The other day I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. After catching up, I told him of the great event of 2011 (J leaving) and he expressed the usual regret, gave me a hug, and then stood back for a minute assessing. My first thought (that I had something on my face, or looked old, or chubby) gave way quickly as he volunteered that he liked me better “this way.” What way? Softer, he said. More quiet and peaceful. I thought back to various stances, and braggadocio I occasionally love to display (“tough chick,” my girlfriend calls it). Or used to display. It wasn’t conscious, a desire to warn people off, especially men; but it was a sort of protection, a ruse against hurt and sorrow.
Everyone knows that sorrow and grief change you, that isn’t newsworthy. What is interesting though, from the inside looking out, is the way in which one can’t really continue to muster that old shiny strength, the old college try of posing for the picture, or brandishing the usual “stay away” weaponry of the strong, clever, and dominant. I’ve been reduced by this loss, but for a good end. It reminds me so clearly of the way I was as a child, tender, over-sensitive, but acute to sounds and colors and people, a way of wandering through the world taking it as it comes. A new mellowness for sure. Surprising that others can see it.
A few years ago, I traveled East to visit a good friend and her husband. They’d been married a number of years at that point, but I’d never really had the chance to sit down with him, or get to know him very well. Nor had I been much around her children, and she had been a dear friend since we were 17. I was only 90 days sober at that point and a bit edgy and jumpy, but even so, I was distant with her husband, the one I purported to want to get to know. She commented gently later that sometimes when I come into a room, she can literally see me stiffen and toughen up. Needless to say he and I didn’t hit it off… awkward repartee doesn’t make for a proper getting to know someone. With the kids, I was able to play around and relax so the trip wasn’t a total loss.
After leaving the hospital in January, I remember emailing this same dear friend and telling her I was now a broken person. She reassured me that it wasn’t the case, that I was just grieving, but I think I was right at the time. Something in me broke when he left. Something that needed to be broken I think.
I have a new man in my life who often comments that I’m very kind and loving and soft. I know that it must be a joke, but I see myself sometimes accommodating, making nice, not in an obsequious obnoxious way, but with love and something else. Having lost at love before, I literally have nothing more to prove. The winds have gone out of my braggy sails and it’s just me now, sitting here watching the world go by.