|Sunset at Cinque Terre (MA. Reilly, 2017, Vernazza, Italy)|
After Rob died the world expanded, felt larger, less familiar. I thought of this when I was on holiday in Vernazza, nearly 17 months after his death; 2 years after he was first diagnosed with cancer. Upon arrival in this small, yet very crowded seaside town, the distance from the train station to the B&B seemed great. I wandered uncertain, not knowing where I was heading, pulling an overpacked suitcase behind me, listening to the unfamiliar bits of language being uttered. In less certain terrain, the sense of loneliness that wells up and recedes since Rob's death feels heightened, exaggerated. And yet by the time I was leaving--a mere 48 hours later, the distance between the B&B and the train station was now nothing greater than a brief stroll, and many of the words and phrases being bantered about were more practiced, known.
Familiarity allows for a smaller world. Intimacy even more so.
Alongside Rob's death I learned I am alone regardless of the presence or absence of company. An existential truth we each must come to know. We all are alone.
This sense of singularity is a human condition that good marriages, happy families, solid relationships hide somewhat. Having a loving partner for nearly three decades anchored me to the world by connecting me to him. Regardless of what happened, I knew with complete certainty that Rob would always stand with me, by me, for me. Love allowed me to feel connected, not alone. But it also did something that was less in sight. Rob's love helped me too develop a better version of myself. That's what good marriages inspire, ever better versions of ourselves. It is this sense of self that has grown alongside my marriage these last thirty years that allow me most days to be comfortable with myself. This is a gift.