Thursday, February 20, 2020

I don’t feel like dancin’

The one word that best describes how I’m feeling these days is, literally, nothing. In the five months since Nigel died, I haven’t felt any joy, happiness, or even fun, and I have no idea when I’ll feel any of that again. But that doesn’t mean I feel sad all the time, or any other emotion for that matter: I usually feel nothing at all.

Actually “nothing” isn’t entirely true, because my outward-bound feelings, so to speak, are there: Love for family, friends, my furbabies and, of course, Nigel. I also still care about the things I did before, the issues and causes and such, it’s just that there’s no passion there.

As it happens, though, I often spend time thinking about other people and their feelings. For example, every time someone’s coming to the house for the first time, I wonder if they’ll find it “challenging” to see Nigel’s ashes on display in the new “Nigel Shrine”. I always decide, “tough, it’s my house and it’s up to them to adapt, not me.” That’s kind of a new feeling, and it’s the long-term result of the Total Honesty policy Nigel and I launched in what turned out to be his final few weeks.

There’s one area where I struggle: Small talk. When someone who knows me asks how I’m doing, I sometimes have no idea whether they really want to know or if they’re just being polite. That’s one area where the “nothing” I feel works to my advantage: “Okay,” I say, which is exactly what I mean: I don’t feel good, I don’t feel bad, I feel okay—and that’s okay. The other person can take that however they want to. People who know me really well often ask follow-up questions, which is fine—I clearly have no problem talking about any of this.

And then someone will ask me about the new house. How can I tell someone who hasn’t read any of these Notes that I don’t feel anything at all about the new house? While I like it okay, and living here is easy, I don’t love the house—or hate it, for that matter. It comfortable, meets my needs, and the dogs are very happy here. It’s a good home for us, and I’m well aware of that. But love it? No.

I usually tell people who ask that it’s a “work in progress”, because it is (and so am I, for that matter). I often make a weak joke about all the boxes in the garage, anything to avoid having to talk about how I feel about the house.

All of this is because of Nigel’s death, obviously; a huge part of me went with him, and I have nothing to replace that missing part of me, nor any idea what might help fill that void, however slightly. It doesn’t help to think, “I can do anything I want” when I don’t have anything I want to do, not yet.

I haven’t said anything about this publicly until now, but the part-time work I’ve been doing for the past 16 years ends in March. That could be an upsetting change to what little routine I have, but it isn’t upsetting because—as with everything else—I feel nothing about it. I suppose it could at least free up time to do whatever it is I want to do, once I have something I want to do.

Because of this numbness, this state of nothingness, I don’t do any of the things I once enjoyed. There are days when I wake up to a beautiful morning and think it’s pretty, but nothing more, and I wonder to myself how on earth I can make it, and in the next moment I think of Samuel Beckett’s words, “I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” That’s the odd thing about this state of being (not being?): Feeling nothing also means I don’t feel despondent or any other such thing: I. Just. Feel. Nothing.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: There are times, moments, really, when I do feel something other than sadness. I’ll sometimes see something on TV that makes me laugh—well, chuckle, maybe, but still.

And then last night I was sitting in my chair, TV on, thinking about going to bed, and just kind of looking around the space, lit with lamps now that I have window coverings taking me out of the fishbowl. I looked and thought to myself, “this place is kinda nice”. Given the way I don’t feel these days, that’s high praise.

Those brief times also give me hope that this nothingness will end one day, or, at least, ease. Maybe some day.

But I don't feel like dancin', no sir, no dancin' today.

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