}

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The rollercoaster

It’s common to describe times when we face a lot of challenges as a rollercoaster, with the varying speed and velocity, along with sudden changes and unexpected hills and valleys that implies. But the rollercoaster metaphor isn’t really applicable to bad times, because when we choose to ride an actual rollercoaster it’s because we expect it to be fun, thrilling, exciting—positive, in other words. So, the word “rollercoaster” hardly seems appropriate for what I’m going through.

And yet, this has certainly been a rollercoaster.

On Friday, for example, my ride suddenly went downhill fast and hit a low point that curved around a bend sharply. At that moment, all I could think of was calling a halt to everything because I just couldn’t cope. I should have known that I was in for a bad patch: The night before I was crying as I was tidying the kitchen before I went to bed, but I didn’t stop the tidying because I had too much to do. Friday morning, I had a similar thing happen.

As that rollercoaster was careening around the sharp curve on Friday, I thought to myself, “why am I feeling this way all the sudden?” I thought about it, and how I actually DO want to keep moving forward, and then I realised the actual problem is that getting this house ready to sell, the decluttering in particular, is daunting. Extremely daunting, in fact. I decided that the main issue is that it’s kind of embarrassing how much there is to go through, and, more specifically, that I’m not really going to do that: I’m going to just pack things up and go through it later, when I’m in my new house (whatever that may be). I just don’t have the emotional or intellectual room to do otherwise.

I also knew I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. In Nigel’s last days, he said that he wanted to live long enough to get rid of all his “toys”—the various computer and technical projects he was working on (including four 3-D printers he’d built or was building). Many of his projects are unfinished, and figuring out how to box it all up will be a challenge.

Nigel didn’t want me to have to deal with all that, but as things worked out, I do have to. I thought that I was embarrassed because I felt I “should” go through the stuff when, for a whole lot of reasons, I’m not ready to.

I’ve come to realise that it was wasn’t actually embarrassment as such, that was just how I perceived it. Instead, the real issue, and the reason boxing it all up affects me, is that the stuff Nigel left behind is stuff that is more “him” than almost anything else in the house because they reflect his interests, his passions, things he enjoyed working on—in a sense, they are actually him.

Part of why I worked this out was that I wasn’t embarrassed about getting help with the gardens, even though they were my responsibility and, technically, my “fault” that they got out of control. But that’s just it, I thought: That was in my control, and I knew I needed help to deal with it (besides, there were reasons things got out of control, including taking care of Nigel). The reality, though, or the additional one, maybe, is that those gardens never reflected either of us—they were just things to be maintained.

I can’t claim credit for figuring all that out by myself. My brother-in-law Terry happened to ring that afternoon, after my low point had passed, and talking it over with him helped me to further work out what had happened, and why.

The momentary crash passed, as they always do, and the rollercoaster started heading back up again. I was actually feeling pretty good when family members got to the house later that afternoon to help me with my mini working bee outside the house the next day. My mother-in-law was among them, and she’ll be staying with me this week. So, Friday night was nice, and so was the fish and chips we had for dinner, just like Nigel and I always had on Friday nights.

Saturday went really well, and the gardens look awesome (I realised too late that I should have taken before and after photos. Oops). My personal goal was to make some repairs to the fences, and I did that, but I overdid it a bit with another project: The previous owners left a nearly-full compost bin that I’d never emptied, mainly because I had no idea what they’d put in it, and whether it was suitable for vegetable patches. So, I dug it out, spreading it in a low part of the garden that’s usually covered with weeds, all so we could put the pulled weeds into the bin. The problem is that it was heavy work that I attempted a little too fast.

I spent the rest of the afternoon after everyone left quietly talking with Nigel’s Mum. It was relaxing.

So, my rollercoaster went from a relatively uneventful bit of track, to a sudden sharp drop followed by a steeply banked curve, only to head back up again. The ride continues.

There are some important lessons I take from all this. First, and most obviously, rollercoaster rides are unpredictable—obvious, I know, but it’s good to remember that there can be low points and high points relatively close to each other. The second thing is that if I stop to think about whatever is upsetting me, I can usually work out what the real issue is and deal with that. I never knew that this all could be necessary, but, then, there are a lot of things I never knew would be necessary until they were. Knowing that, along with the reason why they’re necessary, is the sort of thing that made me cry while cleaning the kitchen.

I have a long way to go on this ride, of course, and this rollercoaster ride is likely to be very rough sometimes. I know that. In real life, I can’t ride rollercoasters anymore because they give me motion sickness. The metaphorical one kind of does that, too. And that’s the third thing I learned from this experience.

But the biggest lesson of all is that I can endure and make it through nearly anything, including a rogue rollercoaster ride, when I turn to others for help.

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