Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar goes to...

No, I'm not watching The Academy Awards. Not that it doesn't interest me. I used to be one of those people who saw every single film nominated, even the foreign and sometimes documentary. I love film, and I love story telling, but that love, those interests, are part of those things that have dropped by the wayside.

Friends and family are still often surprised. "Hey Dan, did you see..?" No. "Hey Dan, what film could you recommend?" Well, I haven't seen anything, so I'm no longer the person to ask. I have no interest in going out anywhere these days. I have no interest in viewing other people's lives.

But I do know one thing, they forgot to list one very talented actor from this year's list of nominees.


Best Actor in a staring role....Dan!

This life that I am now leading is one that takes careful, and trained, execution. Before heading out each morning, I am already studying my lines. What will I say when asked how my weekend went? What will I say when other's ask how I am doing?

Nobody where I now live and work ever knew my husband Michael. They never knew me when I was happy. They didn't know me when I was on top of the world. They never new me when I was filled with love.

At my last job I was the only person there who was widowed. Nobody had anything to compare me to, so I was a bit of an anomaly. At my current job there are two of us. A widow, and me. I remember not so long ago my office mate said that someone remarked to her that Dan seems to be handling the death of his spouse very well, and that I didn't seem as emotionally fragile as my female counter part. My office mate looked at the person and said, are you serious? She went on to say that I put so much effort into getting through the day, but if you stop and take a good look at me, you will see the enormous pain just below the surface. And, if you follow Dan out to the parking lot at the end of the day, you will likely see him in tears.

You see, acting is a difficult profession. It requires you to stay in character through a sometimes very long and grueling day. When my day is finally over, I have to almost run out of the building, because my pain begins to ooze out of every pore.

When a new day begins, especially on a Monday after the weekend, I have to prepare something to share about how I spent my time. Explaining how many hours I actually sit and do nothing just doesn't cut it. Talking about how many minutes a day are devoted to getting lost in memories of him, or getting thrown off by unexpected jabs to the heart, aren't often what people want, or are prepared for, to hear.

And let me say this about my time at home. While I am often very honest with my kids about how much Michael is still on my mind, and in my heart, I cannot be falling apart around them all the time. Even though I have a staring role in my own life, I play a supporting role in theirs.

As a parent I have to be prepared to tend to their needs, and emotions, at any given moment. I have to be prepared to stop what I am doing, be it typing on this computer, or crying in my bedroom, and go cook them dinner, or rush them to the ER when they fall face forward from their bike and split their lip!

And somehow I do this with great finesse. Apparently, I'm one damn good actor, because no one around me thinks to ask if I'm needing any help? No one around me stops to think that what they say in front of me might make me feel hurt, or slighted. No one stops to realize that perhaps while they are off having wonderfully romantic, or exciting weekends together, I am at home, sitting on my couch, staring at this computer, or staring off in space.

What did I do this weekend? Not a damn thing. What did I feel this weekend? Sadness, loneliness, and that I really need to get my shit together. But, just once, wouldn't it be nice to have some occasion to get dressed up for? I don't need a red carpet, a fancy tux, or even a beautiful trophy. I just need a place where I don't have to be acting. I need other people around who are interested in what is really going on with me.

Well, the night is still young, and the award show is still going, but I can tell you this much, I don't win. Why? Well, because I am all about loss, right? I'm not on the winning side of life, at least I haven't been for awhile now. It's okay, I've come to accept it. I've learned to keep that ever present smile on my face just in case the camera quickly pans my way. And, just like the nominees that will go home empty handed tonight, I have to be a gracious loser. You know the drill: "Just be happy for what you had."



  1. Dan, if I could i would reach out there and give you a hug, a cup of hot chocolate and then we could fold laundry and talk for a couple hours.

  2. Hi Dan, I am sending hugs your way. I have been in tears for the last 4 hrs just missing my husband. Nobody I know has a clue so I guess I could tie you for the oscar, lol. I was looking at photos of my grandsons and it hit me how very long ago 4 yrs was--they were so little then. However, I swear it seems like he was still sleeping next to me last night, laughing and being my other half just a day or two ago.
    I want to scream to the universe why? I must get sleep so I can go to work and face everyone with a smile and talk about the things I did this weekend as if it actually mattered. Great blog. Wish I could hug you and tell you it will be ok. Sandy

  3. Dan, I could not agree more with what you have said in your post! I so often feel like I am acting also. People do not get what it is like to live this way. I just keep thinking "fake it till you make it", but it has been a while now and at least now I can drive down a street sometimes ,we use to drive and not burst into tears. I was just thinking how at least now all the memories do not always hurt, some even make me laugh- remembering what he would have said ot done in a certain situation. it will get easier with time, but you will never forget and sometimes it will still hurt like hell to remember! But hang in there and know there are so many out there like you- your co worker for instance, gets it!

  4. always did hate horror movies.

  5. I used to think too that perhaps people didn't notice b/c I was good at "putting on a face", but now I realize that people are just wrapped up in their own lives to the point that even if they notice, they don't have the extra energy or interest to offer.

    We assume that others have happy lives that are more fulfilled and luckier than our own, but we there is no way we can be sure of that really, is there?

    Some of moving on is finding something to move on to and until that happens we sort of hang in the moment or drift back to better moments past. It's a perfectly normal thing to do. Everyone does it regardless of cause.

    Winning and losing is so subjective in terms of life fulfillment and neither are anything more than transient.

    For a long time I wondered if what I'd had with my late husband was all that was meant for me this lifetime, but it wasn't. Had it been, I'd have made other plans. I knew such loneliness before him and know so many who have never had what I did that it's a bit hard for me to dismiss the "being happy for what you had". But I know too that it's hard to hear and it feels like the universe is handing you an empty box as a gift in its place.

    I only acted for kids - my own and my students. I didn't owe the rest of the world a performance and they weren't really watching anyway.

    Chin up, Dan. You are probably doing better than you think you are. In addition to acting, we are terrible self-critics too.

  6. I definitely understand what you are saying. It just makes me crazy when somebody I work with says something stupid and then they say "oh, I forgot - you just act so normal!".

    Really? How do you expect me to act? Do they want me to cry all the time? I hate it when they say they forgot - as if I can ever forget even for a second that my life is turned upside down and his is ended.

    Annie above is right though, people are so wrapped up in their own lives that they do forget.

  7. Bravo, Dan! My life has felt like one big act since my husband died. I didn't leave my house the entire weekend..and a large part of me could care less. Going out doesn't make coming home to an empty house any easier. When friends/family ask me what I've been doing, I lie. Who knows why I really do this. Am I trying to protect them from the pain? Maybe the day will come when I answer questions/comments truthfully-I'll keep you posted..should be interesting.

    Thanks for your honesty!
    Connie H.

  8. I'd vote for you, if the Academy of People Lost Without Their Loves had an award show. It would be an occasion to get dressed up and laugh, which would feel good for a change. Maybe something we should think about.....

    You are doing an amazing job, but I totally understand the acting part. I also have tears in the parking lot, more often than not. I also have to plan what I'm going to say when people (who knew and worked with Austin) ask me if I had a great weekend. And I do agree it's because they are so wrapped up in their own lives that they don't even think twice about ours. Sadly, human nature can be so isolating.

    Love you!

  9. Really enjoyed this post! You are so exactly right. I've said it a few times as I put my make up on in the morning...I'm putting my mask on. It isn't easy. You're doing really well and I think we're all your supporting actors!

  10. Get outta my head. Seriously. I was just telling my therapist at my last session that maybe I should have been an actress, since everyone at the office seems to think I'm fine, together and competent... but it takes SO much energy to maintain that facade for nine hours every day, I'm completely exhausted after work. Half the time I'm in tears by the time I get to my car in the parking garage. I wish it would get easier... for both of us.

  11. Thank you for your honesty. I'm past 2 yrs, and I just spent 4 days w/o leaving the house. How do you replace your partner in life. Its just never the same. Its just so dam hard. I'm just coming to realize all that I've lost. And there is no solution except time. I don't see how to reconstruct my life. Its different and that is so devastating, more so now than when he died. and I don't know how to make it better. God bless us all--"blessed are those who mourn.."

  12. I like the analogy to the Oscars. I have a different perspective than some of the people who have commented...I'm seeing a pattern of everyone trying to hide their truth and emotions because of what others might think. Why do we have to hide? If you had cancer, diabetes, a mental illness, etc. should you have to hide? People who have all of these illnesses feel like they have to hide, because they are suddenly not "the norm" and therefore not worthy to walk among the well. Sorry, don't buy it. I have worked with people who suffer from physical and mental illness, and I find that their humanity and light shines brighter than "normal" people. Widowed people (I'm one) have no reason to hide. So you cry in front of someone. Big deal. It's a human thing to do, and tears are healing. If some can't handle it, too bad. They will walk away. Others won't. Everyone has a story. Listen, we are all in a sad place, and missing our loved one. But if we ever want to stop feeling like outsiders, let's not act like outsiders. Express your emotions freely. If we act afraid, how are other people ever going to be comfortable with us? Food for thought. Don't be afraid to tell people what you are going through. Hiding leads to paranoia, and causes you to feel more and more isolated. Most of the people we encounter have been through some hardship in their lifetime, be it death, diseases, etc. I have found that sharing leads to other people sharing with me. I have had to open my heart more than I ever thought I would, but it draws others to me and we share our experiences.

  13. Thank you for your honesty, Dan. I'm sorry there are so many of us "actors" struggling to get through these days. I don't have young children at home, but everything else you wrote could have been written by me. My weekends are empty and nearly all of them in the past 5 months since my husband passed have been spent in my jammies the whole time. It just takes so much effort to act normal when I'm out in public that I need those days to regroup, to store up the energy needed to get through the work week.

  14. Your writing is so beautiful and heartfelt. I just want to give you a huge hug, let our facades fade, and chat the day away-- no acting necessary! I hope someday you are freed from the intensity of this pain and are able to put the acting on the back burner and just be you. If only it were that easy, I know. Here's to better days, xoxo.

  15. Bravo Dan! Perfectly said. It is exactly as I feel. My therapist told me many times to tell family, friends, co-workers how I really felt and guess what, it didn't work. I lost people in my life because they quickly exhausted from hearing the "poor me" story. So I'm committed to filtering my thoughts and suppressing tears whenever necessary. But, wouldn't life be a little less stressful if we could drop the act!

    Thank you and remember that we need your inspiring thoughts each week!

  16. I want to thank each of you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I don't always come back to leave a comment myself, but I always read each and every comment left. There is so much strength, and so much connection, that I feel in reading your thoughts and encouraging words. I'm grateful for each opportunity to have this type of open forum, so once again, thank you.

  17. OMGosh - I thought the SAME THING about the Oscars!! I've become a great actress, smiling and laughing and carrying on while inside I'm wailing. Thinking of you, Dan, and sending you a big bear hug and tons of love. I hope you can feel it. XOXO

  18. Yes, Andrea. I definietly feel it. Guess I'll have to wait until summer time to get one of those hugs in person!