Somewhere inside of me, I know it's not normal to feel this torn.
A couple of months ago, I started dating again. My friends and even my parents were thrilled. I had, in their opinions, earned a little companionship. I had earned a reprieve from the loneliness that only a door held open, a nice dinner, and a romantic surprise text message can bring.
I kept the information closely guarded from the online Catholic community that I've been walking my spiritual journey with for the past few years. I knew what their response would be: An annulment has not been granted - in fact, the process hasn't even begun. In the eyes of the Church, despite the fact that I have not laid eyes on my "husband" in months, I am still married. Any romantic relationship I have until that annulment may be granted is considered adulterous.
The guilt tugs at me; rightly so, I suppose. I have chosen to be part of a Faith that requires discipline. It is a rule-based Faith, and I have faith that the rules are there for a reason, for our own good. I know that I cannot in good conscience just do what feels right - We're not animals, for God's sake. We don't have to give in to our every whim.
At the same time, I struggle to understand why the rules have to leave me feeling so damn miserable. I don't want to let go of my companion. He is exactly what the word implies: Good company. A shoulder to lean on, a hand to hold, a drinking buddy (we can never have too many!), a dinner date. He's not just a warm body. He's not just someone to fill the space. I don't know that the future holds anything for us, because that's not the point. He does something for me today that no one else really does: He gives me hope when my hope has been shattered.
I've listened to the warnings. "You need time." "Beware of your codependent ways." "Be happy with you before you try to be happy with someone else." I wonder if it's struck anyone how much time - my child's lifetime, a marriage that was supposed to last a lifetime - has been packed into the last few years. Does the time I spent feeling alone in a marriage not count for anything now? No sort of credit for time served? One day I realized the life I'd thought I would be living was gone; one day I realized I couldn't go back; one day I realized I was okay with never going back and I charged ahead. As long as I was charging ahead I was strong and willful; as long as I was submitting job resumes and finding gainful employment and making it on my own I was determined. Am I now weak, for taking steps towards finding what I want most again? Does someone wanna tell me when the right time to get back on the horse again is? Does someone have some sort of step-by-step guide that could have told me how to get through the last few years, and how to move forward from here?
Where have the critics been while I was struggling to provide for myself and my dogs, while I was putting the pieces of my single life back together, while I was adjusting to a new career? I wonder if they realize that I think I'm pretty fucking awesome, and it's beyond me and my vanity why I can't get the people that I want to realize it, but I'll sure enjoy the attention from someone who does. When everyone around me seems to be sharing good news of engagements, weddings, pregnancy and birth announcements, and the most exciting thing happening in my life is putting on a pair of heels and running a brush through my hair to go on a date, it doesn't seem unreasonable to want to hang on to that.
I don't expect this man to work a miracle. I don't expect him to erase my past, I don't expect him to ride up on a white horse and sweep me away. What I expect is to wake up in the morning alone, to this life I didn't anticipate, and wander into the bathroom to find a text message saying simply, "Good morning." Maybe it will be a good morning. Maybe it won't be. But at least my morning will start with a little smile, and a little bit of hope.