Monday, November 8, 2010

Still Here...

I'm sure I don't have any readers by now but just in case I do, and for the sake of the record, let me say that I AM still here - haven't given up on life just yet. I've moved house (again) - this time back very close to where I was living a year ago, up in the wacky, wonderful Highlands.

It's been a fascinating experience, moving twice in a year; let's be honest, yo-yoing between two places. I really came on to have a blog winge about my crappy life today but let's cover the progress update first.


I moved down to Ayrshire last year for a couple (at least) of reasons - to make the break with a house full of sad memories and to go back to the area where I had spent my happiest times - falling in love, early marriage, birth and early childhood of son - the full family package, in other words. We had been forced to move away from Ayrshire eleven years earlier when the Golfer was made redundant and the world stopped turning. We sort of tried to settle in in the Highlands but none of us wanted to be there. Then the Golfer got sick and died and the boy left home and I was alone with a Jack Russell with dementia. I found myself thinking that if only it had all happened when I was down in Ayrshire, I would have been surrounded with love and support and everything would have been all right. When I became brave enough to make the break with the house Ayrshire was the place calling to me.

So I moved back down and waited for the old friends to rally round and kiss my wounds better. Of course no-one came. I had been away for eleven years. Friends who had become Christmas card friends stayed Christmas card friends. But moving back was still the right thing to do. I got to live daily in the midst of memories of another life, or so it seemed. When I found myself back in the small town where I spent my childhood (that's a whole other set of neuroses) it really did feel like another life - a life separate from the married bit. Strange feeling. When I walked around the park where I used to play, I was bypassing completely the whole married section of my life, even though my husband had also grown up in this town and we used to visit every Sunday to visit the mother-in-law. Yet somehow in my mind this town inhabited two different parts of my brain. It wasn't an unpleasant feeling actually. Rather nice to go right back to childhood without any of the intervening grownup crap.

I also found to my surprise that the house I had chosen to live in was exactly the house the Golfer would have chosen to retire to. This had not been in my mind at all when I chose it and it was not, in any case, my perfect house - definitely a temporary home - but it was comforting to imagine him standing there beside me watching the waves and the boats go by. Painful but comforting. But I wasn't happy there. It was a very public house, right on the seafront of a holiday town and, especially after living unnoticed in the countryside for years, it was like living in a goldfish bowl in the middle of a fairground (literally, sometimes!) Then I came back up to visit friends and all the tension disappeared and I could be myself and the air smelt sweet. I walked the dog in the woods near my old house and even the dog visibly relaxed. Decision made. Time to get back here as soon as possible. So I went back and put the house on the market and a few short months later here I am, in a dinky little house a mile away from the old family stead. I wouldn't have made the direct move from the first house, I'm sure. I had to go away, explore the world a bit, find out who I was and what I wanted, to know that what I wanted was to live on this hill with the birds and the deer and the lichen-clad trees, amongst gentle, reserved people.

Two months in the house and I am settling in nicely except...all the old problems are, of course, still hanging round my neck. I'm still widowed and an empty-nester, a carer for an aged infirm dog and with no big thing to get up for in the morning. I try to stay motivated. I have a (very) small-scale internet bookshop, I'm trying to write a novel and I'm studying with the Open University but I still wake up in the morning with a sigh. It's driving me mad. I want to be happy but I can't seem to be. Am I just getting old? Am I going to be a grumpy old woman now, is that it? A failing body and an increasingly cynical heart?

It's strange. Five years ago, when I was first widowed, I really believed I could think myself through it and out of it. But losing my husband was so much more fundamental to my life than I thought. When I was married I would think occasionally, as you do, about how I would manage if he died in a plane crash. Sometimes, since we're being honest here, I might even fantasise a little about what a brave little widow I'd be and what a grumpy sod he'd become anyway and...But when it happens it is unlike anything you could imagine. It touches every aspect of your life, big and small. We'd been married for nearly 25 years and together for 30 and he had affected everything I had done since I was at school. Every opinion I had, every picture in the house, practically every memory I had post-18 was entwined with him, every world event, every family argument, every plant in the garden, every shop and cafe I went into - all had been experienced with him. The very house had to change after he died. Even our bed had to be replaced as it had been soiled in the last days so I couldn't even snuggle up with his scent and the dent of him on the other side. He'd run a business from home so a whole room became redundant. The phones stopped ringing. I had, I realise now, lived a lot of my life through him, and happily so. He was the clever one and, so long as I was free to play with my books and draw and work in the garden, I was happy for him to do the big exciting job. I got a lot of the benefits of the buzz of a big, exciting, international career without having actually to go out into the big bad world. When he died I lost that - completely...overnight.

And I think this is the hardest, most intractable problem for widows - I think widows rather than widowers. We lose the reason for getting up in the morning. I had a little business but it was carefully shaped to fit in round the family's needs and was so small, if perfectly formed, that it was not enough to give my daily life structure and meaning. Ever since, I have been struggling to find that one big thing that'll do the trick. I have two older, widowed friends and I know this is the biggest issue for them too. They had proper jobs all their working lives - not like little housewife me - so they really miss the buzz and the companionship and the feeling of being useful. I do not know how to sort it. I have a couple of ideas for businesses but I am scared. Without the support of a good man I simply do not know if I have the courage to open a shop or restart my old business. Married friends say blithely, with a wave of a hand "Oh, it'll be fine", but they speak from ignorance, as I would once upon a time have done. They think they know what it would be like to manage alone but they have not got a clue. I know that because I used to think I'd manage fine!

So, after a very long post (sorry), where am I? Well, I am delighted to be back in the Highlands. I have come up with a glad heart and I WANT to be here, which makes all the difference. I love my little house and I love being back amongst my friends. But I am still desperately lonely and feeling invisible, and the big dilemma for me is whether I have enough courage to risk not being invisible any longer...any advice gratefully received!