The ground is frozen solid. The temperature here hasn't been above freezing for about a week; overnight it has regularly been down to -6ºC. Frost is caked onto most surfaces, and the garden birds search singlemindedly for food. The days have mostly been sunny, which has thawed things a little where the sun's rays reach. But in shaded or north-facing areas, the frost and ice is a permanent fixture. Overnight, the cats take it in turns to crawl under the covers with me and warm their paws. Each morning I have been feeding the chickens with a hot mash to warm them up, which they clearly love. The geese, hardy birds, are unphased, even seem to enjoy crashing through the ice on the pond each morning.
Today it is overcast and nothing looks like thawing. It is even snowing a little, tiny specks of snow whirling down out of the silvery sky to powder the grass.
I have a dilemma. I really need to go food shopping. The problem is, I now have my new car (as of yesterday), and I'm feeling anxious about driving an unfamiliar car in such nasty, icy conditions.
This irritates me, because I know I used to be braver. I am realising that one of the side-effects of a long-term relationship is the way you become reliant on a second opinion. If T was here, I'd say, 'I need to go shopping but I'm a bit nervous about driving the new car on icy roads', and he'd either say, 'Oh it'll be fine, it's not that bad and they'll have gritted the main roads', or, 'No, I'd leave it another day or so, we can make do with things from the freezer until the weather improves'. And then my decision would be made for me, one way or the other. I would either feel brave enough to go, because really, it's not that bad, or I'd feel justified in chickening out because it's not very nice out there and there is stuff in the freezer.
Being part of a couple is a hard habit to break. When something happens - good, bad or funny - my first instinct is still to ring T and tell him. He helped me find and choose the new car, and just last night I emailed to get his opinion on buying a new digital camera (the old one has broken
:( ). He is a useful person to consult about such things, being technically minded where I am most certainly not. But I'm becoming aware that I need to stop relying on him in that way. I need to find my own way. As a single person I not only have to make up my own mind (horrors!!), but also take responsibility for my own decisions.
One of the positives of the last couple of months is that I have begun to rediscover myself. T never stopped me from being myself, but part of the dance of a relationship is in the compromises, negotiations and adjustments we make for each other. It's nothing huge or sinister, just a little accumulation of things that happen so gradually that we are not even aware of how we have changed - until, perhaps we find ourselves alone again. Like remembering that actually, I do like bread - just not the unsliced malted stuff we used to buy because that was what T liked and he ate more bread than me. Or realising that I can eat breakfast in bed if I feel like it, because balancing a tray on my lap doesn't bug me like it did him. Or deciding with a jolt of pleasure that I can - if I choose - now spend hours wandering around an art gallery without feeling guilty because I have a bored partner in tow.
I have been remembering things I like to do - and gradually stopping doing things I don't! - and it is a good feeling, like finding a long-forgotten favourite book.
The flipside is this lack of confidence in myself and my decisions, which sometimes leaves me frozen with uncertainty. But I remember a stronger, braver me and I know she's in there somewhere. Each challenge faced will remind me that I am capable, I am brave, I am confident, and I will grow back into the self-assurance of JUST ME.
And now I think I will go and do that shopping!