No Life in My Life

I am heading toward the two-and-a-half-year anniversary of the death of my life mate/soul mate/best friend. The breath-stealing pain that I endured for many months has dissipated, so much so that I have a hard time believing I ever went through such agony. The all-encompassing loneliness that followed the pain has also dissipated, and I am comfortable with the idea of growing old alone (or if not comfortable, at least tolerant of the possibility).

I’ve even gotten over the horrendous feeling of always waiting. Not waiting for something. Simply waiting. Nothing has changed, of course, except my attitude. I am training myself to be in the present, to be me, to believe that nothing is important but what is right here, right now. It’s working — I am more at peace than I have been in a long time.

But . . . there is no life in my life, no spring in my step, no spark in my spirit.

I’m not a sentimental person. I seldom kept keepsakes and I never chronicled my life with photos, but now I do both to prove to myself that yes, I am alive, and yes, I am doing something with my years. It feels as if I have done nothing but stagnate the past two years, and yet I have that scrapbook of paper memories showing me the truth:

Since October of 2010, when I started keeping the scrapbook, I have spent time on both USA coasts, hiked in the desert and on sandy beaches, climbed lighthouses and rocky knolls, ridden an amphibious vehicle and the world’s largest traveling Ferris wheel, fed ducks and sea gulls, walked along rivers and around lakes, visited ghost towns and overgrown cities, trekked the length of four piers on four different beaches, gone to art exhibits and historical museums, attended fairs and festivals, learned to shoot guns and amazing photographs. I’ve traveled alone and with friends on planes, trains, and automobiles. And I have tasted hundreds of different foods, some delicious, some that can barely be considered edible.

So why do I feel as if there is no life in my life? Do I need to be in love to sparkle with vitality? I hope not. I hate the thought that my well-being rests in someone else’s hands. The truth is probably more prosaic — although I am not actively mourning, I am still grieving, still disconnected from the world. After the death of the one person who connects you to the world, it takes years to find a different way of connecting. All of these experiences I have mentioned are ways to keep me busy while the real work of reconnecting to the world is going on deep inside.

Besides, the experiences were good ones.


Lingering Effects of Grief

Even as my pain subsides, even as my memories of a coupled life fade, the effects of grief linger.

When the significant person in your life dies, the tearing away of their presence from your soul creates ripples of changes in your life. In my case, after the death of my life mate/soul mate, I relocated a thousand miles from our home, exchanging a mountainous climate for a desert one. As difficult as that change was, it turned out to be the easiest, probably because my long walks in the desert help me feel connected to the earth. Other changes are harder to deal with, such as loneliness and sorrow, a heightened sense of mortality, and mood swings.

During most of my life, I tried to keep my emotions on an even keel in the belief that what goes up must come down, but now such control seems beyond me.

At the beginning of my grief, I got a newsletter from hospice warning about mood swings and explaining that euphoria followed by despair is common. I didn’t pay much attention to the article because I was not prone to euphoria. I was grief-stricken, heartbroken, and soul-shattered, and I stayed that way for months on end.

Now, though, I can laugh one minute and cry the next. I succumb to irritability more often than I would like. And I am overly sensitive. Things that once I could have taken in stride now bring me to tears, as if something in me, an equalizer, perhaps, is broken. The bloody stump where he was ripped from my psyche is healing, but I am still very tender and sore, and that makes me subject to the vagaries of emotion. (Though I still haven’t experienced any euphoria.)

I don’t like this part of the process. Well, of course not. No part of the grieving process is fun, but there is a big difference between the agony of a soul crying out, “Where are you? Can you hear me?” and the pettiness of a woman upset because someone who promised to call didn’t.

Apparently, part of me believes that I paid my dues with my great loss, and now I deserve to have everything go my way. But life is not like that. Life does not keep a balance sheet.

I know that as I continue to assimilate my grief, I will eventually regain my equilibrium and find a way to deal with the minor heartaches and setbacks of life. But for now, all I can do is cling to the wildly swinging pendulum and hope I can manage to hang on until I find peace once again.