Posted by: shelliejelly | January 29, 2010

Dear K.

When my marriage was falling apart; when I was painted into a corner of grief—“There’s always been three people in this marriage,” he had the nerve to say to me—I called the counselor who randomly, though heavenly, saw me through your death. She told me to let you go, to readjust my grip. And though doing so didn’t save my marriage, it might have saved me:

Dear Kurt,

This letter has been a long time coming. You’ve been dead for 10 years, and I still haven’t quite figured out how it is that I am supposed to live here on Earth while you are gone. When you first died, I was committed to keeping our relationship exactly as it had been while you were living. I constantly wondered what you were doing and if you were seeing other people and falling in love—even though there was a part of me that knew these things, these earthly mortal trappings, didn’t concern you anymore. You were somewhere beyond these needs.

That didn’t stop me, however, from continuing to nurture a relationship with you that had ties to the physical realm. That sounds crazy, I know, but that is what it’s been like these 10 years. I have, in part, continued to live like you hadn’t ever died. My loyalty and devotion to you remained in tact in a way that has only served to diminish my ability to fully open myself to love another man completely. I spent five years after you left by myself, in sort of a strange place where I wanted you to direct my life, show me where I needed to be. And I guess I can understand that desire in myself, the desire to want to make you happy, to listen for whatever signs you might be giving me.

More than that, though, I partitioned off a little bit of my heart and promised it to you. I kept a part of me permanently in mourning because I thought that doing so would serve as a good memorial for you. I believed that by devoting at least a portion of my heart and thoughts to only you, I was honoring not only you but also the relationship that we had and the love that we shared. I lived as though keeping a part of myself sad and lonely demonstrated to you how much I loved you while you were here, and I believed that to really give myself over to happiness would be disrespecting you and the wonderful relationship we had. It was like I dressed part of my heart all in black and blocked out everything that was good and happy and light in my life, fearing that if those things touched my entire heart my memory of you would be tarnished. Worst of all, perhaps, I thought you’d love me less if I didn’t keep you alive inside of myself somehow; I feared that you would think the love I showed you while you were here was false or insincere. I felt like I had a duty to remember you, to live for you, and for all of these years I haven’t been smart enough to figure out that our relationship has necessarily changed, that I can’t continue to live as though you didn’t die.

Doing so has cost me quite a lot in my life. I am sure I’ve lost friends and turned people whom I genuinely liked and who genuinely like me away. I am sure I’ve missed opportunities and squandered positive experiences because I’ve tethered myself to you and what was us when you were alive. Continuing to live like this has meant living in fear to a certain extent—fear of never finding love again and finding love again, if that makes any sense. Living like this has also meant keeping people at least a little bit away from me, holding them, not at arms length, but a breath away so as not to disrupt the devotion and love I felt for you. I always thought that having another man in my life would require that they accept this relationship I have with you, but now I understand that the relationship I continue to have with you should never have been fostered in the first place. I should have, long ago, made the effort to adjust my relationship with you to a more fitting and accurate reflection of how it must be. You aren’t here, and I can’t continue to devote a portion of my life to believing that things haven’t changed. That you and I haven’t changed.

Because we have, and I have. Since you died I feel like I have been caught in this in-between place, one foot clearly, concretely planted in your soil, one wandering around trying to piece together where to go from here. Though I felt like I had done all the work I needed to do, though I told myself that I had gotten counseling, had done the right thing, I didn’t ever take the time to get to know who I was after your death. Partly, I imagine, because I continued to live a weird reflection of our earthly time together, as though the only difference was you weren’t actually here anymore. That sounds strange, even as I type it, because I wasn’t crazy; I know you are dead. But again, I felt obligated to give you part of my life instead of creating an entire new life with the understanding that though you can’t be with me we can still have a relationship that is profound.

I need to let go of the relationship we had while you were alive. I need to alter my perspective of the way in which we are connected to this day. I need to honor the spiritual relationship I have with you, the relationship wherein I can count on you and seek your assistance when I need it, but not dwell on the man you physically were before you died. I need to give myself permission to let you go, and, perhaps even more to the point, to let me go. To stop feeling like I owe you a part of my life until I die; to stop feeling like to truly honor you I have to remember you as you were instead of building a new relationship with you as you are now, as I am now.

I want to be able to talk to you. I want to be able to ask you for help when I feel like I am overwhelmed and need a boost from the Universe. I want to be able to think of you as a spiritual advisor, as a good friend, as a positive force in my life. Up until now, I think I’ve thought how I was living was positive, but now know the severity of its negativity. I’ve imprisoned myself in the past, getting glimpses of a rich, full, loving life I have available to me only to avert my gaze and silently shame myself for being too greedy, too ungrateful, too forgetful. I don’t want to live like this anymore, and I don’t want to hold you to a life you can’t participate in. What looked and felt like honoring you all these many years has now taken on the shades of weakness, self-deception and selfishness. I am sorry for being a slow learner, so seemingly impossibly thick.

I know you know better than myself all the work I need to do. I know you know I am committed to doing the work, to setting both you and myself free. I am scared, so very scared. I am sad. And then, too, and perhaps most of all, I am excited. I am excited to get to know myself, to discover and rebuild and recreate. To find and live the life I am meant to have. To know you—and me—in a way I think will be tremendous.

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