Friday, August 29, 2014

Bored Together, Bored Alone

Okay. Once again, I FORGOT to write in here late last night, by the midnight pacific time deadline. Woke up this morning and did some errands and had my coffee and prepared my teaching syllabus for college courses that start next week, and then, BAM!!! Out of nowhere, again, I suddenly remembered that I'm a widow who writes for "Widow's Voice." Oops. Seriously, how many freakin' times am I going to forget to write in here? You would think at some point, it would just become part of my overall being, and I would simply remember. You would think writing "WV" in big letters on my desk calendar, listed underneath Thursday evenings, would be a big enough hint for me to remember. You would think that the fact that I spend several hours a DAY, everyday, writing my book, which is about losing my husband to sudden death, would spark my memory that I have to write in here. You would be all kinds of wrong. I still forget. And it's been 3 years since he died, so I kind of think that using "widow brain" as an excuse at this point is a bit lame. At some point, I need to just own up to the fact that I'm a huge scatterbrain.

So here we are at 1pm eastern time on Friday, and I'm just now writing my piece. Sorry!!! I will say that my brain IS on overload this week and this month, because I've been spending a good part of the summer writing this book about this loss, and trying like hell to have it done and self-published by the end of this year, and it's been way more emotional writing and re-telling and re-living all of these stories and memories, than I ever thought it would be. Last night I cried so hard while writing the piece about the day I knew I was in love with my husband (before he was my husband, obviously.) So I'm very tired, and I also need to take breaks from all this writing. Not just because my fingers hurt after typing for hours on end, but because my body needs to get up and move and walk and go outside and talk about something besides loss and pain and death. So here we are at Labor Day weekend, upcoming holiday, gorgeous weather in NYC-area, and I really need to take a mini-vacation from all this writing, at least for a couple of days. The problem is, as soon as I made the decision to do that, I very quickly realized that I have zero plans and absolutely nothing to do.

I feel like I have spent so much time alone lately, which is okay, because I dont mind doing things alone. But there has to be a balance. I also need friends. I need company. I need to talk with people or just sit with people or connect with people. What I would love to do this weekend is sit with some friends by a pool somewhere, and just chill out, have some drinks, and jump in and swim and wade the weekend away. The problem is, I really dont have anyone to do those things with, which is odd, because I do have a lot of friends. However, it seems to me, that whenever I am feeling lonely and bored and it's a weekend or a holiday or both, all of my friends are somehow busy doing their own thing. "Their own thing" usually means hanging out with their significant other, or their own families, in the case of my many friends with kids. I do have some widowed friends, but none that live close enough to me that we can go away somewhere for a weekend together, or none that I feel close enough with to want to do those things. A lot of my widowed friends also have kids, so our lives are just very different sometimes. Then I have widowed friends AND single friends, who like the "singles" lifestyle. Hanging out at bars on weekends, loud clubs, drinking, trying to find dates or hook-ups. That is just not my thing. So lots of times, what Im left with, is myself. I don't mind speding time with myself, but it's getting a bit old. There are a lot of days I feel so lonely and so bored, and just don't know what to do about it. Then I remember the days of sitting around and being bored with my husband. How glorious and ordinary and wonderful that was, to be bored WITH someone else. To hang out together and do nothing all day long, and not care. Now, on days like today, I feel restless and depressed and sad. I miss my buddy. My friend. My person to sit around and do nothing with.

This sucks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

iPhone Blues





I lost my phone.

Normally that sort of thing doesn't faze me. Yeah it's a pain and an expense to deal with, but I'm not so attached to the smart phone world to mind living without it for a few days. I can lock it remotely (yes, if you have an iPhone I highly recommend the Find my iPhone app), my contacts are backed up, and I can borrow other phones in the meanwhile.

But...it was Mike's phone. I remember how excited he was to get a smart phone a few years before he died. He was so enthralled with the idea of live video chat; that he could laugh and talk in real time with his daughters, and baby grandson. He downloaded all kinds of apps and games and I'd often find him in deep concentration over a game of Angry Birds, or sitting listening to his iTunes or Pandora. He was mesmerized by the technology. He felt like it was only one step away from have a Dick Tracy watch, something he loved reading and dreaming about when he was a kid.

Me on the other hand couldn't be bothered. I couldn't care less about having a smart phone - in fact I stoutly refused to get one. I wanted to hold out as long as possible before entering that world. I was already resenting seeing people sitting together at a restaurant for example, not talking but each staring into their ridiculous little rectangles, their eyes glazed over, hypnotized by the virtual reality.

We used his phone after he died to call a lot of his friends, but I still didn't consider using it myself. My stepdaughters encouraged me to take it over but I couldn't imagine ever needing to use Facebook on a mobile device. I found the whole thing ridiculous. But eventually they convinced me. My stepdaughter Heather even put my line on her family plan to help out which was an amazing thing to do. I remember the day I went in to the phone store and they deleted his line, and put my number in. It felt horrible to lose it into the ether...just another part of him, gone forever. 

But, I did have his phone. It  was a little out of date and kind of slow compared to what I see other people have now, but I didn't care. It had all his pictures on it (yes, I backed those up too, but it's not the same), all his contacts in addition to mine, all his music, apps, backgrounds and sounds. So losing it is like losing another little piece of him. 

It's just a thing, yes...and yes I have cleared out many of his other belongings. But certain items do seem to have a stronger importance, or vibe, to them.

For example, after he died we all freaked out when we realized his favorite wrist guard which he used for his archery was missing. We couldn't find it anywhere. It hurt a lot - I cried about that wrist guard many times.  I feel very much the same about his phone. A dig in the depth of my gut; a twist in my spirit about a material object that represented so much about my husband, but has gone missing along with him, somehow.

Eventually I made peace with the idea that that wrist guard was just a thing, and I had others of his things and there was nothing I could do about it anyway. But one day, about a year after he died, I decided to move his mattress, and found the wrist guard had been somehow wedged underneath. I stood there, stunned, for about a minute, trying to figure out how this bit of leather we had all longed for had suddenly appeared unexpectedly. But there it was. 

Maybe, someone will call the "lost phone" app number I entered. But it's been a few days. Pretty unlikely. Probably, it's gone. I probably  won't get it back as miraculously as that wrist guard reappeared.

I don't find that living without my smart phone is any real challenge. The little beeping and chirping rectangle I'd carried with me so closely and religiously all this time is now gone, but I haven't gone into withdrawal. The sadness is only due to its energetic connection to my husband, who is also gone. And that, I will admit, hurts very deeply.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Changes and Things~

We all arrive at that time after our loved one dies where we look around and see what remains.  What remains of a person who filled our lives in one way or another or so completely that we look at their physical belongings and are struck with disbelief that this is it.  The sum of their existence.

My husband and I specialized in not being attached to external things.  In 2009 we sold our home in Jersey and most of our belongings.  A few special things we put in storage while we figured out what direction our lives would take us.  And then we decided to stay on the road, adventuring, and we donated more and more of what was in storage.

After Chuck died, I spent a day going through that storage unit.  I held his clothes against my heart, inhaling, striving to find some remaining scent of the man who impacted my life so hugely.  His scent was gone, of course, and, one by one, I placed his clothes in a bag for donation.  Piece by piece, memory by memory.  It wasn't easy, but with each article I thought well, if he were here, he'd want me to donate these rather than keep them in a storage unit.  So I took a deep breath and gave them away.

I kept a few things;  a couple shirts and pairs of pants I really loved seeing him wear.  Three of his ball caps.  His military uniforms, both dress Blues and BDU's.

Mostly, what remains of his clothes travel with me.  Those shirts and pants, the jacket from his BDU's (he looked so hot in those!).  His flag, his dog tags, his cremains.  His wallet.  The mustache comb he used almost absent-mindedly at times.

I don't want external reminders much, because they put my focus outside of me, where I can't find him.  I want to hold him close in my heart and feel him there.  Deep in my soul, in the marrow of my bones, and external stuff is a distraction for me, using energy I don't have.

You know what is hardest to rid myself of?  Things I had from our final time together.  Recently my tooth brush wore out.  I'd kept it unused for a while after he died but finally used it and now its worn out and I need to toss it.  And I'm having the damndest time doing that.  What I had when we were together, when our lives were filled with a future....those things require deep breathing through the pain and the desolation.  A shampoo bottle from our commonly used shampoo. Simple things that were of every day use and little noticed, until now.

I miss Chuck so very much.  I miss seeing him comb his mustache.  I miss seeing him striding towards me with a smile on his face.  I miss his wink at me from across the room.  I miss his arms around me as we slow-danced.  I miss his strong shoulders that supported me in hard times and good.  I miss his encouragement of me to live my best.  I miss his magic in my life.

Things?  No, they don't matter much, because they are ultimately temporary.  Instead I want to remember all the things about him that I miss, and hold them close and, in doing so, feel him so much and so deeply that he becomes me and I become him.  I want to feel him so strongly in my heart and soul that it will be as if he is still wrapping his arms around me.  Wrapping the loneliness from me.  Exorcising the grief and pain from me until I become nothing but the love he had for me and I, for him.

Sheer pure love.  I seek to become that and, in doing so, find again the very essence of what is stronger than death can ever be, what Chuck and I shared so vividly in life, fueling me in this life that I must create without his physical presence.

Just sheer love.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I hate to ask.... again

Saturday morning I woke up with a 103 temperature.

So as soon as a reasonable hour hit, I called my parents, asking if they could look after John for the day. 

On short notice.

Again.

Yet another thing I hate about widowhood.  That sometimes you need to call on assistance to the point where you KNOW it's impacting others. Maybe asking them to go that step beyond their general helpful-human being willingness to help.  Especially if your circle of available assistance is limited. 

Before I called, I spent a couple of hours considering if I could manage on my own.  Just push on through.  But I can't really leave a three and a half year old running amok in the house, while it turns out, I sleep for 3 hours.   If he was 10, I could possibly get away with it.  But definitely not this young.

I knew my step-mother had a chunk of work to do, and also know how hard it often is to get anything done when John's around.  My Dad had standing commitments, so wasn't going to be around for the afternoon.

I keep worrying that he'll grow up and tell me that he felt abandoned as he kept being shipped off to Papa and Nini's house.  I know he's feeling it at the moment as he keeps telling me he doesn't want to go to their place; that he wants mummy.   He's with them a couple of days/evenings a week for 'grandparent' care while I'm studying as it is.  Some weeks of the month he's there more with commitments I want to keep up with for my own sanity.

At least this was only a short-lived thing, by late afternoon with the help of paracetamol and sleep, my temp was down to a level I could manage the short-person and his energy.

Which meant dealing with this...


Monday, August 25, 2014

Peace?



I've been thinking about the loss of my mother a lot lately. She died in August, so no wonder. This time of year, her absence is particularly palpable.

She's been gone 33 years and I've never gotten over her death. I don't feel at peace about it. I feel a missing part, a vacuum where she should be. I rail at the universe for a life without her. I'm not okay with the fact that she had to leave me when I needed her most and when she most wanted to be here with me. In the last 33 years, I've adjusted to carrying around this loss. Mother's Days continue to hurt with an intensity that surprises me every year. But I've carried this with me for so long that I no longer know what it's like to not feel it. But no one should grow up without their mother.

It's been 3 years since Dave died so of course I'm in no way at peace with his death. I'm not over it. I can see that I never will be and I never will be at peace with his loss. I'm not okay with him being sick and scared and dying without my presence in the room. I'm not okay with our being ripped apart long before we should've been. I will just learn to continue to incorporate it into my new life and live side by side with it. I will continue to learn to live with a missing piece. A person I'm still linked to but cannot be with.

No matter what happens to me now, I continue to miss out on life without my mother. And I continue to miss out on life with Dave, even though I'm living a beautiful, full life without him now, too.

I have driven by the house Dave and I lived in together exactly 2 times. This last time was just a few weeks ago. I looked at that place that was home for us for over a decade and had the strangest sensation. It was this hallucination that I was somehow in two parallel universes at the same time. I was in this life, without Dave in it, and I was also back in that old life. It's very much like the feeling I get when I see a mother and daughter together, especially a grown daughter. I feel as though I'm in my life, watching what cannot be while somewhere, somehow, my mother and I are together again, me as a grown woman and her in her 60s.

Two lives. The one that could've been and the one that is. This life without them should be really lived in order to make up for their loss.

I don't believe their loss should completely define me or that it will restrict me from living fully now, but I will not agree with someone who claims I should be at peace with it.

Both losses have shaped me and will continue to. And that is okay. Why wouldn't they? They are my intimate companions whether I like it or not. I can and will continue to work on integrating them, but I won't be at peace with them.

I don't think I have to in order to heal and live.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spirit

"Spirit" © Sarah Treanor 2014 
Living with the loss of partner, or any great loss, is one of the most challenging things we will ever face in life. It sends us on a journey through the fire – into a darkness the likes of which we have never experienced before. It brings us to our knees and breaks us. Severely. I certainly remember this feeling well. Before my fiancĂ© died, I knew I could handle anything that life threw at me. Only I didn’t really know that at all…
On the day he died, and the dark days thereafter, I came to find out what it really means to be able to handle anything life throws at you. To lose a soul mate – particularly in a sudden way – takes you to a place more painful and terrifying than I ever knew could exist. It breaks you right down to your bones. I know… I don't have to explain that to any of you. You have all, unfortunately, been there too.
I feared for my life – in a very real sense, for probably the whole first year. I feared for my life because I feared the death of my spirit. I was so badly broken that I honestly did not know if my spirit could ever recover. I was afraid that I would become dark and lose my sense of childlike wonder and hopefulness about the world. That this brokenness would overtake me and I would not be able to come out of the fire with my eyes ablaze anymore.
YET… I can still recall in the midst of it all – in those first hours and days and weeks – something inside me WAS ablaze. Something inside me was saying that this world can throw anything it wants to in my face and I will not stop believing that this life is beautiful. Or in the words of Mr. Tom Petty… “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, and I won’t back down”. (one of my go-songs right after he died, and still today).
I didn’t really know it at the time, but am quite certain now… that this was my spirit. This is the kind of stuff that amazes me about the human spirit. How broken we can be and yet still somehow, inexplicably, that soul part of us stands up for our broken human self. It doesn’t mean we feel any less broken. Or powerless. Or scared. But what I do know is that listening to my spirit was – and still is – something that gave me the ounce of strength I needed each day to get up and keep on trying to figure out what to do with all of this.
Looking back over things two years later is incredible at times. Because it feels like no time has passed at all – and often I still feel like I’m back at square one with my grief. But other days, like today, something lends me some perspective. And on days like this I can actually begin to feel like, yeah, I’ve crawled out of the fire… out of the worst of the darkness. This week's image from my "Still, Life" self portrait series is about just that. I’ve been battered and bruised and burned and scarred by this long journey, and I will be battered and bruised and burned and scarred much more before my time here is done… but I have not been brokenMy eyes are still curious, my heart is still hopeful, and my spirit still burns bright… perhaps, even brighter than before. 
"Still, Life" is a weekly self portrait/written series I am doing for the entire year of 2014 - all about my journey of living with loss. To see more of this project you can check out my blog at 12moc.com

Widows Do the Darndest things

Source

This week I found myself participating in some very strange widow behavior, searching google earth for images of my husband when he was still alive. It started last week when I was using the program to check an address and noticed there is a sliding time line in Google Earth where you can go back weeks/months/years and see satellite images from previous versions. I was playing around with it and saw that one of the date options was the 24th of July, 2013. The day my husband died.
I immediately entered in the street address where he died and looked to see if there were any police cars, ambulances, etc, but he died at 11am and the sat image was taken around 10:15am. I can't describe the feeling in my stomach, I felt sick but frantic, like I needed to find him. Not sure why, I know I couldn't go back in time but I couldn't switch it off. So I then spent about 45 minutes looking for him in different places and times, at locations where we would often visit.
Until, I found a trace of him. His car parked out side my sister and brother-in-laws house. There were a lot of cars, so I'm assuming we there for some kind of party (but I/we did/do spend an awful lot of time there anyway).
I got so excited, like I'd found him and won some kind of challenge or competition. However as that wore off I just  sat there, kind of in shock. Yes it's his car and that satellite image shows a moment in time where my life was normal and innocent and happy, but it doesn't bring him back. He's still gone forever.

Wondering if had crossed the delicate boundary into ‘unhealthy behaviour land’, I turned to the only people who might understand, my widow friends. As usual, their responses were reassuring and comforting – a pretty solid 50/50 mix between ‘yep, I’ve done this too, you’re not losing your mind’ or ‘What a great idea, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!’. 

There are so many layers to this widow thing.  After doing it for a year, I thought I had discovered them all.  Yet here I am, again surprised by some of the thoughts that flood my mind or the things I do to try and feel close to Dan and to create new memories with him.

I think that's what it's about for me.  On the day he died, I lost the chance to create new experiences with him.  I feel lucky to have shared some beautiful memories together and will cherish these and hold them dear for the rest of my life.  But 20 months is not enough.  I want and need more of him.  

I create these new memories by pouring through photos of the travels he did around the world in his 20's.  Looking at them much more closely than I ever had before.  I didn't know him then and wasn't there with him, but I find myself looking for a deeper understanding of who he was and what he did during his 34 years of life.

I also pour through the box of his childhood memories in our spare bedroom.  The diary he wrote as a young boy for a school assignment,  photos of his school formal, the messages his friends scrawled across his school uniform on their last day, where he was 'school captain' and had the world at his feet.  

I just want so much more of him.  I miss him so much.