A few weeks ago, I was in Austin for a night. I didn't call any of my friends, didn't let anyone know I was in town. It was a rainy day, and I had a task at hand -- I was cleaning out my condo so it would be renter-ready. I packed up all my books (including a small library on grieving and widowhood), my photographs (including some of Brian), my clothes (pretty much a bikini, cover-up and flip-flops), my food, toiletries, and other personal items. I took care of a few fixer-upper items on the list -- hanging a key rack, putting a towel hook on the bathroom door, changing my internet password, making copies of keys, etc. That night, as I often do when I find myself alone for an evening, I did some thinking and some writing. Then, I slept in the condo, alone, one last night.
When the morning came, it was time to pack up and get out. I loaded all the boxes and my overnight bag into my car. I washed bedsheets while I took a shower, and then did some cleaning of surfaces and floors. I took out the trash and recycling. I put the fresh sheets and bedding back on the bed. I left a note for my tenant. I had two things left to do before locking up and driving away -- cleaning out the fridge and replacing bags in each of the two trash cans, kitchen and bathroom.
While knocking these tasks off my rental-readiness to-do list, the condo started to look a little less like my place and more like a sweet rental pad. Don't get me wrong -- the Frida Kahlo artwork, kelly green shag rug, and a cardboard poster of Kenny Rogers as "The Gambler" overlooking the dining set keep things from looking too boring or neutral. But still, it was starting to feel like it could be anyone's place, not just mine. That was good -- that's how I wanted and needed it to look -- but it was bittersweet, knowing what I was giving up, at least for the next few months.
What I am giving up, you see, is not just a rockin' pad - it is a phase of my life. Austin is where I came to heal and find myself. It's where I re-connected with myself and nature. It's where I learned to navigate a new place and a new life on my own. It's where I took refuge, where I cried, where I started blogging, where I journaled my way through incredible pain, where I started to start over. It's a city where I have many fond memories of Brian, and also where I opened my heart to fall in love again. As long as I had my condo there, I had all that at my fingertips -- any time I wanted, I could go up for a night, whether I needed a fun diversion in the form of a wild night out, deep conversation with one or two kindred spirit friends, or a night of solitude and reflection. Now, I'm letting go of that option, at least temporarily, and focusing on my life at hand in San Antonio.
I started thinking about all this while I was packing away all my books, photos, journals, jewelry, and miscellaneous other things. And it was bittersweet. In that last few minutes, it started hitting home, and I started to well up a bit. I am good enough now at working through emotion, so I continued to putter around, keeping busy with my hands in spite of my wandering mind. Just as I was started to get pools collecting in my eyes, I reached under the sink into a canvas holder to get a plastic bag (to use as the bathroom trash can liner)...and I encountered something unexpected that made me laugh, something I took to be a sign that I taking a step in the right direction and that all would be well in my world. Inside the plastic grocery bag I grabbed was one of Brian's guitar picks. I have NO idea how it got into that plastic bag, which was jammed along with dozens of others into this bag-holder (which, incidentally, is made from a cat-print fabric and was given to me by an elderly woman at Brian's visition by a woman who knew his parents and who had read in his obituary that we had two cats). When I saw it, I laughed and said, "Thank you, Brian. I needed that. You're right -- I'll be okay."