Monday, March 31, 2014

The Person Underneath

source


In the beginning, I couldn't imagine talking about anything else. Did you hear? My husband died. I'm a widow. You have something else to talk about? Why? Is there anything else in the entire world that matters as much as this fact? 

Talking about anything else felt like forcing my brain to think around the sound of a tornado tearing through my head. It felt like pushing aside a mountain of heaviness on my chest to speak and then not mentioning the mountain perched on me. It felt insane.

If I met someone new I'd blurt it out almost immediately. It was the only fact that mattered. It was all of me. My previous life had dissolved, the future was wiped clean, like an etch-a-sketch, and the present moment was full of he is dead.

At some point, I didn't feel the need to talk about it all the time, but I felt a fierce need for anyone new I met to know ahead of time. I wanted to explain away my bad behavior, the vacant stares, the rudeness, the impatience, the forgetfulness, the random storms of tears. I wanted people to know that they weren't meeting me, they were meeting a facsimile. Some sort of replacement me who was just a shell with a broken interior. I wanted them to know why I was altered so dramatically.

And then, I began to wish I didn't have to tell them, but when they'd ask about my marital status, or why I'd quit teaching or moved to a new city, I'd feel the words pushing forth no matter how badly I wanted to swallow them. It felt like a lie to not mention it. It felt like revealing my worst parts to mention it. I could see the reaction once the words had been released and it almost always made it all more painful. I didn't want to talk about it, but not talking about it felt almost as uncomfortable. The words still pushed to be released.

Finally, now, lately, I'm not tempted to tell people unless they themselves turn out to be widowed. Otherwise, I have no desire for them to know about it. If they ask and prod, I'll tell them, but it will take much longer now.

I'm proud of where I've come and what I've survived. I'm not ashamed, but it no longer becomes my identity as I meet new people.

It's me I want them to meet, not the widow. I want to stop excusing myself and my behavior. I'm me. I'm not grief or sadness or widowhood. I'm so much more than that. My life has more meaning than my husband died.

I am so much more than that...
I am brave enough to quit a steady job and move to a new city. I am extra flexible and bendy, I write, I help people, I sing in a choir in service of others, I am good with words, I am terrible at most games except Mancala. I'm an animal lover, I'm a foodie, I'm smart and kind and artistic. I'm good at science. I like to do basic algebra for fun. I'm introverted but love people, I can be shy. I don't like to drink a lot. I have a million bottles of nail polish. I bite my nails. I own a home. I love to be outside. I hate crowds. I love silence. I have bad knees but strong legs. I hate televised sports and talking about cars. I sing songs to my cats. I'm woefully ignorant when it comes to politics and finances. I'm a good friend. I'm an only child.

I'm a million things and widowed is one of them. It has been the most important fact about me and the most shattering fact about me. It is not ALL of me. I'm more than that and I want to let other people know that before they begin to see me as the widow. I want them to meet me. I don't want to hide behind the shield of widow anymore. I don't need it to explain my behavior anymore. I am who I am, widowed or not. It's not everything about me, even though it has felt like it in the past and sometimes still does. It's time to take off this mask and reveal the person underneath. I've been hiding and I don't want to anymore.

So now, when I meet someone, I tell them who I am and I don't feel compelled to include widow in that description. Progress.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was my fiance's 30th Birthday. I don't say "would have been" because it doesn't make me feel like I am allowed to still celebrate it when I saw that. So instead, I say that it was, and is, the day he turned thirty. Even if he isn't here physically, saying it that IS his birthday helps me have permission to still celebrate.

The morning began with a thick, heavy fog - a very rare sight on the Texas coast. His family and I came down Thursday night to spend the weekend at their beach house. It's one of our go-to places to get away together on the hard milestones like this one. After some coffee, we headed for breakfast. Being a photographer, I couldn't resist the desire to drive the mile down the road to the beach before eating and capture some images of the pier in the fog. Drew's mom and I made a quick trip there, and the scene was utterly surreal. I've scarcely ever seen such thick fog, especially approaching nearly 10am. I grabbed my camera and went to work. The horizon was totally gone, lost in a milky white haze that waves drifted out of. The pier disappeared right into the fog, seeming to go on forever. Surfers dissipated into an abyss of white. It was a photographer's dream. I couldn't help but think, he knew exactly how to pull me out of my sadness that morning. To give me an unreal photo op. No matter what else is happening, when I am behind a camera I go into another world entirely… present in the moment, focused, and fully alive.



After getting my shots - and giddy with excitement - I returned back to the car with his mom to head for breakfast. As we approached… we stopped in our tracks, our mouths dropped. There in front of us on the beach, right in front of the car, was a toy helicopter. And not just that, but a yellow toy helicopter that was wrecked and broken, with the rotor blades missing. Speechless. If you don't know my whole story… Drew was a pilot, and he died in a crash. In a yellow helicopter… which hit power lines… and when we viewed the wreckage the rotor blades were cut off. Whoa.



I think I'm still speechless about this one. It's weird, it's downright creepy - but then again he always had a dark sense of humor, so this is SO him. He has never been subtle about sending signs. Especially on birthdays. For my 30th birthday - the first without him - I found his name drawn three feet wide into a rock wall in the middle of nowhere in Arizona…. right after a helicopter flew by. How do you explain that? I couldn't. I decided, I know, it has to be him.

And the eerie thing was… as we looked up and around us, we noticed that the fog had started to lift suddenly. Now I know it's not possible that my dead fiancé controls the weather, logically, but still I couldn't help but feel like he'd had a hand in keeping that fog there just long enough to drag me out to the beach. He would have known more than anyone that a thick fog or big thunderstorm would have had me scrambling for my camera. And he would have known I'd go right to the beach, and right for that exact pier. Had it been a sunny morning, we'd have gone straight to breakfast... and we'd have never found that helicopter. And really… that thing could have been anywhere on the miles and miles of beach that span Padre Island. Or in a trash can. But it wasn't. It was right exactly where I would happy to be led by this mysterious fog. And exactly where his mom decided to park the car, despite a mostly empty lot. I can't believe it as anything else put purposeful.

And it turns out, that little yellow sign helped get me through the day. It felt like a hello from him. Reminded me of his sense of humor, which I miss so much, and made me feel that perhaps him and his dark humor are very much alive and well in some other way. I kept me imagining his bright, playful spirit… happy, light, joking around with us, ready for a party. I had hoped for a sign from him, but I sure didn't expect one like that.

There were two other things helped me be able to celebrate this day. One of those is the people in my life. My friends and family from far and wide texted me, called me, and made it very clear that I was not going through this day alone. They left birthday messages online to him, just as if he were still here. That's an important one - for loved ones to wish him a happy birthday like he never left us. Because they get it, he never did leave us - not entirely. For them to wrap me up in their love and support not only made me feel safe, but also touched my heart so deeply because I am also watching them continue to take care of the most important person in his world for him. I know in some way, they are bringing him joy and comfort, which does the same for me.

The other thing that helped a lot was making something to honor him. I decided the best way to do that would be to get his family to help me create a special birthday message to him. We went out to the beach after dark and had a bonfire and a few beers in his honor. After a while, I got my camera out, and - using hot coals from the fire - we each took turns writing out part of a birthday message to him in the air. This morning, I compiled them all together in the computer into this:


I had thought of the idea to do it the day before… and I really gotta say, just knowing that I had some kind of plan for a way to honor him helped me a lot. It gave me something to look forward to on a very very hard day. I just kept clinging to that. I think having even some small kind of plans for days like these really help. I also warned my closest family and friends that I may need to call them and have a total breakdown this weekend. Of course, they already knew that, but it was more for my peace of mind and security to know I had people ready and waiting to pick me up. That's just me, I need to make my needs very clear so that I can feel safe and free to relax into whatever comes, joy or pain. It really helps.

All in all, it was a beautiful day. It was full of love, incredible surprises, and natural wonders. I feel like I honored him to the fullest. I feel like he knows it. I still cried. Of course. Tonight I had a pretty bad breakdown. But you know, that's okay I think. Because the good outweighed the bad on his day. For me and for his family and everyone close to me, it was really a pretty beautiful day of being together and appreciating each other deeper than we ever knew how to before he died.


Strut

  

It's been said that once we have found the true path, destiny unfolds before us like a red carpet.   

I'm a believer of that and the fact that much of destiny (if not all) is determined on our ability to self-propel ourselves into it.   

Sometimes we don't notice our forward trajectory and the red carpet unfolds at a slow speed, that years later is finally apparent to the naked eye and soul. And it shows us that not only has destiny rolled out the carpet, but shows us that we have walked across it.   

But as I've most recently learned, sometimes, after many years of becoming mindful of who and what we are made of, we become aware of destiny when it shows its bare self, and decide to throw ourselves into it head first...no looking back...and just like that, at the speed of lightning, that red carpet is not only rolled out, but ready for you to strut yourself down.   

Of course, on any red carpet, you'll find a step and repeat. Those moments where you're made to pause, see the light, gather yourself...but what's most important is that you keep walking...because lord knows you can't keep destiny waiting!  

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sick of It

I need to whine. Actually, scratch that. I'm not a whiner. I need to bitch.

I am not in love with my life right now. Right this minute. This "after" life that was handed to me in grenade form, exploding in my hands seconds upon it's rude entrance. Who the hell asked for this life - this life where I no longer have a husband? Where we don't get to have our family? Where I have to figure out everything alone, after years and years of figuring out everything alone? It's not fair. I already DID this shit - I spent my 20's and half my 30's doing this shit, before I found my person. Why did it take so long to find him, only for him to be taken away just 4 years into our marriage? Why couldn't he live well past the "financially crawling and struggling" part of our life together? Why do I have to claw my way through each day now, working 2 and 3 different jobs just to maintain? At what point does the universe and life stop screwing with me, and move the hell on to somebody else? I am annoyed by life.

I just got finished directing a show. It was a theatre variety show, an annual Fundraiser for CancerCare. I did this as a second job for the past few months, in addition to my other job as an Adjunct Professor teaching theatre and comedy. The rehearsal schedule and the process was stressful and exhausting, and I felt out of my element as a first-time director for this organization. In the middle of that, I flew to Tampa for a week and presented my Comedy Workshop at Camp Widow. It was amazing. It always is. The very experience of being there is incredible, and it is something that heals me a little bit more each time I go back. But when I got off the plane after landing back in New York, all of my stress and worry and exhaustion returned, and I collapsed and fainted on my living room floor. I was alone in my apartment, getting ready for another rehearsal, and I fainted. That night, just a couple weeks ago, I ended up in the E.R., having cat scans and E.K.G.'s and things done on me, and making sure I was okay. Turned out to be a combination of heatstroke, dehydration, and vertigo. Since those 5 or so hours in the E.R. and since my show closed last weekend, I have felt so beyond exhausted, that there isn't even a word for it. It's like I can't get back to "normal." My legs feel like they won't move, my feet hurt all the time, and I'm endlessly tired. I feel like I need a 2-week nap just to recover from overworking, except I cannot afford a nap in this new life of  mine, because I'm the only one paying my bills, and I'm hanging on by a thread.

Now, today, on one of my first real days off in weeks, I look around and there is very little food in the apartment. I check my bank account, and it is in the red - because in my extreme craziness, I totally forgot about a particular bill that would be automatically deducted from my account, and instead took out that money to - ya know - SURVIVE. Now Im receiving the bill from my awesome E.R. visit, which is in the $3,000 range, and which I cannot pay. Because guess what? In my new life, I have no health insurance. Why? Because when you're married to someone who is a paramedic and has GREAT health insurance, you are covered under their great health insurance, which becomes your health insurance. When they die suddenly and with no warning, that insurance is then taken away and you are basically told to figure it out. Well, I've tried. I logged onto the site AND called, and it seems that even with "Affordable Health Care", it is still not affordable for me. I always fall into that income bracket where I am too poor to survive and pay my bills, but not quite poor enough to qualify for any sort of help. I am so tired of struggling. I am 42 years old and I feel like Im suddenly back in my college days, when I was constantly broke and had no money ever. It shouldn't be this way. I feel like I'm doing everything I can to make this life work, but things just keep pushing against me. The extra jobs Im picking up are just so low-pay, that they dont make much of a difference for me, and meanwhile Im busting my ass just to not starve. And yet somehow, Im still fat. There is no food in my house right now, but I'm fat. How does that even make sense??? 

I wanted so badly to be able to release my book this July 13, which will be the 3-year anniversary of Don's death. I will be in San Diego, at Camp Widow again, ON that day, doing my presentation once again, and I thought it would be perfect to sell the book there and let the world see it on that day. But I cannot make that goal, because I have been soooo busy, I havent had time to write the damn book. I need to finish it, and I need a normal schedule where Im not working 2 or 3 jobs at once, so I can just write. But that will never happen, because in this life without my husband, I get to be broke and I get to keep making sacrifice upon sacrifice to stay afloat. My new release date is November 6th, which would have been his 50th birthday. To make that happen though, I need to self-publish, and I need to do a fund-raising campaign to raise the money to self-publish. And holy crap, do I hate asking for money. Ever since Don died, I feel like all I do is need things. Im a very independant person, and all this needy crap is driving me insane.

In the past two and a half years, I have moved TWICE, had two different roommates, sold Don's car, then sold the used car my brother got me, picked up endless jobs and gigs to help myself survive, and countless other things of sacrifice. How much longer do I have to sacrifice? I lost my husband. My future. My present. Our dreams. Isn't that enough? I am so tired of being tired, and I am so disgusted with the idea that I am always feeling less than because of the constant and nagging lack of finances in my life.

I hate this shit.




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day Number 5 on the Road

Hi there everyone. This is Megan from www.refugeingrief.com. I’m filling in for Amanda today. My partner, Matt, drowned on an otherwise ordinary day in July 2009, the first sunny day after 6 solid weeks of rain. He was 3 months shy of his 40th birthday. Last fall, I packed up the place where we’d lived, said goodbye to all the familiar places, touched the ground, and hit the road. Here below is a post I wrote as I crossed the county without him, along the same path we’d traveled several years before:


Day number 5 on the road. I'd hoped to be there by now. But the road has what the road will have.

Today, leaving western Nebraska, a late start. My planning mind was off a day, and what I'd thought was the short day was, in fact, not. But it's alright.

This land is beautiful. So clear, the geologic record: I always feel like I am in a submarine, a submersible, not an over-land car. I am driving in the ocean, driving under the ocean. Saw my first herd of pronghorn antelope just outside of Elk Mountain, Wyoming. I stopped at the same rest-stop we did back in 2006. It wasn't a hard day.

And then. And then, the soil began to change. From yellow and brown to streaks of red. The land changed from ocean bottom to sand cliffs. The mesas rose in the distance. I switched the stereo from dance music (to keep me awake) to Robbie Robertson, because it seemed appropriate. I am singing Ghost Dance, thinking of our trip, of how we talked about the history of this land, what it's seen, what happened out here. And then.

And then, before I realize I am this close, I am on top of Flaming Gorge. I am here, where we were, exactly where we were, and Robbie Robertson's "Golden Feather" comes on the stereo. I am crying. I hear. I hear the stones you picked up, all those years ago, the ones beside your box of ashes here on the passenger seat. I hear those stones begin to sing. They do. They sing to be so close to home.

I do not want to stop. I do not want to stop. But they are singing. I have to give them back. They want to go home, and I have to let them go. I pull off the exit, crying, resisting. I do not want to go. This is wrong. Wrong to be here. But I drive. Past the place where we got gas. Past the place where we ate Mexican food, grouchy from too long on the road. I pull over as I hear (yes, I hear) your ashes beside me begin to speak. Ask to be released here. The stones have kept on singing. Your ashes, what is left of you, an excited impulse. I open the passenger side door. The pot of my one houseplant falls out, cracks on the pavement. I remove the stones. I remove the small bag of your ashes, and shake you out into the palm of my hand. Shaking. Shaking. There are big pieces here, not dust.

The stones are singing. We have been here. This is where we turned off. Where we drove off down into the winding gorge, where we cried over slaughtered skinned coyotes, where you drove the car over too-steep embankments. Looking for a place to camp. Where you spent hours the next morning finding just the right stones, the two heavy, white stones we took home, another 4000 miles back, to sit on the bookshelf, holding words.

And now - they want to go back.

I scatter you. A small handful, here on the grass between road and sidewalk. I scatter. And then I place a stone. Oh.

Oh, I see now. This is a gravestone. A headstone, a marker you yourself picked out, painstakingly searched for, the last time we were here. It is right. It is right. To scatter you here beneath a stone you chose yourself.

The other stone - offers to stay. To stay with me. One with you, one for me. A pair of matched stones, broken, but connected.

As soon as the ashes are sent, the stone placed, I am fine again. Calm. I feel you. For the first time this trip, my love, I feel you. I know you here with me.

And I drive down through the mountains, as rain begins again, down a road we did not drive. A path we did not take. You are buried here, my love. And I continue on.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Time. And Love.

Time means nothing and it means everything since my husband died.  My heart beats its' rhythm.  It plods and it races and jumps and bumps and shatters and breaks and leaps and is subtle and loud.  All at the same time sometimes.

In one month it will be one year since he died.

I turned 56 two months after he died.  When people ask me I always say I'm 55, not because I have an issue with my age but because time became meaningless after his death.  In our years together we celebrated three days; our birthdays and our anniversary. Those two separate days that brought us into this world so that we could have that one day each year to celebrate our lives together.  We were each other's gift and we celebrated that passionately.

The night of the day that I took him to the ER and he was admitted to the hospital with a huge tumor in his left lung and the bottom 3rd of his right lung collapsed and non-functioning from the weight of another tumor, the admitting nurse told me, when I begged him for some idea of what we were facing, that he estimated, based on his experience, that Chuck had three weeks to live.

He was right.  Almost to the day.

Time is so subjective, isn't it?

It has plodded by in an excruciating way since last April 21 and yet, it will soon be a year and how is that possible?  In the 24 years we were together we have never been apart for such a long period of time and it is inconceivable to me that I have to live the rest of my life without him.  A concept which I can't bear to face.

For as much as I lived in the moments with him, I'm living now in the moments without him.  It is the here and now, with absolutely no idea or expectation of what tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow might bring me, good or bad.  Which is freeing.  I have no attachment to what might be and no attachment, honestly, to this present moment.  It just is and I'm okay with that.

Sometimes we just hang onto time by the bloodied tips of our fingers.  Sometimes we let go and fall and fear can take over.  But sometimes there can be freedom in falling and floating and feeling nothing and everything all at once and knowing we aren't in charge and time is going to happen and things are going to happen in that time and really, none of it is our business in so many ways.

All I know is that he loved me deeply and I loved him and that's bigger than time past or present will ever be.

Time gifted me with 24 years of love.  Love was my past and love is carrying me through my present and revealing itself more each day and love will take me into my future and is the only thing that is real to me.

Time isn't important in the scheme of life.  Only love is.  I had it with Chuck and I'm breathing it in and holding it close and opening up to more and trusting in its' continued being in my life.

And sending it out into the Universe~




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's a matter of perspective...



A: I'll be devastated if they don't play

B: I'm sure Mick's more devastated

A: It's all a matter of perspective.

......

The Rolling Stones were due to play my city on Saturday night just gone and this was one exchange that appeared on my Facebook feed in the first 24 hours of Mick Jagger joining our ranks.

My jaw was on the ground and I thought "I'm pretty certain Mick's grief is greater than your disappointment that the band's not playing". 

There seemed to be a whole heap of discussions over the inconvenience the cancellation would cause because of travel and hotel bookings for people to attend the concert, and concern over what would happen to the massive amount of public money that had been spent on this concert as it was meant to be the grand opening event for our upgraded sports ground before competition begins this weekend. 

But I saw very little sympathy or empathy towards Mick and the band.

One thing I've gained from my widow experience is greater empathy, and perspective between what's a crisis, disaster or catastrophe versus what is an annoyance, an inconvenience or a disappointment. 

For concert-goers and organisers, it's very much the latter. 

For Mick, it's the former, and quite frankly, my heart went out to him, not just for his loss, but the circumstances he was in when he learned of L'Wren's passing.  They're nothing like my own experiences, but I can now comprehend the impact of the news.

He's away from home on what is, for all intents and purposes, a business trip.  Thankfully he has old friends with him for support, but he is away on business.

He's the focus of the media and social media commentary which was probably difficult to escape, and of course there's all the attempts to get photos of him in his grief.

Private plane or not, he had a very, very long flight to get from Perth, Australia to New York.  The one up-side... the flight would effectively be a media block-out.

He's probably feeling no end of guilt over being away from home, and yes, for disappointing fans.  The poor guy was probably torn in all directions, and I wouldn't be surprised if the call to cancel the shows at this time was made by either band mates or management. 

We all have experiences of comments that scream the speaker has no comprehension of the impact the loss of a partner/spouse has on a person.  What got me was the impression in social media that Mick would not be suffering because of what he does.

That he is somehow inhuman. 

And the complete inability of people to even consider the situation from Mick's perspective.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Creating



A project for my art class



There are times when I start to write a post or create a new art project and I get stuck. Suddenly, every idea I have and every mark I make or word I type is wrong. Wrong, stupid, vapid, empty, annoying, pandering, arrogant, contrived. I annoy myself. I disgust myself. I decide that I will not be able to write anything helpful. I will not be able to create anything worth creating. I give up on myself and that reinforces the deeply held beliefs I have about being unworthy.

Even if I get positive feedback on my creations that still doesn’t stop me from freezing up next time and having that moment when I decide I can’t possibly write one more post. It’s not in me. I have nothing of interest to say. I nearly give up on an art project or ignore an urge to make something new. I decide I have nothing to make. I have no creative spark.

Is this a function of my new brain? I think back to before Dave died and I remember that in my job, my brain was a fountain of creativity, even if I doubted myself. Dreaming up new ways to teach old material, analogies to explain complicated concepts, ways to rearrange the classroom, manage discipline, communicate with parents, show my students how much they meant to me, decorating the classroom, celebrating successes.

Not now, though. Creating is very different now. I come up to a wall every time I try to create. The wall is doubt, fear, and over thinking. The part of my brain that is responsible for creativity has maybe shrunken or gone offline and the part responsible for worrying about the bad things that could happen has become very dominant.

I’m very much hoping that it’s like a muscle. If I stop using it, it will atrophy. If I use it more it will grow in strength. They say this is true and I will believe it because the alternative is too depressing. Getting past that wall is the ultimate challenge though. The wall says “Who are you to think you have anything to offer the world?”
 The wall says “This is not possible for you. You are not capable of this. Leave it to someone who is”.

Why is it that after I have created, put it out there, realized that the world didn’t end and I’m even proud of my work, I go right back to that wall of doubt the next time I create?

I bet it works like this. I am fundamentally different since Dave died. I have been changed. My brain is still recovering. My heart is still very delicately patched together and trembling. I’m still shaken and beaten up by the heartache. Because of this, my brain does not work like it used to so my output is not as it used to be. I doubt myself  because of this and the doubt builds up, keeping me from creating more. I create less and I get rusty. That part of my brain atrophies. The cycle repeats.
Right now, getting past this feels like pushing myself. It doesn’t feel satisfying. It feels frustrating and it makes me feel small and weak. I’m a small, slight force against a strong brick wall. I’m not seeing a whole lot of progress.

But that’s how these last few years have felt. It’s only upon looking back that I see that I did make progress. Breaking through to the other side, victoriously, and shaking off all the stiffness that held me prisoner is not how it will happen. It will happen one small, staggering step at a time. Each step will feel wholly insignificant. Negligible. 

And maybe with my former brain and former life, they would have been, but now they are mighty. They have been done even with the back-bending weight of grief with me. They have been accomplished even while wanting to hide in my room until death came for me too. I have to come back again and again to the definition of courage. It’s not doing something you’re not afraid of. It’s doing something you’re terrified of. It’s doing it. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weighing the Days

Source
Yesterday was a hard day. Exactly a week until Drew's birthday, perhaps I don't remember how hard it was last year… but I could swear it's hitting me harder this year. My body seems so much more aware of the lack of his body, but also just the feeling of him in the space is far more distant now. I downplayed that first sentence… it was a hard week actually. And next week I'm sure will also be hard.

There are some good things though. The first time I had to face his birthday (and all the other special occasions) after he died, I was filled with anxiety for weeks beforehand. That horrible tight chest and the racing racing racing thoughts that just wouldn't stop. I have noticed though, as hard as the second year has been, when those special days come… this part no longer comes. There is still sadness and still a broken heart and a broken life to try and hold together, but there is no longer the paralyzing fear. I first noticed it last Thanksgiving, and went around like a weirdo expressing how happy I was to JUST be sad. Yeah! What a messed up statement… I'm happy to JUST be sad. But yes, I really am actually.

This really got me thinking about relatively and just how much we can change our perspective on certain things by what we choose to relate to it. It's like measuring your day up in one of those old balance scales. When you choose to relate today to one of your best days, it just adds weight to today. But when you choose to relate today to one of the really hard days - or perhaps even THE hardest day - we add weight to other side, and suddenly today might not seem as heavy as it did before.

In relation to a week before his birthday in 2012 - when he was alive and perfectly fine - this week has been unspeakably horrible. A hell no one should endure. But in relation to last year, when all the anxiety and fear and rawness twisted itself around inside me… this year  the coming of his birthday is so much better. I know I won't always be strong enough to choose to weigh today against the heavier days… but somehow I think this visual might help me remember better. And hopefully it'll help someone else out there too.






Listen


"Listen- life is really going on, right
now,
around us. Do you see it? Sometimes
I lose it,
but if I sit still and listen, it comes back,
and then I think, how funny, this is what
being alive is.
-Robin Morgan

I need to start this blog post with apologizing.

In the 5 years of being a Widow's Voice writer, I've recently been failing at my Saturday duties. Either in getting it up in time or remembering to get it up at all!

I am sorry and thank Michele for her patience, and y'all for yours!

In all honesty, like the quote above says, my life, without me even recognizing it, sat down to listen, and in doing so, has reminded me in so many new ways, what it is to be alive.

The last 5 weeks...6 months...heck....2 hours...have had me more alive then I've been since I can say when and I've allowed it to swallow me whole!

It is frightening and foreign and fantastic!

7 years later, I realized that I wasn't listening with both ears to all that life and the universe have awaiting me, and so, with this recognition, I put the other headphone on and find myself with no choice but to dance like the wild woman I am.

That is all... but I must conclude with asking you to see if you can hear it.....really hear it....if not, don't worry, you will soon, and if not all at once, listen for a faint sound of life that gives you hope to know one day, if your ready, you'll have front row tickets to the concert of a lifetime (flashing optional).

Rock on!




Friday, March 21, 2014

The Second Thing

A fellow widowed friend of mine recently brought my attention to this wonderful quote, said by the character Reddington, from the TV show The Blacklist. The quote is this:

"There is nothing that can take the pain away, but eventually you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares, and everyday when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think of, until one day, it will be the second thing."

In reading that and soaking it in, I had one of those moments where my soul just cried: "YES!!! THAT'S IT!!!", and then excitedly did a backflip, like Charlie Brown does in the comic strip, when he is on the pitchers mound, and the ball comes flying toward him. Suddenly his entire body is lifted up off of the mound, and all the articles of clothing he is wearing surround him in mid-air, as if he was so startled by the revelation of the baseball whirling toward him, that his entire wardrobe flew off his person in astonishment.

For the over two and a half years that I have been living with this tremendous loss, each morning, the fact that Don is and will forever be dead, has absolutely been the first thing on my mind. But it's not even a thought, as much as it is an existence. I don't have to think about it anymore. In the first few months, when I was still in shock - I would wake up in a daze, questioning what was real and what my life was. During that time, I would wake up confused and frazzled, and then the reality would hit like a house falling on top of my spine and knocking me to the ground before I even got out of bed, and everything would become clear. But now - my reality has been stamped into every labored breathe I take, and so when I wake up each morning, the "thought" of my loss isn't a conscious one. It is simply there. In the same way that air is there, or trees, or the earth or the sky.

However, this idea of "one day, it will be the second thing" struck me in a different way. I am a performer, actor, comedian, director, and writer. I have always been involved in the theater and entertainment world, and my husband was not in this world himself, as he was a paramedic. But, he loved nothing more than to be with me in my world, to be alongside me, supporting me, cheering me on, smiling from the crowd, helping out with all the technical parts of the show backstage, getting involved however he could into my world. He would beam with pride after every show I did, and he would take me in his arms and hold me and say things like: "You were the best one up there", or "You're really amazing, you know that, Boo?" It was magic.

So, for the past two and a half plus years, since his death, I have continued from day one, to write and perform and direct and create comedy, because I dont know how to live any other way. And each and every single time I would finish a comedy show or a performance of some kind, the empty space where his voice and body and pride and smiles used to be, would shoot through me like a thousand little needles, pulsing into my veins. Friends and family and supporters would be there, telling me I was great and that I did a great job - but all I could see was that my husband wasn't there anymore. It was always the first thing I thought of.

Until it was the second thing. Last night. Opening night for the Variety Show I have been directing for the past two months of my life. (The Red Stocking Revue Annual FundRaiser for CancerCare, in Port Washington, NY. Tickets and info can be found at www.redstockingrevue.org) Such hard work. A long and exhausting process of writing, creating, casting, coming up with a theme, and all the other things associated with putting on a big show. And last night was our big opening night. At the end of the show, right before the big finale, the director (me) gets up and says a few words to the audience, and then everyone bows as our Closing Finale song is sung (The Beatles "A Little Help from My Friends"), and then we go out to the lobby and mingle with the crowd. I did my speech, then stood in the wings of the stage, listening to my cast sing, and feeling proud of them and of all we had accomplished together. As they walked offstage and starting singing in the aisles of the theater/house, I was beaming with pride for them, and I felt satisfied and happy and renewed. I spoke with some audience members, then about 10 minutes later, went into the restroom. A  woman approached me in there and said: "You're the director, right? You should be so happy with the show. It was fantastic! And by the way, you have a beautiful singing voice. You should sing more in the show next year. Your voice is lovely."

And it wasn't until then, after she left, that I started to cry. Because instantly, Don came back to the forefront of my heart and mind, in that moment. Instantly, I recalled how we met in a Music Chat Room on AOL, how he owned 8 guitars and was always strumming them in our home, how I would sing and he would play and we would make cute little recordings together, how we were music - and music was us, and how much it hurt, and still hurts sometimes, to sing out loud without him. Without his music, it feels wrong to sing. It feels sad and hard, and each note is like a landmine I must step over. Singing has felt that way for a long time, until I agreed to sing in a little bit in this show, because they told me it was tradition for the director to throw themselves into a couple of scenes with short cameos. So I sang. A little bit. And last night, it felt good to sing. It didnt hurt and it didnt feel painful. It felt good.

And when everyone was applauding and we were finished  with our show, the empty space where my husband would have been was not forgotten. It never will be. But it was filled up with so much love and energy and hope from all of those around me, and it permeated through the room and in the air, so that the loss wouldn't have to eat me alive, only seconds after feeling euphoria.

Everytime I have done a show since his death, my immediate feeling when the show was over, was always loneliness. Extreme sadness. That feeeling of having to go home alone, and not having my person to share in the proud moment that was just achieved and felt.

But last night, I didnt feel that loneliness. It felt really good after the show, and I felt the happiness and the joy that happens when you are really satisfied with something. I felt the love that I gave to my cast, coming back at me like a boomerang, and it was a good thing. Maybe tonight will be different. Maybe I will again feel the loneliness, or maybe the space where he used to be will shine brighter in my emotions. But to know that sometimes, just sometimes - it can be the second thing - is like music to my ears.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The little things

....  that annoy me (and drive me to drink).

Hello Mr Baileys...


Warning - disorganised tiredness and general whining follows.....

Somedays I think being a widow has taught me patience, but there are other days when I realise my fuse is very short and I have no time for pedants and things that make my life harder.

I question why, instead of helping to simplify my life, so many different things are trying to take another piece of me that I just don't have to give.

Why can't my son's school accept my e-mailed "OK, please bill me" as an acceptance of a fee?  Why does it require a signature for $3.50?  Why does it send me five invoices totallying about $20 instead of one single invoice?

Or why the Department of Transport is only open during office hours making it hard for me to get my driver's license renewal photo.

Or why my boss is insisting I set personal goals as a way of modelling to my students that we all have goals:  if I have been taught anything from being suddenly widowed, it is that living day to day and rolling with the punches is the only way to cope with life. (I have made up a goal that I will fluff my way  through and they will know I am faking it.   It will suck but my boss will be appeased.)

I wonder if these petty little things would still get to me if I had Greg here..... letting me talk things over or letting me deal with the bills and the school issues and doing one of the other eleventy million jobs that I have on my plate right now
... hmmmm ....... plate ... that reminds me that I must go and cook my children dinner.  But maybe I can have a little wine with my whine while I make it.....

Am I just turning into a cranky person, or does anyone else have days like this?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Random Thoughts from a Disorganized Mind~

Each morning I wake up, knowing I slept, so I'm glad for that, but not feeling rested at all.  By the evening, after a day spent getting through, well, the day, I'm done in.  I take melatonin when I remember and that helps sometimes.

Since my husband's death, I've taken my wedding ring off entirely, along with my engagement ring, put them back on, changed from one finger to another, put on a chain around my neck, considered having them melted together into a new piece of jewelry, and every other possibility. They are currently all on my ring finger of my left hand:  my 2 rings, his one.  I'll know what to do when the time is right to do it.

I don't see color any longer.  I don't even see black and white.  Life is gray.  Which saddens me greatly because I've always loved color.  Except for pink.  Pink is all around me.  Chuck said to mourn for him in pink because that's very much my color.  So now its my armor.  But I don't really see it. And I don't feel it.

As he and I traveled this country in our 4 years of adventuring, we took thousands of pictures of where we were and of each other.  He loved taking pictures of me. I'm on the road full-time in the months since he died and I rarely take a picture.  I don't really care what I'm seeing.  Nor are there many pictures of me any longer.  I don't care to see how unlike me I look, with the sparkle gone from my eyes.  I do like looking at pictures of him because when I took the pictures he was alive and gazing right back at me, smiling right into my eyes.  So I can kind of, sorta, take myself back to that time.  Which is surreal because then my mind has to struggle with the jarring reality that he's no longer here.

How does one adjust to the permanent absence of someone who brought such joy to your life, who challenged you to push your comfort zones, who loved you so much, who brought color to your life?

I'm in awe of people who partner up again after grieving the death of their husband/wife.  What kind of courage does it take to do that when you know what lies in store for you?  Unless you die first and then he/she will mourn for you.  But who would wish this on anyone?  I salute each and every one of you who has this courage.

At some point, if life happens and the right man drops down right in front of me, I'm open to the idea of loving again.  Chuck and I spoke of such a thing often and determined that we wanted whomever was left behind to find another to love.  Love is beautiful and we each believed life is made fuller by having a partner (the right partner, of course).   It will be completely weird for me though, if it happens.  I haven't kissed a man other than Chuck for 24 years.  Wow.  Very weird to even contemplate.

My body is starving for Chuck's touch-for our hands linked together as we walk, for his smile when he looks at me, for his kiss, for his energy next to me, for his love for me next to my love for him and for our love story to still be an active and living energy.

I'm a mess, really,  I don't tell the world how much of a mess I am but I'm a real, emotional, mess.

So how's your day?



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Luck 'o the Irish

Us at the family birthday lunch for both Ian and my sister,
the week before Ian got sick. I have a clearer photo, but I look like a doofus in it.

Ian loved celebrating his birthday with his friends, so last year, on his birthday, we marked the one year anniversary of him getting sick by going back to the restaurant we had to leave so quickly in 2012.

Earlier this week I got a call from one his mates looking to see if I was planning to repeat the lunch for the second anniversary on St Patrick's Day, March 17 (Ian was very proud of his Irish heritage, and his birthdate).  We did it for the first anniversary, and it was a nice way of marking the day.  Many people were not up to attending as it was too raw for them, and others that couldn't come for Ian's lunch in 2012, came last year.

But this year, I opted not to repeat.  It's a great opportunity for his mates to get together and remember Ian if they choose to, but it just didn't feel right for me.  

So instead of me joining them, a couple of his friends chose to come to church with us over the weekend, and the anniversary of Ian's birth (which I suppose is the technically correct way of putting it) was acknowledged by the community.    The pews are not overly comfortable, and during the sermon one friend had to step out to stretch his back.  And found a stray dog wandering around, at risk of getting run over.  It had no collar, no id. 

They took this as a sign, as this particular group of friends called Ian by is nickname "Doggy".  I've had a couple of instances where Ian has come out of my mouth, not me, but no real signs like this. 

This morning was filled with medical appointments for John and I, and we went for a play in a playground, which John loved.  The day's gotten harder as it's progressed, but it's not been unbearable, just 'there'.  So the other grand plans for today, homework and housework are even less appealing than usual (and the housework never appeals highly!).

I did contemplate calling the church to find out if they found the owner of that dog, but if they haven't, I'd be tempted to take it in.  The other reason I didn't call was I also don't want to find out what sort of mess it made of the Minister's office - the only place staff could think of to put it where it would be safe!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Loss

source


I was stuck for ideas the other day in art class and the teacher was trying to help me brainstorm. Make it autobiographical, he said, in his cheery 20-something voice, about the movie poster I was assigned to create.

Autobiographical? I thought. Huh. Yeah. I began to sort through my life events. Lost my mom (and my dad, too, if we're talking about psychologically), then I had a trying childhood, full of sadness and pain. Then, my dad died too. Then I went to school, got a degree, got a job, got married. Then my husband died. No kids. No new job yet. No clear direction for school again. I'm a sufferer of depression and anxiety.

I know damn well I've survived a lot and in some ways triumphed. I also realized I define myself by loss. I didn't want to make my poster about loss, but defining your life by loss means not having much else to make your fictional autobiographical movie poster about. I don't want to define my life by the losses. I want to define it by all of it. The losses, the triumphs, the pain and the joy.

But right now the losses show up starkly  in my mind, leaving the rest to fade into blurry half-imagined memories. I know there were good days in my childhood, I just don't clearly remember them or feel them. I know there were good days in my marriage. Those I remember and feel. But they're still painful to recreate. They represent more loss. I lost all of it. My husband, my home, my job, my LIFE. Starting over is my life now. And there's beauty in that, yes. There's also so much fucking loss.

I know life is about loss and pain and rebuilding and getting your feet under you only to find that there was never a solid ground there anyway. I know life is about the good and the bad. I know the dark makes the light more beautiful. And maybe that's my story. Simply that I've been through hell and so I now know what makes life worth living. I know it's not money or status or degrees or a career. I know it's not facebook or tv or shopping or any of the millions of things we numb ourselves with. I know that it's only love that matters and that every moment really might be our last.

But how do I stop defining myself by loss? It's my experience. Loss. Lots of it. How do I move on, not using it as an excuse? How do I look back with a different filter? One that allows me to see the good and the bad, not just the bad? How do I look at the present moment without my loss filter?

I see it all as impermanent now. Those cats who've been by my side through it all? Who he adored? They're going to be gone one day. This home? This body? Gone. The ones I love? Gone. It's all about loss and I know it. You know it.

 That makes things more precious, yes, but the impermanence is rattling. It's chased me my whole life. I'm sick of its hot breath on the back of my neck. I'm sick of thinking of my life as one loss after another.

I'll be honest. When my teacher mentioned his idea, I thought for a moment how desperately I wanted to smile and say "Ooooh, I have so many great stories about my adventures and loves and accomplishments". I wanted to think back fondly on travels and children and love stories and funny moments. But all that came to mind was loss. It should be called loss I thought. The movie about loss.
Is this the black cloud of a minor depression I'm experiencing right now, coloring everything a shade of dull gray? A victim mentality? Should I just pull up my big girl britches and find the positives? Soldier on? Or should I maybe give a nod to this pain? Let it have its voice? Is there a point? Is there an end to this pain? What if I find that there's nothing on the other side of giving in to this pain, other than more pain? (As I'm rereading this, it occurs to me that maybe I should stop asking so many damn questions!)

All probably without answers. All probably projections of the place I'm in right now, emotionally. I'm feeling let down by life. I want to wake up tomorrow with a new past. Siblings and parents and extended family members with whom I had trips and picnics and birthday parties. Christmases, Easters, Fourth of Julys. Participation in life, instead of hiding from that which could hurt me. I can't have those things. I didn't live those things. All that I can do is make each moment now worth living. But I long for what I can't have. Don't we all?

So, I squeeze what I can out of each moment I'm given. I cling to the love I have been given. Those childhood friends whose houses were more home than mine. Those chosen family members who weren't around when I was a kid, but are even more precious because I've just recently found them. I think of the love Dave and I shared and the love I get to share now, with someone new. I think of the beauty I might get to experience if I might get lucky enough to bring a life into this world. I think of my chances to see beauty in the chaos. I see it more now. I see it when I used to be oblivious to it.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Camp Widow


Since I lost my fiancé almost 2 years ago, I have been acutely aware of how uncomfortable my very presence makes people at times. I talk about it less and less on Facebook, and even with my closest friends and family. It turns out people really don't like being reminded of death. Who knew? I've started to feel like I am carrying around some bad omen on my back - like some I'm some messenger of death now that brings a black aura everywhere I go. It's definitely a shitty part of this journey - feeling like my very identity upsets people or makes them uncomfortable. Which is made to suck even more by the fact that I am one of those people too - I also don't want to be around my own pain and this new unwanted identity of "widow". It is a constant battle for me to try and make peace with this new part of who I am that reminds me of everything I do not have.

Not entirely sure of what to expect or how it will help me with this identity crisis, last Friday I hopped on a plan to go to Camp Widow for the first time. If its new to you, this is a conference for widowed people held three times a year - the only one of its kind. Upon arrival I am surrounded by a few hundred others just like me. I even meet a few close friends for the first time in person. These people are incredible. They are not famous, they are not peace prize winners or hollywood actors, they are just you and me - all of us regular people - deciding to show up even though life has completely broken us. There we all are… still trying to find hope and healing and something good in life. Despite it all… Still fucking trying!

I meet Tanya, who's fiancé died in the 9/11 attacks and whose story both drops me to my knees and simultaneously fills me with so much hope and strength that my soul overflows. I meet a woman who lost her husband just three weeks ago - and somehow she managed to get out of bed AND get on a plane AND show up at this massive event. And Jennifer - the warrior - who is only 32 and has already been widowed twice and is raising six kids now on her own. I meet a woman who traveled alone all the way from Australia just to be there - knowing no one when she got there, and her husband died less than a year ago. I watch my dear friend Kelley do an incredible stand-up comedy act all about death and the death of her husband - getting widowed people to laugh harder than they probably have since their partner died. I mean wow people. Who needs Oprah when we've got all these widowed people around?! And somehow we are all just opening our hearts fully - with tears and with laughter. SO much laughter. So much understanding and kindness.

There are moments that I just stand there in this great big ocean of courage and take it all in. The unfathomable pain of everyone there crashes into me like a ten foot wave, but the love… the love and the extraordinary strength of so many willing to share themselves fully changes my entire perspective on what it means to be widowed….

I leave the conference on Sunday and head for the airport… I am wearing my "Hope Matters" shirt, and I realize… I am different. I am changed and I can feel it. No longer am I a woman who is fighting with all her might against the idea of being a widow… suddenly, I AM a widow - and no part of me is fighting it inside. I am walking around a crowded airport literally wearing my identity, and for the first time in this whole horrible, excruciating, exhausting, terrifying, earth-shattering journey… I am PROUD.

I am proud to call myself a widow. I am proud that anyone around me can read it right there on my shirt. I don't want to hide it away. I don't want to hide myself away. I don't care if I make every single person in a five mile radius uncomfortable. Because the thing is… there will be someone in that crowd who is hurting just as bad as me. And if I can be honest about my pain, it helps them be honest about theirs too. That is what all these brave people taught me - they were honest about their pain, and they allowed me to let my guard down and be honest about mine (and it turns out, I am still SO NOT OKAY with ANY of this and have been putting on a really good brave face for a long time). Everyone there helped me to realize that I really am strong, even in my most broken moments - we all are.

I don't think I even realized how much of a wall I had built up over the past 2 years, it's so easy to do and happens so gradually. This life may not be pretty a lot of the time, and everyone may not want to look at it or hear about it, but I have been reminded that hiding myself and my truth away does not help me - or anyone else - to heal. I need to be who I am, where I am, exactly how I am and to keep letting people into my life who can support that. I also need to make sure I am sitting with my pain and honestly seeing it too. I guess I just needed an army of other widowed people to help me remember that.

This experience definitely opened my eyes and made me realize that now, in my new life, this is a club I DO want to be a part of. And I plan to be, for a very very long time, coming back to Camp Widow each year. And I hope that next year - if it feels right for you - you will join me too.

Related Links:
Camp Widow

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy

This past Saturday night, while at Camp Widow East in Tampa, Florida - I was sitting at one of the tables at the fancy banquet that Soaring Spirits throws for us during each of the camp events. I was talking to my friend Sarah (who writes in here each Sunday), whom I had been talking with in regular phone calls and online for months and months now, sharing our grief and our pain and our love for our partners with each other. She is someone I have cried with over the phone more than once, and there we were - sitting at the same table, in person, finally. The D.J. was playing music, and widowed people were starting to get on the dance floor. Sarah looked at me and said: "I think I'm going to request Happy by Pharrell Williams." My logical and cynical side went to my normal place of thinking I hate that song, and I began to cringe and roll my eyes, out of pure habit - but suddenly my mouth opened and I was saying words instead, and the words were: "I love that song!" Seconds later, when the song was being played, I found myself out on the dance floor, with Sarah and others, clapping along to the lyrics: clap along if you feel like happiness is for you. 

Here's the thing: the everyday me that has to live each breath with the loss of my husband in a world that seems to be surrounded by marriage and couples and love, truly hates that song. I hate the many, many people who tell me constantly, and nonchalantly, to just "Be Happy!" Every time someone says that to me, I want to punch them in their eyeball and then hit them in the groin with a piece of plywood, just for fun. It annoys me when people try and tell me how to feel. It annoys me even more when those people have no clue of what they speak. They have no idea of the complexities behind that statement. They have not a clue, what it takes in my new world, to simply just "Be Happy."



But in Florida, at Camp Widow, with my fellow widowed friends, dancing and singing and laughing and crying and not having to explain any of it ever - I was happy. I didn't even have to think about it. It just existed, and it was simple, and I was clapping to the idea of happiness being for me. It was for me at that time, and in that moment - happiness, like the song says, was the truth.

And that is the thing about being surrounded by a couple hundred widowed people at a place called Camp Widow - everything feels natural. Nothing is forced. Emotions happen the same way that breathing happens. We go to grief workshops or Round Table discussions, and we open up with complete strangers who seem like intimate friends. We have cocktails and sit by the pool and laugh and joke around together, and we sit inside each other's pain, and learn and grow and change from looking into the story of someone else and what they lost. We see ourselves more clearly and with better eyes, because those around us are willing to stare into the darkness with us. They get it. They see it, and they aren't running away.



This was my 3rd time attending and presenting my Comedy Workshop at Camp Widow. Each time I go, I come away with something new. Each time I leave, hope follows me like a shadow, and guides me back to my home. Each time I hear a widowed person laugh while I'm creating comedy out of my pain, I heal just a little bit more.

There are so many moments I could point to as highlights of the camp experience - endless, life-changing moments. But life is short, and this blog is getting too long; so for now, I will just say this:

It feels amazing to know that when surrounded by the right people, at the right time, in the right space - happiness is for me.

Pictured: me with Sarah Treanor. Our glass hearts, representing the love that we get to keep and take with us forever. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lesser Losses



When the children were small, I convinced Greg that we should get some pets so that the children could learn about life cycles early in life.  They would experience the love and  loss of a pet and understand that everything that lives must die.

So Greg captured some pullets from themany of chooks at the farm back in 2006.
These were hardy farm birds whose toughness was only matched by their wiliness in egg-laying.

Then we rescued a couple of extra chicks from a school hatching program who proved to be eggselent layers.  They formed our egg-laying flock who have been Queens of the yard for the past seven years.

Today, the second of those less-hardy younger hens was found dead in her pen.

The children found her and  cried, and to my surprise ... prayed. 
Their grief was so much more real than I could have expected given the losses they have already endured.

and I cried . ...... and swore.

Maybe its irrational, but I cried and swore that instead of being the soft-entry to the knowledge of life and death for our children that I had planned, so many beloved family members died in stark, brutal, heart-breaking ways before any of our pets.

My previously fit, healthy Father-in-law died from cancer in 2007.

My Mother-in-law died in 2009, also of cancer.  ..... and a broken heart.

Exactly one year to the day after his mother left us, Greg died.

Then my very elderly Nan died (not unexpectedly) in 2011.

So while today  I mourn the loss of a much-loved family pet*, it has brought back those memories of a time when the idea that any of our family could possibly die before a short-lived pet was unthinkable.

The irony.  Oh, the irony of it all.




* - I am not saying the loss of a pet is equal to that of a human. I love animals, but I love people more.




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

That Which Is Not Here~

We spend our lives with an awareness of our physical bodies.  We dress our bodies, we move our bodies.  Our hands hold other's hands.  Our arms hug.  Our lips meet in exquisite kisses.  Our lips smile and laugh.  Our eyes sparkle as we gaze upon life and our loves.  Our feet dance, in rhythm or not.

Physical presence is a big deal.  It was very much a big deal with me and my husband.  We touched often.  My husband's physical body and presence was measurable in my life.

His absence from my life is just as palpable and I'm uncertain how that might translate scientifically but his absence is, to me, as strong as his presence ever was.  In fact, now that he's gone, his absence is almost stronger than his presence ever was, which causes anxiety in me.  It has seemed, since he died, that he's so gone that its as if he never existed.  Chuck died forever ago, or 10 months.  Long ago and no time at all ago.  

Presence and absence.  My external life has changed drastically since last April 21.  I've changed drastically.  Nothing is the same, either in my external world or my internal soul world.  He disappeared the night he died and my life did too.

And yet.

Weirdly,though, his absence from my life is as tangible and measurable as his presence ever was. An entity that breathes and walks and moves with me as I stumble along.

As the months have passed, because he is so very gone, I've held onto, and purposefully courted, the love he left me.  I cherish his last message to me, left on my phone at my request the week before he died.  I still listen to it with a sense of disbelief that I'm not seeing him say he loves me, that I'll never see him say that to me again.

Those words though.  That love he had for me.  That love I had for him that beats as strongly today as it did for all of the past 24 years.  The love is a physical presence to me now, and co-exists with his absence.

I can't explain how presence and absence can both be real.  It just is.  He is here with me in his absence. 

He loved me.  I loved him.  That is still real.

It was our blessed gift to each other.  

With Chuck for me, for me with him, it was always, always, always, nothin' but Love~

Things that have changed

 
At the moment we are in the middle of our city's 'Mad March' that consists of a motorsport carnival, an Arts and a fringe festival, concerts, other sporting events.

Many of these things I used to go to, before I met Ian, and after. 

Last year I didn't really want to go to anything.  I think I went to one event, compared to the 'record' a friend and I have of averaging 3 shows a day for a fortnight (parenthood for both of us has put the kybosh on trying that again for a while, though).

This year,  I'm aware of the buzz around the city.  I'm conscious I'm not getting to as much as I would like to.

I know with a child, I wouldn't be able to attend shows and events to the degree I had.  Ian was happy to stay with John, but I couldn't get to as much as I would in my single life.

But as a single parent with limited care options, I'll get to one show.  And that's because it's the show of a long-standing friend and my parents understand that I try and get to one performance per season to support them. 

There is one significant change this year however.  I'm not getting to as much AS I WOULD LIKE TO.

I want to get out and engage with what's happening.  I'm now conscious of the disconnect I've had.  I may not choose to go to my usual list of shows and branch out and see new acts, but I want to be out there.

This is a good thing.  It's frustrated by circumstance, but a good thing none the less.