I started crying in the car on the way home from the store. The boxes containing the new bar stools were in the back seat and for some reason, I was bawling my eyes out. Suddenly, I felt as scraped and raw as I had back last fall, during those early days as a widow.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Back home, assembling the bar stools, it hit me. I was moving forward. I was reclaiming space, creating a new look to where “we” had lived that made it where “I” was living. We kept a bookcase under the breakfast counter because we never used it for eating. Friday night I moved that bookcase to a different spot.
It’s healthy to move forward. I’m not willing to spend the rest of my life in permanent mourning. I loved my husband, and one of the things I loved most about him was his enjoyment in experiencing life. The greatest tribute I can make to his memory is to continue being invested in life.
So, why do I have this pain and guilt, this feeling of being disloyal? Intellectually I know that rearranging the furniture will not destroy my memories, and getting rid of items I no longer need and will never use is not a betrayal. Yet, part of me doesn’t believe that. Rick and I did not have 30 years together. We didn’t have children. There wasn’t time to grow old together, to hit that point where we started looking alike. I’m afraid. Scared of losing the “us” that was such a big part of my life.
Last fall I had to clean out his house, the one he’d had before we were married and that had finally sold. It was hard, painful work, going through almost 30 years of someone’s life. Many of my earliest posts were on the difficulty of that task. The one saving grace, that I realized even through the pain of what was new, fresh grief, was that most of the materials I was dealing with had no imprint of “us” to them. That work is mostly finished, with only a few boxes left.
Now I’m starting in on the circles of his life that included me, and the work is far more difficult. I can’t detach, play archeologist, and employ a third-person narrative in my head. This is us, our life; my imprint is on everything. That box of books I brought in for resale; I remember us discussing where to sell them over a year ago. While moving the bookshelf, I think back to when he moved it there 3 years ago. Everything left to do will be like this, deeply personal and much more painful. I’ve started a new phase, walking a tightrope between the life I had and the life I’m going to have. There’s not a choice, or at least it is not a choice I’m willing to make; I must, I need to keep moving, to keep living, to carve out a life. I’ve climbed up the ladder to that tightrope, and this weekend I took my first, tentative steps out on it.