Guarded but not off limits

Dates on a calendar blow by when you’re in the middle of your ordinary life (unless we’re talking about this last January which had 742 days in it). Is it Tuesday? I thought it was Wednesday….it’s just how the weeks seem to go. Every now and again the days come to a slow crawl and the memories sneak in. Thanksgiving is one of those times for me. It’s the traditional start of the holiday season and it was Ken’s favorite time of the year.

This will be my fourth Thanksgiving without him; the fourth one without him wanting to invite the entire world over to eat dinner and watch football. It’s the fourth year in a row that he won’t be cleaning out the turkey gaging or grabbing me while I’m cooking to dance in the middle of the kitchen. Four doesn’t sound like a huge number…four more minutes of sleep or holding your breath for four minutes. Like most things in life, it’s relative to the person or situation.

This year I haven’t looked at time like it was my enemy. It use to be a fist clenched cursing the clock for all the time that’s passed since I’ve seen him but that intense feeling has slowly subsided over the last year. I’m thankful I’m in a place where I have the freedom to create new memories that don’t feel like they takes away from the past. It’s a juggling act I didn’t think I’d be able to master. I think part of it is that losing someone to death is vastly different than when someone voluntarily leaves you. He’s the same person in my mind that he always was and leaving didn’t change him like it does when people choose to go. There’s no rejection, no feelings of inadequacy, no self worth tangled around him….there’s just hundreds of days sitting between me and our last moments.

This last year has been so good to me. The fucked up little messy pockets in my head seem to have sorted themselves out and the spaces between the past, this moment, and the future have become one, long, seamless stretch. I wish I could recap how I got here and share it with anyone that’s had the wind knocked out of them but the truth is, there’s no blueprint, no map, and no one size fits all. My Apple Watch lets me know when I reach my 10,000 step goal for the day- imagine if it tracked how many steps I’ve taken to get to the other side of being lost in my own head or how many steps were deliberately taken one foot in front of the other just to make it to the next day. I’ve been overcome with sorrow and found it hard to find my purpose some days but the one thing I’ve always been acutely aware of is that to simply be alive is a grand and wonderful gift.

I’ve read over and over that loss or significant pain of any kind changes people. I think at the core of my being I’m the same person. I’m not encased in an impenetrable outer layer  of self protection or unable to stand alone on my own two feet. If anything, I’ve changed the way I allow people into the deeper parts of me where the real sits. Shallow has been comfortable for so long that I’ve become somewhat guarded. Not guarded in my willingness to be vulnerable but guarded in being too intimately familiar with what breath stealing pain feels like. Why would I want to jump head first into the unknown where feelings could get hurt or a heart could ache? I think I’ve known the answer to the question for a long time – because the risk of the unknown and any possible pain far outweighs the tug of loneliness on my soul. What if the only pain I feel is from bumping into a soul that’s meant for me in this moment?

It takes a special someone to walk along side a guarded person. We’ve had to scoop up our broken pieces and put them back together and, we put them back together differently than they were before. We are alone by choice because we haven’t made the decision to look beyond our fears or we haven’t found someone who we feel can begin to understand us. We don’t know what we have the ability to feel and even more confusing is the possibility of feeling something and not knowing what to do with it. There are lots of first encounters and not a lot of seconds, At the first glimpse of something that might be too much or over the top we run. We don’t know what we want or even need at times and the idea of figuring that out is overwhelming. What a fucking mess we create for ourselves with the constant tug of war between loneliness and surrender.

But, if you’re that special someone who can inch over the threshold and not set off the alarm, there are some great things to be experienced. You’re right there with us as we figure out what adds to our happiness and what feels difficult. Our actions and our words are deliberate because we’ve thought it through 20 times in our mind before we do or say anything. We’ll appreciate the things you do and how you make us feel and we’ll tell you or show you in the most genuine of ways. We’ll share things with you for as long as you’re interested and at times sitting in silence with you will be the most peaceful place to be. But, most of all, we’ll give you the one thing we treasure and guard more than anything else- our trust.

We’ll trust you to take off the “fragile handle with care” label that others have placed on us and we’ll trust you to navigate the layers and days that bring back good and bad memories, people and places that call on us, and the reality that somedays tears are going to fall and we trust you to understand that none of that takes away from what we feel for you. We don’t want a replacement, or a stand in. We want someone that speaks the language of our soul and adds happiness, support, and witty candor to our lives. You’re new in our lives and any experience we have with you will be filled with anticipation and excitement. You aren’t the past, and who knows what winding road the future will lead to so that leaves nothing more than this moment. If you’re here right now with a guarded person,  know that you are this moments smile, this moments little something extra, and the hope of another moment spent.

I know now, more than ever, that there is no greater feeling than being aware of all the things, all the good, the bad, and even the bullshit, that make me as lovable as I am unapproachable at times. I own every minute of growth that has happened over the last four years and I couldn’t be more proud of every leap and stumble. The Dalai Lama said “We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become resentful or afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder.” Everything in this life is a choice and today, I’ll choose to walk down memory lane with my arms wide open, thankful for what was and ready to take in what will be while letting the tears fall and the smiles magically appear.

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