If it seems that I’ve been somewhat MIA here, you’re right. My time is not my own these days and I don’t get many opportunities to sit at my computer and tell you what’s going on with me – I prefer to actually be out there trying to live my life again.
Part of that “living” has included my first date in going on 34 years. Yes, I have begun dating again. Sort of. I’m not actively pursuing a new relationship or even regular dates, but the fact that I have been on even one is a major step for me.
Several months ago, back in late Spring or early Summer, as I recall, my oldest daughter approached me as spokesperson; she and my other two children had apparently been discussing me and my life and came to the conclusion that I was too young to be alone for the rest of my life, and their father would want me to be happy. So when the time came that I was ready to date again, they wanted me to know that they were OK with it.
They weren’t rushing me, and knew that I wasn’t quite there yet in my own thinking, but they wanted one less thing for me to stress about when the time came.
That time came shortly before my 50th birthday. There was no great light bulb moment, and there wasn’t an immediate switch that flipped. Rather, it was a gradual awakening, a slow rise to acceptance, until I decided that I was ready to see what the next phase of my life would bring.
It was a difficult decision. A really difficult decision. By choosing to be open to love again meant that I was admitting my old life was really, truly gone. Of course, I knew my life with A was over – at least intellectually. But my emotional side had a much harder time believing it. Part of me held onto the hope that as long as I didn’t really do anything to change my situation, there was a possibility things could go back to the way they were. Yet, my logical brain knew better. Knows better. And finally the two parts meshed in a tearful, snotty mess that allowed me to look forward.
I have been selective and, some might say, perhaps too picky, and have turned down quite a few offers. But in all fairness, it has been a very long time since I dated, and in some respects, you might say I’ve never actually dated at all. Or at least I don’t have enough experience in today’s world of dating to even consider myself even remotely experienced or knowledgeable.
So I’ve taken it slow. Really slow. My first date was pleasant enough with a seemingly good guy, but there wasn’t a spark there for me. And it wasn’t going anywhere (although he was already planning dates #2 and #3 during the first one…). So the next day I let him down gently but firmly because there was no sense in either one of us wasting any more time. Rather than my “last first date”, it was, for me, my “first last date”. It wasn’t going to be a situation where we would grow to love one another in time; we were just too different, and it simply didn’t feel “right”.
Some people call dating during widowhood their “Chapter 2”. I’ve always had an issue with that. It just doesn’t sound right to me. It somehow cheapens what came before… as if “Chapter 1” is just closed and put away, never looking back.
Recently, I heard it described as an entirely new book. The first one finished, with fond memories and the ability to return and reread the best parts as desired. But even this doesn’t quite accurately describe the process, or the feeling, to me.
To me, it’s more like an old painting. Perhaps an old da Vinci, or Picasso’s The Blue Room where art conservationists discovered an older painting hidden beneath a more recent one. (The cover photo for this post is both the original painting and what was found beneath.) Artists often reused old canvases for what they viewed as “failed” pieces, when a painting didn’t work out the way they had intended. Or simply out of necessity when supplies were limited.
This analogy seems more fitting to me. The original work of art is still there; it was not – and will not – be removed. It is the actual groundwork for the next phase. It is intrinsically part of the canvas for anything that may come after.
That will be my next relationship. (If I indeed ever have one, because I’ve decided that I will still be whole even if I never love another man again.) My original painting was beautiful and I would never want to get rid of it, nor would I want to completely, or even partially, cover it up. Any additions I may make later on will perhaps merely enhance it. Alter the landscape just a bit. Add more color and light to some of the darker areas. Create something even more beautiful from something that was already amazing to begin with.
I’m not sure when I’ll be tempted to go on another date, or who the next man is who may do the tempting. It may not be for some time, if at all. I’m not stressing about it either way. I’ve decided that I had one great love in my life; to wish for another may be selfish. And even if it isn’t, I won’t ever feel as though I’ve missed out on something. Any love that may come next will simply intensify what was. My painting will become more vibrant, perhaps. More profound. But it can never be “better”, only different.
Until that time comes – if it comes – I am more than satisfied to sit here and look at the beautiful artwork that is my life thus far.
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