I saw him in the park a while ago, your old friend who runs the fairground, who told me of his own loss soon after you died. He didn't ask me how I was. (I appreciate that in a person now.) He just gave me a hug, looked me in the eye and said, 'you're in the lost zone, aren't you?' I nodded. 'It takes a long time,' he said with a wisdom that only comes from experience. 'It will take a long time.'
I'm not sure what 'it' is. Some people might call it feeling better. Some might call it recovering from shock and grief. Some might talk of getting over it or getting back to normal. I'm not sure any of those things is possible. I don't think I can return to the place I was in before. I'm not sure that 'it' is even a destination I want to go to. The truth is, I'm not sure where I want to go at all. All I know is that he was right. I am in the lost zone. And 'it' is taking a long time.
Funny that lost used to be a good place to be. When I was with you, for our twenty-four hour periods together, there was no time, no destination. We meandered through the day, often through the wilderness, aimlessly content, always happy to stray from the path. We didn't know where we were going from the day we set out together and most of the time we didn't care. Neither of us knew how we were going to be together but we knew we couldn't live our lives apart. 'I can't imagine you not being in my life,' you said and I felt the same. I still can't imagine my life without you now but somehow I am living it. Having you by my side is no longer an option. There is a huge empty space where you used to be; a vacancy that I'm not sure how to fill. It is a lonely life being a single parent and an orphan. It is not a path I would choose to go down. But it is the path I am on.
I reflect sometimes that it's not just a partner that has gone missing since you died. Huge parts of me have gone too. My world has shrunk to this tiny zone of grief. It reminds me of being a new mum, when the world seemed to be encapsulated in a tiny fingernail. Only this time my focus is death instead of life, overwhelming absence instead of overwhelming presence. Focus shifts when lives come into and leave this earth. Everything is re-evaluated. I'm not sure anymore how I want to fill my days. So much of life feels pointless. So I lean towards the things that keep me sane, that bring me joy: writing, sharing my words, teaching, nature, my children. And love? Love has always been what I value above all else but I'm not sure I even want it anymore, not that kind of love, not the kind of love we had. Love like that doesn't come around every day.
Still, I reactivated my Ok Cupid profile yesterday, just for five minutes, just to see who was still around, just to see how it felt. Crazy to think that it's only a year or so since I deactivated it. I turned it on just long enough to watch a few people watching me, to watch the numbers of my 'likes' go up. Counting again, I re-read my profile, wondered if it was still true, wondered if I was still the same person, found that I am not. Found that none of the men on Ok Cupid were you. Read about men who want someone who 'doesn't take life too seriously', who 'likes going out'. Found myself deactivating swiftly. Confirmed that I am not ready.
I wonder what I would write if I were to re-write my Ok Cupid profile now. It might look something like this:
Heartbroken writer, lost since March 2016, seeks a new direction. Still sincere and quirky, just very tired and sad. Doesn't like going out. Tried it last Saturday and had to stave off a panic attack. Might consider nights in with someone who gives good hugs and is attracted to women who cry a lot and talk about previous partners all night.
What I am doing with my life
Mostly I am wondering how the fuck I ended up here again. When I'm not wondering about that, I'm wondering what the point of anything is and writing about my lost love and grief. Attractive huh?
I'm really good at
Ok, I am still good at writing and teaching and swimming and talking, just that I am mostly writing and talking about sadness.
Favourite books, movies, shows, music and food
Truth is I haven't read a book that isn't a grief memoir for the last year. I don't watch TV or films either (can't concentrate for long enough and don't see the point). Listen to the occasional sad song and eat whatever is in the fridge (so long as it's in date and free from gluten, dairy, eggs and sugar). Feel too wobbly to drink alcohol. Living life on the edge.
The six things I could never do without
Writing, my children, nature, oh, and that man that I am doing without. Can't think of two more.
I spend a lot of time thinking about
Death and how to live a good life in the face of devastation.
On a typical Friday night I am
I'm being slightly facetious, of course. It's not quite that bad. Still, I wonder what kind of man would fall for a woman like that? Only someone strong and brave and true. Only someone like, well, like you. I know that, even now, you would take me as I am and love me anyway. You weren't afraid of tears. I think of the words of my bereavement counsellor: 'The worst grief is when the person who would have made it better is the one who died.' She is so right. You made it all better. Without you it is all a lot worse.
I've been thinking of the words of another mentor this week as well. Megan Devine runs Refuge in Grief and she doesn't believe in recovering either but she does ask this question: 'Given that what I’ve lost cannot be restored, given that what was taken cannot be returned, what would healing look like?'
This week I found it a helpful question and I started to wonder, knowing that wondering is the first step on a long road to who knows where.
This much I do know: I'm not ready for dating yet. So instead I will keep holding onto your fleeces instead of your body at night and I will talk to you in the clouds instead of face to face. It's not the same but it will have to do while I am still lost and wondering which path will lead me to a future. Other things I know are that I can feel the path beneath the undergrowth, that you will help me to find my way and that slowly I am moving forwards. This week, at least I started looking for a path. I don't know where my journey will take me but one thing is for sure: it will be a road less travelled. And it will be different to the one I would have walked with you. I am different now. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. You left me at a crossroads and I don't know where I'm going anymore. But I will keep going anyway because what else can I do?