Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Measure of Progress

At just before 5pm yesterday I could have been seen jumping about in uncoordinated fashion rather like an overexcited toddler, arms flailing wildly, my face creased in an enormous smile, and at the same time heard shouting incoherently, not in despair but delight. As life events go, Brentford's injury time equaliser against Ipswich Town is as insignificant as it gets, but my response to it carries real meaning and hope.

The opening day of the football season is an eagerly awaited landmark for all supporters. This was meant to be the year that we bought Louise a season ticket so that she could more regularly and conveniently join me at matches , something she wanted to do out of love for me rather than commitment to the beautiful game. The postman recently delivered a plaintive letter from the club asking whether she would consider renewing her annual membership. Even this day on the calendar, not one of the obvious milestones or anniversaries that are so emotionally charged in widowhood, carried unavoidable memories, associations and a profound sense of loss and sadness.

But as the day wore on and I eased myself back into my matchday rituals it gradually occurred to me that the way I went about them demonstrated a measurable degree of progress in my healing in the three months since the end of last season and my previous visit to Griffin Park. It wasn't just that I was more engaged, much more engaged, with the match in front of me, that the outcome mattered, as evidenced by the late celebrations. It was also the fact that I stopped only once or twice to miss Louise's texts enquiring after the score, that I walked with a lighter step to and from the car, and once there didn't feel the need to burst into tears bottled up for several hours. It was even the fact that I drove to the game listening to Blondie. Not perhaps cutting edge contemporary music but significantly higher tempo than the subdued tracks I have played on an almost constant loop for many months; I had given myself permission to let some noise and life into my world again.

The same sense of some form of normalisation was also apparent during dinner with wonderfully supportive friends the previous evening. Visits since Louise's death have, until now, seen me occupy the victim role, my needs and predicament unavoidably taking centre stage. But this time I felt Louise's absence just that little less keenly, there was other conversation, laughter, and I found myself enjoying being amongst friends for its own sake, not the therapy value. 

This is not so much a lightening of the load as the beginning of an acceptance of it. I am a widower. I didn't choose this life but it has found me and I must make the best of it. I am not, by nature,  a positive thinker but Louise's death is so big, so potentially destructive an event that I have come to the conclusion I must go against type and fashion as resilient and hopeful a mindset as possible. Without it I would have buckled by now.

I continue to look back, at what was, what has been lost and wonder at what might have been. But I am also tentatively beginning to look forward, towards what will be. And in doing so I am starting to understand, sometimes, that possibility still exists in life. Crippled possibility but possibility nevertheless. It's still formless, I don't know what it might look like, but I know that its there and it is down to me to give it shape and substance. I cannot change what happened that evening on the 23rd January but I can influence the way in which I respond to it, whether I sink or swim. 

And sinking is not an option. Louise would not allow it. She wanted me to live, prosper and find love again. She told me so in her farewell letter. It was her final gift to me, and one of her most precious. I take it as an instruction and an obligation. Achieving it will make at least some sense of an act which was otherwise entirely devoid of sense. It is a means by which I can continue to please Louise and make her proud of me. In this way of thinking I can even begin to find a degree of accommodation with the thought of a future relationship with someone other than Louise. It will be with her blessing, not an act of betrayal or infidelity but rather one which honours Louise's love and hope for me. 

This emerging positivity, fragile and easily punctured though it is liable to be, may seem curiously inconsistent with sentiments of renewed despair and hopelessness expressed barely a week ago. But the duality of mood, a tendency to oscillate, rapidly, between light and darkness is an accurate representation of where I am six months after Louise's death. I stand at something of a midway point between my old life with Louise, one which is still close enough for me to feel, to be able to reach out and touch, and a new unknown life on my own which I soon need to begin to establish. I currently belong to neither and both. But while Louise and my old life will always travel with me I know that the direction I must eventually take is towards the future; my future.

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