Autumn is the one season that means "change" and signifies the end of something in a more meaningful way than the others. I know some of the members of my bereavement support group have expressed an extreme distaste for this time of year, though I'm sure part of that includes the impending holidays and the difficult firsts that await us. I can understand their feelings, but I still love this time of year--holidays notwithstanding.
Rather than "spring cleaning", it's this time of year when I feel the need to declutter and organize. I was doing some organizing and rearranging recently. I've been pretty careful not get rid of anything of Ken's--aside from a few donations of items with no sentimental attachment and gifts to particular people he knew. I'm in no rush to go through all his things and make difficult decisions, though some days it doesn't seem as overwhelming as others. When I decided it was time to get ride of a futon frame and mattress in the "guest nook" I was hit full force by something I wasn't expecting. The frame pre-dated Ken. I bought it in 1998 when I lived in an awesome studio apartment in Lakeview on Cornelia and LSD. Ken and I bought the sweet mattress (with springs!) after we moved LA and were living in my brother- and sister-in-law's guest house. It was a bed we shared for almost a year (until we moved to a bigger place and it became our couch). Our precious Chow-Chow Q napped on it with each of us, and countless loved ones and guests have nestled into it after long, lovely evenings of chatting and cocktails--both in LA and in Chicago.
Just the thought of getting rid of it stopped me in my tracks and emotionally punched me in the gut. I got so upset about it I started crying as I stood there staring at it. It was truly a pathetic scene--only in the sense that I'd brought it on unnecessarily all by myself. Once I got a grip and calmed myself down, I placed a moratorium on getting rid of anything that upsets me and makes me cry! Later that day I spent some time really thinking about it and trying to figure out what exactly about that futon caused me to flip my lid. And I figured it out after some deep soul searching (and a martini or two): my "old" life--the life I lived, loved and shared with Ken--is slipping away a little bit each day.
Yes, I have memories and keepsakes that will never leave my possession, but the basic premise of my life has shifted and like footprints on a beach, the tides of time will wash over them repeatedly until they're gone. It makes me profoundly sad. Grief and loss comprise so many things. Coming to terms with the fact that a future I'd expected and eagerly anticipated has evaporated is among one the most difficult aspects to deal with. It's like running toward a lush mirage that disappears once you're close enough to taste the live-giving water. It's a jungle of emotions that take a while to navigate through--sometimes hacking away with a machete, and sometimes painstakingly unknotting the chaotic feelings by hand, or sometimes knowing a change of direction is the best approach to keep going.
On the flip side, I do experience moments--and days--when I'm excited about the future as I pursue my writing aspirations and relish in the relationships I have with family and friends--and with myself. Though I don't know what my "new normal" looks like, I can say with some certainty that I'm not there yet. Time alone, spent clicking away on the keyboard or experimenting with a new recipe in my kitchen are the times when I feel most centered and comfortable.
Intellectualizing still has its benefits. I know what I have to do, why I have to do it, and that Ken would want nothing more than for me to move forward in pursuit of my passions and dreams--which now include some of his, as well. To me "moving on" sounds heartless, but "moving forward" is something we all have to do no matter what our situations are; it's what we all have to do--"just keep swimming," as Dory so aptly sang in "Finding Nemo." Just keep going. There is no alternative.
I hope in time I'll have a better understanding of how my life with Ken will fit into my "new" life--whatever that will look like. Uncertainty abounds in such a way that I'm learning to find it less and less frightening. What I do know for sure is as irrevocably as losing Ken has changed my life, loving him shaped it--even more.