Saturday, March 29, 2014

I'm Not Back There, I'm Here

Such a lovely thing to do, to start each day: to sit outside in my tree-framed, enclosed back yard, meditate, journal, and do a short piece of "mindful writing". But last time I did that daily, my husband was dying. He left home for hospital and never came back. So I am reluctant now, for fear of reviving those memories.

In this place, where we lived for almost the last three years of his life, the memories are all of his decline — increasing age and frailty, illnesses harder and harder to counteract. There is sweetness too, among those memories, but even so I have reached a point where I don't want to keep reviving them.

Time is my ally. I noticed recently that I have become alone in my head. That is to say, my consciousness now is of myself, singular, whereas before — and for a long time after his death — my inner consciousness was of being coupled, always taking into account his presence, his ideas, his preferences. This was not in a dutiful or compulsive way; our shared life was a joy. It was more just the natural state of things, which I wasn't even particularly aware of until later. Now, though, I am just me, unentwined from my dear Other. I'm back to how it was before Andrew, so this state is not exactly unfamiliar — it's just been a long time. But I am getting used to it again, now that it's here.

Yesterday I noticed that I have also, finally, adjusted to being physically alone in this home (well, except for the cats and various visiting spirits). It finally feels natural that I walk around it all by myself. In fact I now fill it all by myself. 

Sometimes I have a slight reluctance to enter what used to be his office. But it's only momentary. That space is very changed, and last winter I happily used it as my sitting room, my sunroom. I expect to do that again this year.

This is a good home and it suits me — as it suited both of us. The only trouble is that this was the scene of his decline and so those are the memories it arouses. I miss him, but I'm sick of remembering him like that. Earlier memories creep in, but they have different contexts.

To arrive at a date 18 months since his death seemed a significant milestone. The first year is still in some ways a blur. I think I was so much, still, connected to the past (of course).  Entering the second year, I'm clearer; I am more distinctly my self, and have learned that I can go on — even if the thought of going on without him does still fill me with tears at times. 

Time of course did not stop at the 18-month mark, and now it's nearly 19 months already. How can it be? The days and weeks go inexorably on, adding up. Time passes. When all's said and done, I'm glad of that. I begin to look forward, to become curious about what my life will be. I'm not just marking time any more, as I was for so long (though I think I put on a good show on the outside). I'm not exactly striding forward either, but at least I'm looking down the path ahead.

I see a time, though I don’t know when, that I’ll begin my days with a meditate in my back yard, and a bit of journalling….

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Should Have Lain Down Earlier

"Behave as if she was still alive," advised the father to his recently widowed son, who was going off the rails with grief, in a movie I watched today. And so I ask myself, how would I behave if Andrew was still alive?

Pretty much as I do, I think, except that I might look after myself a bit better. I would exercise more, for instance, because it would be important to maintain my fitness so as to look after him properly. I have to deliberately impose a new mindset in which fitness is an important part of looking after me properly ... in which I deserve to be looked after as well as I looked after him. 

Did I look after him well? For the most part, I think I did ... and our doctor thought so too. It wasn't always entirely adequate as his health and strength declined, but I did the best I could. I have to remind myself to do the same for me -- and that I still have two ageing cats dependent on me.

I remind myself, too, that he knew he was dying, and he trusted me to look after myself when he was gone, as well as he would have done. (It wasn't a one-way street. Even at the end, he was still doing his best to take care of me.)

These last few days I've been a little unwell: light-headed, low energy, upset tum. So I am taking it easy. I didn't get out of my pyjamas today. I had a big sleep in. For once the cats let me, and waited patiently for breakfast. If Andrew had been here, I would have spent all day in bed with him, alternately reading, cuddling and dozing. Then, about 4, we'd both have come to life and got up -- to watch TV, work on our computers, get dressed and go out for a walk, or even take the car to the shops. 

Today I did it backwards. When I did wake and get the cats and me our breakfast, they came back to lie on the bed but I stayed up. I did check email and Facebook, but leisurely, and didn't stay on the computer. I sat on the couch and watched a movie (the one with the advice that started this train of thought). I did some reading. All afternoon I was telling myself to have a little nap, but I didn't want to be in an Andrew-less bed.

Finally, at 4, I got the cats an early tea, had a cuppa myself, and came to lie down. The cats joined me. Then the people next door started up the lawnmower! So much for that idea. I think it might have to be an early night instead, and hope I don't nod off in front of the telly first. At least I'm already dressed for bed. 

Meanwhile the cats are enjoying this interlude of togetherness. They are herd animals, and like to be near me. They both smooched up for a cuddle before relaxing. I think I'll have a little read. Who knows, maybe I'll manage a doze in spite of the mower.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Am Discovering Who I Am

... when I'm just me, on my own.

Rediscovering, you might think. Perhaps, but not entirely. I have had very little time on my own in my 74 years, so whoever I was back then, I'm bound to be different now. The me I am discovering can't help but be formed in large part by the 20 years with Andrew as well as everything else that went before.

Then, I suppose there is a me that's always there, some core self which is not altered by the events of my life. (The poet is part of that core, I'd say: a constant, through everything, since I was a young child.) But I think the core and the external events — or at least the effects of them — all get mixed in together to make up what I experience as me.

And there are now the 18 months of widowhood too, and the changes and adjustments they have brought. I still tend to think as though everything stopped when he died. I want to speak of 'the last 20 years' of being married to him, as though the 18 months since had not even happened.

But they have happened, and they have been shaping me too, as the months ahead will also do. I know now which things may trigger sobs, and which probably won't. I've learned how to shop and cook for one. I have found out that there are things I do and don't want to eat now that I'm pleasing only myself, which are not quite as before. As there are shows I do or don't want to watch, and so on. Some preferences are just the same as before, but others are quite different.

I'm learning how I like to spend my time. Again, in many respects that's the same as ever, but not always.

My friends are my friends forever, but some I see less often now and some I see more of; just the way it's panning out.

It's been gradual, and it's still evolving, but I'm beginning to get a sense of this new me.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I've Thrown Out My Favourite Nightshirt

It's gone into the charity collection, which will be picked up off my front lawn on Monday morning. It was old, and a bit stained, but that's not why.

I looked at the logo, remembered my pleasure in buying it — nigh on 20 years ago already! — and thought: no, not any more. If I should ever end up with another person sharing my bed, I couldn't wear something that speaks so much of my relationship with Andrew. It wouldn't feel right. I think I'd probably cry because of it not being Andrew — which wouldn't be very nice for this hypothetical person.

And to wear it to go to bed alone would only remind me how much I miss him.

But I took a photo of the logo before I tossed it out. Its time had come, but although I didn't want to wear it again, it's a nice memory in this form.