I've been on the road quite a bit in the last few weeks, visiting my NJ community. Not towing my trailer, because, you know, weather, and I'm on my way west to Arkansas now, for Thanksgiving.

All of which is to say...

I listen to podcasts as I drive. History podcasts, philosophy, widow stuff, life stuff. You name it, and I listen to it.

And I just never know what I might hear that will suddenly click the gears into place that generally turn non-stop, taking in all that is around me. Conversations of strangers, particular terrain, colors of the sky, what the road looks like in front of me...my internal gears are always spinning, picking up bits and pieces of everything and, sometimes, what seems like nothing but ends up being that one missing piece.

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Case of the Mondays

Sometimes, being incredibly, almost comically busy can be a blessing in disguise.  Although it’s a short work week for us here in the US, with Thanksgiving being this Thursday, I arrived to an unexpectedly busy office yesterday morning.  It was a madhouse for the entire day, and even as I drove home, I was receiving phone calls from co-workers, asking for assistance with their IT needs. I spent at least half an hour hunched over in our “office” after getting home, online, and on the phone.

I didn’t get lunch yesterday.  I was unable to even break away for 5 minutes to grab a cup of coffee.  I spent almost the entirety of the day away from my desk, with the fleeting moments that I was able to sit down on the phone.  

Password resets, email problems, printer outages, accounting programs mysteriously losing information, our president forgetting his laptop at home, broken cell phones, misbehaving monitors, and a bevy of other issues all seemed to occur at once.

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Another Year

I have lived without him now for two years. 

I am not entirely sure what to do with this.  There is nothing that needs to be done - I know.  There was no special fanfare that marked his two year death day.  I observed the day subtly and quietly - on my own.  Not surprisingly, no one gave me a medal for surviving two years of widowhood.  There was no one dripping praise on me for "dutifully" being Mike's widow for 24 months.  There was just his deadness looming over the day like it does every day. 

 

Still, two years is a significant amount of time.  I felt something, but I am not sure what.  Marking year two was less significant to me than completing year one of widowhood.  November 15, 2018 marked two years; and, next year it will be three, then the year after it will be four years, and then five years, then shortly after it will be a decade.  I realize that the awfulness of this date will arrive every year for the rest of my life.  And, really what does this mean?  Does this date even matter in the big picture?  It doesn't.  It is not relevant.  His death date is never at date I will "celebrate" because it was the worst day of my life.  

 

Now, after two years,  the feeling of Mike being absent, is more familiar than his presence.  The life I am living is a wildly altered version of my former life.  And, my new life does not fit right yet.  Maybe it never will.  It is uncomfortable.

I exist in the shadows of our former life and am I not content here.  I am restless where I am.  But, I do not know how to fix this.   In suburbia, without a spouse, you do not fit in with the white picket fence crowd.  I am forced to exist in an awkward type of limbo.  As a middle aged widow, my heart beats out of time and my breath is laboured because I am completely exasperated by the lack lustre feeling inside me.  I continually feel underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time.  Something has to change...

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Being There

What do I do... When the person I now love sits in pain?

A similar pain to my own, but still so different and all his own.

What do I do on the hard days when I see you crying your eyes out with an ocean of feeling inside you? Wishing that I could somehow dive inside of it and feel it for you.

Knowing that even that wouldn’t help you.

What do I do in those moments, when suddenly, I haven’t a clue what to say or do?

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Newborn Fears

I caught myself today. I caught myself leaving for work, locking the door and checking the handle – 7 times. I pulled and pushed on the handle to make sure it was definitely locked. Then I pushed on the door itself.  “It’s locked”’ I said to myself. I walked down the hall to the stairs and paused. I felt sick to my stomach. I turned around and went back to check the door again…

I didn’t sleep well last night. My dreams were all over the place, in and out of new scenes mixed into others that seemed hauntingly familiar. People I knew in my life were all gone and all the new people I met were untrustworthy, up to something, lurking in the shadows. I ran around this new world struggling to find an anchor. Then I saw my dog Roan. He was running toward me and was knocked into the street and run over. I woke up screaming and in tears. I felt that everything was out of control and the fear grew stronger.

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Settling Into the Weird

Last night, I saw the film "Bohemain Rhapsody" with my love, Nick. 

Everything having anything to do with music always makes me think of Don.

It just does. 

Our connection was largely based in music. We met through music. We played and sang music together. 

We introduced each other to lots of musicians and artists to listen to. 

Don used music and strumming his guitar, as his biggest coping mechanism to get through the trauma he saw on the job. 

To get through most hard things. 

He would disappear into music, play his guitar for a couple hours in solitude, and then he would be okay. 

Don and I connected through music. 

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Holiday Anxiety

The Christmas holidays are still quite a while away but I’ve been thinking and worrying about it since September so it feels like it’s been around for quite a while now. What precisely I’m anxious about has changed each year since Mike died but it has brought emotions and stress each time.

The first Christmas without Mike I just didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to see any family or see anyone’s Christmas “cheer.”  I didn’t want to celebrate anything or do anything. I didn’t want to buy gifts or go in any male store section to remind me that I wasn’t buying for Mike this year. I would have been perfectly fine if the whole holiday didn’t exist. The year before Mike and I had a wonderful Christmas as our first Christmas as a married couple. We did the whole corny thing - cut down our own tree, buy “first Mr. & Mrs.” ornaments, buy eachother thoughtful stockings and have our own Christmas morning just the two of us. It was ridiculously wonderful and everything I wanted. I remember putting away all the Christmas decorations and thinking about how I couldn’t wait to do it again next year. What a stark contrast the following year was.

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Random Things I've Learned~

Life isn't always a walk through the fucking tulips. Which is not a new concept for me, in widowhood; I learned this hard lesson in 1996 when my younger brother, Kysa, died, followed by my mom 6 months later. Cancer cured me of the walk through the tulips perception.  My husband's death only solidified this realization.

The people I appreciate in life are those who are willing to show up as their real selves. Those willing to sit with me in darkness. People who genuinely want to hear the tough stuff. People who will call me and say Let's go for a cup of coffee and talk real talk. People who respond to me in this way free me up to actually be who I am and truly be in the moment. Good, bad, and indifferent.

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It's Me

I used to answer my phone and I'd hear him say "Hi Beautiful, it's me". 

I miss those days. 

I miss when my phone would ring and his voice was on the other end. 

I miss hearing the man I love telling me it was him. 

 

Art: Loui Jover

 

When he was alive, Mike belonged to me and I belonged to him.  And, for a short while, everything seemed right in the world.  And, now, nothing, not one damn thing, has felt right in almost two years.
 
I knew Mike thought of me as his person when he casually referred to himself as "it's me".  This phrase between couples becomes commonplace as a friendship turns into a romantic relationship.  It is an informal way of sealing the deal.  It is a universal phrase that solidifies your couplehood. 
 
"It's me", is a phrase that comes to be when you acknowledge that you are theirs and they are yours. Like many couples, Mike and I declared that we belonged to one another with this short, subtle phrase.  This was just one of the many gestures that we naturally adapted as we fell in love with each other. I really miss being in love - with him.  In truth, I am still in love with Mike.  And, I think I always will be.
 
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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This past weekend Mike and I attended Camp Widow Toronto. We helped out with a lot of things this year, from leading panel discussions and groups, to building the enormous sign of HOPE for the banquet and working with Michele to plan the message release around it. I also hosted my creative workshop again, for the second year, which was an absolutely incredible experience.

There was so much to do before ever getting to camp… we have been working tirelessly for the past month or two to get ready. It has meant long nights and very busy weekends planning, dreaming, building, painting, budgeting, and hoping it will all go as well as we imagine. I stepped out of my own comfort zone in many ways. Not only in what we physically created in the huge sign of HOPE, which Mike wrote more about last week in his post. Also though, in deciding to commit myself so fully to focusing not one what I needed this year, but on what I had to give.

I can’t help but wonder, just how did I get here? Me… who just six years ago was so broken that I feared I'd never be able to put the pieces back together. Me… who couldn't even feed myself for 2 weeks after his death. Who couldn't even buy dental floss at the grocery store or remember to pay my credit card bill for 6 months. Who woke every morning for so long in a horror, wishing with all my heart that it was all just a nightmare. On top of all that, I have spent a lifetime fighting deep-rooted self doubt. Fighting to believe that I have anything of value to give to others. Just how did I get here then, shining a light for others along the path?

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