Surely it has not been two whole years that I have awakened each morning and gone to sleep each night alone. Impossible and yet…
In my post about my first year I see that I talked about the solitary trip to Door County–the cottage on the water, the incredible adventures I had connecting with total strangers and the seemingly impossible task of wrapping my head around the fact that L was gone. In that first year so many ‘firsts’ were events that carried the burden of sadness and solitude and yes, anger.
And so we come to year #2–the year a friend widowed six years ago told me would in many ways be worse than those first 12 months–and she was right. As friends and family assured themselves that I was going to get through this and went back to their lives I found myself in the very position that L had dreaded most for me: the position of having to seek out others for companionship, for a listening ear, for whatever might be necessary to keep me from crawling into the shell that I so often surrounded myself with. It is not in my nature to ask for help and admittedly the first steps I took were steps that in some ways set some new boundaries for old relationships. Having accepted that this is a couples world and barring that a “girlfriend” world–neither or which I fit–I looked for ways that I might secure my future without alienating the dear souls who had been our friends for decades. This evolved in ways that came as enormous surprises to others and to me!
Over the summer I went into a kind of hibernation–I saw people and attended events when invited but overall I spent my time at home or in my studio working or going through draers and closets and financial files and putting them into what I hoped was some kind of order that would work for me. I was blessed to have work–a deadline for a book and part of that work involved a trip to Oswego NY to do research. There the innkeeper at the B&B and I had several long conversations and he and his wife even invited me to have dinner with them one evening. I also met a delightful young woman who helped me gather the research I needed for my story–a connection that remains today. I came home with the realization that I did not need to depend solely on those friends that L and I had shared through the years. For the remainder of the summer one of my huge projects was the Little Free Library that I donated to the condo association in L’s memory–a gift I thought I would oversee for years to come.
And then came the autumn and one day when I was walking with a friend who lives downtown I mentioned that L and I had always hoped to live downtown but because of his compromised breathing we never ould. However I told her one day I just might make that move. She urged me to get on a waiting list for a wonderful historic apartment building–my kind of place–so I stopped by the office to apply. To my surprise there was no waiting list; rather my fiend and I were handed a key to go look at a 6th floor apartment. I walked in and every window but one looked out directly at Lake Michigan AND overlooked the spot L loved to sit whenever we came down to the lakefront. It was a sign and I took it. Within a week I had rented the apartment, put the condo on the market, started downsizing and scheduling n estate sale all while completing the manuscript to meet my deadline and preparing to head back to Florida for the winter season.
I had barely moved into the apartment (and had not yet had a single offer on the condo) when I left for Florida. There I opened the door to the condo I had bought the previous spring under a similar scenario and began the process of trying to make it feel like ‘home.’ I had a light workload over the winter months so could devote my time to moving furniture around to suit my needs (I had bought the place furnished) nd gradually discarding and replacing pieces — thank heavens for the local thrift stores!!! I gave a party to ‘christen’ the new place and everyone assured me I had made the right decision–that the place was ‘me.’ Yes, it was. It just wasn’t ‘me and L.’
On New Year’s Eve I finalized the sale of the Wisconsin condo — a relief I was not to fully appreciate until I learned what a horrific winter Wisconsin suffered. So blessed not to have had that responsibility! In Florida I had time to take art classes and attend other events. I made a new friend–a neighbor–and met several other residents in the complex. I renewed my connection with the local UU church and the Quaker meeting and I took daily walks on the beach, through the gardens, into town.
With spring came my greatest adventure–my first trip abroad without L–in fact without anyone I knew. I took a tour to Normandy and again made connections not that will last a lifetime (or really any time) but that gave me confidence to know that I could do this. I could make a life for myself because–as he promised–L is always there. I can feel him. I get signs that are indisputable. And I handle adversity with a whole new set of guidelines that begin with “it is what it is” and end with my ability to not obsess about things I really have no control over.
In late April I returned to Wisconsin, anxious to begin my life ‘downtown’ and from the moment I walked into the apartment I felt as if I were at home in ways I still did not feel in Florida where I own the place. Iquickly understood that this is home because it is filled with the furnishings and art and trinkets that L and I collected through the years. I have taken a few of those things with me to FL and now I will take more but will accept that the condo there represents the life I now must lead going forward–it will never be home because L never was there. ‘Home’ will always be where I am surrounded a world that I shared with L–a world that gives me the strength I continue to need to journey on.