October 6 - marked 7 months since Jim died.
I can't keep from measuring time.
Some days it seems yesterday; other days much longer.
Emotions continue to sweep through me with no warning.
Tears well or follow.
On the other hand I do feel stronger.
My thinking is clearer than it has been. But I don't trust it.
How long does this go on? There are no answers for that question.
I was talking with a storytelling colleague last week who was telling me in detail about his medical situation. When I began to feel a tide of emotion rising in me I touched his shoulder gently: "I am sorry. I am not the right person for this conversation." He looked startled then nodded: "Oh, I guess that's still going on." It was an easy way for me to move on.
Recently I spent four days 400 miles from home at the National Storytelling Festival an event that Jim and I enjoyed together for eight years. I was afraid to go even though I was traveling with 3 friends who knew Jim and understood that I am not fully back to myself.
I knew going was a test - but I told myself that I could not dodge these tough challenges. And, as a storyteller, I also wanted to make sure people saw me "out" and back at work. You know, the networking game.
It was harder than I expected. Memories of my happier times there with Jim hovered like a mist over the town and storytelling tents. There were some moments when I had to with-draw to give myself space to keep myself together. So I spent a lot of the week-end floating on-my-own.
After a 56 year marriage this on-your-own is new to me. Jim and I were together for 57 years - I was 19 when we married and he was 24. We grew old together. That's wonderful - except there are not blueprints for how the one-left-behind builds a new life. I am making it up one- day- at- a- time. Some days go better than others.
As I "floated" through Jonesborough and the Festival people who knew that Jim has died were sweet and greeted me warmly with "how are you?". "Shush" was often on my lips. "I can't talk about it." I hope it did not feel that I was cutting people out - that was not it - I was working hard to keep myself together.
So I focused more on striking up conversations with strangers. That was safer. And often interesting - - and diverting. I took a lot of pictures, anything to keep my attention focused away from the sadness that would sweep over me.
Strangers were safer because they did not know there had ever been someone named Jim and I did not tell them. That tactic helped me "hang together" but it intensified my realization of my being on my own - alone.
That this "alone" is my new life.
I have to work out ways to deal with it.
No matter how much I look for him or expect him to be around the corner - its not going to happen.
I tried to read Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking several weeks ago and I couldn't - -
because too much of it hits too close to my own magical thinking.