Saturday, October 12, 2019

Promises to keep

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” By Robert Frost

Over the past week I’ve shared stories and photos in order to share more of Nigel’s story, specifically the parts with me, because I promised him I’d share his wider story. I also wanted people who I know only through the Internet to know something of the life Nigel and I had together. I hope it’s obvious that what I shared on Facebook, my blog, and my podcast was only a small sampling of how rich our life together really was.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love in the wonderful comments and FB reactions from people near and far. I read the comments to Nigel when he was in hospital, until he became too weak, and the outpouring really touched him. It also truly helped me through this horrible time, and I appreciate that support more than I can ever adequately express. Thank you.

I thought I’d take a moment to talk a bit about myself, because all of this has raised some questions. I’ve shared my truth and authentic self on my blog and podcast for all these years, so I’m not going to stop now.

How am I doing?

I’m doing surprisingly well—far better than I expected, actually. The main reason for that is my New Zealand family. I’ve had one or more of them staying with me every night since before Nigel died, right up until tonight. One or more of them also rings me or texts me every day. My sister in the USA also rings me through the miracles of the Internet.

So, I’ve been well looked after.

Today I decided it was time to spend the day here at home alone with the furbabies. This is our new reality, and we need to adjust. But, then, the days are easy: Nigel worked long hours, so the furbabies and I always spent much of the daytime alone.

Tonight is my first night alone since we took Nigel back to hospital for the last time. I have no idea how it will go. The worst that could happen is that I’ll cry myself to sleep, but as Nigel frequently said, “no one ever cried themselves to death”. So, I’m sure that I’ll be fine. And, if it’s rougher than think, I have ample support.

I’ve done a lot of laundry today, just trying to bring back some normality (and clean clothes…). But one thing I’ve learned is that at the moment my most useful phrase is, “maybe tomorrow”. There’s really nothing urgent that I need to do, so I can just take everything at my own pace.

I made promises

I made promises to Nigel, and the biggest was, to put it crudely, that I will continue. The original context was that Nigel asked me to promise I’d look after our furbabies, which was an obvious thing for me to promise to do.

In Nigel’s last days, he also asked me, “What is it your really want to do with your life?” I told him that the only thing I’d ever wanted to do was write. “Then do that,” he said. To be honest, it was kind of an order, and he wasn’t one to be ignored when he ordered something (Rule 1). His real point was that he wanted me to live the life I wanted, and to fill it with that (since I couldn’t have him in it…).

I’ll keep all those promises, plus a few I made to myself that I’ll talk about over time. There’s much to be done.

The immediate future

Obviously, nothing about this new path is actually obvious, and there’s a lot I can’t possibly know. However, there is one thing I know for certain: I will not return to the USA—New Zealand is my home. I’ve lived here for 24 years, which, for comparison, is about two-thirds the number of years I lived in the USA (birth to 36). Or, if you take adulthood as beginning at 18, then I’ve lived more of my adult life in New Zealand than I did in the USA.

But it’s not really about numbers, it’s about “fit”. Nigel—who you may have noticed said a lot of insightful things in his final weeks—asked me if I’d go back the USA, and I said no. "Good!", he said. He then added, “To be honest, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I think you make a much better Kiwi than you do an American.” I think he’s right. I didn’t ask him why he thought that, but I have a pretty good idea what he meant, or part of the reason he said it, anyway.

However, the numbers are relevant in that the America I left no longer exists, and I’m not talking about politics (no, really!). Places have changed, friends have died or scattered around the country, so nothing there now is anything like what I left 24 years ago. That means that I have continuity here, not there.

At the moment, I expect to move to Hamilton, about an hour and a half south of Auckland. While I really like the awesome mess that Auckland is, it was the place Nigel and I spent most of our years together, and not where we planned to stay forever. He wanted to move to Hamilton one day, at least in part because a lot of his family is there, and more family is with an hour and half drive. So, I’m fulfilling one of our long-term plans, but it’s also what just makes sense for me: I don’t want to be alone, and moving to where the greatest number family members are based ensures that won’t happen.

One last thing. I dressed sombrely for Nigel’s two visitation days, but the day of the funeral I wore the same shirt I wore for our civil union (wedding) ceremony back in 2009, pictured. Nigel hated the picture (and made me stretch it a bit to make him look thinner), but in his final weeks he told me that was the second-happiest day of his life—the first was the day we were legally married in October, 2013. Funny that; they were my happiest days, too.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me—it’s meant a lot to me. I have no idea what my new story will be, but I’ll certainly share it. That’s what friends are for.

Originally published on my personal Facebook Page on September 28.


rogerogreen said...

You know, you should write. Wait, Nigel already said that. Then you MUST write. That's more correct.

Arthur Schenck said...

Apparently so!