Back to the Future

It’s been four years.  Four times, the earth has orbited the sun in full since Megan’s death.  That seems like an eternity, and yet at times, it also feels like it was yesterday.  It’s still “fresh”, yet also “routine”.

If I could have foretold the future, four-and-a-half years ago, a few days before she died, it wouldn’t have changed anything, really.  I would just know what to expect. I can reflect on it now, however. I can write to myself, 1,700 days later, telling my past not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to.

So, here goes.

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Stay the Course

I am no longer counting the days or the months of Mike's deadness. 

It has become irrelevant to me. 

The numbers don't matter anymore. 

Mike is gone.  Mike is really dead.  And, I am not.  This is what matters. 

 

I know this sounds harsh, but how else can I put it?  His death has been harsh, and that's such an understatment it is beyond ridiculous.  Mike being dead sucks more than anything has ever sucked in my entire life.  But, there is nothing that can change this.  It simply is what it is.  

 

His dead status is not fixable.  Nothing can be done to undo it.  And, no amount of practice or time makes me feel at "peace" with Mike being dead.  But, I know that I do have to accept that he is dead because it can not be changed. 

Until recently, I hated the word acceptance in relation to Mike's death.  I have consistently resisted acceptance until now.  To this point, I haven't learned to accept his death further than a cognitive level.  However, now, I acknowledge that I need to do more than this. 

This third year of widowhood, I have decided that I am going to try to accept Mike's death at the Heart level.  I know that in the Heart is where true acceptance exists.  True acceptance is something I have to feel, it isn't a thing I can think my way towards.

I am not entirely sure how to go about accepting Mike's death.  And, I am not sure if anything particular is required of me other than my strong desire to make acceptance happen.  I am going to simply stay the course and I will attempt to soften the edges of my grief - even more.  If I can make my grief "quieter", I know that I will begin to hear the heartbeat of life again.  Acceptance - it will ultimately lead me towards LIVING again; therefore it is mandatory for me to work on it.

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Treading Water Together

This week I began work on a goal that has taken me a long time to believe I could accomplish. It may seem like something very small to most people, but for me, it has been a hurdle all my life. This week, I have started swim lessons.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I’ve always been uncomfortable in the water. I never took swim lessons and though I can swim, I don’t do it well. I’m about the slowest swimmer there is, I hate the feeling of water in my eyes, I almost always have to hold my nose under water, and treading water is enough to send me into a mild panic and have me swimming for shallow ground. It has always been a frustration for me, and occasionally embarrassing. Worst of all, it’s something I have believed that I can never change about myself. And the root of it comes from not trusting myself to be able to keep myself safe in water.

I have always marveled at people who appear to be completely comfortable in water. Drew was like that, like a fish. And Mike even more-so since he was a diver in school and taught swim lessons. I have watched them both in complete awe.

I’ve believed all my life that I can never have that sort of safe feeling in water. That it’s just not in the cards for me. For years, I’ve wanted to at least try to challenge that belief. So this past week, Mike and I got a membership to an indoor pool for the winter, and he has started working with me.

After just two lessons at the pool with Mike, there I was, just effortlessly treading water like I’ve been doing it forever. Suddenly all the fear went away. All the panic and anxiousness that I have felt my ENTIRE life in deep water… GONE. I couldn’t even believe those feelings could vanish so quickly. And suddenly, for the first time ever, I began to feel some glimmer of that comfortable feeling in water that I have envied in others all these years. Some glimmer of trusting myself in the water. Even more importantly, I challenged a limiting belief about myself, and I decided that I don’t believe it anymore. With his help, I am beginning to trust that I can do this. 

One of the things I am most grateful for in this widow journey is the people who have been willing to help me stay afloat...

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The Grocery Store

This week I felt like writing about how the arrival of the holidays has already been extremely difficult for me. These are the first holidays without Clayton. Those Facebook “memories” that pop up in my news feed are like a sharp knife from a friend. Nothing is safe from the reminders. I don’t know if I can even decorate this year but decorating is not what my words are for this week. It is the place that no one would ever think could be a heart-wrenching trigger. A place everyone goes that is designed to help you live but, as a widow, it is a place that can take more of you away…The Grocery Store.

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A Turning Point Kind of a Question

I’m not sure if it is just a part of the process, self-preservation or something supernatural but I caught myself of guard the other day. You see, I was quite surprised when an acquaintance walked by me at work and in front of everyone he grabbed my shoulder and asked me how I was. It might not seem much to some but everyone at work registered something was different. He acted like we knew each other very well and we only said hi in passing. The moment passed and everyone asked if we were friends outside work and were we seeing each other. They were shocked to hear me say no and the speculation began.

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New York State of Mind

"I don't have any reason, dont wanna waste more time

Im in a New York state of mind......." 

 

Ah yes, Billy Joel had it right with that song. 

Its been about 17 months since I left NYC, my second home, to move back to my home state of Massachusetts, finish my book, and see what comes next. I didnt expect to find love here in smalltown Mass, and I didnt expect for that love to provide not only the perfect ending to my book, but a new lease and purpose on life in addition. When I left NYC, in my heart, it was temporary. I kept saying: "I can always come back." But somewhere deep inside, I knew that my soul was being eaten alive by NYC, and my wallet too. So, I have made a lot of visits, and almost every one of them was because I had something professional or career-related going on in the city; a book signing event, a comedy show, this time its a TV taping on the local cable show OPEN TO HOPE. I will be one of a 3-person panel of widowed authors - me , Michelle Miller, and John Polo. We will talk about our books and about grief and loss. It will air at a later time. The evening before the taping, on Friday night, (this will post Friday for you all, but Im writing it Wednesday evening) the three of us will host a fun Karaoke Book-signing party in the city, sort of a "Meet and Greet" with anyone who wants to come out. In between all of that, I will see some friends and have some fun. Back to my NYC people. My NYC vibe. 

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Widow Energy~

Dark energy.

It makes one think of vampires and shadows and the like. 

Shrouds. Winding cloth. Long cloaks that one swirls dramatically over the shoulder.

I've been told that I carry dark energy.

The imagery that came to mind when I was told that is Pigpen, from Peanuts.

You know, the little boy who wanders through the cartoon squares with a dark cloud enveloping him.

Over and around him.  

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I'll Not be Home for Christmas

In my 38 years, I have never once not been with my parents on either Christmas eve or Christmas day.  Even when I was in the military, I lucked out in that I wasn’t deployed over Christmas, and I was able to drive from North Carolina to Ohio, even if only for a 48 hour visit.  Since 2002, I’ve added Megan’s family to that tradition, always ensuring that my second family was part of the holidays, but simply splitting time between both.

It was convenient that both my family and Megan’s family lived within 15 minutes of each other, and we never lived farther than 30 minutes away from either.  Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas day with hers.

Since Megan’s death, that tradition has remained the same.  Now, however, there’s a third and fourth family.

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Another Birthday without him

This weekend I celebrated my third birthday without Mike.  He died just over two years ago, but this is the third time I have had a birthday without him beside me.  The first year, my birthday happened two weeks after he died.  That birthday; and, most of the first year without him is a blur to me.  When I look back I don't remember much of anything about the initial year which is likely not a coincidence.  I think when we are in deep grief we are shocked and numb by design. 

I can not recall the events of that first year, but I can easily remember the feelings of my first year without Mike.  My feelings were gutting.  I was completely disorientated and sad to the depths of my Soul; and, quite honestly, sometimes I still feel this way.  But, thankfully, now there is more good stuff between these moments of awful aching and relentless yearning for him.

Mike died suddenly; and, because of this I think I was in complete shock for months and months and months after we buried him.  In the early days I would go to his grave a lot.  Looking back, these visits to the cemetery were necessary for me because being there helped make me know that his death was real.  I had to force myself to see his headstone again and again because my brain simply could not process Mike's death.  I needed to read his name on the stone to make myself believe that Mike had actually died.  I needed to feel the realness of his death on my fingertips so I knelt at his grave and traced the letters of his name over and over again.  For me, it was necessary to allowed the roughness of the letters to rub the reality of his deadness into me.  These repeated rituals helped me to accept that Mike really died. 

 

For a long, long time no matter what I did, I just could not seem to grasp that Mike was gone forever.  And, maybe a part of me still can't. To those outside of the grief world, it is probably not understandable that I could not and did not understand the "realness" of his death.  To most people it was obvious that Mike was dead and they knew he was going to stay that way.  It was just me who was unable to accept the permanence of the situation.  In the early months, I remember looking at doors and thinking that Mike was going to  walk through - any moment.  I recall drifting aimlessly through the house and mumbling over and over again "Is this real?"  I desperately needed someone to answer me.  But, no one did.  Or, if they did answer, I didn't hear them. 

Photo: My Birthday December 1, 2018  

 

Now, going into my third year without him, I feel that the initial shock has been almost completely absorbed.   Cognitively, now, I understand that Mike's death is real; but, I still have not accepted his death at the heart level. But, I am working on it.

This year, for my birthday, I chose to go for dinner at our favorite winery.  And, it did not bother me to be there, in the same place I remember going with him.  Instead, of feeling sad because Mike wasn't there, I felt good because I was there with people I love.  This is way different than the way I have felt in the past when I returned here.  The first year, I had dinner at the winery with Mike's daughter to celebrate his birthday; and, as expected, it was hard for both of us to not feel his absence that first birthday without him.  But, last night it was different.  My thoughts did not drift from the table.  Much to my surprise, I was able to remain present and enjoy the moment.  We all laughed a little too loudly, there were smiles all round and we genuinely enjoyed each other's company. 

We LIVED, LOVED and LAUGHED

All the very same things Mike and I did together. 

And, it felt so good to feel alive again, even if it was just a few hours. 

This year, my birthday was everything a birthday should be. 

 

With time, and practice, going to "our" places is finally bringing me joy again.  As I sat in the dining room of the winery, I saw "our table" and it did not cruelly pull at my heartstrings and bring tears to my eyes.  I glanced at our table and I remembered.  I remembered with gratitude.  And, without much effort, I turned my attention back to my table of friends and I carried on with my night.  I glanced at the past, but I choice to LIVE in the present moment.  Last night, I LIVED for me.  I celebrated myself - without him.  And, in truth, I felt his presence, more than his absence.  

When I am able to be present.  When I can enjoy the moment.  When I can fill my heart with gratitude for what is, rather than becoming consumed with sadness for what is not, this is when I feel closest to Mike.  This is when my heart is speaking his language.  When I am being my truest self I feel Mike's presence.  When I am smiling and "being" the woman who he loved, this is when I can connect with him.  When I am joyful and living I am closest to him. When I am LOVE I feel his arms around my life.  And, last night I was able to be all those things.  What better gift girl could a girl receive on her birthday?

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Dreams of Other Worlds

Photo Credit: Alicia SavageI had dreams of him this past week. It's the first time in a lot of years I've dreamt of him two nights in a row. 

It was both beautiful and sad. The dreams were good... they were happy. I got to see his smile again, that beautiful smile that warmed my heart. For a moment, I got to remember the feeling that his smile gave me. It's been so long, almost seven years now, that I can almost not recall the feeling of him anymore. But every now and then, something - like a dream - pulls out the memory from the depts. Not the mental memory, but the feeling memory. Those are the ones that are harder to hold on to. I can remember vividly so many details about our lives still. I can still remember the sound of his laugh and the love in his eyes. But the one thing that a struggle to remember is the feeling of what it was like when he was here. Dreams sometimes pull me back there, in the most beautiful, but painful way. 

 

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