This weekend, I travelled to a retreat centre in the beautiful countryside near Bakewell, in the southern part of the Peak District. Driving along those winding roads, I felt Stan’s presence with me, as I gazed upon the vibrant orange and red and yellow trees lining the hills, their leaves laying a royal carpet over green grasses.
Stan loved this area, just 25 miles from where we lived, and we spent many Sundays exploring the villages near here, in search of new pubs and grand Sunday dinners, his favourite meal of the week.
When I pulled up to the retreat centre, I realised that the last time I came to this place was in July of last year, just a few weeks after his death.
I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how I managed to bring myself to a retreat, with fifty other sangha members, just six short weeks from the day he collapsed in front of me. I must have still been in shock. I must have walked around in a fog, that weekend, my tears flowing like rain, in a never-ending river of grief and sorrow.
It's been a long week. Most of my stuff has sat in storage since Drew died three years ago. And before that, probably half those boxes hadn't been opened in years. With the move to Ohio in just a few weeks, it's time to finally tackle this.
I decided that I didn't want to take any extra baggage (literally) with me on this new venture, and that means I'm opening up every last box. I'm pulling out a million different little pieces of myself from long ago... and deciding which pieces I want to keep and which I want to leave behind.
It's been emotional. To dig through my past and remember who I used to be. A lot has happened to me that isn't just the grief over my fiance. Death, alcoholism, family dystunction, abuse...I haven't had the worst life by far, but it hasn't been easy.
Revisiting the boxes reminded me of how I spent the first 25 years of my life in survival mode. There was never stability, or healthy relationships, or a feeling of safety in my world. There was never room to put down the armor and just relax into life. Not until I met Drew...
Last night I went to the movies with some friends to see the new Ridley Scott film, The Martian. It was awesome, really clever, enough suspense to make it exciting and interesting without freaking me out too much, with plenty of feel-good moments.
Going to see a movie was something Dan and I did very often, sometimes two or three times a month. After he died it took a long time for me to enjoy it again because the whole experience without being able to snuggle under his strong arm and rest my head on his shoulders just felt so wrong and hit me square in that big, gaping, aching hole in my heart.
I still find it difficult sometimes, either because I know he’d had loved the movie, or I find myself wishing I could get his opinion on something, or there’s an unexpected trigger that makes me think of his death or, in particular, the way he died so tragically from depression.
Watching Matt Damon in The Martian last night, I found it really affected me seeing how desperately his character fought to stay alive in such dire circumstances.