Living On – Living Less

Since Kevin’s death I wonder if I have been living less.  Is it possible to live less?  My heart still beats, I breathe and eat and sleep – and I still love; but I feel somehow that I am doing it less.  Maybe I am just not doing it as well.  I don’t greet each day with anticipation.  My new normal is waking up to emptiness, filling the void during the daylight hours through work or chores, and then ending the day with emptiness.  I talk to myself quite often, especially when I wake up. I give myself a little pep talk and then start my day.  Likewise at night, I talk, but not to myself. At night I talk to Kevin, just like before.  I work through the things that are bothering me or that I am unsure of and I ask him for help.  You see, I didn’t choose this situation, it chose me. It will take a very long time for me to accept it and to adapt to it.

I’ve never lived on my own, not that it is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just that it wasn’t part of the grand plan.  Friends that live on their own tell me that once I get used to it I will guard my privacy and freedom fiercely. Now here I am on my own and trying to figure it out.  I’m not afraid of living alone, fact is, I couldn’t care less.  It’s the extreme shift in my home environment that is crippling me.  I miss the energy and interest and diversity that Kevin brought to my life. If he were alive right now we’d be planning his next art exhibit submission; we’d be planning his summer; he’d be scheming about something because it gave him a thrill to think he’d pulled a fast one; and, I’d be frazzled because he wore me out.  So is it hard to live alone? For me it’s brutal.

When we moved into our house over 20 years ago we had a neighbour who was a widow.  In the summer we’d see her tirelessly working in her flower gardens day in and day out.  Old Lady Hunchback the kids called her.  She stayed in her house until the day she died.  Her gardens were gentle, understated and peaceful; they welcomed you not overwhelmed you. I suspect they were the product of love and loss; resignation but not unhappiness.  I think about her and the circle of life and, as I tend to my own gardens, how primal our response is to it.

Innocent Offense

One of the most challenging things I face on a daily basis is inadvertent emotional pain that my husband faces.  He continues to confront his own mortality and as a result often reacts to visual content, language or references about death and dying.  Simply put, it is painful for him to think about death. This pain or hurt can be generated from a variety of sources, but the most consistent is the television.  It’s ironic that most of the entertainment shows on television centre around death, murder or mysterious, but nonetheless, death.  Top news stories usually deal with bombings, deaths and loss of life.  Life is so very precious to him now that it pains him to hear these things spoken about almost in passing.  For every news story that talks about a suicide bomber killing 20 people in a market there are 20 families and an exponential number of friends and relatives left reeling with shock and loss.  This is the impact for him, the thought of those left behind.  Then there’s the “shock” advertising campaigns, designed to deter harmful habits, like smoking, by providing graphic visuals.  These actually traumatize the lung cancer sufferer.  My husband wasn’t a heavy smoker at all yet these ads would suggest differently.  They speak to painful deaths – just what the patient wants to hear.

We have modified our viewing preferences to documentaries and educational type shows, even then death is inevitable in the recounting of some stories. The stuff is everywhere and we would have to live in a bubble to avoid it.  My learning out of this is one of compassion.  The saying ‘walk a mile in another’s shoes’ really fits here.  One person’s idea of entertainment may not be another’s, but that’s why we have remote controls.