Monday, January 31, 2011
I think I'm ready to try my hand at dating.
In thinking about the possibility of dating, I did something I have never done before, I went back and read something I wrote during my early days of being widowed. It was a post from my own blog, where I was discussing how our song, "Something Stupid," came to be.
In that post I was talking about the early days, when we were a very new couple, and love, passion, and sex, were all so new and exciting. We were in the throes of passion, and one of us said it, "I love you." Now looking back I could swear it was Michael who said it first, and he always swore it was me. In either case, we both ended up proclaiming our love, and then laughed about how vulnerable one feels when those words are first proclaimed. We talked about what it meant for each of us to be in love, and what we wanted out of the relationship.
In considering the idea of dating, I have to admit that I really miss being loved, both emotionally and physically. I worry that I may not truly be ready for this, or that my motives might be confused with my need for comfort.
Is it fair to begin a new relationship when my emotional needs are so high?
I also don't want to confuse sex with love. After having such a wonderfully loving relationship, one where I felt fulfilled if we were making love, or if we were just sitting side by side reading, I don't know if I will have the patience of mind to allow a new relationship to slowly develop. I fear that I am too needy. Will I become an emotional mess if something in a new relationship triggers past memories. Will a new potential partner be comfortable with the ghost of my late husband remaining a central presence in my life? Will I even find someone who will want to date me?
If I am honest, I would have to say that what I really want is for someone to come over and just hold me through the night. Is that too much to ask for?
I also worry that the first time I do have someone in my bed, that I will just become a wreck. I worry that it will take me back to those wonderful nights with Michael, and I'll either be filled with sorrow that it is not him next to me, or guilty that I have allowed someone to occupy what was once his space.
Maybe I'm not ready to begin dating after all. Maybe I'm just terribly lonely. Maybe I'm still holding on to something I used to cherish, but can never again be.
I wish I knew what was best for me. I wish I wasn't sitting here wishing that this had not been my fate. I wish I didn't talk to myself so much. I wish I wasn't so analytical.
Am I ready to start dating?
I think I'm ready to start dating.
Sunday, January 30, 2011
I had a conversation yesterday with a widower.
He's three months ahead of me
He wanted to meet me after his sister, a friend, showed him my black widow photo.
It was a conversation that felt good, connected and real.
It was a conversation with laughter and head nodding (which he didn’t see cause we were on the phone.)
It was a conversation of understanding.
It was a conversation of “Oh!! ME TOO!”
It was a conversation of faith.
It was a conversation of regret.
It was a conversation of courage and hope.
It was a conversation that made me sad.
It was a conversation that afterwards made me cry
for all that we both have lost.
It was a conversation that made me sigh for all that we have gained.
It was a conversation that reminded me that with pain comes wisdom
It was a conversation that made me realize (again) that while I didn’t want this life, I am moved by it
grateful for it.
Grateful because I can have a conversations with a widower and see my inspiring journey reflected in his words.
I can’t wait to talk to him again.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I must admit...I love films. Foreign especially, but anything thought and emotionally provoking will do. What can I say....Michael and I first kissed while watching "American Beauty", it's just the kind of couple we are.
Tonight I found myself watching "Anna and the King", a remake of "The King and I", which I thoroughly enjoyed with the widowhood struggles lacing the edges of the classic film. The remake did not disappoint, as I found myself jotting down favorite quotes that came 'aplenty.
It would be the final quote and line of the film that struck the largest chord, as no other words of the film could ring more true of Michael and the love he still fills my soul with daily.
But enough of my jabbering.....here it is:
"It is always surprising how small a part of life is taken up by meaningful moments. Most often they are over before they start, although they cast a light on the future and make the person who originated them unforgettable."
Though Michael and I had little time physically, in the whole scheme of our eternity with each other, his life and love cast the light that guides me daily. Through the tough times (that are ever present right now) or even the calm and reflective times....it's what our love has created together that spares me from the dark that has a know reputation of swallowing its victims whole.
To great films and all they remind us....slaint'e.
Friday, January 28, 2011
My minivan has a back-up beeper installed and I never fail to safety goggles when required.
I realize that teenagers at the bus stop snicker as I stride by sporting my safety vest covered in all its' reflective glory and a red light flashing out a constant reminder of the whereabouts of my hindend.
And in the past, I would have worried that this safety gear would identify me as a complete dork. A safety freak. Now I see it as protecting my kids.
By wearing this protective paraphernalia, I am hopefully preventing the possibility of creating two little orphans.
I am terrified of leaving them alone in the world. Without Daddy....and then without Mommy.
I have stopped short of wearing bubble wrap beneath my clothing. But I do get my flu shot and wear a helmet when riding my bike. For my kids. I'll do it because they do still need me.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
it's been awhile
since i felt
like this on
i never forget
or what happened
but sometimes i
i don't realize it's
the 25th until
i'm halfway through
but on this 25th,
i was feeling it.
i don't know why.
that evening i
she was excited
to see me.
and i was happy.
then a woman
"mason...your mommy's here"
said the daycare woman.
maddy looked up
the bluest of eyes.
(eyes like her mom).
(lashes like her mom).
her long, blonde
back in a ponytail,
bangs sweeping across
the right side of
(just like her mom).
a black cardigan
hanging on her shoulders.
(her mom loved black cardigans).
"i don't have a mommy."
she was looking at me.
but she was
saying it to everyone.
on the way
home we talked again
about her mom.
i told her
she could hear me.
she suggested a song
that she knew
would make me feel better.
the song played.
(her current favorite - "ladies" by lee fields).
i was happy again.
it wasn't the song...
it was her.
helping me through.
knowing when i needed
her to say something
to get me
out of a moment.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
.... for the loss of their spouse?
The answer is easy.
Oh, you can tell them to get their finances in order, to say "I love you" a million times, to make sure their name is on everything from the mortgage to the utility bills, but how can you prepare their heart?
I recently "met" a woman who reads my blog. She wrote to me, telling me that she will soon become a widow, and she wants to prepare herself as best she can, even though she doubts that is possible.
I told her that it's not, but that I could help her with the day-to-day stuff that could help her physically. I also reached out to many of my widowed friends and asked for their opinions. I've been sending her e-mails for about a week now.
The last time that I forwarded her some good avice, I realized that my heart wanted to tell her more.
So much more.
It was spilling over with all of the things that she should expect, that she will feel, not feel, cope with .... and not be able to cope with.
So I wrote them all down. Well, I didn't write ALL of them down, but I did give her a list of 10.
I told her to take this list and file it away .... for now. And then one day .... on one of the inky, black days when death is so much more inviting than life .... to try to remember to pull it out and read it.
I don't know if she'll remember to do so .... I hope that I'll be able to remind her.
It's not enough, but it's a start.
Please feel free to add to it so that I can pass your thoughts on to her, too.
I thought of some things that I think you need to know after he dies, though you may forget them when the time comes.
#1. You are NOT crazy. You will feel like you are. You will feel like you are losing your mind ..... but you're not.
#2. You probably already know this but, grief is very, very physical. It makes you sick. You can't sleep, you can't eat (or some can't stop eating), you can't concentrate on ANYTHING, you can't remember many things that you're told, or that you've said. I know that there were many people in my house that first week, but I have no idea who they all were. I would also say things to the kids and then have NO memory of it if one of them brought it up. It got to be scary. Then I met other widows and knew it was the grief. It definitely affects your memory in a big way.
#3. You will not be able to call someone for help. Many will tell you to call them, but they shouldn't do that (you might want to tell all of them this NOW). They need to just show up. They need to just sit with you. You will not know what you want or what you don't want. But just having someone sit with you, even in complete silence, or while you watch a movie .... is huge.
#4. Get your hands on as many comedy DVD's as you can. The girls and I watched one Will & Grace dvd after another. I wanted something to take my mind away for a moment and I wanted it to be funny.
#5. You will look forward to being asleep. Not going to bed, because it will most likely be very difficult for you to fall asleep. I would stay up watching a movie or TV until I was ready to drop and only then would I go to bed. Once asleep, you're not grieving and it's a wonderful break. It sucks to wake up (for a while).
#6. It will take you a long time to stop thinking, "Oh, I need to call Hank and tell him .......". I just thought it a few months ago when I ran into an old friend. Jim was the only other person I know who knew her and I thought I needed to call him and tell him what's going on with that family. It's only a nano second, but it's enough to take your breath away and get swamped by a wave. But it does happen less and less with time.
#7. You will still FEEL married for quite a while. Your heart will still be married to him. I took my rings off after about 9 months .... when looking at them on my left hand made me feel phony, like I was pretending that I was something I'm not. That's when I knew it was time. You'll know, too. It may take years ... or only days, but that leads me to number 8.
#8. There are NO rules for grieving. No matter what you hear, read, feel, etc. No matter what friends or family say ..... you will grieve as hard as YOU need to grieve, for as long as YOU need to grieve. You cannot rush it, you can't get around it. You have to walk through it and it's mostly 1/2 step forward, 5 steps back. It's long. It's slow. And it's hard. But one day you will be able to look behind you and see how far you've come.
#9. Most of the world thinks that the one year mark is a magic date. They think that you're pretty much past/over it (or that you should be). But you aren't. You shouldn't. For me .... and for many, many people (I hate to tell you this but I HAVE to be honest with you) the second year is worse than the first. The first is filled with hazy, shock-filled days. Maybe not so much for someone who knew it was coming, but still .....
The second year brings feelings like, "I should be doing better by now. Why am I not?". People are no longer hanging around your house, or sending cards or just checking on you. They have (as well they should) gone on with their lives and their families ..... and their husbands. So it's harder. The second year also brings the firm knowledge that he is not coming back. This really is your life now and it totally sucks.
#10. And the most important ..... you WILL survive. You are not alone, even when you feel you are. There are too many of us out here, but we're here. And we want to be here for you. If we can do something good because of the crap that's been dealt us, then it's not a total waste. I never wanted to join this club .... no one does. But I have met the most amazing people in it, and so will you. You will find much support and love. It's one of the strangest and yet most beautiful things I've ever experienced. When you "meet" another widow, in person or even just over the "net", you will feel an instant bond. You will feel a strong connection and it will probably last until you die. You will "get" each other .... without even having to speak. You don't have to finish a sentence .... we know. And we listen. And never judge or think anything negative about you, your grief, your actions ..... whatever. We all know that there are no rules and we all understand, in our core, the things that "others" do not ..... the things that you hope "others" will never have to understand.
So that was my "List of 10". As I just re-read them my heart started hurting, as it usually does when I hear about a new widow. I hurt for "H" and for lies ahead. I hurt for all of you who are reading this and so fresh on this road.
And I hurt because there's not a damn thing I/we can do to make it stop hurting for you. There are no magic words, no kissing of boo-boos, no perscription meds that will fix a heart once it's truly broken.
But there is hope.
Hope that you will get stronger.
Hope that you smile more.
Hope that your children will be ok.
Hope that you will find when you meet others of us who have made it a little farther down the road.
Hope does not come right away.
But it will come. In your own time.
Everything .... will happen .... in YOUR own time.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Monday, January 24, 2011
You are probably wondering why I am writing this letter. Usually I save the letter writing for the anniversary of the day you died, sort of a look back on the year gone by, but today I ran into D at the grocery store and realized that there are still some stories that only you would understand. Since the celestial phone appears to be out of order, I turned to my old staple, the keyboard, to update you on some news.
Our friend D has put her husband M into a full time care facility. He has been diagnosed with a complicated mix of dementia and Parkinson's disease. I haven't seen D in years and as we stood in the aisle catching up on marriages, babies, business, fitness, and all things small town...I asked, "How is M?" Her face fell and she told me about his new home like she was confessing a sin. As she stood quietly telling me the story of their medical journey, my mind flashed to our dinner out with them at that Italian place. Remember the one where the portions were so big we nearly rolled away from the table? The next memory frame was of the four of us riding bicycles down the trail getting them ready for that trip to Holland. You were so patient with M who was already struggling with memory loss and a sinking self esteem. I remember the nights you and I wondered about how long D would be able to take care of him by herself. As we lay in our dark room discussing the inevitability of what D and M would eventually face, we held each other a little closer as if to ward off the coming travesties of disease and mortality. All of this flashed in my brain as I stood between the chips and the sauces searching for the right words to let D know that we believe she is doing everything humanly possible to care for M.
As I walked away from our dear friend I turned to talk to you. I felt you next to me, and knew that for a moment we were standing side by side reaching out to someone we care about who is in a pain we knew would come. All the way home from the store I felt this need to call you. I wanted to ask you how it could be so long since we talked to M and D; relay the ins and outs of the story so you could ask questions that would identify any details I missed, and I wanted to revisit the days when we held each other a little tighter to ward off the long shadow of future trouble. But you and I have come to know the unpredictability of the future rather well, and we have been schooled in the reality that sometimes the shadows we don't expect are the ones that overtake us. Would we ever have thought that poor D would outlive strong, healthy, prime of your life you? Six years ago that idea would have been unthinkable, but what did we know then?
After fighting with an unsettled feeling all day, I sat down here to let you know that there are still days when you are the only one who will understand what I have to say. There are parts of my history so intertwined with yours that no amount of explaining to another will yield the same result as a good sit down chat with you. For a long, long time this realization was a searingly painful part of my everyday reality. But over the past five years I have learned to be grateful that you and I share a portion of my life that will never be repeated. As I forge my way forward into a future that unfolds with new wonder every day, I take comfort in knowing that there are parts of my past that belong only to us.
I love you,
Sunday, January 23, 2011
As far as I can tell, after someone dies there is no coming back, so here I am left with my better self, and Lisa not around to enjoy it. Damnit, she is the reason for it, she should benefit. So not only did she die and not get a chance to raise her three daughters, she didn’t be get the best part of me.
I look back on my life and wonder, how did I ever let something like a football game so consume my life? This past Halloween, someone had to tell me that the "big" Bears game was fell on Halloween, and if I went out with the kids I would miss it. Yet, if Lisa was alive, as ashamed as I am to admit this, I would probably try to get out of treat or treating with the kids to watch TV. But now with Lisa gone and the three girls solely my responsibility, there was no question about what I would do...definitely spend time with the kids.
I was a good Dad on Halloween. A real good Dad, including the party on Friday night with Girl Scouts that I took the day off work for, the costumes we bought, the trick or treating, the dumping of all the candy on the floor at night for sorting and trading between the girls. It was a good day. And yet, I lay there in my bed at night, feeling like crap. I wish I was this way when Lisa was around. But I wasn’t, and now she’s gone.
So, Thank You Lisa. I know I missed out on the potential of our lives together, but I will continue to raise these kids and do my share in this world because of you. They will get the best of me and I will try everything to get the best out of them.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
I'll never forget the night I got the news....
Charlie had cancer.
The dog that has been my best friend through life’s most painful tribulations. The dog that greeted me at our patio every day back from college. The dog that has never run out of love to give with his kisses and a simple tail wag. The dog that is the son to Michael and I. The dog that would not leave my bedside, not even for food or water, as I grieved the death of Michael in Iraq. The dog that senses when I am down and quietly lets me know that I am not alone. The dog that is not just a dog, but something more that few understand.
At first knowledge of the news I didn’t know what to say. The tears just rolled down my cheeks and seemed to never stop. He is the link to me and Michael, a part of us that still lives to know the depth of our love together. He is the one thing that has never left my side. I drifted into a dark place I hadn't been in since the beginning months of Michael's murder.
After Michael died I feared most for when Charlie or Maximus would pass away. I feared how I could deal with their absence, for I knew only Michael would be able to help me through it. But here I was, sans Michael, starting in on a battle for the quality and happiness of our son's life.
A veil of darkness had covered me in the weeks to follow. We decided on radiation and an oral chemo to kick the ass of the sarcoma that rooted from his nasal cavity. For two weeks we took the long drive north for his daily treatments. By the second week he became sloth like, but overnight the mass on his head went down and Charlie had a hop in his step. By December 31st, Charlie had officially finished his treatments and there was a 75% reduction in the tumor.
The past two weeks though have been rough. Radiation burns took over his face, and for once I started questioning if I had made the right choice for him. The pain from the burns was unbearable and again we started daily trips to the doctor. The past two days I've broken down in the office, telling the oncologist assistants and doctors that this isn't what I expected...that I was afraid it was getting worse. They reassured me that this was the worst of it and that it must get this way before it gets better. I replied with that I don't believe that....forgetting in reality that it is an example of my life since Michael's death. Nightly I spoke to Michael about getting Charlie and I through this.
I returned home last night, emotionally drained to my core. I walked through the door, and like all things....when I was running on empty in the hope department....it refueled.
Charlie was running around, eating more food than I could offer, kissing me, wanting to window surf.
I'm upset at myself for letting my optimism get sucked dry by fear, anger, and sadness. I was upset that ignored the fact that I know Michael is glad we decided to put up a fight, I feel it and know he is by my side, with his arm around me, assuring me that we’re all going to be okay. I've forgiven myself though, and today is a good day for Charlie and I.
Papa Giorgio (one of his many names) continues to teach me so much about unconditional love and life, in the sense that he hasn't given up, and he trusts my decisions and gets up every morning to face whatever is set in front of him. He's a fighter, and through the long haul we've both been through since his diagnosis, he still finds time for a kiss goodnight and each morning.
He always was more like Michael than I, but unknowingly, I see that he has seen me pull from the bottoms to the earth to try to find a reason to live, and in return, now has a bit of me in him too.
I love you Papa Jinkies and thank you for continuing to remind me just how to live life, how to love, and how to face the world each day....even when we may not want to.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Some of the fishing companies that Jeff had worked for would provide jackets for the crew with their name embroidered on the shoulder. Once when asked what Jeff wanted marked on his sleeve (he had a plethora of nicknames that could of been used in his name's stead), he had remarked, "Just Jeff". When his coat arrived with "Just Jeff" scribed upon the arm, he had thought it was ruined. I had thought it described him perfectly.
Recently, I have noticed that the person who Jeff was and who Jeff is now imagined to be has shifted. I feel that I alone (aside probably from his mother) can remember him with his real faults and with his true strengths. To others, he has become an icon.
I've heard him described as a 'Viking'. I've heard another express that he thought Jeff would have loved playing a Wii. When telling a dear friend how Liv had a MASSIVE temper tantrum and that I had (in the heat of the battle) told her that her father would have not stood for her hitting and kicking me, the friend said, "Oh yes, he would have. He was a sucker when it came to her."
I understand that the phenomenon that occurs when someone has died - they become someone in many people's eyes that they actually weren't while they breathed. But it angers me. I find myself correcting other's opinions, recollections and estimations of Jeff's personality. At times, the listener wants to stubbornly hold onto their new 'version' of Jeff. They argue with me, "I know Jeff would have given Briar a toy gun!"
But they're wrong.
He was huge, tall and strong. He could be crushingly terrifying - but he wasn't a warrior....at least not once he was old enough to have some sense. Jeff hated video games and thought they were a waste of time. Although Liv had Jeff in her pocket, he believed that children must treat their mothers with respect and kindness and at times, he was annoyingly intolerant of her childish ways. Jeff did hunt. He had guns. But he swore that they were not toys and that he would teach both of our children the proper use of these tools.
I am amazed and resentful that some people believe that they knew him like I did. I despise the image that they have created. I want to remember him as he was - Just Jeff.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
This is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals.
Yesterday, for the first time in over three years ..... I could hear it, and sing with it, without crying.
Not just tears-trickling-crying, but great, huge, gut-wrenching sobs-crying.
I have been changed.
Yes, in more ways than one.
When I was younger the term "for good" meant .... forever.
I have been changed.
I will never be the same.
In both good and negative ways.
We all know the negative changes this road has given us.
There are way too many.
And I won't bore you with a post that lists all of mine.
But I will give you a major one.
I am not naive anymore.
I never thought I was .... before.
But I totally was.
I am a bit "hardened" now.
I don't look towards the future with that same happy-go-lucky vision.
I know that there is no guarantee of a future.
I have lost the joy of looking ahead to the future and dreaming of what it might hold.
But I have also gained the ability to look at just today.
And I think that's a good thing.
I have been changed.
In many, many ways.
Again .... too many to write here.
Jim's love changed me.
And even Death can't change that.
I won't give it the satisfaction.
So yesterday when I heard that song beginning, and realized what song it was, I unconsciously started singing along. Before I really knew what I was doing.
And then I noticed.
And I sang even stronger.
I sang it for .... and to .... Jim.
Because I knew him ......
I have been changed .....
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Since that morning, it has been my highest priority to make sure that G has had everything he needs for as complete of a recovery possible. I want no doubts that I have done everything I can and that he will have a healthy and normal life, regardless of such a huge loss. I know there are no guarantees, but I don't want to ever wonder if there was something I could have done that I didn't. Highest on my priority list of things that he needs is this: he needs to learn the lesson that it sucks that his Dad died, but it isn't an excuse to let life get you down or to expect special treatment. Bad things happen to us all the time, we can't let them cripple us, and the world isn't going to tiptoe around us because of it.
The challenge with this lesson is that occasionally people do give him special treatment. Teachers are the worst culprits. They love children and generally have very soft hearts. They hear his story the first week of class, and then suddenly their standard for performance goes out the window. "Poor baby, he lost his Dad. We can't expect him to focus on....." You fill in the blank. In the past five years, this trend has gradually declined, as he is further and further away from the loss and they know it. However, the tendency towards lenience is still there. I suspect that they give him more chances and are more easily swayed by his charm. I think they grade him slightly easier and give him slack they don't necessarily give to all of the kids in the class. I fear that they are weakening him with their kindness.
I may be wrong. I may have set in my mind a high standard that isn't the norm in current schools. I'm not a teacher, so it's possible. I'm open to that. My fear is that I'm not wrong though, and next year, when G has 6 teachers in middle school - he'll drop into reality with a thud and be expected to perform without any special attention from his teachers and regardless of the loss of his Dad. I hope I'm wrong. I really don't want to find out that my "no excuses" plan for him has been undermined. He is a strong smart child. I really hope to find out that they have been treating him like one.
Monday, January 17, 2011
Blue has never been my color. I prefer to wear shades of grey, black or tan, although they are usually offset by my blue jeans. Blue has never been a color that I use in decorating my home, as it doesn't do much for me.
So, why then, have I chosen to wear these blue "shades" all the time? I have nothing against the color mind you. Actually, I used to think of blue as being a very beautiful and calming color. Since my husbands death though, I seem to always view the world in different shades of blue.
I know that there are times when I purposefully take my shades off, and try to see the world in all it's technicolor splendor. And for short periods I can see remnants of the beauty that once was my life. Without my shades I seem to appreciate the fullness of life, yet for very short periods of time. Most of the time the colorful hues of life are too much for me to bear, so I quickly put my blue shades back on.
You see, I seem to be making a choice.
I know that this blue vision of the world started some years back. My world definitely took a somber turn the day that Michael was diagnosed with his brain tumor. From that day forward my life seemed to lose it's magical splendor, and I began to see it from a very different perspective. When Michael died the shades of blue became much darker, and my perspective began to feel quite clouded.
I'm beginning to think that I am just not ready to see the world as it truly can be, full of the richness and vibrancy of life. To see these beautiful colors is to admit that there is much out there yet for me to experience. To take off these shades would mean that I am willing to enjoy life with all the richness and texture that I have either been denied, or choose to deny myself.
I worry that I have become too familiar with seeing the world through blue colored glasses. It's what I am now comfortable with. In some ways it may have become a crutch for me. Do I want to be happy again? Am I ready to experience a life not viewed entirely through my grief? Am I becoming complacent? Have I become married to a life that is less than vibrant, that is rooted in dark and somber hues?
I don't think I will ever again view my world through rose colored glasses, but perhaps by taking the chance, by removing my glasses of blue, I can once again see the world as it really can be, made of of many colors, with many experiences, and possibly with a piece of joy, and happiness, once again.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Written on Thursday, January 13, 2011 during my two day break from the kids.
I’m sitting on the floor of a four star hotel (paid for with Amex points)
I can’t seem to stop.
This is not how I wanted this break to go.
I wanted it to be about rejuvenation and rest and self-love.
Instead it feels, right now, like it’s about not enoughness and loss and fucking grief.
It feels like it's about transition and learning.
It feels like there will be no peace from the hole, the void, the confusion that has placed me on the floor of this four star hotel.
I got this email from a client, someone who should have never been a client.
She is upset with how I am working with her. I take her criticism and turn it global. I smear it all over my body.
what is wrong,
instead of just my wrong action.
After two glasses of wine,
I send a bit cocky email to a guy who I like.
This afternoon, I reread it and am amazed how there is no gentleness or softness, something I like to be, I need to be, I like to be with him.
I layer that mistake on top of the one I made with my client.
I become all things bad.
And then I open up my web browser
And I see
a photo of
Christina Green’s brother (Tuscon shootings)
wiping tears away.
I stand up, sobbing.
I pace the floor.
I walk over to the window, back to the hotel door.
Then without knowing that I am doing it,
I am on my knees on the floor,
hands covering my face, forehead leaning of the floor.
I laugh for a moment, I have spent a lot of time on floors this past one year and 8 months!
And I think:
How is it I’m grieving again?
How is it that the sobs can come from a place so deep I forget it exists?
I don’t’ want this life.
This is just too hard
The kids, the dating
I want it all to be easy
Because after what I have been through,
I think I deserve easy.
I want easy.
I desire easy.
what this is!
One sob out, a slower breath in and I remember,
it’s not them.
It’s not what they do or say or what I write or the photo I saw that leave me on the floor.
It’s that I have forgotten
I am still a well-functioning
The emotions from Art’s death are just a short dig, a disappointed client, a stupid email, a photograph away.
When will I stop being so sensitive?
Maybe that’s the
question. Maybe the question is:
makes me real.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
(A Recent Photo I Took on One of my 2011 Adventures)
“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.”
I must say, with each passing year it's as if another layer of sludge is washed away from my life....The life that began the day Michael was killed. I life I used to loathe to the core of my being.
But for once, I've been watching, I've been learning. I've been trying to understand that which I don't, and yet, with no answers I smile with the reflection.
I feel that so much has been bestowed upon me since becoming his widow, and yet, I find more of it that I love than I could ever hate. I've never looked away. And for once I am seeing the fruits of that sometimes painful action. I see the immeasurable gifts before me, and even more for my taking. And just as the quote states, I know it's because I never allow myself to forget. Forget the nights we sometime wish we never had to remember, the moments where taking my life seemed like the only means to an end of all that I felt was taken from us both, the moments where I cursed God for continuing to test me and my strength I sometimes ignore.
Those moments, though they will probably occur time to time until I'm reunited with my love, are the ones I sit here at my computer smiling over.
The questioning, begging, and pleading have gone on an undetermined sabbatical and I feel free. And I feel Michael. And I feel excited for where our story will continue to lead me.
And I feel alive.
And it's all I because I never forgot.....It's all because I'll never forget.
Friday, January 14, 2011
I have found that despite some very hard learning experiences, I seem to eventually bounce (almost) back. Although not unscathed by these events, I have found hope hidden in unexpected corners. It has been one of the gifts of losing the love of my life - I now can see clearly what is 'real'.
But now, suddenly, out of the blue, I am unable to climb back up. I am struggling with too much on my plate, too many issues needing to be dealt with and a grief that won't dissipate.
I smile and function. I do my job. I clean the house. I am struck by the kindness and love from others. But my heart is aching. The hope that I have been so able to suss out seems to have wandered elsewhere. All I can see is this life reaching beyond me with hurdle after hurdle to be leaped over. It doesn't seem to end and I am exhausted in every sense of the word. I miss Jeff with all my heart. I am suddenly fearful of the loss of my children to death. I feel like another tragedy is just around the corner at all moments. Lurking unseen to leap at me unexpectedly. Maybe this is why I feel that it will come - I don't want to be surprised so I force myself to expect it.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
through the branches.
a tea room.
a short walk
from my former home.
our former home.
for the last three
days i've stared out
through those branches.
at all of the places
we used to visit.
the circumstances that
led me to this
place, still unbelievable
(when i allow myself to think about them).
i've lived them.
i've written about them.
and for the
last three days,
i've read them aloud
to two strangers
and a microphone.
i dreaded this.
but i'm keenly aware
that this is part of
process for moving through,
so i did it.
the difficult part:
staring back at the
words i'd written
words that had been
stuck in my mind
since the day
to some degree
i'd let go of
them after i'd
written them down,
a cathartic process
necessary for healing.
but reading them now...
well, talk about
of staring out
through those branches.
at third street.
on the third day.
the end of the words.
not because it's
but because the
and once again,
i survived something
i never dreamed i could.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
After really sitting down to think about it and to honestly delve into the recesses of my mind (which was an exhausting trip, by the way) .... I think I can honestly say ...... no.
I know, as do we all, that we tend to remember more of the good times after someone dies. I also know, that many people seem to develop a severe case of "selective amnesia" when it comes to the dearly departed.
But as far as thinking Jim was a saint?
Ummmmmm ..... nope.
He was a very good man.
But he was human.
He was a good father.
But he was human.
He was a wonderful husband.
But he was human.
I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that we had a great marriage. And I never took it for granted.
I have "journaled" my prayers to God on and off over the years. I have a collection of books that I've kept. You could open any one of those books and turn to any page and there's a 99% chance that it starts with a "thank you" for placing Jim in my life.
I knew how blessed I was.
Did we have a perfect marriage?
There's no such thing.
We went through some rough times.
Believe me, with 6 kids there are bound to be rough times.
But the older we got, the better our marriage became.
We grew up together. Heck, he was 23 and I was 22 when we married. We met when we were 20.
After 27 years of being together .... we had a great thing going on. The kids were starting to head out and we looked forward to spending more and more time with each other in the future. And to traveling.
And marriages. And grandkids.
And then ..... well, you know.
The relationship that I'm in now is not like that.
We do not know each other, inside and out.
We did not grow up together.
We both have kids, houses, bills, jobs, etc.
We both have dead spouses (now that's a WHOLE 'nother post!).
Life is not fun and carefree the way it was when Jim and I met in college.
We had loads of time to focus on each other.
I don't have that now.
The feelings are not the same.
And, having been in love with only one man before this .... I have nothing else to compare it to.
So most of the time ..... I have no idea about what the hell I'm doing.
I don't know how "love" the second time around is "supposed" to feel.
And then there's the age old question: "How do you know that it's love?"
Hell if I know.
I used to know, but I don't now.
I'm guessing that the answer is still the same ..... you know when you know.
All I know is that this time around .... it's hard.
Very, very hard work.
Sometimes it would be so much easier to just say "Forget it. I do NOT need this in my life."
But then there are the times when it's really great to be with someone who loves you.
And it's nice to just be able to hold a man's hand again.
Someone asked me the other day how I could be in another relationship when I still love Jim so very much.
I boiled it down to this: I think that you have to make a decision. Do I want to keep my heart closed, and keep only Jim's love locked inside of it? Or do I want to take a chance .... and open it up JUST a crack ..... and maybe let some new love slip in?
I vote for the crack.
Maybe one day I'll be able to open it up fully. I don't know.
I have no desire to get married again.
Not today. Not ever.
That may change ..... it may not.
But right now ..... this day ..... I'm ok with it.
I will continue to live for this one day.
I will try to enjoy what each day brings and get through any waves that one may bring.
I will try to keep my heart open as much as I can .... to experience not only love, but life.
Am I trying to find another Jim?
There's no such thing.
Was he a saint?
Not by a long shot.
But he was mine.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
What caught me by surprise was the LiveStrong notebook. He hadn't had it for very long when he died, and I didn't remember if he had even used it. The notebook was a tool for tracking your treatments and doctor's visits. I saw it in the box and thought to myself - "should I keep this? I don't think he even got the chance to use it. I should flip through it to make sure before I get rid of it....."
I sat on my bed and casually flipped through the notebook, noticing the tabs for different subjects. I saw a few notes in his distinctive handwriting, and I began to pay closer attention to the content. One of the tabs was for recording diagnosis information and treatment plans. He had updated it for each diagnosis, including his last one, and the treatment plan for each - including his last. He only had three days at home between the time he was told the treatment protocol for his last treatment, and the time he went to the hospital and never returned. In that three days - while totally drugged up on morphine, Daniel wrote the treatment protocol in his notebook and left a space for his reactions to the treatment and his results. He never got to fill those in. He died the next week - his carotid artery suddenly burst by the cancerous growth in his neck.
The renewed realization that even in his last moments he was planning his recovery was a kick in the gut to me, and I sat there on my bed in shock. At the time I knew he was fighting to live, but to be reminded of it five years later was hurtful in a way that surprised me. It took me a few days to realize what bothered me so much. Even after his third and completely bleak diagnosis, he wasn't planning to die. He wanted so desperately to live. He didn't get the chance to really come to terms with his illness or its apparent shitty ending - it all happened too fast. I have always wanted to tell him how sorry I am that he died. I have always wanted to say how sorry I am that he tried so hard in vain. I've wanted to tell him it just wasn't f-ing fair to him.
We said a lot of things in those last few weeks, and I don't have any regrets or feel like I didn't say something I should have. But I think the notebook made me realize in a different way that I felt like there was something very important still unsaid. I shared so many things with him, and one of the most important events in his life - his death, I also shared with him. I was there with him, watching it happen. It was horrific for me, and I always wondered what it was like for him. We didn't get to talk about it. Clearly, you never get to talk to the dead about their death - at least not in this lifetime. Who better than the readers of this blog to understand that? It's true for all of us, but even 5 years later, that just sucks.
I like to imagine sitting in a pub with him and having a pint and a nice long chat about it all. Maybe some day we will.
Monday, January 10, 2011
This afternoon a good friend sent me a message. I opened the e-mail on my blackberry and saw a link but no greeting. After a quick glance I decided to investigate from my computer later. The indecipherable text was forgotten until I was working in my office later in the day, and remembered to open the message. All I found was a note that my friend shared a facebook page with me created by the community track team that Phil coached with for ten years. I clicked the link and immediately felt the oxygen being sucked out of the room. There were three photos of Phil among a gallery of old track photos posted front and center on the screen in front of me. The tightness in my chest that used to make my breathing shallow and my head ache returned as if the five years since Phil's death was only five minutes. I sat just staring at the photo above.
There is something about this picture that trumpets everything I lost when he died. This pose is so him. I know him, I can hear his voice, I can almost smell him, and I can hear his laugh in the corners of my mind. As I sat dumbfounded by my reaction, the grim helpless feeling that follows the realization that I can't turn back time began creeping in on me. The questions that used to torture me when the house was quiet and I was alone came whispering tonight...Why is this man dead? Why does this 100 watt smile only exist in my memory? Why does the boy in this picture have to mourn the death of his father? Why is it that one photo, one moment in time can throw me with such speed back to the helpless, breathless, unfair reality that dead is dead?
When I watched the photos of the track team scroll by on my computer screen I was gripped by a piercing longing for what used to be. Not because I am unhappy. Not because the life I live now isn't wonderful in ways I wouldn't have believed possible five years ago. Not because I don't love the man I am now married to who has blessed my life in countless ways. But because it still sucks that Phil is dead. When this hilarious, mischievous, infuriating, dedicated, stubborn, kind hearted, single minded man died, the rest of us were robbed. Sometimes the force of this reality still takes my breath away.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
I was wearing this t-shirt the other day.
It was a "you think your life is bad, I dare you to try mine" day.
I was feeling righteous.
I was feeling mad.
I was feeling "How dare you world go on and leave me here, in this life, struggling today to just do enough.
How dare you!"
I was willing to take it out on any poor sap who dared comment about death sucking.
So I put on the t-shirt, hoping that one person would comment,
would open their mouth and say
"Life can't be that bad." or something that would let me tell them
how bad my life was at the moment.
And then I saw her.
This young woman.
She made eye contact
and came towards me, purposefully.
I rehearsed my lines in my head.
She leaned into me, gently holding my arm and said
"I'm so glad you are wearing that t-shirt. I sometimes think I am the only one who truly believes that Jesus will rise again. Death does suck and that's why it does not happen to the believers. God bless you."
I give her a faint smile.
I leave the grocery story.
all the way home.
I take off the shirt.
My death suckiness day having come to an abrupt end.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
It's here. My fourth year of not being able to refer to my love alive.
But as somber as it sounds, it's also my fourth year of being living proof of just what the power and strength of love can get you through.
I've never set resolutions and hopes for each year, other than just trying to find more good days than bad in the months ahead....even if that would mean 184 good days and 181 bad ones. I want the good to come out on top...just like our love.....my strength that I tried to deny.....my hopes that I buried beneath the grief and pain for such a long time.
This year I will try and live by Ghandi's Top 10 Fundamentals. Not that I haven't in the past couple of years or already have many cemented into my being, but those that I don't I want to live them....not follow them. I want to wake each day and evolve. I want to continue being persistent in all that I believe. Remind myself in the moments where I feel helpless, take control of my path...my journey.
The things that I already have as a part of myself that are noted in his list I never want to let go of, I never want to doubt with any cell in my body. I want to continue embracing my authenticity and never have more fear for change than hope.
So 2011 will be amazing...I hold that pillar. I venture out into its foreign ground with my head high, my eyes wide open and my heart as my compass.
Friday, January 7, 2011
I am finding this new responsibility of being thrust into the world of solitary decision making terrifying...But I am doing it and it's okay. I would prefer to bounce all these thoughts, necessary choices and responsibilities off of Jeff, but I can't. So as I forge ahead with my life alone, I am finding these mountains that I am climbing difficult; but in someways, I am getting better at them. I am learning to trust myself and the believe that I can make these decisons alone. That I know what is right for me...or us.
Today, I sold our car. The car that Jeff bought me for Valentine's Day in 2006. The car Jeff died in. My little blue Toyota Matrix. It was small, safe and economical....But we had the truck for carrying larger loads and muddy dogs. I didn't need to bring multiple children in the car very often as I wasn't caring for anyone other than my kiddos or the occasional playdate.
But now, life is different. I am going to need to look to a future where I can bring in an income and care for my children alone. I need to be able to move objects by myself and cart various things home that would not fit in my little car.
So now, I own a minivan. I decided and made the deal myself. It was scary and I kept worrying that I was being taken advantage of....Possibly a bit paranoid. But I did it. Myself.
The kids and I quite like the van. It's a few years older than the car thus making it more affordable. It's clean and safe. It is blue just as my little car was...Jeff's favourite colour as Liv pointed out.
Liv had her trepidation about buying the van. She cried the first night and asked me to go get the car back because it reminded her of Daddy. I remembered crying when my dad talked of selling our little Vauxhal (a little white German car that our family had when I was a child - it`s floor was rusted out, we would watch the road go by as we drove along and we sang songs about `Daddy`s little Vauxhal`). It was certainly a different circumstance but I could empathize with her feelings of security and comfort in the car....especially after losing so much this year. But now, it is like a fort. She wants to show all her friends her new van. They ask to `play in the van`. I am loving the space and the ability to comfortably take our friends along.
So although one door has closed, another has opened. I do feel sad. I do have such fond memories of our little car that I had thought the kids would learn to drive. But I must be flexible and not hold onto things that do not provide the needs we now have just because they are a link to Jeff. This is a hard lesson to learn. But I am doing it.
Originally posted Nov. 29, 2008 - 8 months 4 days post-Jeff on my blog
Thursday, January 6, 2011
in three different countries
in 24 hours.
with pissed off adults.
most people would
hate such a situation.
but with a
those annoyances seem
(i'm sure you can relate).
and after a few
from my child,
those screaming babies
made me smile.
(the me from 4 years ago cannot believe the current me just wrote that).
and they made me
excited to see
my best girl again.
being without her these
past few days,
well, i just haven't
felt like me.
i just hope
she's quiet when
we head back
to los angeles
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I very often feel like I have a split personality.
I have passed the three year mark. I find these words difficult to absorb even as I type them. Hell, I never expected to live out the first year. And then I knew I wouldn't survive the second. I often thought that it was a shame that I couldn't just "think myself" to death. In fact, there were many days when I was surprised to find that I couldn't.
But here I am .... three years out.
With a split personality .... sometimes.
Life is getting "better".
I now smile and laugh readily.
My depressingly sad moments don't take an entire day (or week) to get through.
I am in a relationship.
And yet .... I still want Jim.
I still am brought to tears at the thought of his absence sometimes.
On New Year's Eve I was holding hands with a man who loves me.
But tears were pouring down my face because he wasn't Jim.
One moment I feel fine. Good, in fact.
And the next, I'm grieving again for what will never be.
I still do not look very far into the future.
I do better to focus on one day at a time, as do most of you probably.
The future was ripped away so I'm not sure when I'll be able to peer into it again.
But I'm ready to be happy.
I'm ready to live fully.
I'm ready to blend my personalities.
Damnit! He's been dead for THREE years.
It's time for me to look my grief straight in its face and let it know that it will not control me.
It won't cripple me.
It won't keep me from living.
It will not define me.
Jim wouldn't want that for me any more than I'd want that for him.
But I do acknowledge that it will always be a part of me.
My grief will be a beautiful part of me because it's about Jim and he was a beautiful part of me.
He made me feel beautiful.
Very, very loved .... and secure in every way.
My grief has softened me .... into a more compassionate person.
But it's also hardened me .... and let me know that I can endure anything.
All in all, it's made me a better person (in most ways).
So I will wear my grief proudly.
As one who loved and was loved beyond all reason.
And I will live positively.
As one who is sure that the love in her heart will never die .... not until she breathes her last breath.
There are two cups that sit on my dresser.
One reads, "Death Sucks".
The other reads, "Life is Good" (I just bought it this past weekend).
Yes .... after three years I can finally say ....
that death DOES suck ..... but life IS good.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
The setting of this movie is WWII England. The story consists of a mom and three kids struggling to make ends meet- Dad is away fighting in the war. Enter Nanny McPhee to save the day. I won't go into all the details of the movie - but ultimately the dreaded telegram comes and father is pronounced dead - Mom collapses and the kids are horrified and shocked. At this point, G reaches for my hand with tears in his eyes and says "we know what that's like Mom". It was a very brief but heartbreaking moment. I was grateful it passed quickly, but my relief was short-lived.
Happily, the telegram had been wrong, and Dad miraculously reappears at the end of the movie - they live happily ever after. This is good news right? Yes, but not to a child who knows that particular happy ending isn't in his future. My little G was keenly aware of the unfair reality of his story, and he burst into tears at the end of the movie: "I can't believe I haven't seen him since I was five. I'm ten." He cried for a few minutes, we talked about Daniel, and about how much cancer sucks. We talked about how we still miss him and that it's too bad there is no magic wand to make him come home. Grayson listed all of the things he'd give up if he could just see his Dad for one more day.
Not all movies with a dead parent (and there are so freaking many of them...what's up with that?) have this effect on him. I think it was really the effect of the holidays. It's hard on everyone who has lost someone, and its even hard on the little ones. We all talk about the waves of grief that hit us. Clearly the waves are there for our kids too. I'm grateful that he will share them with me. I'm grateful that he lets me be there for him when it hurts. I'm also so sad for him that he has to experience that kind of pain so early in his life. It sucks. The good news is, he's a survivor and I'm proud of him for being such a happy optimistic kid in spite of it. The waves hit him, and he jumps on his boogie board shortly after.
Happy Tuesday - Michelle D.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I had a dream.
Well, first of all, just having a dream is significant for me. I can count the number of dreams I have had since Michael died on one hand.
As with most dreams, there was no significant sense of time or place. In my dream I was returning home, which actually wasn't my home. What was disturbing was that someone had stolen our bed. At first I thought maybe someone had borrowed it, and was perhaps using it as a prop for a play, but no, it was really stolen. Why would someone steal our bed?
I went everywhere looking for our bed, and was getting more and more angry. Eventually I went back home to see if there were any clues, or to see if anything else was missing. When I arrived home I took a good look around. Everything seemed to be in it's place. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw an empty space on the book shelf. Our wedding photo album was missing. This was personal. Someone was taking Michael away from me once again.
Could this be happening? I thought I had already suffered all the loss that was possible, yet here I was still feeling like I'm on the losing side of life once again.
Michael keeps disappearing.
With each day that passes I feel further and further away from Michael. Since I recently moved, most of his things are still in boxes. I guess you could say he's been put away. With each month that passes I hear less and less from the people that knew him. Our bed has become my bed. What used to be a place where we expressed our love has now become a place where I feel most alone.
So it's no wonder that I feel like someone has stolen our bed, as it hasn't been 'ours' since September 2009. And with time I'm feeling less and less married. The life made evident in our wedding album is forever gone.
Last week's Christmas celebration was memorialized through pictures taken with my iPhone. There are many photos of my kids and my parents. After many photos were taken someone pointed out that I wouldn't be in any of them. I said, "oh, that's okay. I wasn't in any of them before Michael became a part of our family. It just goes hand in hand with being a single parent."
I had four years of living the dream. Now my dreams serve to remind me of what has been taken away.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Pallas was assigned this book in school. I would read sections of it to her. The first time I read the section below out loud, I could not finish it. I was sobbing as Pallas watched me curiously. Mau had put into words the way I feel about being a widow.
I hope you will read the entire quote for nothing I have read has fully encompassed what widowhood means to me than this single paragraph.
Back story: Mau’s entire family and village are wiped by a wave. The wave also shipwrecks Daphne (ghost girl). As the days go on, survivors from neighboring islands arrive. Mau and Daphne (both approximately age 12) find themselves in charge of building new lives for themselves and this new nation.
From Nation by Terry Pratchett
Daphne asks, “Would you go back? If you could?”
“How can I answer you? There is no language. There was a boy called Mau. I see him in my memory, so proud of himself because he was going to be a man. He cried for his family and turned the tears into rage. And if he could, he would say “Did not happen!” and the wave would roll backward and never have been. But there is another boy, and he is called Mau too. And his head is on fire with new things. What does he say? He was born in the wave, and he knows that the world is round and he met a ghost girl….. He called himself the little blue hermit crab, scuttling across the sand in search of a new shell, but now he looks at the sky and knows that no shell will ever be big enough, ever. Will you ask him not to be? Any answer will be the wrong one. All I can be is who I am.”
There was a woman and her name was Kim.
I see her in my memory and she is a fairly happy person and she has a husband and three children and dreams of being “somebody.’ She cried for her husband when he died and couldn’t see how she could live with such great loss in her life. She would say “I can’t do this.” She would wish her husband alive, make bargains in order to bring him back. And would spend long periods of time wondering around her house, functioning but unable to think or move without her husband. She wondered how she was going to get through the day.
There is another woman named Kim too. And her mind and life are on fire! She says “OMG! I can do so much and I feel so happy!” She was born in her husband’s death. She sees his death as his last gift to her. She has discovered herself and her courage. She sees that life is full of hope and fun and new things. She sees her abilities are growing and she discovers new ones too.
Can I ask her not to be? All I can be is who I am.
I spent the last moments of 2010 making a list of all the things that I am grateful for in that year. In contrast, I spent the last few moments in 2009 (the year my husband died), praying/hoping/begging God to make 2010 better. I gave 2009 the finger as I stepped into 2010.
I gave 2010 a sweet kiss and hug as I stepped into 2011. I cannot go back. And I cannot ask me not to be, either. The old me and the new me make up this me whose potential I am quiet excited about.
If you are new to this journey, if you don’t know how you will make it, know you don’t have to know.
None of us knew.
I still don’t at times.
But there is one thing I do know, the pain does not last. It comes less frequently and with every time, every cry, every longing, I find nuggets of courage and light.
In 2010, I discovered my strength, my courage and my ability to handle adversity. It was not pretty and yet I stand here before you in my newly discovered inner beauty.
And by jove (I have always wanted to use that saying!) if I can get here, so can you.
Welcome to 2011! May you marvel and celebrate your strength!!
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Another year I venture into without Michael. Officially the 4th year that I cannot reference Michael to being in.
I do not know what this year will bring as each year has been different.
2007-2008- The years of the "fog" and immense anger displacement on loved ones for not getting what the heck I was going through.
2009- Pretty good! I started figuring out and actually utilizing the fact that I am the one that determines when I actually want to start living again. All the things that I did were suddenly enhanced by the fact that I was seeing the world with "new" eyes.
2010- It had its ups and down. More ups than downs which I mark as being the dictator of whether the year is good or bad.
Leaving me to enter 2011. From looking at the past years, I've got to admit that they actually are getting better with each one. I never look back at the horrible years and say that I should have done anything differently, as they allow me to savor the contentment and happiness that have oozed in afterward.
I wish that to continue for myself and you.
Happy New Year.