Friday, January 30, 2015

"How are you doing?" "What are you doing?"

These seem to be the questions everyone is thinking when they talk to me, though they're rarely the questions they ask me.  Yesterday I had tea with L and she asked directly how I was coping with missing Mike.  I like those sorts of questions and am good at answering them.  Most people don't like to be so direct, though. The question I am being asked most often at the moment is how I'm getting on with building up my stocks of pottery.  This is a question I am not so good at answering because the real answer is "I wouldn't start from here."

I'm not doing any pottery at the moment and although one reason is definitely my current cartilage injury, I'd guess I wouldn't be doing any pottery even if I didn't have an injury to take care of.  There are so many reasons for this that I hardly know where to start.  And, most unusually for me, I'm not finding what it takes to get round the difficulties and communicate to people what they really want to know.

Bereavement has very subtle effects and I'm not sure how well this is known.  It can affect your memory, your concentration, your attention span, your temper, your energy and just how much you have to give to anything.  Don't think these are all negative values, either; you can end up with more patience than usual, or concentrating on a boring task very well.  You can take to one task but not another.  Bereavement is not a constant state.  It is currently affecting how well (or badly) I explain things on the hoof, though I can probably make a better fist of it here.

Bereavement, too, is a sudden one-off event after which everything is different exactly because it is now "after".  This means that you should not expect a person to be 'getting back to normal' because nobody will be getting back anywhere.  Rather, you might wonder if they are establishing what normal now is.  I am on that road but like many important roads in life, the journey is probably more significant than the destination.

So where should the solicitous enquirer start, if not from here?  I suggest you start with "what are you doing at the moment?"  This is a question I can always answer and it will probably tell you how I am doing at the same time.

One week can be different from another but at the same time I am aware of engaging in a continuing process of finding the new normal.  Last week, for instance, I was mostly busy doing executor things (for the friend who died last March) while at the same time trying to make some new earrings.  This week I have been making some new earrings, planning some new textiles work, working on the makers' pages of Arcade Artisans (as part of my contribution to working in/for the shop which we all undertake), photographing my new earrings and processing the images so I have good images for later publicity, updating parts of my website and working on the website and newsletter for Crafts In Gloucestershire, which I run.  These are all part of my work as an artist.  I've also been to Ikea and been out to tea. 

In amongst all these things that are part of what will be normal from now on there is also stuff which is finite.  Stuff which I am doing little by little but eventually one day will be done, the things that are there to be done when someone has died.  To begin with this is mostly admin but now the tasks are more practical.  Belongings to go through, give to others, keep, re-home, sell, throw out.  Mike was not a tidy person.  So every fortnight I fill two boxes with paper for recycling.  (I estimate this will be ongoing for some months, such are the many, many boxes of paper stacked in various parts of the house.)  From time to time I sort out a section of his wardrobe.  And I do some of the tasks that were part of his 'domain', even though he didn't do them often, such as tidying up outside.

Today I transferred five or six bucketfuls of dead leaves, soil, detritus from firewood collections, etc to the compost bin and half filled a bin bag with rubbish from the same part of the yard.  It's not exciting, but it's enjoyable and I'm pleased with the result.  And it's part of the answer to "what are you doing?" and should also help you with "how are you doing?"  If you do, thank you for wanting to know.

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