50 Shades of Vague

So it's three days after Christmas, I've had a terrible virus/cold for almost 12 days now, Im coughing up a lung, and my headache is just irritating and monotanous enough to keep me the appropriate amount of moody, while still somehow managing not to bite off the head of the nearest human. 

Seven years post-loss, and Im not even sure how I feel bout this set of holidays. Is it weird that Im kind of sick of talking about it? I appreciate people asking how Im doing, truly, but I feel like Im out of words to explain what it's like to live in a world without your person. 

Im also extremely tired this year. Probably from all the coughing and being sick. 

Whatever the case, I just dont feel like dealing with my emotions right now. 

And truly, Im not even sure what my emotions even are. 

I just feel blah and vague about everything. 

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It's Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas - Finally

This is my third Christmas without Mike.  The first year, Christmas came along 6 weeks after he died and in many ways this was a blessing because I was in so much shock that nothing really phased me.  I have almost no recollection of that first Christmas.  And, I think this is the way it is supposed to be.  I know that I cooked a complete turkey dinner, but I don't remember who sat around my table.  I can't recall a single conversation.  Not one.  I don't even know if I ate dinner. 

When I think back to that first Christmas, I can not close my eyes and envision my sons openning their gifts.  But, I know that they had gifts.  I just have no idea what they were.  And, I do not remember shopping for their gifts. Maybe I bought them online.  I don't know.  I just can't remember. (There is a theme here.)

I know that I got my tree up that first year. But, I have no idea if I was helped doing this or not.  I think I actually put up two tress, but I can't be sure.  Like so many things over the last 25 months, I wish I could talk to Mike about all this.  But, when your person dies you lose part of your shared history. *Sigh.

Now, without Mike, I have to rely soley on my memories of the past.  The person who shared some of the best moments of my life is dead; and without him,  I am not able to confirm or deny events of our past.  This is a huge loss, something I had yet to comprehend that first year without him.

Beyond dinner and having a tree or two decorated I really can't remember anything about that first Christmas at all.  Looking back, part of my lack of memory is likely due to my white wine intake. That first holiday as a widow Riesling was regularly coursing through my viens.  I was in survival mode.  No one was telling me what to do, because none of them had done this before.  My friends still had their husbands.  They had no experience to draw on. They were clueless about widowhood and so was I.  Without a manual for widowhood and with no one to mentor me, I put myself into a wine induced haze for all of December starting on my birthday which landed exactly two weeks after Mike died and one week after I stood at the cemetery and buried him.  After witnessing that horribly dramatic, sad and awful moment at the cemetry when the coffin lowered and TAPS played none of my friends were about to tell me not to have the wine.  So, it was definitely a White Christmas that first year...

White wine or not, I do not remember Christmas shopping that year.  Maybe, I had the gifts finished before Mike died - who knows?  I can ask him, but since he's died I can't hear him the way I used to.  Two years into this widow thing, I am tired of our one sided conversations.  I am tired of the silence.  I just want to have him here with me.  I want so very much to share my life with him.  But, this can never be.  Now, I have cognitively accepted that the life we shared is over.  However,  two years later, I am still working on "accepting" Mike's permanent absence in my heart.  This remains a work in progress.    

Last year marked my second Christmas as a widow.  In truth it felt like my first because I really didn't feel anything that first year.  Before the second Christmas, I started dreading Christmas in July which gave a whole new cruddy meaning to "Christmas in July".  I remember I felt anxious about being without Mike over the holidlays.  I knew that there would be a hollowness to the entire holiday season for me and the topper would be Christmas Day.  I felt like my family holidays were incomplete without him. 

That second Christmas wasn't the best; and, in truth, I barely recall it.  I just remember feeling empty.  This third year, Mike's absence remains very obvious to me, but this Christmas season has been noticably less awful for me than the first two.  It is finally beginning to feel a bit "okay".

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One Box

It has been 7 and a half years since my beautiful husband Don Shepherd's sudden death. 

About 18 months ago, I found new and wonderful and beautiful love. 

Somewhere in the first few months of the relationship with my new love, the topic of "Don's things" came up. I think I was the one who brought it up. We were in my bedroom talking, or kissing, or something. I forget. But in that moment, I looked over to my nightstand next to my bed, and noticed, as if for the first time or through my lover's eyes, the shrine that it was to Don. Our wedding picture was there. The American flag folded up and in it's frame from the Air Force funeral. The framed certificate from the Sharing Network for being a tissue/organ donor. And his rally monkey stuffed animal that was his lucky charm. I asked Nick very honestly: "Does it bother you that I have so many of Don's things all over my bedroom? Is it weird for you? I feel like it must be weird. " He paused for a minute, and then said just as honestly: "He was your husband. And he died. I think it's normal, and I don't ever want to be someone who would ask you to subtract anything about him from your life. I don't believe in subtracting . Just adding. " Then we talked about how we both looked forward to the day when we have started to build our own memories and private jokes and "things" that could be added to my life's collection. 

I remember loving his response that day. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and it was comforting. It also made me fall in love with him just a little bit more.

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Where Are You?

I often think I have come to accept that Mike is gone. For quite a while my conscious mind and unconscious mind had not synced and often confused if he was here, just gone for a bit but coming back, or gone completely. It hadn’t processed on all levels. That’s not the case now. I don’t forget that he’s dead anymore. I don’t have to have that second to think and remember. I know he is gone at all moments. I know he’s not coming back. Most of the time this is just a flat fact.

However, every once in a while, a moment takes me by surprise and I feel in shock that he could possibly be gone completely. In these moments I feel that even though it’s been over two and a half years the finality of death just doesn’t seem real. Where did he go?

I find this particularly the case when I catch glimpses of pictures.  The other day I was moving something around in a drawer and came across his old license.

I found myself just staring at it. Moving it close to my face. Turning it slightly to see other angles. Focusing intently on the different parts of his face. I don’t know exactly what my purpose was. It felt like maybe I was trying to take it all in. Maybe trying to remember and close the distance in time from the last time I saw him. Maybe trying to find something or see something I had missed before. Trying to look into his eyes and see a glimpse of life. Trying to see him in the present instead of remembering him in the past. See something or imagine something that isn’t there. Have a moment of insight about where he is now.

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I Got Nothin'~

This may or may not end up being something.

My brain is tired. So is my heart.

I think I'm coming down with a cold.

Family arrives tomorrow for the holidays.

After I finished my workamping gig at the opera camp, I stayed here in Arkansas, visiting with my son and his family.

 

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I am Different than Who you Loved

I am a different woman because you died

This feels truthful and awful all at once.

I sense the world around me in a way I never used to. 

I feel the world - deeply.

Everything seeps into me.

The ugliness.

The harshness.

The beauty.

And, the gentleness.

 

I am swathed in life.

It exists all around me.

But, I am a million miles from "here".

I am not grounded in this life anymore.

Part of my Soul exists some place else now.

Suburbia suffocates me without you.

 

Despite the missingness and the yearning for a life that can't be,

I am able to see holiness in the ordinary.

I absorb it into me as I bear witness to it’s beauty.

The magic of life is casually stirred into me. 

This sacred stuff becomes part of me as easily

as cheap canned fruit mixes into a jello mould.

 

But, without you,

I have grown quieter.

I live inside my head a lot.

And, somehow I’ve become more of everything

since I’ve detached myself from the world.

 

Like a well used library book,

I am quietly held by the hands of many.

But, I miss belonging to you...

Now, no one calls me their own - yet.

Maybe I will only ever be on loan. 

I don’t know.

 

I wait to be held open and read

- like only you could do.

You once were the man who read me like a well worn book.

A book he couldn’t put down.

But, now your eyes can’t pour over me the way you used to. 

Now, there is only nothingness where your loving gaze once was.

 

As I’ve become more withdrawn and quiet;

I’m more in tune with the people and things around me. 

Your death has made me a keen observer of life.

Maybe this is a gift from you.

 

Like a voyeur,

I quietly watch.

While I observe,

I absorb the energy around me.

Feelings drip into me,

as if fed to me through intravenous.

 

The sense of things runs deep into my blood now.

I feel life so fully because you died.

You death has taught me so much about life and living...

 

Quietly.

Slowly.

Purposefully.

The feelings of the room pour into me.

They mix into me.

And, these emotions turn into the sticky ink I use to write with.

 

 

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Building My Wings



It seems I made it to adulthood with a rather enormous stack of self limiting beliefs to shuffle through. For a lot of years, I wasn’t even aware of it. I was so used to these beliefs that, in my mind, they were just truths. I always had all my ducks in a nice, neat row… and they were all well-fed and had an ample security system around them at all times to ensure safety. There wasn't any big risk taking going on, nothing much unexpected. Drew was more of a “leap and build your wings on the way down” sort of person.

In the years when I met and dated him, I started to become more aware of my negative beliefs, and started to challenge some of them. He was always a big supporter of me pushing past my own perceived limits. He got me to go skydiving, something I never imagined I’d ever do. And fly a plane. And submit my first photographs to an exhibit. He was the first person I truly felt took me under their wing and attempted to nudge me gently upward and forward.

When he died, I didn’t want that to die along with him. It was a part of myself that I had been with him that I didn’t want to lose. I think, it gave me something that I could choose to keep during a time when so much was taken away without my having a say.

So I kept doing things to push my limits. It was harder without him there, but also, his death made me more determined… more fearless.

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A Haunting Hallmark Holiday

Tis’ the season for all the things that remind us of what we have and what we have lost. This year, for me, there has been more loss and it’s much harder to shake that feeling as those around me put up lights, throw holiday parties and decorate. I can’t put up a Christmas tree. I can’t decorate. I wrapped one present and I just can’t. So I don’t and I tell myself that there is nothing wrong with skipping the traditions this year. With everything added up, I’ve earned a hall pass to the holiday blizzard we all experience every year. However, there is one thing I can’t control….The mail.

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My Crooked Christmas Tree

Last weekend I went with David to pick out a Christmas tree for my house. It’s something I’ve been doing since living where I live - first with Mike, then with family and now this year with David. There is a Christmas tree farm 5 minutes down the rode from me and I love the tradition and having a fresh tree.

We walked around the Christmas tree farm and I searched and searched for my perfect tree. David would point out trees and I’d examine it and turn it down. Nope, too short. Nope, too crooked. Nope, too sparse. I would think I found a nice tree to then find something wrong with it. I wanted it to be perfect.

I finally found a tree I liked and I did (what I thought was) a thorough examination. It looked lovely! I was satisfied. We cut it down and with our two dogs in tow, we carried it back to the car and put it up in my home.

I let the branches settle for a day and then went to decorate the tree on my own. As I’m putting the lights on I start to notice all the bare spots. There’s whole sections without anything there! How did I miss that?!  As I put my (light wooden) ornaments on the branches they instantly bend and wilt under the weight of it. I press the branches delicately and take note of how frail they really are. I never noticed that; they look strong! As I look at the tree from the side I start to see it is crooked.

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Widowed and Scary~

Widows scare people, I think.

Even if they (we) are ordinary in appearance.

No warts on our long noses.

No narrow, scraggly, fingers with sharp nails (for poking).

Oh, wait.

I'm describing witches.

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