There were times when I longed for a day when I could just get up and the hours ahead would unfold without me having to think them through carefully and set my dials for the challenges that lay ahead.
Grief doesn’t really allow you that luxury, just as walking through a storm doesn’t really fit with the aimless ambling you can enjoy on a sunny day. From the early days after Mark died when my simple pact was just to get up, shower and dress, life has required attention and focus and careful navigation. There are times now when I can allow myself to relax along the way, and I’m re-learning the art of a lie in again, no longer associating it with depression and giving in.
While these times of being less watchful are precious, there’s an aspect of the more focused, considered approach that I now see has brought about small, but significant changes over time. One change came about as a result of my struggles to get up. Without Mark to start the day off with music, coffee and his remarkable morning-time energy I found myself lying in bed, fully awake but overwhelmed by all it required to get the day moving.
A solution came in the shape of a recommendation for a book called The Miracle Morning, which is pretty much aimed at improving your performance in work etc, but the suggestion that you put your alarm away from the bed so that you have to get up, then do a series of tasks including drinking a glass of water and brushing your teeth before beginning the routine not only got me beyond the morning despair, it opened up an approach to the morning that has made it the most satisfying time of day.
I’ve realised too that the issues I’ve struggled with to do with food, both cooking and eating, since Mark died, have been slowly, gradually transforming as I’ve tried various approaches. Part of the difficulty has been eating alone – I eat much more enthusiastically when I eat with other people.
But at those times when I’m on my own I’ve found that preparing food before meal times helps as I feeling the lurch that comes after cooking something and facing the fact that there is no one there to share it with.
Aside from the relational aspect of food, it seems that the disruption of Mark’s death brought to a stop many things that were automatic, including what I ate. I’m having to piece this knowledge together again bit by bit. A while ago I had a big clear out and got rid of all the old foodstuffs, herbs and spices that were sitting unused in my cupboard and have been buying new ones as I need them. The sense of bewilderment I’ve felt in supermarkets is in part because so little of what’s sold with its labelling and messaging appeals to real appetite. I’ve given up trying to make sense of the packaging and plastic and am building a new routine of shopping. I tore up the old one, which was so much tied in with life with Mark, but have worked out new places to go and am focusing on buying basic ingredients like vegetables and pulses. I’ve also developed a number of small, manageable routines that over time have begun to develop into a rhythm of food preparation.
I still have a way to go before I can take on board some of the suggestions that food is about self care made by some friends. But I have accepted that my body continues to require food and I’m working on tending to that by providing nourishing food – and it’s the appreciation of this nourishment that I feel most strongly.
After almost a year of doing my morning routine I can see tangible results such as a growing number of books I have read, but also, as I’m beginning to see in the area of food, it’s generated a sense of hope that change does happen. It takes time and a lot of small efforts repeated again and again. While some things work, others don’t, so it’s necessary to keep reviewing, keep making small adjustments. Yet over time, those efforts do accumulate and you find that an area of life that was all about struggle and pain has begun to change into a source of real appreciation for what matters in life.