Monday, 6 October 2014

Finding a New Me

There are certainly many aspects of me that Robin would still recognise today; but equally there are many he wouldn't.  When you lose someone it can take a while to untangle yourself from the couple you were.  I was with Robin for well over 14 years, and from the age of 18 when so much of who you are is yet to form.  You can't be with someone that long and not become a part of them, and they a part of you.  You change and alter to suit the new entity of the relationship.  Not in a bad way, just as is necessary for a harmonious life. 

When we were first together we bickered like siblings - each trying to find their role in the relationship, none wanting to give in.  Eventually that turns into a firm knowledge of the other and a new closeness perhaps - if you are willing to adjust and compromise.  Robin and I finished our transition from adolescence into adulthood together.  This made for a close bond which was special and can never be replaced (though I'm not saying another bond couldn't be equally special in it's own way).

Since he died I've had to untangle myself from the person I was in that relationship - and unwillingly too.  I fought the untangling as much as I fought for my voice in the pairing to begin with.  It's been a long slow progress as tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of Robin's accident.  I still sometimes panic and run to the shelter of that past version of me, but it's no shelter any more.  Time has taken it's toll and back there I am only a half person.

As time passes and the emptiness left by grief begins to fill with new experiences you begin to reshape yourself.  It's tentative at first - I went back to feeling like a teenager again on many occasions; having to remind myself that I was an adult and had a right to a voice - but it will eventually gain momentum, because as physics dictates - matter will rush to fill a void.

So the new me is finding her way in the world, overcoming the most awful setbacks and filling that void with new things.  New people, new hobbies and new belongings.  One of the best new hobbies I have found has been open water swimming (and it came hand in hand with a bunch of great new people too).  I moved to Bournemouth to be by the sea and I still love it every time I go down to the beach.  A couple of years ago I found a group of swimmers I could join for sea swimming - always better to swim with friends and be safe.  At first I would just have a short dip occasionally and didn't take it too seriously.  However, one of my new friends has had a dream to swim the English Channel for some long time.  Now she is a very determined lady and her enthusiasm and love of the sport has caught me in it's currents.  I agreed this year to be on her relay team and train to swim across the channel in 2016.  This excites me and scares me in equal measure - but this new me who is emerging from the chaos seems to quite like a challenge and testing herself.  On Saturday past this new, more determined version of me swam a mile, twice, in Bude Sea Pool to help save the pool, but also as part of a personal journey to save herself.  So easily the sea of grief can overwhelm those affected, but I have instead chosen to fight the actual, tangible sea.  I feel this gives me a much more fair chance of winning.  This task is more achievable, and each time I reach a new goal I believe a little more in my new self and where she is taking me (sometimes dragging me, kicking and screaming).  The old me would have been too timid to do this.  This latest version of me is emerging as a stronger and more resilient being. 

Perhaps it's a journey we all take.  Each relationship teaches us new things about ourselves.  But a long term relationship that was ripped apart by tragedy leaving chaos in it's wake is bound to take a longer time to unravel eventually allowing that person to gather up the bits of them that were laid bare and put them back together in some kind of acceptable order.  This mostly regathered version of me is where I am at - and she's working on a blank canvas - coming to terms with the idea that she can be anything she puts her mind (and body) to - including being moulded into a channel swimmer!

I'd like to believe that Robin would be as proud of this new me as I am of myself.  My friends have made me more brave, but ultimately it's me alone who will have to train and drive myself towards my goals and build up this new and improved version of me, and that is OK.  Who I am as just me is OK.  I don't need another person to make that so, just my own approval and a little determination and plenty of self belief.