Little over a year ago I wrote a post about cultivating resilience - little did I know then that that in a not too far future I would have to use that cultivated capacity to "to greet change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning and growing". Because believe you me, these almost two months now, have been spent doing that a lot. In both practical and emotional ways. This is a really good article on the subject and how you can work on increasing your resiliance. Which is essential for your well-being. Death appears sooner or later in everyone's life, that is perhaps the one undisputable truth in this world. There is absolutely no way to turn back the clock, act and say things differently, get answers, explanations. And letting oneself being engulfed in sorrow and the what ifs over and over and over again isn't meaningful for anyone. So despite the fact that the sorrow is still striped, but in another striped way than in the beginning, and melancholy is a constant companion, some days more than others, I also chose happiness. Because there is no way but forward and making a productive and active choice is to take control. As much as anyone of us can take control, who knows what will happen tomorrow? And the financial worries I had in the beginning - still do, but I also choose to not let them overwhelm me, because it will be alright - perhaps they were a blessing in disguise. They have forced me to be active, to take control, find solutions, a week at a time. Instead of perhaps wallowing in sadness every day, all the time had the financial issues not been a fact. I already feel I have grown quite a bit by necessities. So how has the second week of May been? Grateful to say also a good one. The weather continued to be glorious. I enjoyed discovering new, fine places for lunch in the work neighbourhood. Met friends after work for long chats. Went to an informal interview. Which happened to be above the cafe were we used to have the perfect Saturday breakfast - also a place where I've had so many productive meetings both social and work related - so I had lunch there by myself, it was both wistful and lovely. My short gig has been prolonged for two more weeks, I must be doing something right, so I'm grateful for that. Still loath the rush hours commuting, but at least my tasks allow me to work from home a couple of days. Hopefully I will be able to do that some more days the following weeks. I also find I'm even more productive at home, so it's a win-win for everyone. May May continue to show kindness. And I resilience. Everything will be alright. Better than alright, much better.
The best remedy for everything sad and troublesome in life - cat cuddles.
Or time spent in the company with any kind of animals of course. But in my case the access to felines is of course easy and uncomplicated.
So how has the first week of May been?
For me it has been a rather pleasing blend of busy and relaxing. The project gig has gone well, good workplace, good people and the work falls in the practical category of get things ticked off a list. Which is satisfying in its own way, if not something that get my creative juices flowing obviously.
But having to adjust to 9 to 5 days in an office, rush hours commuting, interacting with a lot of different people in various ways every day - it's exhausting.
The good thing is that it certainly takes my mind of difficult thoughts, forcing me to concentrate on getting the job done well.
Also, as grateful as I am for this opportunity to help, meeting new people, learning new things, it also confirms that I'm not a person that thrives and delights at the 9-5 office life, every day. I may not love how unpredictable the income flow may be for freelancing, but I do love the freedom and opportunities with no limits it brings in other ways.
The weather has been absolutely glorious all week. With May came sun and hot weather. I do wish it would rain during the nights because this much relentless sun alone is certainly not good for nature alas. But for now, I've been enjoying the natural vitamin D. Good for the soul and body alike.
It had also been wonderful to have a long 4 days weekend, not doing much at all, pottering around, relaxing, simple cooking, trying to look forward, not dwelling on things I possibly could have/should have done differently in the past. I think I'm getting a bit better at it day by day. Even if still some days are better than others.
But the sun helps. So does plenty of soft cat cuddles. And life goes on, one step, one day, one weekend, one week at a time.
It has been a good week. Surprisingly so. For which I'm deeply grateful. (Which includes the heartfelt comments and emails, treasured as always, I hope you know that even if I haven't replied to them all yet.)
** Together with M's parents, brother and sister-in-law - I'm okay, we've spent some time together this week, talked (if not about the really hurtful matters) a lot and it has been friendly like it once was - I've been to his apartment twice during the week to sort out memories and things of importance. It has been both mentally and physically exhausting. But also an important step on the way to a new normal. Have cried, laughed, been practical, melancholic, sad and also very appreciative of things I picked up to now come and live with me. And grateful for all the memories.
They gave me a lift home this evening and the car was full - next week I've booked an appointment with a charity shop to come and pick up stuff I need to get rid off and with the long weekend to come before that I have plenty of time to sort through all this too. To see which things and memories to actually keep, the most important. The useful and the happy memories. Not stuff for stuff's sake. (Which is THE one thing I've been really good at doing on my list of personal goals for 2016...)
** I was on an interview for a very short Wordpress web gig on Monday. I'll begin working for a couple of days on Tuesday and continue next week, possibly a few days more depending on how much work that's needed. It may not be super creative or super well-paid, but it's a fun and useful way to use my language-police and stickler for details and proofreading skills on. For a good cause. And it's another important, little step towards my new normal.
** I visited my new accountant with a lot of papers and it was a really nice meeting. Partly because she was well aware of the current sad situation (she knows friends of ours and have met M), partly because she's very helpful, keeps it simple so I can understand - the fact that accounting and tax law were two of my best subjects when I studied law is now a mystery... - and isn't at all patronising (unlike my previous accountant).
The drawback is that her company is situated in Norrtälje, which isn't an issue if you have a car, but from door to door one way it takes me around 2,5 hours. Not ideal, but luckily most things can be sorted via email, mail and telephone so we probably don't have to have meetings more than 1-2 times per year. And the bus ride was really nice.
After the meeting I had lunch with my mum and was so happy that a cafe I used to love in Norrtälje, which sadly had declined now has new owners who are really keen on serving more vegan options! Two lovely dishes on the menu already and we had a good chat about the importance of flavours and textures.
** There have been plenty of sunshine all week. Pretty cold April weather overall, but oh the sunshine, good for body and mind.
** Have had two really great and inspiring conversations with fine friends over coffee. Inspiring, soothing and thought-provoking. Grateful.
Same day I also visited the Stockholm Foodtruck Lounge - too bad it was absolutely freezing that evening which cut the visit very short - and tried a new (to me) vegan foodtruck. Turned out I was so hungry I completely forgot to snap a photo of the Seitan Schwarma Wrap (*insert shocked emoji*), but it was really good.
I've shyed away from social events and crowds ever since life drastically changed. But it was good to get out in an unpretentious way, to distract the mind a bit. To see that life somehow goes on, in parts actually not that different from how it once was.
And now it's May already. May May be a lovely lovely month, in every way. Much needed, thank you in advance, life.
The funeral is now a thing of the past. So is a life. And the latter will continue to haunt me for a long long time still.
The ceremony was beautiful, absolutely dreadful and ungraspable at the same time. The things and people I dreaded most weren't in the end as bad as could have been. And I was so grateful and touched by all the old/current colleagues and friends who turned up. Of which I had only met a handful of them beforehand. Thank you all.
After the ceremony I joined the colleagues and friends' memorial instead of the relatives'. It was unpretentious and nice. And I loved hearing different stories about M, some very much who he had been with me, others not at all.
When I came home that afternoon it was like a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders. But instead replaced by a new insight, a new kind of sorrow. Because as much as I treasured seeing the friends and colleagues paying their respect, I'm also well awared that the only one who is truly lonely now is me.
Everyone else who mourns will most likely see the funeral as a final closure and return home to their families and partners, they have their usual day to day business to attend to. I'm the only lonely one who is forced to create a completely new normal life. And I don't have a big family and relatives to lean on - I've never been interested in keeping in touch with cousins and second cousins, I'm not really a 'family person' like that - but I'm very grateful for my little mother (who's quite possible is the best little mum in the whole wide world). And the few selected friends I feel I can talk to for real.
I don't think it would have been an easier situation if we had lived 100% under the same roof, perhaps it's even a bit easier from a practical point of view that we didn't. I'm already well used to and comfortable with a lot of me-time and pottering on my own.
Which means I now have a lot of me-time with too many thoughts. All the questions that will never get proper answers are now being analysed back and forth by my own.
And why is it that cleaning and de-cluttering is such a comforting thing to do when all these thoughts get too much?
I was mostly too absorbed in my own feelings at the funeral, but one thing the officant said lingered on because it was such a beautiful notion;
With this funeral we close the door to a life, but we leave the window open to the memories.
Life isn't fair or predictable, but I truly believe that less work, less planning, less shopping but more time spent with loved ones, doing and experience things we truly enjoy would most likely benefit us all. Work hard and plan for an early retirement may seem like a prudent idea to some. But more living and enjoying life to its fullest now - and what that might be is of course individual - because tomorrow could actually be the last day on earth, that seems wiser to me.
Today would have been M's birthday. Instead his funeral will be tomorrow.
It's nearly a month since he passed away, I still feel this must be some sort of bizarre and cruel joke. That one morning when I wake up it turned out to have been only a very vivid nightmare. Or that he'll call and say 'sorry, it's been some busy weeks, how's everything?'.
Something that will never ever ever happen.
I dread tomorrow in a really bad way. Not only because obviously a funeral of a loved one is far far from anyone's comfort zone and desired place to be. But also because the... well, less than pleasant proceedings leading up to this moment. I wish I could just curl up under the duvet all day instead. Which I will of course not do.
And sitting on this rollercoaster of emotions - yes, still riding it - there is also the financial worries. When two suddenly become one and that one is a small business owner/freelancer with still unpredictable incomes now in freefall, that happens.
I'm not the first one this has happened to, I won't be the last. And it really doesn't help being angry at me, myself and I for not being a better self-sufficient person. Just make sure I become one asap.
So amidst the sorrow I can not let myself just mourn, walk and rest because I need to find a job. Now. Preferably yesterday already. Unfortunately I can't rely on existing clients and interesting freelance leads, but right now I need to build a stable financial platform for myself. And unless some really great, new clients come knocking I think a regular employment is the answer at this moment in time. Though to continue running my own business is still my professional dream and goal.
This was not the year I had planned for. Neither emotionally nor professionally.
But life doesn't much care for what we plan for, does it? We're simply along for the ride, the good , the bad and everything in between, trying to make the most of it given our particular circumstances. Just make sure to be grateful for the good beings, good meetings and happy happenings in it. And know you will survive the opposite, one step, one day, one week at a time.
A kind blog-reader had already offered to send me the snazzy suit she had for her little dog after surgery, but that would take a day or two to get here in the mail. So awaiting that I decided this could be an option.
A regular little sock would be too small but a knee-sock would do, so I sacrificed one. Cut holes for the head and heine plus all for legs. I'm surprised how immediately relieved she was having to wear that instead of the cone. Initially she moved a bit awkwardly but only next morning she was more or less her usual self. So happy to be able clean herself, eat and use the litter box.
She has been super-cuddly and chatty in her little hip suit all week. In fact I think it has worked so very well that I'm contenplating that with some tweaks this would work well as a little side-business - upcycled old socks turned unpretentious post-operative suits for cats and small dogs.
Tomorrow the stitches will be removed by the vet, I hope he'll appreciate my creative solution to the cone problem.
I also hope Zigne will stay true to her new and chat/cuddle-improved self (we've comforted eachother so well all week). And that it isn't a case of 'the clothes make the cat'.
Desperately in need of a cosy, hassle-free Friday. Instead I found myself spending most of the day worrying over Zigne who got an emergency neutering due to a uterus inflammation.
Worrying over the money I really didn't have for emergency veterinarian costs.
Yes, she has an insurance, but still the coinsurance these days is pretty hefty.
The silver lining in all this is that we have a new neighbourhood veterinarian, so I can walk there. And in my new life with no car access, this is really important stuff.
And they were really friendly and accomodating. Extra plus is that I can also order my cat food from them and pick it up there, instead of relying on friends with cars or travel by train with 10 kg bags. Another check on my how-to-solve-this-now-list.
The surgery went well and she came home on a crazy high from the drugs. She decided the cone of shame wasn't her thing, so this will be a bit of a struggle me thinks.
We are all different beings, who react in various ways, expected and unexpected. What is logic to some is the opposite to others. There is no right or wrong way to feel, I try not to be too hard on myself when I feel something possibly odd amongst all the other feelings after the loss. Just be. And release.
So far the emotional rollercoaster has offered these rides, in no particular order, for whatever reason and when you least expect it:
I would say that the feeling I haven't felt since it happen and the world, my world, without any further warning turned upside down, would be happiness. But that would not be true, because with being grateful for having experienced so much together, ups and downs and everything in between - which would never have happened if I hadn't been I and he hadn't been he - as a base I can still feel happiness over the sun touching my face, nature coming to life after a long winter, music in my ears, a cat purring in my lap, forest therapy and good talks.
And in no way am I unique when it comes to unexpected sorrow like this, it happens every day, all over the world, to a lot of beings. If they manage of course can I. And I will be stronger for it.
Everything will be alright. In time much better than alright. Because it has to.
Thank you so so much for the kind comments, emails, suggestions, cards, texts and comfort in response to all the sadness and sorrow I feel after my life partner's unexpected death a week ago. I will do my best to get in touch with you all when some time has passed and I'm not engulfed in practicalities.
A good friend said the other day that sorrow is striped. And that is such a simple and yet mindblowing description of all these feelings that keep on coming and going, from the inside out and outside in.
Since we didn't share address or lived 100% under the same roof (because that's how we both wanted it) I'm well aware that my legal status is zero (and no we didn't have a written agreement or a will) and that his elderly parents will inherit everything. I do hope I'll be able to get some of the things I've given him, things he bought on our trips, photos and other memories. Other than that I now have very little hope this will be a fair and decent aftermath.
Because even though we spent nearly 27 years together - which is a scary thing to admit since that makes me feel quite quite old, but there you have it. He was 9 years my senior and we met in 1989 through a friend I studied law with - I'm clearly the one person who knows knew (past tense, how long will it be before past tense comes naturally?) him best (he certainly didn't share a lot with his parents or brother/sister-in-law, that much is so very clear when we talk about him and our life together...), spent the most time and talk with him during these years, I am apparently not regarded important enough to be on top in the list of mourners in the obituary.
Instead his parents saw it appropriate that they should be mentioned first - for a grown man in a long-term relationship - followed by the brother and sister-in-law (whom we spent time with about twice a year) and me last. My status is clearly that of a dog. Or possibly a grandchild.
When I got home from the 2,5 hours long, grueling meeting at the undertaker yesterday I was devastated. I don't think an obituary as such is a very important thing, but if they wanted to have one that was of course fine. And if so, just as natural was that the long-term partner should be mentioned first. Instead they diminished me and our years together into a parenthesis.
I talked with my brother-in-law and his wife about my feelings and they understood, however M's parents refuse to change the order, they adamantly see it fit they should be first - no matter how disrespectful that is to not least to their son - so now I'm second instead. One step up from dog status.
In no way am I trying to diminish their sorrow and loss, it must be horrific to lose a child, even if he's long since a grown-up with his own life (and it was his father who found M dead). But the way they act as if I'm some peripheral female M spent time with now and then, perhaps during weekends and the odd holiday, over all these years, that really puts things in perspective. And put some extra hurt into the striped pain.
I have decided I will now put my own obituary in the newspaper in a week or two. And frame it as I like. And as M would have enjoyed.
To make matters worse, the parents and brother thought it was appropriate to after the open funeral service only invite the immediate family (to which they count aunts, uncles and cousins who he/we've perhaps met once or twice a year throughout our time together) to the memorial after. But what about our friends and his friends (of which I haven't met everyone, we both have/had friends the other one didn't know a lot about)? And his collegues? Why should those people he spend much more time with than his relatives be seen as people less deserving of being invited to the memorial, less mourning?
If I could I would much rather not attend the funeral but hold a separate and private one to which I invited the people I know mattered in his/our life. That's of course not feasible, but still I like the notion of it.
The funeral ceremony (civil of course) will be held on April 20. The day in between what would have been his birthday and my mother's birthday. Not ideal at all, but there it is.
We had planned most of the funeral already before the above took place, I'm sure it will be beautiful. But the meeting with the officiant is still left. After all this happened I will not attend the meeting with the rest of the family next week, but instead meet with him on my own. Ideally before they do.
Who knew that these last couple of weeks would be so full of situations where I had to be true to myself and stand up for that? And him.