The questions I am asking about the future of Detroit and how we build in the wake of devastation
chimes with my thinking about rebuilding my life. The question of the extent to which recovery in Detroit is building on existing precepts and ideas is pertinent to my life, as is the suggestion that a more radical approach may be necessary. During the three weeks plus that I was in the US and since returning home I have become even more convinced of the need to go deeper and ask meaningful questions about the future and not simply trying to replace what went before.
I wrote early on about my frustration that many of the books I’ve read on grief position recovery within a consumer driven, basically capitalist framework, that suggests to me that all that is really possible is a re-arrangement of the basic elements of home, job, your relationships and social life. I don’t deny that those things matter, but feel I should go deeper and really look at underlying questions about what it is I am living for if I am going to rebuild out of the catastrophe of losing Mark.
On the one year anniversary of his death I basked in glorious sunshine in New York City, riding on the ferry to Staten Island and back again and then going to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Although there was sadness, I felt that I could smile at the future and that it was welcoming me… I’ve had a soft landing after returning from America, and that feeling has remained with me over the past week, and I’ve thought often of the view, of the sunshine, of the sense I had that there is a new space in me, a place I can go to and think about the future.
Since returning on Monday evening, I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with friends, having visitors, talking over dinner and over coffee, chatting to people like Daphne in Chandelier. I feel I am beginning to get into the flow of life here. It feels such a gift that I can spend time with people and feel enriched by them without some other part of me screaming that it’s Mark I need. I know that those connections are more than incidental to my life and that they are integral to my recovery, and also that reconnecting with what I have to offer people around me will go some way towards helping me answer questions about what I want from life, what do I value and what is important to me?
In all the places I went to in the US, I often found myself thinking what is it people are living for? So often it seemed that life was about consumption, about choices about food and coffee, and so much of people’s engagement and interaction was shaped by their identity as a consumer. Lou put it well when I met her at the weekend and she said she was looking longingly at all the people out enjoying themselves on a Friday night, going for dinner, or the theatre or cinema and longed to have that back. Then she caught sight of a homeless man and found herself wondering if the life that had seemed so appealing just moments ago was really what she wanted.
I’ve been remembering how I struggled with despair and hopelessness before I met Mark, the extent to which I agitated over what I was doing and felt I had so little to offer. These things didn’t go away entirely after we got together, but it was through living with him that I began to discover some of the deeper, richer seams of life and creativity and love. Sometimes my capacity to continue in this vein without him feels very precarious. I have grieved not only for him but that that the part of me that was joined to him and thrived with him. But although there’s part of me that will probably always grieve Mark’s absence, while I was away I felt as if there was a new place for me to go to, one where I feel more able to think about what kind of future I want.
In this new space I have felt more able to look towards the future, but as I’ve said, it’s precarious. I’m not very adept at being optimistic about the future, not really sure that I am capable of creating something good out of the ruin. Rebuilding takes a particular state of mind which I don’t always feel capable of, but think I am going to have to work at. I know that I don’t want to just go through the motions living a life that replicates the old one, only Mark isn’t part of it. I know that making organisational decisions about where I live and what I do with my time are part of the process to a degree. But I know too that they don’t quite scratch the itch about what constitutes a meaningful life. The questions remain – what is important to me? What kind of life do I want to build? In short, what will the future look like?