I'm 5 years and 9 months into life without Chuck.
I don't think I'm supposed to call it that.
Life without Chuck, I mean.
I think I'm supposed to structure it, this life after him, in a more positive manner, according to society at large.
The one thing I've done really well since Chuck died is be real about this widowed life shit.
And it ain't sunshine and roses, no matter how I try to dress it up.
Which I don't try to do, honestly, because I don't have it in me to be fake about it, or plant that pretend smile on my face.
I refuse to show it as anything other than what it is.
A shit show.Read more
The year was 2005, and it was a cold day in February.
I looked out the window of my New Jersey apartment, which sat on the Hudson River. NYC looked back at me.
I put the coffee pot on, and started making the meatballs and sauce. My Nana Mary's lasagna recipe, with bow tie pasta and meatballs and ribs on the side.
I had made it for Don the first time we met in person, about 3 years after we began talking in that music chat trivia room.
He had flown all the way from Florida to Jersey, to meet me, to stay with me for a few days, to fall in love.
I took him into my apartment on that day, and we sat at my kitchen table and shared our first meal together.
That was the first time he said to me: "My Boo makes the bestest food ever! I could get used to this!"
So, here I was , a few years later, making it again, in anticipation of his arrival.
Except this time, I would not have to say goodbye at the end of a few days.
This time, he was staying.
Don Shepherd was moving in with me on that day.
He had his whole life inside that Penske truck that was attached to his 1997 Grand Prix car -
soon he would be pulling up onto my street, and emptying out everything he owned out of that truck and into my small apartment.
Soon, my small apartment would become "our" small apartment.
His cat Isabelle that sat in his lap while he drove, would become "our" cat.
Soon, we would begin our life together.
It was Superbowl Sunday,
and the start of a brand new life.
You and I, my Love,
Are echoes in the halls of memories.
In lands far away and beyond the clouds
so beautifully and achingly tinged with vibrant colors,
I search for you.Read more
I wander quite frequently. It's mostly what I've done, and what I do, in this widowland.
For 5 years and counting now.
Physically and mentally...I wander.
Physically, in that I've spent these years since the death of my beloved husband wandering the country in my pink car, towing my equally pink T@b Teardrop trailer behind me.
Mentally, in that my mind is seldom where I am, physcially.
It's mostly in the past, honestly. Or totally daydreaming, a la' Walter Mitty.Read more
In my 38 years, I have never once not been with my parents on either Christmas eve or Christmas day. Even when I was in the military, I lucked out in that I wasn’t deployed over Christmas, and I was able to drive from North Carolina to Ohio, even if only for a 48 hour visit. Since 2002, I’ve added Megan’s family to that tradition, always ensuring that my second family was part of the holidays, but simply splitting time between both.
It was convenient that both my family and Megan’s family lived within 15 minutes of each other, and we never lived farther than 30 minutes away from either. Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas day with hers.
Since Megan’s death, that tradition has remained the same. Now, however, there’s a third and fourth family.Read more
I've been on the road quite a bit in the last few weeks, visiting my NJ community. Not towing my trailer, because, you know, weather, and I'm on my way west to Arkansas now, for Thanksgiving.
All of which is to say...
I listen to podcasts as I drive. History podcasts, philosophy, widow stuff, life stuff. You name it, and I listen to it.
And I just never know what I might hear that will suddenly click the gears into place that generally turn non-stop, taking in all that is around me. Conversations of strangers, particular terrain, colors of the sky, what the road looks like in front of me...my internal gears are always spinning, picking up bits and pieces of everything and, sometimes, what seems like nothing but ends up being that one missing piece.Read more
Recently someone reached out to me asking me how I do this life and how they find it so difficult to not be where they want to be or thought they’d be. Turning 30 this past week has made me think about some of the same things so I thought I’d share my thought process.
Is this where I thought I’d be and what I thought I’d be doing at 30? No. It is certainly not.
Is where I am and what I’m doing not good? Is it less of a life? A definite no to those too.
I think it starts with acknowledging feelings of what I thought my life would be. I don’t think stifling emotions is healthy or helpful. So yes, I did not think I would be where I am at 30. In my original plan, I thought I’d probably have a family by now. I thought maybe I’d have a child or maybe two. I didn’t think I’d be living on my own (well, with a roommate now) with my dog and dating. That was never what I pictured or what I planned.
That being said, I acknowledge that lost future when it pops into my mind but I also work on letting that life go. That’s not where I am. Sometimes it’s more difficult than others. But as much as possible I try to be present in where my life currently is so that I can enjoy that. Living in the “would be” or “should be” robs today of all that it is. It doesn’t make my life any better thinking of what I am not doing or what I don’t have. It actually makes my life worse because it makes me miss all the things right in front of me while still not having what I thought I’d have. Double loss.Read more
I need to see new things.
And, also, see the same things - somewhere else.
I need to stand on different street corners.
And, walk roads that lead to new
people and places.
I need to breathe the air - somewhere else.
I feel like I am holding my breath,
Living here in the outskirts of my old life.
I feel restless lately. I want to make changes in my life, but I am at a standstill because I am unsure of myself. Currently, I just exist in suburbia - I am "living" the life that swirls around me. But, I am not present in my life. I am just going through the motions. As much as I try, I am not content, despite the "good" life that I have in front of me. Without Mike, I am unsettled and underwhelmed, and no one but me can change this. I need to follow my intuition. I need to action something...
Around this time, last year, I painted my bedroom in an attempt to acknowledge that I was able to make decisions without Mike. I wanted to prove to myself that I was in charge of my life and I tried to accomplish this with a nice shade of the palest blue paint. A year later, I can say for certain that the paint was unsuccessful in making me forget who is not sharing my bed. His absence remains painfully obvious. Around the same time last year, I carefully rearranged the furniture in the living room. But, likewise, these changes haven't made me feel less alone on the couch. No matter how I fluff up the new pillows or arrange the furniture I feel him missing. Whatever small changes I make, I still picture Mike all throughout the house. Clearly, I have to do much more than these subtle alterations around my house. But, what?
I've grown tired of these ineffective, roughshod attempts at reclaiming my life. I feel big changes inside me, but I still do not have the confidence to bring them to life. I am frustrated with my lack of commitment. I want to do something significant to change my life because, at this point, I know that it is foolish of me to not attempt to live my life. Mike isn't going to become 'undead', no matter how much I wish he could come back. Only one of us is alive now and that's me. I best start acting like it.
I am not longer in survival mode. Simply surviving isn't enough to satisfy me anymore. I want to do far more than survive Mike's death. I want to LIVE again. I want to thrive for myself, and for my children. And, thriving is going to involve changes that go beyond pillows and paint, even if the paint is the best shade of pale blue.
Perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in a little over 5 years of widowhood is this…
I don’t have to be anything different, feel anything different, aspire to anything different…before going and doing whatever it is that I feel I must do to live this life without Chuck.
I don’t have to have hope. I don’t even know what that looks or feels like.
I don’t have to have faith. Seriously, I have no clue what faith is, especially as related to religion. Which I shed many years ago in any case, with no interest in returning to.
I don’t have to have confidence. Mostly, since Chuck died, the road I’m on diverges and changes at any given moment. I’m living a life completely removed from the life he and I lived, even as we spent our last 4 years living full time on the road. I started out on my own not having a clue, and, though I believe I present a fully confident face to the world, each day is another day of figuring it all out. Even if I have some of the technical stuff figured out, about living in a trailer, the emotional components leave me, often, wandering in circles.
I don’t need to feel any of these to do what I’m doing.
Then what do I need? What does get me through each day and each night?
I get that question a LOT.
It’s quite simple, at least to me.