We took a trip to Pittsburgh yesterday. It was my first time to ever visit Pennsylvania. I'm not sure why, but I've wanted to visit this state since I was a kid. As we approached I was so surprised. The city itself was so beautiful... and the landscape was nothing like I'd expected – although I am not entirely sure what I expected it to be. The hills all around were steep and towering, the city itself built up within the twists and turns of the natural world. It felt inventive, and sturdy, and wonderfully adapted to the landscape. Tall, skinny houses on steep slopes. Narrow winding roads to accommodate the inclines and declines. A system of bridges to connect things amidst the two rivers that surround downtown and meet on one end.
I'm always fascinated by cities built up in areas like this. Even more impressive is that this city is 400 years old. You could feel the history of this place just driving through it. There was a certain feeling of grit and determination about it. A sense of the ingenuity and adaptability it took to create. I started to consider the idea of a place like this as a metaphor for human life and all it's struggles...Read more
I'm writing this somewhere between Nashville and Louisville, on the big move from Texas to Ohio to be with Mike. We've been on the road since yesterday, and while today has been a far better day with more feelings of excitement, I wanted to share the really raw feelings I wrote out yesterday... because this is a very real and painful part of this experience of deciding to move and begin a new life with someone else....
“Somewhere near the Texas-Arkansas border, the night is inky black and the rain is beating relentlessly on the windshield. It's been pouring the entire day, enough to flood half the state. The rain, and the whole of this bizarre apacalyptic day of flooded highways, closed side roads and thundering clouds, has added an eerie chaos to my departure. A special festival of triggers in my mind about dying in a horrible rainy crash. They are thoughts that never bothered me before Drew died in an accident. Now I know, it could happen at any moment. At times like this, that really gets the best of me.
It's nearly midnight now, and I've managed to doze for an hour or so. Mike has been driving steadily through the black sheets of rain, and we're just 30 minutes from our stopping point for the night: Texarkana. This hitting of the Texas-Arkansas border appears to cause an eruption of emotions...Read more
It's Sunday afternoon as I type this, and I'm on a 4 hour layover in Denver on my way back to Texas. I have spent the past 3 days in Portland for a conference on death and dying – where I stood up for the first time and did a presentation about my story with death and how creativity has helped me. What an experience it has been. Almost a year ago now, I was invited to speak at this conference by a woman who I'd shared my photography with. Small world, she turned out to be in charge of the arts & culture section of this brand new conference called DeathOK... she wrote to me and said I was the first person she thought of inviting to speak. I decided it was meant to be, and despite me total fear of public speaking, I agreed to come out.
This was a first. A big and scary one. I've never presented anything outside of a few less-than-mediocre speeches in college. That was over ten years ago. And I totally bombed my presentations most of the time because I was so nervous. Let's just say, public speaking is NOT one of my strengths and is something I have completely avoided for the entirely of my adult life.
Until one day last year, this woman emails me, asking me to present... and I realize that I might just have something really important that I want to say for the first time. And that something... is my story. About losing both of my parents before the age of 26. About losing the man I was going to spend my life with, and this whole bullshit ride death has taken me on. Also about how creativity helped me time and time again through each of these losses. Suddenly, when presented with her request, I realized my desire to share this journey with others was finally greater than my fear of public speaking...Read more
It's been a long week. Most of my stuff has sat in storage since Drew died three years ago. And before that, probably half those boxes hadn't been opened in years. With the move to Ohio in just a few weeks, it's time to finally tackle this.
I decided that I didn't want to take any extra baggage (literally) with me on this new venture, and that means I'm opening up every last box. I'm pulling out a million different little pieces of myself from long ago... and deciding which pieces I want to keep and which I want to leave behind.
It's been emotional. To dig through my past and remember who I used to be. A lot has happened to me that isn't just the grief over my fiance. Death, alcoholism, family dystunction, abuse...I haven't had the worst life by far, but it hasn't been easy.
Revisiting the boxes reminded me of how I spent the first 25 years of my life in survival mode. There was never stability, or healthy relationships, or a feeling of safety in my world. There was never room to put down the armor and just relax into life. Not until I met Drew...Read more
It is a chilly October morning and I am listening to the wind and watching the early light steal across the sky. I want to write words that are meaningful and resonate with others who are grieving, too. I want to speak to the parts of me that others may keep hidden, even from themselves. I want to share the broken bits and the light of hope that shines between the cracks in the brokeness. I want to be eloquent and wise.
But some days, the words aren't there. Some days all I can do is speak of my direct experience with grief and loss. Some days all I can do is write what is present for me, in this moment, and hope that the words make sense.
It has been an exhausting week, though I didn't seem to accomplish much. Recently, the expectations at my workplace have made me question my capability for the job and even my desire to remain in the field in which I have worked for the past 35 years. And I have found myself searching for Stan, in the hope that he could, as he did when he was alive, ground me in the truth, help me shift my thinking and priorities, and gain a wider perspective.
But I don't know where he is.
Like his parents, Drew's aunt is someone I've gotten much closer to since he died. Yesterday was our first time visiting since I went up to Ohio last month. I went to help her move some furniture out of her uncle's garage. The 2 hour drive out to his place was just what we needed to catch up on all that is changing in our lives with my move to Ohio. Not just my life... our lives. This move of mine is affecting all of us. His parents, who I have lived with since he died... who have become my own family in the process. My closest friends, who I will be very far away from for the first time since we all met 7 or 8 years ago. And everyone else close in my life in some way.
Sometimes life brings you odd reminders though of just how beautiful and seamless even the most complex situations can be. While with Drew's aunt yesterday, over at her uncle's house, we began looking at pictures up on the walls. In the hallway was a wall full of old photos, in particular a collage frame with 20-30 photos arranged all together. He stood and shared with us about all the pictures, who they were, who had died, etc. Brothers and sisters, aunt and uncles, nieces and nephews, grandparents and moms and dads. On the surface, it looks like anyone's family collage on the wall. But there was something very unique about this particular college that really stood out to me...Read more
My mind and heart feel a bit scattered, this week. I have returned from retreat to work and errands and the ups and downs that characterise life in the real world. Each time I go on a retreat, I want to stay there, where there is space and quiet and a relief from worry about finances and obligations and commuting and cleaning and all the things that we resist and resent. But I know that living the life of a monk or a hermit is not my path, however appealing it seems, at times. So I return, and try to juggle the mundane tasks of life in western society with the contemplative life that calls to me.Read more
I'm back in Texas this week, after having visited Mike for two weeks. My last day there, we drove up to Niagara Falls to meet up with my sister and her family. It was her first time meeting him and his daughter Shelby, and it was wonderful to see how well he fit in. Again, just like with my friends, he fit into the picture eerily as well as Drew. Only it didn't feel like he was replacing him at all, but more like honoring his space. My sister adored Shelby. Since she raised three boys, she's pretty excited about the prospect of a new little girl in our world. It was all so seamless.
This was Shelby's first time to see Niagara Falls, as Mike and Megan never made it up with her for a visit. It was so much fun to be a part of that experience, of one of her firsts. In such a short time, she has stolen my heart (which she seems to do with everyone) and I can literally sit around for hours and just watch her experiencing the world and being her goofy self. I am always seeing myself in her too. I am daily reminded of the little girl I was, who also lost her mom around the same age and had a similar spunk and charisma. With every joy and every sorrow she has, I see some bit of me. I also see a different girl, who is already living a very different version of this story than I did...Read more
It's official. Last night, I signed a lease agreement for the rental house. (As you can see, Mike's daughter Shelby is just as excited as I am) So... as of the end of next month, I will be packing up everything I own and moving to Ohio. This whole thing is so surreal and honestly doesn't feel real at all. The house is amazing... twice the size of anything I've ever had. It sits at the end of a beautifully wooded street on the outskirts of town, with small 5 acre farms and little ponds dotting all along the road. For a gal who's only lived in 600 square foot city apartments her whole adult life, it sure is surreal to imagine waking up to a view of trees and gardens and ponds and flowers. In the winter, fields of fresh snow blankets will stretch out several acres from my front door. I can hardly even imagine this little slice of heaven practically jumped into my lap. I've been totally terrifified to move so far from home, but I really do feel like all of this would not be aligning if it wasn't meant to happen. So despite my fears, I am trusting the universe, letting go of the fear, and leaning into it.
So, how does this feel, to be leaving behind the state I have lived in all my life and all the places I built memories with Drew before he died? To be leaving behind my closest friends and some of my family? It felt really sad at first, I've cried a lot in the past few months over the prospect of moving far away. Until I got up here and realized... I'm not leaving any of that behind. We'll still talk all the time, and I'll still be sharing everything that happens on this new adventure with them. And in that way, teveryone back home is always with me. Similarly, Drew is always with me too.Read more
I am sitting upstairs in the bedroom... the morning light streaming through the window. Only today, I'm not upstairs in my own room, but at Mike's place. He's downstairs getting the morning started while I get my post done. I got in last night, and it's the first morning here. The first time I have ever been here. I'm a little overwhelmed, I'll admit.
It is immediately surreal to walk in the house as we came in. I halfway expected his wife Megan to be here. And in a way, she is. In every paint color on the walls and every picture and little embroidered wall hanging. In every small and sweet touch throughout their cozy home, she is here. And her love is here. I'd be lying if I didn't say I felt like I wasn't supposed to be here. Like in a strange way I wished it all back to how it used to be... for her to still be here with her daughter and her husband. For me to still be back in Texas with Drew. For a moment in time, I think it all felt so horribly wrong...Read more