Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Little Things

Little things that go wrong seem big. Why is that?

On Sunday my car was hot when I got in it. I must have burnt my elbow on the metal and not noticed. Later I discovered a blister already burst. After another day it was scabby, the next day bleeding. This felt like a huge thing to deal with, more than I could cope with (though I did cope, of course; I'm just saying how it felt).

Yet when Andrew was alive I coped with much bigger things all the time, and hardly turned a hair.

Is it that I have had my fill? The straws have so badly weakened the camel's back that the slightest little thing now feels massive enough to break it? I guess that's it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Roller Coaster Riding: the Down After the Up ...

I had a good morning at the market. The sun shone, I saw friends, I made a profit, one friend helped me sort out my brake fluid problem.... When I got home, things went pear-shaped for a while.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was the black feathers all over the kitchen floor. The cats had killed a bird, brought it in and devoured it. I fetched the brush and pan. I mopped up a tiny patch of blood. I guess I should be thankful they take their kills to the kitchen to eat, rather than on the carpet. I did not give them their usual lunch! (Nor did they ask for it.)

I had taken a little vase to the market, in case my friend Patsy should come by with a gardenia for me, as she used to do in the old days. I was too lazy to stand on a step ladder and fish out the little metal vase I used to use. Instead I took Andrew's little vase from China, a pretty shape in dark green with a delicate drawing in gold of bamboo leaves. His trip to China was before I met him, but he treasured the souvenirs. I gave others to his grand-daughters after he died, as mementos, but kept that little vase, moving it from what had been his office to the kitchen windowsill. I had the thought that, bring breakable, it might not be safe, but I wrapped it in a tea towel. Patsy didn't turn up, so it stayed wrapped.

By the time I came home, I forgot there was anything in the tea towel. Emptying my bags, I shook it out. The vase smashed on the floor. Little shards went everywhere, one into my foot under a strap of my open sandals. In getting the sandal off, I pushed the sharp fragment further in, and ended up limping to the bathroom for disinfectant and band-aid, leaving a trail of blood. I cried like a child, calling, 'No, no!' Then I recovered myself and managed to shrug it off. I realised that vase still felt like Andrew's, not mine. I was upset at the breakage, not for myself but because he had treasured it. Yes, I liked it, but it didn't have the same sentimental associations for me. Still, it was an upset, what with the cut foot and all, and because it followed immediately on cleaning up the remains of the bird. My own lunch was very late in the end.

I'd just about got over all that when a fierce thunderstorm hit. Usually I love storms, but the cracks of lightning this time were loud and startling enough to make me fear for the electronics. I switched off the wireless modem and unplugged the landline phone. Damn! I'd been just about to connect with my online poetry groups, after being out or otherwise occupied most of the day. 

Oh well. I turned to some writing on my laptop, which didn't require the Internet. I was a bit down in the dumps though, having had such a troublesome afternoon after such a brilliant morning. I went from feeling confident and competent while I was at the market, to feeling inept and despondent after all. 

Then I felt the light pressure of a hand on my right shoulder for a few moments, as if someone had come up behind me and rested a hand there reassuringly. I didn't need to turn my head to know there was no-one physically there. But I knew it was Andrew. It was exactly what he used to do, coming up behind me just like that when I was at my computer, to lay a reassuring hand on my right shoulder. Imagination? You could think so, but I felt the touch physically, albeit briefly and gently. It is not the first time I have felt such a thing from someone dear who has gone, but it's rare. I think it must take a lot of energy for someone in spirit to create a physical sensation like that, and that it would take a lot of love to be willing to try. 

I had been feeling that he wasn't exactly hanging around any more, but busy with his work in spirit, whatever that is. Unfair and irrational as it may be, I was also in a bit of a sulk, angry with him for leaving me. I was vaguely aware this could be pushing him away, but unwilling to let go of it all the same. Then a very psychic friend said she'd had a vision of Andrew and me. She said, 'You were walking arm in arm in bright sunshine, and flowers were falling all around you both. You were obviously having a very joyful time in Spirit with him.' The fact that I had no consciousness of this didn't bother me — I seldom bring any astral travels back to consciousness. It comforted me; I thought, 'Oh, he's not coming to be with me, but I'm going to be with him!' and I was delighted. Maybe that opened the way for him then to come to me after all with that touch on the shoulder ... or maybe he was around me all the time and I finally softened enough to perceive this.

What I do know is that he would want me to be well and happy. He always wanted that. But those are things one must achieve for oneself.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Underlying Happiness

I thought I'd be starting this post by remarking that the renewed appreciation of life was fragile. The very next day I found memories triggering tears again. Then I managed to spill a cup of hot tea all over the kitchen bench, and I cried like a little girl.

Despite all that, I find it is not so fragile after all. In quiet moments I notice that I am happy. It has nothing to do with the grief, which is still going on and working itself out. It is underneath that, a foundation. 

I think it may have to do with the fact that he is still here and I have stopped trying to get rid of him. 'He'll always be with you,' people say, but I don't mean it like that. I actually think that, just as a psychic friend advised me, he was around in spirit for a couple of weeks and then went on to whatever work awaited him in the after-life. I don't even mean that he is here in the memories, although that is so. I just mean that his imprint is all over this place, ineradicable. His energy, one might say — but I suppose his energy is now with his spirit, wherever that is. It might be a sort of left-over energy from his time in this home.

I've given up trying to be realistic, to remind myself, 'No no, he's gone, he's dead.' I'm like the character in New Tricks who takes a drink out to his back yard every evening and has a chat to his late wife, whose ashes are interred there. Except I think that character is supposed to believe his Mary really does hear him in spirit. I chat to Andrew quite a bit, but I don't believe it's a real conversation. It just feels natural at times to say things to him, as I would have done if he were here. It's a kind of pretending to myself, knowing that's what I'm doing. It comforts me. I still have to be a bit careful though, because it can easily lead to actual memories, and they can easily trigger tears. Tears could become sobs any second. And yet ...

As I say, it may be the imprinted presence, which I have stopped resisting, that enables me to be in this underlying happiness I've become aware of. Or maybe it's merely my nature. I'm wired for happiness, I think; and if so I'm very grateful for the fact. Even when my life is such that I hate the circumstances, I'm somehow happy just about being. Happy in myself. 

It's not rejoicing, neither is it contentment, nor even peace. (All of which I have experienced often enough to make the distinctions.) It's not antithetical to those states of being, obviously; but it's not them. The accurate word is happiness. My bedrock. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Sit in the Warmth

We are having a summer day, at last! My internal weather has shifted as well. I sit in the warmth of our small, enclosed, green back yard which I love, and which he did too; and my heart swells with all the richness and beauty of our lives together, which brought me here. I feel it expanding in my breast with those many memories — years of memories which go much farther back than his final decline. I would not change places with anyone.

Relapse Into Sadness, and Out Again

The article I read about stages of grief said they don't go in linear order (I already worked that out) and not to think there's anything wrong if you get weepy again after eight months.

Well, it was six months for me. I pretty much dropped my bundle at last. Got a heavy cold, spent days in bed, cried and wailed, recovered, two weeks later repeated the whole process all over again. I am now in the getting-better period of the second heavy cold. This time I eventually saw the doctor, who confirmed it's just a cold, not flu, and agreed with me that it has everything to do with grief and needing a rest.

Earlier on, I cried about Andrew 's physical suffering towards the end; this time it has been more about his mental confusion and everything that went with that. (Detailed in my Shifting Fog blog.) This time I spent hours and days weeping. It wasn't like that straight after he died. I certainly cried a lot then, but for only short periods at a time. Then my mind would wander and I'd find I had stopped. I'm sure, now, that it was a defence mechanism; subconsciously I was regulating myself to experience only what I could cope with. And of course, I had so much to do just after he died: practical things. I needed to keep functioning, not take to my bed.

I still have much to do, but the pressure has eased. I have slowed right down: not running on adrenaline any more, not racing to get everything — chores and extras — done, not having to maintain 100% vigilance about his wellbeing. I doubt that I could pick up that kind of speed again now! I told the doctor that I have become a lot slower and less efficient. He said, 'Good!'

I said to my friend James — Andrew's best friend, who still phones up every so often to see how I'm doing — 'I've been feeling sorry for myself.' He too said, 'Good.' When I asked why, he said, 'Because it means you're releasing the sorrow.'

The heavy colds have been a form of release too, I know — not to mention all the tears. I've lain in bed and cried until my eyes were sore. Then, after a couple of weeks of it (this last time) I stopped. That was after I got up and dressed and went to see the doctor.

He of all people knows what it was like for both me and Andrew over the last two years of Andrew's life. He understood, without me having to say so, how much in need of rest I am. He knew how close we were too, and would be well able to guess the extent of my grief without my having to explain. It's good to be gotten, and know that you are. It was very validating. Also he confirmed that I was doing all the right things already for the cold.

I don't know if all that was why I stopped crying; I only know that that visit marked a turning point. Since then I have enjoyed the memories of Andrew — not of him being ill and frail, but more the ordinary moments of our lives together over all the years. The familiarity of this home we shared has taken on a comforting warmth instead of bitter emptiness. There are some things I mustn't dwell on or I feel tearful again, but mostly it's good; I feel emotionally supported at last. (I have been emotionally supported all along, by many, but didn't always feel it inwardly.) I can feel his presence here, in all sorts of little memories, in a good way.

I am now able to open his office door again, sort out more of his stuff, and think about ways of turning it into a nice little sitting room for myself. I was fine with that at first, then went through some weeks where I couldn't face it. I'm glad to have come out the other side.

I dare say there'll be future crying jags, but I'm glad to have a rest from this last one, and glad that it's moved me a bit further on in the whole process.

P S. I suddenly find I have moved quite a way. See next post!

Monday, March 11, 2013


At a very weepy moment in Downton Abbey last night, I found myself dabbing at my eyes with tissues, failing to stem the tears. I almost looked across at the person who was no longer there, in the chair that is no longer there either. In the past, Andrew and I would have noticed ourselves weeping at the same moment, would have caught each other's eyes and laughed ruefully through our tears at our shared sentimentality. Then we'd have reached out and held hands.

Not this time. I cried a little harder for that. Still, it was a nice memory.  Such absolute rapport!

It was typical of the phase I'm going through now. There's a sort of continuity I'm aware of, between who I was with him around and who I am now. Why should this seem remarkable? Surely it's only to be expected: I'm the same person, still me. Yet it does feel surprising. 

I don't quite know how to explain, but it's as if, on some level, I'm weaving the past and present together by virtue of me being the same, doing the same things, having the same reactions. 

These last few days I've been fighting off another cold; not a very bad one, but it's in no hurry to leave. I found myself wishing there was someone who could come and take care of me a bit, as Andrew would have done. Then I realised I don't actually want or need anyone who isn't him. I have such warm memories, I can use them to take care of myself. Does that make sense? It does to me, even if I can't explain it adequately. 

It is as though he has taught me and enabled me to take care of myself in just the ways he would have done. 

He is here, with me always. I don't mean as a spirit watching over me, though I don't discount that. I mean that he has left an imprint behind. It's in this home, and in my many memories, and it's with me wherever I am. 

He was so very engaged with life, even with the minutiae of our lives together; how could that essence not remain?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

We Were Two Writers Living Together

We did other things too — we ran Reiki, Tarot and Qabalah classes; we gave psychic readings, Reiki treatments, Indian Head Massage and aura drawings in the Sunday markets; we had writers' groups meeting in our homes (we had various homes over time, because we rented) and sometimes I ran writing classes for the local Community College. We lived in places of great natural beauty and we enjoyed them to the full. We went out and about to movies, to theatre, to art galleries, to dine with friends. We shopped and cooked, talked on the phone, read many books (neither of us ever without one), watched TV and listened to music.

But alongside all that, underpinning it, we spent our lives writing. We spent them at our desks, at our computers. We did use notebooks too. When I think of the boxes of notebooks there are, I have to say we used them a lot — but most of our writing has been onscreen.

We spent great slabs of each day, and often night, at this occupation.

So in many ways my life is not much changed. Writing is what I do. Oh, I tend the house and look after the cats; I cook and shop; I meet my friends for coffee; I run a weekly writers' group; I learn Tai Chi; I read and watch TV; I go to movies ... but writing is THE thing I do, just as I always did. Just as he and I always did, not only in our twenty years together but separately long before that too, before we ever knew or dreamed of each other.

I still spend my life at my desk, at my computer. It is very easy, then, to get absorbed and forget he isn't here in his own office, doing it too.

We sometimes shared an office, but mostly he liked to have his own space, when our accommodation would run to that. That didn't mean we were isolated; there was a lot of communication back and forth. But it means that now I can have the illusion that everything is just as it was before, because my part of it hasn't changed. I am a writer before I am anything else; it's the one lifelong constant.

It's kinda weird, and kinda reassuring, to be continuing on as I did when we were together, as if he was not gone. Because if he were present it would be just the same ... almost.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Six months have passed. How can it be? It seems no time at all.

I have learned that I can't shut out the memories. Not that I would want to, permanently. But at present they have me weeping a lot — more than I did at first, though less fiercely. But they will crop up, and can't be denied, which of course is only to be expected. So I am getting the knack of allowing them to be, but not dwelling on them. They go alongside me and whatever I'm doing. If I give them my full attention, that's when I'm reduced to tears. Tears are needful sometimes, but they do interfere with functioning, so I don't want them all the time. I haven't fallen in a heap and let everything go, and I don't want to.

So sometimes it does feel as if he's still around, just in the next room, and about to join us any minute. It's never, any more, the feeling that he's really there in spirit; it's just the memory thing, the habit, the illusion. Resisting it does not the slightest good, so I just allow it and don't pay it too much mind.

Levi, who was a bit more Andrew's cat, still occasionally says with his body language, 'Are you sure he's not in his office?' At first I used to have to open the door and show him, let him go in and investigate, but by now it's really a forlorn hope, so I need only distract him. I guess he's experiencing that habit of memory thing too.

The poor cats have only me to deal with now, and I'm the tough parent. Before, if I said no, they'd go to Andrew pitifully, to say, 'She's being mean. You'll say yes, won't you?' and often he would. Now I am the Alpha; it's established. They'll try it on, but I make a loud growling sound and they slink away, subdued. (For a short while at least.)

On the other hand, he used to worry about them if they stayed out too long after dark. He always made sure to call them in at bedtime. I have put in a cat door, so keeping them in against their will is no longer an option. Now they stay out after dinner as long as they want to. They do come back in at some stage to join me on the bed. Freya usually likes to time it to match my bedtime, and gets it pretty right; Levi is ensconced by morning but I'm seldom awake to know when he comes in. Unlike their 'father', I'm not worried about them, and as far as I can tell they don't do much hunting. (When they do, trophies are brought in as gifts for me! It's mostly mice, and I am glad of that.)

In the mornings I can come back to bed after giving them breakfast. I can bring my own breakfast back to bed and read or use the iPad, or wait and have it later after a snooze. Many times in the past, we would lie in like that together, but it didn't happen much in the last couple of years. He was no longer able to keep track of his own medications, and by the time I had checked his blood sugar, given him his insulin, doled out the first dose of meds, made breakfast for the cats and us ... I was well and truly up. Also I didn't have my iPad then, and it was often easier to go to my desk to check emails and Facebook than bring the 15-inch MacBook Pro back to bed. I did that sometimes, but it was awkward with the two of us plus cats. It's lovely to lie in again as we used to do, but now of course I enjoy it alone. Well no, not quite; the cats always join me.

In this house and the last, we usually sat side-by-side at the dinner table, for easier access to the kitchen and sometimes to watch TV as we ate. Ever since he died, I have sat in 'his' chair instead of the one that was 'mine'. If I still sat where I used to, I would be unable to bear his absence — the glaring emptiness of the chair beside me.

I was always inclined to talk to myself, the cats, and various inanimate objects. Possibly I do it a bit more now, still saying out loud the things I'd once have said to him. (How often, when we converse with others, are we really just talking out loud to ourselves?) I don't think I'll worry, unless the inanimate objects start talking back.

We'd got out of the way of listening to music after our stereo system died a few years ago. We did listen to iTunes, but usually separately on our own computers, through headphones so as not to disturb each other. The cheap radios-DVD players I bought us didn't last very long. Now I am out of the habit of listening to music. That is a change I would like to make. But first there's a hurdle to get over.

Not so very long ago I found a turntable to play all our old vinyl records. We were in this house, which means he was already somewhat bedridden. I used to play records in the morning while I was getting our breakfast, turning them up loud enough for him to hear from the bedroom. It felt joyous. Sometimes I danced to the old favourites. To do that now would cause a pang for the togetherness lost, the pleasure no longer shared. It is good still to have pleasures on my own, for myself — but I think I'll start with turning on my iTunes, sans headphone, rather than evoke the bitter-sweet memories.