to work to pay my bills. So I put life and God and my passion for writing on the back burner to make money, each day feeling a bit of a failure for not being who I used to be. As talk of marriage became up more often, I finally felt free to admit that I needed to leave. I began talking with my boss and planning for my departure. I looked forward to moving out of the fast lane and moving into a life I really wanted: as a wife and mom who writes as God inspires.

This spring I hit a rough patch with my boyfriend, which I believed was due to the distance. We both got testy and picked fights. The content didn't seem to me to be anything substantial, and we both agreed that we needed time to develop an everyday relationship. With my job change in the works, I agreed that we needed to take a break and slow things down. I knew enough about relationships to realize that they have seasons of peaks and valleys and understood that it was to be expected that the distance would create a valley, especially if we really did want to be together. He had been so confident in his love for me that I felt secure in stepping back for the time being to get caught up in the other areas of our lives. We continued to talk every week, and I continued to share my status of my transition with him. I hated the thought of selling my house (see previous posts) but it was tempered by the idea of moving into his house after we were married. As my final day at work neared, I started thinking about where I would move. Would I stay here and visit there more extendedly? Or should I just go ahead and move to where he lived? We had talked about both. Finally I decided that moving sooner rather than later would be easier--one move, and I would have plenty of new things to occupy my thoughts and hopefully help with the transition. I was scared for all the change, but so excited about starting this much-anticipated new chapter of my life.

And then the other shoe dropped.

A week before my last day at work, he called to see how my day went. We were planning to get together in Minnesota in a few weeks and talked about how good it would be to actually see each other again. We got talking about my transition and my move. And that's when he told me he had changed his mind. He didn't want to marry me after all. He had made the decision in his mind and had emotionally moved on.

<<<The thing is, as much as I hate the way things ended, I understand it. Well, maybe not IT, but him. He's so much like me, personality-wise. In all the good ways and in all the annoying ways. Typically I've been the one to internalize my concerns and spring a decision on someone. Granted, I never got this far, and I never took my words back, but I still understand what drives a person to have this sort of decision-making thought process about someone without that someone. Being on the other side has forever cured me from not sharing my apprehensions with someone along the way. We have our differences, but I can't imagine finding someone so much the same. And that's what makes me sad. I can't say it was the right decision. For sure, it was a premature decision. But it is the decision he made, so it's decision I'll accept.>>>

I can't say that I handled it as well as I could have. I know that he cares for me, and I do think he realizes how much it hurt me. At the same time, I wasn't willing to take his olive branch of friendship, either. You can't offer someone your heart, your dreams, your life...and then say, "Never mind all that, but let's be friends." I thought we were friends...and more! I was blindsided by his change of heart. I thought I was finally secure in a relationship that could weather ups and downs. He was plain down and out. I just didn't see it coming.

We didn't get together as planned in Minnesota, though we did see each other twice. Once was anticipated, when we were in the same place at the same time. The other was an odd coincidence, where we were in the same suburb in the same restaurant. Our relationship was filled with little coincidences and affirmations. I'm sure they played a part in why I let myself fall for him so fast and so hard. It just seemed like everything was perfectly aligned for us to be together at just this time.

We didn't really talk when we saw each other, either time. I don't know what he experienced, but what I felt was the horrible awkwardness of wanting so much for him to show me in some way at all that he did care for me once, even if he no longer did. I wanted him to say he was sorry that it didn't turn out the way we dreamed, because it was a really wonderful dream. I wanted to see some sense of sadness and pain, not because I want him to be full of sadness and pain, but because I don't want to believe that he could get over me so quickly. I wish I could get over him as quickly. But he didn't reach out to me. He didn't touch me. He hardly said anything. And that's how I knew it really was over, and part of me wonders if it ever was. It had been so wonderful, I think it must have been just a dream.

Since then, I've left my job. I'm still selling my house. And after that, I'm not really sure. I'm praying that God will show me what I can still do well with the lasting limitations of my head injury. Life is not turning out the way I planned, and I'm in desperate need for Him to show me a new plan. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. I feel like my heart is terminally ill.

My family here got me a webcam so I can still see them after they move. I gave back all my ex-boyfriend's things so I wouldn't have to see them anymore. As I've been cleaning and sorting through my things to prepare my house to list, I've been going through my memory boxes. Pictures of my family here. Pictures of the man with whom I thought I was going to have a family of my own. One set of pictures got burned to a CD so I'll have them when I settle in my next place. The other set got deleted so I can start healing.

I'm starting to say goodbye.

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