January 25, 2010

Our life in paper

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 11:24 pm by letterstoelias

Ok – first off, let me apologize in advance for what could be a cheesy analogy by the end here, but I spent close to three hours shredding paper today and it got me thinking . . . and perhaps drove me a little crazy.

A while back I went through our ‘filing container’ in the office.  I pulled out a rather large stack of paper – bills/receipts/etc – anything that seemed old enough (some of it was over a decade old) that I didn’t need to keep it any longer.  I did a fairly quick sort of it then and as the girls were around I didn’t pay close attention to all of it.

As I had some time on my own today, I took out the paper shredder and finally started to shred away.  As I went through everything a little more closely (since the shredder could only handle a few sheets at a time and seemed to need a ‘break’ every few minutes) I realized that all of that paper summed up a great number of events in our life together.  Big events.

Purchases of cars.  Repairs from car accidents.  Receipts for furniture we bought for our first condo together, our first house together.  Our last house together.

Ambulance bills from when E was born.  Pay stubs from our various jobs.  Paperwork from our RRSPs as we planned for our future.  It was all there.  And so much more.

Because I’m (clearly) such a packrat, part of me didn’t want to shred it.  It felt like it was shredding ‘proof’ that we, well, were ‘we’.  That we did all of these things ‘together’.  I knew that I didn’t really need these papers to tell me that (fortunately) so I started shredding.  Still, it was hard at first.

As I was shredding, I had a fair bit of time to think (it takes a LONG time to shred that much paper).  In many ways I feel as if I’ve been through a shredder in the past 9 months – or really the last few years when you take in all we went through before you died.  I feel like my heart has pretty much been sliced to bits, to a point where it will never be put back together.  Never again whole.

I continued along, and as more and more paper had to go through I was struggling with the fact that, after having been shred to bits, the paper had such a greater volume it was tough to get it to fit in the bag I had for it.  I would step on it.  Sit on it.  Jump on it to try and reduce the volume to make more room, but when done, the shredded paper easily took up at least 10x the volume as it had before (probably much more).

I’ve often read other widow’s blogs as they describe feeling that – though obviously they would never have chosen to lose their spouse – they grow to like the person that they have become after having survived such a loss.  They realize they are stronger than they ever knew.  More capable.  Fearless.  Passionate about life and all it has to offer, among many other great qualities.  It’s difficult to write about, because no one wants to try and sound like this is perhaps the ‘meaning’ behind their spouse’s death, or that they are in any way ok that it happened – trying to express it with the right balance for other people to understand is tough, but I see where they are coming from (and some manage it brilliantly).

Having been through the shredder – though it still hurts like hell, I can see in some places where my ‘volume’ is slowly starting to increase.  I’m still in pieces – and like with shredded paper I will never be back to the way I once was – but I have managed through many things in the last 9 months that I wouldn’t have imagined possible before.  Still standing here today, without you is no doubt the biggest.  The fact that I still have two legs standing beneath me some days seems a miracle.  Some days I’m on my knees, and some days, though I get out of bed, I still feel as though I’m in a ball under the covers – but my legs are getting use, and are perhaps even getting a little stronger again too (some days).

I’m getting better at cooking.  A little more adventurous.  I made my first omelet the other day, and while it paled in comparison to one of yours, it was actually pretty damn good (especially since I don’t think I had even scrambled an egg before you died).  I make a pretty yummy couscous dish.  Quiche.  Many things I’ve never made before.  I fixed the toilet.  I took apart and put back together C’s bike (with the girls chanting ‘Go Mama Go!’ the whole time).  I’ve managed to run the house almost completely on my own – and though it’s tiring and I complain and some days it’s not as smooth as I want it to be – we’re all fed, relatively clean (I’m still not a big fan of bathtime), and under a roof.  The girls are happy.  Healthy.  Nine months ago this all seemed out of the question.  And, I’m about to start a new business to boot.

To take the analogy even one step further (pardon me for getting a little too far out there), but some of the big bag of shredded paper will soon be added to the compost and the rest recycled.  And it will all eventually turn into something new.  Though once shredded, a new life begins.  As so it has been for us.

Ok, I’m done.  But, finally – some photos from Christmas (and thanks again to Nana & Papa for the fun toys and helping make it a little easier) . . .

Not so sure about this guy . . .

Ok by me

Christmas eve – Santa was lost

A chef like her Daddy? (don’t worry, I won’t promote that)

Your presence was with us

It was hard to open

Something that shines – from Daddy’s stocking

Her plasma car (that C always rides)


P.S.  I Love You



  1. Dan said,

    Hi Chelsea,

    I have never been big on shredding. Michael was always shredding old documents. He said I was too trusting, and that our personal information could end up in the wrong hands.

    I also quite often argued that the shredding was just making more volume, as you described, which just created a mess, and added to the chaos of our daily life.

    I too, feel like you describe…having been through the shredder. What has come out of Michael dying, and me being left with so many thoughts and feelings, is my writing. Without the blogging, my emotions and less than sane thoughts, would probably overwhelm me.

    I like your analogy. It fits perfectly. And yes, I do believe that we will come out of this changed. Right now the changes don’t feel too positive, but when I am feeling patient, I tell myself that a new sense joy, or of life, has to develop. I think I, we, need to give it all time.


    • letterstoelias said,

      Thanks for sharing Dan,

      And you are right – it takes time, and not only that, it’s not linear by any means. I still don’t feel that overall sense of joy or accomplishment with the changes as of yet – but there are moments – and it is difficult to accept those moments of joy without guilt, as Deb said,. Then, there are moments that I’m thrown so far back as well. But, in some ways even what ‘seems’ like a step back is actually still in some way, forward motion (if that makes any sense at all?). One thing is for certain, there is no certainty in grief. It is ever changing.


  2. Debbie said,

    I love your analogy Chelsea. It isn’t too cheesy, it’s realistic. I always struggle when I think about something positive about our life now, because it feels like we’re benefitting from Austin dying. I feel incredibly disloyal to him, even just acknowledging when I succeed in doing something I’ve never done before. But I know he’d be proud of the fact that we’re surviving, even flourishing at times, and he wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s so good to once again know that there’s someone out there feeling the same emotions, and still moving forward. You are inspiring, in more ways than one! I’m going to do some shredding this weekend, too.

    Take care,

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