Almost 14 months ago, on April 4, 2013, Tommy Meyers drove his backhoe up the bank onto this weedy, junk-filled former industrial site and began excavating for my new house.
I worked in my office in my old house, Terraphilia, with the windows wide open, listening to the growling of the backhoe engine. What Tommy was doing, I wrote then, was “breaking ground for my new life.”
This afternoon, I picked up the Certificate of Occupancy for the new house, which means I can legally occupy what I call Creek House, in honor of the chuckling voice of nearby Ditch Creek.
(I’m still awaiting the final inspection for Treehouse, the garage with studio above, and its CO.)
I have, of course, been living here since last October, when the sale on Terraphilia closed. The Building Department granted me a temporary CO then; none of us imagined I would be “temporary” for so long.
I was so delighted to receive my Certificate of Occupancy this afternoon that I took myself out to Salida Greenhouses and bought a big new blue-glazed pot to put at the street-side entrance of my front deck.
Three large pots and a stock tank already sit on my front deck, making up my kitchen-garden-in-containers. I needed another pot for flowers to attract pollinators to keep my garden healthy (and make me smile at the blooms and their flying visitors).
As I filled the new pot with organic potting soil, mixed in compost for nutrients and water-retention, and carefully planted fuchsia and splashy coleus, calibrachoa and mini-petunias, ageratum and agastache, I thought about building both a house and a new life.
I’ve just passed the two-and-a-half year mark since Richard died. (It was Tuesday at 11:07 am; I was at SeaTac Airport waiting for a flight home.) In the context of the nearly 29 years we were together, two and a half years is a relatively short span.
Sometimes I think I’m doing well in this metamorphosis into whoever it is I’m becoming. Other times I feel exposed and vulnerable, one giant nerve ending quivering with emotion.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve figured out what I’m doing and other times I feel like a kid trying on someone else’s clothes.
It’s a relief when I feel competent and strong, until I do something stupid or thoughtless. And then I just feel dumb, and clumsy with my new self.
Why it is that losing a spouse has stripped me so bare? Because of the length of our partnership, I think, but also and perhaps more importantly, because of the depth of it. We really were each others’ other half.
Our lives were shaped to fit the other. Not in a deforming way; each of us flourished in the shelter and embrace of the other.
Without Richard, I am not only just me, I’m a me I’ve never known as an adult. We met and paired after one date. I was 25. He was 33. It’s no exaggeration to say we raised each other while we raised Molly.
Now I am raising a new solo me. It’s freeing, exciting, exhausting, and scary. And as with this house, each step is taking a lot longer than I imagined.
Unlike the CO I just received, there won’t be any official paperwork to show when I’m done. Because this very figuring out who I am and how to be in this world IS my new life.
When it’s over, so am I. I only hope I’ll have known plenty of moments where I feel like I’m living it well and lovingly.