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.
I’m all finished with school for the summer and heading to Hawaii with David! By the time this posts on Thursday I will already be there actually. I’m really excited to go. We have a lot of exciting things planned to do. Planning the trip was easy with David because we were interested in the same activities. If he found an idea of something he liked I was always super excited about it and vice versa. As we were planning, we started a shared document to use as an itinerary and for the first time since Mike died I was actually excited to use it.
I think I mentioned in a previous post when I was on vacation with my friend Heather about how I had lost my enthusiasm for trip planning. I had still wanted to go on trips but I didn’t have the motivation, concentration or memory to be able to plan the details of flights, cars, stay, and researching and coordinating things to do. It was frustrating to me because I had always been good at it and enjoyed it. It used to be my thing. Then after Mike died I couldn’t seem to care less even though I tried. And even when I tried I missed important things that could have caused a disaster travelling. I eventually just started to go with the flow of someone else organizing everything but I felt a bit numb doing that.
Planning for Hawaii has been so completely different. I feel like me. I have been on top of researching what I want to do, where, and when and following up with companies about booking. I have every little detail documented in order with confirmation numbers, times, location etc. I printed all the excursions, car, stay, flight confirmation emails and put them in order. Maybe it’s a little intense but organizing and planning makes me feel good. I had just been in a shift for a while. I don’t want to say my trip planning “is back”or I’m the “old me” because I don’t believe you ever really go back. Plus, this trip is so different than anything I had previously planned. It is a very active, adventurous trip. It’s full of a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. I’m not just making lists of possible sites to see; I’m planning, booking and gathering the needed gear for some pretty intense activities. I think I’ve used my previous organization skills to be my basis for planning for a more rigorous, absolutely-need-it-all-figured-out and be prepared trip. It’s my 2.0 version of planning.Read more
Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devasted and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.Read more
For any new readers, this is a continuation of my current situation which involves being back in Virginia, where I grew up, from my home of 15 years in Kona, Hawaii, where I lived with my beautiful late husband until his death in 2013 and further into my strange new world without him with a new boyfriend and my dogs, until the foreclosure is complete some unknown months from now.Read more
Most of you who have been reading here for awhile know how my husband died. Mike had a heart attack in his sleep at age 59. It was the most devastating shock I've ever lived through and I will spend the rest of my life recovering from it. The pain of that grief, I know now, will always be there.Read more