As I leaned back into the sink, to have my hair washed by my longtime friend and hairdresser this last Saturday morning she asked me about Mark, the man I am dating.
“You love him, I can tell that, but are you allowing yourself to be all in with him?” She asked as her fingers rubbed my head, my temples, easing me into the conversation.
I replied, “I’m trying to. I want to, but I can’t help but have guilt and I often think, what about John?”
“Honey, John is dead.” Her comment came at me like a slap that made my eyes fly open and immediately brim with tears. “It’s okay to love Mark.” She continued gently, “John is not coming back. He’s gone.”
She meant this lovingly, she meant this reassuringly for me, but as the hot tears coursed down the sides of my face blending into the warm water rinsing my hair I couldn’t help but think-‘you don’t get it. It’s not that simple. It’s so very complicated. So much more complicated than I could ever explain to someone who hasn’t lost their beloved.’
So through tears and a runny nose I tried to pull myself together and then changed the subject to raising kids. A safe topic as she has two little ones that keep her busy and bring her endless joy.
And that’s the rub of it. John’s death made EVERYTHING so complicated. Emotions now run wild around mundane things, the grocery store, fresh tomatoes at the farmers market-his favorite, caring for his-now mine- beloved beagle. Everything is complicated. The scent of Neutrogena shampoo, the sight of recumbent bikes, even the sight of large fires burning bodies on The Game of Thrones that makes me think of him when he was cremated causes my throat to tighten and tears to fall silently as I watch. No place is safe from the onslaught of immediate and strong emotions-not the mall, not the theater and not the hairdresser’s place.
Sorrow over things and places that remind of John are complicated and hard for outsiders to understand. Even harder to understand for outsiders is that joy is now incredibly complicated as well. A beautiful day that smells like the north where we spent our vacations is really hard, but it also brings joy and peace as well as tears. The first time Mark reached out to hold my hand I felt joy at the kind and nervous touch of him. I wanted very much to hold his hand, but I felt an equal amount of guilt and sorrow that John’s hand wasn’t there to hold. An ABBA song belted out at a random on the radio reminds me of John, ABBA being his first concert and favorite band. The sound of that music makes me happy and makes me want to sing along with the lyrics so light and carefree; and yet I also want to be quiet so I can remember and hear in my heart his voice singing along to it as well.
It’s damn complicated. It’s emotional. It’s impossibly hard. Even more impossible is trying to explain it to an outsider, no matter how kind, no matter well intentioned the advice is or that it’s given out of love. They cannot understand.
“What about John?” I asked.
But asking that question of an outsider and thinking they would be able to understand it, was at best misguided. I might as well have never voiced the question.