Everything is unfamiliar. My husband of 34 years, Gary, died on April 21st and I find myself drifting, falling continually no longer sure of my life. I know who I am, but who am I now as half of my marriage? The huge, gaping hole is everywhere; in my living room, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and sadly in Gary’s “drum room,” his sacred space of music and memories. There is one car in the driveway and a closet half-filled with clothes that will never be worn by him again. I don’t know what to do with these unnecessary spaces. I sit on my side of the couch, sleep on my side of the bed and use my sink in the bathroom. There is too much emptiness.
Everything is unfamiliar. I have to learn to eat again but eating at home requires shopping for food in the stores we used to frequent. I find myself going to new markets void of memories, buying small amounts of food; two nectarines, three bananas, two individual containers of yogurt, almond milk for my coffee. That should last a couple of days. Other meals are eaten out or brought in. I haven’t cooked in two months because cooking for myself doesn’t make sense. Eating at our family kitchen table, the table that needed six chairs for many years because we were a family of six, including my mom, sharing conversations and meals, feels like I am merely giving my body fuel. Our specialties: taco night, huge salads, sautéed vegetables, linguine and clams, chili, delicious barbecue (Gary’s specialty), my mother’s family recipes of chicken, pot roast, brisket and of course latkes, now seem like distant memories. I find myself wondering why I need a fully stocked kitchen.
Everything is unfamiliar. The bookends of my day, the good mornings and good nights, have vanished and the stillness of a quiet house is louder than I ever could have imagined. There is endless space and it is energetically empty. Half-finished books and others waiting to be read and gathering dust are finding their way to the “give away” box. Those are the easy things to part with and I tackle them first. Anything that has no particular memory attached to it is easier to let go of. Papers are the best because so many are unneeded and so easy to shred. I am seeking lightness and this helps.
Everything is unfamiliar. I find myself evaluating my own clothes and books. What do I really need? Will I ever read that book again? Do those clothes make me feel good or are they just around because they are still wearable and I feel guilty getting rid of perfectly good clothes? I need to feel good, feel pretty, and feel like I am somehow still the me I have always known. I need to feel that all of my possessions have a meaning, are beautiful or serve a purpose and that there is somehow an order in this chaos of my life.
Everything is unfamiliar. Learning to eat is sometimes easier while on the couch watching TV. Making plans with friends at the end of the day is a way to have something to look forward to. I am falling, with moments of touching down on new experiences thankfully providing moments of distraction before I begin to fall again. I am drifting from task to task, unable to focus very long on any one thing before I am overwhelmed with sadness, or sometimes lately, anger at the unfairness of it all. I make lists each day of things I need to do, have to do, or want to accomplish and long for list-free days filled with fun and adventure. I daydream of a new, familiar life that will allow me to breath deeply and relax with an exhale. I will learn to eat again, at restaurants with friends, at my daughters’ houses, on the couch watching TV, maybe at the kitchen table enjoying a cooked meal.