On March 10, a month after Arthur died, I wrote in my journal: An insight I had last night was that I can take you [Arthur] inside me and make myself a more whole person. Last night I wrote this note to myself:
Maybe what’s going to come out of all this is me becoming a whole person (at least more whole), taking you inside my heart and learning from our pain (relationship issues) how to heal the dysfunctional parts of myself.
What I was thinking about specifically was my weakness, how I have played life safe and been passive in relationships, including the one with Arthur. In particular I have always been reluctant to speak my mind. I was afraid if I said what I really thought I’d blow my nice-guy image. That was something I really admired about Arthur; he was very courageous about saying exactly how it was for him in almost every situation.
The day I had that insight I was talking to a friend, S. She asked me why I didn’t want to go kayaking with her and an acquaintance, P. I considered making something up, but then decided, what the hell, why not be honest, and said, “Because I’m not a big fan of P. I don’t think she’s genuine.” S replied, “That’s just what my boyfriend’s been telling me for years, and I’m just starting to see it myself. Nobody can ever be that upbeat all the time.” I said, “And I think that she thinks she’s being genuine, and that makes her even more delusional.”
It felt good to be honest, plus that means S won’t be inviting me to do things with her and P and wondering why I say no.
And it felt good because it was as if I was integrating that aspect of Arthur into myself.
Another thing I always liked about Arthur was that he was easily moved by a piece of music, or a work of art, or a poem. Tears would come to his eyes, and when he would turn and see my eyes dry he would question how I could be unaffected. He often called me an ‘ice queen,’ which I found highly offensive at the time, but now that my heart has been broken open I recognize that he was right.
Now I am easily moved by a song, or a work or art, or a poem, and tears come easily to my eyes, and I am happy that this is a new part of who I am.
Recently a friend told me about a book that helped her when she was going through a difficult time, called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges. He wrote:
Although people are seldom conscious of the fact, relationships are always structured by unspoken agreements. Beginning very early in the relationship, there is a psychological division of labor: One person takes care of the practical issues and the other handles the human ones; or one expresses emotions and the other anchors the relationship; or one is full of plans and the other is the tough critic. Each has always been somewhat that way, but the partnership lets them become more so—until one person becomes a stand-in for the undeveloped side of the other’s personality.
Perhaps that is also part of the grief of losing a spouse; that substitute for my undeveloped self has disappeared and I’m feeling the emptiness of being a partial person. It’s time to become a whole person. Is some of this pain I’m feeling growing pains?