I have to thank everyone for all the incredible responses to my post last week. You warmed my heart and really helped me to feel a bit more okay with all of this mess - and a bit less alone. Trying to welcome a new life is SO not easy, but its a heck of a lot easier with friends like all of you. You encourage me to be honest with where I am at on this journey, thank you for that. I thought today that I would share one of the self portraits from my photographic series I have been working on this year - and the story behind it - as it has become a big part of my own healing as of late. Both creating these images and writing about them has helped me to see myself and my pain in new ways… so I hope maybe this one will do that for someone else out there too….
"I just want to crawl out of my own skin" is something I said often in the first weeks and months after he died. For the whole first year really. Every cell of my body - every hair, every pore, every organ, was reverberating a constant and loud message of denial. Every cell of me, bumping up against the truth at every turn, abrasively, painfully. And then violently pushing and pushing, trying to thrust the truth out of my world. No, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO NO, NO!!!… vibrating loudly within every inch of me, trying to fight off a reality too painful, too unbelievable to comprehend. This single aspect of his death has been by far the most agonizing of all.Read more
"It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
And I'm feeling good"
Don't we ALL wish it was that simple??
Since coming home from my trip to Hawaii a few weeks ago, things have been rough. I wrote a post here trying to glean some of the positives from everything as of late - but really what I think I need to talk about is how freaking scary even the good new things can be. I went on that trip just to go visit a friend and see a new place… I never imagined that the girl I was when I left would not be the same girl I was when I returned. But that is what has happened. Since coming home, it is as if I landed back in my reality and realized in a very real way that I am a different person. And part of me is SO NOT okay with that.
Do not be fooled
by the lightness you see in me -
The cool easy smile
across my face.
Two years year ago this week, I had no concept of time.
Nor of my life any longer as I knew it.
Two years ago today, I was making funeral arrangements
For the man I had planned to grow old with.
And going from pain to disbelief and back to pain every 10 minutes
Like an endless loopRead more
I've had a roller coaster of a weekend. Yesterday was my fiancé and I's anniversary of when we began dating, and in just a few more days comes the two year mark of his death. I spent the past two weeks in Hawaii visiting a friend, which was incredible and a welcome distraction. Then, on Wednesday, I flew directly to Portland for a conference. Needless to say - not only is this an emotion filled month anyway, but I am absolutely depleted from being gone from home for almost three weeks. By the end of yesterday, my emotions were erupting. It's quite a miracle I haven't gone into a full-blown melt down (yet!).
The worst of it was, I'd had two full weeks of feeling pretty great. And coming down from that - as you ALL know - is the worst. But I'm trying to look for some positives in it all - because despite how tired and run-down I am right now, I had some important shifts while on this trip.
I'm writing today to you from Hawaii. I came out for a few weeks to visit a friend on Oahu. This is the longest trip I've ever taken away from home since he died, and the first real vacation I've taken without him or his family being with me. Leaving the shelter of home has always made me a little antsy, but now instead of just the usual nervousness, my mind is filled with new questions about how I will be able to cope with something so seemingly simple yet terrifying as vacation.
Will my anxiety strike? Will I have a complete meltdown in a totally public space because something triggered my grief or a memory? Will it happen totally unplanned and out of nowhere? Will I miss him so much that I won't even be able to enjoy myself? I've found that the answer to all of those things is yes. At least until you get there. I'd be lying if I didn't say that on the morning of my flight I wasn't riddled with anxiety. But I am learning that if I want to ever get out there and do anything, I have to be willing to accept that the grief factors are just going to be a part of things for now. If I want to try something, I have to accept those things may happen.
So I got on that plane and I flew over an ocean alone… knowing full well that all of those scary things might (and very well would) happen. The crazy thing is, for the most part, they haven't. I am on day 11 of this 14 day trip… and I am pretty okay. I had some anxiety for the first few days, and certain activities have been a little difficult, but no major melt downs. No insane anxiety. And his absence has absolutely not kept me from being able to enjoy the moment.Read more
A week ago, I had a really big moment. It was defined the by a very simple difference in word choice. It was not something anyone else would have noticed or defined as big - unless of course you yourself are widowed perhaps. While at the gym, one of the other girls in class asked if I was married and had kids. And I said - in this effortless, matter-of-fact way - "No, I'm widowed, so the kids thing is pretty much out of the picture for right now". And then I just continued about my workout. Just like that. No big emotional breakdown. No desire to run and hide. No real care for whether or not this other woman was pitying me. It just rolled out naturally. A fact. Plain and simple.
This was a big deal. Something felt really different about it. The more I thought about it, I began to realize what it was. I said "I'm widowed". It's the first time since he died that I have said it that way by default. Every other time I have said "I'm a widow". I AM a widow. It's a small difference in words, but it feels like a huge difference in perspective.
Even though our adventure together did not last a lifetime as we expected - my fiancé and I certainly lived our days adventurously. He convinced me to go skydiving a week before we began dating to my surprise. I am not an adrenaline junky, but somehow he had a way of making me surprise myself by the things he was able to bring out in me. I always liked that. He took me up for several helicopter flights while he was in flight school. He was so elated because apparently I was the only girl who ever accepted his invite to go up with him for a flight - and not only did I accept - I was extremely excited. It's beyond me that anyone would have had any other reaction to someone asking them "do wanna go up in a helicopter?" Certainly one more reason we fit so well together.
In the three years we had together we did lots of other adventurous things. We took a rock star trip to Vegas, took up kayaking together, did lots of camping and hiking, hot air ballooning, parasailing, race car driving school for a day… this was most assuredly NOT the girl I was before I met him. It was the girl I wanted to be - but without the right companion to do it with. I think that is one of my favorite things that he brought into my life - a perfect match for my sense of adventure that brought it out even more so in me.
"Happy Mother's Day!" the waiter says to me, followed by saying that he isn't sure who is or isn't a mom so he just says it to all the women coming in to eat lunch at the restaurant today. I laugh at his over-kindness, and say thank you. But then, as he walks away… the feeling sinks in.
Now, normally I'm very good at keeping the whole children thing at bay. My fiancé and I were not planning to have children anytime soon, so although we often talked about our someday children and how we would raise them, it was still something that was at least 4 or 5 years out. I also never really cared about having kids until I met the man I wanted to raise them with, so normally other parts of my pain seem to take precedence over this part and I don't spend much time grieving it.
But not when someone wishes me a Happy Mother's Day.
Today is a very big day. In just a few hours, I will be loading up nine of my large framed photos and delivering them safely to the local hospital for my first solo art exhibition. It is a lifelong dream come true. And mostly, it has been incredible. I told my counselor the other day that it feels like a dream… that it feels like I got dropped into someone else's life all of the sudden and that I got really lucky, because their life happens to be all the things that I always wanted my own life to be. Like, hey, I could get used to this!
But of course, it's not ALL the things I wanted my life to be. We all know that. He is not here. I may 100% believe that he can see everything I'm doing and he is working overtime to help align things and forge this new path for me… but that doesn't change the fact that he cannot stand next to me for this moment.