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
And so just like that... I am about to put in an application on a rental house in Ohio. What? How the hell did this happen? It was only weeks ago that Mike and I sat down and had a serious talk about the idea of me moving up there... if I did, how would we do this? I decided, after having lived with Drew's parents since he died, I need to get a place of my own again and establish myself. It's the only way that feels right to me... moving in with Mike and his daughter would be too rushed right now.
Immediately when I thought about it – my fear began to subside and my excitement grew. To have my own place again... something I have yearned for so much since he died and I moved here. To be close to Mike, and also within a day's drive of my sister, my extended family, and many of my widowed friends I have met these past three years. No doubt, this is a good and positive new direction. No doubt this is the direction I am being pulled towards. So after that talk, I started to look for small rental houses casually... with the notion that I would actually move sometime next year, perhaps summer.
Well, the universe really doesn't like to fuck around. I should know this by now. Instead of the gentle ushering from here and moving there, it dropped a big ass grenade of NEW in front of me. There on my computer screen, the perfect housing situation pops up... one that was so good I could not resist calling on it. And now I am left with making a very big decision that I was in no way prepared to make (or so I thought)...Read more
Before Drew died, I was not the softest person. Sure I was kind and loving and generous, but mainly just with him – the one person I trusted above all others. I honestly rarely gave anyone else my heartfelt genuine love – because I did not trust people. I always kept everyone but him at arms length, but did I good job of disuising myself as kind and giving from the outside. My whole life this has been something I've struggled with. Something I haven't liked about myself. And something I have not known how to move past.
After he died, somehow, miraculously, I did the opposite of this. I didn't close off from others. I didn't mistrust or question or hold back. Instead, I opened up to everyone completely and in a way I never had before. I exposed every fear, every tear, and every irrational, over-the-top outburst, to anyone who would listen. In conversations and phonecalls and blog posts and artwork and hugs and embarassing crying fits. I didn't think about it - it was survival. It is what I had to do. It still amazes me today that being this broken was the thing that broke down lifelong walls inside me that I had been yearning to get past for years. It was oddly the best and worst year of my life.
It was the worst for obvious reasons. But it was the best because it was the first time in my life that I truly opened myself – not just to one person – but to everyone. His death softened my heart. After a lifetime of trying to protect myself from the world – I finally put down my armor, looked around, and saw that I hadn't been keeping myself safe from harm at all. I had been keeping away love and laughter and connection and support...Read more
This weekend has been amazing. Challenging, scary, exhausting, sweet, beautiful, silly, and bursting at the seams with love. Mike and Shelby have been here now for 3 days and this afternoon they head home back to Ohio. I can scarcely even put into words how amazing and terrifying all this has been. After countless hours of Skype calls - to meet her in person for the first time. And for it to be so effortless between us... I don't know how else to say it except that I have the same feeling about her that I did when I met Mike at Camp Widow: it is as if we have known each other our whole lives and much much longer even. It makes it hard to believe anything else except that the people we love and lost somehow put us together and know exactly what they are doing.
Here we are - an eight year old girl who lost her mother last year, a 32 year old woman who lost her own mother at about the same age, a 34 year old dad going through the same thing my own dad went through with me... Inexplicably connected by loss from 1400 miles apart on a chance meeting. Perhaps it is more than his wife and my fiance, but also my mom who put us together...Read more