My first holiday season without Steve is now over, and I sense myself turning a corner. I thought Christmas would be the most difficult, but it wasn't, perhaps because I anticipated the difficulty and made plans. I traveled to the DC area to see my younger stepson, his wife, and my 2-year old granddaughter. It was my first trip to see any of Steve's children without him at my side, and there were painful moments, particularly pulling into the parking lot of the motel we always stayed at when we visited and checking in alone. But I found, by the second night, when the winds from that nor'easter that sped up the coast were rattling the windows, that the room felt cozy, and the fact that Steve and I had stayed at this place together several times and liked it actually seemed to help me feel better - the exact opposite reaction to the one I had upon arrival. I also had a dream while I was out there; in the dream, Steve had left me. This dream stood in contrast to two I'd had in recent weeks where he was in the process of leaving, but hadn't left yet.
The day after I got home, I found myself angry at everyone and everything - for big things, small things, all things in-between. Just raging all day. Went to my therapist and found he'd forgotten his hearing aid at home. So I was annoyed about that, too, but given how much I was screaming, he probably didn't need it. When I awoke the next day, I had the distinct sense of standing in a pile of rubble, the dust rising all around me. I realized that the previous day - the angry day - was me being a crazy person, desperately running around, trying to shore up the crumbling walls of my old life with Steve. I think at some point overnight, I had begun to let them fall. He's gone, and so is my life with his physical presence. I'd been fighting it. Not that I'm done fighting it - it's a process that will take time - but I think I took a step.
The coming New Year figured into this, too. I bid goodbye to the last year during which Steve walked on this earth. As 2011 approached, I felt like I was crossing a barrier, leaving him on the other side. It hurts me deeply to think in this way, but I don't think the sense of abandonment is literal. It's more another marker for the transition I must make, finding a way to reconfigure my life going forward. Steve will be part of that life, but in a different way than he was when he was alive. What will that look like? I don't know yet.
And so, here I am. In 3 days, Steve will have been dead for 4 months. I have moments when I feel I don't want to live without him, cannot live without him. Then I have moments when I catch a glimpse of what a reconfigured life for myself without him might be like, and it seems okay, maybe even pleasant and fulfilling. I remind myself that I am already living without him, however much I don't like it. Mornings are hardest; afternoons usually find me more cheerful; evenings fall somewhere in between. I remind myself that 4 months isn't very long, that I have to expect that it will be difficult for me for some time yet. I am trying to endure the pain, but not court misery (and thanks, Charlene, for pointing out the distinction!)
The next "first" is my birthday in a few weeks. At least there won't be TV commercials and street decorations for weeks on end, hyping the event and urging me to make merry.