Last Wednesday, the second anniversary of Richard’s death, I thought about what I’ve accomplished over the past 104 weeks.
I’m not being obsessive (I hope). I’m attempting to be mindful about adapting to the wrenching and unwanted change of losing my robustly healthy heart’s partner to brain cancer at age 61.
For almost 29 years, Richard and I were a pair, “two halves of the same brain,” as my friend Kerry put it this afternoon, describing she and her husband Dave, proprietor/owners of Salida’s Ploughboy Local Market.
“That was Richard and me,” I said.
It’s not only my life which changed when Richard died. I’m not just the remaining half of Richard-and-Susan. I’m different now that I’m on my own.
Taking stock is one way to check in with my inner self about how this complex process of working through grief and building a new life is going.
Here’s what I’ve done (not necessarily in chronological order):
- completed a lot of paperwork (death initiates a proliferation of forms)
- subdivided our reclaimed former industrial property
- learned finish carpentry and other skills to complete Terraphilia, the sculptural, earth-embracing house Richard built for us (thank you, Maggie and Tony, for teaching and working with me, and buoying my flagging spirits)
- finished the renovation of Richard’s historic studio building (thanks to Grant Pound, Colorado Art Ranch volunteers, and Bob Spencer, among others)
- founded a small artist/writer residency program
- given a few really good keynote talks, including one for TEDx Homer
- moved Dad from Colorado to a senior community in Washington near my brother and family (where he’s very, very happy)
- sold Terraphilia and the studio (thank you, Kathleen Nelson and Judy Shuford!)
downsized (thank you, Free the Monkey)
- moved my stuff box-by-box with the help of amazingly patient friends, and Eric of Artful Moving
- mentored incredibly talented young writers through the national program YoungArts
- invented an inspiring and rewarding “Write & Retreat” workshop
- wrote the first draft of a new memoir
- began reading the manuscript aloud to shape it into a compelling story
- helped develop Be a Habitat Hero, a project that aims to inspire us all to save songbirds and pollinators–and water–by replacing lawns with healthy habitat
- wrote 734 daily haiku (they’re not all especially good) and posted each with one of my photos on Facebook (and Twitter and Pinterest–I’m experimenting with social media)
- redesigned my website and blog
- rediscovered my inner redhead
Then I thought about what I haven’t done. One thing is probably obvious from the list above:
- just be
I’ve been a bit like a particle of cocoa in the hot chocolate I make myself every morning. I steam the milk, exciting the molecules with heat energy, and then stir in cocoa. The energized milk molecules collide with the cocoa particles, setting the cocoa into random Brownian motion.
(I would argue here that unlike the cocoa particles I haven’t been bouncing around randomly. Although my life does sometimes feel as if I’ve been colliding with much-too-energized events….)
As the milk cools, the movement of its molecules slows. The cocoa particles, no longer held in suspension by random collisions, drift to the bottom of the cup.
After two years, the momentum that sustained me through the changes I needed to make (before I ran out of energy, gumption and/or money) is waning, like that milk cooling.
I’m ready to slow. In fact, I’m ready to curl inward and see if I can’t do some deep healing. Or perhaps deep howling. (Whichever works.)
I’m ready to just hang with this solo me and see who she is, and what that means for this life I didn’t imagine I’d be building.
I know this about her already: she’s a redhead who isn’t inclined to take much… guff. I like that.