The New Normal year. The settling-back-in year. The year after everything changed.
The year I set up a little–not an altar, exactly—but a collection of things that remind me of her. Pictures, her handwriting on a bit of cardboard box from a package she sent me years ago. Her business card. Christmas ornaments I made out of sheets of wax, representing the three of us, the first year I was home from college.
The year of saying thank you, thank you. The year of saying “Ah, yes, it’s been interesting” whenever anyone asks how I am.
The year I paid off my student loan with the grief money. The year I could not find steady, stable work. The doubtful year. The year of feeling completely useless. The year one of my best friends, bless his heart, said incredulously ‘How the fuck are you unemployed?’
The year I finally got physically into the sea here in Wellington, wearing a 7 ml wetsuit and hood. The year I took the bus to Island Bay every other weekend wearing my ill-fitting volunteer t-shirt, and talked with kids about sea creatures for a couple of hours. The year I touched an octopus for the first time!
The year I slept next to another human being almost every night, as I haven’t done since about 2003.
The year I lost whatever looks I had. The year the worry lines between my eyebrows settled in for good. The year I gained so much weight I had to give away two thirds of my clothes. The year I started covering my grey hairs. The year I decided I would only wear shoes that don’t hurt, and stuck with that, mostly.
The year I learned all the words to Pour Some Sugar On Me and sang it in public.
The year I did a lot of physiotherapy. The year I listened to a lot of podcasts. The year I emailed a lot with various tax professionals, asking the stupidest of stupid questions.
The year I paid sixty dollars to hear a licensed medical professional tell me that a little bump under the skin of my inner thigh is not cancer. “Do you want to talk about going on some anti-anxiety meds?” he asked, twice. The year I said no, twice.
The year I baked almost every week, just to be able to point to something concrete that I had done, an action I had taken that resulted in an observable outcome.
The year pictures fell off the walls of my flat during an earthquake, the year we all spent several weeks going “Was that an aftershock? Was that one? Wait, was that one?” The year I stocked and re-stocked my emergency kit, wondering when I would need to use it, wondering if it would be enough.
The staying home year. The I’m-feeling-sort-of-tired-tonight year. The year I did not sleep through the night once.
The year I dreamed about going on a trip around the world. The year I priced it all out and made up an itinerary, and then decided that this was not actually the time to go. The year I decided that there will be a time when I do go: there will, there will, there will.
The year I tried to watch Breaking Bad and had to quit halfway through the fourth episode of the first season because I could not handle an oncology consultation scene.
The year I worried about politics a lot, in New Zealand, the US, and all over the world. The year I couldn’t decide if making my tiny donations helped at all. The year I thought that there has to be a better way than just copying and pasting articles on Twitter.
The year I had a lot of coffees and lunches and dinners with some amazing and excellent people: talking about everything that matters and a lot of what doesn’t. The big hugs year.
The year I got to go to the Weta Digital Christmas party!
The year of realizing that since I don’t work for anyone right now, I can think about whatever I want, professionally. The year someone told me I should set up my own organization and work for myself. The year I decided to just sort of work on my own work-type projects just because I feel like it.
The anxious year, the angry year. The year of going through the motions, focusing on the immediate. The year of trying to be grateful and of counting my blessings. The year of reminding myself of my privileges, of telling myself that things were going to be okay. The year of realizing that uncertainty and instability had not ever scared me so much before.
The year I wore her scarf almost every day. The year I thought about her every time I took a teabag out of the canister I bought with her years ago and brought back to Wellington in my suitcase. The year I cried and cried and cried and cried. The year I could not let her go because she was not with me.
The year I breathed in and out, looked around, said words, did things, thought thoughts. The year I loved a lot of people and felt loved in return. The year I was divorced from everything around me anyway and had to remind myself to handle my business, to be where I was, to do what needs doing. The quiet year, the thoughtful year. The year that’s almost done.