Five Years of Missing Chuck

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Quiet

As the months pass, I am becoming increasingly reserved.  I used to be a very social person; but, now, I am not overly interested in interacting with the people around me.  I am not compelled to engage in superficial conversations because it distracts me from my own thoughts.  My identity was intimately entwined with Mike; therefore, when I buried him, a piece of me was essentially buried alive.  Seventeen months ago, I lost myself.  And, now, I am grasping to redefine my self identity. 

In order to do this, I need to withdraw and delve into myself.  Now, I am quiet because I am constantly participating in an internal dialogue.  As I attempt to re-establish my identity I am endlessly searching my Soul to discover who I am.  Countless thoughts swirl around inside my head as I work to redefine myself and rebuild my life.  I am completely exhausted from all this thinking.  And, most of the time, I feel unsettled in both my mind and in my heart.  

Recently, I have eased up on the continuous planning and over-thinking.  I have reduced the amount of time I spend arranging ideas in my head because I realize that the best thing I can do is step aside and let the plan unfold.  I am more relaxed because I am certain everything will work out exactly as it should - regardless of what I do or don't do.  Endlessly shifting thoughts and ideas around in my head will not serve me well in the wake of Mike's death.  Finally, I understand that I need to do less strategizing and worrying.  I simply need to have faith and enjoy my life as I am re-routed toward a future that is different than I had planned.  Thankfully, I am no longer lacking faith.  But, now, my latest conundrum is that I am lacking passion... 

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Meeting Myself Where I Am

I’ve been thinking the past few days about Kelley’s Friday post. She talked about how people treat us when widowed, and the frustrations of often being treated like a five year old or misunderstood in some way.

Or how people begin to act differently again once you find new love. That one I can definitely attest to. I wrote to her, saying how it felt like when I met Mike and found love again, all the people who had coddled me and worried over me disappeared, as if to say “Oh thank God, we don’t have to WORRY about her anymore!”

And then the avoiders who had been too uncomfortable with my grief came out of the woodworks to suddenly be more present and express their joy… which really felt more like expressing how happy they were that they could be comfortable with my life again. It’s funny what grief does to those around us... and then to us as a result.

When I moved to Ohio in the name of new love, it felt like a slow exodus I had not intended. Gradually, everyone seemed to just sort of fade out. I got the same sort of story from people over and over again, "Oh I figured you're so busy enjoying your new life, I didn't want to bother you!" Excuse me for being blunt, but that is the stupidest thing to say to someone you care about. Because you think I’m happy you think I’m too busy? Huh?

What the hell does that even mean? And how did virtually no one stop to think that maybe, just maybe, this change was not JUST joyful, but incredibly painful and hard? How did no one see that? Leaving the only place I’ve ever called home… the place where my parents and my fiance are buried, to live 1400 miles away in a totally different culture from Texas. Not to mention how hard it's been for Mike knowing he was the catalyst for my leaving home and for a lot of pain I've experienced by making that choice. Really, truly, almost no one asked at any point “how are you really doing?”. Somehow they all decided that being united with my new love after having dated from far away for nearly a year was all I needed to be 100% happy with no sense of loss whatsoever.

This still annoys me...

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Fierce Love

I am a man of many flaws, one filled with an array of imperfections. In some eyes, I shouldn’t be standing yet here I am. Doing so.
 
I thought about Linzi. About how much she wanted to be a mother to that beautiful little girl asleep in the other room as I write this. I thought about what she would’ve wanted for her. 
 
I thought about all of the conversations that we’ll never have to discuss her future. To discuss if my response to certain situations are the right ones. If I’m being too hard on her. If I’m not showing her enough attention or affection.
 
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My Husband Died, And I Am Not A Child

Have you ever felt as if, since losing your partner or spouse to death, the outside world treats you like you are a child? Perhaps I am just extra sensitive lately, or maybe I am slightly resentful that I’m a 46 year old woman who had no choice but to move in with her parents after 5 years alone of struggling financially post-loss. Whatever the case may be, lately, I feel the need to stand on top of the nearest mountain and shout to the universe defiantly: "MY HUSBAND DIED! PLEASE STOP TREATING ME LIKE A CHILD!" I would do it, but that seems like a rather childish thing to do, which would probably not help much in making my point to the masses.

Why is it, that after the death of a spouse or partner, people want to collectively treat you as if you are not an adult who can make their own decisions, live their life, and generally function on the planet? Listen, I truly understand the need for our loved ones to coddle us or baby us some in the beginning months - when our entire world has been turned off its axis, and when we feel like we can’t possibly breathe or shower or do anything except sit in the fetal position until the end of time, and then a little bit longer.

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Triggers and Chicks

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my class at school had chicken eggs that we were hatching. We were all so excited. Well, last Wednesday they hatched. So we had six cute little chicks. Then on Monday one died.

Cue the crying and upsetness. How was I supposed to know a chick dying was going to a trigger for me? It’s a chicken! I’m not even a vegetarian! But there I am, Monday afternoon looking into the brooder full of chicks and seeing the littlest one face down, legs sprawled behind him and I’m instantly a disaster.

All sorts of feelings start to come up. Stemming from the chick but connecting to my own grief as well. I wonder what I did wrong. Why did this happen? Did I do enough? How did I not prevent this situation? I feel guilty. Was it my fault? I didn’t know anything was wrong at all. He was the smallest one but it’s not like it was a huge difference. I noticed he was sleeping lots in the morning but how did it turn into dying? My thinking and feelings spun out of control. I am aware of that but I also couldn’t help it.

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Make Your Past

What do I think about on these Tuesday mornings, 3 ½ years after Megan died?  It’s a question that I generally ask myself on the way into work, in preparation for publishing some kind of anecdote, observation, or predicament here on Soaring Spirits, in the hopes that a person will read and experience a “me too” or “oh wow, I never thought of it that way”.  

I will go in circles in my head sometimes, trying to figure out if I can spin the daily reminders of Megan into something more meaningful.  We’ve got a daughter that looks very much like her mother. We live in the same home that Megan and I shared for 10 years. Hell, her ashes are in our dining room.  There is no escaping reminders of Megan.

I don’t know if it’s acclimatization, acceptance, or just plain old time, but none of it really triggers any strong emotions anymore.  Birthdays, anniversaries, and death dates, sure, those bring a heightened awareness of her being gone, but day-to-day routines are just that...routine.  Memories are still shared amongst those of us who knew her, but they don’t cause that awkward welling up most of the time. We’ve all moved forward with life in this third of a decade.  New spouses, new partners, new children, new jobs, and most of all, new memories.

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Smile

He loved my smile.

And, let me tell you, I smiled a lot because of him.

I loved my life - when he was in it. 

I wore my smile like a permanent accessory

because my life was beautiful.

Our joy permeated the air around us. 

Our laughter echoed off every one near us. 

Our words to one another were always heartfelt.

We looked at each other with a love that others could feel.

Our smiles were effortless.

Life was good,

And, this is an understatement. 

 

 

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Life with Mike was spontaneous and full of adventure.  When he was alive I couldn't wipe the smile from my face because the life we were building together was so breathtakingly beautiful.  We "had the world by the ass" as he would say.  Mike loved a good swear word and I know that's not everyone's cup of tea; but, we were coffee drinkers... it is what it is. 

Many of our joy filled conversations came complete with a few saucy swear words - thrown in for emphasis - because that's how he rolled.  He tended to speak colorfully because he literally couldn't contain his excitement.  Mike was so in love with life and everything around him that he just blurted things out.  The crazy things that would fly out of his mouth made my life.  He taught me how to live with wild abandon.  And, I'm better for it.

When he spoke, sometimes he could be a bit brash, but he got away with it because of his smooth delivery.  Once in a while the refined, cautious people would look at him sideways, or glance in my direction to confirm that their ears heard what he said.  I'd knowingly smile because everything he spoke was accurate, albeit somewhat uncouth.  Mike could always be counted on to state the unrefined truth.  He was bright.  He saw the world and the people in it exactly as they were.  And, Mike definitely wasn't uncomfortable calling out what he saw.  He taught me to speak the truth confidently.  And, again, I am better for it.

Mike was a talker and he knew how to say the most audacious things with a twinkle in his eyes.  He spoke with a simple honesty that was admirable and refreshing.  Essentially, he was impulsive; and, a big kid at heart.  Mike was animated and he had a larger than life personality.  He saw the world in a whimsical way.  It was a privilege for me to see life through his eyes.  With Mike, my life became bolder and more magical.  And, I am a better woman for sharing part of my life with him.

 

It was a wild ride wandering through life with him by my side.

Everyday,

from the moment my eyes opened,

I had a smile smeared across my face . 

Life was big and bold and fun with Mike. 

Together,

we were having the time of our lives. 

Smiling,

was as natural as breath. 

 

I miss living like this.  Our life was rich.  I have never lived with such enchantment in all my life.  I miss the rapture he gave me.  I miss the gush of excitement he brought to the ordinary.  I desperately miss how he made me laugh.  The depth of my laughter was different when I was with him.  I often wonder if I will ever laugh that way again.  I hope I do.  And, in truth, I know that I will because he won't have it any other way; and...

 

 

 

 

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Fearing More Loss

Death has been on my mind a lot the past week, and I don’t even know why. There haven’t been any major milestones or triggers. No birthdays of people who are dead. No death anniversaries. No real explanation, yet I’ve been unable to shake these shadowy figures in my mind. The haunting things I know will one day happen to more people I love. And to me. And it just plain sucks.

It could be something as small as not getting good sleep lately, or the muscle strain I’ve had in my neck for the past 3 weeks that won’t seem to subside… or even just the lingering winter weather that will not seem to go away here in Ohio.

I suppose the one thing that has been a trigger was an email from my aunt - giving me some old lab results about cancers my aunt and grandmother had. It's information I needed for sure, but still hard to swallow. They both survived their breast cancer, unlike my mom. Still though, it makes it very likely that either my sister or I, or both of us, will one day be told we have cancer too. It’s quite possibly the most terrifying thing imaginable to me... facing this particular disease showing up in some way in my life again...

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Opposing Teams

I became a NY Yankee fan in the 1990s, when I went to NYC for college. It was the Joe Torre era, and baseball in NY was exciting. Going to multiple games at Yankee Stadium with college friends, it was tough not to fall in love with it. When I started dating Don, my late husband, he wasn’t really into baseball. He said it was boring, and asked me how I could watch an entire game without falling asleep. I told him if he understood the strategy, it’s the furthest thing from boring.

When he moved to NY to start our life together, he understood. He became a huge Yankees fan too, bigger than I could have ever imagined. He was hooked. He would watch pre-game show, post-game show, and everything in between. When we watched a game together on TV, he would talk nonstop, analyzing the pitcher or hitters next move. It is a thinking man’s game, and my husband was a thinker. This was his sport. WE went to lots of Yankees games together. In NYC, in Florida during spring training - we had a blast, and so many memories. My love for the Yankees is my own, but it’s also very much connected to my relationship with Don. It was one of "our things" that we truly enjoyed together - a great Yankees game.

When he died, it took a long time for me to go back to my Yankees. At first, I watched an inning at a time. Or maybe two innings. Then I’d have to shut it off. It was too lonely without his commentary and back and forth conversation. After a while, I went back to Yankee Stadium. I went with good friends. We felt his spirit there, we felt him close. It was comforting.

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