I have discovered a horrible truth about myself: I'm just not ready to date.
Not that it's devastating me to realize that, you understand. This "dating" thing is uncharted territory for me. I met my soon-to-be-ex husband at the tender age of nineteen, and we were inseparable shortly after. I never did the bar scene, never really dated around much, and now here I am, adrift.
It's like landing on Mars, without the benefit of the proper equipment. I don't know how to breathe this atmosphere and I certainly don't speak Martian. Most of the time, I'm edging back toward the spaceship and praying for a dust storm to come and swallow me up.
Twenty five years I was yoked to my man, first by agreement and then seven years later by law. And all twenty five by the love in my heart. We've separated by agreement, the legal stuff is in the works, and my heart....well, my heart is getting there. I've learned you can love someone and still not want a life with them anymore. Which, of course hurts your heart to realize but hearts can heal. I've learned that, too.
Now I get to go through the process of trading in "we" for "me". I'm not so good at this uncoupling stuff - maybe because I liked it so much. I liked having a shoulder to lean my head on during a long drive. I liked being at a neighborhood barbeque and telling someone newly met which man standing around the grill was mine. I liked having another set of frantic, worried eyes meeting mine over the head of a toddler with a 104 degree fever. I liked the inside jokes built over the years, the way we instantly get each other's Simpson's references, and the way his eyes would roll when I made a really bad pun. Most of all, I liked sleeping beside him, waking in the night to find him warm and solid and breathing deeply at my side. I miss that more than anything.
And now I sleep alone, unless a kid sneaks in to join me. I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I let them sneak probably more often than I ought to. And when they're gone every other weekend, I leave the TV on all night so that every little creak and groan in the house isn't terrifying me. Inside jokes are a thing of the past, and I'm getting used to introducing myself followed by, "Oh, it's just me".
It sounds lacking, doesn't it? Incomplete. Not enough. Just me. When will I ever get to be me, with no apologies or explanations?
I suppose the short answer is "When I'm ready to be".
Someday, I will be. Either that, or I'll find the courage to just do it. I'll launch myself out there into space and sooner or later I'll land on Mars and start dancing with the natives. I'll have to trust that I'll pick up the language someday.
And just maybe I can teach myself that the thin Martian air is all I really need to survive, and eventually thrive, as me.
I'll leave the just behind, jettisoning it into the bright and beautiful sun.