The crocus is a flower that blooms in early spring here in Ohio. So early in fact that it’s one of the first glimpses of spring you will see peeking through the colorless shell of winter. Year after year, these vibrant beauties bring with them the first moments of hope towards spring coming. Today as I am reflecting back, and as the seasons are yet again shifting, I’m finding much meaning in their metaphor.
Life’s been happening at warp speed for the past year it seems. The seasons here change so much faster than in Texas, where – although we have a very short spring and fall, our summer stretches on long and wide as the land itself. Not in Ohio. Here they are spread more evenly, and just as it seems you are settling into one, it begins to shift into the next. Suddenly, when I stop to really look back, my life has felt that way, as if the seasons are now changing faster. I can still remember this time of year three years ago, when my life was quite different. I had not even been on a date yet since losing Drew two and a half years before. But I still remember how the seasons of my heart began to change then. And I wanted, for the first time since his death, to have a new partner.
Somehow I could feel in my bones that the things were changing. It was like that first warm front coming into my heart after a long, cold winter. The kind where the sun begins to warm your blood and the wind starts to stir things up inside you. And you know, somehow, without anything concrete telling you so, that the seasons are changing inside you.
That’s a bit what it felt like when I first began wanting a new relationship… like a slow awakening of spring inside me. If that is the case, Mike was certainly the first major thaw of my heart since losing Drew…
It was full speed ahead when we met… spring in full bloom. I’ve always taken my time in dating, but this time was different. Maybe a part of me – the part that is widowed – knows there’s no point in taking too much time to enjoy and embrace love. Maybe I’m also more used to pushing through the scary stuff since Drew’s death, because let’s face it, we have to push ourselves through a lot of scary stuff in widowhood. I suppose though, that fact has made me able to take every terrifying step into new love a bit quicker than the old me would have ever imagined I could. Either way, I am stopping today to reflect back on the past few years, and I’m nothing short of astonished that, just today, I paid my final month’s rent on my own place, and am now living with Mike.
I still remember the first weeks and months after Drew’s death, when I was crying my eyes out to my best friend that I was so scared I would be too hard to love now. That I’d be too fucked up and have too much baggage for anyone to want to love me. Over time though, I decided that one day, somehow, I would be loved again, and greatly so. Oddly, it was Drew’s character that made me believe. I would tell myself, if I had been widowed and THEN met Drew, he would have been the kind of man who could love all of me, and honor my love for the person I lost. I decided, if Drew was the kind of man who could love that fully, that it was proof there would be another man who could do so too. And that I would one day find him.
I was equally scared that I wouldn’t be able to love a new person as fully as Drew. Although he was not my first relationship, he was certainly the first person I was deeply and truly in love with. A true first love, I would say. For years I was so nervous that my heart would not be capable of loving another man the way I loved Drew. That I would withhold my love, or somehow be unable to give my heart fully. It’s a valid fear when you haven’t tested the theories out… I’m happy to say since testing them, that my heart has still been fully open despite all it now fears. Miraculously.
I do not love Mike the same way I loved Drew. Nor does Mike love me the way he loved Megan. What I didn’t understand about that idea before I met him, is that it’s not a less or more kind of thing. It’s just a different love, coming from two different versions of ourselves.
Sometimes I miss the way I loved Drew… the springtime of another era. Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes. It’s hard to actually describe in words really… but I suppose even people who are married to the same person for 40 years probably still miss the youthful love they had at the start. Because death or not, you’re a different person over time and your love changes with it. Mine just happens to be with two different people.
The first was a young love. We romanticized things in that way you do when you’re young. I looked to my partner as a protector and guide more often back then. Now, I’ve had years of crawling through the pit of grief on my own. I’ve hit the depths of rock bottom and questioned God, my life, death, and so much more. Quite simply, I’m different now. And what I need is different.
I don’t desire a protector as much as an equal now. And that is Mike. Even though we still have plenty of romance in our relationship, and I lean on him the way anyone would lean on their partner, it feels different because I need it less. I think sometimes it makes me appreciate it more. I also appreciate that we’re at a place where things are more practical and less romanticized. Somehow, there is such a security in that. Some days, I still miss that old me, and the way I loved back then… that dreamier version of a bygone era. But there is something wonderful about this new kind of love too.
No matter what I miss about the seasons of my past, I love the person I am now and the way I am able to love Mike. I am a healthier, more patient, and more compassionate partner because of everything I’ve been through since Drew died. I’ve been able to take many of the lessons from my relationship with Drew to make better choices with Mike, and I’m so glad for that. I guess, even though our love for our first partner will never be the same as our love for our next one, it is the springtime (and eventual autumn) of our past that seeds the foundation for our next great love, in immensely beautiful ways.
Like the crocus, our love springs up eventually and always after each winter in our hearts passes. Year after year, love continues to bloom. The leaves are new, the flowers as well, but they are rooted in the past of every great love that has come before.
Looking back, it seems no accident that Mike gave me crocus flowers for Valentine’s Day this year. I have the bulbs still, which I will soon put in the ground to bring me a reminder come spring of this message of the interconnectedness of the seasons of our lives, and our loves.