Back to Square One (and Beyond)

Today I went through some photos of times that Jane and I shared. That doesn’t really express it. Today, I looked at some photos and the scenes in the photos became the present moment with Jane in it and me in it. I looked at Jane’s face in the photo and felt love pouring out of my heart towards her. I watched a couple of short and pretty crap videos of her and felt my hand pulled to touch her cheek, her hair. Just to rest gently on her skin.

I’m still in love with you, Jane. I see you in those photos (Bannockburn, North New Brighton, both in January this year) and I know you are the one for me. The gentleness, perceptiveness and responsiveness in you. Your subtlety of mood and expression. You being you, quietly taking in the world, considering, originating.

I read the documents that you wrote for me (I will blog these) and, in every word see you, your wryness, your humour, mischievousness and deep sincerity. I see your love for me, how can I not see that?

How can I say I “still” love you, Jane? Who “on earth” would want to hear those words? I guess that’s just it. Well, actually, unfortunately I can think of the circumstance but it hasn’t got you in it, Jane. Here I am trying to make myself not love you. I admit it. I want the end of this pain. And yet I can’t say goodbye to you because you live on in my heart, my mind, my body. I can ignore, forget, distract, but only for so long. Suddenly you are right back in my life, large and real, saying to me… what do you say to me?

I’ll give it a go. “Reverse roles with Jane”.

Daniel, I’ve been waiting for this chance. You know that I am way beyond you, now. I know about the days when we were shoulder to shoulder, “skin to skin” we called it. Every moment that you treasure, I remember too and cherish. I, too see, am recalling, reliving each moment from our love together. But now I am in some larger realm that you can not know. It has been painful for me too to adjust to this new way of being. You see I don’t have to let go. I can have all that we had. It’s just that I have all else at the same time.

I know that you love me, that to you I live on in your life. I know that you can only live on with my imprint on your life. I also know that you can and do gradually let me go. As that imprint fades and the people and things that live on and those that are new in your life make their mark. Daniel, you know don’t you that I do not need you to honour my memory. You can do that if you want, of course but do whatever you do for you, not me. I am sorry but I am that gone to you.

I do have one wish. It is that the love that we shared lives on in you, somehow. That my touch on your heart leaves a warm patch, not with my name on it but with yours. Yours to keep, to feel at all times, to let flow, to swirl, in you and out into the world around you. I know that is what makes you go. Let me pervade and be love in your life, Daniel. Let me be in the air that you breathe.

Hearts and Houses

It was the day of the premier of the Return of the King in Wellington (Dec 1 ’03, I think, the day before Jane’s 43rd birthday). Town was packed. It was hot. Jane and I had a picnic at Breaker Bay. We sat in the sand and sun, contemplating our relationship. Jane said “I don’t really know whether I’m suited to someone until I’ve shared a bathroom with them”.

I waxed locquacious and illustrated my story with pebbles and driftwood.

When we have a small connection, I said, choosing a tiny smooth sun-warmed stone, we act on it. I placed tiny twig above the stone to be coffee or some email or conversation. If it goes well, the love between us, embryonic as it is, grows a little. A slightly larger stone. On the strength of that, we build a miniscule facsimile of a house. A slightly larger twig, smoothed by sea and sand. With the smaller attraction and action as foundations, our emerging interest spurs some new risk-taking, maybe dinner or a movie.

Again, if this goes well, a further stirring occurs in the limbic system. Two heads touch, share a pillow. There are now six objects in the sand, counted by the slanting sun. The sixth, the largest stick representing the first campsite for the new couple. Resting together here feels like a homecoming, our eyes open to each others’ and dwell, seeing and being seen flowing.

I feel a twinge of fear, disappear into myself a little, consider making an exit, reach down for something solid and it is there, the flimsy temporary marital home in which this love scene takes place. It holds me and I reopen my eyes. You are there, softening gently in about the same way as me, warming…

By this time on the beach, the matter of houses was gaining increasing significance between Jane and me. Jane was on the brink of substantial alterations at Jeypore st. She announced their cancellation on 8 Dec 03. A kind of anti-house, in that case but all the more potent for it, with architect’s plans, finance, digger, driver and hiab to lower them in all poised.

While those houses provide a container that protects new love as it grows, they also provide walls that keep it in.

Jane declared that she was willing to make the move to Christchurch, to put bathroom and kitchen sharing to the test. I demurred but agreed to a shared summer holiday. That was a project enough. Elsie, Ed and I arrived at Spinsterworld with our ribald mess. Then we overloaded Jane’s “granny car” and had her drive us to Auckland. There we plunged Jane into family Christmases, first at my father Tyl’s and then at a grand gathering of my stepmother Janet’s extended family. Straight on from that another day long drive in the capsule and then five days with my friends on Wainui beach in Gisborne, and Hautanoa and Waima up the coast. Love pulsing all the way.

On the first of January, 2004, I lay in a tent with Jane, gulped as quietly as I could and said “yes”.

Somehow Carrying On

I don’t know how to do this any more. I can go some days, filling my life up with people, stuff. Plenty of it is pretty good. Hey hey, I think. Not “I’m over it”, just “I don’t have to feel it”. Even moments of feeling it and I think I’m so cool. Yeah, grieving. Feeling it when I feel it. Then I revert to avoidance. Now with busy times coming up, here is a small vacuum. Do I feel or forget?

I actually don’t get much choice. I take a step in this house and Jane is here, all around and I am thumping the air like a baby. Or I think of a place and realise that it is our place, a place that we went together and made our own. Like Spencerville Beach. Only a small walk together one day and yet I remember each step. Being close, together. Breathing in the dunes, the surf, the horizon.

Doing things with Elsie, with other people.

How can this be that you are dead, Jane. This doesn’t happen. It isn’t in the script. We spend the rest of our lives together. You don’t die like that, out of the blue. No-one does. This is some crazy nonsense.

Still.

Report on Zosi

Jane, I thought I’d let you know how Zosi is getting on. Actually, he’s sitting partly on me just now. We have reached an arrangement where he fits under my arm so that I can type on the laptop, sitting on the sofa. I don’t know what you would have thought about all this latop-tapping, Jane but you can be assured that Zosi is maintaining a fitting level of disapproval.

You always said that Zosi was too stupid to tell one human from the other, or even recognise his own name. I fear you were right. That would explain his behaviour in the days after you died as I am afraid I did not notice him pining. Rather strangely, I have never seen him more settled. You also said that Zosi liked parties. He seemed to really like it that there were so many people here. He was quiet and relaxed. Always around but never demanding. I had to carry him to his bowl at meal times.

Once things quietened down, he returned somewhat to his old habits. He moans at mealtimes and moans for attention, unless the fire is on or it’s sunny. But his coat is glossy, he is a healthy weight and his eliminations are appropriate.

You can be assured that I am looking after him. He has his heating pad every night and I have learned to clean his litter tray. Oh, I put that in the shower, your shower, these days because we use the upstairs one and it contains all the cat litter that he scuffs out. I took him to the vet and they said stop the anti-inflammatory drops (cos they aggravate his kidneys) and put him on mussel pills. He likes those and doesn’t seem to have any arthritis.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I know that you loved Zosi a great deal and that his well-being was always important to you. I know you’re dead, Jane and that you can’t really hear this. I’m doing it for me so I can feel my love for you and feel myself twist up, tears dripping out.

There’s more tho. One day Simon was here with Pagan. It was cold outside so we decided to test your assertion that Zosi would never tolerate a dog. We let Pagan in and she settled down near the fire. Zosi was pretty watchful, initially but he remained relaxed. Over the evening, he installed himself on people’s laps from where he could keep an occasional eye on her. He didn’t show any signs of aggression or even fear. After a while, Pagan and Zosi were moving around each other about the house as if they’d always shared it.

A week or so after that, we had another animal visitor, a newborn lamb brought by Ali and Britta. It was quite the most gorgeous thing and I think Zosi thought so too.

Merchant and Ivory

One night sitting around talking about movies, I dared to say to Jane: “You never want to see anything I want to see. We always end up getting Merchant and Ivory”. I know that’s what I said because Jane immediately wrote it down.

Then, referring to her records, she calmly compiled this list of the movies that we’d watched most recently:

Fame
Okie Noodling
Laurel Canyon
Ruby & Quentin
Woyzeck
Nosferatu (FW Murnau)
Nosferatu (Hertzog/Kinsky)
Braindead
The Business of Strangers
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Steve Zissou and the Life Aquatic
Before Sunrise
After (sic) Sunset
Yolngu Boy
Annie Hall
All Quiet on the Western Front
Bad Santa

That must’ve been before we watched Cocteau’s “La Belle et la Bete”. Guess I should have kept my mouth shut.

Actually, I felt pretty damn smug that I had a partner who wanted to watch German Expressionist movies with me.

How to Hug

Hugging is a conversation, a dance.

When you hug someone, you are relating with them. Notice how they are as your bodies touch. Let the ‘themness’ of them affect you. Move towards them gently. Keep your knees slightly bent so that you can hug without pulling the other person towards you. Shoulders are the first place to touch someone. Slightly low and to the back. It’s the first socially acceptable place to touch someone after a handshake and usually feels fine. Start with one.

Notice immediately how your hug is being received and adjust accordingly. If the other person seems relaxed, you can assume that the way they hug you is more or less the way they would like you to hug them. If they seem uncomfortable about hugging, go for something conservative. If they are closer or more clasping than you want, make eye contact with them. If you are positive to each other, let your embrace smoothly expand.

What to Say and Do with Someone who has Lost a Loved One

In “hints for funerals” from my experience of being pretty near to the centre of one …

There is nothing you can do or say that can make it any better or worse. That’s a good thing to remember. Just showing up sends the message, or sending a card or flowers or phoning. You can’t get it wrong, ok?

What I do suggest, when you make your move, is notice the grieving person, tune in with them, feel what you feel yourself, and respond, the best you can.

My experience of being in the intense first stage of the grieving process is that I felt extremely vulnerable. For the first few days, I could barely eat anything. Bananas and soup were ok. I wanted to be able to focus totally on myself and retreat under a blanket if I wanted to. There was actually quite a lot to do with visits to the morgue, greeting people, funeral arrangements etc.

I valued being able to take the time to be with how I was feeling. I valued breaks from it, too but only if I chose them. I didn’t much want to be drawn into someone else’s questions or story, unless I initiated it. Selfish, I know but I’m ok with it for that moment (there’s more about this, tho).

Of course, most people don’t know what to do or say because there isn’t anything to do or say that really makes a difference. And I knew that. It really is ok, however you are. That’s what it’s like at those times.

I think if it was me, I’d be touching, gently and listeningly. Arranging a soft blanket, maybe. But that’s another post, too.

Two things that people said really hit the spot, tho. The first was Lloyd (happy 50th, Lloyd!). When we first talked on the phone, he said “you poor bastard”. When you said that, Lloyd, I knew that you had some idea that what I was feeling felt really really bad and that that was because I had lost something that really really mattered. Thanks.

The other one was Ron Palmer, the Funeral Director (recommended, by the way). The first moment he met me, he figured out how I was and said gently “it knocks you about”. Go, the blokes.

A Farewell

A poem by ARD (Rex) Fairburn shared with me by Walter:

A FAREWELL

What is there left to be said?
There is nothing we can say,
nothing at all to be done
to undo the time of day;
no words to make the sun
roll east, or raise the dead.

I loved you as I love life:
the hand I stretched out to you
returning like Noah’s dove
brought a new earth to view,
till I was quick with love;
but Time sharpens his knife,

Time smiles and whets his knife,
and something has got to come out
quickly, and be buried deep,
not spoken or thought about
or remembered even in sleep.
You must live, get on with your life.

Still in the Relationship

Jane, it’s been eight weeks since you died. Here I am addressing you as if you hadn’t at all. I’m sorry if you find this a little weird (I know you won’t) but I don’t know what else to do. You see, I am still in this relationship with you, even though for practical purposes, you no longer exist. I have no choice but to continue to relate to you as if you do.

I’ve been looking at these photos of you at the A & P show last year. And as I do, I know that you are the one for me. Maybe someone thinks I should be getting over you. From time to time, I do. I could be getting on with my life and work. I could be exploring a new relationship. How would I put it. Well, unfortunately I’m actually in a relationship already. But don’t worry, she’s dead.

Jane, there is so much that I still have to say to you and to do with you. Even just ordinary stuff, like hanging around home on weekends, going for a bike ride in the park (I think Elsie’s bike might have worked out pretty well for you, btw), stopping for a drink somewhere on the way home. Just passing the time together, with each other. Knowing that, whatever happened on a shapeless weekend day, we’d be together and at any moment could stop and simply delight in that. Going to the supermarket together. Using the stuff from the supermarket to make a nice little occasion meal together, even on the most ordinary day.

Talking about what’s happening in the world. The election. Online. I’ve been listening to interesting podcasts from blogher today. The naked blogging one is on what I am doing now. I discovered it’s called “identity blogging”. But you were strangely not that into women’s things. Or nakedness, in this sense of it. Perhaps it’s just me.

But that’s just it. We didn’t match each other. We were so different but we were equals. I’ve rolled this over and over. There were plenty of minor imbalances between us – and kind of border skirmishes where each of us resorted to tactics that did not involve our whole selves. But I think on the whole, I met my peer in you, Jane. And that mattered as we engaged each other constantly in our growing edges, stretching sometimes reluctantly and often with delight. I was settled in for the long term with you, Jane but not for a moment imagining how that would be. Knowing that we were just starting out on our learning paths together.

Some of my friends know that I had the odd concern about our relationship. We both knew that some of the hard moments were quite hard. I imagine though that your concerns were about like mine – there, and pronounced at times, but minor in the face of the nice times that we kept having.

I looked at your glass bowl on the shelf this evening, Jane. It’ s nice. It’s not a bowl tho, to me, it’s something that was liked and bought and placed by you – like so many other things in this house. Like the whole of this house, that I wake up and go to sleep in. Where I read the books that you read. Tread the steps around that you trod. Perform the routines of mine that intersected with yours and now those that don’t get performed by you. I put the bedroom and bathroom linen in the boxes that you labelled so clearly. But I can’t fit it in. It’s probably because I don’t iron it. Maybe I could iron it. Maybe if I did, it would not feel like a stupid wrong thing to have to be doing. Almost as if I shouldn’t have to be doing it – I do everything else around here, don’t I? No matter, how I did it tho, I wouldn’t do it the way you do, the way you did, Jane, you beautiful but dead Darling Jane.

I listened to an interview with Mirabai Starr yesterday. She translated “Dark Night of the Soul” by St. John of the Cross and then, while grieving the loss of her daughter, Teresa of Avila’s “The Interior Castle”. The dark night of the soul is characterised by an emptiness within the self, she says. Not one of desolation and loss, tho it is born out of yearning, but an emptiness, filled somehow upon reaching its terrible depth by an unexpected union with divinity. She says that minor upsets like deaths and relationship break-ups aren’t the real thing. I agree with her. Though I feel moments of emptiness and loss alright, they are usually filled up quickly by you Jane, what remains of you in my life, anyway. When the pain of that becomes too much, I choose distraction. I am still clinging to denial. Unsettlingly, I think I still have the real emptiness to come.