By this time last year, 52 days after Kevin’s passing, I was well into the “reclaiming” frenzy that would occupy my hands and my mind for most of the year, as I plunged into my grieving. I hadn’t just lost Kevin; I lost my dreams and my sense of self, my focus, my identity, my give-a-damn. The holidays were over. I had tried to run away between Christmas and New Year’s, but thanks to the rain, ice, traffic, and a job, I only got 93 miles down the road before I turned back. Since that didn’t work, I attacked my house.
According to my journal and the photos time-stamped on my phone, on January 3 I ruthlessly cleaned out my closet. I gave away six trash bags full of clothes to the Goodwill store. (It was May before I could approach Kevin’s closet.) By January 6 I had had my front entry painted (hired out), and I painted the laundry room in anticipation of a new washer and dryer being delivered. On January 13 I took down the dead animals and hunting prints from the family room (man cave) wall, and the next day started painting in there. By the end of January I had a storage loft built in the garage so I could reorganize and manage all the power tools and other detritus he collected – coolers, bbq accessories, shovels and rakes, fishing rods and tackle, motorcycle gear, decoys, and mystery boxes. His truck was gone by now, too. Next up was the kitchen: paint, appliances, curtains. And I was just getting started. It was how I dealt with being solo for the first time in my life.
A year later, I realize I had worn myself out, between the house and the job. At least it was productive and not destructive, although exhaustion is not on the good side of the spectrum. The house slowly transitioned from ours to mine, much as I transitioned from Mrs. to Ms. Having to decide what I wanted and what I could afford, without having to ask for consent or to seek compromise, was a first step in the new self-discipline I had to find. Discovering what I liked required considering various options and trusting myself to make good decisions on my own. Choosing between painting one more wall or going to bed was part of learning to take care of myself. And being unable to physically do some things, like move furniture up and downstairs, meant I had to get comfortable with needing other people and asking for their help
I worked diligently at trying to focus on only one day at a time, and time kept marching on. I couldn’t see much beyond that anyway, much as I tried to force a vision of a new future. It has taken me a year to settle down mentally finally and to spend time thinking while doing nothing else. I know how fortunate I am to be able to do this sabbatical. I am grateful for the support I have gotten in doing so. I wonder how long it will take me to become the woman I want to be now. Paint colors have names like Cream Puff or Dark Secret or Confetti Fanfare. I hope my colors turn out something like Brave Woman, Dreamer, and Serenity.