Sunday, 14 June 2009

Something had to give

In the early days, weeks and months, I don't think I stopped moving. Or at least when I did stop, it was only to cry. Otherwise I ran around doing stuff. Endless stuff. I cleaned the house like a madwoman, chopped down hedges, dug the garden, polished things (polished? Yes really!).

I wasn't working, as that would have required me to hold onto a thought for more than 30 seconds. But I played sports, sat on committees, forced myself to go out with friends, helped out other people. Anything that would keep me busy and stop me feeling. I was on the go from getting up through to the wee small hours of the morning, which meant that when I did go to bed I slept the sleep of the just. No sleepless nights for me, thank you very much.

And it worked. While I could keep it up, it really did work. But there comes a point when you are just too tired to keep going at the same frenetic rate. I think the thing that really shocked me about grieving was just how exhausting it could be.

I worked out in an idle moment that I have 6 strands to my life: work (the stuff that pays for everything else), the smallholding (which nourishes both body and soul), the house (and all the general day-to-day things), family and friends, all the other stuff and finally grieving. I found I could keep the whole shaky structure upright while I wasn't working. As soon as I had to factor in a whole day at my desk, it all went haywire. There just aren't enough hours left in the day to do it all.

For the last few months I have been trying desperately to keep all the balls in the air. I think it was that widow's curse - the grass - that finally convinced me that I couldn't do it all. Here there is 'my' grass and 'his' grass. My grass is largely eaten by sheep, pigs and poultry and turned into eggs and meat. It has to be cut once or perhaps twice a year to take a hay crop off it, and that's it. His grass, on the other hand, requires constant mowing with two different mowers to keep it looking good. R used to come home after a week of working away and would spend several hours mowing. All very dedicated, but while he was doing that, I would be cooking supper for him.

Mowing isn't a particularly onerous task, but when it is suddenly added to the ToDo list, it rapidly becomes a chore. And there is no one here to cook supper while I do it.

There was also a conversation I had with an old bachelor friend. He confirmed what I had been thinking, namely that two people are much more than the sum of their parts. It's not just the extra arm scenario, it is just that two people will egg each other to get things done or will put extra effort into something that one person on their own wouldn't do.

It was hard accepting that I couldn't continue to do everything, and it was certainly a lesson I was reluctant to learn, but now I have decided to jettison the non-essentials, I feel a lot better. My Welsh class is one example. The classes started in late September, about a month and a half after R died. Looking back I can see that it really was too soon. I don't think I actually retained anything from the class for months. Now it is just a source of stress. I never manage to do any homework, and I have been really struggling to keep up. When I finally admitted this to myself and gave myself permission to stop going and simply repeat the year next time around, it felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I am very stubborn by nature. I hate giving up on things, so it was with much reluctance that I made the necessary phone calls. I can't say that I actually feel happy about my decision to give up on these commitments, but I certainly feel relieved.


  1. I can relate to your insights. I'm feeling overwhelmed with all the "strands" in my life (I like your terminology!). And I agree with your friend that two people are more than the sum of their parts, though I hadn't thought of it in those terms before. I'm always on the go and feeling like I can't keep up with much of anything. Thank you for reminding me that I have to "jettison the non-essentials"! Grieving is really a full time job in itself and one that needs attention or it consumes everything else. Take care of yourself!

  2. Hi there, I lost my husband in January this year, and also have a half finished house (in England) ... and am 45 years old. I love your blog, and if you'd like some inappropriate jokes to make you laugh, please check out my blog.

    or specifically,

    Glad your dog is alright ... I have two dogs who are little sh*theads but I wouldn't be without them!

  3. eek, I am sorry ... I misread your comment about jokes. You DON'T like them. OMG, I just read your post again and realized I've made a terrible faux-pas, please forgive me.

  4. @ Debbie: "Grieving is really a full time job in itself and one that needs attention or it consumes everything else."
    That is so true. It definitely needs to be allowed to run its course and at its own pace. It is when this strand is neglected that life really starts to go awry.

    @ Boo: I am so sorry that you found yourself here, but as you have, thanks for saying hello. And you know the joys of the half-finished house too!
    (Don't worry about the jokes. I was feeling rather prickly when I wrote that post, and was mostly angry at the fact it was always people who don't 'get it' who sent them to me. I am much more chilled about them now, and shall be checking your blog for a good laugh!)

  5. I was very moved by this post. I admire your honesty and accuracy in describing how exhausting grieving is. And then your strength in getting someone else to handle the grass, as well as your decision to drop your class.

    I wonder if getting so busy in the early weeks and months is a way to shield us from the deeper grief work we have to go through because we may not be ready? Just surviving day-by-day is a feat for the newly bereaved. It sounds like you were accomplishing so much and keeping focused with all you were doing. I tend to fall onto the other side of only wanting to lie in bed or knit all day!

    I think we all need to pat ourselves on the backs for however we got through the early times and to continue to do so for the new ways we are growing, adapting and moving forward (like not doing everything on our own and cutting back on activities so we aren't always busy, which gives us more time to focus within).

  6. thanks for being so nice about my being a complete fool! I have to tell you that I find what you are accomplishing (on your home) an inspiration to me ... I WILL finish this house and NOT let all his hard work go to waste.