As Sarah noted on Sunday, I stepped off into the mountains last Friday, disappearing into the wilderness on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It’s no surprise to any of you that have read my posts for these past two years that backpacking, in isolation, is the most transcendent experience that I personally can have. No matter how my wanderings unfold, they always mean something to me.
However, I haven’t really experienced anything new in the three plus years since Megan was first admitted to the hospital. I’ve went to familiar places. Places that I could ramble into, disappear for a few days, and feel the comfort and safety of a home away from home. Places that I had been to so many times that I could navigate every trail blindfolded and say “Hello, again” to every tree.
Imagine a tree. Any kind of tree you like. Oak, elm, evergreen, lemon, plumeria. That tree is your life.
It began when the seed was created by its parents, like you were. It began to sprout. It began to root. It made a small, tiny leaf, followed by another small, tiny leaf. It threw out one small tentative tendril of root, followed by another, and another.
You began to grow, adding cells, becoming a human. You grew slowly, like the tree. Each new branch, each new leaf, each new root, each new layer of bark. Each new memory, each new milestone, each new layer of skin, each new and stronger, longer bone.
I feel tired lately. In a subtle, general sort of way. I feel worn out by life. Something in a book I was reading this morning made me remember a person I used to be. The man described his wife as this energetic, vibrant, confident woman. And I wondered suddenly, where has that woman in me gone to? The one who was excited about life. Excited about new adventures and exploring and learning and growing. The one who always felt hopeful and - even in the midst of fresh widowhood - fucking determined to make a good life for herself still.
After five years of trying to figure out how to build a business with my art, and five years of crawling and fighting for this new life without Drew, I feel lately like the only place I have gotten after all of this effort is just more tired. And that’s where that woman has gone to… the one that used to be vibrant and energetic and hopeful. She has given every ounce of herself to trying to figure out this new life.
Endless amount of energy are spent daily trying to fulfill everyone's expectations of this new chapter of my life... expectations that my life is so happy and full and beautiful just because I have a new partner. Expectations that my business is flourishing and thriving and even some expectations that my artwork to be "happier" now because I am apparently happier (um, what!)
Then there is the enormous and completely new expectation of being a mother figure... and constantly trying to be "enough" in that role to make certain that everyone in Mike and his late wife's family are pleased with me being here. To make certain that no one ever doubts me being in this role in his daughter's life. There is even the expectation of being a good enough partner to Mike, and a good enough friends to all of my friends now that we live so far away from each other. With the exception of a few people's dumb comments, all of these are in my own head. But it's enough to leave me totally depleted after 2 years into this new life.
Somehow with all of that, I actually feel like I shouldn’t be this tired. I feel like I should have all of it more together. That things should all be running more smoothly than they are. That I should be more financially successful with my art business. And that I should have energy and be vibrant and alive like I used to be. But when I type that out… I realize how completely insane that expectation sounds.Read more
It’s not exactly a secret that sometimes, I just can’t foresee a good subject for my weekly writings here. I’ll pine over ideas to see if they spark something, thinking about if there were any milestones, anniversaries, or triggers in the past week. More often than not, I’ll find a nugget of something and expand upon it, and sometimes, a halfway decent writing comes out of it.
But sometimes there just isn’t a good inspiration. I’ll “pocket” some ideas for later, like Megan’s birthday (next week) and our anniversary (three weeks from today), knowing full well that the emotions, and subsequent words are going to flow easily at those times. Still though, it leaves me sitting here on some Tuesdays asking myself the following question.
“What should I be thinking and writing about right now?”Read more
This past week, in between various errands and chores and work tasks, I took an hour or so to go for a walk at one of my favorite hiking trails nearby. It’s been on my mind ever since, for a few reasons. I don’t really take time to myself out in nature anymore like I used to. Life is so much busier now and there just never seems to be time. More like I always seem to find 50 other things I “should” be doing. So it was a real treat to spend a few hours just going for a walk.
I walked a short way down the trail before returning to my car, which happened to be parked at a little pullover on the side of the road, just in front of a creek. There’s a bench I know of, just past my car, that sits overlooking the creek. I went to sit for a while, and discovered a little painted stone someone had left on the bench. It was gold, with a smiley face painted on it, and the word “Happy” written clearly by a child. It brightened me even further, feeling like a sign or confirmation that I need to do this more for myself… get out in nature on my own so that I can truly connect with it. Little did I know there was an even bigger sign in front of me, with a beautiful lesson...
Homesick. This past week I’ve been so painfully homesick, not only for a place but for the people and community that make me feel home. So much has changed in the past few years, most of the time I think I’m pretty used to just being outside of my comfort zone. But then there are days when I’m so tired from that I guess, that I realize how long its been since I’ve truly been in my comfort zone at all. I don’t know why this past week has felt this way. Sometimes I guess there just aren’t any real reasons at all. I’m blaming it on hormones though, I suppose, as it just so happens it is coinciding with good ole Aunt Flow visiting.
Almost every night this past week, my mind is flooded with memories of places I am now far away from, and the memories and feeling of those places. So much so, that I have dreaded going to bed a bit at night… needing a podcast or the TV on just to try and avoid my thoughts...Read more
Last night, Mike and I went to a concert. It was a surprise I gave him, to see one of his favorite bands. The entire night was incredible… one of those magical nights you remember forever. The joy in Mike’s eyes was palpable. No one had ever surprised him with such a wonderful gift before he said, and you could just feel the joy and love radiating from him all night. It was a beautiful evening. We had lawn seats at this outdoor arena. Not only was every song amazing and the energy of the crowd amazing, but there were songs from this band that I’d never heard before that slammed into my heart with such deep emotion. They went right to the core of me and touched something so very deep...Read more
Tomorrow marks the first day of the summer session for my eCourse that I am teaching now for the 3rd time. I create this class last year as a way to share much of what I had learned in my own grieving process about creativity. For four weeks, my students will be diving into lessons and creative prompts in writing, photography, and painting, with the purpose of expressing their grief and honoring their story and their loved ones.
Teaching is not a natural role for me, in fact it still makes me quite uncomfortable. I’m a writer, and that is where I feel most at home in sharing ideas. And while my course is mostly written, it does require interacting in a Facebook group and some video recordings. In other words - it requires me to be vulnerable too. Ugh!
So far, each time I run this course, there is a part of me that resists the call to be vulnerable. Maybe it’s that part of me that wishes she didn’t have all these lessons to share. The part of me that wants to just be “normal” and be doing work that is in no way related to grief. The part of me that is always a little bit scared to connect to others at first.
But then I get emails from women who want to sign up, but are nervous and need a little encouragement. Or from women who are in a bad spot financially and wondering if there is some way they can take the course still. Or women who have had major losses that were not loved ones, and wonder if the course will apply to them. They share a little of their stories with me before even beginning the class… and I am reminded of what an honor it is to be in the space of those who are grieving. I am reminded of how incredibly brave these people are - how much courage and strength and energy it takes to say “yes” to something like an eCourse when you are deep in your own pain. I am reminded that they are willing to be vulnerable with me… and suddenly I realize I have no choice but to be vulnerable with them too. Suddenly I am reminded of how precious it is to share that kind of true vulnerability with another person. Most of all, it reminds me of all the women I met the first time I went to Camp Widow - the ones that showed me the way and gave me hope. The ones that held a lantern along the dark and terrifying path of grief for me, so that I did not have to walk completely alone in the dark...Read more
I won't lie, I've cried quite a lot the past few days. It may just be that time of the month making me extra emotional… but it’s also a lot more. It will be my anniversary in a few days… eight years ago next week is when I went on my first date with Drew. The following week, just seven days later, will be the 5th anniversary of his death.
It’s hard to imagine he has been gone 5 years, but surprisingly, this fact isn’t the one getting to me. Perhaps because I spent the first few months of this year already processing the “5 year mark” being here, I almost feel as if that has already passed. The one that is getting me though, is the other milestone.
We would have been together for 8 years now. Instead, we only got three. THREE. And I know, no time is ever enough. Not three, or ten, or fifty. But I do feel like there is a specific kind of heartbreak for young couples that had so very much unfinished life to live. We hadn’t even moved in together yet, much less gotten married or started a family. And so much of that was slated to unfold in that very year when he died. So much was already in the plans to be happening. It will haunt me forever, the unfinished stuff, I know that. And I know it’s normal for it to be worse as I get closer to this day. It just sucks I guess, there’s not much else to say there.Read more
18 Months. 564 days. A year and a half has now passed by without him. It doesn’t feel like that long ago, but then again it does. Some days it feels like yesterday that we were sharing kisses. Other days our life feels like a sweet distant and faint memory. Some days it’s not real at all, as though we just lost contact somewhere along the way. I imagine and dance with the idea he is away somewhere living out a happy and full life. Somedays I like to pretend ill see him again in this life. None of my day dreams change how much I miss him.
There is no longer much left in my house of the life we shared. His clothes, I have packed away. His toiletries, packed away. His tools, packed away. Out of sight but never out of mind. People rarely speak of him now, speak of us. I miss hearing his name being spoken. I miss hearing stories told about him, even if they make me cry. Tears are worth the sound of his name. How I wish for more than just memories.
His ashes rest in a pendant around my neck. The pendant is a reality check, I cannot pretend he is away when part of him is with me. Which part I wonder at times. These thoughts are sickening, sorrow filled, painful and yet to be peaceful. I want all of him with me. In life not dust. I long for him in the flesh. I long for the warmth of him, but instead of his warmth I wear a cold chain around my neck. Although it brings me pain to wear it, I do not feel as alone when he is with me.
I find myself smiling with life and without thinking about it the pendant becomes pressed to my lips. When I feel afraid, stressed, worried alone, the pendant is clasped in my fist. And I can speak to him, cry to him as he were here. It’s both comforting and depressing.Read more