This photo was taken a year ago, on the 12th of July, and came up on my FB page as a ‘memory’. I hate those memory posts. They are a stark reminder of the sadness and turmoil of this past year, as I have wandered through the days without my husband. But this one was shocking to me. It is a photo of some rocks, near my home, called Worm Stones, and I had apparently hiked up to them, just one month after his death.
I wondered how I managed to do that. How did I take myself on a hike only a month after he collapsed and died, right in front of me? How have I managed to do all the things I have done, this year?
I have kept myself busy. Too busy. I have been on four retreats in the UK, visited Ireland and an animal sanctuary in Spain, and gone on several weekend visits to his favourite places. I have returned home to America for Thanksgiving, and visited friends and family, there. I have hiked miles into the hills and climbed a mountain with my friends.
Most recently, I have been working on the house. I have pulled up the carpet and have now, through the kindness of one of Stan’s friends, had my walls painted. I have rearranged and minimised his art pieces, and made my house more spacious. I have let go of my television.
In many ways, this year, I have faced the reality of my grief head on. There has been no other way around it. But in some ways, I have used all this activity to avoid the loneliness and sorrow. I have not settled into the now of my new existence. Instead, I have organised my thoughts and spent my days preparing for the next trip, activity, or task. I have kept my mind cluttered with preparations for the future.
But now I have the house the way I want it, and there is only a little more to do. I have to conserve my funds, so will be taking fewer trips to places. I will not be visiting America until sometime next year, and perhaps I won’t be able to do so, then, either. I no longer have the comforting noise of television to blunt the deafening silence. I have no more plans to make for the immediate future. I must sit with what is happening in my life, right here. Right now.
This is a frightening prospect. I have always been a planner. Even in my daily meditation, my first few minutes are consumed with plans for later in the day, tomorrow, next weekend, a few months from now. It takes me longer than most people, I think, to settle.
It’s not that planning for the future is a negative thing, necessarily. It is just that all these plans and preparations distract me from seeing what is real for me, today.
So, this weekend, I tried to do that. I tried to sit with, and reflect upon, my current circumstances. The silence that surrounded me was calm and peaceful. And it allowed the sadness of my many losses to arise.
I thought about my mother, and remembered some scenes from our last few months together, when she was so vulnerable, and needed my help, but was afraid to ask for it. I remembered her face when she told me she wasn’t sure she had the strength to get better, or if she even wanted to. I remembered my sister, so happy to see me, one day, after her surgery, her toothless grin as she asked me to feed her some Jello.
I thought of my Stan. I think of him daily, but, with the silence, the images of our life together became more clear and present. I could almost hear his footsteps on our steep staircase, as he took them, one by one, holding on to the rail, in the mornings. I had a laugh at his funny sayings, the way he mangled simple words with no apologies, and no attempts to pronounce them correctly. I remembered how he greeted me in the mornings, when he awakened, so happy to be alive and in this world another day. I felt the sadness but I was not overwhelmed by it. I noticed it, and allowed it.
I read a book and studied my dharma teachings, and meditated and did my yoga practice. I walked a bit in these hills. I didn’t think much about the future.
My life without Stan is not how I planned it. I wanted to grow old with him. I hoped we would have many more years together. But he’s gone, and I can’t bring him back. I can only bring the love I had for him into my present. I can only carry the warmth and kindness of his expansive spirit into the life that I have, now. It’s not a bad life. It is rich with the beauty of these hills and the love of family and friends, with books and teachings and words and art. It would have been so much richer with him in it. But it is the life I have, and I have to live it.
This life I have, it has to be enough. Without my constant searching for the next project or trip or task to make myself feel more purposeful and complete. Without the constant distraction and intoxication of television and internet. Without the comfort and sedation of too much food and sugar. Just this. This day.
These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
We have refused
Again and again
~ by David Whyte