There was a period of three hours on April 20 this year, when I didn't know M was gone, but just thought he was busy at the other side of the city, too busy to answer the phone.
In those three hours, "my" reality was more real to me, than the real reality.
Five months on, I think about him as much as I did when he was still walking around, lighting up. He lives just as vividly in my head as he ever did. More so probably.
Of course the upside and downside of this is that he has become a man who agrees with everything I think and who understands all my womanly foibles because he knows me perfectly.
Gone is any trace of him not having time or inclination to listen to my analytical ramblings. Now he exists solely to be there, here, with me (and his other loved ones) as a constant, supportive, unconditionally loving presence. He's basically God, with a great smile.
At times, his watching seems so real, I forget for a moment and thoughts skitter across my upturned heart, "Ha! Can't wait to tell him that." or "Oh, we'll have to get tickets for that." or "Y'see? I TOLD you the second series was better than the first..."
And then, bang. Reality hits.
Can't tell him. Can't get ticket for him. And he'll never agree about the second series cos he'll never see it. Grief makes a Paisley of us all. I can see why people "go mad". An alternative reality is attractive sometimes. But only if you choose it. If you're compelled to it, not so good. If it's a defence against how things actually are, again, not such a good idea, but if it's a deliberate change in how you perceive how things are, which leads to a calmer, more compassionate you, great stuff. And there's always a choice.
Like just there now. I was seething inside about an email I'd just received. So I stood up, took a few deep breaths, went into the kitchen and made myself something to eat, with cheese. I then sat back down, saw the other person's point of view and deliberately chose to step back from the discomfort of the anger and let it be. (Sadly, I didn't step back from the cheese before I ate it – one problem of having a fridge nearby when strong emotions hit).
What's reality anyway? The facts can be simple. You get up at 6.30am. You drive into town. You attend a class. You come home.
But the "realities"? Miles apart.
"God, it near killed me gettin' up this morning. It was still half dark. And cold. Nearly froze on the loo, it's getting so wintery. Hit every red light. Typical. Traffic was dead slow coming home too. All the schoolkids being left-off clogs the road. The house was cold when I got back. Terrible start."
Another choice might go more like this: "I did it. I got up even though it was still nearly dark. Good for me. It's definitely getting colder but I hit every red light, which was handy cos it meant I could drink my tea. It was so cute watching all the wee children going to school. Put on a big fleece when I got home and made a perfect cup of coffee. Great start."
As Frank Carson would say, "It's the way I tell 'em!"
An alternative reality is an attractive option sometimes, but only if you choose it freely