Appreciation and lack of appreciation

“We are simply asked to shift focus and to take a more gentle perception. That’s all God needs. Just one, sincere surrendered moment, when love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else really matters at all” (Marianne Williamson, Return to Love, 1996: 62). 

I experience the characteristics of all the stages of forgiveness following Karl’s death.

As I prepare the half-acre Nimbin property for sale and ready myself to move to Brisbane, I sort through my files and mementos. It is a painful process, often bringing me to tears. Many times, I cry out for Karl’s forgiveness as I reflect on my lack of appreciation for his physical and administrative work.

Unappreciated timesheets and receipts

On 21 July 2016, I say this:

Yesterday, sorting papers, I found a 2014 timesheet of yours, and I started to cry. You did so much backbreaking work on this property. It’s so sad! But, on the other hand, I can now have some benefit — by getting a good price for the property, which will pay off Anne’s mortgage and leave me some money to settle my debts.

Another timesheet!

My messages to Karl continue in this vein a few days later, when I write,

I found another timesheet. I cried! Poor old Karl — all alone and so upset and “exhausticated” [Karl’s word for very, very exhausted]! And at last, someone (me) will benefit from all that hard work! Funny, isn’t it, my love?”

I am seeking Karl’s forgiveness, and I am showing immense compassion for him — more than I had when he was alive.

January 2006

My discovery of Karl’s timesheets is followed the next day (after the property sale went through) by finding a pile of building receipts: “Yesterday I went to throw out the 2007 building receipts. And as I went through the receipts — for steel, bearers and joists — more steel and more steel — I was horrified at how much work you did and how I didn’t appreciate it….”

Welding steel house beams, 2007

Karl haS a different perspective

While I am agonizing over my thoughtlessness and judgment, Karl has a different perspective, which he voices on 30 July 2016:

Remember, too, sweetie, that we chose this house-building adventure. Nobody made us do it. We could have gone back to renting in Brisbane. We chose to learn so much from it – and from each other. I don’t want either of us to be victims of this experience. It certainly was character-building. It was good for me to have such an opportunity. And, even though I moaned, I would not have changed it.

You are not a squid

Like some long-term partners, I occasionally fell into bad habits with my Beloved, criticizing his emotional intelligence, which I compared to that of a teenaged squid. He’d retort that a deep ecologist with Ph.D. in environmental ethics (and who believed in biocentric equality) (me) should not demean squids (although he did once sign a card as “An Occasional Squid”).

Karl took those insults to heart and tried to impress me with cards and, occasionally, flowers (a challenge in a sweltering climate).

In August 2016, six months after his death, I write to Karl:

In your later letters, especially after your suicide attempt, I can see you struggling with your identity and so much wanting to be in a loving relationship with an equal partner. I greatly admire and honor how hard you tried – and how you ultimately succeeded. You worked very hard to develop self-insight and to express your feelings. I am sorry I called you a squid! I bless you for growing so much in our relationship.

The love of my afterlife

A bit later, writing from Brisbane, I apologize again for the squid insult: “I cry for the love of you as I read your poignant cards and letters. You are not a squid. I withdraw that. So many times, you told me you loved me. Women yearn for that. Thank you! I do feel loved.”

Karl replies:

I’m happy that you remember how I loved you. I did – and I do. You are the dearest one to me – the love of my life – AND the love of my afterlife!