}

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

That rollercoaster again

Back in October, I described this grieving process as being like a rollercoaster. While not a perfect analogy, it was proven to me yet again this week that it’s a pretty good one.

Yesterday was a very, very bad day. As usual, I couldn’t think of any particular reason for it, except for everything, of course. But miserable as I was, and in between crying fits, I worked out what was actually wrong, and it was something I mentioned Sunday when I said my inability to accomplish much packing was because it had “something to do with the finality of it all,” and that’s it exactly: Even though neither Nigel nor I loved this house, leaving it will mean ending the last vestige of the life Nigel and I had together, and, it turns out, that’s incredibly painful.

In a sense, it’s kind of like saying a final goodbye to Nigel, were it not for the fact that I carry him with me wherever I go: He has a permanent presence in my heart and my memories. However, this house was the last place we shared life together—our last memories, good and bad, were formed in this house, and it was even the place his body spent the final night before cremation. This house, then, doesn’t have emotional resonance by itself, but as a symbol of our life together, and the end of that life together, it’s incredibly powerful. The thought of leaving it makes me feel like I’m saying goodbye to Nigel all over again—and doing so day after day after day.

Today I drove a carload of stuff to my new house, and there was a moment I noticed something. I started driving up the Bombays (a hill range at the southern edge of Auckland, basically separating Auckland from the Waikato), and suddenly I felt better. This is because I know that where I’m going will make it possible for me to move forward, it will be the start of whatever my life after Nigel will become. It will be a place the dogs and I can just be, and also enjoy the company of family. It’s a very positive thing.

But to get to that positive thing, I’ve first had to endure some pretty bad times, and yesterday and this morning were among the worst. The truly good news for me is that those particularly bad days are drawing to a close. One week from today, the moving truck will leave this house with all the stuff I have. Part of us both will always be here, but the very best parts of us, those I managed to pack and move myself, in my heart.

This tale, then, has—or will have—a happy ending. I’m just not there, yet.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Rehoming myself

It always breaks my heart when I read about people needing to re-home beloved dogs or cats because their circumstances have changed. I’m about to “re-home” myself due to changed circumstances, but in this case it’s the best way to help heal my broken heart.

On Friday, I took formal ownership of my new house. It was the culmination of the work I’ve been doing over the past several months to lay the groundwork for my new life, and to fulfil Nigel’s wish that I’d be okay. As I put the key into the lock for the first time (photo above and, of course, I shared the photo on Facebook…), I was keenly aware that it was sixteen weeks to the day since Nigel died. And—I was okay.

In the days leading up to the event, I wondered how I’d react. Would I burst into tears? Would I just be sad? I knew I wouldn’t be happy, as such, due to the circumstances that lead me to buying the new house, but maybe I could be just a little glad? I kind of was, but more in the sense of being relieved that the long, hard, stressful work to get to that point was finally over. And that was okay, too.

There’s still one more hurdle to get over, though: My move into my new house. That, too, has been a big effort.

On Thursday, I accepted the quote from the movers, and the schedule is that they arrive to start packing on the Monday, come back the next morning to finish the packing, load the truck, and then take it to their depot for delivery at the new house on the morning of the third day. I’ve never actually heard of it being done that way, but I understand because, as the agent put it, “it’s a big job”.

Unlike cheaper movers, they carefully pack things like flatscreen TVs, mattresses, and even sofas in special protection. They also take away that special packaging at the new house to I don’t have to get rid of it. That, and the fact there’s so much to pack and move, is why it’ll take so long.

My new house is a three bedroom with an open plan lounge/kitchen/dining. My current house is four bedrooms, and has a rumpus room. The ground level is where the fourth bedroom (used as my office) and rumpus are, and I’ve seldom gone there since Nigel died—mainly just to laundry, which is also on that level. The reality, then, is that I’m basically living in a three bedroom house already.

I’d originally been looking for a larger house, one similar in size to my current one. I said at the time that Nigel and I worked too long and too hard for me to go backwards. And yet, I realised that what I was actually looking for was a house we’d have enjoyed together, and that wasn’t sensible: It would cost more (easily 10-15% more), and I’d end up looking after a big house that would have just me and the dogs there the vast majority of the time. I only need one office and one guest room now, so three bedrooms is enough. And, as it happens, this smaller house means a larger yard than any house I’d looked at in Hamilton. The dogs will thank me. Well, if they could talk, I’m sure they would.

However, I have furniture for a larger house, and not all of it will fit into the new one. My plan has always been to sell what I don’t need (or to try to…) and donate the rest, and for a couple years (at least) I was telling Nigel that I wanted to sell our sofas and matching chair for something smaller, but he seemed less interested in that than I was. It definitely will be too much for the new house.

I thought about selling some stuff before moving, but our next door neighbour pointed out that our area is “In the middle of nowhere”, so I’d have an easier time getting people to pick up stuff from Hamilton than here, and that means I’m more likely to actually sell stuff in Hamilton. I think she’s right—but it means I’ll have a lot of stuff to sort it out once I’m moved. I’m okay with that.

I said some time ago that the family and I packed up the garage, and I planned to go through and sort out the stuff in Hamilton. That was based on the plans I had at the time, that I’d put all that stuff into storage, but my plans changed a few times afterward. I also ended up deciding to delay going though things in the rest of the house, too: All the boxes (and a bit of excess furniture), will go into the garage to keep the new house as uncluttered as possible. And, waiting until I get to Hamilton before paring down will definitely be easier one box at a time than one whole room at a time.

There’s another reason this sorting later is a good idea: I’ve found it extremely difficult to actually deal with stuff in the house. I want to, and I’ve actually managed to pack up a bit, but it’s extremely hard for me. I’m not entirely sure why that is—probably something to do with the finality of it all. Whatever the cause, I’ve spent a lot of time not sorting and packing. If I’d been able to deal with stuff, I probably could have packed up the entire house and saved myself a fair bit in moving costs. That wasn’t meant to be, I guess. I spent my energies on getting a new home, instead, and I think that was a good tradeoff—stuff is just stuff, but a new house means the start of a new life.

My inability to pack stuff up has been a huge source of guilt and disappointment. Many people in mourning feel guilty about what they said/didn’t say to the person they’ve lost, or what they did/didn’t do. Not me. Nigel and I made sure we said everything we needed to say, so I’m okay with all that, but what I’ve done or not done since then, particularly to get ready to move? That’s a different story. I know that once I’m in my new house, all this guilt about how little I’ve done (from my perspective) to prepare for the actual move will be gone—though I’ll probably then feel guilty about not going through things fast enough! Some things don’t change.


So, as the fog from all this work finally lifts, I’m looking forward to having a smaller and easier to take care of house, one in which I’ll live in most of the space, all on one level, with plenty of room for the dogs to run around, and for me to begin whatever my new life will become. All that depended on me finding the right house, and now I have. In this case, “rehoming” myself was the just the biggest step in that work.

And it’s also the best way to help heal my broken heart.

My original Facebook caption for this photo: Having a little beverage to celebrate completing the purchase of my new house, because it’s what one does. In my case, thanks to medication, it’s “alcohol removed”, meaning it has a tiny amount (about as much as orange juice). But it’s also the nicest non-alcoholic bubbles I’ve yet found. The realtor gave me what looks like a nice bottle of tawny port to celebrate my new house; I’ll eventually even be able to have some! 😁

Friday, January 10, 2020

Boundary work

It’s hard enough to go outside our comfort zones when things are normal, but to do so when dealing with major grief? May as well go climb Mt Everest—it’d be no more difficult to do. Still, there are times when it’s very necessary to make the effort, and during a time of grief is no exception. This week I did exactly that.

Not even everyone who knows me well will also be aware that I’m actually quite shy. I find it difficult to go and do things with groups of people when I don’t know anyone. And yet I still do that sometimes, when necessary, and that’s what I did on Monday.

A long-time Facebook friend of mine, Andy, was coming to Auckland for the day and arranged to meet up with his friends from West Auckland. I’d never met Andy in real life, nor any of his tribe, including another long-time friend, Penny Hulse, a former Auckland Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Auckland. I’ve traded comments and private messages with both for a very long time, and they’ve both been extremely supportive as I’ve dealt with my grief. So, despite the fact that I’d never driven to West Auckland (though I’ve been there, of course), and that there would be a group of people I didn’t know, I wanted to make the effort.

I realised that if I didn’t go, I might never get another chance; losing Nigel has driven home the importance of, whenever possible, never missing an opportunity to be with friends and family because we can never know when our number’s up. I don’t know anyone who’s ever said that they wished they spent more time away from the people they care about, but I have heard people regret not spending more time with them.

So, on the one hand, my natural shyness (a kind of social phobia, really), wanted to pull me back, to find excuses not to go, but my determination to not miss an opportunity like that was pushing me forward. The deciding factor was something very different: I needed to do it.

It’s easy for me to be a recluse—too strong a word, but you get the idea: I can easily choose to avoid gatherings of strangers or avoid activities where I might have to interact with a lot of strangers. That tendency has never been stronger than it is right now: Nigel was my rock, safe harbour, and source of strength, and without him I feel vulnerable and exposed.

Monday was going to be a packing day (a story in itself…), and I could have used that as an excuse for not going. What overcame that was that I thought of a related thing I needed to do, one that would take me near the cafe everyone was gathering it. So, I thought to myself, I could do all that, and if I felt too uncomfortable at the gathering, I could always leave early, while still having accomplished something to “justify” the drive. That tactic worked perfectly.

We had three expired LPG (usually called propane in the USA) gas bottles for our BBQ (they have a set date, and if they expire they need to be certified, a process apparently nearly as expensive as getting a brand new one). These bottles followed us from the old house, but they’d been expired for years before that. There are only a few places that accept old gas bottles, and one was the Waitakere Refuse Transfer Station, which was, Apple Maps told me, 11 minutes from the cafe. And, it pretty much was.

And the people I met? Well, they all had sharp talons, long tails with venomous barbs, and fearsome fangs—and, of course, none of that was true. In fact, they were all lovely and I really enjoyed meeting them and spending time with them—so much so that I stayed until the last ones left. It’s pretty rare for me to go to a place with strangers and feel comfortable enough to stay, so that’s a good indicator of how great the experience was.

I have a history of doing this. I’d only been in New Zealand a few weeks when the company I was working for held its Christmas Party up at Shakespear Regional Park (yes, it’s spelled that way, named after the family that bought the land from local Māori in the 1880s) at the tip of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula in northern Auckland. I went, and Nigel was amazed that I did so. I told him at the time it was easier because everything in New Zealand was still brand new to me. Going to picnic at the end of a peninsula in northern Auckland with co-workers I didn’t really know very well wasn’t as challenging as it might have been at another time. Don’t know if I was right, or maybe I have a hidden well of strength to persevere when my shyness would pull me back. This week, I decided to assume it was the latter.

Beyond all that, and most important of all, I know that if I’m going to find a life for myself, I need to take chances and to push beyond my normal boundaries of comfort. I can’t do a lot of that at the moment, and I can only tolerate groups of people for a certain amount of time before it starts to become overwhelming, but I feel that pushing my boundaries will help increase my tolerance for both.

While I think I’m right about all this, I could also be delusional. As I often say, there’s no manual on how to go through the depression of profound grief, but I feel I’m right about this: Getting out and about is a necessary part of the healing process, and vital to my finding whatever my new life will be.

It’s hard to go outside our comfort zones when things are normal, but to do so when dealing with major grief is extremely difficult. Still, it’s necessary to make the effort, even during a time of grief, and this week I did exactly that. It was important progress.

Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Homing in

This moving house thing is… interesting. There are so many details to tend to, so many opportunities for things to go wrong, it’s a wonder that anyone can get excited about a move. In my case, there’s far more going on.

People often ask me if I’m excited about my impending move, and the simple answer is “no”, but, as is usually the case with me these days, the real answer is, “it’s complicated”. This isn’t about the house (either one), and never has been, and it’s not about moving (that’s a very good thing). Instead, it’s all about why I’m moving: To begin whatever my life without Nigel will be, and that’s still at the centre of everything I do or even think about doing, and I hate that reality. I don’t want a new house, I want Nigel. Why would I be excited about something that I don’t want?

And yet, it IS what I want, isn’t it? I’ll get away from the isolated area where I now live, I’ll be close to family so that when I hit a rough patch, and I will, or when they hit a rough patch, and they will, we can support each other. But it also means quick access not only to family, but also to everyday things like shops—including even the supermarket.

I’m really looking forward to all of that. I can’t express how tired I am of having to drive about 25 minutes to the nearest grocery story—and most of that 25 minutes is spent driving at 100kph, so it’s even farther than it sounds—especially when I get stuck behind a farm tractor for a couple kilometres because the winding, hilly rural roads often have no safe passing areas. Also, the nearest family is about an hour’s drive away from here, and I don’t know anyone here except our awesome next door neighbours.

Leaving here is absolutely the right thing to do, and I’m glad to be doing it.

Toward that end, this past weekend the family and I did the pre-settlement inspection of my new house (and it gave my mother-in-law her first look inside). There were a few minor issues to be addressed, and I think that’s mainly because we moved up the settlement date by two weeks, and many workers are only getting back to work this week. So, I’m not worried about that—it’ll be sorted.

Today I met with my solicitor to sign the paperwork to finalise the sale, transfer the title to me, that sort of thing. It took ten minutes—plus an hour drive to their offices and another hour drive home. Just another of those details to tend to. On the plus side, she mentioned that because we had a lot of lead time, and both sides finished paperwork before the holidays (since time would be short after them), I should get the keys Friday morning, rather than Friday afternoon. That’ll be my first time in the house as its owner, and that’s always a very big deal—but it’s also one I’ve never experienced alone before, without Nigel.

I also found out today that my move-in date will be delayed about a week because the movers are completely booked up the week of the 15th. The problem, again, was the holidays: I contacted them before the holidays, but they weren’t back at work until this week, and that meant the available slots were all filled (I don’t have a contract yet, obviously). I’ll find out tomorrow what the new date will be. Right now, I’m hoping for Tuesday the 21st, my birthday, because moving into my new house then would be a nice gift to myself—and, even better, a nice way to distract myself from my first birthday since Nigel died.

Over the past few months, every step of the way toward my new life has been marked by obstacles leading to changes in my plans, and that includes the fact that I bought the house I did. So far, that’s always resulted in better plans, and this is no different.

Delaying the move a week means I have more time to get ready, because there are some things I want to pack and move myself: I know that it will take me many weeks (well, months…) to get through all the boxes, so some things could be missing for ages. I want everything I need close at hand the day I move in so I can deal with the rest at a reasonable pace.

This also means that I’ll have time to drive down a few car loads, since my car doesn’t hold that much, and to do a few projects in the new house before I shift. I was a bit stressed and pressured by the fact that I want to take stuff myself, but had trouble arranging the time (and space in my car) to get the stuff down there. All that’s solved by the change in plans.

Once again, a change in plans is making my plans better. I say that now, but I was disappointed when I found out the move was delayed. But, I keep moving forward because I don’t actually have any other option.

This moving house thing is… interesting. In my case, however, there’s far more going on, because the reason I’m doing it at all overshadows absolutely everything. Am I excited? “It’s complicated.”

Friday, January 03, 2020

Google’s Year in Search 2019



Another post I make every December is one sharing Google’s “year in search” video, along with some of “top five” searches. I like those posts so I can refer back to them, so I didn’t want to skip it for 2019, even if I wasn’t all that blogtastic last month.

So, here’s what was trending in 2019.

Global


Top 5 overall searches in the world: 1 India vs South Africa, 2 Cameron Boyce, 3 Copa America, 4 Bangladesh vs India, 5 iPhone 11. Top 5 news stories searched in the world: 1 Copa America, 2 Notre Dame, 3 ICC Cricket World Cup, 4 Hurricane Dorian, 5 Rugby World Cup.

United States


Top 5 overall searches in the USA: 1 Disney Plus, 2 Cameron Boyce, 3 Nipsey Hussle, 4 Hurricane Dorian, 5 Antonio Brown. Top 5 news stories searched in the USA: 1 Hurricane Dorian, 2 Notre Dame Cathedral, 3 Women's World Cup, 4 Area 51 raid, 5 Copa America.

New Zealand


Top 5 overall searches in New Zealand: 1 Rugby World Cup, 2 New Zealand vs England, 3 Cricket World Cup, 4 Christchurch Shooting, 5 Stuff News NZ. Top 5 news stories searched in NZ: 1 Christchurch Shooting, 2 Nelson Fire, 3 The fall of the Berlin wall, 4 London Bridge attack, 5 Measles.

I know what most of those refer to, but I’d never heard of Copa America, probably because it’s not terribly relevant in Australasia. I do think it’s interesting that it made the top 5 searches both globally and in the USA; that doesn’t always happen.

Staying on the sporting theme, two of the top 5 global searches refer to cricket—“India vs South Africa” and “Bangladesh vs India”, which figures since a top 5 global news search item was “ICC Cricket World Cup”—and “Rugby World Cup”. Both of those made New Zealand’s search lists, but not the USA’s. Of course. NZ’s search for “New Zealand vs England” is probably about cricket—but it could be about rugby, too. All of which goes to show that search terms alone leave out some information.

2020 is an election year in New Zealand and the USA, so I expect to see terms relating to politics on the lists for the two countries. And plenty that aren’t. We search for lots of stuff, after all.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

The annual mashup post



For several years now, I’ve ended every year with mash-up and other year-end videos. Last year I was understandably off my blogging game, so I didn’t share any of those. But it’s only January 2, so that’s close enough, I think.

The video above is this year’s annual mashup by DJ Earworm, “United State of Pop 2019 (Run away)”. As with last year’s video, I’m familiar with a lot of the videos, and even shared some of them. That’s unlikely to be true this year since I don’t watch music videos as much as I used to. Oh, well.

The complete list of the tracks mentioned is in the YouTube description.

December didn’t just mean the end of a year, but also of a decade (in popular usage of the word). To mark the occasion, DJ Earworm released another video, “DECADE OF POP – 100 Song Mashup” (video below). As with the video above, the YouTube description contains a list of most of the artists, though it’s not a track list. I’d forgotten about some of the songs, and a few I wish I’d forgotten, but there are some I still like.

These mash-up videos are an annual look at the pop songs that were popular for the year, what I often call “the backing track to the year”. This year, there’s a decade’s worth of videos, too.

And next year? Well, right now I just hope my blogging will be back to “normal” by then.

Previous DJ Earworm mash-ups on this blog:

DJ Earworm 2018 Mashup (2018)
DJ Earworm 2017 Mashup (2017)
First December Mashup (2016)
Season of mash-ups (2015) – First video
And the roundups begin (2014)
Poptastic assault (2013) – First video

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Another New Year

So, 2020 has begun, huh? To anyone who’s much above 30, that year always sounded so far away, far future-y, even. Where, exactly, is the flying car I was promised?!

The New Year began in an okay way for me, though quite different from what I’d planned. Even up until yesterday, I thought I’d go to bed early rather than continue my (nearly?) lifelong tradition of seeing in the New Year. But as yesterday went on, I began to second-guess that decision.

I knew Nigel wouldn’t want me to sequester myself at all, and certainly not because of him. He wanted me to live and have a life that will make me happy, so even though he’d never tell me exactly what to do, he’d definitely have preferred that I stay up until midnight if that’s what I wanted to do.

And so, I did.

I watched music videos on TVNZ’s Duke channel, which cut away at midnight for the countdown and fireworks in Auckland’s CBD, including Sky Tower (apparently the highest-launched fireworks in the Southern Hemisphere), the light show on the Harbour Bridge, and some multicultural stuff to reflect the diversity of Auckland. All of that was nice enough, and I suppose the fireworks were good, but I felt flat and unenthused. This makes sense, since nothing had changed for me apart from my decision to stay up.

As the fireworks were exploding during the TV coverage, I remembered how I’d always given Nigel a kiss at midnight to welcome in the New Year. So, I walked over to the special white box where his ashes are, and put my hand on it and his wedding and civil union rings, which are on top of it. “Happy New Year, sweetheart,” I said. Then I picked up the framed photo of Nigel and gave it a kiss, something I’ve seen on countless TV shows and movies but never done myself until then. Perhaps I never wanted to before. And then for a few minutes I sobbed.

Interesting thing about that: It was all unplanned, even spur of the moment, and it was all what I felt I wanted and needed to do at the time. I thought later that there were any number of things about that scene that could make people think I was crazy, silly, maudlin, whatever. But this whole experience over the past few months has taught me a very important lesson: To never give a f*ck about what other people think—this is my journey, and I’m the only one who has a valid opinion about what I’m doing (unless they agree with me, obviously!).

Behind the scenes, the reality behind these events is quite different than it appears. I put the photo of Nigel out before his memorial, beside some flowers I’d been given, and near some candles that had always been there. When I did, I could hear him say in my head, “You made a bloody shrine to me!”, and I laughed. But that kind of upped the ante, didn’t it? When I brought his ashes home, I had to put them there to keep the shrine theme going. The additional joke in that is that I don’t have anywhere else to put them at the moment, and that was as good a place as any.

Beyond that, I don’t think of his ashes as being him—they’re what’s left behind, like the chrysalis of a butterfly. His rings have far more meaning to me, which is why I put my hand on them, standing at the “shrine” to Nigel.

I turned the TV off and went to bed. I slept well enough, and woke up this morning feeling particularly good about my choice: I carried on my (nearly?) lifelong tradition, and I honoured the life that Nigel and I had together. And, I still gave myself space to grieve, rather than trying to avoid it as I would’ve effectively done if I’d stuck to my original plan and gone to bed early.

Is this progress? Too early to tell. But it’s one of the few times I’ve felt I was making space for myself (“space” because it’s way too early to call it a “life”) while still honouring our life together at the same time. And that’s why I felt good about my change of plans last night.

So, 2020 has begun. Maybe this future-y sounding year will be exactly what I need to find my path in life. But I still want the flying car I was promised.