Something happened recently to bring that -- and other things -- back into perspective a little.
I still have one cat. He is the brother to the one we lost, and for nine years they were best friends. Aside from a single day that Jasper spent at the vet when Bailey was at home, I cannot think of a time in those nine years when they were separated.
After I put Bailey down, I noticed the changes in Jasper. He didn't eat much for the first couple of weeks, seemed more desperate for my attention when I was home, and would seek out things of Bailey's left behind to rub his face against.
It made me sad to see him going through this, but once he started eating again and seemed to be ok, I guess I stopped looking for other signs. But I noticed recently that he had a bald spot on his tummy, which has since grown to a bald patch. I've learned that this is the result of "over grooming" and most often results when cats are lonely or depressed - they have nothing else to occupy their time, so they groom themselves over and over again.
I cannot tell you how this breaks my heart. To know that he is so sad and lonely that he is literally creating a scar on himself. Sure, it's one that is hidden from the world, save for those times he exposes his underbelly, but it's still there.
How is this any different than what we might do to ourselves when we think we are healing?
I started dating again for a little while, but soon realized that going into a date knowing that I wasn't emotionally available yet was akin to just setting myself up for failure and hurt. Creating a situation for myself that would only result in more loneliness.
I stopped dating, but that doesn't mean I don't still think about it now and then. There are definitely times when I'm lonely and wish that I could jump right back in to being part of a couple. I think this time of year is harder for me, in that sense. I want someone to go apple picking with, to spend a weekend touring wineries in sweaters and boots, to carve pumpkins over a bottle of wine, to cook crockpot meals for. This is couple season to me, and even though I've been feeling better lately about being single, sometimes I still just miss having someone around.
But I know that I'm not ready. And I know that if I try to go back to dating before I'm ready, letting myself go through the motions like an emotional zombie, I'll just hurt myself more in the long run. Being lonely would become a self-fulfilling prophecy and eventually, my walls would go up. I really am trying to keep those walls away this time. I want to be ready to let someone in when the right guy comes around.
I often say to Jasper, "It's just you and me now, dude." I don't think I even realized how true this was. We lost Bailey and we lost The Dude, and I guess we're both still healing, more than I realized.
Why does it have to be such a long process?