Grief and guilt
I struggle. I suffer. I cry. I ache. I laugh. Then I get hit with an avalanche of guilt that I'm laughing. that I'm able to laugh, without Paul.
I have gone through a lot of barriers in the last 12 months. Every single one of them has involved a good amount of guilt for being able to do things by myself without Paul's support, love and companionship. I find myself justifying my ability to carry on with life - because I want to be the best parent the boys could possibly have.
The guilt-riddled barriers I have conquered range from being able to listen to Radio 4 again, to being able to sort out Paul's shoes. There are still a few things that are too painful for me to do. I know they will come in time but, I'm not ready yet.
When driving we used to have Radio 4 on. Sometimes we'd switch stations and listen to Magic. Driving to and from work, it was between LBC and Radio 4. It took me a while to switch the car radio on in the early days. My chest would tighten in anticipation, in case it was a program we both enjoyed listening to and got involved in discussing it. I couldn't listen to Magic for a long time as it always played many of our old-time favourite songs - most of which were sentimental and triggered the tears. I have had to stop driving and pullover several times to have a good cry.
It is a similar story with TV programmes. We were never really the type of family/couple to sit down and watch tele in the evenings. Doctor Who was a rare programme which we always watched live. It is a childhood favourite of Paul's. If we had an hour in the evening, we would just flick through the channels and settle for an antique show or one on nature or wildlife.
One of the last hurdles for me is likely to be Bargain Hunt. It was very special to us. It aired (still does?) from 12:15 to 1 - perfect time when we can stop work (when working from home) and have lunch. The days Paul worked from home, we would plan lunch from 12 to 1, so that we can watch it. We would sing the theme tune and join in when the programme ended with 'let's go bargain hunting, yeh'. It was silly and fun and it was 'our' thing. This is one programme I still can't bring myself to watch. I feel guilty even thinking about watching it. I feel like I'd be cheating on Paul, enjoying something without him, especially something that we enjoyed together. Funny I never felt this guilty about my secret crush Tom Cruise (don't judge me!!).
I feel guilty at the best of times thanks to my very catholic upbringing. Everything is tainted with guilt. Since my counselling training days, I've worked consciously to unlearn old behaviours and thought processes attached to guilt. I'm getting better at it. I promised Paul that I will do my best for the boys and by the boys. This last year has been a journey like no other. I've learnt a lot about myself; my capabilities, my limitations and my pitfalls. Recognising my limitations and realising that they are at odds with the promise I made to Paul has triggered the biggest guilt so far. For example, I'm not as active as Paul. Hell...I'm not active. period. Unless it involves a cuppa or Sauvignon Blanc (from Marlborough of course) and a chat, I'm not interested. I promised Paul that I will make sure the boys continue to be active - Harry with his cycling and Andrew with his running. I haven't done well here. I suggest a bike ride to Harry, but he claims it is 'too lame' and not keen. He's used to cycling 20-30 miles and so a ride around the local villages isn't appealing. I encourage Andrew to go for a run or train for an event and he flatly refuses. If Paul was here, he would run WITH Andrew. I don't see myself running. Can you?!!
I know I have pushed myself beyond my normal comfort zone by buying an electric bike and going for rides with the boys during lockdown. I have initiated walks and booked tickets to different National Trust places every weekend. These are things I never did off my own back when Paul was with us. It was Paul's role and my role was to dig my heels in and moan about having to go for yet another boring walk. Now, it is a role I've adapted to and I do willingly.
Yet, I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I'm not as good as Paul. Come rain or shine he'd be out in the fresh air, somehow having managed to 'manipulate' the boys into going out with him. I remember one incident vividly. It was winter. The boys were probably 4 & 6, perhaps a little older. He managed to get the boys wrapped up warm and out of the house for a walk by suggesting they were going jelly baby hunting. He managed to hide jelly babies in trees and under leaves and within a few minutes the boys were running around in the woods for ages having a hoot. Other times it will be about Yeti stories. He was a great storyteller and could make up stories as he went along - and the boys held on to his every word, every sound, every pause. Paul made parenting look so easy. He was a natural at it.
I'm not like that. I like planning ahead. It has to be dry. It has to be warm-ish. The stars have to be aligned. You get the drift. I often wonder, what would Paul say if he can see me now. I know guilt isn't a helpful feeling. But it is a very strong feeling that is constantly there like a dark cloud above my head.
The last couple of days at home have been absolutely lovely - full of laughter, hugs, banter, cheekiness and love. I'm so happy seeing the boys laugh together and having fun; I'm guilty that I'm revelling in this family bliss without Paul.