Over a year ago, back when Rick was still alive, it was typical for me to cook several nights a week. I made meals that lasted for more than one night, but I cooked a lot. I had a whole binder of collected recipes and I flipped through it every weekend in order to make my shopping list so I could plan our week.
I considered myself a decent cook and a lover of food.
Once Rick died, I went through that initial period of wanting to do nothing "extra." People brought me food, they sent me food, they froze food for me, and some even did my grocery shopping. When that period ended, it still felt too taxing to cook. Any free time I had was devoted to taking care of business - the business of death. I had an endless to-do list full of more pressing matters than making meatloaves or casseroles.
Once the paperwork, phone calls, bill paying, and appointments finally tapered off, I found that making dinner for one was a) difficult and b) kind of annoying. It actually annoyed me to think about having to make meals for myself. So much prep and zest was my usual way in the kitchen, but with only me left to enjoy the fruits of my labor, everything was a letdown. Cooking was no longer enjoyable.
Over the past year, I made a meal a couple of times for my friend Jennifer and me when we watched the Gilmore Girls on a Wednesday night, but that was somewhat different - it felt more like cooking for a purpose (and a person other than myself) once again.
Once a wife who cooked, I resorted this past year to picking up salads on my way home, ordering a random pizza I'd proceed to eat for 3 days, or going out to dinner with friends. I even found that I began to tailor my eating habits to having my main meal for lunch where I could eat with my co-worker friends and then eating something smaller for dinner when I was alone. I can name several local places who know my face if not my name (Salad Works, WaWa, Primo Hoagies, Panera Bread), because they became the frequent provider of Widow Dinner as I made my way home from work.
About once a week, I ate at my parents' house. I also tried buying frozen bags of Italian food or frozen pizzas, but that annoyed me almost as much as considering cooking real food because it felt lesser, as if I was demoting myself from a woman who used to cook to someone who didn't know how. Bags of frozen food I bought months ago are still sitting in my freezer, unmade. Around once a week, I ate at my parents' house. On nights when I didn't grab something on the way home or call for some kind of delivery, I realized that I ate things like Parmesan goldfish crackers or cheese and pepperoni after a heavy lunch at work, which seemed pathetic and less than well-balanced.
Well, tonight I made Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup. It wasn't a very difficult recipe, but it was a real meal that I actually created from an actual recipe. I even chopped cloves of garlic for it. I'll eat it with a salad.
Tonight, I did something else I haven't done for a long time: I cried. And not for something I've shed tears for in the past. I cried tonight for a different kind of loss: the loss of my former job. I found myself with a horrible lump in my throat as the reality set in that I wouldn't be driving to my former place of employment tomorrow morning. And then I felt tears form in my eyes...and the thought that actually made me cry was my former co-workers/office neighbors listening to the radio trivia in the morning and how I wouldn't be there to help them guess the answer. I pictured my office-that's-not-my-office-anymore and the fact that tomorrow is the Lessons in Loss support group I used to lead with Pastor Ginny and I won't get to hear what the residents talk about. And Ashlee's probably going to ask what's for lunch, but she won't be asking me...
It's a bit tangled in my heart... because I really want to be there...but I also don't want to be there. I know I did the right thing by moving onward...and I know I don't have to say goodbye to the people I met at my old job...and I'm not sorry I'm heading to a new, exciting, good job in the morning...but it feels really WEIRD.
Weird isn't bad. For now, it's just weird. And I have to remind myself that no amount of tears changes the fact that I took control of my life to do this. I chose to leave. And I'm happy about it. It sets the stage for the rest of my life in a bunch of awesome ways, and I go to sleep knowing that. So in true Cat Widow fashion, I'm going to taste my comforting soup, wipe my eyes, and toast to new beginnings.