These last few days have been a mad rush. I accompanied my "now youngest" daughter Megan, who is 18, to start university in the middle of the UK. We live in France, so it’s a bit of a schlep, and since we take a flight, there’s a limit to what we can carry. Furnishing her student digs, then, becomes a race against time and my credit card’s flexibility.
We had 1 ½ very full days together. The first was spent filling up trolley after trolley with duvet, duvet cover, pillows, cushions, sheets, towels, pots, pans, cutlery and crockery. And then another with food items ranging from bread, milk and butter to cumin, olive oil and sriracha sauce. To non-food items like toilet paper, washing up liquid and bin bags. Via some fresh produce of course. I have rarely done such big shops. Only when moving houses and countries.
It was hard, effort-wise. Physical effort from the schlepping, and emotional effort from the semi-conscious countdown to the moment we’d have to part, when I would head to the airport and home. We don’t have plans to see one another till Christmas.
I am not a very good parent for shopping drudgery. I have never much enjoyed it. Mike was better at it. Or he did it with a better smile on his face.Read more
For those of you not aware of what “overdrive” is in a car, I’ll try to simply explain it. Overdrive is a gear in the transmission that is less than a 1:1 ratio with the engine. Effectively, the wheels turn faster than the motor.
It's great for cruising at higher speeds. The engine doesn’t have to work as hard, so it’s a more efficient use of fuel. There is so much weight and momentum behind the car that it could happily glide along with barely any input, needing only to overcome wind resistance and the occasional uphill segment of highway with a millimeter more depressing of the accelerator pedal.Read more
I ask myself again and again - What do I do? I whisper these words to myself as I walk out into the world and go about my life - without him. I've been asking this question for nearly two damn years... I am tired of this question. I want to fill my mind with other thoughts. But, since he died, I'm different than most women my age. The things that consume me are much more profound than they used to be. I don't give a shit about the changing seasons, or that pumpkin spice lattes are back. I care about things that live deeper in my heart. I care about my children's happiness, our life, and my life that is connected and also separate from my boys. I care. I care deeply. But, not about the shallow stuff that many people my age care about.
Mike's death changed me, a lot. I'm a very different person than I used to be. And, truth be told, I like the new me. I am becoming a woman I like to spend time with. And, this is a good thing because I spend a whole lot of time alone now. It is advantageous that I enjoy my own company - in a way I never have before.
In quiet solitude I think about the direction of my life. I ponder everything. The life we planned together died with him. This is a fact, whether I like it or not. And, now, I have to figure out what the hell to do with the life I have left. So, I think. And, I think. I endlessly question what it is that I want. I contemplate what to do with this alternate life. I must figure this out myself because no one can "fix" this or plan my life for me. It's up to me to decide what to do with the life I have left. I know all the decisions ultimately rest with me; therefore, the things I think about are heavy and profound. And, I realize that the answers will not just magically come because I ask the questions. Throughout this process, I am generally impatient with myself and my progress. I need to work on this.
My mind does not rest easy. I'm exhausted by my thoughts. But, at least I am engaged in life enough to be thinking and asking questions. At least I am curious. I think this counts for something. It has to because it is all I've got for the moment. And, this is okay - it has to be. At this point I don't know a whole lot, but I do KNOW the answers to all my questions live inside me. They are there for the finding.
There is so much I wonder about since Mike died. Big things and small things consume me and I wish like hell I could talk to him about this stuff like I used to. Since he died, I continually contemplate what I should do. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? I blogged about having a Makeshift Plan a few weeks ago. And, I am glad that I have created a "plan"; but, still, I am anxious about the life I am living without him. I know full well, that life does not always go according to plan. I am somewhat prepared for the curveballs that life will undoubtably throw at me. And, in some weird way, all of this change is kind of exciting. Going forward there is so much potential before me. My life can take any direction. And, so can yours.
Still, living solo doesn't feel comfortable to me, yet.
The life Mike and I imagined is the life I want, but it is not to be.
I have to adapt.
I have to go with the flow even if it is not the life I had planned. And, so do you.
Soon, Mike will be dead for 2 years and I would be lying if I said I know what to do with that. I have not accepted his death. I don't want to. And, part of me may never come to terms with it. I am okay with this. A part of me will always want him to be alive and I accept this. It is what it is.
I remain conscious of how long Mike has physically been gone from me; yet, I feel the need to make more forward progress without him. And, here is the tricky thing, I feel like I am going nowhere fast. I do not know where I am heading... I have a rough idea of what I want to accomplish in my life, but it still feels somewhat lack lustre without him beside me. Will this ever change? I think it will. In fact, I know it will. I just have to be patient. Mike has only been dead for 1 year, 10 months and 23 days... (I had to google this on an app.) As time has gone on, I have stopped knowing the numbers. And, really, it doesn't matter anymore. Maybe it never did. He is gone. He isn't coming back. The days keep coming. And, I am still here. I had better start acting alive. I need to live. We all do, because we did not die.
Since early on, I have had the desire to live life well. I have draped myself in hope. But, even with all the optimism in the world, when night falls, I am always alone. And, I feel the missingness and the emptiness. There is a profound sense of loss. Being lost fills me. My Soul aches for him with every breathe I take; yet, I take each breath as it comes and I keep going. I have to. For myself, for my children and for Mike. I did not die. I can not let his death define my life. The way Mike lived and loved me must be what I cling to as I move toward life again. Day by day I fight forward. And, I know that you do the same.
I do not have it figured out yet. But, day by day I am getting closer to finding my way back to life. I have created a makeshift plan that I’m getting excited about. And, being even mildly excited is reason to celebrate because for nearly two years I’ve been completely underwhelmed by my life.
I know that my new life will be very different from the one I imagined sharing with him. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is. The life of have now is completely unrecognizable compared to the life I shared with Mike. But, this is the life I have. I can not go back to what was because it’s gone. Our life together died with him.
Whether I like it or not, I have to live without him. It’s up to me to make something out of my own life. So, I’m attempting to do just that. And, the plan I’ve come up with is solid. But, it requires me to be patient because I have children under my roof. I can’t launch into big changes immediately, but I am preparing for what I’ve decided is inevitiable. Finally, I have a plan for my future; and, this plan and my desire to dig back into life makes me very happy.
For the first year, I simply survived his death. And, this took everything I had. I discovered that I was built strong; but, my grief broke me in places too. Now, I understand that breaking is a natural part of the process. It is necessary and unavoidable. When you fall to your knees - you will get bruised. And, when you are forced to crawl in the ruins of your shattered life, you bleed from the shards of what was. This is also necessary and unavoidable.
It’s an understatement to say that the first year was compiled of the hardest days,
and long nights of my life.
It was beyond awful.
But, with time, the bruising has healed.
And, see that my tears serve to cleansed me and ready me for what is ahead.
Somehow, I have survived his death.
And, now I am ready to do more than just survive.
I’ve grown restless.
I am no longer comfortable where I am.
I can no longer exist in this holding pattern.
I’ve outgrown this waiting place.
I need to move towards the future.
I’m thirsty for life again!
Does our soul get more than one soulmate?
This is what I believe. ....
Our soul is perhaps the biggest part of our makeup, as human beings. It is what carries all the important stuff. Emotion, heart, love. I think that with life experience, age, and time, our souls change and alter some. I think after the death of a partner or spouse, our souls become different. They transform. Sure, the core of who we are remains - some personality traits, things like that. But our soul, the way we view the world, the way we love - changes drastically after the death of a partner or spouse. So, to me, the soul and the person I was, when I was with my husband and loved by him, is not the same soul and person I am today, because of his death. That soul deserved love. This one does too. The way I love is different now, and the person I am today, has a soulmate. My first soulmate lives on in my heart, and through all my memories and stories about us. As his widow, I feel honored and privileged to be the one to carry out his legacy, and build my own, on the foundation that is love. The bricks are all built from love.Read more
Most of the time I feel empty inside. The landscape of my Soul is barren since he died. However, most people can only see the vibrant life I have. At first glance, my life appears fairly enviable. With the exception of Mike's death, I have all the trappings of a good life. I have the kids, the house, the car, and the career. I have managed to achieve a lot of success in Suburbia. The boxes are checked. My life does not appear to be barren. Not surprisingly, for those looking from the outside in, it is not comprehensible that I still feel empty. To them everything looks like it is returning back to "normal" without Mike. They think I am "strong". They tell me that I am "the strongest person they know". They tell me that they "can't imagine" how I do it. When my ears hear their statements I just kind of stare at them and watch their lips move. I don't say much in response because I know the truth. Yes, I am 'strong', because I do not have a choice. I have to stay the course for my kids, and for myself.
I do not feel bitter towards people who make these proclamations about me and my life. They simply do not understand the depth and breadth of my loss. I understand that they can not understand. And, I know that they are so lucky that they "can't imagine" my situation. I think that people need to believe that things return to normal after a person dies. They need to believe that I am okay now because if I am okay, that means - if and when this happens to them - they will recover and be okay too. But, as people who have outlived our spouses, we know differently. We are aware that there is nothing normal about our changed lives. We know that there is no backing up. We can not return to days gone by no matter how desperately we want to. There is nothing to return to. Our lives can not be as they were before. That life is over. It's gone. It's done. Period. And, yeah, we are 'strong' despite our blunt reality.
To me, the phrase "new normal" is ridiculous.
I HATE that idiom.
There is nothing normal about my new life.
It is the exact opposite of what I am used to.
I am different since Mike died, and - this is normal.
The hollowness and emptiness that I feel - is normal.
My grief - is normal.
My life is not normal anymore.
I spend a lot of time feeling disconnected from the world and from those around me. It feels like my thoughts are wrapped in cotton candy. My deepest thoughts are tightly spun like the sugar crystals that become the dense pink candy fluff. Most days, I can barely make sense of what I feel because my thoughts are hidden from me. I don't always know them, but, I feel my thoughts. My deepest thoughts live inside my heart, not my head. Everything is buried far away inside my Soul. Since Mike died, I feel like I am hidden in wad of airy blue fluff. All of me is insulated in this bulky, baby blue cotton candy cocoon because I need to be swaddled. I need time. I need things to be quiet while I come undone...
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.
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...
Photo source: mapofthenight
Grief takes us to a secluded, dark place.
We resist settling into this lonely realm.
But, in order to slowly breathe life back into ourselves,
We have to temporarily take residence in this muted, mysterious environment,
I resisted this shadowy, hidden place for a long, long time.
I ran from it whenever possible.
Because, I was scared to be alone in the "nothingness" of this place.
I had the notion that my fears would swallow me alive.
I thought I would drown in the silence.
Maybe you feel like this today.
If you feel lonely,
Displaced and rootless,
You are not alone...
If you are drifting in a place of "nothingness"
Does it comfort you to know,
I am here - in this abyss - with you.
Take my hand,
Let's find our way...
We need to turn to our hearts for direction.
If you listen, in the stillness, past your heartbeat, you can faintly hear the breeze.
The Winds of Change are here...
One of the things I’ve learned - one of the great many things I’ve learned since becoming a widow is that life is change. All things shift, turn on their heads, ebb and flow, and come to an end. We can’t stop it though we may try.
I might have thought I understood that before Mike died, but now I really get it. Because something has happened inside of me since that moment: I gave up control. I first did it with that feeling of absolute futility the moment you discover your husband is dead. I didn’t care about anything anymore anyway. But as time went on, I never picked it back up again. I never had it in the first place, and all the illusion of control ever did was mess me up.
Life is change. It is love too, which itself changes us, and our lives, in ways we cannot imagine. So to flow with the love that is life that is change, I had to release.
When Grief comes,
Take her in your arms and dance with her.
Fall into her.
Move and sway in time with her.
Hold her carefully.
Then, when the music is over,
Look her in the eyes and thank her for the dance.
Maybe the words are too kitschy. Maybe this image of Grief is overly sentimental and idealistic. I concede, that as lovely as the words look on the page, a part of me is choking as I read what I wrote. A piece of me wants to gag because I feel like I'm asking you to accept Grief, when I haven't done this myself. The truth is, I don't really like Grief. So, in my writing, I don't want to imply that I have a smooth, functional relationship with Grief, because I don't.
My connection with Grief is somewhat dysfunctional. I certainly don't want to "hold her carefully". Honestly, some days I want to march her cold hearted ass out the front door and slam it behind her. However, at the heart of it, everything I wrote is the truth - as I know it. I can't edit any of my words because there is nothing I know about grieving that is more pure and unadulterated.
I am certain that if I am going to survive this mess, I can not resist Grief. I must fall into her. And, I must hold her carefully - whether I like it or not. I have to believe that Grief is not my enemy. I can't hate her. And, I have to learn to exist with Grief because she isn't going anywhere. Grief has unpacked and she's here to stay.
This said, Grief is not my first choice for a dance partner. Grief is not overly warm, affectionate or accommodating. Rather, she is relentless and demanding, albeit honest. Grief is a straight shooter. As I dance with her, she confidently leans in and whispers her truths, and I appreciate this. I've always liked honest and forthright people; and, Grief, like these folk, is candid. I respect that.
Still, when Grief shows up, I always secretly hope that my dance card is full. Dancing with Grief is awkward because I don't know the steps. She always leads and sometimes Grief takes me places I don't want to go... However, over the last fourteen and a half months, I've learned...