On one hand, saying goodbye to 2018 - the difficult year I lost Mr Duncan.
On the other saying hello to a year in which he won't exist, except in our memories.
When these milestones... holidays, birthdays, anniversaries come up, it's hard not to count...and compare This is the first one without him. Last year we did this, now he's not here. It's like creating the illusion of his presence by recognising his absence.
Time is so surreal. Sometimes I feel he's going to walk in the door in a couple of minutes and at other times it's like he's never been here at all. And I don't want to lose hold of him in my memory. As I've lost him. And the me that I was before he died.
Not long before he died, Mr Duncan spent a month in the UK for work. While he was away, I started a gratitude journal. Something I've been starting and failing to keep up with for what seems like FOREVER. Just like meditation.
I did it every day for the month he was away and kept it up most days a week once he was back. After his death and in the lead up to the funeral I felt all sorts of love and gratitude, in addition to shock. I wasn't upset yet.
It's been a rough three and a half months. People who I thought were close have faded away. Others who offered their help found it too demanding. Most people don't know what to say as its such an uncomfortable situation and just go back to their lives. It's hard adjusting to being an only parent and the loss of the future you had planned and imagined.
So anyway, at home sitting by myself (as usual) with Pickle finally asleep in her room I thought for New Years Eve tonight I'd list all things I feel grateful for, despite the loss of my partner in crime and the massive change in my life.
I am thankful
1. for our home where I feel safe and comfortable - we bought it 2 years to the day that Mr Duncan died. Some people have asked if I'll sell and leave, thinking I'd feel the absence of him too acutely to stay. But this is the house that we chose, in the place that we chose to raise our daughter. Only days before his death, Mr Duncan and I were congratulating ourselves on building such a good life together (famous last words...). It's my home, why would I want to leave?
2. for the close-knit community we live in
3. for freedom from financial pressure - life insurance will pay the mortgage and a bit which gives me time to figure out the next income stream
4. for Mr Duncan being away for work Jul/Aug - it gave me a month's practice at holding down the fort by myself so I already had routines to put back in place once he was gone
5. for my 5 days in Adelaide in June. It gave me some much needed respite and Mr Duncan and Pickle 5 days of togetherness without me and hopefully Pickle experienced how much her Dad loved her.
6. that so much of the stuff we wanted to do on the house is done - we now have solar power and blinds and the landscaping plan is done if not the actual landscaping itself.
for my many loving and supportive friends
7. Jo, who came to the police station to get me, took me home and made me make the hard phone calls - to his family, to his job and to my family. She came with me to identify the body and stayed the night those first few nights to make sure I was okay.
8. Miranda, who left her family to jump on a plane and handle all the organisational details of the funeral, sort his piles of paperwork and play with and look after Pickle so I had no responsibility other than to make a choice when it was presented to me, and sleep. Who continues to be a calm and loving source of support.
9. Clare, who was a source of calm pragmatism having some similar experiences herself. She took on liaising with Mr Duncan's family and helping them with their trip from the UK for the funeral. She regularly checks in with me, especially on those special days, to make sure I'm doing okay.
10. Helen, for showering love on Pickle and sharing with me her experience of having rose quartz stones cast at her from Mr Duncan. For coming to visit on Christmas day to make sure we weren't all alone.
11. Lee, for sorting out all the pictures for the funeral, and then framing some for our home. For being a non-judgemental companion over the ensuing months. Able to listen and let me cry without expectation or discomfort. For the many dinners and for joining us on our second traditional family Christmas trip to Brisbane
12. Margaret, who took on the responsibility of communicating with my family when I couldn't actually get hold of anyone, serving as a single point of contact and protecting me from all the questions and chaos. Who continues to call every few days to check in.
13. Meg, who organised rose petals and rosemary as rememberances for the casket. She apologises for not doing anything but her regular check-ins with concrete suggestions of meals or play-dates make life easier.
14. Kirsty, for being willing to say the things I might not like to hear. And for including us on Christmas Day.
15. Chris, who lost his wife when their children were 7 and 9, for his thoughtful and caring email sharing his experience with me when I asked and for the book on helping the heart of a grieving child.
16. Susan, for always listening and for sending me tea to help me sleep and a make-your-own book kit for Pickle. Pickle LOVED it and immediately started making a scrap book about her dad.
17. Rachael B, sending me a book called An Ordinary Day. I heard about it the day after the funeral as it was about to be launched and thought I should read it. Next thing it appeared in the mail.
18. Miranda I for regularly checking in and making concrete suggestions to meet.
19. Marina for regularly checking in and being her calm, methodical self.
20. Danielle, for listening and always being able to give her thoughts in a
gentle, constructive way that builds me up. And for coming to visit and
spend time with me over the l o o o n g school holidays.
21. Tim for being such a great friend and male role model for Pickle.
22. for my new yoga studio and teacher Brenda. They say (whoever they are) when the student is ready the teacher appears. I might live in the yoga-teacher capital of Australia but for whatever reason hadn't found a class that resonated with me at a time I could make it. For some reason lots of the classes are at 9 which is the time I'm taking Pickle in to preschool or 6pm which is all about dinner and bed-time. My new yoga class is at 10am, which gives me enough time to get there after dropoff and is a style of yoga that my body is familiar with - harking back to my days in New York. It's been maybe 8 weeks and my body and mind are responding strongly.
23. that Mr Duncan died in his sleep after a fun evening. I told him to have a good time with his new friends and he did. There was no pain, or suffering, or drama, just joy.
24. that he died at someone else's house. I am so glad I didn't wake to him dead next to me, or Pickle find him unresponsive on the couch. As someone whose lived in some of the most expensive cities in the world, I've always had a fold out couch for people to crash on if they'd missed public transport or whatever. I've also always had an irrational fear of waking up to a dead body on my couch...
25. that we had current wills and life insurance which makes the paperwork easier
26. for Ian taking the responsibility for organising a memorial eve in the UK
27. for Jess coming all the way from the UK for the funeral, for speaking and for coming over to hang out and share stories of Duncan before he had to catch his return flight
28. for taking the trip Mr Duncan and I planned to show Pickle the snow and Canberra Zoo, even in his absence. For Tim teaching Pickle to ski.
29. for Oliver and it sounds silly but an ongoing, online game of scrabble which keeps us connected across the distance
30. for all the people who came to his funeral, for all the people who have offered kind words or memories or hugs. We are so loved, even in his absence.
So that's the last 3 months... what else..?
31. for our amazing daughter Pickle. She is such a ray of light... and
stubborn determination. She is so independent and just wants to do
everything for herself. She's loving and mostly thoughtful and I just
hope I can give her what she deserves from her parents, even though her
dad is no longer here
32. that the painful lump I found in my breast was not found to be anything to worry about. Still painful, but seems to be following a monthly pattern so putting that one down to hormones.
33. for the chance to live in such a wonderful place. I can hear the sea from my home, its a short walk to an amazing beach or if I want some shade an equally nice lake. The sun shines most of the year. It's warm, but only too warm for a few days a year, equally only too cold for a couple of weeks. It's close enough to airports and cities to not feel like you're in the middle of nowhere, but far enough away to be truely relaxing
34. for being fortunate enough to go camping in the Land Rover a couple of times this year. Mylestom for Easter with a friend's family. Tamsin LOVED it. And Washpool National Park, required the 4WD but worth it to be in this ancient mostly untouched forest. I feel like we went camping for Mr Duncan's birthday in January too - that is the 'tradition' such that it is but completely blanking on it... I will be very sad to sell the Landy, we've had such adventures together. But the fact of the matter is I cannot lift the spare tyres and am barely tall enough to put the tent up by myself. I can't even figure out how to pop the bonnet. And I know, if I really wanted to, I could overcome these sorts of things. But I'm just not going to do that sort of camping with Pickle at her age, or probably ever. Camping was Mr Duncan's thing, not mine. And it seems such a waste to let the Landy just rust in the driveway. I'm thinking Pickle and I can rent a camper-van when we want to go somewhere...
35. for the luxury of not having to work. I have really stepped back from my business, just fulfiling orders that come in. The counsellor I am seeing asked me what was the worst that could happen - it dies a death and I have to close it despite the hard work I've put in - and could I live with that. Short answer, yes. Pickle is my priority. And although she's exhausting, I am so glad we can spend this time together, she can rely on me and act out with me and know that I'm there for her and her feelings. I couldn't even imagine if I'd had to put her in care and find full time work to pay the bills - my brain is still not working properly
I'm sure there are a million other things I should be thankful for. These are the ones that have been coming up in my mind again and again over the last couple of months. I've been starting to catch a glimpse, maybe of a pattern. How things have sort of strung together over the course of my relationship with Mr Duncan. I need to ruminate some more but I feel another sort of woo woo post coming.