Sunday, August 14, 2016

Thom (Part 3)

The last week and a half has easily been the most difficult time of my life, very closely following the second most difficult loss I've experienced: I lost my dog who was the only constant in my life over the last 10 years, and now I have lost a partner. Even now, it took me four tries to avoid affixing a qualifier like "someone I regarded as a partner," or "someone who was more than a friend," because I have been struggling with my thoughts that much.

When I began trying to process my grief, I thought a large swath of it was unanswered questions, or rather one in particular: how he felt about me. After a lot of thought, more crying than I knew was possible, and an unfortunate level of strain on remaining relationships, I realize it actually stems mostly from shame and embarrassment. What I thought was an unanswered question is really just an answer I didn't think I could convince others of. I guess you could say it amounted to a crisis of faith.

I'll never be able to claim that Thom would be okay with me calling him a partner. I abhor labels - as did he - so the vast majority of our dynamic was unspoken; it was all gestures and sacrifices and support. The embarrassment stemmed from a fear that people would think I'm crazy to call him such, and the shame came from feeling as though calling him that without his consent is a violation of his trust. It has been a lot to juggle and as a result there are a number of situations I handled less than gracefully. Fortunately I have very patient and loving friends.

Seeking validation has always been a weak point of mine. As I wrote in my last entry, Doubt is a demon I'm constantly battling with, so I often need others to serve as a reality check. In my grief, I thought I desperately needed this validation to come from others. I knew him well enough to know he would occasionally make confessions to people he trusted, so I convinced myself this confirmation had to be out there. It did not occur to me that it is okay to simply say bluntly how I feel until yesterday. I've said it before and I'll say it again: emotions really aren't my forte.

I loved Thom like a partner, I leaned on him like a partner, I worried about him like a partner, and I longed for his embrace like a partner. We saw each other constantly and cuddled often, and towards the end he'd actually let me do things like hold his hand and snuggle up even in public at parties. I wish we'd have had more time to work things out, but I simply can't expend any more energy trying to dig through the thoughts of a dead man.

The best way I could describe how I felt about him is actually something I texted him directly one drunken, sappy night: "You're one of my default people." I went on to explain a bit better that I meant when anything good or neat happens, he was the first person I would think of or want to know. Since one of the most easily identifiable "Thom traits" was that if you pushed too hard on anything he would shut down, I tried to show him how I cared for him in ways he could digest .. but I don't know that he ever would have fully let me in. I'll never forget him or how much he meant to me, and all I can hope is that I can use this experience to better handle communicating with the next guy I start to fall for.

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