take two on turkey day. be forewarned.

last year I was kind of pissed about having to be grateful. after all, I was reeling from two very significant deaths.

this year I do feel grateful, for many things. for almost everything, actually. I give thanks every morning when I start my day. I give thanks before I go to sleep. I am much more present in every day.

but going into the in-your-face-family-packed holiday season as a widow who lost half her family still fucking sucks. it’s really painful.

make no wishbones about it.

what do I wish?

to fill the void. to make up for what I lost. I have this crazy urgency to cram my life full of turkey, ham, buttery rolls, creamy mashed potatoes loaded with cheese and garlic, pumpkin pie piled sky-high with fresh whipped cream. I want to grab the wine bottle and start guzzling so furiously that it splatters all over my face. choking down life, like a savage. like there’s no tomorrow.

because for me, there is no tomorrow.

yes. I have loose plans. I have hopes. but I’m not counting on tomorrow. I’m also not clinging to yesterday. I guess I’ve kind of “let go”.

but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel pain, or loneliness, or desire happiness. that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for the stability and security I once had in love, in my family, in life. I want a thanksgiving that feels complete…

but this girl ain’t no turkey. this girl knows that one day, she will experience loss again. and that others around her who can’t even fathom the day, will also, one day experience the raw brutality of it. so in the meantime, I am stockpiling. slowly strengthening, slowly expanding as much as I can, right here, right now, to continue accepting the fullness of life. the whole fucking bird, the delicious fatty parts, and the jabby bones.

you know how it goes. pile up your plate. then take a breather. a nap. digest. watch a little football. let the stomach stretch out, then head back for seconds.

that’s what I’m going in for now. seconds. my second life…the one that contains the fullness of having had an amazing dad, the fullness of having had a wonderful husband, and the one that also contains the massive loss of those two people. My second life is more rich because it is more painful. Fuller because it is emptier. But I am living it, here and now.

And there is still room for dessert.

Amen.

New Growth (…and, the end)

bleedingheartsYou are not going to believe this, people…but I got asked out on a date. By the cute landscaper who came by to give me an estimate on some projects (and who I know is far too young for me).

I won’t be sharing a budding love story here. I haven’t been on the date yet. And initially, I didn’t even take “plant guy” up on the offer because I thought he was just buttering me up so I’d hire him.

What I am going to talk about is how it completely blew my weekend apart. I could not think straight. I forgot about the things I had planned to do; pacing around the house like in the early days of grief. I woke up every night around 3am, with my heart pounding. Crying on and off all weekend. Deep sobs about the fact that I got asked out on a date. Deep sobs about the reason behind my “eligibility” to date. After all, not too long ago, I was married to the best kisser, hand-holder, foot massager in the world…well, in my world. My husband was my world. The only reason I am even considering a date is because he’s no longer in it.

But I’m pretty sure that any widow who has had this particular “first”, knows all about what happens after your world has exploded, and you slowly start picking up the pieces. There are many, many aftershocks. I’m still wearing my heart on the outside of my chest. I’m still vulnerable, like a snail without a shell. In fact, after I told Plant Guy (and before he asked me out) which plants I needed removed, I started to feel sick to my stomach because we were talking about taking some things out that my husband had planted. Who am I to change the garden we created together? It felt like a betrayal. And a date? Talk about the ultimate betrayal.

See, these roots, of a marriage, of a union that ended prematurely, they are very tender and delicate. They remain entwined. And they still bleed. Even if you go to your massage therapist and talk about wanting to move forward, with your heart open, you do it with a lump in your throat, every step forward a shaky one, a quaky one. There is simply no way to move toward new things, without letting go of some of the old things. Without releasing that white-knuckled grip on what you lost, one bloody, clenched finger at a time.PampasGrassRoot

It was just over a year ago that I wrote what would become my first official blog post. I wrote about digging up an invasive ornamental grass that my husband had planted. There were residual stalks that shot up again this year…Plant Guy told me that his staff actually break shovels digging the roots out. So apparently my struggles last year weren’t just dramatics!

Those are some tough, tough roots. One of my favorite plants is the bleeding heart. So delicate and vulnerable. There is room for both of these in a garden. In this life. The tough and the delicate growing together in a fully tangled embrace of roots, shoots, and bloody grit. So I am moving forward with changes. Big ones, little ones…knowing that I can still get bruised.

Who am I to change our garden?! Who am I not to. The dear, sweet men that I lost last year would want me to keep living, growing, feeling, faltering, and shining. For me. For them. For the love of this precious and unpredictable life.

I don’t know where things will go in the next little while. The garden isn’t the only thing I’m pushing toward new growth. I’m opening myself up to new things. New places. New people. Heart forward. I don’t know if my “date” will become anything more than an important “first”…but I do know that there is actually a love story here…the story that was told in this blog.

And it’s coming to an end.

Not in my heart, of course, but in my sharing of that story, here.

I can’t even begin to explain how much it helped me last year, to write. Thank you, to all of you who read, commented, and were so kind, and supportive in this virtual sharing of my losses, and of the painful processing of my grief.

Eddies, ellipses, and deep sea dwellers

When you are in the worst of it…you think it will never end. You feel like someone dunked you into the pool of sadness, your lungs fill with water, and when you come up gasping for air, you get dunked again. Come on. I didn’t even get a chance to breathe! That’s how it can feel for quite a while. Death is a choker. And loss, a deep, deep well.

But slowly, you learn to calm the waters. When you feel the wave of panic coming ’round, instead of fighting it, you roll with it. You ride it out. Or – you plug your nose, close your eyes, and let it pass, fully aware that you can only use escapism so many times…

Sometimes you drop to the bottom, allowing the weight of the water to push you down, and you are able to sit still for a while in that dark cool place, feeling it for what it is. Cold. Lonely. Beautiful and still. That’s what I always loved about diving toward the bottom of a lake. There was anxiety there, too, holding my breath, heading toward the quiet coolness, totally alone, testing my strength, pushing my lungs, pushing at life. And then the warmth…as I’d swim back toward the surface. Feeling like I was bursting back into the world, a place of air, sounds, laughter and sun.

It does get better.

They say that you will always carry your loss with you, and that you learn to live with your grief. I don’t doubt this. And I am aware that the deepest pool, the one that contains the darkest moments, will always be there. It has incredible power. My chest still tightens at the thought of falling back in, it can pull you down so quickly, with such force.

But it has eased a little. It’s like the death-grip loosened, and spread itself out into smaller eddies. Places that are still swirling with the same water, but less deep. Less painful. Less potential for emotional drowning. There are even moments, when I dare to say, I am the ROCK, damn it….around which everything else can just go ahead and swirl.

Thank god. It does get better. I am better.

But definitely not the same…(<—- and if I might say so myself, this ellipsis is probably the most appropriately placed one in this entire blog)

Apparently over 95% of the ocean has yet to be explored. And what of our minds, our psyche? And the mysterious beauty of soul, spirit, and those incredible deep water fish…

Word.

photo(1)Did you know that Walt Disney recently tried to trademark “Day of the Dead” for one of their upcoming Pixar movies? Seriously! Death might be “black and white”, but the whole trademarking of holidays, commonly used slogans, etc…that’s an ethical gray area for me. I mean, does everything have to be “owned” by a big corporation?! Disney is infamous for raking people over the coals with trademark lawsuits.

I work in advertising, as a designer. I have a great job that allows me to be creative. I understand the importance of protecting creative ideas. But I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m not a big fan of consumerism and marketing, and I actually hate selling stuff. That’s a big part of what we do in advertising. Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way from the inside. If you watch Mad Men, you know that there is a lot of skill, strategy, and thought that goes into creating a message, and that the “creatives” at an agency live to come up with the right line, the perfect font/photo/and layout combination, a comprehensive piece of communication so meaningful that it lives on beyond the campaign. They – we – are passionate about it. Continue reading

House rules

photo 5Before I started a blog, I read a lot of other blogs about loss. I noticed that many of them had a “shelf-life”, so to speak. The writer eventually must have felt that expressing their grief in a blog, had run its course. I took it to mean that they had moved on to processing their grief differently, that they were healing, and were finally able to let grief move into the background…no longer hogging center stage. Some people probably also just got sick and tired of writing about grief! I’ve been starting to feel like a broken record, myself.

In fact, just this morning, armed with an extremely ambitious to-do list, I thought, “Hey! I might be done writing about grief”. Not that I am done grieving, but I am starting to feel that perhaps writing about it isn’t helping me move forward any more. And really, I feel like I keep saying the same damn thing, just in a slightly different way. See? Didn’t I already say that? Continue reading

The best of times, and the worst of times.

VatiCollage2013When you spend most of your life living far away from family, phone calls carry a different weight. Like a dog that understands its owner’s root habits (better than the person themselves), when you live on another continent, or in a state several hours ahead in the time zone, you become very attuned to your family’s “calling habits”. You just sense it intuitively – don’t even need the “Caller ID” to know – oh, that’s mom calling.

So, when my phone rang in January of last year, and I got “the” call, my heart just sank, and my legs starting shaking before I even picked up the phone.

It was the worst phone call of my life. My dad had all of us on the phone, and told us he had decided to stop his kidney-dialysis treatment. This meant that he would die, possibly even in a day, or two. Continue reading

Sweet! Everything was going gangbusters, now I’m back in the slammer.

There will be days when you feel trapped in your cage of grief, and every stinkin’ emotion is there with you, like a gang of degenerate hoodlums, just waiting to mess up your face, topple your day, threaten your future. These guys are smokin’, they’re missing teeth, breathing their rancid breathe in your face, and they aren’t going anywhere fast.

Just ride it out. Ride. it. out. Feel the waves of nausea and panic. Lay down on the cold cell floor and play possum. Or scream. Go ahead, bang those fists ’til they are bloody, ‘cuz no one is going to post bail. That’s right. Accept it.

No one can rescue you from grief. It’s yours. Your own. But some days, it owns you. And there’s no way around it, under it, or over it. You just have to get through it. Sit, cry, scream, through the shit-storm.

I know it’s a healing process. I know I will have better days! I’ve already had them.

But today, I’m back in the slammer, and I don’t know why I am here. All I did was try to have fun, live life, get back to normal. Is that a crime?