Last Year & Today: March 22

This is the first time I’m trying this: starting with journal notes I made 1 year ago on this date, how I feel on re-reading these notes, and comparing where I was then with today. Should be interesting.

Here’s an excerpt from less than 2 months after Valerie died:

March 22, 2022. Went for a short walk early this morning. Could hear bushtits doing their soft twittering in “their” tree (where Valerie and I first discovered them). This tree is now covered with white blossoms — probably an apple tree. The pond was really full but I didn’t see any ducks until I got to the top of the drainage thing that feeds the pond down below, and then I only saw 2 mallards — guarding nests, maybe? Valerie and I always looked for ducklings together this time of year.

Guess I should start bringing a camera… I almost never did when with Valerie, but now I want to get pictures and videos of spring, although it feels like I’m almost dreading spring — too much of a feeling of rebirth, I guess, along with all the memories of every spring we shared together here…

It’s hard to even write her name… Valerie.

I have to say I’m surprised. It’s hard to believe I was capable then of even noticing birds singing, let alone being able to identify them. I went out for a walk this morning, not the same route but close enough, and I still can’t get through it without crying most of the time. (I’m looking forward to being able to wear sunglasses early in the morning again. I remember last year having such a clear sense of hiding my tears behind big dark glasses.) How was I able to appreciate even the tiny signs of spring last year?

Later that day in 2022:

Also got email from [an acquaintance], asking if I got a package that this person sent. This kind of thing, i.e. anything that feels like pressure to respond, I just can’t take right now. How in hell does anyone expect me to be “normal” right now, to do “normal” things like sending thank-you notes? [My handwriting is degenerating at this point, almost illegible, which I notice in a lot of my notes when I’m upset. Which is frequently the case during the past year.]

I feel the same way when I get texts from [a family member], like last night, saying how much they want to talk “whenever I feel ready”. Well, maybe I never will be ready. I wasn’t ready for any of this, doesn’t anyone understand that?? Starting to think I will have to post something to let people know not to have any expectations at all of me, until I tell them differently. I really just want to be left alone, at least as far as anything that feels like some kind of social obligation or expectation. I don’t f—ing owe anyone anything.

Wow. Okay. Funny the difference it makes to see that typed out, compared to how it looks and feels in my handwriting. Honestly, although I’ve gone through various phases, in general, I still feel like I want to be alone — unless by some miracle someone shows up who can actually understand. One thing I’ve realized just lately is that I have almost no local support system; nearly all the people that have actually been good for me in the last year live far away. And frankly, I’m getting fed up with long-distance relationships. I mean, I truly value these people in my life, but I’m wanting more and more to have face-to-face, in-person contact now. I’m sick of people treating text messages as a substitute for conversation. It’s just not the same thing at all.

But then I run up against this issue: How do I meet and get to know people under my current circumstances? And I suddenly realize how long it’s been since I’ve actually met someone new, and gone through the process of getting to know them…

My last note from 2022:

Made Arroz con Pollo tonight for the first time without Valerie. She loved this dish.

We both loved to cook. For Valerie and for me, one of the best things in the world was when one of us was cooking and the other came in and said, “Wow, that smells amazing!” I really miss that.

This may be when I started noting all the “first times” I did something without Valerie. There are a lot, and every one of them has been painful. One of these days I will do a post about these, which of course will be the first time I’m doing a post like that.

And yes, it’s still just as hard to write Valerie’s name.

I’ve recently started a YouTube channel to share memories of my daughter Valerie, as well as following my own grieving process; this channel is the companion to the Dear Valerie blog. Some of the videos will be illustrated readings of the letters I’ve been writing to Valerie including the one from her 2022 birthday; the original letter is here. I’d love it if you’d visit me on YouTube (@dearvalerie2022). I’m also on Instagram @rememberingvalerie.

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