One year ago, I took a leap into the blog universe. I had no idea what I was going to say. Turns out that mostly I’ve been sharing my most personal thoughts and feelings as I sort out being partner-less for the first time since I was 20 years old. I know some of you who’ve gone along with me on this road, while others of you are total strangers living thousands of miles away from me. The truth is, writing has been great tool for analyzing myself and I’m grateful to those readers who’ve made me feel I’m not howling into the wind.
I thought I’d start this year’s entries by writing a list of the thoughts, moments and experiences that stood out for me in 2018. So here they are in no particular order of importance.
1) I’ve been surprised to find how comfortable I’ve been, living in my house amongst all the memories my family and I have built here for more than 40 years. I know several widows(I hate the word “widow”) who moved out of their houses not long after their spouses died. I am content in my space and in fact, take pleasure from the difficult-to-define positive feelings that emanate from the walls. I remember being aware of its good vibes all the way back in 1978 when we first moved in here. In any case, I’m going to keep hanging around here, until I absolutely can’t manage it.
2) I accept the sense of Michael being in and around me all the time. I don’t understand it and find that I puzzle over the depth of our connection which appears to defy even death. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a sappy romance song about love. But I can’t deny the buoyancy of our connection that lifts me on a pretty regular basis and which feels exactly like I felt when he was here in the flesh. I have no rational explanation for this. Maybe I’m doing the conjuring. Maybe not. Maybe we don’t have the technological expertise to explain what falls into the category of sixth senses and other cosmic happenings that are so surprising. Maybe one day, certainly long after I’m gone, there will be concrete evidence of what this stuff is and why it happens. All I know is that it feels pretty good and that it’s not just about Michael. My mom is also flitting around me regularly. And the other day, I was hearing my grandmother asking me for a little bread in her native language. Whatever. It is what it is.
3) I always know that ultimately, I’m really lucky. I can look around me and see people who are so much more unfortunate than me every day. I have a roof over my head and I have food. I don’t feel threatened. I was and still am, deeply loved every day of my life. I have friends. I see something beautiful every day. Everything is relative. Thinking this way is about more than just surviving. To me, it’s a blueprint for living.
4) Fundamentally, I’m pretty healthy for a woman heading toward seventy. I’m glad that I live close to a pool where I can swim daily. This year I had two lousy root canals and a complete knee replacement surgery. The knee replacement was my first significant medical issue. I was able to leave the hospital the day after the operation and could walk around without assistance right away. I worked hard for that, getting strong before the event. Preparation is everything. I highly recommend it. I know that sometimes things can go wrong no matter what you try. But you can stack the odds in your favor. I believe that.
5) Nature is critical to my mental health. I’ve spent years developing my garden and trying to create habitat for the birds and the bees. It’s working out. This year I counted 26 bird species who visited my yard. Then there are the ones I can’t identify. When I pull up in my driveway, the ground around my home is alive with movement and sound. The therapy these creatures, along with the flowers and foliage which sustain them, provide me hours of pleasure. One day I want to be part of my little piece of earth that’s given me and mine so much joy. I planted a beautiful kousa dogwood tree this year. I’m hoping it thrives. When it matures, it’s draping limbs wouid make a lovely sheltering resting place.
6) This year I was able to travel. I went on a vacation to North Carolina and the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains. I went with my daughter and her family. We got along so well, despite the challenges of some crummy weather and the needs of active little boys. How great is that?
I also took a 6 day road trip to Cincinnati to attend the Western Southern Open Tennis Tournament to see my favorite player, Roger Federer, in the flesh. I’d never been to a professional tournament. The weather was shockingly hot and my knees throbbed but it was so glorious to do something I never thought I’d do.
I fact, it was such a great experience that I bought a ticket to the September Laver Cup at the United Center in Chicago and saw him again.
I have unforgettable memories and I was so glad to be independent enough to experience these events on my own. An important milestone for anyone used to being in a partnership. Standing alone and navigating new territory, totally reliant on your internal resources is empowering.
7) This year was my 50th high school reunion. I played a significant role in planning it although I no longer live in Chicago. I was so pleased that it was a well-attended and satisfying event. I was moved by the powerful connection people felt to our shared past. I made contact and kept it with people I hadn’t seen for years and stimulated others to build friendship groups that are now meeting regularly. Lots of work, but the fruitful kind that feels good when it’s over.
8) I’ve begun listening to entire albums again, rather than selective playlists of favorite songs. When I was young that’s how I heard music – even today when I hear a song from a well-known album, I’m always waiting for the next tune and am surprised when it doesn’t play. I think hearing what an artist or group puts into an album provides a deeper insight into their creative process. It’s working for me.
9) Last year I began an unexpected foray into the world of painters. I never had any formal art education but I had a cursory knowledge of many famous artists and have my favorites. I’ve always loved Claude Monet’s work and while browsing through books, I found one called Mad Enchantment, the story behind his famous Water Lilies which he began at age 75. I loved the book title which accurately reflects my internal obsession of endlessly trying to understand my feelings for Michael, which somehow feel even deeper and more connected to him than they did before his death. I still can’t adequately describe what bound us together but mad enchantment struck a deep chord in me. While reading this book, I was introduced to lesser known artists, most of whom were new to me. My curiosity was piqued. I started looking them up and one led to another and another, crossing time periods and genres. Given the ugliness of the political climate in so many places, I decided to post a painting a day on my Facebook page, along with photos of birds, waterscapes and landscapes to share a little wonder. Two nights ago, I counted them and realized I’d shared the work of 79 artists in 2018. I was surprised and pleased. This offshoot of my inner examination is a keeper – I’m going to continue to explore the many brilliant painters from then and now, hoping that my social contacts bear with me and enjoy the journey.
So those are my 2018 highlights. In 2019, I expect to continue my interior journey along with a few external ones that will take me away from home. Thanks to all of you out there who are going to stick around for the ride.