If I may front-load with a metaphor, life is sort of like a train journey. It’s a funny little train, if you like, and your “car” is often just attached to others as the train trundles on, and there you go on your tracks, connected to friends and family travelling with you… to the person you might choose to combine your car with so you can go on together…
…until you decouple — or are decoupled by death of someone on that train with you — and then — well — a year into my widowhood I find myself feeling like I am in a siding, siphoned off the main tracks where life continues, and left sitting there on a small disused branch of the system, surrounded by young trees reclaiming the rails and moss starting to grow around the windows.
I simply no longer feel as though I am “going” somewhere, as though there is a destination or a timetable or a station waiting. I am simply here, alone, and in this past year there’s been many a day where I look up and out of the window and oh it’s dark already and the day has gone somewhere and I don’t know where or how I just know I have done nothing constructive at all in my waking hours. Mired in uselessness.
Sometimes I make something to eat. Sometimes I don’t even do that, just throwing a piece of cheese on three day old bread and calling it supper. I feed the cats, because they demand it, but myself? Not so much. I’m barely hungry. Sometimes I eat only because I’m “supposed” to. Other times I can eat half a package of cookies at a sitting simply because they’re there and it’s something to do. I know I am not eating right. There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about it.
THe day passes, and I have done nothing, and yet I am existentially tired… and yet I am not tired enough to sleep. I know I am not sleeping right, either — on the anniversary of my husband’s death I “went to bed” at 3 am and woke again at 5:30 and never went back to sleep again. What dreams I remember are disjointed and weird and are probably my brain working overtime trying to make sense of my existence. Of why my little railroad car is sitting here on its own, abandoned and kicked out of the life stream. Into uselessness.
I cannot seem to fathom a reason why I still do the mechanics o fliving — the eating, the sleeping, the getting up, the dutiful brushing of teeth, the brushing out of my hair just so that I can rebraid it and forget about it again. I still cry a lot. It is becoming more difficult to say that because — well — it’s a year now, and those other trains, they’re still moving right along, and there’s a limited attention span to be granted to the quiet little siding and its inhabitant. Back in March of 2021 I happened to mention online that I had run out of my favourite kind of tea… and somebody sent me a whole bunch of it. Tea and sympathy. I accepted both with gratitude, but I am MOSTLY a coffee drinker and tea goes a long way in this house. I am on my last dozen or so teabags from that generous gift. WHen they are gone, the acquisition of more tea becomes my own responsibility. From here in the siding. I do hope they deliver.
I’ve been feeling stirrings of words — but maybe that’s just because I have ink in my veins and have had all my life and writing is like breathing to me… but I haven’t written anything other than a couple of stories and a bunch of social media posts or blog entries or Medium articles mostly on the subject of ongoing grief or loss. You might say I’m wallowing. THis is probably bad. I know it is. But it’s part of that uselessness. ALl that I am and all that I was has shrunk down into this new identity — WIDOW. I don’t wear “weeds”, or even black as such, but I feel like I’ve wrapped myself into that and it’s seeped into my pores. I wonder if I will ever write again like I used to. The thing is I used to do it long before I met my husband so in theory I know how to do it without him — but for twenty years I have done it WITH him, and now trying to remember how I did it before seems like I am trying to remember a different lifetime. WHich it is, really. It isn’t that I don’t want to write. It’s that I don’t know how to begin, knowing that he won’t read it. And so I sink further into uselessness. And the siding rails get reclaimed more and more by wild nature. I feel as though at some point there will be a forest around me, with this piece of rail, this siding, this rail car, at the center of it all like some sort of strange fable or fairy tale and some day somebody will fight through the underbrush and find the remains of this little kernel of a world-that-was and wonder what happened here.
But I am mired here, for now. Words buzzing like angry bees, settling nowhere. Me, running out of tea. And into uselessness.