I’ve had some difficulty figuring out what to write next regarding this phase of my life, despite only a month passing since I laid out intentions to do just that. This is mostly because I feel like my healing has actually been going pretty well, or at least rapidly. Life is still very hard in some ways (keeping perspective relative to the rest of the world, of course), but I notice changes day by day in the way that I’m able to handle things and think about them, and especially how much less I’m getting upset or sad. Bittersweet is an apt word here, I think. But: the rate of change is such that it’s been overwhelming to think about what to piece out and to elaborate on in a post. Every day seems like a huge growth day, and these things are hard to capture in words since it takes a lot of energy just to live through them.
I’ve had the benefit of some time since Michelle passed now and, in particular, time away from work (for a long while, counting Michelle’s illness—Mapbox has been absolutely and nearly-unheard-of amazing here). It has made an enormous difference. Part of the value here is just allowing space to become acclimated to a new reality, one which your body and mind reject and want to rewind out of comfort and routine and expectation. I’ve been experiencing things as a split of sorts—in my head, I know what is real, and I’m pretty good at accepting it. In my heart, and routines, and habits, it’s been much more difficult. For weeks there was a strong sense of waiting for Michelle to come home before I could pick up a normal life again, even though that can’t ever happen.
At first, my days were filled with getting up and ready for the day (though typically very late—there was often a lack of desire to even stand up in the morning), eating meals, taking care of the pets, but otherwise mostly just loafing—sometimes at home, sometimes in a park or other place out. Some vices may or may not have been involved. I did use the time to think, and to feel, and to process, though. I guess that’s exactly what I need in the long run.
I pretty quickly remedied the late starts with a series of early coffee or breakfast dates with friends in various parts of town, sometimes five days a week. Fortunately, I can take some energy from visiting with friends, though I think in the end I am an introvert and need “me time” to really recharge. But I knew that putting myself in the presence of smiling faces who cared was a good way to force the rest of me to know that things were ok in the broader sense. Also helpful here were stopping into a couple work offices during my recent travels, which both reminded me of what I had been working towards but also just how great the people are who do that with me and how fortunate I am to be in such a situation.
I also bought a Vespa scooter and have made it my primary vehicle, at least while the weather is so nice here in Portland. (The fact that my former primary vehicle is part of the largest auto recall in history has also been a factor.)
I’m finding it an awesome combo of easy getting around plus being physically put in a place of having fun. It feels great.— Justin Miller (@incanus77) May 24, 2016
It’s making mundane things fun and is encouraging me to get out of the house more.— Justin Miller (@incanus77) May 24, 2016
Being “physically put in a place of having fun” has made a huge difference. I think sometimes, we just need to get our heads out of the way and let that physical layer of our beings take over and do its thing. I read a piece recently (which I can’t find right now) about how our own reality is merely storytelling; a long string of stories we tell ourselves about our lives and actions. And I thought on this a bit and realized that perhaps what meditation really is is suppressing this constant need to tell stories to ourselves and just letting the physical layer be ok with reality. So whether it’s meditating at home or zipping along at 60mph on two wheels, just clearing your head and guiding your physical self as to where to go can make the mind follow.
Of course, the Vespa fits in with my new pie-baking hobby, too.
Day 3.— Justin Miller (@incanus77) May 25, 2016
Dear scooter diary,
Today I discovered that the under-seat storage area fits exactly one pie. pic.twitter.com/sJuYCqXQVy
It’s funny—the first feelings I had after Michelle passed were of limited time for everything I wanted to do, of immense impulsiveness, yet also a complete lack of direction in any form other than, sometimes quite literally, putting one foot in front of the other. There’s a reason people tell you (and lots of people told me) not to sell your house, not to quit your job, or not to make other big life changes during this time. Life feels like a completely open book in a way that is highly unnerving rather than exciting—analysis paralysis, but where everything is on the table and you have no idea whether the tried-and-true things that once made you happy will even work anymore.
I did know myself well enough, though, to sort of start to forge that new, middle path between who I was as part of a partnership and who I would have been if I were entirely on my own—which, I think, is exactly where I need to head. I was able to find some things that were undeniably for me, yet sometimes were out of love and remembrance for her. The scooter and baking pies in particular come to mind here, though more broadly, just trying new experiences and being adventurous are qualities that I value highly yet are things that still honor her memory. Realizing and then acting on those realizations has been immensely therapeutic.
I’m keeping on that path now, trying new places, new foods, new hobbies, new ideas. This is good for anyone to do at any time, but it also can remind me of those things that I was doing or thinking previously, that I do miss them after all, and that I want to continue them even on my own.
So, these days, I’m taking that open book and starting to fill in the pages a little.
Adding another story to that long string of stories.
Thanks for reading this one.