At times I get caught by the strangeness of my life. At some point there was a map etched out of how it might look. Not a heavily inked map, but traces, roads, some signposts indicating direction. Gary and I working part –time, travel at some stage, weddings on the lawn, possible grandkids.
While driving up the road to Timaru last week I passed the Shag point picnic spot where Gary proposed. An image and the feeling of that young girl who I once was rose up and stayed with me strongly. At the time of the proposal it was cold and dark and we had already told Alison and Ray that we were engaged, but somehow along the way we worked out that there was no official proposal. So Gary in true Gary fashion stopped the car at Shag point and said he needed to get out to pee. He asked me to keep him company (and no I didn’t think this was strange). I was reluctant because of the cold, but got out of the car. As soon as I got out he dropped to one knee and said ‘will you marry me’ I pretended to joke and said yes yes now lets get in the car. Inside I was secretly pleased but didn’t know how to say that. We always tooted on the way up and down the road passing it. A tradition was started.
What I reflected as I travelled up the road this time was all the different parts of us that we carry around…the stories the memories, the bodies and the people that travel with us. In that moment as I came down the hill and the sea opened out before me…time stilled and all of those things were present. It was unsettling and settling at the same time, not a space to make sense of, but one to sit in and be with. It was a split second and a life-time. I also thought of how many years it took me to honestly communicate my feelings and emotions instead of avoiding, bottling and then over-sharing far too emotionally, and how wasteful all that was. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to Gary and I for the chance to practice just this, let the dross go and really see each other clearly.
While in Timaru, I walked down a street filled with Banksia trees. The Banksia has been my symbol tree for a while, I like how they regenerate after fire, that they flower in winter and Tui seek them out. On returning to where I was staying, I smelt cinnamon as I walked past the hospice and remembered why they burn essential oils. I can’t remember place names at the moment (brain overload from study) but I can remember that. The scent of cinnamon and knowledge of death sitting with me. No real reason for mentioning this other than the night was warm, I was relaxed and happy to have been walking and then the smell of cinnamon essential oil, which bought different stories together in the same frame. Holding all parts of self.
This holding all parts together is where I sometimes trip up. The trouble with communication and relationship is that we always bring ourselves with us and as I have discovered recently my past selves are quite noisy, they rise up with their own narrative demanding attention and creating more stuff for me to work through. A constant process of passing through the eye of a needle and feeling the need to be brave. My wee scared tired self has been claiming a lot of space lately. It’s time for confident Kat to come back, the one who can own her own life with confidence, build her own dreams and trusting in the process of their creation.
This year I have met and am dating someone . This unexpected happening has spiraled me in all directions, tipped me up and made me question and look for answers to so many things I thought I had dealt with. I realized after Gary died that a huge amount of my identity and confidence came from being in relationship with him and my role in the family. When that changed I lost a sense of who I was, how I did things and in a way what mattered. From what I have read about grief this is not unusual. I also became aware that I developed a number of very slack habits, things I would never have allowed, I noticed them but thought really who cares? It’s just me. After 23 years of raising kids and being strict ,I felt a little tired. Hana commented at the bench recently that she was glad. This said with a smile and she said she wished I was less strict when they were younger. Funny isn’t it, there is always the feeling that you are not doing enough and that strictness and manners will somehow keep them safe. I do like seeing them be polite though and meet and greet properly.
So here I am unexpectedly in a new relationship and facing myself in what I feel is my ‘unglory’. I feel like a lab rat with a dozen ears turned outwards for the slightest anomaly.
I have had to get over myself big time, get over the feeling I was having an affair, accept my aging body (the biggest hurdle- still working on that one), and am learning to communicate all over again with a new person in healthy way. So much of communication in a long-term relationship relies on body language or the unspoken. In a new one these things need unpacked. I have reverted at times to communication styles I haven’t used in years and not good ones. It seems as if they were waiting in my memory closet just to jump out and trip me up. Or at least remind me that I don’t want to go back there. It has been good learning but boy so much of it. It is very weird, painful and lovely simultaneously.
I am back again with Brene Brown, rereading her words on shame and vulnerability and learning to live with all of ourselves in order to live a wholehearted life. Starting to work out what it means to practice self - compassion and self- love. When I get that right well… I will let you know; think it might be a lifetime project.
And if you are wondering… of course he is very lovely (and very patient). I know for a fact that I have excellent taste in men and the person I am seeing is no exception to that rule.