In the months after Beth’s death, we discussed the absurdity of our lives. I can’t being to express the shockwaves that we still feel today as a result of her loss. It’s not about ‘working through it’ or getting ‘over it’, it’s just that your previous framework shatters with such a loss and you start living on a different scale, in a different realm and with a different perspective to those around you. Everything is all so familiar but life itself has changed forever. Completely. Utterly. It’s like living in a parallel universe. It makes you feel like an alien, an outsider, excluded from the world you live in, unattached, abandoned, misunderstood and strange – in comparison to those who go about their daily lives and don’t see the thick pane of glass you’re stuck behind.
In the months following, it was like we had suddenly woken up to the rat race and the trap we’d slowly become accustomed to. We didn’t fit any more. We’d spent years getting up, going to work, earning money to pay for a house and fill it with ‘things’ that we actually didn’t have time to enjoy because we were out early and home late, earning the money to pay for it all. When we sifted through the pieces of our lives and routines left after Beth’s death, we realised all too clearly that it was an absurd way to ‘live’ and really wasn’t living at all. We realised we’d just been existing.
Make each moment count…
It seemed so ‘normal’ to be doing that. Everyone around us was in a similar position – with a mortgage and a job that paid the bills. It was okay enough. We’d accepted that we’d have to work long and hard to pay off a mortgage so we could retire with a modest amount of savings that would allow us to have ‘a life’. We’d accepted that we weren’t rock stars so we weren’t going to wake up and bound out of bed to a job we absolutely loved. We’d often talked about the places we’d go and things we’d do once we retired; like travelling, spending time on hobbies, volunteering and creative interests. I can access my Superannuation account once I turn 65. But what if, like Beth, I don’t make it to 65? We’re working now, saving now and putting off life for some later date that might never come… It became all too clear and sad really – looking around and realising that if I died tonight, I really hadn’t done much with my life. What would I leave? What would I be remembered for? What difference have I made?
It’s all a giant game of risk isn’t it? We just don’t know how long we’ll be here on earth. I might live to be 100, I might die next week. We just don’t know. Whatever happens, I want to enjoy my days and not just plod through them in some endless ritual. That means I need to enjoy today, enjoy now because that’s all there really is.
We decided to make changes in our lives. We decided to ‘downsize’ and live more simply. The stark light of grief reveals the absurdity of possessions – they really are just things. They’re not that important. Time and people and health are important. We don’t actually need much ‘stuff’ at all.
The crazy thing is that when I was stuck in the rat race, I knew it. It’s pretty obvious really and I bet you ‘know it’ too. But does it make you want to do something about it? Only now does it strike me clearly and strongly enough to take action. The difference for me in knowing it, and knowing it fully is like this. If you stand in the supermarket and remind yourself that you’re actually naked under your clothes, you know that right? But, to know it fully means to actually stand in the supermarket naked. Entirely different perspective isn’t it? Well that’s where we are, and it’s a tad uncomfortable. We’re making changes.