Winter is settling in, and the land knows it. Animals, earth, and people seem intent on slowing down and creating cozy, tucked in corners. Fall foliage is gone; trees have shrunk to the bones, perennials wilted down to their roots, annuals almost disappeared. Fat squirrels rush about completing their preparation for the cold, hungry months.
I’m settling in too. My weekly visits to the cemetery have been put on hold until next spring, when I’ll look for flowers sprouting from the bulbs I planted a few weeks ago. With colder weather and closed windows, I’m noticing how grimy the house looks, and have started work on turning it back into a home – my home – that I can enjoy. It hasn’t been that for a long time. Not since Rick started being sick, certainly not during the frantic few months that took me from wife to widow, not over the last year as I struggled to adjust to my new station in life. I’m cleaning now, reviewing everything to determine if I still want it. It’s sad work, changing the look and feel from “our place” to “my place”, but it’s work I need to do. I’ve lost patience with being in this in-between phase of life.
I’m not sure what I’m aiming for; I’m flying blind, just randomly reacting to things with no set plan. Slowly, though, I’m starting to get ideas. The second bedroom was used as an office when Rick was alive, and is now a staging area for everything brought over from his house. I’m starting to see a picture in my head of a room with worktable and bookshelves, a comfortable chair and good lighting; a place where I can retreat, but also a welcoming place for visitors to stay. Before I can create the vision that is starting to appear in my mind’s eye I will need to finalize Rick’s things. I need to get moving, to select what can be sold, what to keep, and what to get rid of.
My throat has been sore the last few weeks and it scares me. My attitude towards mortality has changed. I’ve always assumed that any ailment I contracted would heal, and that’s always been the case. Until last year, when I watched Rick go from initial diagnosis to death in under two months, and when what had seemed to be small unrelated things suddenly became the unrecognized signs of a major problem. I’m no longer cavalier about minor symptoms, now thinking that each cough or headache is a sign of some horrible problem. I’m terrified about all the bad things that could happen to me at home. What if I choke on something, or fall and hit my head, or cut myself: I’m alone; there will be no one to help.
I never thought about things like this before, but I do now.
Walking to work this morning in the first snowfall of the winter, I realized that another season has started, that my life is moving on whether I want it to or not. It’s hard work, coming back from grief. Last year at this time, I was experiencing the first two “firsts” of my widowhood, my birthday and Thanksgiving. I skipped my birthday last year, refusing to acknowledge or celebrate it. Thanksgiving was just barely noted; I spent the day with friends, but came home to a lonely dark house.
This year is different. I did celebrate my birthday, going out to dinner with friends and seeing a show. It brought home how much quieter and sadder my life is now. There were no flowers waiting for me after work, no week of finding small gifts hidden around the house, no cards left on the pillow. I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, but not really feeling any excitement about doing so. It’s an assignment, something to check off a list.
I realize I’m rambling, but these seemingly random and disconnected thoughts match how my life feels right now. It lacks a narrative theme, the unifying connective tissue to pull the individual parts into a meaningful whole. I lurch from one mood to the next. This weekend I started planning what I want to do with the extra bedroom, but also spent time sobbing uncontrollably about all I’ve lost. I’m starting a new phase, moving away from what I was to a new me. It’s too soon yet to know what that new me will be, but I know I’m not the same woman I was 15 months ago. I’m harder and softer than I was, tougher and more vulnerable. Less afraid of taking risks, more afraid of what the future will be. It’s a journey, one I’m just beginning.