Six Degrees

Tonight, I just wanted to be me.

Sometimes, I just want to be me.

But, not this version of me. Old me. The me that existed before July 13, 2011. The me that had a sick but random and giddy sense of humor. The me that laughed with abandon, and laughed often. The me that was easygoing and fun and carefree, sarcastic and crazy and youthful. The me that had only been through the deaths of my grandparents, uncles, and a few family friends and acquaintances, which , although very hard, isn't even on the same playing field as husband. The me that knew what it was like to go to a funeral, and then go home - affected by the death for a few hours or days or weeks, but able to live my life much in the same way as I did before. That me.

Tonight, I was joking around on Facebook with some friends, giggling pretty hard about the silliest of things; a press conference by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, about the "deflated footballs" controversy going on right now from their last playoff game. During the press conference, Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick both used the word "balls" over and over again, and many comedy websites and comedy shows took the liberty of editing their words together to create hilarious videos that are now going viral.

So a bunch of us were cracking up at this, posting funny comments back and forth, and just generally having a good time with this lighthearted and fun thing - this thing that had absolutely nothing at all to do with the fact that my husband died. Except that it did. It does. Because everything does. Try as I might to keep "old me" from "new me", or put situations and emotions into cute little segregated boxes and keep them in their designated place - none of that actually works. That isn't life. That isn't real. What's real is that, whether I like it or not, everything that I do from now on, is alwayssix degrees of seperation away from my husband being dead. And believe it or not, that game is nowhere near as fun as the one where everything comes back to actor Kevin Bacon. In this world - my world - old me and new me have to somehow exist together, often punching and kicking one another like confused step-siblings that don't understand why the other is there. But the truth is, neither one of them is going away. Ever.

Old me is definitely not the same person as she used to be. That is for sure. It would take me too many pages and too many hours to list all the many ways that old me has forever changed because of the death of my husband. But, there are still some pieces of old me that will always be there, and that will always be a part of me. They won't change much. They might hide for awhile or come out a bit differently, but they remain. My love for baseball and the Yankees. My passion for music. Finding humor in the darkest of places. My love for family and friendship. So many things. And sometimes, old me just wants to come out and play. Alone. Without new me ruining all the fun with her damn knowledge about life and death and how fragile it all is,  and her PTSD and anxiety and panic attacks at the most unfortunate times, and her fierce loyalty and intensity and courage that she didn't even know she possessed. Sometimes old me sees new me coming and thinks: "Oh man. Her again? What a buzz-kill. " 

Because new me is always there, lurking, even when I think she isn't. When I'm simply enjoying a good joke, like I was tonight, there was new me sitting inside my thoughts, with the inner-monologue running through my brain in the background: "My husband would have cracked up at this stupid 'deflate-gate' thing, and this press conference. A lot of these people who are commenting on this post I put up about the press conference - I didn't even know them when Don was alive. If he was alive, is this what I'd be doing tonight? What would we be doing? Where would we live? Surely not in this apartment that I live in now. Would we have a house? A child? Would we still be in our New Jersey apartment? God I hope not. That's depressing. Wait - what was the joke I was just laughing at again? Oh yeah - football. " 

That is pretty much how my life is now - this life. Everyone and all of our moods and emotions and issues, all have to get into the sandbox and play together, and that's just how it's going to be  Everything has layers in this version of life. If I'm laughing, there's always a small part of me that is crying inside. When I'm feeling joy, I am very aware of how lovely and beautiful and fleeting that is, and so I cling to it and marinate in it and feel every bit of it until the moment passes. Often, my heart and brain cannot remember or make sense of all the pieces of my life and who fits where and when and how. The other day, my friend (and founder of Soaring Spirits and Camp Widow) Michele Hernandez was in NYC, so me and some other widowed friends were able to meet her for dinner and drinks. We had a great time. I will also be seeing her, along with many of my other "new" friends in 2 weeks exactly, at Camp Widow in Tampa, Florida.

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 My brain must have been thinking about this, because I had a dream last night that Don was still dead, but he was here "visiting me", and we were talking all about my life now. I was sharing with him all about my life now, and telling him about all the incredible and inspirational people I have met in this widowed life. Widowed people, who have taken their pain, and with it, created empires through books and art and communities. People like Michele Hernandez and Christina Rasmussen and Tom Zuba and Sarah Treanor and Tanya Tepper and Carolyn Caple Moor and Catherine Tidd, and on and on and on. I was also telling him about my grief counselor and how much I admire her and love her, and how helpful she is. And we were joking about my "girl-crushes" that I have had since he died, specifically on people like my therapist Caitlin, and my friend Michele. "Yeah, that's a little weird", he said to me in my dream. "But you've always been a little weird, so it doesn't surprise me." In my dream when I was talking to my husband, who was still dead but yet alive somehow, the giant mess of my past and present and future universes all sort of melted together and made sense, in a crazy and chaotic kind of way. I was telling Don about how much he would love my friends that I have made because he died, and he was responding by saying: "They sound great, Boo" and "She sounds so familiar to me." It was like he didn't know them, but yet he did.

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Some people say that if my husband were alive today, right now, and could somehow run into me or meet me for the first time, that he wouldn't even recognize me anymore, because I am now a different person than I was when he was alive. I don't believe that. I understand what they are saying, but I don't think so. My husband would know me anywhere, and even though I'm a lot different inside, I don't look that much different outside. Some days I have more sadness than maybe he ever saw, and other days I have a new glow that he never saw.

But it doesn't matter, because I truly believe that the changes in me are mostly positive ones, and they are all things that my husband already saw in me anyway. He saw them in me. He saw things that I couldn't see about myself. Where I saw insecurity, he saw beauty. Where I saw failure, he saw bravery. He always believed in me more than anyone else I have ever known. So I tend to think that not only would he recognize me today, he would also be extremely happy and proud of the universe I have started to create ,out of the ruins of his death. He would not only know exactly who I am, but he would still be in love with who I am, even more so, because I am the me that he already loved. So that when I take his hand in my next dream and show him the world that I live in, the one I am always building, he looks at me and he says: "I know, Boo. I've been here before with you, and I already know."

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