That's an effortless answer for me. It's the answer I would have given any time in the 11 years we have been married. It is still the answer I would give today. It has not changed. What has changed, however, is my understanding of how the entirety of that love is so much larger than I ever realized.
It is said that one does not know what he has until it is gone. This is proving true.
I am now past two weeks of not having her around on a daily basis. We've been apart in the past before. In fact, I was gone nearly three months not long after we first started dating. She was gone for about a week just about a month ago. And there have been other occasions as well. But in cases like those, there was always an expectation to return. The expectation is quite the opposite this time. That makes this separation unique.
Our relationship had devolved to the where we pursued many interests exclusive of the other. On top of that, a great deal of our time together seemed scarcely loving at all. Many nights were spent sitting on the couch with the TV on. We'd both have our laptops, but we generally weren't doing anything of any particular importance. We weren't paying full attention to the TV and we certainly weren't paying full attention to each other. We were together in a physical sense, yet still disconnected from one another.
There were many times when we would struggle just to find something to talk about. We've already shared most every story we had from before we were a couple, and since so many of the things we did day-to-day were without the other person, I guess there may have been the feeling that the other person wouldn't be interested in hearing about them since they were weren't interested in participating in them.
It is so easy to take things for granted. I know I fall to this trapping and I am now seeing how much I did so with Lissa. Now that I only see her occasionally, I am learning more fully the extent of the connection I had formed and maintained with her despite the difficulties we had. Even though we've been distant for quite some time and she hasn't felt as much a part of my life as I would have liked, I am truly missing not having her around. Even though our interactions were often lacking, I am missing her presence.
Her absence has been making me aware of how much I have woven her into my life. I'm noticing a thousand little things she did or she was that made things right, made me whole. So much of the person I have become has been a result--directly or indirectly--of her influence. We've shared so much of our lives together, how could this not be true? Without her I feel alone, empty. I am disappointed in myself that it's taking losing her to show me this kind of clarity. Of course I always appreciated her. I just know now more of the things I appreciated her for. I always knew it. Now I understand it (maybe not fully, but better).
Yet at the same time I have also done a great deal of healing over the past week and have actually been feeling quite good. Those that have been around me have seen me laugh and joke and generally enjoy life in the way I always have. They may not even know anything was going on if I weren't otherwise being so open and forthcoming about the entire situation. And those who have seen me with Lissa in this time would not detect any bitterness or animosity because there is none. We are still very much on the track to preserve our friendship above all else.
But through this process of discovering the extent of my feelings for Lissa and healing from the pain of the current situation, I have created something of a conflict for myself. I know that I do not want to be alone. That's just not who I am as a person. I need someone to share my life with: someone that knows me in ways I don't always even know myself. And I need to be that person for someone else.
Right now, that person is still Lissa. I will not deny that I am still holding on to hope that everything can work out and I'll get to celebrate a 12th with her and more. Yet, at the same time, I am very much excited about the future regardless of that particular outcome. I can see a future with her that would be great. But I can also picture a future without her--with someone else--that could be just as great (albeit in a different way). These two outcomes do not mesh together, yet I embrace them both.
I guess maybe that's not a conflict. It's a plan. It's a plan for how I want to live my life that is yet to be fully determined by a factor that is not in my control. I have not moved on. I have not let go. But I have opened myself to the possibility of doing so.
Thus, as I move into this third week, I find myself making plans both with and without Lissa. I'm feeling really good about them all. And I'm feeling really good in general. My sleep is returning to something resembling normal. I actually feel more productive both at home and at work. I feel like things are getting accomplished that have been sitting at the sidelines mired in an agonizing routine. I'm actually having a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to having a lot more.
The routine is now broken. But this is not the end--it is certainly not my end. This is the beginning of a new chapter. All that has come before has been so much more good than bad. I will always treasure these moments that have made me...me. And one way or the other, no matter how it all goes, I am determined to make the future even better!