Whether you’re widowed or not, love is a tricky business. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been married, been messily married, or have gotten involuntarily unmarried (I think that’s a better term than “widowed,” don’t you?).
The big question is, do we ever know when it’s the right time to fall in love?
I personally think falling in love is like having a baby. There is no right time. You can wait until your career takes off. You can wait until you feel like you’ve finally sown your last oat. You can wait until that hideous color you dyed your hair last month finally washes out.
But Mr. Right could still come along while you’re working at Burger King, regretting your “oat” from the night before, and he just might find those purple streaks in your hair endearing.
The point is, you never know.
I hear a lot of people ask the question, “Is it possible for you to love someone else before you learn to love yourself?” But I think that question is more complicated than it seems. Because to truly love yourself, you have to know yourself. And that’s where we run into problems.
I think it’s a very rare thing for people to be able to really look at themselves, with all of their problems and quirks, and really love themselves for who they are. How many people do you know just sit around saying with a sigh, “I just love that nail-biting problem I have. I think it makes me so cute.”
For those of us who are widowed, or even those of us who have found and lost love, it’s a time-consuming task to figure out who we are. I think a lot of us know who we were. But a lot has changed since some of us said “I do” for the first time.
I’m not the same person I was before my husband died. In the last three years, I’ve dealt with loss, raising children, and running a family all on my own. I’ve figured out that I’m moody. I’ve figured out that even though 95% of the time I like to be around people, sometimes I like being alone. I’ve figured out that when I’m caught between a rock and hard place, I have the ability to dig my way out.
Three years ago, I didn’t know that.
I feel like I’ve been on a journey of self discovery that I didn’t sign up for but has not necessarily been a bad thing. And, ultimately, these discoveries will make me a better partner for someone. And until that someone comes along, they just make me a better person.
I think a lot of widows go through a time when we worry that we may not find anyone else. If you’ve made it through this transition knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you will be able to meet Mr. Right, Round II, then I applaud you. Because most of us wonder if it’s possible to get struck by lightening twice in one life. And some of us wonder if we have the courage to get out there in the storm.
We wonder if we have what it takes to date, to meet a stranger, to invest ourselves again. And some of us wonder, after life has dealt us such a crippling blow, if we will ever make a good partner for someone else. We are plagued with self doubt and insecurities brought about by the past and lose confidence in what we might bring to the table in the future.
But I think that we’re looking at it backwards. We sit around and wonder who would want to take us on. We wonder who would want to date someone with kids and enough baggage to sink a ship. We wonder who would want to supplement the three-pedicure-a-week habit we sometimes have when things get rough (okay–I know that just applies to me, but you get my point).
In reality, we should be looking at it in a different way. Who is lucky enough to enter our lives and be a part of a great family? Who is fortunate enough to meet us, people who know what love is and how to work on a relationship even through the toughest times? Who wouldn’t appreciate a woman with stunning toes?
We should look at ourselves as people who really know who we are and what we want. What we are and our experiences are a gift to someone else. And instead of saying, “I’ve been in love before, it will never happen a second time,” we should know that because we recognized love when we saw it and were willing to take the risk before, there’s a very good chance it will happen again.
We just have to have enough courage to get out into the rain.
Catherine Tidd 2010