The past 12 months have been difficult and disturbing, in unexpected ways. A year after my husband's death I continue to grieve for the failure of our life together. And although we had lived apart for 20 years, I have been feeling strangely without purpose, now that he is no longer around. I have been surprised at just how much a person becomes part of you when you have been married for 50 years, and have been in, and out, of each other’s lives for 60. But he was, after all, the one I chose, and the only one.
I find I am immersing myself in projects centred on Michael, such as the research I am doing into his family history. I guess this expresses a need in me to both mourn and celebrate him still. I am doing this by putting my research onto a family tree website, with photographs, so that our sons and grandchildren will be able to see who he was, and where he came from.
All of this seems fairly positive, even when it is uncomfortable for me, as it recognises Michael 's value, and the value of the 29 years that we had together with our family; I feel that in some sense it is restoring a balance.
But I am also feeling that I have moved up a place in the queue for “the pearly gates”, that my relatively good health is less reliable, and that I should be putting my affairs in better order, for the sake of my executors. This has prompted me to sort out my business papers into a tidy, up-to-date row of ringbinders, and also to undertake a major programme of house clearance and chucking out.
Possessions and clutter can feel like a heavy burden at times, and I am a lifelong hoarder and collector, not only of objects of interest and appeal, but also of “might-be-usefuls”. But now suddenly I have started to let go of stuff. I seem no longer to have the urge to keep things, just in case, in some unforseeable future, they might serve a new purpose. I can see clearly and cheerfully what I am not likely to need, especially when I have not needed it for the past 20 or 30 years anyway! This is remarkably freeing - I feel lighter every time I throw something away - or better still recycle it.
Hence the title of this blog: my aim is to end up with nothing stored under any of my beds any more. (And no unresolved relationship issues pushed there out of mind either!)
My brain has become frenetically active in the past year, which seems likely to be a counterbalance to this increased sense of my mortality. The genealogical research I am doing is fascinating and compulsive, and gives rise to many ideas for pieces to write. But my mind darts from one idea to the next, embracing the new while longing to pursue what is already under way, but remains unfinished.
So the past year has been sad and reflective, but busy and creative as well, and I think that on balance the positive is winning. And yet ..... I am worried by a growing inclination to stay at home and live life in my head and in my computer, rather than make the effort to go out and socialise. It feels kind of weird. It's almost as though I am not quite the same person that I was two years ago, or not quite in the same world.
Is this the effect of bereavement? Or of ageing? Or simply of being a disgraceful old woman?!!
[The snowdrops were painted by Julie Oakley. You can see more of her work on her website.]