Today marks seven months that Gary has been gone and in those seven months everything has changed, in my life, in the country and in the world. Nothing is familiar and nothing is the same, holidays coming and going like mountains to climb and descend. The anticipation is somber and the days are long. Seven months ago the embrace of family and friends provided some security in the foreign world in which I was now forced to live. I gathered courage from their encouraging words: “You’re doing so well” and “You are so strong.” The truth is I am not so strong and much of the time paralyzed with the insurmountable tasks of unraveling my formally entwined life. The truth is there are many lonely days and nights as I learn to live alone and to be alone. The truth is that I cannot see much point (or fun) in cooking for just me and I miss cooking and eating together with Gary. I haven’t figured out how to have purpose and I spend evenings watching mindless television. The best I can do is take myself to yoga to practice breathing.
I have tried, over the past seven months, to focus on moving forward and to feeling gratitude. I have expressed gratitude to my family and close friends. I write about gratitude and make lists of things I am grateful for. I am very grateful that Gary did not suffer for long and that we, his family, did not have long roles as care givers, watching him drift away. I try to remember how much worse it could have been and I know others who did have to suffer much more. I am grateful for my job and to be part of a caring community. I am grateful to live in California for many reasons, but to be honest, the climate in our country, the overwhelming negativity and hatred expressed by so many, has hit me hard and like others I know, has intensified the grief cycle I was already immersed in.
It is hard to believe it has been seven months. It was somehow easier at first when I had so many tasks to take care of. I could lose myself in the busyness of it all. Now, those things have settled down a little and I find myself face to face with the holiday season. Normalcy, with Gary barbecuing turkey and thoughts of him making latkes next month, is gone. I haven’t found a new normal yet. I haven’t figured out how to do more than exist and get through each day and am floating without a landing in sight.
I think that now many people share these feelings. Of course there are many others alone, those who have also lost loved ones and those who are separated from loved ones, but now there are also many who have lost faith and confidence in our future as a country. Families are estranged and friendships are strained. For me, an already sensitive person, it sometimes feels like a very heavy burden. Life can change in a minute and there are no guarantees. Life has changed dramatically and each of these many minutes over the last seven months have felt like a trip into a dark tunnel that I travel hoping to see if there will be any light at the end.
Life certainly isn’t perfect, including relationships. Governments aren’t perfect either, but somehow losing the familiar, the known, someone who honestly cared, is a difficult idea to comprehend. The loss of hope, optimism for the future, the future as we expected it, is a crushing weight and wearing a mask of positivity can be exhausting.
Seven months, from the hope of springtime, to the darkness of winter. The months come and go and I long for the light to return, for some sign of hope and the chance that things can feel normal in a way, a different kind of normal, but one that sits comfortably and allows enough space to breath in and then to exhale.