"Be gentle with yourself."
It was inscribed in the middle of the letter. I don't remember any of the other words that were written. I never met the writer. The card was addressed to me after you died.
How quickly we forget these words as we careen into new worlds and new lives without even realizing. He was a chef. I studied culinary arts to find him. Perhaps if I could become what he had been, we would be together. I thought maybe I would meet someone like him and that I could have that feeling of solice again.
I gave up. I hated cooking. I always had. I found it difficult and dirty and hated the smell of burning animal flesh, but Lord did I love the taste. Food tastes so good. Why must it be so gross to prepare?
I went back to my old boyfriend for a while. I left him for you. Maybe while with him, someone like you would return and I would be happy again. You didn't come to rescue me. You didn't take me away.
I left my old boyfriend and found someone else. He needed me. I lost weight. I cooked for him. I cleaned a little when I couldn't take the glare of fingerprints on all those mirrored surfaces he loved. I peeled his pears for him when the skins were too tough. I took him to his appointments and watched his work out at the gym, and get a facial, and have physical therapy and attend open houses for apartments he would never buy.
I became angry and bitter. I couldn't find you. I could hear you telling me that I could do better. I knew that. But I couldn't find you. I looked for you. I searched for you all day and all night. I looked for your sense of humor in every smile and tried to find your heart in every laugh.
I held my breath every time a red car passed by. I was hoping it would be yours. I cried every time our song played on the radio because you weren't there.
I got engaged. He was sweet and promised to take care of me. You laughed at me. So what if he was gay - I could never be with anyone but you. And the man wanted me to be happy. I would have had servants and I would have lived like a princess and I would have hated every minute. I would have been bored without you. How could I look for you if I lived across the Pacific? How would I ever find you?
I got engaged again. It was a ready made family. He had children. I never wanted those. He had two ex-wives. I was a widow. He had custody of his kids. I was in hell. He wouldn't be able to pull me out. But I stayed. I tried. I couldn't.
All this time wasted. All this time wasted because I forgot those words. I wasn't gentle with myself.
I let men tell me that I wasn't good enough. I let myself believe that I was weak and that I wouldn't amount to very much at all.
I let myself become a doormat and welcomed their feet upon my soul.
So now I beseech you. You be gentle with yourself and you be strong. You take control and you stop searching. He is gone and you cannot stop. You cannot die. You cannot be anything else but who you are. You are beautiful and you are smart and you deserve the best the world has to offer.
Yes he was wonderful. And yes you are allowed to miss him. Yes you must talk about him and surround yourself by his photographs. But you cannot lose yourself in the process.
You should talk to him out loud as though he was there. You should tell him about your day. You should tell him about the funny things you've heard. You should let him know that you still love him every day.
You will never stop missing him. The hurt will change. It won't be quite so poignant. You won't rack your brain trying to remember every conversation you ever had. You won't quiz yourself on what he looked like or how his touch felt or the sound he made when he laughed.
You won't cry when you dream about him. You won't sleep all day hoping that you won't awaken. You will be strong. You will continue.
Just don't go too quickly. Linger with him. Read the paper out loud to him. Talk to him as though he's there. And slowly let him leave. Let him go. And then you'll be okay.
Be gentle with yourself.