Ready, steady

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Small beams of "okayness" have started to permeate our lives. The big Firsts have more or less been tackled and championed; first week of new school, first week of new job, first week of not just being in our new home, but living in it. We've had a couple friends over. We've unwound, laughed, shared drinks and food, and our grief has been received and handled so carefully by those we've shared our space with. I've met neighbours who have let empathetic tears well in their eyes while I've told them a bit about our circumstances, while still trying my best to make a steady first impression.

We walk wherever we need to go; school, work, groceries, even the Home Depot is a quick stroll away [edit: after reading this later I realized, what use is walking to the Home Depot? I'm not going to carry lumber and paint cans home. I could if I really wanted to though!). But despite being so close to so many amenities, I'm so smitten with how quiet our new neighbourhood is. And it isn't a tight silence, or an anxious one. It's balanced. Our neighbourhood isn't particularly tidy or calm, but it seems healthy, curious, kind, and alive. Groups of kids venture independently to the various parks, pushing their youngest siblings in strollers, shouting, giggling, scheming. It reminds me so much of the neighbourhoods I grew up in. And as white newbies, we're in the minority, which is also a wonderful change. I'm not quite ready to articulate it fully, but there's an empathy and openness here that is much harder to find in higher income, whiter urban neighbourhoods.

My days are still very up and down. This past week we unpacked and organized Mike's things. An entire life. Jackets, toques and clothes that still smelled like him. Toiletries, shoes, notebooks, art, dishes, tools, books, furniture, utensils, knick knacks, eyeglasses... Dad. Our Mikey. Opening each box felt like a gut punch. The process was excruciating and sublime at the same time. As we sifted through everything, it became very obvious that the new house could only hold so much, and we would have to start purging. The girls were on hand to determine the sentimentality of each item, and we had a couple close calls where I put things in the donation pile, which were quickly pulled right back out. In total we donated about 3 packed van loads to Women In Need. No kid should have to go through such a process, though. It was awful, a relentless reminder of our loss. None of us ever want to go through that again. I feel like I've got ptsd from cardboard packing boxes.

And it was wild to find so many of my things mixed in with it all. Things I hadn't seen in over a decade, that he'd kept and cared for. I have so much to process. It will be a long time before this experience stops dominating my reality.

I still catch myself feeling lonely sometimes. Having someone to pass the stillness with would be nice. Someone to read with and share the quiet with. And maybe someone to put a sturdy hand on my back, right between my shoulders, and say "you're okay". But the thought of trying to start a new relationship feels so completely wrong, it's almost repulsive to me. Bringing more unknowns into this mix is just the absolute last thing I want. Our new home is for us to heal in. Maybe it always will be. Our life is plenty. This is a big change from the mode of "moving on to move on" that I'm used to. These past four years have been transformative in a lot of ways. The girls have said it too; I'm less angry, less reactive, less restless. I feel fairly seasoned, though I know there's more work to do in terms of steadying myself. But I'm not looking for anyone to complete me, or save me.

The farm, the loss, the grief, I have nothing to prove anymore. I have no desire to be a personality. I still want to communicate and connect, but not in the compulsive way I once did. I feel much more precious about my private world. When I think about how I want to function within my community, I'd rather be a tool than a voice.

And I'm trying to be more intentional about maintaining friendships. My sweet friend Elyse noted that friendships can contain just as much romance as "romantic" relationships can, and I really love that idea. Romance can be defined as "a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life", and friendships can absolutely bring that. There are certain people I've known for so long, or connected with in such a precious way, I've been feeling a deep compulsion to nurture those ties. I have a loooong list of people I want to share time with soon. My winter plan is to work through this list, taking the time to share some shiny smiles or just steep in tender care together. Board games, show marathons, pizza/sauna parties (lol). Or just being present with each other and shooting the shit. It all sounds perfect to me.

I didn't want this to be a hokey "I'm so thankful" post. I am though, and it might be. If this entry sounds like a marked upswing compared to my last one, it's because of the people who have caught me, cared for me, and set me back on my feet. Biggest shout out to my family, and my parents and in-laws especially. I haven't been "strong" these past few weeks. I've been a burbling, shaky, panic-attacked mess. It's been the people around me, who have lent me their time and love, they're the scaffolding to any strength you've seen in me. Seeing someone at their weakest or darkest, and not being afraid or put off, but rather choosing to lift them in whatever way you can... that's so brave! That's love! And holy shit, am I so lucky to have it.

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