March 22nd, 2011


State of the Justin

Two months on, and it's time to pause and reflect. Part of me is horrified that it's already been two months, and my life is spinning away at high speed again (after crawling horrifically during the three months of Hell); part of me looks at myself and is actually pleasantly surprised that I've done this well this quickly.

In a word, I'm improving. That's damning with somewhat faint praise, but I *am* doing okay, especially under the circumstances. Truth to tell, I think I'm doing better than some of our friends: I've been in mourning for so long, and I've very deliberately allowed it such free rein, that I'm pushing through it relatively fast.

I'm falling prey, occasionally, to what I'm coming to think of as "griefquakes": overwhelming fits of grief that hit very, very hard and leave me crying uncontrollably, but are generally pretty brief. The onset is usually sudden and rather unpredictable -- I'm honestly unsure about whether the triggers are more meaningful in themselves, or if they're simply puncturing the surface of the emotional magma underneath. (Okay, "griefcanos" may be a better metaphor.) For instance, the most recent was finally getting around to watching this year's Doctor Who Christmas special -- admittedly a slightly maudlin episode, and the themes of loss are fairly blatant, but I was unprepared for how hard it hit me. Again, though, I'd pretty much regained my composure after a couple of minutes.

Those aside, though, I'm having more good days than bad, and am starting to get real about moving on with my life. It helps that most other people have begun to move on, which in a very real sense gives me *permission* to do so. I don't think it's obvious to those who haven't been through it what it's like to be mourner-in-chief. It's not just that my own grief is especially intense, it's that everyone else needs a focus, a way to feel like they are doing *something* -- and consoling the grieving spouse is a way to do that. So the Pelican in me felt the need to receive that in the spirit offered, even when sometimes it got a bit overwhelming for me. Now, unsurprisingly, most people are getting on with their own lives and no longer feeling the loss quite so keenly, so it's not all focused on me so much. This means that the emotional support structure under me is weakening a little, but so far that's okay: my friends are still providing a lot of help where I need it (in particular, social interaction and distraction), without my feeling the pressure to *think* about the situation quite so much.

That said, folks need to keep in mind that I'm not going to avoid the topic of Jane and our life together, or even her death: it *is* the most defining fact of my life at this point, and while I'm not wallowing in it, I can't dance around it either. I've noticed a bit of discomfort with that, and I'm sorry for it, but it's the truth of where I am. It's not consuming my every waking moment any more, but it's still often top-of-mind, and I'm pretty sure that avoiding the subject too consciously isn't going to be good for me. Frankly, I'm not going to be able to truly celebrate her life, as I need to do, until I can face all of it honestly.

I'm gradually pulling out of my mental cave. I'm still procrastinating far too much and not yet focusing to the degree I'm accustomed to, but I'm getting more willing to step forward and take little leadership roles again. That's become very natural to me over the years, so it feels pretty comfortable -- I just need to move up that ramp gradually, and not overload myself. I *am* applying Rule #1 ("Do What's Fun. Don't Do What's Not Fun.") very rigorously, which has been changing the balance of how I spend my time a bit. (More gaming, at the expense of neglecting Masonry almost completely -- I'm afraid that, after 20 years as an officer, I'm just plain burned out. Fortunately, my Lodge has gotten some promising younger guys the past few years, so I think it'll get by.)

On the practical life-rebuilding front, I'm gradually coming to understand how daunting the task of picking my own life out of our combined one is; thank heavens that Susan took on the clothing task, because otherwise I think I'd have buckled under it. The bulk of the clothes are now out of the house (and filling almost two full storage units); as a result, I'm pretty much rattling around in all the now-empty closets and dressers. I'm starting on the more persnickety book project: going through all of our books, one by one, and deciding which ones to keep. Once that's done, probably sometime in May/June, I will be having a pretty serious book giveaway to complement the clothing one. I still need to go through all the accessories -- along with the clothing and shoes, there's also going to be a lot of costume jewelry, perfume and suchlike at the Clothing Giveaway. (Opinions: I'm going to include unopened cosmetics. I assume that opened cosmetics are simply trash?) And then there's the garb -- I haven't even started on that project.

All of that is, needless to say, pretty damned hard. But there's a real element of ripping off the scab: it's something that needs to be done, and moreover it's something that *I* need to do. There are a lot of moments of sadness in it, as I find favorite items of hers, but I'm learning to kiss each one, reflect on it a moment, and then pack it away. That's difficult, but it's better in the long run than either letting it sit and fester, or having someone else do it and not getting the closure.

Emotionally, I'm starting to really reach out and connect again -- really, more than I've done in at least five years. That's quite deliberate: I'm trying to find the raw emotional openness and honesty that I had in college. That's dangerous as hell, and not easy -- I'm intentionally tearing down walls and scar tissue that have been building up for the past 5-10 years -- but I think it's essential if I'm going to actually be happy again. Among other things, if I'm going to find love again (and I do think it is strictly necessary for me to do so -- while others may be able to live without it, I have pretty objective reason to believe that I can't be happy without), then I need to work my way back to feeling loveable.

So that's the update. I'm burning the candle at both ends, probably a bit more than is good for me, but all the distraction is helping me heal, and all of the out-and-about is reminding me that, while I'm nominally an introvert, I'm a fairly gregarious one. My thanks to everyone who is helping there, and forgive me if I am occasionally allowing myself to get overstretched...

Radiation Chart

The post from Something Positive was sufficiently well-received, so today let's take a look at XKCD's contribution to understanding the Japanese radiation situation. This post from a few days ago demonstrates, once again, that Randall is possibly the most prominent and clever thinker in modern data visualization, with a chart that quite literally puts things in elegant perspective. Worth a quick look, as an antidote to occasionally-fevered media hype about the current mess. (Thanks again to Aaron for the link...)

Adjustment Bureau next Friday

Always a little dangerous to make movie plans this far out, but a couple of us have decided to have a Movie Outing next week. So this will be adjusted if movie schedules change, but let's take a stab at it:

Group outing to The Adjustment Bureau, at the Burlington AMC (across from the Mall) next Friday evening (April 1, the night before Coronation) at 7:40pm. Gathering beforehand for dinner at Chili's at about 6:15.

Pencil it in if you're interested, and I'll take a nose-count for dinner when we get closer in...