Saturday, July 20th, 2024

B Book Excerpts by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The Hope Trap -- Lost in the Kitchen


The following is an excerpt from The Hope Trap, Jean Loxley-Barnard's forthcoming book.

For what seemed like an eternity after Rob was gone, each evening I would go through the same experience. I'd go home shortly after five and stand in the middle of the kitchen floor. I turned around slowly, looking for something. I didn't know quite what it was that I was looking for. Everything felt different, and I kept looking for something that would feel the same.

The kitchen was the same, the sunroom hadn't moved. But they felt empty. It seemed that I did not belong there any more. But I didn't belong anywhere else, either. It was as if I had died and was visiting the place where I had lived.

I would try to think what to do next, or, rather, what to do in that very moment. Standing and turning slowly seemed ridiculous. I just didn't know what else to do.

There is something comforting about the familiar, even the familiar that one does not like. Knowing what we are experiencing and what will likely follow has an advantage over not knowing what to do next, let alone what to expect.

It was not the same as having free time to use any way I wished. It was having the rest of my life free. That was what was dismaying.

The thought of freedom can be exhilarating. The actuality of freedom can be frightening.

I thought of the countries that had revolutions followed by years of hardship. I remembered newscasts reporting on how the average citizen soon wished for a return to the old, known system, however dreadful it had been. I understood how that could happen.

The thought of freedom
can be exhilarating.
The actuality of freedom
can be frightening.

For years life had seemed to have too few hours to get everything done that needed doing. Now, life seemed to have endless hours. I wondered how I could fill even a small portion of those hours. Each moment felt like forever.

The house seemed so large during those first weeks alone. Much too large for just one person. I wondered how two people could seem like a crowd, compared to just one person.

  Online Exclusive Additional Text -- Lost in the Kitchen

I wondered if I would be better off living in a smaller place. The country club town villas came to mind. They were less than half the size of my home and might feel cozy. Maybe I would not be lost in one of those villas. I was certainly lost in my kitchen.

I was always relieved when dark settled around the house. Then the sunroom became self-contained. Through its walls of windows, I could see just a portion of the sidewalk by the back door, illuminated by the back door light. The world seemed less infinite then.

The night was ever so much friendlier than the early evening. For a long time, I went out with friends each evening until I became able to just get ready for bed and settle under the covers to watch TV or read until I fell asleep. How good it felt to be able to do that and not feel terrible loneliness.

I told myself it would take time after 30 years of not being alone. Then I realized that it had been 50 years since I had been alone. In other words, never. Never had I lived entirely alone.

That realization came as a shock. I had gone from my parents' home to the college dorm. After the dorm, I had shared an apartment at the edge of campus with girlfriends until I married Rob.

Now, at 50, I was living alone. It was quite a shock to my system. It was not the same as having Rob gone for a night's duty at the hospital, or even several days away at a seminar.

There had been many times that I even wished that Rob would take a trip â€" go hunting â€" anything. The thought of a weekend alone had once thrilled me. A weekend alone and a lifetime alone were very different concepts.

What I noted most about those minutes that seemed like years, standing in the kitchen, was the confusion about what to do next. It was not that there were so many choices that it was hard to decide. It was simply that there seemed nothing to do â€" nothing.

I do not know what I would have done without my family and friends who were always available to me, by phone and in person. The value of human contact during times of enormous stress can not be underestimated.