It would be so easy to be paralyzed by grief.
After spending 15 years of marriage with Steve, there's nothing in my daily life that doesn't evoke a memory of my one true love. If I were to examine every detail, I would truly become paralyzed -- unable to make a decision, unable to move forward. I would just stand still.
For many reasons -- most importantly Cooper and Katie -- standing still isn't an option. So all day long, every day, I try to strike a balance.
Take the calendars in the house, for example.
Today we changed the monthly calendars from October to November -- another month away from September. Turning the pages isn't easy, as the simple motion is a physical reminder of the time that has passed since Steve passed away.
There's one calendar that won't change, though. Every year I keep a Mary Engelbreit day-by-day calendar in the kitchen. It used to be my ritual to tear off the page each morning, a small gesture to acknowledge the new day.
The 2009 version that sits near the kitchen sink still shows Sept. 5/6. I can't bear to tear off that page to reveal Sept. 7. I can't bear to physically acknowledge the many days that have passed since the extraordinary morning that Steve's body stopped working.
I expect that by Jan. 1, 2010, I'll be ready to tuck away the calendar, with Sept. 7 through Dec. 31 still intact. And I hope to be able to start a new calendar.
Trying new things is as difficult as keeping the same habits.
Cooper, Katie and I eat out about once a week. When we choose a restaurant that we're familiar with, I of course think of Steve. My inner dialogue goes something like this: "We sat at that table last time we were all here together. Steve ordered this menu item. We laughed about such-and-such."
I'm reluctant to try a new restaurant. It makes complete sense that the rest of the world will change and evolve and grow and that I will do the same, but it's so difficult to acknowledge that. It's difficult to experience something new and know that I won't be able to share it with Steve. So much of our relationship was based on sharing with each other what we'd learned when we were apart.
Yesterday I cooked one of Steve's favorite vegetarian dishes -- tamale pie -- for our Halloween dinner with Jim, Betty and Uncle Jim. I made it about once a month every fall and winter for the past seven or eight years.
Preparing the dish and eating the dish were tangible reminders of sweet Steve. Like so much during this grieving journey (a journey that's barely begun), it was bittersweet. How could I possibly make one of Steve's favorite recipes without him here to enjoy it? But how could I not? The aroma of the dish as it baked evoked such strong emotion -- so much love, so much wistfulness.
I frequently remind myself that Steve fully expects us to continue exploring, living and loving life. But sometimes even that knowledge isn't enough to take away the crushing pain of his absence. It's all part of the journey.