Monday, October 28, 2013

Becoming Someone I Don't Yet Know

It is already a little over a year. At first, when the year was up, it seemed a turning point. I could come alive; I could come into joy. But now I find myself sobbing again at unexpected moments, when a triggered memory reminds me that he's gone. It is as if I were reliving what it was like a year ago, so soon after he died. But I know it's not like that. (That was worse.)

Then I was not only grieving but very busy with all sorts of things that must be attended to when someone dies - paperwork, disposing of possessions, executing the will.... 

Now I have more time, less duty. I leave the dishes in the sink and feel guilty that in his last months, when he wanted me to leave them and come to bed, I would wash them anyway. I feel guilty not to have pleased him in this small way, but I also know that I was run off my feet in those months and was saving myself from being even busier next morning. The circumstances were different; I acted (and act) accordingly. I cry to think of cuddles I could have had instead of standing at a sink. Then I remember how often he stayed awake reading until I did join him, so we could have the cuddles anyway. Or we would have them in the morning ... or both.

I encounter feelings of surreality. I find myself thinking that nothing's normal any more — 'normal' being the way we did things as a couple. Now that I am single, I don't even eat the same food anymore. And I find, strangely, that I don't fancy watching movies I would have anticipated with pleasure seeing with him. That's a revelation: that some movies are pleasures to be shared and much of the pleasure is in the sharing.

There are others, of course, that I want to see anyway, and enjoy for myself. Some of them he'd have liked too; some he wouldn't have — none of that is anything new. But to find that movies I would have looked forward to now leave me indifferent because he is not with me, that's amazing.

After doing a Sunday market stall yesterday, I treat today as my Sunday. I think, when I get up, that I'll tidy the living-room some time today, but in fact I do very little of that. I spend most of the day reading. Again, I feel guilt. I know, at the same time, that if he had still been here, we might have had a lovely, lazy day together, both reading, and not feeling a bit guilty. It would have been cosy, companionable, a sweet treat. It's of course not the same now, but wouldn't you think I could at least enjoy this kind of day for its own sake? But I can't revel in it, and the thought of how it used to be makes me cry some more.

We had a companionate marriage, I decided last night, thinking about my three marriages. That's what made it so much better than the other two. Bill (husband number two) and I had some companionable times too, but we basically had different ways of operating. Although we enjoyed many of the same things — books, movies, travel — we had different ways of being in the world. He was an active man, and a lover of talk. I'm sedentary, reflective, and bad at making conversation.

For most of the time since Andrew died, my memory went over and over the last few weeks of his life, then the last few months and years since our move to this, our final home together at the beginning of 2010. It was six months after we moved in that he became ill and (as I now know) began his decline. I dwelt on that decline, as if we had no previous existence. But eventually I must have processed it enough, and began remembering further back, over the whole of our years together. More recently I have gone further still, back to my life before Andrew was in it — my long and eventful life. We both had long and eventful lives before we knew each other; then we shared another long, eventful life together.

I seem to be doing a kind of stock-taking. 

A year has gone by, and a bit more. The years will keep going by. I think that the time will come when my life with Andrew will take on some unreality. I am no longer afraid of forgetting him, as I was at first: trying to cling to the memories, even the traumatic ones. I have remembered that, 30-odd years ago when someone I was in love with died suddenly, afterwards I never forgot him. To this day I remember, and that was a much shorter and less intimate relationship than I had with Andrew. No, I won't ever forget, but I fear there will come a time when it isn't quite real any more — when it becomes just a story that happened to me once upon a time.

That is not quite how it is about Bill, nor about the other love who died. Those are things that happened a long time ago now, but they are still real and vivid. No, it is more that I am another person by now, to whom a lot of other things have happened. And of course I shall continue to live and evolve and experience new things. One day I won't be the me who lived with Andrew, who worked with him and travelled with him and made new friends with him, the one who taught him and was taught by him, who nursed him and lost him.

The me who experienced earlier sections of my life is still within me, part of me. So will Andrew's wife / lover / best friend be — but the whole of me will be something else again, incorporating that along with everything else, but also a new and different person. 

It must be so. Indeed it is good that it will be so — better than stagnating. But I see that what I am mourning now is probably myself as much as him: this self which is already in the process of changing.