No One to Do Nothing With

When my life mate/soul mate/best friend died two and a half years ago, people often compared my loss to the death of a pet or an aged grandparent or a sibling (all the while snug in the comfort of their own marriages). Some people compared my loss to their divorce. A couple of people even mystified me by comparing my loss to their struggles with alcoholism. Although these comparisons seemed insensitive at the time (I had previously lost both a sibling and my mother, and those losses in no way resembled what I felt after my soul mate died), I now understand people were reaching out to me, trying to comprehend my grief and to put it into a context they could understand.

The wound where his presence was ripped from my soul no longer gapes as widely; the feeling of his total goneness doesn’t haunt me quite so much; the anguish and physical distress has ebbed to an underlying sadness. This easing of grief has unmasked more subtle feelings of loss, and suddenly I can see how this itch to see him once more is comparable to the struggles of an alcoholic. We both  have to live — forever —with a deep craving that can never be satisfied, both have an empty feeling that can never be filled, and we both live in a world where others routinely enjoy what we can’t. (Like all comparisons, this one falls short since those who give up drink have to do so from sheer force of will, while my lack is simply a result of fate.)

I hadn’t realized until after he was gone how much I counted on his very presence.

The sound of his voice filled my ears and my mind. From the moment we met until the cancer metastasized into his brain, we talked and talked and talked. We talked about everything — history, books, health, truth, all the many and various things we researched over the years. Though we said everything we needed to say, I still wish for one more word from him.

During silent times, his smiles nourished my soul. Even at the end, in his moments of lucidity before either the pain or the morphine swept him away, he still managed to smile at me. And oh, how I wish for one more smile.

A couple of days ago I wrote about my growing soul hunger, an indefinable need his presence had once satisfied, and now I wonder if that need is . . . nothing. Although we worked and played and talked for more than three decades , we often did nothing together. Were just there, a presence in each other’s lives. As his dying became the focus of our lives, and we couldn’t do much of anything together, not even carry on a conversation, we could still do nothing together, and we often did.

Although I am finding others to fill some of the roles he played in my life, this last is the role no one can fill. I have people to do things with, but I have no one to do nothing with. And, like an alcoholic, the one thing I need is the one thing I can’t have. He was a presence in my life first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. He was a presence in the kitchen when we fixed meals together. He was a presence when we watched movies or ran errands or did chores. He was a presence in my thoughts — because we had spent so much time together, discussing history and current events, our ideas developed in tandem. And we didn’t have to explain ourselves or our state of affairs — we were there and saw the effects life had on the other.

I understand that this sort of companionship is rare, and I feel greedy and perhaps insensitive for even mentioning the lack of his presence in my life, but this is my truth, my experience, my sorrow. No matter how much I wish things were different, these circumstances will never change, but I will. I am becoming more accepting of my situation, more respectful of the soul hunger, more grateful for what I once had. It’s possible someday I will even get used to having no one to do nothing with.

Grief Update — Thirty Months of Survival

My life mate/soul mate/best friend died two and a half years ago today. Thirty months. Written out like that, thirty months seems like a very long time, but looking back, it’s no time at all. It takes three to five years to find renewed life after such a grievous loss, or so I’ve been told, and I am only halfway there. It might seem to you as if this talk of grief means I do nothing but cry for him, but the truth is, I do quite well, with only a few unshed tears stinging my eyes now and again.

Feelings other than sadness are beginning to arise, though.

Throughout all these months, I’ve tried not to use the word “loss” when referring to my deceased mate because he isn’t misplaced, he is dead. But now, sometimes out of the blue, I’ll get that dropping elevator feeling of having misplaced something — something of untold value or something I desperately need — and I don’t know where or how I lost it. This sensation is not connected to any memory of him, and is not the same as the feeling of bereftness or yearning I so often had during the first couple of years, but still it makes the world seem precarious and alien at times.

Most things are getting better — I do not have the unimaginable pain I experienced in the beginning. Nor does the yearning for him claw at me, though I still miss him, still long for one more smile, still wish for one more word. But something is getting worse, something akin to a soul thirst or a soul hunger. For many years, being with him satisfied a need in me that I wasn’t aware of. Perhaps a recharging of my energy after a long day or maybe a regeneration of spirit. (For someone who writes and thinks as much as I do, I should be able to come up with a word to describe this need, but I only know it as a void, as something I once had but am no longer getting.) When I am hungry and do not eat, I get hungrier. When I am thirsty and do not drink, I get thirstier. And when this particular soul need is not slaked, I get needier.

I am finding other ways of fulfilling the roles he played in my life. Wherever he was, there was my home, and now I’m learning to find home wherever I might be. He was my playmate for many years before he got too ill, and now I have friends to do things with — have lunch, go to festivals and fairs, take yoga classes (and maybe Tai Chi — something I’ve always wanted to do). There is no one with whom I can talk to about all the things he and I used to discuss, but I can spread those topics around, discussing each with a different friend.

But so far I have not found a way around the role he filled for electrifying my spirit, (for lack of a better word). Walking in the desert helps, being with friends helps, but neither of those things sustains me once they are over. Perhaps a new love — another person or a passion — would help, but I am too new for another relationship (I’m still learning how to be me), and so far something to care passionately about remains beyond my reach.

I hope you understand that I am merely chronicling yet another step on my journey and not feeling sorry for myself or asking for pity. I once had something that few people get to experience — a soul connection with another human being. It was not always a happy or comfortable connection — at various times we both railed against it — but through it all, the good times and the bad, we were together.

I saw a plaque today: We can do anything as long as we’re together. I really believed that when he and I were together, we could do anything, though it turned out not to be true. We couldn’t make him well. We couldn’t keep him from dying. And now, we are not together, have not been together for thirty months, and will not be together for the rest of my life.

A person can get used to anything, so eventually I will get used to plodding along without that galvanizing connection with him, but for now, I’m still trying to find my way.