Full Circle

It appears that I am remarkably consistent in my thinking.  All through this journey I am on I have written, sporadically, but still capturing my thoughts on paper.  When I feel melancholy I seem to have a nasty habit of trying to make myself feel worse by revisiting some of my previous writing.  Not all of it was angst believe it or not.  I used these little recipe cards that I kept by my bed, in my purse, everywhere.  When the mood hit me, I captured my thoughts.

Some of my writings contained ideas about how to make life better for people who end up in the same circumstances as me – facing the death of their partner and not knowing what’s expected of one, what it means and what to do – financially, emotionally, and so on.  Kevin died and in that first year I literally had so many stupid problems to deal with – bees in the walls, broken appliances, a flood in the basement, stupidity with the banks, it just kept coming.  And I wrote and I wrote.

But I also wrote, and I found this card last week, about loneliness and what to do about it.  My loneliness is and was pretty much self inflicted and I recognize that.  It takes effort to reconnect with people, physical and emotional effort, and, so far, I haven’t put much into it.  But people, friends and family, are hugely important.  We can be surrounded by people and yet somehow manage to be completely alone.  So on this card I found, I had written about setting up a club for people like me – alone, partnerless, widowed, divorced, unattached, didn’t matter how you got there, just that you were. I had mulled over the name – either the Solitaire Club (Shine on you crazy diamond), or One (one is the loneliest number). I had wanted my club to meet once a month, for drinks and conversation.  I’d written this card just about two years ago.

For the last month I’ve been saying to my daughter I need to do something, to get involved again, find some interests.  And then I find the card.  Go figure.  I guess it is something that I need to do. Put a little effort into life , and pick up the pieces and make a new puzzle.

Breaking bread not breaking down

Dinner out with the grief group ladies again last night.  Nice meal and no shortage of conversation.  It ended with us all reflecting on where we were in life through no choice we had individually made.  The reality is that we have started to come out the other side.  Friends and family around each of us has too.  But, and that word was accompanied by a heavy sigh, those around us, particularly those in our circle of friends, have yet to travel this path.

i was pretty much the first in my social group to have a spouse die.  Oh sure, we all have lost parents by now, but spouses – no.  Likewise for my lady friends.  We talked about that, and how arbitrary life is.  Then one in the group made the observation that once you can wrap your mind around the fact that you are really and truly alone, then there are occasions when you are okay with not having to consult, worry or limit your actions or activities because of other commitments.  But more bluntly – if I wanted to go to bingo every night there is no one to stop me.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing, no?  (And, for the record, I don’t go to bingo every night!)

Let’s face it, it is hard to find an upside when you have lost the love of your life, but you have to look for something.  For us, the four of us that met for dinner, we all appreciate the fact that we had good relationships that endured.  We had spouses that left us in a position to have a decent quality of life.  We have family and friends that stepped up to the plate and helped fill the void. Things that are important and that many others will never have.

We booked our next meal out for mid-September and I think we even identified a theme:  what difficulties we faced and how we coped, and can that information benefit others.  We could talk about that, or we may just talk about the Olympics.  It’s something to look forward to.

It’s Comfortable and Comforting

This weekend was probably the first one that I’ve had, since sometime last year, where I have set my own course.  The first weekend since Kevin died where I have decided what to do and who to see.  I’ve found through the months since my husband’s death that there was always something to do or someone to see on each and every weekend.  It culminated in Christmas and New Year’s Day, where there was a steady flow of family and friends. My sons were here for a visit, and now, this second weekend in January, everyone is gone and things have settled down.

It was okay, having a weekend to self-direct, to plan what I wanted to do. I didn’t find it lonely; I wasn’t consumed by grief or sorrow.  Invariably, each and every day, I think about Kevin at some point.  I would.  I live in the same house we shared for over 20 years – it is full of him, his artwork covers my walls, his books are on the bookshelves.  It’s comfortable and comforting to me.  I don’t feel any emotional pain from choosing to live here. Sometimes the sheer familiarity of my home can be accompanied by a sense of loss, but it is what it is.  I don’t know from one day to the next if I will react to something that exists in my surroundings.  Life just continues to unfold in its own crazy, unpredictable way.

After Kevin’s death, as part of a courtesy offered by the funeral home, they gifted me with a six month subscription to a leaflet/help letter on the Grief Counselling  I got my last issue this past week.  It was written on the recovery phase.  With respect to grievers, it states, “One of the greatest mistakes we make during bereavement is to compare our progress with others.  There are too many variables in each person’s experiences, personality, and coping mechanisms.  No two people will grieve in the same way – or even within the same time frame.”  (The AfterLoss Grief Recovery Program, Issue Six, AfterLoss Inc.)  My intent is to stop self-analyzing as to whether I am progressing or not.  I should not measure where I am at in my sorrow and grieving compared to someone else. There was only one Kevin and only those who knew him can feel his loss – each in their own way; me – in my own way.  I miss him, and I finally had a weekend to discover how that would manifest.

So, what did I end up doing this weekend?  I went to an afternoon matinee with a friend from work, I went out shopping at a ridiculous time of night (because I could), I cleaned my house, and, finally, I invited family over for Sunday dinner.  It all felt quite right.

The Picture

I guess I would have to say today was a bad day.  Emotionally raw; it was a day where I just had to put my head down and get through.  Yesterday I had gone out for dinner with a good friend.  It was a lovely meal out and a lovely way to pass a few hours.  It was afterwards that the sadness hit.  Jealousy wrapped up in sadness is probably more accurate. You see, most of my friends are still married, no widows in my immediate circle.  So, for them, they get to look across the dinner table at their husbands every night.  Every day they routinely engage in small talk, arguments, they might get mad at each other and they may or may not make up.  But the presence and the involvement and the sheer state of “couple-ness” exists for them.  I hope they appreciate it.  What I wouldn’t give to have that back again.

So for bedtime last night I recognized the signs of a potential disastrous night’s sleep and did the preventive stuff.  I took a sleeping pill and washed it down with a beverage called Calm.  It did the trick and I zonked out in no time flat.  I woke up this morning, however, to the same feelings.  When this happens, and this was not the first time, my morning routine to get ready for work is always minimal.  It is a feat just to drag myself to work.  At times like these I just don’t care.  It doesn’t matter what I wear or how I look.  Usually once I am at work I snap out of it.  The routine and the demands of the workplace provide enough momentum to get me through and even back on track.

I’d also planned a couple of activities for after work, to stay busy and avoid thinking.  One of the activities involved a visit to a framing shop to have a painting framed.  When I got back home I went in to my husband’s art room, to see what else I should perhaps think of framing, and could take with me when the present painting was ready for pick up.  In the art room, Kevin, my husband, had painted a family portrait of sorts – it had been finished in early 2014.  He’d hung it on the wall above his table and behind his easel.  Today, when I saw it, I thought, that’s the one that I’ll frame next.  I took it off the wall and that’s when I saw the handwriting on the stretcher boards on the back.  Kevin’s scratchy lettering; dedicating the painting to his family.  It was the sweetest and dearest thing, and I had no idea it was there.  I am glad I found it.  Although it brought on the tears, it also made me feel like he was sending me a message, one that I needed to hear.

I took that painting out of the art room and hung it on the bedroom wall.  I won’t get it framed, it’s perfect the way it is.

Ah, The Book…

Unfortunately, I have fallen behind in publishing Kevin’s book, Harmony in a Box.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  The book is 13 chapters long.  Thirteen gut-wrenching chapters to edit.  A story he wrote and I transcribed for him in 2001.  His handwriting and notes are all over the pages.  I made it through the first four chapters, but have to take a breather before I can face the next four.  My intentions are good, but my capacity to work through it is not.  So – another week or so and maybe I will be ready then, just not now.

The family is now approaching the six month marker of Kevin’s death from lung cancer.  Oddly enough, the days are getting harder, not easier.  The emptiness and loss seems stronger and more intense.  Not just for me either.  The realization that he’s gone for good seems to be pressing down heavily on all of us.  In the next week or so another grandchild will arrive, and this little baby will not meet his or her grandfather.  This is the new reality for the family.  Granddad will live in stories only.  The stories will be legend, but still only stories to grandchildren who never got to meet him.

All the emotion drains me of any ambition or productivity.  I feel so old and worn out.  If left to my own devices, it would be easy to turn on the television and zone out completely until I fall asleep; the next day get up, go to work and repeat the same mindless cycle.   Fortunately, that’s not my lot, and between family and friends my days are as busy as I can manage.  It’s good to be busy, but it doesn’t stop the inevitable sadness from settling on me when I am left alone with my thoughts.  For now, nothing can stop it.  Sometimes the sadness is a sweet memory that reminds me of all the good things life gifts us with; other times the sadness is full of bitterness of all the things that life has taken.  Most times it’s a sadness tinged with bewilderment as to why someone who loved life so much was taken so early.

In my head, when I think these thoughts I hear Kevin’s voice urging me to ‘let it go, honey, let it go’; ever grounded in reality; recognizing that some things can’t be fixed or changed. I will get there one day. I’m trying, just not doing so well at it right now.