Tuesday, January 02, 2024

The year changed differently

The change of one year to another has usually been a solo pursuit for me: More years than not, and even going back to my childhood, I’ve been the only one in the house who was awake at the stroke of midnight. There were a few years that I was with one or more other people, but more often than not, I was up by myself. Not this year.

There was only one year I can remember planning to go to bed before midnight, and that was 2019 (for obvious reasons: It was only three months after Nigel died), I didn’t do that in the end. I was glad I didn’t, and I haven’t been tempted since.

This year was different: I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve alone, nor was I the only one in the house who was up to see the New Year arrive: I was at a family party here in Hamilton instead. I also had family staying at my house, so there were a lot things that made this year unusual. And all of them were very good.

The last time I got together with a group of folks for New Year’s Eve was back in 2017, when Nigel and I went to a party at his brother’s house in Hamilton (ironically enough). Since then, everyone’s life has changed, and I definitely wasn’t the only one who was aware that Nigel was missing, especially because there was karaoke. There were only a couple moments when I felt teary, but tears didn’t roll, and I didn’t cry. The sadness, too, left quickly.

I’ve now made it through the fourth New Year’s Eve without a kiss with Nigel at midnight, and that’s the important thing: I made it through. In the four years and three months since Nigel died, my one an only job has been been to heal. I hadn’t realised how traumatic Nigel’s death had been for me—especially because of how fast it was—until maybe two years into the journey. The third year after his death—2021/22—was awful for me, as it so often is for people who’ve lost their spouse/partner. 2023 became better, and this blog helped show that. As I said in my last post for 2023:
Of course, numbers aren’t everything, and certainly not the only thing, but they do provide me with a way go gauge how I’m doing—not just at blogging, but in general. The months in which my output was lowest were probably also the months in which I was, too, of course, but my most productive months weren’t necessarily my best ones—just the ones in which I was most determined and made enough time.
In that same post, I pointed out that the total number of blog posts last year showed “2023 was my best year since 2019”. I can clearly see how that is a sign of improvement—a sign of healing—something my dramatically increased podcasting output also underscores.

After some last minute changes, I had family staying at my house at New Year's—a sister-in-law and her two dogs, plus her daughter (my niece) and her husband and their five year old daughter. The screengrab from my post today to my personal Facebook earlier today sums up how it was for me the past few days. However, the important thing is that it was a lovely visit—even though I found out I wasn’t as prepared as I should’ve been (my grand-niece explored, and through that I saw I hadn’t dusted a side table “in quite some time”.

It turns out, I’m way out of practice hosting visitors. I can’t remember for sure the last time I had overnight guests, but it was up to two years ago, or perhaps as little as, I don’t know, a year and a half, maybe. I have no idea when the last person stayed here.

Most of the folks who would’ve stayed with Nigel and me live in Hamilton or the Waikato, so they’re all here or a short day-trip away. Moreover, most of those who visit are coming here primarily to see my mother-in-law, and so, stay with her, of course. All of this should have been obvious to me all along, but it wasn’t.

Even so, I didn’t notice until I started getting ready for this weekend. I knew I last washed the sheets and made the bed after the last guest left, and I discovered the sheets had become covered in dust since then. I washed everything, obviously, but the point here is that I didn’t realise that had happened until I started my preparations. On the plus side, the guest room is no longer the storage room it had been for—however long it’s been, but probably at least 18 months.

The state of the guest room—and even my lack of attentive dusting of side tables—are symptoms of how things became for me: Existing, doing the minimum, getting by. That was 2022 and part of 2023. I’m leaving all that behind.

I sense that this new year just begun will be continuing gthe trend shown by this blog and my podcast. I have so much yet to do, but for the first time in this journey, I feel like it might be possible to clear some of the backlog, especially the enormous amount of physical stuff left over from my old life—Nigel’s “toys”, as he called them, in particular.

Maybe I’m wrong, and this year will be no better, or even worse, than last year. Maybe. But every New Year is at its core a chance to hope again. I intend to grab onto that with both hands. I had a good end to 2023, and a good start to 2024. I choose to focus only on that only, because the future is yet to be written.

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