16. WTF!?

So this morning I find myself sitting and reflecting on a recent Woine Toime evening, something that’s been happening reasonably regularly at my place on a Friday night for years, although lately less so thanks to the introduction of karaoke, but still a thing that we do. The people who come have changed with time, new ones introduced and old ones moving on, but with a core group that come to laugh and gossip and support.

I’ll provide the snacks, you bring your own drinks and we’ll sit and see where the conversations take us. Sometimes the people connect incredibly well and it’s like they’ve all know each other for years, other times it can be more awkward and harder for the conversation to flow. Either way I love it. It’s a therapy of sorts and it feels good to do.

The drinking is generally light and social, but we’ve had some big nights of singing and dancing (including costume changes) with the appropriate level of hangover the next day for one or two of us. More often than not it’s a regular Friday night with a bit of fun thrown in, and the weekend proceeds as planned. Very occasionally things turn out vastly differently to expectations and the only thing you can say is WTF, what the hell was that!

It’s been a while since Woine Toime happened, so I threw out an invitation to a whole bunch of friends. Thanks to short notice, only a handful were able to come, but it was lovely sitting and chatting and introducing new friends to old. I’m not entirely sure at what point things turned weird, probably when the Fireball Whiskey came out, and my sister went home – but the evening did not go the way it usually does.

There were some quite heated conversations about current affairs and politics, human rights and discrimination. There were conversations about the music playing and remembering the originals as we were listening to the remakes, and there was a lot of drinking! So much so that I had a need for one of the guest beds, a plunger and a whole lot of panadol – you know who you are! “ Got to be honest. Not feeling great. It’s been a very long time since I have had this kind of self inflicted pain.” Was the feedback a couple of hours into the morning.

The weirdest thing for me tho was a friend changing the rules of the game. We’ve been friends for a long time without there ever being a hint of anything romantic, I though for either of us. Apparently I had that wrong and there were very strong feelings on his side. I did not see it coming and felt quite awkward when approached about it. It was unwelcome and intrusive and Im not sure how to process it. I don’t know what happens now. It put a very different twist into the evening, and while we have agreed to pretend it never happened, I know things can’t ever be as they were!

At this stage I’m not sure when the next Woine Toime will be, I need to process this one… and as my kids say, I seem to be more social than they are at the moment! For now, karaoke is back on and certainly for the next few Fridays, that’s where you’ll find me x

17. Stuff

Sometimes its really hard to write this blog. Am I sharing too much of my life, or is it ok to get it out of my system. What topics can I talk about, is any of it interesting, does anyone really care?! And then I think does any of that matter, because actually I am doing it for myself – to process the stuff in my head and to figure out this weird new world.

This week has been a mixed bag of emotions for me. I’ve been a bit stuck on Woine Toime and the fall out from that – an interesting place to be in the same week that Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins did their speech at the Press club. True to ‘female conditioning’, I’ve been analysing and second guessing my behaviour to see where his came from, and I’ve been dreading the thought of face to face contact. But as my mum said, I have done nothing wrong and I can’t allow myself to be a victim! It’s still a yucky feeling tho!

The boys are all doing good things at the moment… it feels like we’re on a reasonably even keel. I do get nervous tho when things feel like they are going well, because inevitably something will go pear shaped and my stress levels will peak! Fingers crossed we keep plodding along nicely for a while and they keep kicking the goals they set for themselves. Claytie would be super proud of what they are doing and how far they have come. I wish that he could tell them that himself.

Trivia has been a huge highlight the last couple of weeks. The Black Widows Peaks have added to the group and our new team members (also from the widow support group) have been a godsend! I can’t believe that I only met these people in the last 12 months, it feels like I have known them a life time! We spend the entire time laughing and being silly! Our conversations are rarely appropriate and we all look forward to catching up. We have gone from coming dead last (pardon the pun!) to first two weeks running. We had such a smashing lead last time that apparently we need a five point handicap going into this one – Something that has been argued by several members of the team with the host who is sticking to his guns! … guess we just need to win again to show them our magic!

I’ve had the highs that come with date nights… I’m really enjoying spending time with the chap I’ve been seeing. He makes me feel good about myself and he makes me laugh. Our conversation has been easy without any sort of awkward silences – even the few disagreements we’ve had have been easy. He lets me cry if I need to and has been entirely lovely when I’ve been a cranky hormonal mess. He’s not completely ready to step into my world, a thing I am trying to be understanding of – but as I’ve mentioned before, the little weird world inside of my head is streets ahead of where we are actually at, so I keep needing to slow myself down and appreciate the little things.

I was telling one of Clayties best friends about it just recently, and the questions he asked and the comments he made were just right. It is Ok to be where I’m at and it is ok to find happiness. I absolutely know that, but it is nice to have those feelings validated by people who are important to me.

I’ve got some very lovely things to look forward to, which is always nice… more date days for me, my favourite Friday evening activity is back, and I’m enjoying singing along from my table in the back…there are some super special days for friends and family that have been postponed more than once coming up soon and then there is just finding happy, beautiful things in the day to day. I’m a lucky person and I remind myself of that everyday x

14. Surrealism

It has now been 18 months since Claytie died, and it still doesn’t feel real! I know that he isn’t coming back, and I have accepted that – I know it, I feel it, I live it every day… but somehow I still go to talk to him or call him a hundred thousand times, and there is a shock to the system every time I realise it again. It is a surreal feeling like no other that I have ever had before… and there is no getting away from it ever.

I talk about him all the time. He is part of just about every story that I tell – and if I don’t mention him out loud, you can rest assured that I’m thinking about him, and his reactions to the story as I’m talking. I journal everyday, both as a way to clear my head before I try to sleep, and as a way of talking to him about everything that is happening. I don’t believe that I will ever stop doing this, or that I should. It feels like a healthy way to process my grief.

The thing that does feel weird, is getting up everyday and moving on! It feels almost as though I am somehow separate people living my life at the moment. It’s a kind of apathetic floating sensation that glances over the things that are happening to me and around me. None of it somehow feeling real.

There is the me that gets on with the day-to-day stuff.. bitching and moaning about having to clean the house, getting the groceries and going to work – the same kind of moaning that we all do! – I pray to the Lotto Fairy almost daily to get me out of this one, but I still hesitate to buy tickets because that was always Clayties thing to do. I can just hear him saying to me that if I were to win, I would divvy up the money all wrong and that he should be in charge of it! – an argument that he also had with my mum on more than one occasion!

There is the me that is trying to be there for the boys, to get them through the ups and downs that they face – and we’ve had some doozies in the last 18 months! I’m definitely not sure I’m getting it right, it is a constant worry that I have. That I’m not good enough, supportive enough, present enough for them. That the things that are going wrong are because I’m not enough, that Claytie was better…

There is the other me that just wants to curl up in a corner and cry forever about what we’re missing, the future that I should be living and the things that he will now never be a part of… all the plans that we had that now can’t happen. So many times I have to stop myself, my brain, from finishing a thought, because to go there just hurts too much.

And then there is the me that’s trying to get on with things and keep living. The new me. The me that goes to trivia and karaoke, that puts on big girl pants to meet new people. The one that paints a smile on her face and tries to believe it; that really wants to believe it, and sometimes/mostly does. This one is hard to do every day because while I don’t feel guilty – I have no choice but to keep going, there is a feeling of otherness in this new world.

It’s exhausting, and I am sure not exclusive to me. What I want to know and what I’m trying to work on, is putting all of these pieces back together. Trying to believe in the life I am now living and acknowledging it as mine rather than feeling like it belongs to someone else and I’ve just borrowed it for a while. It’s like an out of body experiences, but I want to come back in – I just don’t know how.

This new normal is a strange place to be. I don’t like it, but somehow I have to make it fit – I have no choice! I have to take all the parts- the things and the people that make me smile and feel happy (and they definitely do exist) and I need to own them and know that’s it’s ok… it’s a work in progress, baby steps that will hopefully bring me to a place of if not happiness than at least some kind of contentment. I guess I can only keep trying with it and we will see what happens next.

13. God is watching!

So this whole dating process has been weird not only for me, but also for the boys. I have been quite open and upfront with them about where I’m at and what I’m doing. I have talked to them individually and we have spoken as a group more than once on this subject at our Monday night Family Dinners. They know that I am doing a bunch of different things to keep busy and they roll their eyes at most of my stories. I haven’t told them ALL of the stories at this point, obviously, but they know the basics.

They all have such different personalities, and it’s been interesting for me to see them go through all of this stuff – grief, life, covid etc as well. There are a couple that are quite happy to talk things through with me (different boys on different subjects) and others that just don’t want to talk at all – that’s much harder for me because I am such a talker. I know which ones I can push for a response, and I know who is better with little bits of information passed on periodically. Overwhelmingly tho, they have all been incredibly understanding, supportive and just plain fabulous! – obviously keeping in mind that they are man/children and this can’t be the case 100% of the time!

The main concern that they seem to have around my social life, is around dinner and whether or not I have cooked for them before I go out, especially on a trivia night which is Tuesday. If there is food prepped and ready to go, they lose interest very quickly! They don’t seem to mind too much on a Friday (karaoke for me) because they are usually heading out too! Now that there is also dating in the mix, I do get some raised eyebrows! – where are you going, what are you doing and is it with the same person!? – For the record, it has been the same person for several weeks now- a rollercoaster for me that I have mentioned previously!

Up until now, the dates have all been ‘acceptable’ for them to get their heads around… I go out for a few hours and then I come home. Day time/night time it’s all been good, no real questions asked. I’ve been for lunches, drinks, dinners, movies – yes… for the first time since 2012 I went to see a movie! Still not really my thing, but I had a lovely time and will happily do it again! I’ve enjoyed myself hugely, and in typical me fashion have had the whole range of emotions to go with it … excitement, tears and snot, butterflies – it’s been fun!

In the last little while I also had my first sleep-over date! I mentioned to the boys that I wasn’t sure if I would come home or stay the night, depending on how I was feeling and if I was going to have a drink with dinner. It’s an hour for me to drive home so that was a concern late at night, but I also wasn’t sure how I would feel staying – it’s another big first… nerves are a very real thing! I packed a little bag just in case and did my usual ‘behave, be safe, be sensible and make good choices’ spiel for the boys that were at home. Quick as a flash, and without hesitation, I got back ‘be safe, use protection and don’t do anal cause god is watching!’ … to say I nearly choked would be an understatement!!

It seems that the boys (one in particular) are much more comfortable with this whole thing than I have given them credit for! Apparently I have also raised animals! Who says that to their mother for goodness sake!?!? Haha! I am now nervously anticipating what will happen when/if they actually meet the gentleman in question, something I think is still a little while off happening! He has indicated that he is also nervous about meeting ‘my people’ which is understandable given where we’re all at!…. Watch this space I guess to see what happens next!

15. Hope

Hope for me at the moment is a bit of a double edged sword! It’s lovely when things go your way, but kind of crushing when it doesn’t go to plan. I am the sort of person that is incredibly hopeful. I am a believer in positive affirmations (as you may have seen in my Facebook posts if we’re friends there) and I like to think that some of this positivity and hope manifests in the experiences that I have. I have been so lucky in my life and want to believe that this will keep going; but with quite an imagination and fairly limited patience, I am often miles in front of where I should be in my own head – something that doesn’t always go quite the way I would like.

I think I’ve always been like this… having conversation and playing out scenarios in my head that are never going to happen, and then being disappointed somehow when faced with a completely different outcome. I had a conversation not long ago with a girlfriend in a similar situation to mine, who said more or less the same thing. Planning things based on very lose conversations, and suggestions about things that might be possible, and then feeling let down in a way when that doesn’t happen. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion and anxiety… but without that hope, what do you have!?

I’ve been going through some of this stuff with the boys and their issues in the last year or so. They tell me things or I discover them, we discuss it and then in my head a whole plan is formed. My expectation and hope is that they will do as I have advised (Mum knows best?) and that things will get better… unfortunately my planing is not usually the same plan that they come up with, which has led to more hard conversations and the repeating of things that are not ideal. It seems a lot like going around in circles, but I guess some of that is letting them learn from their mistakes. As their mum, it is really hard (and much more now so than before) to let that happen, especially when you’re looking at a much bigger picture than they might be. Claytie was so much better with this stuff… he was so black and white, and with much less imagination, than me, that he never had the same level of disappointment and couldn’t always understand mine. It’s definitely been a learning curve – and work in progress for me.

I’m finding that I have the same issue with dating and romance. I think probably because what Claytie and I had was for such a long time and so lovely and honest, that I immediately expect a new match to be the same. I imagine romance and dating and flowers and all the lovely things, which apparently is my love language (another conversation with a different friend) – and it has led to me second guessing motivation, desire and commitment. Something that’s not particularly healthy or fair, but I am unsure how to slow myself down.

I really want that hope and I think I need to be able to try and imagine what a future with someone else could look like, but it’s driving even me kind of crazy at the same time. I know that often, I’m moving way too fast in my head, and catch myself when I’m sad about a different level actual response to the imagined one. But how do you move past the now into the next without imagining what that looks like!?

It’s hard navigating this new life of mine, without any sort of framework. I had the fairytale; and while marriage is hard and takes both of you to work at it, I didn’t have to work hard. This new world feels hard, and hope has been an emotional see-saw…. a new ride that I likely won’t get off in a hurry! Wish me luck navigating both the new nexts and the labyrinth that is my brain!

12. The weird and wonderful…

I feel like I need to preface this post by saying that I do not in any way want to come across as judgemental… everyone has a right to live and love in the way that best works for them. We are all different and as long as there is consent on both sides, you do you! I feel like my eyes have been opened to a whole other world, and I’m sharing my observations.

I was talking to a girlfriend the other day, telling her about some of my online dating experiences and how daunting it all is. One of my boys piped up from the other room to say that I should stop with the online stuff if it’s all so weird and just meet people in the old fashioned way… face to face. Now that’s easier said than done, let me tell you, and no less weird!

I chat to people all over the place… I figure I have nothing to lose and lots to gain. Even if it’s only a cuppa and a conversation it’s all new and gives me something to do. I was having a great time a while ago now, with a group of people that are almost as regular at karaoke as I am, and one fellow in particular was quite lovely and flirty. I was having a nice time. The next morning I had a message from him saying he too had enjoyed himself… ‘how nice’ I can hear you say, and it was, however his profile picture featuring his wife and small children put a dampener on things very quickly! Apparently he is one of the very, very many gentlemen around town that are in open marriages…. Upon further conversation with him, it seems that his wife also enjoys variety in their marriage, but it’s definitely not the thing for me!

The whole dating thing is fraught with unknowns! There are couples searching for ‘unicorns’… single women who are willing to be a participant in someone’s bucket list threesome…. I have mentioned polyamory previously as well, and there seems to be a lot of people who enjoy that kind of life style. There are the people who are happy to let you know what number you are on their tally and are offended when you don’t display the right amount of enthusiasm for that! I have come across people looking for a submissive partner, as well as those looking to be dominated… The list of requirements seems as varied as the people posting – something that seems obvious, and yet somehow unexpected!

I am sure that there are also plenty of ‘regular’ people on these sites, those looking for monogamy and true love…. But they seem incredibly hard to find, and a lot of swiping happens before you do! If you’re lucky enough to find and meet one of these people, hang on tight!

If you do connect with a person and start messaging and chatting, that comes with complications as well. Conversation can be lovely and you think there is a connection with someone and then they are gone and you’ve been ghosted. They can also veer into weird territories very quickly if you’re not careful and then you need to be the one that does the blocking.

It’s incredibly hard to work out the tone of a written message… I know my intent when I send my message, but is it received in the same way!? If it takes a long time for a response to come back, what does that mean!? … did they not like my message? Was it too much? Not enough? … or are they just busy with whatever is happening in their world at that time!? Do they want to meet? Or not – and why not!? And if you do meet, when/how do you follow that up!? How much is too much, and at what point does it become clingy!?

I’m finding that I am now spending way too much time second guessing absolutely every single thing in the dating context.… I’ve been on a couple of dates with a very nice gentleman – he of the crazy playlist response ( see previous post – second date also had several significant to me songs play one after the other!). I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, both in person and chatting online. We seem to have a lot in common and he makes me feel good. He’s not great at replying to messages in what I think of as a timely manner though! And yes, I know that not everyone is as attached to their phone as I am! He’s a busy man running his own people facing business that takes up a lot of his time, and I understand that he has other things to do besides immediately reply to a message from me. It’s not great for my second guessing tho, and I’m driving myself nuts! And then there is the whole meeting up side of things and finding a time that works for both of you… it’s all a bit tricky! Haha…he is a lovely fellow and I quite like him so I guess we will see where it goes!?

10. All the new things

So here we are at the end of another year of craziness and chaos, and it seems only right to recap some of the many new things I’ve encountered in this next that is now. There has been a whole lot! Some good, some not so good, some funny, some downright shit… but all of it new for me!

I was very lucky to have been able to do some traveling this year… a lovely long weekend with Clayties sisters down in Wollongong – time that was so important for us to spend together! An amazing trip to Uluru that touched my soul and grounded me, and left me with an insatiable desire to see more of this magical country. Whale watching and a glorious three days at one of my favourite beaches as well as countless early morning ‘salt therapy’ and meditation trips to the Gold Coast (not my favourite, but the closest one to home) reinforcing my desire to retire to the beach one day (lotto win permitting of course!).. I’m really looking forward to more trips next year – be they in Australia or overseas, alone or with friends !

I’ve also been super lucky with the people that have chosen to share my world – I have met some amazing new people, especially those from the Widow support group aka The Echo chamber of Misery. I feel like I have made some life long friends through this group (the shittiest club to be in), and they have been a godsend for good days and bad! There is always someone to talk to who gets where you’re at and doesn’t judge you for it. The girls at work have also been amazing, and I have appreciated all of the chats (both PG and R rated!) I’ll miss them hugely when I am rotated out of that position!

I’ve also had the chance to reconnect with some old friends, and their checking in on me has been the loveliest affirmation that true friends will always be there. Not so close friends have become best friends, and their acceptance and widening of their circle to include me is a whole other level of friendship that I wouldn’t trade for the world!…. I have been so very, very lucky and I appreciate everyone of these people for their role in my life – they absolutely more than make up for the ones that were not willing or able to stay for whatever reason.

The boys and I have had some pretty full on moments – health scares, new jobs, new homes, cars and all sorts of things that I wont share because that wouldn’t be fair. Suffice it to say that all of these things have brought us even closer and instigated some pretty honest conversations – often quite confronting for me. The boys and I are quite different people in so many ways, and I often question whether I’m the best/right parent for them! My anxiety and fears are often far worse than the situations require, but I’m all they’ve got, and we’re muddling through! I’m pretty sure Claytie was much more understanding and better at a lot of this stuff than I will ever be, but we’ll get there! My mantra for them is ‘Behave, be safe, be sensible and make all the right choices’ – something they should all get tattooed when I die!, and which usually gets an eye-roll response and a ‘yeah, yeah!’

Then there’s the dating thing! – an eye opening experience to be sure! Ive chatted with all manner of people and learned a whole lot about the online dating world and how I fit into it! I’ve been stood up, asked to buy groceries and offered to be the top-chick in a group scenario! I’ve learned a whole lot about peoples proclivities – which ones I’m ok with and which ones are most definitely not for me! It’s a weird and wonderful place with some incredibly interesting characters! The good, the bad and the ugly… and an occasional spark of delightfulness!

Karaoke and trivia are also new for me this year, and both have been a whole lot of fun! I’ve met some really lovely people at both and am so looking forward to more good times with them next year! Being brave and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone has really paid off with these things… I have had the best times with fabulous new and old friends who have added a whole lot of sunshine to my world! If anyone has any other suggestions for things I should try, let me know – its all part of the adventure!

My other – and possibly favourite new thing has been this blog! – Who knew that this book worm would have so much fun writing! I have absolutely enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper (so to speak)… and I’m looking forward to sharing (or perhaps over sharing?!) whatever adventures come my way in the future! I really appreciate the support that I have received from so many of you! I love the feedback and knowing how eager some of you are for new instalments!! It’s been so encouraging to know that so many of you are following this journey of the new that is next! I hope the new year brings lots of happy adventures your way and mine… xx

11. Signs

A funny thing that happens after someone you love dies, is that you look for signs from them everywhere you go. It seems to be universal, and if you google it, there is a list of things that are recognised as such. It is really hard to just let go – Death is such a big thing to get your head around…. How can your person just suddenly be gone!? There must be more to life than what we see!? – surely it can’t just be over!? So looking for signs makes sense.

Dragonflies, butterflies, feathers…. They are always there, with little attention or meaning paid to them, but suddenly after a death they are signs from a loved one. Dreams, coins or the scent of their perfume or aftershave are all things that are supposed to mean something. I know someone for whom the humble bin-chicken is a huge sign – and her explanation of why and when she sees them make complete sense; others have numbers that have meaning and they see them everywhere. I’m not sure what signs are mine, I just know the ones that it wouldn’t be, they don’t feel right for us – or at least I think they don’t…?!

I do believe in energy and some form or reincarnation. There are too many things that happen in the world that defy logical explanation… but those things are much easier to explore when they are for other people. When it’s your person that you miss and want to connect with, there is a bit of a feeling of desperation in the search for signs. At least there is for me! I find myself second guessing everything, and it’s exhausting! And then there is the knowledge that Claytie absolutely didn’t believe in anything like signs, reincarnation or in fact anything remotely ‘spiritual’. He was an incredibly black and white person in so may ways.

I have always thought that because I more or less believe in such things, that I would get really obvious signs from Claytie…. And a couple of times maybe I have – like the ones on his birthday when the boys and I went to get tattoos (see previous post), but for the most part it just feels like maybe I’m looking too hard and ignoring the obvious, or maybe the lack of a sign is the sign!? … you could absolutely drive yourself nuts thinking about it!!

I find myself asking him for signs all the time! It would be incredibly reassuring to ‘hear’ from him… kind of like a pat on the back to say I’m doing OK – because I am so unsure about what I am doing with everything all of the time. I overanalyse every single decision; I have never had to be the one responsible for everything, I was always quite happy to leave Claytie in charge and be the ‘kept wife’….it is all hugely overwhelming, and I am constantly asking him if am I doing the right thing with everything, including dating! The whole thing is so weird it would be nice to have his input!

But I guess its a case of be careful what you wish for! I went on a date not so long ago, and it was lovely! He lives about an hour away from my place, which is a bit of a pain, but other than that ticks a whole lot of boxes… we sat and chatted for about 2 hours, and it was really easy and fun! We had a hug in the car park, and discussed when we could see each other again – both of us, I think, feeling good about it…Driving home I had my playlist going on shuffle. It is incredibly varied and about 6 hours long, give or take about 100 songs…. Every single song that played was one of Claytie’s songs (happy, sad, all of it!) … and that never happens!! Not one after the other like that, I don’t even usually get two in a row!! Now, I have to confess that it did freak me out a little bit (tears and goose bumps) and I don’t know if I should read it as a thumbs up or down, but it definitely felt like a message! …. Now if only I could work out what it was saying, I’d feel a lot better!

So I guess in the spirit of seeing what comes next, I will be going on a second date with the same gentleman soon! … I’ll let you know what my playlist does, or if there are any other signs!

9. Feelings

It’s a difficult thing being widowed, or I imagine grieving for anyone, and coming up to big dates – holidays or anniversaries. You know that they are going to hurt… the feelings start early and weigh you down as you get closer. Some dates are really obvious – like all of the firsts, but others almost catch you by surprise.

Clayties birthday was the first first that we had, just two short weeks after he died. Claytie’s Dad, the boys and I decided that we needed to do something really big to mark that day. Claytie always said that if he was going to get a tattoo, he would get a picture of Daffy Duck on his upper arm. He never ended up getting any sort of ink, and would snarl at the kids when they came home with something new, but I think that at some stage he might have done it. With this in mind, we went into the city and each got a tattoo! Now we didn’t just get any old thing put onto us, this was a carefully thought out and proper tribute! The six of us all now have the same picture, taken from a t-shirt that he used to wear, and albeit in different places, we all now have a Daffy Duck somewhere on our skin.

It felt really good to do such a big thing for such a big first, and it got us through a really tough day. The German sausage hut just outside the tattoo parlour felt like a sign to say he approved, and the guy doing the ink had lived in Hamburg, (in a neighbourhood Claytie and I visited in 2019) and just recently came to Australia – another positive sign for us.

The first Christmas was shit. None of us wanted it to happen. The tree didn’t go up at all, and the whole day felt like we were dragging ourselves through but it was a case of fake it til you make it, and somehow we managed. Having small people (niece and nephew) who love Christmas definitely helped too!

I’ve already talked about my birthday – which I really struggled with! How unfair it is that I am now older than he can ever be. That was a real mind fuck, and I had such bad anxiety for the month leading up to it that I don’t think I slept at all. Everyday was tears and snot and it felt like nothing helped. I hadn’t expected any of that, but probably should have. I’m really glad I went on my trip and was distracted to an extent, but I am not sure that I can ever feel the same about my birthday again.

The hardest one for me, and in hindsight sight probably the most obvious, was our wedding anniversary. We had just celebrated 25 years married two weeks before he died. We were really happy and enjoying life. Things were pretty perfect… and then they were as opposite to that as you could get. In my head I had been worrying about the upcoming one year anniversary of his death, and had taken a week off work to deal with those emotions, thinking that this was going to be the hardest day. I kind of hadn’t thought about our wedding day which was a mistake on my part. It hurt in the worst kind of way.

I went to work, luckily in my safe space office, with the loveliest team who just let me be. I’m not sure I got anything done that day except for tears. It was probably a harder day in lots of ways for me than any of the others had been… and I didn’t see it coming!

The one year anniversary of Clayties death was a much easier day- and that feels weird to say! Lots of people had asked me leading up to it if we were planning to do anything – a question that felt a bit weird to be asked honestly – a kind of invasion of our privacy that I hadn’t expected. Possible a reflection of my openness in going through this process, but weird none the less.

The day started with a phone call from one of his best mates, who had been on a plane to Perth the day Claytie died and unable to come home until weeks later. There were tears from both of us, and not too long after the phone call ended, he was at my door. It was actually a perfect way to remember Claytie, and I’m really grateful that we spent that time together.

Clayties parents came for dinner that night and so did his Qld sister, his other sister being stuck in NSW (bloody Covid!). We had his favourite (my least favourite) dinner that he would cook when he had the shits with me in a true passive aggressive way – he knew I hated it, but I would never say no to him offering to cook! Tuna mornay – Catfood casserole, and Ice break iced coffee. He would drink at least 2l a day, so it seemed only fitting! It was pretty bloody nasty… but perfect! We scratched scratchies – with no one winning, and told stories and just remembered him.

His second birthday since he died, was uncomfortable for me rather than hard. We were in the middle of a lockdown and not supposed to go anywhere, but I broke those rules (senior person welfare check) so that I could go and see his parents and give them a hug! Of course there were tears, but it wasn’t the hardest day for me.

And now, here we are, heading into our second Christmas. This year the tree is up and there is a bit more excitement in the air; although since the tree has been up, so has my anxiety. I’m feeling his absence and the loneliness that goes with it so much more, a theme that seems reasonably common on the widow support pages too! I miss my Grinch and his snarky comments. He would pretend to hate Christmas, and then buy more prezzies than anyone, usually at the last minute! He would head to the shops about a million times on Christmas Eve – getting all the things I had left off the shopping list, complaining each time but secretly happy to do it… my boys are not quite so willing and helpful!

I guess this next is just like the others, a largely unknown thing to get through, and get through it we will. I am looking forward to meeting more new people, trying more new things and exploring what that looks like. There are some sparks that I’m excited by and new adventures to be had. I hope you and yours have a good one. Eat the food, drink the drinks and cherish every new memory…. Life is short, do the things that make you happy and tell your people that you love them every chance you get x

8. Questions and answers…

I have always been a reader rather than a watcher of things. I don’t especially enjoy television or movies, I would much much rather have my nose in a book. Claytie used to get quite annoyed with me, because to this day I still haven’t watched two of his absolute favourite films – ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Hunt for the Wilder people’…. I can’t tell you how many times he watched Julia and Hugh. He knew that movie inside out and back to front, their love song is on high rotation on my playlist, and we used it in the photo slideshow at his funeral. As for the Wilder people, the movie is saved, unwatched by me, on my Foxtel box. It had been on tv not long before he died, and he told me that we would watch it together. He asked me to sit and watch it with him countless times, telling me how good it is…. And it’s not that I didn’t believe him, I just didn’t want to, and now I don’t think I can.

Anyway, that’s not where this post is supposed to be going!…. I was heading in the direction of trivia! I love a good quiz show – millionaire hotseat is usually on in the background when I’m making dinner, and at the risk of sounding smug, I’m pretty good with the answers. I credit all of my reading with having a reasonable general knowledge. I’ve been to several trivia nights through the kids school and have always had a good time (alcohol involved has seen me dance on a table on at least one occasion!)

So here is where two worlds collide…. I was chatting to a very nice fellow online and there was a connection of sorts, although he seemed reluctant to actually meet in person despite telling me how keen he was. At the same time, a conversation with some friends made through my widows support group, culminated with a planned dinner outing to a hotel on the east side of brisbane, that happened to have a trivia night on the day we planned to catch up… three guesses who our host was for the evening!?

After a somewhat lengthy drive, not helped by a fight with my gps – everyone knows that I am incredibly directionally challenged and not great at driving 1) where I don’t know and 2) in the dark – I managed to get there and meet the ladies, that I had only met once before! We stood out the front and immediately one of them said (and I will quote for accuracy!) “oh for fucks sake, how bloody cliched…. We’re all wearing black!” The only logical choice at this point was to call our group the Black Widows!

In we went, dinner and drinks ordered, and conversation happening. It’s kind of a funny thing that I have found with the support group, you don’t really know these people all that well, but you are immediately comfortable to have hard conversations. There is such a level of shared trauma – even though everyone’s story is different, that you don’t need to do the weird getting to know you stuff that normally happens with strangers.

Trivia started, the host and I having recognised each other and agreeing to a drink after the contest, the ladies laughing and giving me a hard (funny) time. The questions were varied and hard, and an entire round of 10 questions about boxing, put a boot in my smug bum and saw the black widows come dead last!…. Turns out we’re pretty crap at pub trivia! But we had a lot of laughs and a great time!

Trivia finished, and after a last round of wink, wink, nudge, nudge from the ladies, it was my turn for a proper conversation with Mr Trivia. By this point in time I wasn’t at all nervous, but possibly should have been! Once again I have learned something unexpected! Mr Trivia is polyamorous: (polyamorous/ˌpɒlɪˈam(ə)rəs/adjective: characterised by or involved in the practice of engaging in multiple romantic (and typically sexual) relationships, with the consent of all the people involved.) …. Not what I was expecting!

Once we established (very clearly) that this is not something of interest to me, we actually had a really lovely chat. He was also quite happy to answer the 5million questions that I bombarded him with! I think we spoke for about three hours before the long drive home (in my case) made it time to leave. A fabulous hug in the car park, and with my mind overloaded with information, I left my new friend and went home!

I have been back to trivia several times since that day – and you’ll be pleased to know that the Black Widows are getting better each time. I have also had more conversations with Mr Trivia. He is a very interesting man, and I wish him and his partner(s) a long and happy life together. His lifestyle is not the new next I’m looking for, but I have made a new friend – and you can never have too many of those!