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.

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