Last night I awoke from a clouded memory—it was not a dream—and I wanted to ask my wife a question to help me clarify it. When I became sufficiently conscious to realize I would never again be able to ask her a question, I felt a sensation somewhere between terror and excruciating physical pain. The memory was not especially important, but the subsequent awareness of perpetual separation tormented me; it still does, several hours later. I wonder whether that sensation will ever fade?
Yesterday afternoon, I invited a friend to come for a visit. During the time we sat and talked, we covered a variety of topics. Naturally, I suppose, many of the topics concerned my wife’s death and how I am dealing with it. I think I am dealing with it pretty well, though on occasion I feel an overwhelming sense of loss and grief.
I heard an interview on the radio a few days ago in which the person being interviewed spoke of grief having only, I think, two stages (not the five stages copied from Elisabeth Kübler Ross’s seven stages of dying). If I recall correctly, she said grief consists of the intense sadness and pain of loss (stage 1) and the never-ending evolution of recovery from that sadness and pain (stage 2). I guess that answers my question.
The visit was cathartic. I think I needed, or at least wanted, to talk about the emotional turmoil that seems to surge through me in waves. Although I do not think I know any more now than before, I feel a little less compressed; as if a relief valve was turned, emptying a bit of pressure.
I spent some time last night reading about Newfoundland; its climate, its cultural and social environments, and how one approaches becoming a resident. Having never been there, I suspect my interest is more of a fantasy than an actionable curiosity, but one never knows. It is most definitely an active fantasy, though. Before I would do anything rash, I would force myself to peel away the romantic images that dwell in my mind, requiring me to look at the place and its people with ample skepticism. I would insist on understanding more about it than the magical sketches I have allowed myself to paint in my mind’s eye.
My dreams of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and various other places in the Canadian Maritimes are just that: dreams. They are not new. I guess Newfoundland is not part of the Maritimes. It doesn’t matter. My dreams of the Maritimes and environs have been resting comfortably in the back of my mind for decades, along with fantasies about other places in which I imagine living a contradictory life, one of isolation in the midst of the powerful embrace of loving community. It’s a fantasy. A dream. An imaginary place that quite possibly does not exist. Somewhere in my fantasy world there exists a co-housing community that offers privacy, intimacy, community, and a passionate connection with nature. A place with rugged, rocky beaches and magnificent cliffs under constant attack by fierce waves. I envision a place where only pleasant memories are allowed; where painful recollections are kept at bay. It’s all make-believe, of course, but it’s a place I fervently seek, nonetheless.
But would I be satisfied to be alone in Newfoundland? Or anywhere else, for that matter? It’s far too early to even think about such things, but I cannot help it. Even though I’ve spent more than five months living alone in my house, while my wife was in hospital and rehab facilities, I’m not entirely used to it. And I am not sure I am suited for it for the long term, even though I love my isolation and my solitude. It’s hard for me to understand myself; how can I be so private and so comfortable with my own company, yet so susceptible to loneliness? I should not allow myself to even think this way.
As I am wont to do from time to time, this morning I explored what I wrote a few years in the past. Among the words I recorded on December 29, 2017 (I did not post the day before) were these involving a character I created, Kolbjørn Landvik:
He and I share many attributes, which is natural inasmuch as we are the same person, just in different times and in different places. He and I absolutely love the taste of pickled herring. And we love feeling the salt spray on our face as we sail into the cold wind in search of good fishing spots and ourselves.
Kolbjørn Landvik and I share another attribute. We’re both enamored of the French phrase, “le jeu n’en vaut pas la chandelle,” and its English translation, “the game is not worth the candle.” Something about the phrase causes tears to well up in our eyes. Hearing or reading the phrase causes the deep sadness sleeping in our chests to rise from its slumber and overtake our consciousness. We weep, Kolbjørn and I, and we struggle to understand why it seems at times that we, alone, grieve for the world we wish for, the world that never was but should have been.
I’ve written and plagiarized myself enough to call it a morning, for now. The clock is racing toward 6:45 and my coffee cup is empty except for the gritty wash at the bottom. Time for more.