Dinner with Zombie

Last weekend, some dear friends invited me over for dinner. They sent a text and I responded YES!, right away. They welcomed me into their beautiful warm home, full of kids, cats, puppies — life going on, life being lived. Hand-made margaritas, burgers, hot dogs, salad, a meal made with love.

I have to say, it was the most exciting thing that has happened to me in a while.

I’ve been stuck in a dead zone. Zombie-Land. Going through the motions in a semi-conscious state, trying to connect to life. I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks. I know I am eating, but I don’t know what. As for my garden, I managed to prune exactly half of an apple tree several weeks ago, now it looks like a lopsided head of Medusa. Wise neighbors, to avert their eyes. The house is a wasteland of dirty clothes, dog toys and dog hair, piles of papers, surely some unpaid bills. And, I’m down to my last clean pair of underwear.

So, back to last Sunday, when my dear friends invited this Zombie over for dinner.

You should have seen me. I gobbled down conversation, dinner, drinks and dessert like a ravenous mad woman! I actually ate two hot dogs, which is a lot for someone who used to be vegetarian. I scooped up as much salsa as I could with every last crumb of a chip. I soaked up the food, the music, the energy, worrying only for a moment (before the margarita kicked in), that people might notice my true state:

That I am starving. Starving for companionship, conversation, and food. Starving for touch, compassion and lightness. I want to be near people who are living, laughing, enjoying music, and…cooking. I haven’t cooked since my husband died. I just can’t. I can’t be trusted to turn the oven off, I can’t remember to buy ingredients at the store (and, as mentioned — what store?), food doesn’t taste the same way it used to, but mostly because cooking for myself feels like one of the loneliest endeavors on earth. Lonelier than my bed, my mornings, my walks, my weekends.

But dinner, on Sunday, with friends, it was like a blood transfusion. I could feel the transformation in myself. We talked about a lot of different things, education, music, social issues. They also asked about me, how I was doing, and they talked about my husband – it was like balm on my soul (most people still don’t realize that just the mention of his name is the antidote. It’s the lack of him, the omission of him – the void – that sucks the blood out of my veins).

These kind friends sent me home with a bottle of cider, a belly full of food, and a heart full of love. They probably have no idea how much it meant. I need to use this energy, while I’ve got it. Time to clean house, let the lightness in, shake these limp, dangling limbs into action. I’ll be starting with the laundry. After all, Zombies wear underwear, too.

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Touch-and-go

20130510-103247.jpgWhen learning how to fly, student pilots practice something that is called a “touch-and-go”. You bring the plane in for a landing, but right as the wheels hit the runway, you pull the steering wheel toward you, fire everything back up, and take off again, barely touching down, never completing a full landing.

It makes sense to do this kind of exercise, to kill two birds with one stone, to practice these over and over again. After all, landings and take-offs are the most critical part of every flight.

I wish I had more practice at this in real life. I wish I knew how to turn a dive-bomb into a powerful take-off, an ascent of intention. A trip with a destination. Yeah, I know…it’s about the journey, the ride, and I have the “opportunity” to create a whole new life here! Well, blah. I liked the journey I was on, and it was nowhere near complete.

But apparently it wasn’t time for me to get comfortable in a marriage, to start nestling down for a family. Because here I am, airborne, jettisoned back into the search. The search for meaning, for happiness, for love—for what?

That’s how it feels when you lose your mate, no matter where you were at in your journey together. Talk about a rudely interrupted flight. A mangled, incomplete landing, from which you have to recover and take off again. Some couples just had a baby, then boom. Some couples had a rich, long history, and were finally enjoying retirement. Boom. Some, newly engaged, a wedding in the works. Others, deeply entrenched in parenting four kids (I know five different women who found themselves widowed moms to 4 kids)….

We all know there are certain climbs we make in life, toward milestones, and that after we reach them, we relax, we let go of the pressures, the anxieties. I wasn’t someone with a strict life-schedule or plan, I never assumed I would get married. But once I did, I was happy. I loved being married to my husband. Of course there are no guarantees in life, or in a marriage; a successful take-off doesn’t guarantee a smooth flight, or a successful landing.

I accept that this is now the place, from where I have to take off, that there is no other choice. I can’t land back in the past, I can only rev up the engines and hope to get lift. A feat of nature it will be, flying with directional instruments all messed-up, fuel-tank on empty, flight-plan in flames, control-tower on strike, and my co-pilot, gone.

Wish me luck, steep climb ahead…but I also see mystical mountainous cumulonimbus, if ever there was a dream-cloud to take respite in…

Just another week at the office

“Hey, I am working on a t-shirt design for a memorial run. Wanna’ see it, give me some feedback? You heard about that runner in Sun Prairie who was killed by the pastor who was driving drunk…? It was crazy. Horrible. So tragic.”

(Ok, I’ll look at the design. I can be objective. I don’t feel quite as sensitive about death, accidents, hospitals, tragedies, as I did a few months ago. Just breathe.)

“So why did you move to Madison?”

(Oh no! Not that question again!! I hate that question!! I moved here because my husband got a job here. Phew. There! Done! I didn’t even have to mention that he is now…dead. And that I have no idea what I am still doing here. And that I get very confused about what’s next, and start to feel my heart race in anxiety when I think about trying to sell our house. Just breathe, let people move onto another topic, order lunch.)

“Yeah, we were pretty worried about our dog. She had to have surgery to remove two cancerous tumors. But they said she’ll be ok.”

(Oh. Ok. That’s starting to hit a little close to home. They were able to spare a dog. But not my husband. Stay calm, keep it cool. It’s not the same thing. Focus on your salad. Don’t think about cancer.)

“Oh, so you live in Sun Prairie? Isn’t that where that runner got killed…?”

“Yeah! She was our neighbor…!”

(Geez, are we back on this topic again? I am starting to feel a bit sick, here. I wish this Department lunch wasn’t taking place at a restaurant. I am not feeling calm, objective, or hungry anymore. Might need to get up and leave.)

“No way. I coached her son in hockey…”

“Crazy! Horrible.Tragic!”

(Ok, can we please, PLEASE, move on now? Surely people know when to stop talking about death around someone who just experienced a lot of it…)

“Well, people, you think that’s bad, our accountant’s husband died suddenly. Pulmonary embolism. Then the very next day, out of the blue, her mom died. What on earth do you do when when something like that happens?”

B*I*N*G*O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You just hit the target!! It was bound to happen, things were building up, but thanks for the cherry on top! After all, my dad and husband just died last year. Did you already forget? Why ask the question hypothetically? I am sitting right here and can tell you first-hand how it feels. How would that be for a little light lunch conversation? I can throw in all kinds of stomach churning details if you’d like.

(Instead, I somehow managed to say, “Ok, can we stop talking about death now?”, and barely excused myself from the table before the tears hit.)

Just another week at the office…navigating emotional landmines and lunch. Not the worst week. But not the best one either. Sometimes work is a safe place. But sometimes, when you are grieving, no place is a safe place. Though, I never really thought death or cancer were great lunch topics, even before my husband and dad died.