If there’s something powerful about telling your own stories, there is something equally profound in hearing someone else tell your story to others. For centuries, we have been telling stories. Well before we could write, the most important and valuable knowledge we had as humans was passed down through stories and spoken word. And although our modern culture has become removed somewhat from traditions of telling stories in the same way, it is no surprise that spoken word seems to touch a very ancient part of our being. A part of us all that remembers our ancestral traditions. Something inside us that knows... stories spoken were stories we valued, ones we wanted our civilization to remember decades to come.
Every time I have had someone else put my story into words, it has changed me. It has changed how I view myself, for the better. It has added another layer of meaning to this horrendous journey of widowhood, too.
I’m going to say that one of the greatest occurrences of this happened just a few days ago. Many of you know our Friday writer, Kelley Lynn, and that she was selected recently to do a TEDx talk on grief and living on. I’ll spare the details, as I am certain she will be eager to tell you all about her own experience of doing this talk, but what I will share is that my story was a part of her story. She chose a few individuals to make examples of to drive her inspiring message home, and one of those examples was from my own life.
I hardly have the words for what this experience was to me. Initially, as I logged in to watch her talk stream live online, I was just excited to see my friend up there, doing her thing so well. I was excited to be a part of it with her. I was excited to think of how meaningful this moment was for her. But I wasn’t prepared for just how it would make me feel when she got to my story...Read more
So, today, December 18th, is the 10 year anniversary of my husband Don asking me to marry him, on a 23 degree windy Sunday evening, exactly one week before Christmas. Knowing my obsession with the Christmas holiday and the the entire season, he took me to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, got down on one knee in front of hundreds of total strangers and clapping tourists, and said: "Kelley, you are my best friend. Will you make me even happier and please also be my wife?" My fingers were so cold, I had to put my mittens back on right after he put the ring on my finger. Then I would take the mittens off, stare at the ring, then put them on again. We giggled and kissed and held each other, and then sat down at the nearby cafe that cornered the famous skating rink, and drank celebatory hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream. It was the kind of proposal that only happens in movies. But it happened to me.Read more
I feel like I'm falling.
It's been a weird couple of weeks.
Most of you who read this know that Im a comedian, writer, actor. I have a YouTube channel and I do lots of silly, funny, comedy videos. One of those videos that I did back in 2010 is called "Oh! I've McFallen!" and it features me trying to order the McLobster at McDonalds (something they actually had on their menu for a time being, which is what we were mocking), then upon leaving with my food order, falling down (pratfall - yes, I did it on purpose. Its comedy), and saying loudly: "Oh! I've McFallin! Im sorry. Ive McFallen!" This video was the first in a series of about 8 more that I have been featured in, with my friend Gregg Hughes, on his YouTube channel, OpieRadio. (He is "Opie" of the "Opie and Jim Norton show on XM satellite radio)
Back when we filmed this, my husband thought it was hilarious. He kept watching me fall down over and over and cracking up. He was excited that I was being featured in this video and doing it with someone I had been a fan of for a long time. (My brother and I grew up in Boston listening to "The Opie and Anthony Show" on the radio, and now I was meeting him in the city to make these videos!) Well, that would be the last comedy video that my husband Don would ever see of mine. He died a few months later, and since then, I have done several more videos with Opie, a few of them getting some nice media attention. This past week, on Don's birthday, a stranger on the site "Vine", grabbed the 6 seconds where I fall down and say "Ive mcfallen", from this video we did 5 whole years ago, and created a Vine video with it. That video, in just the past 6 or so days, has gone viral. Millions upon millions of views all over the internet. 15 million on Vine. 7 million on Facebook. A few million on Instagram. People creating a trending hashtag with the phrase #mcfallen. People doing their own versions of themselves falling down in McDonalds, and all over, and posting them online. Teenagers and kids telling their parents they want to fall own like the McFallen lady. My own friends and relatives calling me up and making me talk to their children on the phone, because their kid doesnt believe that they "know the McFallen girl." It has been absolutely crazy on a level I cant even describe, because I have never experienced anything like this before.
However, the dude who posted the Vine video did not credit myself or Opie anywhere. In the world of online social media, it is not illegal what he did, but it IS extremely classless and tacky. To pull content from someone else's video and then NOT credit them as being the originators of that video - it just isnt right. He should have put my name or my Twitter handle (@kelleyiskelley)and Opie's channel (@OpieRadio) in the video caption, but he didn't. And then when people got on him about it, he blocked them and then deleted the video altogether. It didnt matter. By that point, it had already been reposted so many times in so many places, that his original posting was no longer necessary. People were watching this thing everywhere - watching me fall down over and over again. Laughing with me. Enjoying my comedy.
And that is great. Its fantastic. But heres the thing - that stunt hurt my knees for days. Its not easy falling down like that. I should be getting recognized right now - this thing should be on Ellen or Fallon or Tosh.O or something - and people are telling me EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY: "Oh my god! Youre famous! Youre all over the internet! Youre viral! Congratulations!" Yeah. Pretty cool, right? Except my name isnt attached to it anywhere, except for me spending countless hours the past few days furiously commenting on threads and websites and everywhere I see the video posted - letting people know that this is comedian Kelley Lynn and where to find more of my stuff. Because this is it - this is my chance. Right here. This silly video. THIS is my chance to get noticed, and to get going down the road to success and fame. This is the kind of thing that catapults people's careers - struggling people, like me. People who live paycheck to paycheck. People who have no health insurance and who miss their dead husband like crazy and just want to live the dreams that we both had for me. And so even though this whole thing has been surreal in the most awesome of ways, Im feeling very desperate with it all, like here it is - and I can already feel it slipping away and disappearing, before it even began.Read more
Today, my dear and sweet husband, you are not 51.
Today is your birthday. You are not here.
You cant eat cake or blow out candles or makes jokes about getting older and how time flies.
You can't go and see the new "Peanuts" movie with me, our favorite, which comes out today, on your birthday.
We can't joke around about how you will always sit and wait in the pumpkin patch with me , forever, just like Sally did on Halloween night with Linus.
We cant share popcorn today, or share a large root beer that I would only take two sips of and you would drink all the rest.
Today is your birthday, and you are not 51.Read more
I'm in a state of panic. This happens now and again - one of the frightening realities of sudden and shocking death. Sometimes a few weeks or months will go by with me able to escape the panic and anxiety. Then, just like that, something happens - or doesn't - and I am shaking back and forth and my skin is on fire and I'm pacing the floors of my apartment and unable to breathe correctly or get a thought out.
I forgot the song. That's what caused the panic this time. I was in bed last night with our two kitties Sammy and Autumn, that we adopted together years ago, and I was doing my normal (or abnormal, depending on how you see things) routine of singing to them all the songs that my husband Don and I used to sing to them together. The songs that we made up ourselves, and that we would sing to them as part of our nightly routine before going to sleep. As crazy as it might sound, I have continued to sing these silly songs to my kitties, just about every night, as they lie there in my bed with me, all cuddled up and ready to sleep. I want them to still feel like he is here in some way, like he is still and always a part of things, and for them to hear my voice singing to them those same notes and words that I would always be singing with him. It's comforting. It's ceremonial. It keeps him alive in some way.
Except I forgot. I forgot the words. I forgot the words to our song.Read more
Today is one of those days that I have no idea what to write about. Not because I have nothing left to say about my husband or us or my grief. That isn't ever the reason. No. It's because sometimes, there are literally no words that exist , to properly explain the depths to which I miss him. Sometimes, I just get tired of saying "I miss him." It doesn't feel like enough, and I hate the repetitiveness of it. It is soooo much more than just missing him. But there are days, like now, where Im just too tired to go into all of that. So, I miss him. Yes. Always. And I will never be able to find words that are big enough to express what this type of loss does to a person. How it immensely changes every single cell inside a person. It is impossible to explain this to anyone, yet it is always there, like oxygen.Read more
The face of grief is always changing. Grief never ends - it just shifts and changes, over and over and over again. The past few months, my grief tsunami has turned into something very different than ever before. I almost want to call it "profound", but that sounds too pompous. I do feel as if this past year or so, I have been able to dig deeper into the abyss than ever before. I have reached inside, pulled out pain, and then started to make some sense of it, like solving a puzzle. Piece by piece, the joy inside the life that I have now, today, is starting to emerge.
It is my belief that in order to get here, I had to feel and analyze and break down and sit with every single fragment of my grief. It was probably the hardest thing I ever did. I am not finished. I might not ever be. There is no finish line - only sharp turns of major growth and awakening. But every single day, I wake up in a new way, all over again. I wake up with the knowledge that I am still and always learning.Read more
After a long day at work yesterday, teaching Theatre and Comedy courses at the University I work at and have worked at for 15 years, I came home to find out about the awful, horrific shooting at Oregon's Umpqua College. I had sat down and put my TV on in order to feel relaxed after a tiring day, and instead, I found myself feeling once again exhausted, anxiety-ridden, and filled with fear. These shootings are becoming commonplace in this country, and it's pretty much the saddest thing in the world to me. And please, I am BEGGING you, the person who is reading this - I do not want to use this blog piece to get into a huge and pointless debate about gun laws or politics or anything else that will only stress me out even further - I just need to use this space today to express my frustrations with the repetitiveness of what is happening in our world, and how MY world is so much more frightening without my husband in it to make me feel safe.Read more
Something I say to my grief-therapist often lately, is that I feel like I'm generally doing "okay", as long as I don't think about the future, or let my mind wander there. I feel okay or sometimes even good, as long as I can stay in the present. Do you know what she said back to me? She said: "So stay in the present." Oh, okay then. Guess I'm done with therapy now. ALL BETTER! ALL FIXED! Thank you for that brilliant advice! You mean I just need to stay in the present and everything will be fine forever? Cool! Awesome! Sometimes my grief-therapist has a hilarious sense of humor. I think me laughing in her face when she said "stay in the present" maybe surprised her a little bit, but its just not that simple. If only my brain didn't find itself in situations that catapult me directly into "the future that never was." It happens all the time, and I don't feel as if I can control my reaction to it. My reaction is extremely emotional, for example, whenever I see elderly couples together, living their ordinary days together that I will never have, as happened yesterday.Read more
I am a strong and fiercely independent woman. I always have been. When I was 18 years old, in 1990, I left my comfy small town of Groton, Massachusetts, to attend college and live in NYC. I wanted to be a performer, actor, comedian, writer, or anything that got me out of that boring and predictable suburban life. I wanted more. So I went out on my own, leaving behind my wonderful family and all my relatives and friends, hoping to make new friends and a life for myself. And I did. I lived in and around the city for years. First, at college. Then, getting apartments with friends in Brooklyn, Queens, and ultimately, New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside NYC. I was 5 hours away from family, and often lonely and scared.
But I never had a problem doing things for myself and by myself, or not being in relationships for years at a time. I was never one of those girls you see who always has a boyfriend or has to be with someone. Nope. In fact, I was usually not with someone at all. I carried my own groceries up the stairs or across multiple streets, lugged my own heavy suitcases, figured out ways to try and keep myself feeling safe on those days I had to come home late at night on the subway by myself. I did all of that for years. Alone. By the time I met Don, and by the time he finally moved in with me so we could start our life together in 2005, I was exhausted. I was so beyond ready to have a man in the house, or, apartment. I am an independent woman, but there is something to be said for what a man brings, what a man gives, and what a man is - in a relationship. It's now been 4 years since my dear husband died his sudden death, and once again, I am exhausted. I'm exhausted from being a woman, who no longer has a man. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said about that.Read more