Friday, 10 August 2007

Death and the Puddock

It's been a quiet week here in the pond, with little to disturb the water. That's how I like it. One of the good things about living alone, as I do now, is that I can do pretty much what I want, when I want.

If I want to blog all night, there is no-one to disturb. If I want to work on the great novel instead of eating dinner, I can. If I want to sit at the bottom of the pond and talk to the newts, I do. I find for the first time in many years, I can focus all my attention on a project until I tire of it, instead of having that concentration broken by my loved ones. This is one of the hard lessons of widowhood but you have to embrace it: that some aspects of your life actually can improve in the absence of your spouse - there, I've said it.

I have found that bereavement splits into two segments, both of which are necessary. There is the loss of your partner, with all the pain that that entails - the life plans destroyed, the trauma of the death, the overwhelming sadness for the years of life that your loved one has lost. I always (well, almost always) felt that however sorry I felt for myself, it was as nothing compared to the sorrow I felt for my husband, who had lost his future. I still had my life, diminished but still with possibilities; his was over. So that's the first half of the grief.

The second, equally important part is the carving of a new persona for yourself and this part is probably not much different from that which a divorced person has to do. It is a case of accepting that you are no longer half of a couple; that you are, in my case for the first time in my life, single. I'd never been single before, having been with my husband since teenage years. Part of this process is extremely scary but part of it is exhilirating as you realise that you are totally free, that you no longer have to compromise. Marriage is one long compromise - it has to be. I no longer need to compromise - hence the midnight blogging and the conversations with the amphibians.

I am getting used to being single. I still hate the shops on a Saturday with all those bloody couples looking smug and couple-y. I still sometimes have to look the other way if I am stuck behind a pair of tourists walking hand in hand and the absence of the Golfer hits me afresh. But I'm an atheist and an existentialist and I am determined to pack as much living as I can into my life so I focus on the moment. I found this quote by Henry Thoreau this week on a very interesting philosophy site and it describes very well how I feel about my life - always have, but particularly now:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion."

Here, in my woods I find I am doing what Thoreau did (apart from the Spartan living; no need to go that far!). I find that my experiences leave me less and less inclined to be out there in the crazy modern world. I still love shopping and talking to friends and the technology that allows me to be here, blogging but I find the greatest peace in the woods and by my pond, alone. And I am finding that I understand more about what it means to be human in the quiet of these woods than in the bustle of the town.


reasonable robinson said...

This is a very profound and thought provoking post. I'm sure other readers will take alot from it. The 'shopping' experience resonates with me in the context of 'divorce'. Not that I imply any direct comparison with our two exepriences. I vividly recall walking around supermarkets Xmas, Valentines day etc and feeling totally alienated. You might be interested to hear Carl Jung's opinion on this subject - I stumbled across a You Tube excerpt of one of his later interviews concerning dieing. Not all morose I hasten to add and like your post extremely sensitive.


Puddock said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I'm not offended at all at you comparing the experience of being divorced with that of being widowed - I think there are many similarities. In fact, I'm working up to a post on just that topic. There is an otherwise excellent website for the widowed out there which is very rude about divorced people daring to compare their experience with that of the widowed. It really irritated me when I read it before I was widowed and now that I am, I am all the more certain that it was an unfair comment to make and I want to redress the balance.

I'll look out for the Jung interview and let you know what I think.