Common Ground

This morning is actually Tuesday. It’s a cool, quiet morning… the kind that lends itself to some introspection. Mike, Shelby and I will be headed to the mountains in 2 days, to explore the Smokies and watch the Eclipse. Service down there will be sketchy, hence the early writing time this week. Maybe it’s the trip coming up, or my friend passing away recently, but this morning has definitely had me thinking deeply about a lot of things. As I wrote in my journal, which I often do in the morning, I felt like suddenly some things began to take form and become clear that have felt very hazy for some time.

In my journal, I wrote about having coffee with a fellow widowed friend last week, whom I discovered also came from an alcoholic upbringing like I did. As we talked, so very many “odd” parts of ourselves emerged… a feeling of “otherness” that we have had all our lives. A tendency to seem “overly” sensitive to other people about certain things. Social anxiety and discomfort blending our public and private lives. Keeping people at a distance. I had always thought my mother’s death when I was 9 created much of this, but as it turns out, it was probably due to both that and my dad’s drinking combined into a lovely cocktail of chaos.

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Look Up

It is so very difficult trying to explain to someone who doesn't know - what Soaring Spirits International and their biggest program, Camp Widow -means to me. Camp Widow is something that you simply cannot comprehend until you have been there inside the environment. And yet, nobody would want to be in the position to be able to attend, because that means you would have paid the ultimate price - losing your life partner and love to death. And trust me, you do NOT want to be a person in the position to have the requirements to attend Camp Widow. You just don't. 

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Missing You Always

Dear Mike,

 

Do I have to say how much I miss you? Wherever you are, if you can hear me, you must know this, because I say it all the time. Speaking into the ether, perhaps into a void, not knowing if it is received on your end, but always imagining it is, hoping it is.

 

I see signs from you. At least that is how I choose to interpret the birds that swoop over my path in certain moments, the grasshopper on my door or in my house that appears just when my heart is clenched from a painful memory of what I have lost. That particular song that comes on the radio at that exact right time, and the shooting star that streaks across the heavens at the exact moment I look up into the night sky, thinking of you.

 

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Two Buckets~

What I knew instinctively as soon as Chuck died, and what I knew I had to immediately institute with myself and my body language, my behavior, my thinking.

Even though my brain was fogged with devastation.

Grief is isolating.

Do every damn thing you can so that you can’t, you don’t, isolate.  Whether you want to or not.  Don’t isolate.  Therein lies your own living death.

Make yourself visible.  You want to disappear.  Don’t allow it to happen.  Make yourself so visible that people will pay attention and, if you try to disappear, they’ll wonder where you are. This will be your saving grace.

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Hit the Road

In about 36 hours, Shelby, Sarah and I are hitting the road.  We’re not going to Texas, or the beach, or New York, or to visit my parents.  We’re not planning this trip amongst anyone other than ourselves.  I neither desired or solicited anyone else’s input with regards to our plans, other than Sarah and Shelby.  We’re headed to the mountains in North Carolina, because of course we’re headed to the mountains.

In years past, our “family vacations” were, in general, a week-long trip to Myrtle Beach with Megan’s parents and siblings.  Sure, Megan and I’s honeymoon was in Gatlinburg, and just the two of us.  We also spent a week in Yosemite National Park and San Francisco together.  Neither of those trip included Shelby though.  

In 12 years as a couple, 7 of which included Shelby, we took only one trip where we planned and executed everything for ourselves...a trip to Maine.  Shelby still talks about that trip, 5 years later.  She remembers some things from our 4 or 5 trips to the beach, certainly, but it’s Maine that she wants to go back to.

 

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No One To Zip Me Up

I have recently discovered the latest in a list of annoyances caused by being a … (I still choke on the word “widow”) … alone.

As I write this post I am preparing to board a plane tomorrow for San Diego … Widows Camp.  There.  I said it.  I don't fly back in until Sunday night so I have to write the post early.

I’m sure that many of you who read these blog posts are already aware that Widows Camp is this weekend (or, by the time you read this, has just finished).  Many of you are probably attending (or attended) it yourselves and are / were even looking forward to it.  As for me, well, I am forcing myself to go despite the almost unbearable amount of anxiety it is causing me.  I know, I know … I am going to meet with people who may actually understand me and all the shit I’ve gone through, and I should not be anxious about it.  But sometimes knowing how I should feel is just not the way I actually do feel, and this is one of those times.

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Her Song Lives On

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Last week, I wrote about having a wonderfully ungraceful meltdown from trying to take on and figure out just a bit too much all at once in this new life of mine. In the past week, I’ve slowed WAY down. I’ve stopped making overwhelming to-do lists. I’ve let myself wander and enjoy things. I’ve gone for morning walks and tried to focus on being kinder to myself. I’ve spent more time being quiet, and trying to pay attention to what’s really important. I’ve forced myself - against my will - to be more social and to reach out to support others who might need it too.  

All of this has helped tremendously, but the thing that has really shaken me up and re-aligned my over-analytical brain was something much bigger. On Monday afternoon, I got a phone call from one of my very closest friends. We never call unexpected, so I knew something was wrong. Sure enough, the news was not good. One of our friends had finally passed away, after a lifetime battle with an autoimmune disease that made her body attack itself terribly. And though I would not say we were close friends… she and I became closer because of Drew’s death. She reached out to me, hardly knowing me, and our friendship grew for several years as we wrote back and forth about death, grief, the darkness of life… about art and creativity and our love of nature. She was a talented artist and one of the most unique souls I have ever known. She knew things about life that most of us do not know - those of us who have never had to face our own mortality. I knew things she did not, having lost so many in my life before her. We were always learning from each other, and so even though we were not particularly close friends, it kind of always felt like our souls had known each other for many lifetimes.

Despite all this woman had been through, she had a brightness in her soul that everyone noticed. A brightness perhaps that comes from the burden of knowing you will not live long. And though we knew she would likely pass in a few months, it came more suddenly this week than expected. It hit me harder than I thought it would. And that familiar feeling came… the very pit of my soul could feel that her light had gone out. Her brilliant light, and all of the creative energy and beauty that she brought to this world just by being her and sharing what she loved with all of us… it was gone now. The feeling inside me that whenever I thought of her, I felt her aliveness, and it filled me with a little more of that aliveness too… just knowing she was out there living and being in such a beautiful way. It was all quiet now... except it wasn't actually. The more I listened, the more I began to hear her song again...

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Here I Stand

Yesterday, August 9th, would have been our 18th wedding anniversary.  Can it really be so long since that day we said our vows on that beach in Maui? He died before we made 14. I hear of people married 25 years, 40 years, 55 years…we never got that. But I am grateful for the years we did have. Believe me.

 

One of Mike’s best friends died recently here in Kona. Tabo and his family were endearingly important to our happy welcome to this island when we moved here in 2001. We shared so many meals together, holidays, birthdays. His wife Lani taught me to weave ti plant leis and to pick the flowers from our native Ohia trees…I remember she told me the legend that if you picked an Ohia flower, it would rain, and the day we first did that together, it did indeed start to rain. That time was just purely magical for us, becoming part of life here on this remote island with its rich history.

 

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On the Road Life and Loneliness~

Do you get lonely out on the road?

That question has come my way numerous times in the 4 years and 3 months that I’ve traveled the country on my Odyssey of Love.

The simple and quick answer is yes.

It’s incredibly lonely.  It’s a loneliness that permeates down to my bones, head to toe.

Even sitting here, typing this blog, an immediate image comes to mind, of a long, long, 2 lane road stretching ahead of me for miles and miles.  I occasionally pass through small towns with maybe a single stop light.  I wonder, every time, how they continue to exist, in the middle of nowhere.

I can feel the hot wind on my arm, braced on the open window.  The sunroof is open.  Tunes play; songs that Chuck and I listened to, tunes that are new since his death…

Sitting here, I can feel the loneliness of the broad plains of Kansas and Missouri, the cornfields of Indiana and Illinois, see the foothills of the Rocky Mts in the far distance as I reach Colorado, or loop and dip as I chug up the hills of New Mexico…the beauty of this country demands a response.  It always engendered awe and thrills for me, as Chuck and I traveled.

Now?  Yeah, it’s lonely.

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Forget to Remember

This past Sunday, August 6th, would have been Megan and I’s 12th anniversary.  Sarah, Shelby and I were camping, with Sarah’s sister, and as the morning light (and two dogs) woke me up, I immediately noted the significance of the date.

Then I crawled out of the tent, took care of the dogs, and made some coffee.

As I sat down for that first, glorious sip of coffee in the morning, I remembered that it was our anniversary.

Then I rekindled the campfire.

As Shelby woke up, crawling out of the nylon dome, I couldn’t help but think of the fact that she was emerging in the New York woods as the biggest reminder of Megan and I’s marriage.

I got her a pop tart to munch on as she sat by the campfire.

 

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