Which makes falling in love, while grieving, quite challenging.
I have finally got around to reading ‘Women of Letters: reviving the lost art of correspondence’. It is curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire and was started in 2010 when they would invite guests to pen letters to a theme and read them aloud.
It expanded much further than they imagined. And part of it was the safe space they created for the writers with the proviso that no show would be recorded, so many wrote letters that were funny, searing and honest.
However, I digress.
I have finally borrowed the book (and the subsequent two) from the library and have enjoyed the many letters penned – especially so far, the one penned by Noni Hazelhurst which, in effect, talks about what makes a good human.
But Alice Pung’s letter ‘to the moment it all fell apart’ really resonated with me in her line:
An American undertaker once wrote that grief is like falling in love, but backwards.
Which for me, really sums up my grief process – and which is why – when falling in love while grieving, I so often felt crazy-eight-bonkers.
The two processes going on simultaneously for and about two different people, when your emotional and physical reserves are quite low, are quite mind blowing and heart searing.
* * *
I have just come out the other side of the busiest nine months of my life.
As in crazy busy.
For some reasons that I can say, but one main reason that I have not been given permission to divulge, any sense of personal time and emotional respite disappeared in a moment, not just for me but for everyone else involved.
As I think I had mentioned in an earlier post, having one child in child care, one in kinder and one at school, while being privileged enough to continue working in a flexible working environment with wonderful people, was pretty challenging in itself.
And then to have Life throw in a curve ball to really challenge the juggling of all those balls…
I’m not quite sure who I was performing for, but perhaps that’s what it’s all about.
However, this was not an ideal time to meet someone and fall in love.
Life went a bit crazy on the 10th April.
I met Adam on the 17th May. We met through mutual friends – Phillipa and Phil, who have known him for about 15 and 20 years respectively – or as we like to say about Phillipa now, the village matchmaker.
Adam had just turned 50 and had his party the weekend before.
Which made him a year younger than Gary. And was only the start of many comparisons.
Apart from not having any spare time to breathe, let alone think, I spent the best part of the year fighting my expectations, and reconciling the differences between Adam and Gary.
And the fact that Adam wasn’t Gary.
All under the watchful gaze of three children.
When you’re a sole parent there is not a lot of spare time to explore a new relationship – or to do it away from the children.
Unlike separated and divorced parents – and I’m certainly not saying that this is the case in every circumstance – but generally if the children’s best interest is at their parents heart, there is usually some form of shared care, which although excruciating at first, once some of the heartache has subsided, does eventually allow some space for the parents to get to know other potential partners.
Or just get out.
This is not the case for sole parents. The kids are around 24/7 apart from the occasional – and very gratefully received – night away with family. Which is not really an issue until you’d like to get to know someone without the kids asking if he is their stepfather five minutes later (okay I am exaggerating somewhat. It may have been at least 10 minutes).
I think I expected to meet someone like Gary.
But as Jodie pointed out, ‘There is only one Gary.’
The night before we met, Adam booked his month-long holiday to Cuba and Colombia. He left for that on the 30th June – which echoed Gary leaving for Everest for a month about a month after we met.
I thought I would be okay with that. I figured that since I had watched my husband die that this separation would be a walk in the park.
I quickly worked out that I was less resilient rather than more, and that it was going to prove to be a rather difficult month. I think it has something to do with something else I had read about quite recently – although God knows where and when – about the cascade of loss and how each loss builds upon the other and doesn’t actually make it easier to deal with subsequent losses. You just end up knowing how much more pain there can be.
It has been a huge adjustment on both our parts. Adam had pretty much hung up his boots in terms of relationships. I actually don’t think I was quite ready for a relationship but the respite from grief was a hugely welcome distraction.
Adam is an incredible human: loving, warm, sensitive, has that natural gift with kids (which is why all his friends ask him to babysit), articulate, and emotionally sensitive – but also fiercely independent, can be hurt quite easily, and initially swift to take umbrage.
On a light-hearted note he sent me this link today which made me chuckle:
We are both Aries – not that we necessarily believe in that (well, I do but he doesn’t!). I can’t see anything of myself in there but plenty of him!
There have certainly been a number of ups and downs over the last nine or so months – all of them intense.
At times I questioned my sanity – because being in love does that to you.
At times I felt like I was having an affair. Which in the clear light of day is ludicrous and somewhat silly – but when you’re stretched physically and emotionally, and are staying up late most nights upheld by pheromones and phone calls, or children not sleeping, the sleep deprivation – both called and uncalled for, does take its toll.
It wasn’t until Josh started school this year and had settled in that I felt like I was able to breathe. He is soaking everything in, aided and abetted by his best friend, Liam, who is in the same class.
Grayce started three year old kinder this year: one day per week on Tuesday from 9:30am-1:30pm and is loving it too. And I’m loving the fact that I can now work a longer day on Tuesdays as Mum can pick Grayce up at 1:30pm, the boys at 3:30pm and I am usually home by about 5:45pm.
Ben is enjoying Grade 2 and is taking his role of looking out for Josh and Liam, very seriously. As do his friends, Jarvis and Nathan.
We made it through another Christmas (and all kudos to Adam who offered to wrap presents for me and did wrap all 52 presents individually – including each packet of Pez for the kids). It did mean that I got some much-needed sleep in the nights before Christmas instead of staying up till 1 or 2am feverishly wrapping presents in a panic-induced, sleep-deprived haze.
At times I have questioned my feelings and lucidity – as has Adam. It’s been both wonderful and terrifying at the same time.
It has certainly not been an easy journey but it feels like one worth fighting for.
After all, as I’ve discovered, there are no timelines on life and love. All you can do it nurture the spark of happiness and love when you find it, stand back or be engulfed when it flares up, lick your wounds or batten down and survive the conflagrations as they happen, and take respite and strength in the warm glow of contentment.
It’s not linear.
And so far it hasn’t been easy.
But the journey has certainly been interesting. And a lot less volatile since I consciously decided to choose happiness and life over fear and memory. But it’s been a hard decision to make, and I can never forget.
All these experiences have been seared into my soul.
But it will be nice to make some new experiences with a new beloved too.