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About 18 years ago, this very month, Jack and I moved into our condo, where I am today. I took off today; I'm grieving his loss, and moving from this place that was once so very comfortable for both of us. Except now, it's not anymore. I need to get started on packing up, and getting ready to move. Very soon, I'll get the mortgage re-financed and hire contractors to renovate this place. I need to get my butt in gear and pack up my stuff. Far easier said than done, even when I know I want and need to go from here for a while, even when I know I'll do better in a place that's JUST mine, a place where Jack has never lived, and that's closer to work. I know I need a change of venue, but there is necessary grieving to be done while I let this place go for a while.

There is a simple, sweet magic that happens when someone buys a house and turns it into a home. It's a small magic that everyone performs, a kind of binding ritual, binding person to house and house to person. But now, half of that binding has come undone with Jack's death, and it's time for me to move on. When I move, that binding will be the slimmest of threads, since I will still own the place, will move back in after a few years, but won't live here for a while. I get it, but feeling it is a whole different story, and I realize now that I have to feel, I have to process before I can act. Even my sister said, when she came to visit after Jack died, it's as if half the energy of this house has just disappeared, and it's true. A four bedroom, three bath house, nearly 2,000 square feet, is just far too much for one human and two felines. It's time; I know it's time, but I have to feel this loss first, and then I will be able to do what I need to do.

I also know that when I move back in here, after five years, that it won't be the same at all. Time will have passed; I'll move back into a re-done house, and it'll have the energy of different people in it. I know that from now on, this really will just be a house to me, not a home, because my heart just isn't here; it's in a future house that I haven't bought yet. When I come back, I also intend to move downstairs into the back bedroom. It'll be easier on my knees, easier to come and go from the house, and just different from living and sleeping upstairs. And the next major life change to negotiate will be retiring, with all that that brings: selling this house, moving from California for good, finding a place to buy in Louisiana, and, joyfully, turning that new place into my (hopefully) forever home. I really REALLY look forward to the new home most of all. It's bittersweet right now to renovate this place, knowing I'm not doing it for me, but for the family that eventually will buy this place, although it'll be good practice in learning how to renovate, how to hire contractors, and in learning about how to choose appliances, countertops, paint, etc. that all look good together.

I'm packing up boxes right now. I know I want and need to move out, to let the contractor come in, spruce the place up, and let other people live here, people who need a place to stay, including my trainer and long-time friend. He's getting out of a horrific situation, since he's had to live with his now ex-girlfriend, who has turned out to be a liar, a cheat, and a manipulator of the first order. I want him here; he wants to be here. It's just a matter of time -- days, weeks at most -- until my District finance guy works with people he knows to help me re-finance my mortgage, add some for renovation, and sets me up with a property manager. Then I can move out.

And this house, although still welcoming to me, is just too dark, too quiet, too big now. There are two entire rooms where there is no life at all: Jack's office, now completely empty, used for packed boxes, and the downstairs back bedroom, now used to store and display kitchen goods that I'm getting rid of. I stay downstairs a bit and watch some TV in the living room, and then come up here to my office, pack up and play on my computer, and then go to the bedroom and sleep. And that's it. To be honest, the dark rooms now creep me out. There are just too many dark corners and empty spaces for me to feel completely safe here. I must admit, I do tend to worry about someone breaking in, waiting until I've gone to bed, and then attacking me. I know such fears are common after a spouse's death; I have two Masterlock doorknob braces that I use downstairs and in my bedroom, but still, the fear is there, and it tells me I need a smaller, more controllable space.

So moving to a one-bedroom apartment, around 800 square feet, will be an improvement. I'm sure I'll use every inch of space, and there won't be dark, silent rooms that simply go unused. And I'm sure the people who move in will breathe new life into this place and fill it with their energy, which it needs. I also look forward, when I move back in five years, of having other people here in the house with me. I know I sleep better when my friend S-- is here. I imagine I'll sleep better just knowing other people are here, too. I didn't realize that I actually did sleep better having other people around until after Jack died, and S-- and A-- went back to their own lives. I knew I didn't sleep well with the TV on, but the presence of others is a definite comfort.

Just typing all this out makes me feel better; it's a way to process. Life is just so bittersweet right now. I won't be losing this condo; in fact, it'll be a money-maker, due to the large size, its ability to accommodate several people, and the prime location. And I know I'll move back in five years, into a different room, with the condo looking different (and better). Moreover, I won't be but a few miles away; I've decided to keep my bank and pharmacy the same, so I can just drive over whenever I need to. Traffic from here to the place I intend to move isn't bad. And I'm sure I'll check on the condo at times, too.

I'm also glad I cleaned out and cleaned up as much as I already have, first before Jack died, I did a LOT of cleaning up and cleaning out and throwing away up here. I'm glad there is nothing in the bedroom that is his. Getting rid of his old, excess stuff did hurt my heart a little, but it needed to be done. We all knew that Jack was dying, and I think he also knew that things were leaving the house. I think he tacitly gave permission, and I made sure not to throw away anything in front of his face, which I think he appreciated. I was very careful to get our housekeeper to throw stuff away when he was asleep, or watching TV, or in the bathroom, or not looking.

Still, there's a lot left, not only of my stuff, but household stuff in general. I have to decide how much household stuff I want to take with me, and how much I want to leave. Some things in lower cabinets can just be left. I will take some, but not all, and whoever moves in will have some supplies to help clean up around the house. Right now today I'm working on cleaning up and packing up my office, everything except the coffee supplies, which will be the last to go. I also want to go to a local dry cleaners and ask for lots of garment bags so I won't have to use up our heavy-duty garbage bags that are really good. I'd rather use something that's meant to be thrown away, and that I might get for free or very cheap.

Already I'm feeling better. Processing is so necessary for grief. October has been hard, and perhaps always will be, with now Jack, my mother, my step-mother, and my grandmother now passed on. Every weekend this October, I have had a hard, hard time doing much of anything, but I realized that I am being productive when I'm feeling grief. I'm not hiding from it; I'm not out buying unnecessary things; I'm just sitting with my grief and letting it wash over me, even when it's beyond words, which it often is. This past weekend was the first weekend all this month that I actually got things done, and went out to see a movie last night. So I know the October grief is passing. I hope next weekend to be almost completely rid of it, but I know I won't be until November comes.

And when November comes, it will bring good things. I'm due to start getting Jack's pension as of the first of November, which means I can live close for a few months and pay both the mortgage and rent on a new apartment. The money I got from his long-term care will help, but after everything is all settled, I want to put that into savings and leave it there. I read a book this past summer on being a widowhood, and one phrase stuck with me: "dashing through the dollars". It's something I don't want to do! I'm blessed and grateful that I'll have plenty, more than enough, but I still don't want to waste anything. I want to live simply, below my means, and save up.

Now I feel like I can go out, get some breakfast, and start packing up. I also think that part of my difficulty in getting anything done is simply being here, that as much as I love this condo, and as many good, warm memories it has, it's now weighing on me, holding me back, holding me down in grief. I see Jack and me, our former lives and selves, in every corner, and realize that life has moved on. I'm not where I need to be. I need to be, for the next five years, somewhere new that's all mine, and I think when I get there, I won't have nearly as much grief.

One last thing, off topic: I so miss Jack always, but especially this particular October. The Cubs are finally going to the World Series, for the first time in over 100 years, and I know he would be excited about that. Pumpkin everything, especially pumpkin frozen yogurt is here, and Halloween, one of his favorite times, is coming up. Isn't it just so weird that the Cubbies could cause a griefburst! HA! I have to laugh in the midst of grief at that bit of absurdity.

Things to do, things to pack. Writing helps ease griefbursts.

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