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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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 I am 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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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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Bizarre Birthday

I’m sitting at the airport this morning headed to spend the weekend with my best friend from junior high. It’s my 40th birthday weekend and I’m all over the place in my head. Today’s blog is more of a list of competing emotions rather than a discussion or story…Sometimes bullet points get “the point” across better.  See what I did there? ;-)

Ok here goes:

  • Turning 40! Excited and how the Hell did I get this old?
  • Yay! Friends and fun!
  • Yay a break from work!
  • Oh God this is my first birthday without Clayton. Can I hold it together?
  • What’s next? Holidays? Oh God I won’t have him for holidays!
  • Do I want to even decorate? Too sad but he would want me to.
  • Seriously 40? I did not envision my life would be so shaken up at 40. Ugh
  • Ok deep breath! Birthday weekend!! I’m grateful for what I have but I’m also excited for presents :)
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Struggles

There are times in life when we struggle,

or when the people in our life struggle,

or when you are both struggling because you pass the stress back and forth

like a virus,

because you are both hurting and you just want to help each other. 

And sometimes,

you can't. 

You just can't help much.

Not because you don't want to. 

But because maybe you can't offer up

what that person needs,

or you haven't been through what they have,

or that person needs to go through some of this alone,

and they need to figure it out,

and it hurts to be witness to their pain and hurt,

but you know that it's what needs to happen,

for eventual healing to occur. 

 

And it's hard.

Really hard. 

But love is a verb,

and if you really love someone, 

you stay beside them and you figure shit out. 

And when it gets hard,

you just ask more questions and become more aware,

so that you don't miss anything important. 

 

I can't say much more than these vague sentences,

but Love will triumph,

and we will make our way through this

latest of struggles.

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H O P E

This past weekend, Sarah and I traveled to Toronto to attend our third Camp Widow there.  We’ve both realized that Camp Widow recharges us. Though we may not be in the active throes of grief on a daily basis, with Megan’s death four years ago, and Drew’s six, there is something about telling our stories, and hearing others’ that brings a warmth that we didn’t realize we were lacking.  

This year though, it was so much more.  I assisted with two of the focus groups on Friday, one for those that lost their partners less than a year ago, and one for widowers. I was given the opportunity and honor of introducing Michele Neff Hernandez for her final keynote address.  I helped Sarah setup for her intensive workshop on Saturday, “Rebuilding our Hearts”, and took my leave to let her shine. Those stories are for a different time though. I will certainly be expanding upon my “introduction speech” soon, because ten minutes is certainly not enough time to convey how much my story has been influenced by Michele.

A few months before Camp, Michele contacted Sarah, and proposed an idea for the message release that is conducted at each and every Saturday banquet at Camp.  It was to be a large sign, displaying the word “Hope”, with a similar look and feel to the large “Toronto” sign just across the street from the hotel. Since we can easily drive to Toronto from Ohio, and I have a pickup truck, logistically, it was easier (and obviously more cost effective) for us to create something and deliver it across the border than it would be to ship something from California.

We worked for weeks creating this.  Purchasing supplies, calculating, measuring, cutting materials, sanding, painting, gluing, and lighting these letters.  As late as the Wednesday night before camp, we were cutting out small cork “bricks” and tying a string to over 200 of them.

It was a lot of work, to say the least, but the reception we received to it was far and away more than we could have ever imagined.  

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I Don't Like Dessert

I don’t like dessert, so I will not be serving it with our Thanksgiving dinner.

I have never really liked dessert.

And, Mike didn’t like dessert either.  

I wonder if that is a coincidence?  

I think not. 

I can tell you that I don’t think there are any coincidences in life,

even when it comes to dessert.

 

I almost always pass on dessert.

I’d rather have seconds than eat sweets.

Honestly, I’d rather eat more steak and crab (that's a story for another day).

I like savoury foods because that’s how I like my people too.    

I like people who speak and act with a bit of tang.  

I like people who are spicy, with a side of sweet.

 

Even though I don't like dessert, I do desire the sweet things in life.

Sweet things like a walk in the rain.

A good book.

A good conversation.

A laugh that fills the room.

A kiss that takes your breath away.

I like these things.

I crave these things.

I need these things.

I desperately miss all these sweet things I shared with Mike.

 

Things like sunshine gleaming off a wine glass as I shared a meal with him.

Things like slow dancing in the kitchen.

I miss looking across the room and knowing that he would smile

and wink at me because I was his.

I still wish I was his girl. 

And, a piece of me always will wish this. 

I miss him desperately everyday; and during the holidays

miss him even more than usual.

 

Like I said, I don't like dessert; but I am a sucker for the sweet things in life.

I love a good love story.

And, I keep re-playing ours in my mind.

I don't think this will ever change.

 

As I was cook our holiday meals I know that I am loved

- even without him here telling me these words.  

Love does not die, it actually becomes stronger and even deeper.

I'm thankful for this.

 

 

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Unexpected Messages

It’s been a long day. I worked, came home, took the dog out, prepping dinner and the dishes of the past few nights are sitting in the sink reminding me that no one else will help me. It’s a regular reminder as I try to find a balance to this new unwanted bachelor life. It’s November already and Clayton has been gone for almost 6 months. I’m not doing better, I’m just getting better at acting. I just don’t know I my new abilities are going to be strong enough to get me through the next most difficult tasks before me….My 40th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and starting a New Year alone. I’m already unbelievably overwhelmed and I feel like the loss is starting all over again. The intensity might even be stronger than when he passed. There is no immediate shock and adrenaline like there was in April. Again I feel myself back to the beginning of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno

“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way,

I found myself within a shadowed forest,

For I had lost the path that dos not stray”

Much like Dante, this season is a dark forest and before me stands a lion, a leopard and a she-wolf. My birthday. The holidays. The birth of a new year.  They block my way to the great mountain and there will be Hell before there is Heaven. I knew the path would not be easy. In Dante’s struggle to move forward he was visited by a shade. This shade was sent by Dante’s deceased love Beatrice to bring words to Dante and aid his path.

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