love is strange

When I was a teenager, I didn't understand the big deal about love.

I came to this conclusion having witnessed the love between my parents. There is no doubt it was love, and I stand firm in my belief that my mother was the love of my father's life until the day he died. His being remarried and having had another child, didn't matter. The fact that most of their years together were filled with arguing and drunken rages never negated the love they felt for each other. It's just that sometimes two people, no matter the attraction and connection, well, all that emotional baggage we come into a relationship with gets in the way.

For my father, it was falling into the notion that he was destined to be an alcoholic like his father and sister. My mother's undoing was thinking her children needed a father present, at all cost, because she herself was raised without one for the most part. She didn't know when to call it quits because she was trying to rescue her own childhood in a sense, I imagine.

The real work in a marriage is not in the planning of the party. The real work is in unpacking all the baggage you brought along. Mikey and I did eventually empty those bags, and our relationship was a roller coaster over the 16 years we were together, with our share of dips. Yet with every valley we hit, we did the work to rise to a higher peak on the way up.

It's Day 61, and for the most part, it's been a great one. This is nothing short of a miracle, especially since it's Friday. Every weekend since August 7th has been a tough go. Mikey and I lived for the weekendsโ€”48 hours of uninterrupted family and "us" time. Now Fridays usually have an underlying sense of dread.

But not today.

I had coffee with a friend who makes me feel happy at the mere sight of her smile.

I had lunch with an old colleague of Mikey's, and by old I only mean the length of their relationship. Kimberly can rock a pair of short-shorts like I've never been able in my life. From the moment she walked into Cafe Cluny, her gentle smile soothed me. I can tell this is the start of a good friendship. I have Mikey to thank for that. He seems to be taking care of me even from afar.

But how did I get here, commiting these words to this screen right now?

Well, it's a circutious path, really.

I was reading Entertainment Weeklyโ€”it's Mikey's subscription, but I fully admit to the guilty pleasure it brings. I read the obit for Sylvia Robinson, which lead me to start humming the song "Love is Strange". Women of a certain age {ahem} fondly remember the scene in Dirty Dancing where Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey crawled across the floor, seducing each other to the song.

Next thing I know I'm in the shower, tapping my toes with a smile…and I'm singing.

Imagine that, smiling, singing and snapping my fingers on Day 61. I really listened to the words to Love is Strange this time, and it suddenly dawned on me that it is natural to want to love, and be loved again, one day. As the song goes "after you've had it, you're in an awful fix". It may seem crazy to even entertain the idea of loving anyone but him again so early in the grief process, but I realized two things at that moment in the shower.

For one, I'll always be grieving for Mikey. I will never be okay with him dying. This is not how our story was supposed to end. We were supposed to grow old together, see our babies off to college and celebrate our silver wedding anniversary.

But he is gone. This is one variable I can't change or control. I must simply accept that it is, and remember that the moments of sadness are unpredictable. There is no handbook for grief, and no two grieving experiences are alike. It is virgin territory for everyone that embarks on this path. So long as I remember that the sad moments often come out of nowhere, and sometimes with a vengeance, then I can keep an open mind about the future.

Then I also realized if a song about love could make me smile uncontrollably, and get me dancing in the shower, then there is hope for my heart. It is meant to love, and have that love returned, again one day.

So, yes, love is strange. And wonderful. And heartbreaking. But without it, life just isn't worth living.

I choose life.

I choose love.

I know it is meant for me again one day too.

79 Comments

  • Lisa

    Beautiful post. Just beautiful. And now, I hope to make you smile.
    My husband and I decided one day, after seven years of dating, to just get married. We met with a Rabbi, and married the next day. Just us, and the required witnesses. Dinner out. The deed was day.
    I don’t regret not having the big shebang, etc. I would have been a bridezilla. I know it.
    Here’s the funny part… a few months after we got married, someone that my husband sees on a regular basis asked him if our marriage was real. Real? What does that mean?
    He thought it was a sham marriage of some sort, since we didn’t have a big wedding.
    That doesn’t even make sense to me, but… love is love. No matter what shape it takes, it does make the world go round.
    I’m glad you’re dancing in the shower. Keep it up.

  • Nina

    Mikey chose you. Mikey chose love. I know that Mikey would choose love again for you.
    I smile with you today too. Je vous embrasse.

  • Angela

    Such a beautiful post Jennie, it made me smile to read that you were smiling, singing and snapping your fingers. ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • Tracey

    Good Morning Jennie!
    As I sit here and read this, with tears in my eyes, I smile as well at the growth that I am noticing. Your words are honey on that page and I can feel the echoes of my past as well. I was mentioning your “travels” (is that a word that we can use?) through the grieving process.It is amazing to see.You are a beautiful writer, as well as a person. How I remember, how I remember….Truly ones love is never lost…. Tracey A.

  • Mimi

    love is…
    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.<3

  • Rachel Willen@FoodFix

    I’m so happy for you Jennie, that you caught a day of lightheartedness after two dark months. And it’s so great that you are allowing yourself the possibility of happiness and love in the future. Bravo.

  • Kim in MD

    Jennie- I love your writing style. I am so glad that day 61 was a happy day for you. You are so right about no two people grieving the same way. Stay strong!

  • cherie

    Hope is such a precious thing.
    I’m so glad to hear that there was some light in your life. It will grow.

  • Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    I was having a bit of a rough day today, woke up feeling unexpectedly blue so found an old jumper of my Dads that Id kept and put it on for the first time, before seeing the date and realising it is 8 months exactly since he passed, a bit surreal. But this post has really…just made me think in a much more positive manner, and for this I am very grateful indeed. You are an inspiration to me and have been throughout your ordeal. Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amy

    Lovely. Tap your feet, dance in the shower, sing out loud, whatever. I have a firm belief that you will experience great love again. You will always love, miss, and grieve Mikey, but you (we humans, really) are not cut out to be solitary.
    So glad to know you are taking one day at a time and that some of those days are kind of nice.

  • Ellynn

    Although I hate that you are going through this journey, I feel privileged to witness it. You write so eloquently, so passionately and you honor Mikey every day with your love and your words.. There is no question that you will never be OK with the fact that he is gone, but you will not let that cripple you, nor would he want that for you.
    In one of your posts you said that moving forward does not mean leaving him behind and those words live in my heart still. What more could any of us ask for those we love?
    Thank you for sharing yourself with us, Jennie. Your posts are full of raw and untethered emotion and straight from the heart. What a gift!

  • megan

    wonderful post. Wisdom for us all to remember: grieving is an individiual, personal, unique process. Praying your grief and your process will lead you through to the purpose it has for your life.
    xoxo

  • Dana B.

    awesome. and amazing. I bet your kids are happy to see you smiling and dancing, too ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Diane

    Beautiful words,
    I am so Happy at the thought of you dancing smiling and singing in the shower!

  • Kathleen

    Your posts make me smile so thank you for sharing your emotions and feelings. I do agree that it is the dips in a relationship that makes love stronger.

  • Cheryl S

    So nice to hear you’re finding some happiness in your day….take it slow and keep sharing your journey with us.

  • Jennifer Bennett

    Jennie you have an amazing spirit and so much strength. I admire you. Your girls are blessed to have such a great role model. I wish you peace and happiness in the future.

  • Rowan

    Jennie, I found your blog in a blogroll from another site and sadly I can’t recall who I should be thanking for sending me your way. Words cannot express my sorrow for your loss. I’m sitting here with tears running down my face for a woman I’ve never met except through the words she chooses to share in this pixel medium.
    You’re absolutely right; grief is different for everyone who must travel the path from devastation to feeling mostly whole again. It is never too soon to realize that love is an integral part of life and happiness.
    Keep on keeping on, dance where and whenever you wish, sing about love and/or loss as your heart demands and don’t stop loving.

  • SuzyMcQ

    Jennie,
    You are an inspiration and remind us all of love, of loss and of hope.
    As I read your posts, I wonder if your journey, written so eloquently
    couldn’t serve to help many others who will travel the same difficult path. I have to think that your words and continuing thoughts, put into book form would not touch many more than your blog does.

  • Mary

    I’m smiling with you today, Jennie. Hoping that day 62 will be beautiful as well. (Thanks for the video link as well. That absolutely brought out a grin.) Although the idea of being, “A woman of a certain age” almost made me gag. How could I possibly be old enough for that description?! I’m still 23, right?

  • Sue

    Beautiful post, Jennie! Wonderful to hear that you’re smiling and singing on a sunny October day! Hugs!

  • V

    I began reading your blog right after you lost Mikey. I am rooting for and cheering you on. I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are feeling nor the life changes you are now facing but am inspired by your desire to continue moving forward.

  • Stephanie

    Umm….”women of a certain age”. Young and fabulous, I assume you mean? ๐Ÿ˜‰ hmph.
    Beautiful post. Just beautiful.

  • Kristin

    Watching you go through the stages of grief in your very personal and special is amazing. It’s voyeurism with permission, so it takes some of the naughtiness out of it.
    Despite not knowing you aside from your writing, I am so happy to see you writing about choosing life, and even more about choosing love. Your girls are so lucky to have such a strong and healthy mother.

  • meg

    It’s really beautiful, heartbreaking, and enlightening to watch you go through this process. It amazes me what human beings are capable of and how, although we can never forget tragedies like this, we are able to go forward and live our lives and wake up to a beautiful day and love life again. Just lovely, Jennie.

  • Louisa T.

    Beautifully said. When my first child was born, I felt a love like no other. When pregnant with my second, I wondered “how could I possibly have the capacity to love this deeply again?” And a few months later I had my answer. And now there are three. As with children, we are all capable of more than one great love. No two will be alike. But each special and enduring in there own way. Without an open heart, there is no hope. What a great choice you’ve made!

  • debra/eatquestnyc

    yes. to all you have said, might say, feel, become. you are so unbelievably present. and you frigging slay me. thank you so much and fingers and toes that today, sunday is….okay.

  • von

    I’ve never been one who cares much for the planning of the wedding part, it is how a couple rolls afterwards that makes a relationship interesting. There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage but without the dips there are also no highs. So glad you had a great day, I hope for more days like it in your future.

  • Miranda

    Feeling heartened by the last few sentences of the blog. You lifted my day! I would love to be a friend whom my friends could describe like the person you mentioned: “I had coffee with a friend who makes me feel happy at the mere sight of her smile.” Thanks for resetting my week before it starts.

  • anne

    Hi Jennie…Everytime I read your posts, I understand a little more what a family member went through when they lost their spouse. At the time, I had no idea what he was thinking and feeling days, weeks and months after his wife passed. You’re touching people in ways you may not be aware of.
    I’m so happy you’re finding moments to dance. I hope those moments happen more and more frequently.
    Peace to you and your girls.

  • Amanda

    Jennie, you are truly an inspiration. Your words are a great reminder that there can always be hope for the future. Thank you for reminding me. Keep on dancing and singing in the shower. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jessica / Green Skies and Sugar Trips

    Thank you for reminding me that sometimes, not everything that “should be” “is”.
    this weekend sucked, I found myself saying over and over “but this isn’t how it was supposed to happen!!! this isn’t how our story was supposed to go” And then this reminded me, doesn’t always turn out the way it should… So thank you for reminding me.
    I am so happy for your shower singing. <3

  • Chez Us

    I am so happy to hear that you were singing (and smiling) in the shower today. The lovely thing about love … it really never dies, it lives forever in our memories. xo

  • FFP

    Awesome to read that Friday night was good. I like that. Maria Shriver in one of her books has a great quote (I think it is)…I pledge to use my voice to empower myself and others. Here’s to the next Friday night. One step at a time.

  • Rebecca Levey

    Absolutely gorgeous post. It is so apparent to everyone around you that love never really left you – not the you that is your true essence. You are too connected, warm, real and soulful to ever lose your sense of love. That’s why so many of us love you.

  • Kris

    I have goose bumps.
    I worry about you all the time and I don’t even know you.
    I feel like I know you from reading your blog all the time. But I don’t really know you do I?
    I was really happy to read this post tonight.
    Maybe I can slowly stop worrying.
    **cheers my friend!!**

  • Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking

    Oh, Jennie, this post warms my heart!! So thrilled that your skies are getting bluer and the sun is shining through those clouds. I know it still isn’t easy and may not be for a very long time, but it’s so wonderful to hear you have hope!
    BIG, BIG hugs!
    Your love will just radiate right back to you.

  • Brittany

    My heart hurts for you, I read this and found myself crying. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. My husband is in the military, and I have a Constant fear of losing him overseas. I’m glad that you had a day today that wasn’t as hard as the rest. I pray that they only get easier from here! God bless!

  • Donna

    This one made me cry more than any of the others. And they all make me cry. The happiness I felt for you cut just as sharply as the sadness. How lucky you are to be able to communicate so well what you’re going through, what you think and feel. How lucky are we to be able to read it?

  • Marla

    this will probably come off as “odd”, but I think Mikey is there to help you through this and he does send “angels” to be with you. look how his friend showed up at just the right time and made you feel better for it!

  • Lena

    such a good post. like a little bit of sunshine left over from the morning light to tide you over before afternoon comes.

  • lacey

    these words are so sweet. take each day one. at. a. time. if it’s a bad day, let yourself mourn. if it’s a good day, celebrate!

  • naomi

    I only know you through your tight, strong, raw writing, and I hesitate to comment. Though you are putting out these words on a public medium, they are deeply personal. I had to tell you, you move a stranger deeply. You are making your way through hard times graciously, showing others how to do it. I had a friend years ago who was engaged three times and got to be married to two. I thought it such a tragedy that her first two loves died. I told her I was glad that after losing two men she met one more. She said she considered herself one of the luckiest women ever – she’d been in love deeply three times and most never find one. I believe you’re fortunate in love too. With every pain, I remember one saying, “Lord break my heart that there is more room.” Best to you, and thank you for sharing.

  • Rebekah

    A young widow in our circle of friends started dating another man within six months of her husband’s death. All of us struggled with the relationship because we had loved her first husband so much. I eventually made my peace with it by repeating over and over, “This is her life. I don’t know what it’s like to be alone. I don’t know what it’s like to have your husband die tragically. I will not judge. I will accept.” All of our friendships have changed, they’ll never be as tight as they were, but how dare we judge her for grabbing happiness and love when she could? Even if it didn’t look like what we thought widowhood should be.