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What a difference a year makes

I was feeling pensive this evening. I guess it was the approaching holidays. I went back and re-read my blog posts from around this time last year.

I was still deeply grieving for Kurt, but I was beginning to look around and ask “what now?” I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to going down to Palm Springs for the winter. How would I manage down there all alone? How did I want to choose to live my life from that point on? Could I ever dare to love again? Might I be so lucky as to love again? Who was I, and who was I becoming now that I was no longer Kurt’s wife, his partner, his caregiver?

What I didn’t share at the time was that I had just met CFL. We met, through friends of friends, two weeks before I packed up and moved south for the winter. We barely had time to begin to get to know one another, but he helped me finish packing and stood in my driveway looking sad when I drove away the day after Thanksgiving.

I was so torn. I kicked myself for leaving but I knew that I had things to do on my own, and that I needed to go.

Then followed hundreds of text messages and hours of phone calls. It wan’t anything like the courtships of my previous experience!

But I think the timing of our meeting and immediate separation worked in my favor — the separation and my loneliness gave me the time and space to figure out what I actually did want to do and who I wanted to become. It allowed me to focus on my job… which helped me to see that there really wasn’t anything left of my job worth focusing on, and that my talents and energy would be better spent elsewhere. The separation from both CFL and the Pacific Northwest helped me to see that I didn’t want to be bi-platial… that friends and community are things that I truly value. I deeply want to be rooted, grounded, at home, in place.

So there I was, deeply engaged in thinking through the issues that I needed to resolve and the decisions that I had to make in order to move on with my life. Meanwhile, I was being wooed. It was an honor, a thrill, and an utterly rejuvenating experience to be wooed.

Re-reading my posts from those months, I see my mixed emotions — confusion, joy, optimism, fear, relief when I made the big decisions to sell the condo and quit my job, resolutions of “I shall have fun,” and wide-eyed speculation about the future.

What a difference a year makes.

I wish I could convey adequately to Kurt’s daughter and his closest friends that there will never be another Kurt in my life. I will grieve for him and miss him until the day I die.

But love is a many-splendored thing. It is beautiful. It is rare. My relationship with CFL may or may not be forever, but it is real. We’re both taking it one day at a time, both of us sharply aware that life is short and moments are all we have. I know that we have enriched one another’s lives immeasurably. As I look back tonight and remember the person that I was and the person that he was a year ago, I am grateful that both of us have had this second chance at love in our lives.

And on this holiday, I am grateful for loved ones and for being in love, both past and present. I am cherishing the memories and looking to the future.

One step at a time.

Decisions, decisions

I’m in the process of deciding to sell the condo. Actually I’ve already made that decision; the only real question is timing. Do I put it on the market in January (smack in the middle of “the season”) and endure people tramping through while I’m here (I hate that), in late February or early March (the time of “the season” when those who have fallen in love with this town have begun their serious looking and bargain-hunting), or wait (and continue to incur monthly costs) until next fall when the market may or may not start to pick up again?

I plan to sell it furnished, but I’ll still have personal possessions (mostly artwork and books) to pack up and ship home. So I’m thinking maybe late February will be the right time. I have things to do that will keep me here until early March. Besides the half marathon and the architectural tours I’ve paid for, I still have to keep a promise to Kurt to scatter the other half of his ashes somewhere in the water off Newport Beach.

He tried unsuccessfully to make me promise to keep this condo for 10-15 years, as he was convinced that the market would recover and I’d eventually make a bundle. I’ve kept every other promise he asked me to keep (or pretty much will have, when I scatter the ashes). But I never agreed to keep this condo; I only agreed to try it for one season.

Well, I tried it. Almost a month into the experiment, I don’t think this is merely the December blues clouding my thinking. I believe I’ve made a genuine decision after deep thought about what is truly important to me. While I’ve appreciated the warm weather and waxed eloquent about architectural wonders, this is not where I want to be. I did not choose to be bi-platial; this was Kurt’s dream, not mine.

Selling the condo is going to buy me freedom. Freedom to put more money aside for the future or to choose to earn less now. Freedom to travel wherever I want to without feeling guilty over “wasting” the empty condo. Freedom from worrying that whichever house I’m not in is falling apart or being vandalized while I’m not there. I’ve realized that even one house is a lot for one person to take care of, and two is just too much.

I am not a migratory bird by nature. I want to be a tree and put down deep, enduring roots. I want to experience all four seasons even if it means that sometimes I’m housebound by snow and ice. I want to feel part of a community that thrives together through the good times and the bad.

I want to be at home: in my mind, in my body, in my dwelling place, with my friends, and in my community. I’ve learned in the past month how very important that sense of belonging to one another and to a place is to me. Life is short, and I don’t want to waste any more time being lonely and miserable.

Now I just have to figure out how to find my way back home… one step at a time.

Loneliness, and a new flavor of grief

Now that I’m here in this place that is my “other” home, I am coming to see how much it truly isn’t “home.” Home isn’t simply a geographical place, of course. In a much more fundamental way, it is the place where family and friends are, the place where memories become thickly, repeatedly layered over years of shared events, occasions, rituals, and the simple cycle of changing seasons. This was a place that Kurt and I shared and called home, briefly — for one winter of blissful pre-diagnosis ignorance and one spring of desperate grasping at the last weeks of our shared lives.

Here I am now, trying to rehearse the idea of making this my second home rather than ours, but this rehearsal is not going so well at the moment. I do have a few friends here but I don’t see them regularly, and I don’t have places where I can go with a reasonable chance of seeing people I know and feel known by. I have no specific plan for making friends and creating a community around myself. I guess I was just hoping that I’d find a way somehow.

I am lonely. It hasn’t helped that I had one of my two-day headaches this past Monday and yesterday, which left me too sick to work more than a few hours a day or to do anything else but sleep. I missed my Wednesday morning run this morning. I haven’t gone anywhere in days except for scurrying out to the grocery store this evening. Tonight my head is no longer screaming at me, so I’m asking my body if it is ready to try a very short, slow run tomorrow morning. I have a feeling it won’t give me an answer until tomorrow morning. I’ll set the alarm a few minutes early and see what happens.

I saw quite a few friends last weekend at a Porsche club gathering, and that was enjoyable but in a bittersweet way. The last time I’d seen most of those people, Kurt was still with me, so this was their first opportunity to express their grief directly to me.

I know that others miss Kurt and grieve for him too, and that they have a right to feel those feelings and to express them — but it is difficult for me when someone stands there in front of me and shows me their grief so directly, when I am trying so hard to move beyond that and reweave the threads of my life. Every time it happens it is a fresh shock, another unexpected step off another unexpected cliff. And that’s just the people who already knew, and who know that I know that they knew. The really weird thing is that twice in the last week I have had an unexpected encounter with someone who didn’t know Kurt was gone, who was processing the news for the first time and doing so in my presence. That is an almost unbearable wrench back in time for me.

Two days from now, he’ll have been gone six months. It’s another one of those milestone dates that I’ll get through one way or another. I’d honestly been thinking that this month would be better until I had those unexpected encounters. Now I know that I’m still not far enough beyond it to sit there quietly and accept someone else’s expression of grief without feeling myself inevitably pushed over the cliff. I become overwhelmed by my empathy for their feelings. I can’t stop other people’s feelings, so I can only learn to control my reaction to them. It’s going to take more time… probably a lot more time still.

I’m thinking tonight about this question of how I’m going to manage my time here. I’m determined to stay at least through early spring, as I’ve made commitments and bought tickets for various things, but there are a lot of blank spaces on my calendar. I’ll have to do some research, find other things besides running that I want to do on my own and just for my own enjoyment. Then I’ll have to make myself go out the door and do them.

One step at a time.