I've been sorting through our cupboards and closets and purging the least needed/most outgrown items lately in anticipation of living mostly indoors again after a summer in the backyard and beach.
Friday, September 30, 2011
I've been sorting through our cupboards and closets and purging the least needed/most outgrown items lately in anticipation of living mostly indoors again after a summer in the backyard and beach.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Fourteen years ago, I awoke in my childhood bedroom … well got up anyway … I was too excited to sleep much.
My bridesmaid, my Mum and I quickly ate breakfast and took ourselves down to the salon for 'hair and makeup'.
We emerged hours later, coiffed and painted, but still recognisable.
Everyone ate lunch … not me … I couldn’t eat for the excitement.
Then I put on my beautiful dress, remade from the Guipure lace from my mother’s gown.
I looked beautiful.
More than that.
Lit from the inside.
The flowers arrived.
The photographer arrived.
Then we left for the church in a pair of 1970s vintage Holdens.
Dad walked me up the aisle.
Greg was crying: I avoided looking at him so I wouldn’t cry too.
We promised to love each other until death parted us, (never thinking that death would part us after only 12 and a half years).
I felt so loved and lucky that my face ached from the smiling.
and the kissing.
and the loving gazes into his beautiful blue eyes.
I glided through the reception – everything was perfect.
and we left our friends and family at the party to have our own celebration of our first night as man and wife.
Today would have been our 14th anniversary.
and it’s been just over 18 months since Greg died.
I awoke to the screeching of the car alarm of the bogan who lives across the street.
...well, not so much "awoke as "got up anyway". Sleep isn’t so easy for me these days…
I couldn’t open my eyes.
It seems I have conjunctivitis to add to my already long list of symptoms typical of my “holiday illness” (I never get sick during work time, just holiday time).
It seems appropriate that my eyes are already red and puffy.
I had a shower and prised open my red, oogy eyes.
I put on track pants and one of Greg’s old shirts: nobody was going to see me today.
I didn’t bother to do my hair.
but I did brush my teeth.
I look like crap.
I ate breakfast so I could swallow some cold and flu tablets.
…and I sent my mother out to buy my eye drops to fix my oogy eyes.
Somehow, this seems an appropriate way to mark this day.
….the second of many lonely wedding anniversaries….
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
.... since I've heard three small words.
I heard, or rather, read them yesterday.
And I was stunned.
I'm still stunned.
I'm not stunned that I was sent the words, but am happily surprised.
I am stunned at the impact those three words are having on me.
I was stunned when I read them and I'm still stunned.
This has been, and will continue to be an emotional week for me.
You know the kind .... where you can feel that the dams inside of you .... one around your heart, one behind your eyes ..... are starling to crack.
I can feel the cracking actually happen. And the tears have been able to seep through, though just a bit.
But I know that the cracks will soon crumble more and those dams will burst wide open.
And the tears won't be seeping.
Tomorrow I "get" to go to court with one of my children, who made a stupid, stupid decision several months ago, but it recently caught up with him.
The damns crack more every time I think about showing up in that courtroom tomorrow at 9:00.
I think that it's likely that this will go well, so it's not that I'm worried about the event.
It just "one more thing".
I know you get that.
I am SO sick of "one more things".
I should not be doing these crappy things alone.
He should be here.
He should be holding my hand, reassuring me.
He should be here to take on half of the load of stress.
But he's not.
And here I am.
And yet ..... last week I met someone.
For those of you who are nowhere NEAR that point, it's ok. And so are you. You'll get there in your own time.
I didn't plan to get here. At all.
In the first 2 years I found the thought of dating offensive and nauseating.
And then one day ..... it wasn't.
I have no idea why. It just changed.
So last week we went on three dates over an 9 day period.
And had fun.
We talked a lot.
It's still new.
It's still too early to tell.
But I like him.
And he, evidently, likes me.
Because yesterday he sent me a text.
One small text with three small words.
Words I had forgotten about.
Words my heart has longed to "hear" and feel, but had given up on hearing them again.
Three simple words:
My heart melted and my face lit up with a huge smile.
No one was there to see it, but that's ok. I felt it.
And have been stunned ever since.
I've missed him after a fun weekend of going out two nights in a row.
But my heart has learned to not say that ..... to not admit it.
I dated one man after Jim died .... 2 years after he died. For a little over a year.
He never missed me.
So I learned.
For a while.
And then I knew that I wanted someone to miss me.
I knew that I deserve someone to miss me.
So that text was amazing.
Yes, it's still early.
Very, very early.
Who knows where this will lead .... or not lead?
I'm in no hurry.
But this man has warmed my heart .... and made me smile from the inside out.
All because of three little words.
And he has no idea.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I think I sometimes lean heavily on the idea that "this isn't hard, I've experienced hard, and compared to that....this isn't hard at all". It's true. Compared to the loss of your spouse and all your dreams of the future - most of life's pressures are minuscule in comparison. It doesn't mean they don't suck though. I have to remind myself that it is okay to let little things bug me sometimes. I'm human. Widowhood has made me stronger, but I'm not freakin wonder woman all the time. I have a tendency to put on a happy face even when I'm not feeling it, and lately I've been needing that fake face a bit more often. I'm not a great actress, and I'm sure my coworkers are beginning to sense the strain.
I've been less patient with them, less patient with G, less patient all the way around. I've written more than a few nasty emails that I've deleted before I hit send...thank goodness I'm not too rash or I'd be seeking unemployment benefits at this point I'm sure. I actually told a co-worker in an "off the record" conversation that I thought another co-worker needed to put his big girl panties on and stop acting like such an spoiled brat. Although I really meant it when I said it, the visual of this guy in his big girl panties was so powerful that I was in a much better mood the rest of the day! ;-) Whatever it takes!
Fortunately for me (and the people in my life), bad days and bad moods such as those are few and far between. I tend to bounce back quickly, I hate being grumpy...it makes me grumpy! So I remind myself of the things I'm grateful for, and let the thoughts of those things buoy me through the rough patches. While lately I'm feeling more like the bug than the windsheild, this too shall pass....
Happy Tuesday! - michelle d.
Monday, September 26, 2011
This weekend I was out running a few errands with my daughter. We were at Lowes buying a replacement microwave oven. And, because I love gardening, anytime I'm at a store that has a garden section, there you will find me. I was walking down the isle, pushing my cart, and looking at all the varieties of plants. I had something specific in mind, but at the same time realized that I didn't really need another plant, nor did I have a place for another plant.
I began to wonder, what am I doing here? What am I searching for?
Suddenly I felt a bit light headed, and lost. I stopped moving, and looked to see where my daughter was. Within seconds she was walking up to me, asking if I found what I was looking for. I told her that I felt like I was wasting my time away. I felt like whatever it was I was doing at that moment was insignificant.
Why is it that after two years, my life still feels somewhat insignificant? I explained to my daughter that before Michael died, every moment was significant. I was always busy taking care of my family, researching cancer trials, filling prescriptions, and being mindful of every waking moment. Everything I did was either for Michael, or with Michael. Every moment of joy was spent with him. I didn't want to lose a single second of my time with him. I didn't want to look back and regret moments that could have been spent loving him.
I remember how after he died, I felt like time just stood still. It was like nothing else mattered anymore. Now of course my children still mattered, but what I was feeling was about my adult self, my married self. Suddenly my other half was gone, yet the void wasn't half of me, it was all of me. I have since struggled to regain a sense of feeling complete, and finding joy as a single adult once again. And, there is joy, and there is pleasure. Yet at times like this, walking casually down the isle in a nursery, with nothing, or no one to rush home to, time doesn't really seem to have the same value.
The rest of my weekend went the same. I did absolutely nothing. For many people, the idea of doing absolutely nothing is highly valued. Others complain about being too busy, and having no time to slow down and appreciate what they have. Yet for me, at least for now, I still have too much time on my hands. I think that in time my daily life will be filled with more moments of value, but I also think that I'm just not wanting to fill it with a bunch of insignificant moments. I don't want to busy myself, unless I become busy with things that truly mean a lot to me. What those will be I'm not sure.
So, I will continue to remind myself that as long as I find myself contemplating these thoughts while I'm out and about, then I'm on the right track. In time, moments like this will begin to feel significant once again, and I will find myself valuing every one of them.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Last weekend we moved.
Our new place is smaller, more intimate.
I like it.
It’s simpler to manage. (There are only so many places Ezra’s left shoe can be!) It makes sorting through the boxes and boxes of stuff I should have sold, much simpler. (If it stays, exactly where is it going to go, Kim?)
And I feel lighter here, less weighed down by stuff and keeping track of the stuff so I can find the stuff.
But today, I walked out of the bathroom, I looked at my bed and I realized…
Art’s not here.
He’s nowhere in this new place. Not in the decision of which draw to put the utensils in, nor in which painting to hang where. He’s not in the money spent at Ikea nor will he be in the car when I return a few things. He’s not in the assembly of the shelves, or the finding of the toothpaste.
He’s not in the walk in closet.
He’s not in third call to Xbox Live in two hours about the hook up issue. He’s not there when the electrician, plumber, handy man and old renter all arrive within 20 minutes of each other.
He’s not in the dinner I cook, the good night kisses I give, or in the bed where I collapse.
He’s not here.
It was not till I left the house that I see that I have left him too. I didn’t think I left him. I thought he was coming with us. But here in this new place, I see that he was in every damn thing in the old place: in the walls, in where the toilet paper was stacked and where the breakfast trays were kept. He was in the lights he put up around the large kitchen window that looked out onto the back yard. He was in where the canned soup goes, the best place for the dresser and the fiction book order: black writer fiction, black female writer fiction, dead male writer fiction and damn good fiction to reread over and over again. (Yes we really had the books divided like that!) He was in the up high shelf with the extension cords and the bicycle tools tool box.
There was this weird potential, like maybe, just maybe, he'll show up again.
I could hear him sometimes, in the catch of the kid’s voices as if, for just a moment, they might forget and call to him, instead of me.
In this new place, their voices are clear and call, with piercing clarity, only my name.
The potential is gone.
This feels like this is where it begins. Where our new family starts, this family of four.
Our dinner table no longer has the extensions out. It is square: one side for each of us. Tonight, I looked at each of my kids, one across from me, two on either side of me and sigh. We are a family of four now. Four sides of a square for four people.
The most weird, unnerving, pleasant and peaceful thing about this observation is that
I’m OK with it.
In 2009 we became a family of four. It was not what I wanted, not what was planned.
In 2011, it is what I have accepted and come to embrace. It is what we are, it is who we are. It is neither bad nor good. It just is.
My new place just taught me that.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
I know the phrase is a little off-putting but I think I'd be in naive in not noting those that have come in and out of my life since Michael's death....though burning of bridges is probably a exaggeration of a statement.
In the beginning of Michael's death, many left or were hurt by the lack of understanding of the pain and loss I was feeling. As time passed others may have been shocked or freaked out by my utter honesty of the situation and title as a military widow. And still, four years later, some will come and go with my opinions on how I want to lead my life.
Each encounter and farewell hurt in a way, as that is never the outcome I would want, but with each, I felt my heart become lighter, my smile brighter, my love more alive...I was being me and following my heart. I was saying what my heart was echoing through my soul and outwardly living it and allowing each opposition to become an opportunity for me to find and become an even more whole self.
Friday, September 23, 2011
The pain of his absence was searing. There were so many days when I thought for SURE that the gut wrenching pain would kill me. In fact, to this day, I am still surprised that it didn't. I felt like a zombie that was bleeding internally, and dragging my blood soaked bandages as I wandered aimlessly through life. Attractive, yes?
Day by painful day I put one foot in front of the other. Many days were awful, others were worse. Getting out of bed was sometimes a Herculean effort, but other times getting into that empty bed at the end of the day took every ounce of strength I could muster. My life was full of these mind-bending contradictions. I wanted to be alone; I hated being alone. I ached to be around familiar friends, but their presence shone a spotlight on the hole left by Phil's death. I wanted everything in my life to go back to the way it was, and yet everything familiar was also torturous. Yes, no, move forward, run back, cry, laugh, cry some more...I felt like a spinning top with endless momentum. When would the pain stop, and who would I be when/if it finally did?
Maybe the hardest part of healing for me has been the fear of what would come after. After what? After I was done. After I was "better." After I reached the semi-dreaded state of acceptance. After I was done being widowed. What would happen then?
I can't tell you what will happen for you when you have lived through 2,213 days of widowhood, but I can tell you what I have learned through these past six years. First, I will never get over Phil's death. I am certain I will always think the fact that he lost his life was a terrible waste and that the world would have been better with him in it. Next, I now believe that my widowhood belongs to me in the same way that my motherhood, and sisterhood, and daughterhood, and friendhood does. Being widowed is part of my life story, and this painful chapter has colored the rest of my life in rich, deep colors. I have met some of my dearest friends while navigating the waters of grief, and I know we will be surfing together for life...no matter what lies ahead. Lastly, I have realized that life will always be delivering a new challenge, another test, a different circumstance to my doorstep. How I handle the package will determine what impact the unexpected bomb, or bouquet, has on the next chapter of my life. Thanks to my widowhood, I know I will survive.
And what will happen after? I (and you) will be okay.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Last week, I fell.
Too many stressors on top of an already stressful life.
…and then the person who keeps work flowing my way resigned.
and I panicked.
Because she is the only person in admin who gets it.
But I met with her, and while she isn’t able to give me more long-term certainty, she moved mountains to keep me employed for most of next term.
….and instantly, my spirits lifted.
I’m happy that I am employed until December, but I’m scared that my emotional health swings so wildly around having job security.
In the past, I’ve never had job security.
I’ve only ever had contract work.
But it’s been OK because a) I’ve never been out of work, and b) I’ve always had Greg there earning an income to provide for us if I couldn’t.
Now, I need that security.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
I wrote about that year, and how far I/we came in those 365 days.
I thought I had come a long way.
I had no clue.
I still had so much further to go.
But still .... after reading it today .... that's what I thought: But still ....
It was .... a year.
It was a lifetime .... in 12 months.
Which must mean that I have now gone through almost 4 lifetimes.
And you know what?
The lifetimes have gotten better.
With every passing year.
And I guess that's what I want you to know.
In sharing this.
My life, and all of its lifetimes, has gone from a dark year of just trying to breathe, just existing, just trying to make it from one day to the next and everything that year held ....
to becoming years with more richness and texture ....
So keep breathing.
One day you'll look behind you .... and be surprised at much life you are living.
Looking Back ....
Well, Honey ...... I'm not sure where to start.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
This past week I was experiencing some health problems. Of course it was an emotional week, as most of you are now aware of, so I was already feeling emotionally vulnerable. Like any time we are not feeling well, or are experiencing changes in our health without explanation, we begin to worry.
Like any other man, I kept telling myself that it will all blow over, and I'll be just fine. Yet, as each day passed, and the problems persisted, I began to worry. It's always a matter of either wait and see, or make an appointment to see the doctor. Being that I am new to my job, I don't have many sick hours on the books. Any that I do have need to be used when I take any of my kids to their doctor appointments.
As each day came to an end, and the symptoms persisted, and no movement to get help, I began to worry. Yet, here was the problem. Who do I share this with? I didn't want to worry the kids for no reason, and I didn't want to call anyone out of the blue. It's a difficult position that we are all in. For most of us, we no longer have another adult in the home. We no longer have that other person around to share our worries, whether they are great or small. And, by the end of the week, I of course, began to diagnose myself.
Cancer. Of course that's what I thought it was. Isn't everything related to cancer these days? Every time we turn on the news, or go in the Internet, or talk to others, there is always a concern about something leading to cancer, or something being a sign or symptom of cancer. Now, of course I didn't have cancer, but that's where my mind went.
I began to wonder how would I manage if I did have something that serious? Which also had me thinking about how I would respond if ever given a diagnosis of cancer. I have been down that road already, right? Not my own cancer, but his. I realized that in the past I would have been very scared, and would have feared death itself. Yet, in these past few days, as my imagination would take control late into the night, I realized how peaceful I was feeling about such a possibility.
Now, I don't have a death wish, but I also don't fear it. I began wondering what really happened after death. I have all the beliefs planted in my mind that I was taught growing up. I have all the images that I read in preparation for Michael's death. I had the expectation that a guide would appear to take me to the other side. I had the words that others have shared with me often, how Michael would be there waiting for me when my time came. Yet, in these few days, I began to really worry, not about death, but about the prospect that all those stories and beliefs were wrong.
What if he isn't there waiting for me? Will I be angry and disappointed? Hell yeah.
I suppose I have plenty of time to settle this internal debate, as I'm perfectly healthy. Well, healthy after filling a prescription the doctor recommended. And, feeling a bit silly, for waiting so long, and worrying so long, before seeing a doctor. Yet it all has me wondering, do I want to continue to be single, and have to get through real health scares in the future alone? I think not. Will I get through such times if I am alone? No. I will have to ask for help. Will he be there waiting for me when my time comes? That remains to be seen.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
I want to be a closer in baseball. Or at least I want to think like one. I was watching a game on TV and one of the best closers in baseball gave up back to back home runs and his team lost the game. The next night he gets another chance to close out the game. This time: he walks the first batter, hits the second batter, and the third batter hits a double which scores two runs. They lose again.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
**Written Oct. 2010**
This weekend I'll be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival. 8 stages, over a hundred bands, but to me it is so much more.
Last October, my best friend (and fellow widow) and I ventured out on the green grass, drinking wine from sports bottles, listening to amazing music, having a grief/stress free time.
Of course, since Michael's death I've had many days that way. Worry free, almost to the point where I forget that he's even dead, but what differentiated that festival weekend from anything else was the affect it had once the 3 days were over.
You see, after Michael died, the future was unbearable fathom. Minute by minute was as far as my mind and heart could comprehend. As time passed I could maybe look a month or two ahead, but after ACL happened the amazing happened. I went and bought tickets for the next year's festival over a year in advance.
I couldn't believe it, but it felt so good. 2 years after my soul mate's passing, I had seen the possibility of looking forward to something not only in the future...but a year in the future!
So you see, this weekend is more than a music festival, it is a marker of what has allowed me to see and plan and get excited for life again. It is 3 days, that year ago allowed me to look 365 days ahead, allowing me to be set free from the fear of having to face another second without my other half.
“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there”
-Charles F. Ketering
Friday, September 16, 2011
But time has continued its' slithery journey. I look back over the time without my love and see that 365 days have gone by and no time at all seems to have passed. But it has and I have grown stronger.
I will try to look forward to the future. To make plans. To smile more often. To remember my sweet, loving husband but without so much of the ache that goes along with the remembering. To rejoice that he was, not cry that he is now gone.
I am going to hold my head up. I have no more firsts -which fills me with both relief and sadness. It is time to go forward and hold my head a bit higher. I know that my path will be full of potholes and the occasional mud pit but I am going to stop crawling. I will walk. I will walk tall and hopefully be able to jump over the puddles now and then. I'll stop and rest when I need to but I refuse to be as broken as I have been. I refuse to be crushed. I refuse to remain broken and beaten. My children need their mommy to be strong and to show them that tragedy is hard but it will not defeat us. That daddy would not want us to fall. He would want us to smile again one day and notice the sun on our faces. I will try....I will try my damnedest. I am not and will never be 'over' this terrible loss, but I will carry it, like a scar and it will shape who I am now. And then maybe, I can use it for 'good'. Maybe something I can manifest something 'good' from this. Maybe I can help someone. I would so love for there to be some 'meaning' to this nightmare. So, here I go....
Thursday, September 15, 2011
RUOK is a great concept … for other people.
But if someone asks me today, I may slap them.
I. Am. Not. OK.
And asking me will not make me OK.
and if I am not OK
I will not tell them anyway …
Sometimes life really sucks and it means more to have someone who can listen without trying to make it all “OK”.
Which is why I blog …. bloggers listen and know better than to use some cutesy text-talk question.
I am not OK and asking me will not help.
Helping me will help.
But flippantly tossing me an acronym really, really won’t.
(addendum - if the question is asked using the guidelines given on the website, it's a great idea. But nobody I know in real life (on facebook) seems to have read the guide ... and telling a widow to "not worry" is completely useless ... as you all know).
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
.... that is causing so many of us to feel so many more emotions right now?
I don't know.
I still don't know how this grief thing works.
Or, more pointedly, how it doesn't work.
All I do know is that it sucks.
It sucks that Dan's "date" was yesterday (I just can't use the word "anniversary" to describe the annual reminder of such a horrific day).
It sucks that the hurt still hurts.
It sucks that there's no magic pill to take to make it stop hurting.
No magic words to say, no magic actions to perform.
It must just hurt until it doesn't hurt quite so much.
And it really does get to that point.
But there are still times.
Times when that wave comes rolling in behind me, quietly so that I can't hear it coming ..... and then it crashes over the top of me, knocking my head down and my body to my knees.
Yesterday I found myself on my knees, trying hard to push myself up out of the water so that I could grab a gasp of air before falling back down again.
I had to drive downtown yesterday with one of my children.
I didn't want to be driving downtown, but it seems that I had no choice.
Not a good parental choice anyway.
One of my children made a very stupid decision.
And then said child forgot about said decision.
Unfortunately, life sometimes has a way of reminding us .... and others ..... at the very worst possible moment .... of those decisions. And they come to light.
And it did.
So I was driving downtown to go talk to an attorney.
A defense attorney, who might represent my child.
I felt very emotional .... and very much alone.
I haven't driven downtown much in the last 3+ years.
At least, not during the day time.
Downtown + daytime + emotions trying to be pushed back while driving with a child I'm angry at + feeling alone, vulnerable and taken for granted + seeing lots and lots of men in suits walking around, just like Jim used to = one huge, gigantic wave.
Bigger than any I've felt in quite some time.
And yet I managed to keep it together.
I did cry half way during the meeting when asking this nice (and really good looking!), yet expensive attorney why I should hire him when I doubt that my child will not make another "stupid decision" in the not-too-far-distant-future.
(I love my children. Fiercely. Hugely. Unquestionably. Always. No matter what. But I do not always enjoy being a parent.)
Yes, I cried.
But it wasn't the ugly cry.
That came later.
After the meeting.
My child rode home with a friend who met us for the meeting.
He wanted to spend some time with this child and talk about stupid decisions.
And of course I agreed.
I needed time and space to succumb to the wave.
And succumb I did.
That wave crashed down on me inside the car and it, and I, filled the car with a lot of salt water.
The wave crashed so hard that the parking lot attendant who had left a ticket on my windshield (I thought it was a free lot--stupid me) looked like he was going to approach my car, stopped, stared .... and then seemed to think better of it and disappeared.
I sat in that car and sobbed.
I sobbed for missing Jim.
I sobbed for the stupidity of my child.
I sobbed for doing this, all of "this", alone.
I sobbed from the sheer exhaustion of it all.
I sobbed for the things yet to come that I'll be doing alone.
I sobbed for all of us and the unfairness of all of "this".
And then I started driving.
It was a long, wet drive.
By the time I made it back to my neighborhood the wave was gone.
Well, mostly gone.
I think it disappeared sometime during dinner.
Dinner with a few friends.
And two very strong and very welcomed margaritas.
No, not a magic elixir for taking away the hurt.
But a great combination for shaking off the effects of a wave.
At least it was for me.
I hope this week is going better for most of you than it is for some of us.
If not, know that the waves will pass.
And heck, you might want to try a couple of very strong margaritas.
They couldn't hurt.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This is for you Dan, and everyone else who is needing a little something extra today to remind them that they can survive this. I'm sending out a big fat virtual hug. Love to you Dan as you reflect on this day and miss Michael. Love to us all, we deserve it.
"When the walls fall all around you, when your hope has turned to dust, let the sound of love surround you, beat like a heart in each of us"
Camp Widow - Stand Up
Monday, September 12, 2011
I came into work today expecting it to be like any other day. I am a family court counselor, and I meet with parents to help them reach agreements regarding the custody of their children. Sometimes they reach agreement, other times I utilize my skills as a counselor to give recommendations back to the court.
Today an odd case was assigned to me, and it arrive late, without adequate time to prepare. There was no father and mother sitting before me. The two parties were the mother and paternal grandmother, as the father died last year. We were discussing issues regarding a 12 year old son. I tried my best to work with these two parties, and needed to take a break to get some supervision around some of the goals of our session. In discussing these, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into my own issues and grief. I let my supervisor know that I need to maintain some distance, and be aware of any counter transference that might be occurring. As I began to explain this, all I had to say was that tomorrow is the anniversary of my husband's death, and the dam I had built began to break.
With those words, I fell apart. Sobbing.
This has never happened to me before. I have always been able to be in complete control at work. I am the ultimate professional when it comes to utilizing the skills and experience I have attained throughout the years. My supervisor was wonderful, immediately taking the case from me, and telling me not to give it a second thought, that she would take care of this. She suggested I take a break, yet I can't wander far, as I am on-call to testify in court any minute. So here I sat, at my desk, knowing that rather than let go, and get out what I need to emotionally, I needed to pull myself together, and find another way to deal with this.
I'm having my own issues with my 13 year old son. He is going through a difficult time, and I am having a difficult time adequately addressing his issues, as we are both continuing to grieve. Unfortunately, each of our grieving process is not always going to end each day with a sense of growth, peace, or resolve. It is going to be a very long process, and I, as the now only parent once again, will need to rise to each occasion knowing that I am still quite broken, and ill prepared for what life throws at me.
That's it. I need to get through the day. I need to get through tomorrow. I also need to learn that I am human. Even now, as I sit here, I am beating myself up about losing control of my emotions. I am judging myself because of breaking down here at work. I am worrying about how this family is being served, knowing that I was already told not to worry about it. This is definitely something new to work through.
So while this is not something I usually do, I need to put this out there at a time when I usually focus solely on work. This is my outlet right now. All I need to know is that someone is reading this, and you understand. Thanks.
Not sure where to begin.
It's definitely a time of reflection. Tomorrow, Tuesday, will be two years. What is appropriate for a two year anniversary?
The first year is paper. Last year at this time I was ...wait a minute. Don't you usually 'celebrate' anniversaries? Seems like the two words, anniversary and celebration, go hand in hand.
Yesterday for some odd reason I was thinking about my Widow's Voice day, and realized it was going to land of the eve of the second anniversary. It had me thinking about all the eves, such as Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve, and The Three Faces of Eve. Okay, if you are young you won't know what the hell I'm talking about. Can you tell that I'm in an odd mood? Anyway, I was thinking about the excited anticipation that the eves entail. There is always so much planning and preparation. Sometimes there are gatherings and rituals.
This time last year I wasn't working, so I had lots of time on my hands. I was planning a contemplative day to myself on the first year anniversary of Michael's death. I had decided that I would get up early, and just drive around my newly adopted city, and spend time walking, and sitting, in silence. I carried with me a pocket full of Michael's ashes, and where ever I went, well, so did he. I would talk to him, and sprinkle a bit of ash where ever I went. Eventually I ended up at the beach, and spent a lot of time walking through the water, and crying.
This year I have no plans, other than to work. I forgot to request the day off, and by the time I thought about it I had a full calendar of appointments. I decided it might be good to just go with the flow, and not try too hard with this anniversary.
You know, when Michael died, it was just one month shy of our first wedding anniversary. We had been together longer than that, and previously celebrated the day we met as our anniversary, yet who knew that for a brief moment the state of California would see fit to allow our love to be sanctioned, and blessed, by way of a wedding. Yet for us it came a bit late. I knew when we took our vows that there was a good chance I would lose him by the time our first wedding anniversary arrived. So by the time that day did arrive, October 19th, I was alone. There was no romantic dinner. There was no champagne. There was no intimate expression of our love that night. Instead, I received a simple, yet traditional gift of paper. A death certificate.
As I sit here, I am wearing what I'll consider the proper second year anniversary of Michael's death gift. Cotton. An old cotton t-shirt of his. It says Maui. It was from an early vacation we took. Earlier today I was looking at a picture taken of us on that trip. In the photo we are both so naively smiling. Who would have believed that this would be where I am today; Sitting here, on our bed, pathetically wearing an old beat up t-shirt that used to belong to my now dead husband.
Alright. I supposed it is time for me to stop with all this nonsense, and apologize for the ridiculous way I have been carrying on here. The reality is that I have been in complete agony these past couple of days. Two nights ago it all hit me, and I spent the whole night wailing out of control. I haven't been in that much pain for such a long time. I don't really know why it all came down on my like that. Well, maybe I do. I have been providing online support to another recent gay widower, who lost his husband just a few months ago. We have been trading our thoughts on the support network I provide for other gay widowers. It hit me that night, as I read his very raw emotional words, that he was talking about the man he loved and lost. Reading his words must have put me squarely into a place of remembrance, for his husband's name was also Michael. Here I was, reading those painful words as if they were my own.
I felt so lost that night. I had no one to call, or no one to know that I would be here in my room, crying my eyes out. Of course, I suppose there were people I could call, yet I didn't. And, there were people in the house, my son and daughter, yet I did not seek their support either. I was alone, and I knew that no matter who came to my side, it would not be the one that I desired. I know it's where I'll be again tonight. I know it's where I will be again tomorrow. And, I know that when I get through all of this, I will be okay.
I tell you. I can only say I will be okay because of all of you. It's because no matter how alone I feel, or how alone I actually am in the middle of the night, I know that each and every one of you know what I am going through. Each of you have had those nights. Each of you may still be having those nights. And, each of you will make it through them. I know, because I have, over and over again.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
9-11, 9-11, 9-11, 9-11 It’s everywhere. I, like the rest of the country I suspect, am afraid to write the wrong thing, aware that I do not know what it’s like... And that is where I stop myself. I do know what it’s like. I do know what it feels like in the dark hollowness that filled the first months. I do know the effort it takes to place a foot, then the other on the floor. I can talk with knowledge about leaning into a day that would be “another” one without him.
And yet, I feel uncomfortable sharing this space with those 9-11 widows. It’s feels like Art’s death is minor, less than, overshadowed by their losses in such numbers on that day.
I feel like a freshman trying to get the senior girls to think I’m cool, that in some way, I’m just like them. Did I say it right? Is there enough respect in my tone?
Somehow, their husband’s (and wive's) deaths feel more valuable than Art’s death. Their losses were so public, mine a private little matter, insignificant in comparison. Their losses marked and mourned by millions, by photographs, by stories of others. My loss only remembered by a few hundred. Their losses such a turning point in our countries history, mine a single point in my little history.
My loss feels less than in comparison.
This is where I stop again.
Because I know them, those widows.
They know me.
They are me and I am them. If I met one of them, I am sure we could have a conversation about grief and getting through, under, over, and around it. I am sure I would see them and think 10 years. In 10 years I can be like them!
Maybe I just need to remember a widow is a widow is a widow is a widow.
And there are no words for
Saturday, September 10, 2011
They happen...sometimes more than I think I can handle.
Those moments where it feels like I'm in a well, with all the walls caving in on me.
The sad thing is I see it when I'm being lowered down....like the bucket on the rope.
I anticipate what will happen and still am lowered further and further down...feeling as if there is no one at the top to help pull me up.
I reach the bottom and know that my soul and spirit will collapse with the walls around me....
I look up once more, taking that last glance at the light that seems so far away.
I bow my head to come to terms with the unwanted fate I have found myself in.
I close my eyes to become acquainted with what will be my new scenery.
And then...when I've made peace with the dark...it happens...
Something hits my heart and my arm...
A rope..a bucket...a hope...
And as he pulls me up...my love...my eyes readjust to the light, the warmth, the life still before me.
The air is inhaled a bit deeper, my heart opened a bit wider, my willingness to keep going a bit stronger.
"The Buddha said that suffering was caused by desire, we’d learned, and that the cessation of desire meant the cessation of suffering. When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.”
Friday, September 9, 2011
In preparation for my son's first day of Kindergarten today, I attended an interview with his teacher yesterday. It mostly entailed questions of, "Can he tie his shoes?", "Does he feel shy in new situations?" and "Can he wipe his own bottom?"
Thursday, September 8, 2011
This past week has been tough.
I was doing OK for a long while, surviving birthdays, parties and mother's day ... but this past week has brought me crashing down with a thud.
There are many reasons for this – my son’s upcoming “procedure” and the worry over his ongoing health, my sister-in-law having some very scary health issues, my job being so uncertain...
....and Father's Day being last Sunday just days after the 1.5 year mark.
That was tough.
But despite picking myself up after each blow, I am starting to wonder if there will come a time when I can't pick myself up again.
I find myself waiting for that next blow. The one that knocks me down so far I can't get back up.
And I feel scared.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
|This is me with Chris (one of our Tuesday writers) at Camp Widow 2011...like my t-shirt??|
As the months passed and I looked at the scattered remains of my life I searched frantically for proof that I could survive the loss of my husband. I wanted living proof...who survives this kind of pain? Where are they? Why don't they wear badges or something? How do I find widowed people out in the regular world? They must be here somewhere right? Oh, please tell me that I am not the only one. I can't be the only one. Right?
I began seeking other widowed people out of desperation. And I found a community one person at a time. After each interaction with another widowed person I felt less alone. No matter what was different about our story, the sameness of the fact that we both found ourselves asking the pivotal question of widowhood...now what?...tied us together in a uniquely powerful way. My widowed community saved my sanity; they walked each step of my grief process beside me; each and every one of the people I met gave me hope for the journey ahead; and eventually I knew that the people who came after me needed this community too. So I started a non-profit called the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation in order to provide the people who would walk this road in the future with access to the hope that saved me. Because hope really did save me.
I had no idea what running a non profit would require. In the beginning, I lacked all kinds of essential things (like funding!), but the call to do this work was something I could not ignore. SSLF began with one program (Widow Match), and the idea for a conference where widowed people could find each other...lots of others....proving that they were not alone and providing them with tools to answer the what now question. Friends helped, my family became volunteers, ideas grew into programs and I am very proud to say that three years later SSLF now touches over half a million (we are SO not alone) widowed people every year, with no operating budget. And the need for our one-of a kind programs continues to grow every day, because hope will always matter to widowed people's recovery. Count on that.
Soaring Spirits is the parent to this blog and five other programs. In the three years I have been writing this blog and running this organization I have never openly asked for help for our programs.But today I am asking for your help because SSLF has a great opportunity, and the way to help is easy. If this blog or any of our other programs has mattered to you or to someone you love please help us continue to help you/them.
Pepsi Refresh offers grants to non-profit organizations based on public support via Internet voting and Pepsi Product purchases. It may sound like a gimmick, but I assure you it is not. Pepsi is giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of great ideas to Refresh the world. SSLF is in the running for a $50,000 grant. This would be a game changer for us. Funding is essential to both day-to-day operations, and to future growth for a grassroots organization like ours. How do you help? Here is a list of ways to support our effort to secure this grant:
1.) Follow this link (http://pep.si/pCouk7) to vote for SSLF and Camp Widow every day until 9/30...only 23 days to go!
2.) Purchase Pepsi Products with the "Power Vote" logo on the packaging. There are codes inside these products (under the cap or inside the box) that can be used for up to 100 votes each! Collect them from your friends, give Pepsi away as a gift...gather codes and enter them all at once by registering HERE.
3.) Don't give up. Vote every day, buy Pepsi products (I know this is a shameless plug) and use those codes to support SSLF. We need you to make this happen!
Maybe you are like the before me and have never given much thought to how non-profits do what they do? The hard part is not just coming up with the idea and managing the logistics...it is finding the funding to get the support programs going and then keep them going. This grant would do just that. We've made it easy for you to vote...just look for the Pepsi badge at the top right of this blog. We need thousands of votes to win. Lucky for us thousands of people read this blog every day...if each of you support us for the next 23 days what a difference YOU can make....for me, for you, but most importantly for them. The ones who don't need us yet. Vote for us so we can help them.Thank you for reading, for voting, and for believing that hope matters.
If you have questions, or feel called to help support SSLF in other ways too, just follow click here for my contact information...I'd love to hear from you!
.... that my children became orphans on December 18, 2007.
OK, they didn't literally become orphans.
But technically .... they did.
They lost both of their parents that day.
Yes, I was here in body, but only in body.
My body was empty of any resemblance of me.
All it held was the cold, black grief that enveloped every part of me .... grief moved into every space, every cell of my being, and took over.
I was not, could not be, the person I had been.
So there was no way I could be the same mother.
There were many times when I beat myself up over that.
In spite of .... many things.
But I have moved past a lot of that.
My grief no longer occupies my body.
My grief is no longer in control.
It no longer makes me believe that my children would be better off if I, too, were actually dead.
And I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could no more have altered my grief, my grieving, than I could have reached out, touched Jim's body, and brought him back to life.
I did not choose my grief.
I did not want that grief.
But I got what I got.
And so my children managed to somehow keep growing and moving forward, without a parent to guide them.
That was something they had never, ever done before.
And I was powerless to change anything.
I am no longer powerless.
I am very much mostly back to the parent I was "before".
I will never be all of the same person/parent I was "before".
But that comes with pros and cons.
Last week was one huge con.
Last week I experienced the incineration of the wall of trust that had encircled one of my children and myself.
The wall was built out of my trust.
That wall no longer exists.
Yes, it can be built again, but that's up to my child .... and it will have to be built one brick at a time.
I think it will.
I hope it will.
But until that time .... here I am .... left to deal with the fallout.
And the consequences.
And all of the crap that one must deal with when a mistake has been made.
And I deal with it .... alone.
Very much alone.
And I hate it.
There are no words for how very much I hate it.
I hate that Jim's not here to share the good times, the big events .... with me.
But I hate even more that he's not here to help me navigate the storms .... the crap.
The crap that I had nothing to do with, and yet impacts me .... a lot.
A couple of years ago I would have been out of my mind with thinking that this "mistake" was my fault.
Because I was no longer the same.
Because I could not parent the way I did "before".
Because I had somehow failed them. My children.
But now, here in this place I've fought tooth and nail to arrive at, I know differently.
And it happens no matter how many parents a child has.
Or how many he/she doesn't have.
Yes, I am (mostly) back.
Much to the chagrin of my child.
And I am no longer going to the be the only one dealing with consequences.
I am strong.
And I am pissed.
I'm pissed that Jim gets to miss out on all of the crap.
I'm pissed that I can't play "good cop, bad cop" with my kids anymore.
Because there's only one cop.
I'm pissed that, in dealing with this kind of crap, I am very, very alone.
But .... on the flip side .... I'm good.
Because now I know .... no, now I remember ..... that in the same way I could not alter my grief, I cannot alter the minds and decisions of my children.
And truthfully, I never could.
And then there's this: I asked one of my other children if he/she thought that this choice might not have been made if their dad were here.
To which he/she replied, "Ummmmm, no, Mom. Teenagers are just .... teenagers and I know this would've happened whether or not Dad was here."
And now, looking back on things .... I realize that my child is 100% correct.
Mistakes would still be made ..... whether my children had two parents or one parent .... or no parent.
And so I am less .... pissed.
Which is a very good thing.
Because I doubt that there's anything scarier than a pissed-off widow.