This year I am celebrating July 4th a little differently than most people. I am claiming my freedom and my independence! True independence requires responsibility and accountability. Sometimes it involves hard-core (reality-based) acceptance of the things we cannot change, and a willingness to move on.
The entire time that I lived in Honeycroft Village (August 2012 through July 15, 2016) I was mysteriously unable to completely finish unpacking the last few boxes that had made the journey with Attila and me from West 2nd Avenue. These were boxes full of excess office supplies, tender memories, and broken parts of objects that I was saving until Attila was able to do the repairs.
I understand why this task went unaddressed for that first year in the house on Sweetwater Path. I spent that year watching my beloved Attila slowly die one day at a time. His transplanted kidney “Susie” was no longer able to do her job and organ failure was inevitable. Grief was not just part of the ups and downs of life – it felt like the only part of life.
When Attila died on July 13, 2013 I went into CKFM (capable-Kristin-function- mode). I took care of business. I was back on my job in a week. I tried to help others who had loved Attila too. And I am pretty sure that I was simply numb.
Attila had suffered so much for so long and I was so relieved that he was out of his misery and Home where he had longed to be. So I carried on. My beloved Mom died four months later. And I carried on. I saw no viable alternative behavior. I had financial responsibilities and pieces to hold together.
And I changed. I am still not fully sure who I changed into, but change I did. For the most part she was simply a person who did what needed to be done. She was a bit stoic, crying even less than she had cried before her husband died. I know it is a cliché, but the saying “I feared that if I started to cry I would never stop” comes to mind.
This woman was also fragile and easily hurt. Words from others were perceived as harsh even if that was not the intent. Life was all about putting one foot in front of the other. And God seemed very quiet.
By the Fall of 2015 my children were expressing concern over the changes in my personality. They vehemently asked me to see a therapist. I found this annoying on one hand, but I also believe that therapy can be very useful. It is wonderful to have access to an objective ear when you have experienced crushing life circumstances which you seem incapable of processing on your own. What I finally concluded was that I had never really, really grieved my life-altering losses.
I started seeing CC weekly in January 2016. She was very helpful. She provided the safe place that allowed my catharsis. She gave me good homework and forced me to think about things I had preferred to ignore. Within months I was feeling significantly better!
It was then that I realized that I was living in a home where I had literally watched my life-partner die. I worked fifteen feet away from that very spot, day-in-and-day-out for 8-10 hours per day. It was the emotional equivalent of trudging through six inches of mud every day as I went through my daily routine.
This probably explains why I still could not manage to unpack those final boxes. They were filled with things that needed to be sorted, pored over, and they would possibly divert me in a way I did not wish to be diverted. They would remind me of the unnecessary things that I over-loaded my life with, fragile and precious things now gone, and things that needed to be fixed, but I would surely not be able to fix now without Attila.
I needed to move out of that house. Attila still inhabited it – not literally or even spiritually, but in my mind’s eye and in my heart. My sadness had nowhere to retreat. Together we had marveled over the blessing of finding our dream house, we had decorated it together, and we delighted in it together. It was our sanctuary. We would sit holding hands on the floral couch, reminiscing. He had brought me cheese omelets in the morning while I was working in my office there. We had a huge square custom table built specifically for our family dinners that he loved to cook there. The house was truly us.
There were many reasons why I made the decision to move into my apartment. One huge reason was the $700 monthly savings that would allow me to do more traveling. Another was being able to live on one floor. Another was having no maintenance to do (or pay someone to do!). Yet another was a desire to simplify my life and “prepare to die so that I may live.” For me, moving would insure downsizing.
But the biggest reason was that I needed a new space that was just mine – a place that did not make me sad just by being in it. I needed bright sunlight and nutty decorating that felt like me and only me. I wanted total privacy while being surrounded by people – my own sanctuary in the middle of a community. And that is just what I got!
Here is the picture the day after moving in:
Here is one from today:
I fell in love with this LED Light Cherry Blossom tree when I was visiting my son and his family in San Diego, and decided to order it and work my entire living room theme around the tree. It speaks peace to me.
This is my new dining room. I couldn’t fit the 12 seat custom table, so I was FORCED to buy a new one! Plus new chairs. I had so much fun!
Here is the kitchen. I was able to keep my red accents. Good thing the fire extinguisher matches! And I was able to fit the Attila’s Sandwich Shop sign over the cabinets. The minute it slipped into place I knew it was my kitchen.
Note my crazy teenage-girl-bedspread! I drew the doodle that hangs over the bed when I was 14. After much internet surfing I was fortunate enough to find a duvet cover to match it. The brightness makes me happy. My Mom made me the snuggie at the foot of the bed. And my kid’s art hangs on the walls.
Hallway between bedroom and office.
My office is still orange (my favorite color), but I did it through accessories rather than painting walls I am not allowed to paint. The folding table is temporary – up for this day of projects. I love having a view of trees in both windows. I get to watch the seasons change – up close and personal!
I now live in a place that feels like me – a brighter, more peaceful, more content me. I hope the brightness is beginning to show again in my personality too!
And those boxes that had still not been unpacked? I finished unpacking the very last one this morning.
Happy Independence Day to me!