This Still Beating Heart~

An interesting question was posted in a widow group earlier today.
When was the moment you realized you would survive this?
Your person’s death…this new life…
I never doubted for a moment that I could and would survive this.
From the time Chuck was told that the cancer was everywhere.
My fear was that I would indeed and unfortunately survive this,
And live the rest of my life without him.

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A Mindful Conversation

It’s been far too long since I felt the sting of an icy wind hitting my face.  Months have passed since I lazily stared into a campfire of my own creation, with nobody but my own self to discuss it with.  I haven’t dunked into a mountain creek after a long march, and I haven’t been woken up by annoying crows, rather than an annoying alarm clock.  

I have every opportunity to walk off into the woods for a day or two.  It doesn’t cost much, other than the gas to get there. Winter has never stopped me either, in fact, I favor the winter when I’m out in the “back-of-beyond”.  There are no insects, no stifling humidity, and most of all, no people. I can be truly alone with my thoughts, my triggers, and my memories. I can process the self-pity and pessimism that rears its ugly head every so often, without a facebook notification, ringing phone, or a TV interrupting me.  

I don’t have any real excuses as to why I haven’t at least taken a day or two to be alone in nature in the past 4 months.  But oh, do I sure try to find them. I have slowly been becoming grumpier. Angrier at minutia. Pessimistic and spiteful at the situation that I was thrust into.  It’s a negative feedback loop...the more I NEED to be in those woods, the less I have the ambition to get up and go.

I’m using all of the tricks to talk myself out of it and avoid.  I think it’s time to have a discussion of these finer points with myself.  A “heart-to-heart”, if you will, with my own. It’s a time where, as I wrote over three years ago not long after Megan’s death, I need to flip the switch from suffering to determination.  To dust myself off, climb out of my fighting hole, and just friggin’ DO IT.

Let’s talk, self.  Have a seat and lets discuss the reasons your ambition is all but gone.

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Malbec Part 2

Like a good vintage wine, last weeks blog, Malbec, requires a second harvest.  Over the last seven days, I have changed my mind about a few things and, now, I am offering up another tasting - this tasting is paired with hindsight. 

 

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A week ago, I shared my ritual of holding out my hands, searching and reaching for him.  In my own words I said, "it is awkward because I do not know where to place my fingers.  I clumsily grasp at the air around me.  Then, I just drop my hands to my side because there is nothing for me to hold.  Where he should be, now there is nothing.  So, I stand and ask myself again and again, how could someone so big and bold be gone?  How can Mike be gone - into nothing?  How can he no longer exist?  I don't have the answers to these big questions. (But, I'm working on it...)"

When I wrote this, I had no way of knowing if I would ever know the answers to these big questions.  I thought maybe it would take me a lifetime to figure out.  I thought Grief would hold me captive for a long, long time before I came to any conclusions.  But, by writing my questions down, I think I sub-consciously set the intention to discover the answers.   At this point, I still have more questions than answers, but I did come to a pretty big realization. One thing I know is that I was wrong...

 

 

 

 

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New Directions Fueled by the Past

Today an exciting milestone has happened for me. One that runs deep, and is stitched with so many remnants of a past life and of every day since that I've fought for. Today I was accepted to be a contributor for a major photography agency that works in the book publishing industry. They work with publishing houses all over the world to help them find the perfect photograph or artwork for a particular book cover. I am now one of the photographers that helps to provide those perfect photographs to their clients. In the near future, I may just be able to visit the nearest Barnes and Noble and find my photographs on the cover of beautiful books.

This milestone means so many things to me. I’ve wandered around trying to find a sense of direction ever since Drew died. I’ve tried countless directions with my art… and each one has had a feeling like it just didn’t quite “fit” for me. As I’ve learned, there are about as many different ways to be an artist as their are types of people. But this one - which marries my love of photography and storytelling - feels like a perfect match.

I can’t help but think back… I’ve been picking up a camera and capturing the world as I see it for almost ten years now. The first of those years, was the year Drew and I began dating. It was the year that he bought me my first DSLR camera, excited to see what I would create. In the three short years we had together, he continued to support and foster this direction in my life… buying me nearly all of the lenses and gear that I still use today. He was my photo assistant when I needed a helping hand or some strong arms for carrying ladders and lighting. And sometimes he was just there to observe. I still recall mornings at sunrise on the beach in my hometown when he would just sit back and watch me while I got lost behind the lens, capturing the sun-kissed waves. He loved to watch me seeing the world that way… to see how it lit me up inside. 

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All Paths Lead Somewhere

Some days I just lay there.

 

Or sit there.

 

Or stand there.

 

In silence.

 

I get lost in feeling numb.

 

Patience was never my strong suit. And it’s a difficult thing to be patient when everything has felt so empty for so long and all you desire is to fill whole again.

 

I can see that light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a very long tunnel however.

 

Sometimes I get tired of walking in the dark.

 

Sometimes I have to be still for a moment and realize that I’m still moving forward, despite the fact that I can see nothing in front of me.

 

It can be discouraging when you can’t see the destination.

 

But it’s important to remember one thing: all paths lead somewhere.

 

So if you have to stop for a moment. It’s okay. Just don’t stop indefinitely, because there is a destination to be reached.

 

All paths lead somewhere.

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Its Your Birthday, My Heart and Back Know

Its amazing to me, how powerful grief can be. How it can take over. How it can make you feel things you havent felt in years. How it can bring you right back to that day, or those weeks, where you lived in darkness, and where you were just trying to comprehend that the person you married just 4 years ago, was really, actually, truly, dead.

Most days now, 6 years later, I am okay. I am more than okay. I am creating and building a life for myself that includes new passions, helping others through life-changing loss, and a new and beautiful love in my world. My life is filled with purpose and meaning and joy - and I have worked very hard through my grief and my traumas - to get to this place where I feel very good and very differently happy. Most days.

But then, out of the blue sometimes, at random, grief decides it wants to play. It comes out from the shadows and reveals itself, to show you once again who is boss. And you find yourself feeling like you are right back in those early days of darkness, hopelessness, trauma, guilt, and unbelievable sadness.

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My Family

I’ve spent the last two weekends on wonderful adventures with wonderful people. Two weekends ago I was in Quebec for a snowboarding trip and this past weekend I was up north. Both times I was with a combination of people from both of my families and friends. I feel overwhelmingly grateful for all of these people in my life. I’m grateful that they continue to be a part of my life and evolve with me. I’m grateful that people from both of my families and my friends all get along and hang out together. I’m just grateful.

arnolds1.jpgI’ve heard of other widows who have strained relationships with their in-laws after their husband dies. I am fortunate that my experience has been quite the opposite. If anything, it has made my relationship with them stronger. The way I see it is that I have two families now that are both equally mine. They were of course my family before but they were Mike’s family first whereas now they are just mine. They are amazing people and I don’t think my words can do them justice. I’ve wanted to write about them but the words never seem to be there. They probably still aren’t there but I still need to try to acknowledge them.

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The Many Dances~

I used to dance with my beloved husband…


We danced dreamily, to Clint Black, to Chicago, to Elvis, to whatever tune happened to be playing wherever we were.
Oh, how we danced...his right arm around me, my hand clasped in his.

At the end of the dance, he’d always dip me back in his arms, and then kiss my hand.

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Maturity Rising

`Yesterday, the 26th, was Sarah’s mother’s birthday.  Part of a tradition that she has done over the years is to have a small cake, and a bouquet of flowers, as a way of celebrating her, though she’s no longer here.  It’s a simple gesture that means so much.  She lost her mother when she was only nine years old.  While her siblings were much older, and had much more time with her, Sarah had to “make do” with memories she only had as a little girl, and recollections of her older siblings.  

Shelby, too, lost her mother at a young age.  She was only seven when Megan died.  She remembers quite a bit, but again, she was nowhere near adulthood when any memories she could form ceased.  She relies heavily on myself, grandparents, and her uncle for the stories that she may have been a part of, but still too young to realize they were something to remember.

As we sat down to partake in the yearly birthday cake, I (somewhat in jest) asked Shelby if she remembered Megan’s birthday.  She did not, other than she knew it was in summer (her guess was a month off).  I wasn’t disappointed, for she’s still just a little girl.  It is not like she has a date planner or had any part in actually NEEDING to remember the exact date of her mother’s birth.  

After some good natured ribbing, and finishing our cake, Shelby asked a question to Sarah.

“Did you ever forget your mom’s birthday?”

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Malbec

Since you died I feel like I am masquerading in someone else's life.  The likelihood of outliving you was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn't something that I prepared for because I naively thought we had "the rest of our lives" ahead of us.  I honestly thought that we had at least twenty more years together.  And, because I blindly believed this, I arrived to widowhood completely unsorted.  For the first few months everything was raw and rough.  I was unpracticed at being a widow, so I made homespun, amateur attempts at surviving.  However, with time, my ability to live with grief has become more polished.   Fifteen months later, I do less improvising throughout my day.

I am doing this 'widow thing' . And, from the outside looking in, things appear to be returning to 'normal'.  But, those of us who live this life know full well that we can never return to 'normal' again.  I don't say this looking for sympathy.  I say it because it is the truth.  You know this as well as me.  It just is what it is. This is widowhood.   

As much as I dislike it, living with Grief has become somewhat 'normal' to me.  I don't remember what it feels like not to miss you.  I don't recall living without emptiness inside me.  I don't remember what 'normal' feels like anymore.  I don't remember what it feels like to be an 'ordinary', 'regular' mid-aged woman.  I am forever changed. 

The death of your spouse permanently alters a person, and I am no exception.  Yet, somehow, I am starting to become okay with the changes in me.  Even still, I am not proficient living my changed life.  Most of the time I feel like I am participating in a makeshift existence that was not thoroughly planned out.  I did not rehearse for this; and, honestly, it shows. 

 

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Art: Loui Jover

 

Death is a part of life.  We die because we live.  

 

The concept is simple.  It is understood by everyone.  But, the mechanics behind surviving without someone you love are tedious and complicated.  It is relatively simple to comprehend the facts.  They. are. dead.  But, to accept this is not easy.  To live this reality - this -  brings you to your knees. 

It is overwhelming and utterly disorientating to remain alive when the person you love is dead.  Most of us do not prepare ourselves for outliving the ones we love.  Honestly, I know there is no way to "prepare" for death; but, looking back I wish I had put more forethought into it.  Until death intimately affected me, I never seriously entertained the idea of living without him.  So, when he died I was blindsided.  I was lost with no sense of direction. 

 

 

Everything felt surreal.  It still does...

 

 

 

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