Monday, September 30, 2013

They Were There





"Why don't you reread your Widow's Voice posts from the beginning and see what kind of progress you've made."

My smart smart dude's advice the other day when I talked to him about the possibility of identifying so much with widowhood that it was keeping me stuck in some ways.

So I tried it. I didn't expect to discover what I did. The overall impression I had was that I was more resilient, positive, hopeful and self-reflective than I ever imagined myself to be. I tried to explain it away a little (as I so often do) by telling myself that maybe it was the buffer of shock that helped me be naive enough to be so hopeful and positive.

But I don't think that's it. The shock wears off and then where to attribute all that strength of character? And even if I was in shock, who cares? I still felt those things. It was still reflected in my writing. I must actually BE strong and positive and hopeful. No one was more shocked than I (only partially kidding here).

It was a good reminder for me and an important way to quiet the part of me that wants to minimize my accomplishments and focus on my weaknesses.

So I didn't get much insight on the over-identifying thing, but I couldn't hide from the shocking truth. Honestly, it shocked me. I'm not just making progress, I was always full of the strength that held me together when I was sure I would fall apart.

That never faltered. It came out in my writing. It drove me to act from a place of love, instead of fear. It pushed me forward even though a part of me had no idea why I was bothering. It came from within and not from external forces.

 I didn't need to have all the answers or the perfect life, or a spouse or a job or a kid or any other reason to live other than my own worthiness. It was all I ever needed and it was always there. It was so hard to see it though, because all I could see was the next few inches in front me.

On a long, very strenuous hike with my guy the other day, I had to stare at my feet 95% of the time or fall off the very narrow path and tumble to my death. As we finished the hike, exhausted and sore, I thought of how the last two years had often been just like that head-down, focus-on-not-plummeting to-my-death hike. I couldn't look up to see the towering trees or the 3 inch layer of chartreuse moss covering the nurse logs or the little star-shaped vine maple leaves fluttering in the breeze. They were there, I just couldn't look up.

My strength, my hope, my worthiness. They were all there I just couldn't look up and see them. I was too busy trying not to fall.

But they were there.



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Silver Lining

Source

I made the mistake of going through mine and Seth’s old emails.

He was in school full time. I worked a desk job. So we both sat in front of a computer all day.. and emailed each other during slow times.

I have a million emails between us.

Which can be a good thing and a bad thing.

I came a crossed an email that reminded me of right before my husband died. It also reminded me of times I had forgotten.

A lil back story. Since 2001 I needed shoulder surgery to correct snapping shoulder. I had two different doctors tell “Put the surgery off as long as possible, some people don’t need surgery and can manage the pain.”

I reached my pain limit in May of 2010. I was putting off surgery until February 2011, which is when my vacation at work would renew. In February I would be able to take time off work and recover from surgery without taking a loss in pay.

Thanks to the emails, I remember surgery was originally scheduled for February 2011. Come July 2010 and I couldn't stand the pain anymore. I was in so much pain I could barely brush my teeth.

My surgeon rescheduled my surgery to July 22nd, 2010.

I don’t remember any of this.

I remember all this now due to the emails Seth and I sent to each other about me reaching my pain max, my surgeon scheduling emergency surgery, and talk of how we would manage me taking time off work without pay.

I went through surgery just fine. The only downfall was I couldn't do anything myself. I couldn't move my right arm at all. I am very right handed, I’m not left handed at all. Seth had to do everything for me, even brush my teeth.

I would sit in the bathtub with the water up to my waist and he would bath me.. and shave my body. Careful to not get my incisions wet or cut me while shaving.

He would then change my bandages, dress me while I sat in a chair, brush my teeth, blow dry my hair, curl my hair, do my makeup, and drive me to work. He did every single thing for me. My mom was there to cook, clean and help me get around while Seth was at school or work.

Five days later on July 27th, 2010.. my love ended his life. Five days after my shoulder surgery.

Now.. I don’t remember his death being that close to my surgery.

I remember (now) that I went to my surgeon alone on July 26th, because my husband had gone missing that morning.

I (now) remember sitting on my surgeons table, getting my stitches removed, getting my shoulder pushed and pulled on, dealing with the pain.. alone. When my surgeon asked me how everything was going (meaning my shoulder) all I could come up with was “fine.”

Really.. my world was falling apart.

Now I usually don’t say suicide is selfish (see this post I wrote a couple weeks ago).

But my husband killing himself five days after my shoulder surgery, when I couldn't take care of myself, was selfish.

But was there ever a good or convenient time for my husband to die? Probably not.

When I read the emails, reminding me of my surgery, and reminding me of how close to surgery my husband’s suicide was.. I was angry. How dare him leave me right after I had surgery! How dare him leave me when I needed him most.

Now counting back the days and going over his toxicology report, I realized he stopped taking all his medication a day or two before my surgery. How could he stop taking his medication when he knew I needed him for my recovery?

I read these emails a couple of weeks ago and have been trying to process the anger and thoughts.

I have finally come to see the silver lining in this.

The last four days of our life together was spent TOGETHER. We spent very intimate moments together during that time. I’m not talking about sex.. I’m talking about my husband bathing me.. and shaving me in places I wouldn't let anyone get close to with a sharp object.

Taking care of me in ways I wouldn't let just anyone take care of.

These are my last memories of him. Watching him carefully wash my hair, carefully wash me head to toe, attempting to not cause me shoulder pain or get it wet. My last memories of him is not the bipolar stricken person I had come to know. It was my husband that loved me, took care of me when he obviously couldn't live one more day.

His last four days on this earth revolved around taking care of me.

While I have been angry with him for leaving me in such a way, I will forever be thankful for this time we had together. The time he took to take care of me.  The times I sat helpless in the bathtub and just trusted him to do everything for me.

Ironically if I hadn't reschedule my surgery, I would have had surgery seven months after my husbands death. I wouldn't have had this time with my husband. And my mom would have been taking care of me.. including bathing me.

Maybe there is a silver lining in everything after all. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Go



I'm a pretty laid back cat.

Put me in a room with great music, good company and  a cold beer and I'm set.

But that's all external. Those are creature comforts.


When it comes to the internal....

The decisions I make that will determine my life at that current moment.

I've learned that the one thing you can't be is laid back.

You must be vigilant.

A gladiator for your heart and all that it truly needs.


When it comes to living the life you deserve, you can't go with the flow.

You must stand for what you need.

What you deserve.

Where you're challenged.

Where you learn.

Where your uncomfortable.

Where you're at home.

Stand for what is uniquely you.


When it comes to your life, don't go with the flow.

Go where you grow.


End of story.

Beginning of a beautiful reality.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Turn It Down

Today is my birthday.
Sort of.
This blog will post on Friday, and so by the time you read this, it will no longer be my birthday.
But right now, this minute, Thursday, September 26th, at almost midnight, it is the end of my birthday.

This year, I am 42.
This is the 3rd birthday without my husband.
My first birthday without him was so awful, I don't like to think about it much. It was only a couple months after his sudden death, and I was  39 years old, and turning 40. I had teased him constantly that he had better make a huge deal over my 40th birthday, and that he had better have something "epic" planned - some sort of incredible surprise. Well, "SURPRISE!!! I'm dead!"

Not exactly what I had in mind.

I vaguely remember, in the weeks after his death, finding some notes he had taken in his notebook and online, about possible places to take me for a special, intimate birthday weekend. He had looked up Cape May, Vermont, some beaches out in the Hamptons. Instead, my good friends planned a trip to Woodstock, where we rented a big beautiful house, drank wine, played board games, and laughed our asses off together. It was wonderful. And I barely recall being there. The days and weeks and months after my husband's death all seem pretend to me, like pieces and fragments of an impossible puzzle, that I simply don't have the energy to solve.

I also remember going to mom and dad's place in Massachusetts that first year, where my brother and his wife and two kids came over, and we made my favorite meal and had cake and presents, just like it was any normal, ordinary year. My mom has this tradition where, if it's your 40th birthday, or any milestone birthday, you get 40 presents to unwrap. Somewhere around bite 7 of mom's red cake, and taking the tape off gift #11, my heart said "No." My soul and my face started crying, I got up from the table and ran into the bathroom, where I locked myself for a good 15 minutes, just sobbing away my pain. I felt so guilty. How could I celebrate life when my husband doesn't get to live one? How can I open presents and eat cake and blow out candles when he never gets to see another year, another age - ever again? When I finally emerged from the bathroom, my then 3 year old nephew Brian took the next gift out of my hands and said sweetly: "I will open them for you, Auntie. You are sad."

My second birthday without him was uneventful and blah. Probably had dinner with friends, and at some point, went to mom and dad's again to celebrate there too. Last year though, we did things a bit differently, tried a new tradition. My brother brought over fresh lobsters, my dad grilled steaks, and we got farm fresh corn on the cob. I still missed my husband like crazy every single second, but doing something that we had not done as a family with him really seemed to help. I didnt have to sit there and think about remembering when we did this with Don, because we didn't. We never had steak and lobster with Don, so steak and lobster was much less painful. And after my sobbing incident the year before, mom and dad toned things down some, and gave me a nice gift card. No presents to open. No ribbon to untie. No calling attention to the big fat elephant in the room named death.



So today is my birthday, even though it is already tomorrow.
And things have changed a lot.
And yet, they haven't.
Last night I went to a Yankee game with my dear friend Lori. I felt my husband surround me in one of our favorite places to go together, like a friend I couldn't see. He was hiding inside the cool, crisp air. Traveling with every crack of the bat. Leaning himself into me, so I could rest my head against his chest. The Yankees lost, but there was a magic inside that stadium last night. Something that can't be explained. Something that felt alive.

And as I walked home from the subway after the night was done, my eyes and my soul started to cry, right there in the middle of the street. This has happened often after his death, after nights out with good friends, when I once again find myself alone at the conclusion of the day. But while I cried and walked, I began talking to my beautiful, dear, very dead husband. I told him out loud how sad I felt that he wasn't at that game too, that he can't give me birthday flowers and candy and cards from each of our kitties. And I found that by talking to him out loud, I am talking the pain away, and bringing in the love.

It didn't stop the ache, because the ache never stops. Not ever. But sometimes - on a perfect autumn night, on the eve of your birthday, when you're walking home after an evening of wonderful baseball - the volume on that constant ache can get turned down for awhile, and you can feel and hear and breathe all of the life around you.

Sometimes.

And in that life, lives the life of your husband, and the life that you shared. In that life, breathes the possibility that things won't always be so traumatic and exhausting. In that life, there is hope. For the Yankees. For birthdays. For holidays. And for me.

I think they call that progress.



Pictured: me and Don, Yankee Stadium, 2009. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Same old grief.

I've been thinking about what to blog about for two days now. And I haven't been able to come with anything.

At least, not anything new.

The ironic thing is, grief has been so heavy for me this week. Yesterday morning in the middle of a random conversation with my two year old about daddy, I burst into tears, which turned in to full-out sobbing by the time I got home.

Later in the day, driving around, it happened again. Tears and a deep ache in my gut for Jeremy.

Earlier in the week, I couldn't stop hearing my friend's voice in my head saying "We found Jer. I think he's dead." It played over and over and wouldn't go away. Nothing can make my heart pound and tears burn quicker than thinking about that moment.

Today, my daughter wanted to bring in her scrapbook that we made together about her and her daddy into school for show and tell. I could hardly flip through the book without agony.

Grief has been everywhere. You think I'd have something new to say about it, but I felt uninspired.

The truth is, grief isn't always new. I don't always have epiphanies about grief or life or my journey. Sometimes, even when life is going along just fine, grief just stops you in your tracks without warning.

Even after all this time, my heart just sometimes hurts so much that it consumes me. Sometimes, I can't even explain it, other than my love for Jeremy never ends, therefore neither does my grief for him. The void is never filled and the pain never goes away.

Nothing new to report, just walking through each day, along side of all of you, with a insatiable ache that never really goes away. I can endure, and I do....but sometimes, just sometimes....grief is just the same old crappy companion who likes to remind me it's not going anywhere.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

There's No Place Like Home ......



...... even if it's a brand new home.
And sometimes ...... especially if it's a brand new home.
(Not new as in newly built, but new as in new to you.)

As most of you know, I've been splitting my time between Houston and New York City.
And I've loved being in NY.
I've always loved being in NY, but now I love it for additional reasons.
And the biggest reason is because ...... it's not like home.
Or rather, the place that used to be home.
Before.

If someone would've told me in the first two years of my "after" that I would soon want to leave the place that had been home to us for almost 20 years, I would've told them that they were crazy.  I could not imagine leaving our house, our/my friends ...... our community.

But it's now been almost 6 years (how can that really be possible?) since Jim died.  And time, at least for me, has changed how I feel.
I still love our/my friends and our community, but things are ...... different.
And I now have a love/hate relationship with our house.

I have no idea why I didn't feel this way from the beginning, or why it's only grown stronger over time, but my home is becoming a house.
A house that I'm starting to resent because of all of the upkeep and cost it requires.
And because he's not there.
Particularly because he's not there.
My house and my community no longer feel like home.

To me, the words "There's no place like home" have a double-edged meaning.
There's no place like home, when it hurts to be there.  No other place has the capability to cause me pain, sadness and hurt.

There's no place like home, when you know there's no other place you'd rather be.
And for me, that's the place where Jim didn't live.  He's not supposed to be there.
It's the place where people know me as Janine ...... not as Jim's widow.
It's the place where I feel 100% comfortable and 100% accepted for who I am, rather than being treated differently because of who I was, or for who I am now.

This morning I woke up in Texas.  Tonight I'm falling asleep in New York.
 When I woke up, my first thought was this:
"I'm going home today!"
 It was a thought that just popped into my head.  It wasn't even a conscious effort.  I was surprised when it happened.
Surprised and happy.

Right now, at this point in my life, for however long it lasts ...... I feel like I've finally found my new home.
I'm going to enjoy that feeling, and my new home, as long as it's there ...... which I hope is a very long time.  But if it's not, that will be OK.
Because I know this:  If I can choose to pick up and move some place all on my own once ...... I can certainly do it again.

Because there really is no place like home.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A legacy of kindness....


I recently read a book (and then watched the movie) called "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell.  
I count it as one of my top ten reads of all time.
It's not an easy read, either in content (lots of death and savagery), nor in lightness (its complex, you can't afford not to be 100% focused on the story or you will miss something important).

But this book spoke to me like no other book has done since Greg died. 
The themes of death and rebirth, life after life, connectedness between all souls both rich and poor,  is something that that resonates with me on a deeper level.

A character in the book, Sonmi-451 makes the connection between how our acts today form our future and the futures of those whose lives we are part of.

...and I like to think that Greg's calm nature, his kindness and compassion, even when met with people who were  ... ummm .... exceedingly annoying (my view) .... has in many ways, birthed the future. 

Not his, but mine.  The children's.  ...and hopefully, his grandchildren's.

...and I know that his need to treat all he met with love and respect is something he learned from the lap of his own father, a man who was brought up witnessing the extreme cruelty of his own father and who made a choice to be different.  

To birth a kind and compassionate future for his children and his children's children.


...and I realise what it is about this idea that I like so much.....
 the realisation that THIS is Greg's legacy....

A legacy of kindness.

...and I think that's a pretty good legacy to have left.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hakomi



source
Every time I dissolve into tears and those tears, instead of cleansing, dissolve into more tears and a spiral down into depression and anxiety, I realize I'm worrying about the same things. I'm stuck. It's the SSDD syndrome: Same Shit, Different Day.

I KNOW worrying about the future is pointless. I KNOW accepting myself is crucial. I KNOW I'll eventually find meaningful work again. I KNOW that I won't be alone forever. I KNOW there is hope for me. But none of that knowledge stops me from turning back to my old comfortable fears and self-doubts. I'm a burden on others, I don't belong with anyone. I don't have my own family. The holidays are approaching. I'll always be alone. I'll never find my family. What if I never get to be a mom? Should I go back to school? Should I go back to teaching? What if I die alone in my house and my cats eat my corpse?

I want to shake myself. How can I know with such deep understanding that these doubts and worries are unfounded and STILL feel them and think them? Still let them keep me awake at night? Let them bind my muscles up into knots, paralyze me, keep me from flourishing? This is the wall I keep running into whenever I work on myself in therapy. After reading up on trauma, and especially complex trauma, I've discovered that traditional talk therapy can usually get us to the point at which we can see these patterns in our thinking (which is essential) but those of us who've suffered trauma might not get past this and into a place of healing and change without a different approach. It looks like working with mindfulness, body awareness, and the way memories and beliefs are stored in the brain might be the way to break past this barrier. The newest breakthroughs in therapy are in these areas. Hakomi training is this new stuff. It's only in the last 20-30 years that it has surfaced, so many therapists haven't been trained yet. I'm guessing this is where the field of therapy is headed, though.

Here's what the website says about Hakomi:

Hakomi helps people change “core material.”  Core material is composed of memories, images, beliefs, neural patterns and deeply held emotional dispositions. It shapes the styles, habits, behaviors, perceptions and attitudes that define us as individuals. Typically, it exerts its influence unconsciously, by organizing our responses to the major themes of life: safety, belonging, support, power, freedom, control, responsibility, love, appreciation, sexuality, spirituality, etc. Some of this material supports our being who we wish to be, while some of it, learned in response to acute and chronic stress, continues to limit us. Hakomi allows the client to distinguish between the two, and to willingly change material that restricts his or her wholeness.
Hakomi is an experiential psychotherapy: Present, felt experience is used as an access route to core material; this unconscious material is elicited and surfaces experientially; and changes are integrated into the client’s immediate experience.
Hakomi is a body-centered, somatic psychotherapy: the body serves as a resource that reflects and stores formative memories and the core beliefs they have generated, and also provides significant access routes to core material.

After spending an hour with a Hakomi therapist the other day, without telling her how I've been feeling about traditional talk therapy, she verified exactly what I've experienced. Talking about my core issues that limit me always ends up at the same impasse: I KNOW the thoughts aren't helpful but I still FEEL them and keep thinking them.

She seemed to fully understand the frustration and gave me hope that she had the goods that (with my hard work, too) would help unravel some of this stuff.

So, we'll see where this goes.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Insomnia



Ugh. Insomnia. We have been enemies friends for six very long years.

I have tried sleeping pills. I have tried everything natural. I've tried having a normal routine. I’ve tried to not let myself lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for longer than 30 minutes before I get up and read, take a hot shower, attempt something to help me sleep.

I've told myself for the last year that as long as I am laying down, at least my body is resting. I have convinced myself that as long as I let my body rest for eight hours, I will be fine.

This week I guess I hit my brick wall.

I was sitting at my desk, just staring at my computer. I wasn't working, just staring. Not even realizing I was doing it. My co-worker came in and asked if I was okay. I told the lie I tell every day “Yes, I’m fine.” She continued “Are you sure? You look really upset?”

I started crying. She had that oh shit what did I say? Look on her face. “What’s wrong?”

I am so tired. So tired I can’t see straight. So tired that I think I am losing my mind. No one understands how insane insomnia is making me!

“How long exactly has it been since you slept?”

I couldn't think. I couldn't count. Eight nights. Maybe ten. Maybe twelve. Maybe two weeks. I’m not sure. The last time I got eight hours of sleep in one sitting? Months. Probably since I went off my sleeping pills in October.

Listening to myself try to remember how long it’s been since I slept, I realized it was time.

Time to go back to the doctor. Time to stop trying to do this alone. Time to throw in the towel and give up and scream “ I have insomnia!”

I made a doctor’s appointment.

Friday I found myself sitting in my doctor’s office, yet again. With another medical issue.. again.

My doctor came in and asked why I was there.

“I can’t sleep. I haven’t slept normal in six years. I stare at the ceiling for two to four hours before falling asleep. After I finally fall asleep, I wake up two hours later. To stare at the ceiling for another two hours. Or read for two hours. And I’ll be able to fall asleep for another two hours. Only to wake up again two hours later. And the cycle continues until it’s time to get up for work. I’m losing my damn mind! I can’t take this shit anymore. I can sleep all day but I can’t sleep at night. I don’t let myself nap. I am exhausted every.second.of.the.day. and as soon as I go to bed, I’m wide awake. Staring at the ceiling. I’m losing it. I do it all week long that come the weekend all I do is sleep. I think something broke when my husband died. Can "sleep" break? Is that even possible?”

I stopped. I realized I was rambling. I might have said too much. Maybe I should have sugar coated it and made it sound not as bad as it really is.

Mrs. Doc Lady “Let me get this right, you are sleeping two hours at a time, and have been doing this for six years now? And we have tried you on sleeping meds? Why are you not taking your sleeping pills that I prescribe?”

Because they are addicting.. and I don’t want to become an addict. I stopped taking them in October. I thought my body would reset and I would be fine.

I suddenly felt like I was on trial. I was defensive. How dare she question my sleep!

Mrs. Doc Lady “Honey, these sleep problems going on for six years NOT normal. You can’t do this anymore. Do you realize insomnia kills people?”

Yes. I know insomnia can actually kill you. But so can sleeping pills. But I’m not normal. I was widowed at 29 years old. What exactly is normal about me?

She could see I was defensive and upset. “You have been in counseling for six years. It's been three years since your husband passed away. It's time to get back to some kind of normal. I want you to sleep more than two hours at a time. Frankly if I was sleeping two hours at a time for the last six years I would probably lose my mind”

I took a deep breath and reminded myself she wasn't the enemy. After all, I called her for help. She didn't drag me in there.

Mrs. Doc Lady “So here’s what we are going to do. For six weeks you are going to be in bed, with your sleeping pill in your stomach, no later than 9pm every single night. Including Saturday’s. And you will be up at 5am. Every single day, including Saturday’s. No naps. No TV or phone after 8pm. Sleeping pill in your stomach and you in bed by 9pm, got it? For six straight weeks. After that we will wing you off the medication. If your sleep is not normal, and I mean at least six straight hours of sleep a night kind of normal, I am sending you in for a sleep study. I am afraid something is wrong but we need to do this before we can do a sleep study. And I need you to commit to this for six weeks. Six straight weeks. No skipping the medication because you think you can do this on our own. You can do this or I can send you for a sleep study tonight”

She had me backed into a corner. I was sweaty and slightly panicky. On the verge of tears. Frankly she scared the shit out of me the whole sleep study thing. What if my husband died isn't really my issue? What if I have a medical problem that causes me to wake up every two hours?

Feeling beaten, slightly ashamed, scared of the possibility of a sleep study and too tired to argue, I agreed.

I realized that even when I seek help, I don’t want to accept it. Even when I know I am at my wits end, I fight it. Even when I feel like I can’t stay sane any longer, I fight help.

Where did this come from? I used to gladly accept help. I used to admit I had a problem without feeling ashamed or attacked.

Now my doctor that is trying to help me, is the enemy. What caused this? Being widowed?

So I start my six weeks of a who can really do this normal sleep schedule. Bed at 9pm. Up by 5am.


I can’t help but grumble. Frustrated that I have yet another medical issue since my husband’s death. Obviously caused by my husband’s illness and suicide.

Frustrated that I am fighting another war alone. Frustrated that I will be doing this alone. Frustrated that I am getting up at 5am on Saturday and Sunday's to be.. alone. Frustrated that the only motivation for this is my own. I don't have anyone to wake me up at 5am, coffee in hand, and say "Get up. Only a couple more weeks and we are done with this whole thing. Now get up." 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Solution

*posting for Taryn who is having technical difficulties...she is the writer, I am just the messanger! ~M


I've recently been on the search for a new home.

It's not a long distance from my current casa, but in an area I love and come alive in.

During many of the showings of the houses I've found enticing, I've been bombarded with one question over and over from my brokers (aka parents).

As we entered each place and I'd point out something I loved, they would rebutt with....

"What does having that/living here solve that your current house doesn't?"

Sometimes I would have an amazing answer, sometimes I didn't, only that I just loved it's feel and environment (an answer not always accepted by discerning parents...or heck....people in general).

After a few days of searching and that unwavering question from outside entities, I found a moment to sit, relax and reflect.

In that reflection on just what moving would solve, an amazing revelation occurred. Not only about the house...but in life in general.

It's not always about the solution...sometimes it's simply about the evolution.

I can't tell you what or how certain things have been solutions for me, as much as they have helped me to evolve to a better, happier person.

Reason and answers sometimes need to take backseat for our heart's knowing pull to something beyond where we are and what we have been.

An evolution.

One that may not be solving something, as much as it is key in growing something within.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Numbers

I am jealous of old people. 

Every single old person that I see walking down the street. I am jealous of them. 
The bitter ones. 
The wrinkled up, exhausted by life ones. 
The healthy ones.
The sick ones.
The ones who have made it into their late 80's or even early 90's, and who are still walking side by side with their partners. 
The husband who grabs his wife's fragile hand, pulling her up that last small step, into their favorite diner. 
The wife who rubs soothing lotion or cream into her husband's back and neck, in places where he can no longer reach on his own. 

I am so jealous of them, I cannot see straight. Jealous that they exist. Confused as to why they get the honor of living so many years, and my husband doesn't. Angry that they know what it's like to spend decades upon decades with the same person by their side. Decades. It's the most beautiful word in the atmosphere, because we never made it to decades. Not even one decade. Not even half of a decade. We never even made it to 5. 

It bothers me. It bothers me more than it should, perhaps. It bothers me that so many numbers move forward each year. 

The dates move forward: 2011, 2012, 2013 ... 

My age moves forward: 39, 40, 41 ....

Time moves forward. Time always moves forward. But when it does, the number of years that my husband and I were married will always remain the same. Four and a half years. Never more. Never. 

That hurts. 

My marriage made me less afraid. Less afraid of life. Less afraid of growing old. Getting sick. Watching other people grow old or get sick. My marriage made me want the honor of being old together. Living life together. Facing pain and laughter and horrors and adventures and many ordinary, nothing special days - together. 

My husband used to do an impression of himself as an old guy. It was hilarious, and frighteningly accurate as to how he probably would have been. "I can't wait to be old!" He would joke with me. "It's gonna be awesome! I get to do whatever the hell I want, and everyone just writes me off as the old, senile guy. I can kick kids off my property and yell at people and drive all over the damn place, not looking out for anything or anyone. I can say inappropriate things and sit in my own filth and nobody will think twice about it. How great is that?"

 He moved from Florida to New Jersey to be with me, so I always used to tell him that one day, we would move back to Florida together. When we are old and ready to croak - just like everybody else. We always laughed about what we would be like as an old couple, going to the Golden Corral for the $9.99 buffet at 4pm. Helping each other up those stairs. Home by 7 to watch "Murder She Wrote." 

It's not fair. I don't know how to grow old alone. I don't wanna do it alone. I need my teammate, my other half, so that I can be less afraid again. How am I supposed to do this without someone there to hold up my fragile bones? I know I shouldn't think about this stuff. I know. I should stay in the present. Live for today. But it's my nature. I'm a worrier. I can't help it. I lay awake at night, thinking about being old. Thinking about having to one day face the death of my parents - without my husband by my side. How the hell am I supposed to do that??? HOW??? The very thought of it gives me chills, and makes my skin sweat. Facing things that are scary, without you. Forever. 

That hurts. 

Time moves forward. Life moves forward. But our marriage stays stuck at just over 4 years, and you will never be an old man. I will have to be an old woman, and you will never be an old man. 

What would you have looked like? How would you have acted? I will never know those things. But I do know this ....... 

When I am 42 next week, you will still be 46. When I am 50, you will be 46. When I am 70, 80, 90, gone ... 

You will be 46. You will always be 46.
Forever. 
And time will keep pushing on .



NOTE: Since I have started writing at "Widow's Voice", I have been sharing Fridays with Chris Weaver, the sole widower expressing his voice amongst the sea of widows here. I always loved reading Chris' Friday posts. Not just because I was getting the male perspective, but because he is a good writer, and his words carried such truth and promise in them. Last week was Chris' last blogpost here - for now. For awhile. Never say forever, because you just never know. But for the immediate future anyway, Chris has moved forward to conquer his next chapter, and I wish him all the best. So, with that being said, I am honored to now be writing here and coming to you live each and every Friday. I look forward to laughing and crying and sharing with you all, and as always, thank you so much for reading. 


Thursday, September 19, 2013

A picture is worth...

source


...1000 words.

Or, so they say. Whoever 'they' is.

But, I think a picture is worth so much more than that.
A picture doesn't just convey an endless amount of words, but it can also capture an emotion that no words can describe.
It can preserve a memory that might otherwise have been forgotten.
It can make you laugh or cry just at the very sight of it.
And for us here, a picture is priceless - something that can't be duplicated or repeated.
It's tangible proof of the intangible.

This ironic thing happened when Jeremy died. I stopped taking pictures. Just when I lost everything most precious and was seeking whatever I could find in the few pictures I took....and always looking for more - for something I missed - I couldn't seem to take pictures for myself.
For one, I looked like hell and didn't want to be in any picture.
I didn't want to fake a smile.
I didn't want to pretend.
But it was also just too painful.
It hurt to capture my beautiful children's faces without their daddy there to ever see it.
It hurt to take pictures of friends continuing to live life seemingly unaffected by the world flipping upside down.
It hurt to see life moving forward and I wanted no part in it.

Eventually, my yearning to capture life's moments came back to me. After my brother died, I searched for as many pictures as I could find and felt so much heartache that I didn't have more of us together. The day of his funeral, after our family got together for the evening, I decided to take pictures with the people I loved. Now, whenever we all get together, I quickly stand next to each of them and snap a picture. I started to hurt when I had no pictures of my friends anymore and they were all taking pictures together without me. So now I try to make sure I take the pictures that I don't want to forget. I'm now the mom who is constantly stopping my kids for pictures....it's gotten to the point now where I hear "Mom, take a picture of me doing this!" on a regular basis. And I'm pretty sure at this point, I have more pictures of Steve and I together over the last 20 months together than I have of mine and Jer's 8 years together. Because I've learned the hard way how precious those can be.

I find myself often looking back at pictures...
My old profile pictures on Facebook.
The pictures on my iPhoto library.
My instagram photos.
The pictures tagged on Jeremy's wall.
It can be painful sometimes, but I am always drawn to recreate those moments in my heart and my mind.
To remember.
To somehow capture as many pieces as I can before it's too late.
Because someday, they might be all I have left.


"If you want to know what someone fears losing, watch what they photograph."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Like a Wheel Within a Wheel ......




...... these are our wedding rings.  A circle in a circle.
I had them put together like this at about 9 - 10 months out.  I wear them on a necklace.
I haven't worn them in a while, but lately, I've felt a strong pull to wear them.  A lot.
I don't know why and I've learned to not question things that I feel pulled to do.
I have also felt the missing of him stronger lately.
I'm sure that one thing is connected with the other.
I don't know why, I just know.

Even now, at almost 6 years out, the thought of how very much I still miss him makes me cry.  I cannot speak (or type) the words, "I miss him" without crying.
Ever.

Grief, and my "after", are like a circle within a circle.  They are intertwined with each other ...... forever.  The missing of him will never end.  Like a never ending circle.  I will always miss him and I suppose that I will always cry at the depth of the hole he left behind.  Within me.

Don't get me wrong.  My life is good.
Yes, it could be better, but I'll take good.
Because I can't have him.

I am happy.
It's a different happy, but I'll take happy ...... however it looks and feels.
Because I can't have him.
And I can't live miserably ...... missing him.

But I can continue to live, feel happiness, feel joy when it comes ...... and feel love in many different ways.
Even if I can't have him.
Because I can't have him.

I'll continue to love, live, be happy ...... and feel peace, even while I sometimes feel grief.
And miss him.
And cry.

It's a circle.
Within a circle.
And I'm blessed to live in that circle.
Because I was blessed to have him.









Windmills of Your mind

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnaval balloon
Like a carousell that's turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it's own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream.

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle your head
Why did summer go so quickly
Was it something that I said
Lovers walking allong the shore,
Leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind
Like the circle that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And the fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

All the dumb things*



... people say.




Last week, a teacher I like and respect was chatting to me in the staff room before school.  She said "I've been widowing all weekend because my husband was away.  Amanda, I don't know how you do it".

..and I know, I KNOW that these kinds of comments often make the collective blood of widows begin to simmer.

But I didn't bite her head off or correct her because I know what she was trying to say.

She was trying to say that she admires me because I parent by myself all the time.
She was telling me with her clumsy words that she thinks I have strength and calmness that she knows is hard to keep up.
She was telling me that being a single (sole) parent who is working full time is a hard job.

...and it is.

.
.
.
People say dumb things all the time.  But they think they are being compassionate and kind.  ..and they often are.


At the moment, I am a useless bystander, watching, waiting and hoping that a little girl I know survives long enough to get a new heart.
Last week she went to the doctor with a cold.  By that same afternoon, she was in hospital on life support with cardiomyopathy as her diagnosis.

Lara is 6 years old, on life support and needing a new heart. 

This has stunned my collective friends to the core.
We are gobsmacked as to how this cheeky little girl has gone from having a persistent cough to having a ventilator in a couple of days.

...and like many of us have done in our time of grief (myself included), Lara's mother Ali has turned to facebook as a way of keeping everyone updated on her condition and venting when she needs to.
On the facebook page, she has posted pictures of Lara doing craft whilst hooked up to pipes and tubes and she has posted her fear over the upcoming transfer to Melbourne where heart transplant surgery will occur if a heart is "found".
I hang off every word, hoping that a heart is found (yet knowing another family has to suffer a tragedy for this to happen).
There's even a fundraising page which raised over $10000 in less than a week: people care.


....But this is also where all the dumb things are being said ... in the comments.


All the classics are there:
What a Little Angel / God is calling his little angel
What a fighter
Stay Strong

Don't cry
Don't worry
She needs you to stay calm
Let me know if I can do anything to help...

When what they mean is that the love Lara and her family.
That they are worried.
That they hope Lara doesn't die.
That they don't want to show how scared they are for fear of upsetting Ali even more.
That they are uncomfortable and don't know what to do when Ali airs her feelings.
That they know they should do something but don't know what exactly to do (so they put the onus back onto the one person who is stressed out of her gourd:, Ali).


What they are really doing is trying to let Ali know she is not alone.
That they care about Lara.
That they wish things were different.

They just tend to eat a fair bit of shoe while they are doing it.



People mean well and their love and concern is real.

This is something I know I need to remember next time someone drops an almighty clanger on me.

* All the dumb things is a line from a Paul Kelly song that I love and it seemed to fit this post....

Monday, September 16, 2013

Scary

source

Everything is so damn scary for me these days. Just speaking up and saying what I think feels like too much of a risk. It's as though my confidence died with Dave.

I know I'm courageous only because I can see now that I acted many times since Dave died despite nearly crippling fear. But I don't feel courageous. I feel so scared that I want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.

It's the acting even when you're scared out of your gourd that means you're courageous. This is something that took a long time to sink in for me. It's still sinking in. In fact, it doesn't register until someone else tells me. It's as though my own brain can't do the math (Fear + Acting anyway = Courageous) unless I'm reminded by an outside source. And even then my brain goes right back to telling me all about my fear.

My therapist said that I'm holding the fear right up in front of my face so I can't see around me. Good stuff might be out there, but I don't see it because all I can see is the fear. I try to picture myself setting the fear down in my lap long enough to look around. It is NOT EASY.

In an attempt to help this sink in for me and really examine how I've been gutsy and brave lately, I'm going to start thinking and talking about my achievements more. I downplay. Always downplaying. And then I forget those accomplishments as my brain goes straight for the fears and the doubts instead.

I'll start here, knowing that you lovely people won't think of it as bragging but as a way to survive and triumph over negative thinking and paralyzing fear. Also, I'd love to hear about your accomplishments in the comments. Don't leave me hangin'!

1. Recently, while at a nearby cafe, I told the owner I could make her blackboard menu for her. I've now become a blackboard artist. A 4' x 8' blackboard is in my house while I work on it. I love working on it. I'm good at it. I was worried I wouldn't be able to do it.

2. I'm scared at a primal level to love anyone again and yet I continue to confront this fear daily by reaching out to people, including the man I'm dating, to be vulnerable. I can't do it without mouth-drying, hand-shaking, stomach-churning fear, but I'm doing it anyway because what's the point of living if you're not opening your heart, right? Sheesh.

3. I just made an appointment to talk to a career advisor at Portland State University so I can decide what I want to do when I go back to school. Which I'm going to do. I've deliberated over it for so long. Time to stop deliberating and just do it. Here we go.

I suppose the hard part about really seeing my courage is that before Dave died, I don't think these 3 accomplishments would have come with so much fear. Some part of me thought that brave equals no fear. So my brain thinks I used to be brave and now I'm not. Where did I get that? When did my brain decide that brave means no fear? I guess it's our society, isn't it?

It's cool to be confident and brazen and fearless and it's a little shameful to be terrified and shaky and blundering. But then again, how brave is it to do something you're not afraid to do? Not really brave at all.

Okay. In that case, I'm brave. And so are all of you.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Selfish

Source

I’ve been meaning to write this blog.. but I have been processing it.

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a date (gasps).

During the course of dinner, the topic of how my husband died came up.

My date started talking about how selfish suicide is and how I live in the past by “celebrating” my husband’s death every year.

I sat there.. sipping my wine and listened to his opinions.

And just thought to myself.. this.dude.doesn’t.have.the.first.clue.what.in.the.hell.he.is.talking.about.

Does not get it at all.

Surprisingly I was able to put his words behind me and enjoy the date.

The next morning as I was slowly waking up.. I started thinking about the night before and conversation we had about my husband’s suicide and how I live in the past.

It dawned on me I have turned some type of corner in my grief.

If someone, let alone a date, would have told me a year ago that suicide was selfish, I would have came unglued. Possibly told the guy to shove it. He might not have walked away from our date without a fork sticking out of his forehead. I could see myself handing him a “You are not alone card” and tell him to call me when he is suddenly thrown into widowhood. And most likely would have got my stuff and left him sitting in the restaurant alone.

But I didn’t. I wasn’t angry with him. I actually took his words with a grain of salt, took his opinions with me and have been processing it for a while now.

I guess with the three year anniversary behind me, I turned some kind of grief corner.

A corner where I understand people don’t get it. But also understand that they have the right to their opinion. Even when their opinion doesn’t mean anything to me.

A corner where I no longer care to try to help someone understand.

A corner where I realized I don’t owe it to this person to explain myself or my husband’s death.

I understand that he hasn’t taken care of a very ill spouse. I understand he hasn’t watched his spouse die piece by piece for an extended period of time. And he doesn’t understand the guilt I carry for asking my husband to keep fighting for so long when all he wanted to do was give up.

He doesn’t understand the sigh of relief I let out when I learned my husband was gone. When I learned he was no longer suffering. When I learned I no longer had to be a caregiver, that for the first time in three years I could take care of myself.. and only myself.

And he has never found himself in such a dark and painful place that suicide seems like the only option.

Janine wrote about her recent experiences with people saying suicide is selfish (read it here).

I couldn’t agree more. Amazing writing Janine!

I have been on the edge. Where suicide was the only answer. More times than I care to admit to. For the first three years I was angry every morning.. because I woke up, yet again. Yet again I was still alive. That the heart break didn’t kill me in my sleep.

At what point does it become selfish to ask your very mentally ill husband to keep fighting? At what point does it become selfish to keep him alive?

People don't understand that for the first time in six years, I can be selfish. If suicide is selfish and I am selfish, than where exactly does all this fit?

I am happy to report that something inside of me has changed. I am happy to realize something “clicked” inside of me. I am happy to say that I can actually see my progress.

A year ago I couldn't see any progress in myself. I saw progress as getting up in the morning and going to work. I didn't see the little things that have "clicked".

And I am happy to say my date walked away alive with all limbs still intact.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

There's No Place Like Hope










I was spending my Friday evening perusing a used book store when my eyee were caught by this very catchy title.

Being an avid "Wizard of Oz" fan, the switch of HOME with HOPE struck such a chord with me.

Home, for me, has never equated to a physical structure, but rather a place to fully be me.


To be immersed by all that I love.

To let me hair down.

Dance around naked.

Talk out loud.

Find myself.

Cry.

Laugh.

LIVE...

A breeding ground to create memories and share moments with those I care about.

A place of peace.

Unapologetic.

Quirky.

Me.


When thinking of all that I hope for, I saw that it literally embodied what "home" was/is.

Hope is nothing more than us trying to find our way back to all that we are when we find ourselves in a space/energy/place that embraces all that we are and all those that add color to our canvas....hope in disguise.

I have no freaking clue what that darn book is about that stirred this realization...But I sure as hell know that it made me realize that there really is nothing like hope.

Nothing like 'home'.

Nothing like remembering where the yellow brick road leads to and what that homecoming means to one's soul.


Sometimes we just need to click the heels of our hearts and mind together to remember where it is.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Grief Is ......

Grief Is ... 

Grief is that feeling where nothing is flat. There are mountains and hills and mud, and giant pieces of glass. There is fire and lightning and floods, and you are walking in it, without any shoes on. In the dark. 

Grief is scolding hot and chilled to the bone. It gets in your nails and leaves you unwhole.

Grief is being jealous of your own brother, because he gets to have two beautiful kids with his wife. Envious of your own parents, because they get to be married to the same person for 45 years and counting. Grief is walking into a nursing home to visit an elderly relative, and walking out wondering what your husband would have been like at the age of 50. 65. 74. 83 ...

Grief is that migraine that pounds in your head and screams in your ear while you sleep. Grief is the monster that keeps you from sleeping. The illness that steals your reason. Your life. 

Grief is in your eyeballs, in your knees, in your feet. It's in your hips and your fingers. Grief lays in your stomach and churns. Grief is a pain in your arms. It's heavy, like carrying sandbags on your shoulders. Everyday. Every second. Grief hurts every inch of your body. All the time. Always.



Grief is the bear in the woods, waiting to pounce. It's a jumbled sentence. It's 157 emotions trapped inside of a tiny room - fighting. 

Grief is a silent Hell. Nobody could ever understand. Nobody could ever feel your pain. Nobody gets you. Grief is isolating. Lonely. Sick. 

Grief is nausea. Hysteria. Anxiety wrapped in panic. Fearing what comes next. Fearing right now. 

Grief is looking at a sunset and wondering if he can see it too. Grief makes you question. Makes you doubt. Leaves you unsure and unsafe.

Grief doesn't leave. It's that weird, annoying uncle who tells the same story over and over and over again, everyday, every year, on Thanksgiving. Grief is repetitive. Grief is repetitive. Grief is repetitive .....

Grief is a pimple that won't ever pop. It's a sadness that lives inside you. Grief is feeding yourself poison, everyday. Standing still, but feeling seasick. Overthinking, but incoherant. An ocean filled with dirt. Music that pierces your eardrum. Grief is the sky inside of your throat. Trapped. Scared. Waiting to be freed. 

Grief makes you ugly and mean and cold. It's that thing that won't let you go. Won't let you move forward. The elevator with no floors. The escalator that doesn't stop. A board game played for eternity. A merry-go-round forever. Grief is that friend that won't take a hint. It sleeps on your couch and doesn't pay rent. It's a scream and a whisper. A push and a pull. A stab and a dull.

Grief is guilt. So much guilt. Guilt for bad thoughts. Good thoughts. Guilt for feeling joy. Guilt for existing, while he lies there dead. 

Grief has no logic. No sense. No soul. 

This is my grief. You get your own. They are the same, but not at all. Grief does not share. It is selfish and rude. Grief will not go. It stays. It changes. It shifts. It hurts and it pains and it stomps and it punches. It ebbs and it flows. It calms, and then pours. 

There is no start. No finish. No middle. It's just there, all the time. Like breathing. 

If you survive it, and if you breathe through it and with it, you might emerge someone new.
Changed. 

Darker. Evolved. Different. Awake. 

Higher. Lighter. Re-born. Relieved. 

Grief is an endless loop. A book with no last page. 
Grief is nothing. 
It is everything. 
It is selfish and all-consuming. 
It is vague and grey and cloudy.

Grief is a circle, and you are inside.
Going 'round. 
and around and around. 
Keep going around.

Don't fight it. 
Just roll.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Perspective

The moment I walked out of my front door in Michigan for the last time, tears fell without warning and without permission. It was as if my body knew what my mind wouldn't allow me to think about or dwell on - that I was leaving behind a huge history and pieces of my heart that would never be found in any other place (cue Monica from Friends screaming as my inner dialogue, "It's the end of an ERA!")

As I drove away towards our new home in West Virginia, I did feel the sadness of leaving behind so much, but the closer we got to our destination, the more I started to feel other emotions. Excitement. Anticipation. Wonder. Eagerness. 

The biggest driving factor for me in moving, besides supporting my husband wherever he ended up, was the chance to start somewhere fresh. Somewhere without baggage, a place to create new relationships without fear of judgement or pity. A place where I could feel useful again, instead of forgotten and broken. It was a place where I could have a clean slate and reinvent myself. I could be anyone I wanted to be. 

I immediately thought of the way Jeremy saw me. The person he thought I was, and the person I've always wanted to be. Even in death, he found ways through others to show me how he felt about me and the way he talked about me to others. I thought I might finally have the environment that would cultivate the woman he always saw in me. No one would be there to remind me of my mistakes, to hold me to the person I've been before or their perception of who I am now. 

While in theory I couldn't wait to 'fix' all my flaws and recreate a better version of myself, I've quickly realized that it's not as easy as it sounds. 

First of all, I am already different than the person Jeremy saw in me. I've tried to hold on to those pieces, but I've added so many layers onto my skin, my heart, and my life experience. I am capable of so much more than I ever realized and somehow it took Jeremy's death to discover it - he somehow showed it to me through his life. 

Second of all, I want to take the past with me. Of course, I'd love to leave the baggage and the flaws but without them, I wouldn't be who I am now, and all those things have Jeremy's love and hand carved deep inside. I wouldn't dare leave without those. 

While I started to feel unsettled in my new surroundings already realizing that creating a new me wasn't what I thought it would be, I figured out it was because I was doing it wrong. I don't need to be someone different or someone new. I just needed to let me see myself through the eyes of the man who loved me. Luckily, I get to see her in the man who loves me now, but somehow it took a separation from the place I thought I was most comfortable to see what I am really made of. 

Seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you is the best way to look. It changes everything. It can carry you through any storm, any heartache, any transition. It can transform the way you think about yourself and your own capabilities. It is your clean slate.

As Michele so perfectly put it, long live love.

A Really Bad Night ......

...... and day.

I wrote this post for my blog yesterday.
I don't have the energy to write anything else at the moment.
So you get to experience what I experienced.
Buckle your seat belts.





I'm staying in NY an extra day, though I'd much rather be on my way to Texas than sitting here, feeling what I'm feeling.

Last night, at some time after midnight, Daughter #1's cat made his way into my bedroom, which I almost always keep shut so that he can't come in.  I was in the rest room, getting ready for bed and I suddenly heard the window shade make a loud noise.  I looked over there and immediately knew what had happened.  Jack had come in, jumped up on the window sill and either jumped or fell out of the window.  I couldn't see him down there, but a guy was looking up at me, not saying anything or pointing at anything, just looking.
I started praying out loud, grabbed my shoes and my keys and flew out of the door, down the elevator and outside.  I looked all over but couldn't see him.  Then I started to hear his meow.  I couldn't tell if he was in a tree, or down on the ground.  The more I called his name, the louder is meow became.  I finally dropped to my hands and knees and crawled around and between newspaper machines and parked cars and there I found him ...... underneath a car.  He wouldn't' come to me but just kept meowing.  I could tell that his mouth was hurt and that he was bleeding.  I spoke soothingly to him and petted him as I crawled as close as I could under that car.  Then I managed to grab his tail and started gently pulling to try to get him to back out.  All four feet were clawed into the ground as much as he could manage, so I had to pull harder on his tail, hoping that I wasn't causing any further injuries, and hoping that he wouldn't turn on me and use those claws and his teeth.
He didn't and I was able to get him out.  I cradled him close to me and went back into my building and up into my room.  I grabbed a soft towel and wrapped him in it and then walked into Daughter #1's bedroom to do what I dreaded doing ..... waking her up to tell her what happened.
That's when I started crying.

She held him and talked to him while I got on the internet and searched for a nearby 24 hour vet hospital.  I called one, left a message and was told that a dr would return my call in 15 minutes.  We both felt that was too long to wait so after a few minutes I got back on line and called the next place.  A woman actually answered the phone because they really were open all night.  So we got the address, jumped into a cab and headed over.

D1 turned Jack over to the nurse who let us in and said the dr would be up as soon as he'd examined him.
D1 and I sat in a small exam room and cried and cried, saying very little to each other, other than the "I'm so sorry" that came out every 5 minutes or so.  She wouldn't even meet my eye.

The vet came in pretty quickly and said that Jack's jaw had been broken in several places. Part of the bone under his cheek had broken and it seemed to have gone behind his right eye, which explained the bleeding we had seen there.  He said that he didn't seem to have any other orthopedic problems, so that was good.  He was breathing very rapidly, which we had known, but that could be due to the pain and the stress and hopefully not a lung injury.  He said that there may be neurological  damage but that we wouldn't know that for another 24 hours or so.  They had sedated him, and given him pain meds, which makes it hard to assess his neuro condition.  But at least he was out of pain.

Then he started talking about the cost that it would take to fix him.  He was a very, very nice man.  He said that it would not be inexpensive, but that there are programs we could apply for to see if we could get financial help for this.  The problem with that was the time it would take and he needed help that night.  The hospital didn't want to start spending a large amount of money on him if the treatment could not be continued.  He said that he'd work up an estimate for the cost for overnight and then we could decide what to do after that.
He also said that, if we could not afford it, another choice was to go ahead and put him down.  It would be humane and painless and he'd support that.
I think that's pretty much when D1 stopped looking at me altogether.
The dr. left to go get the estimate, leaving us alone in the room.
And even though we didn't have eye contact I assured her that Jack would not be put to sleep.

I paid the estimate for the overnight bill, we went down to see him for a bit.  He was asleep and pain-free, but still a difficult site for D1.
Then we caught a cab back to the apartment and still managed to not look at each other.

I just bought window fans that day.  I had installed 2 in the living room and one in my bedroom.  The one in my bedroom fits perfectly and leaves no room for a cat to get out.  The two in the living room are less fitted, but they seemed secure enough to me to not let a cat over them.
It wasn't one of those windows that he jumped from ..... it was my window that was open about 4 inches.
D1 had expressed her fear of the cat falling when I had told her weeks ago that we weren't going to run the AC when the air outside was cool.  It would be too expensive and just crazy.  She wanted me to install screens on the windows, which would be astronomical and isn't all that easy to find around here.  So I opted for opening the windows a crack, except for in my room, because the cat wasn't allowed in there and the door was always (usually) kept shut.

Then I saw the window fans at Beth's house and thought that those would work.  We could have the window open, yet blocked because a fan was set in it.

This morning, after D1 left for work, I removed the fans from the living room windows and went back to opening them a crack.  I'm sure that they'll be completely shut if and when Jack comes back.

So hopefully you can see why I completely see this as my fault.  As I'm sure she does.
Which is why, when she stopped by the hospital this morning to get the astronomical estimate for what the surgery and after care would cost, I said, "OK."
Because what else could I say?

I haven't stopped crying since this happened.  It's unbelievable how much guilt a heart can hold.

But you want to know the kicker?  The real heart-splitting thing that I canNOT get out of my head? The thing that causes just as many tears today?

The doctor said this: "We need to wait for the swelling to go down before we can operate."

And though this is in NO WAY the same ...... and very very INSANE ...... those are the exact words I was told 5 years and almost 9 months ago..
EX.
ACT.

And those words are killing me all over again.

It's not about the cat.  Or whether or not he lives.
It's about D1, and what this will do to her, and her partner, whom I care for very much.
And what it will do it us.

But more than that ..... it's about Jim.  It's about waiting all that damn day before taking him into surgery.  It's about not being able to wait, in the end.
And it's about none of that mattering ...... in the end.
Because it was the end.

It's about some things that never end.
No matter how much you wish they would.