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.

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Composting

IMG_1022Some people take action right away…they sell the house, the car, they get rid of the stuff. Some do it because they have to, for financial reasons. Others because they need to get rid of the reminders – not the memories – the triggers.

Around here, not a lot of change has been visible to the naked eye. I’m maintaining. And I’m doing it pretty well. Things could have gone differently. I could have run through the neighborhood naked, screaming at the top of my lungs, with my dog chasing me, scratching me, biting my ass. Because that is, at times, how I have felt. Turned inside-out, for all to see, raging and raw. Or I could have kept the shades drawn all year….allowing the garden to take over, covering the whole house in spiky tangled vines. I’ve felt that way, too. That’s right, stay away kids, that’s the crazy widow’s house!

But one thing about grief is that when it isn’t slamming you over the head with emotion, it’s taking place on the most subtle of levels. I’m talking shades of shades of shades of gray. Too faint for the eye to see. Yep, a lot of grief takes place inside the closet. At the heart level, the cellular level, deep dark earthworm level.

And that’s good stuff. Right? I mean, worms are cool. They are good stuff. They do good stuff, below the surface. Continue reading

A shadow of light.

photo 1Loss can cast some strange shadows across your days. Sometimes dark and engulfing, other times a sharp sliver of illumination. Gone if you’re not paying attention.

This morning, as I sat drinking my coffee, I noticed the speckled light moving across the room. It landed on a porcelain bear that my husband had picked up at a garage sale, and cast an amazing shadow. A strong, angular bear, chiseled out of the ice on which it’s standing. A bear that looks a lot like the tattoo my husband had on his arm. A piece of art that I will never see again.

I continued to think about shadows as I walked out into the beautiful morning. We used to laugh at my old dog’s shadow because we thought her shadow looked like an ant-eater. My new pup, her shadow looks like some kind of mythical wolf. Fierce and fangy. I looked over at my shadow this morning, too. A long, lonely alliteration.

We are our shadow selves, are we not? Continue reading

An altered landscape

GovNelPrairieThere are a lot of things you are forced to accept when someone dies.

One of the more confounding things is that other people will mourn differently. Most of them in their own quiet way, not able to share their experience of the loss with you. Perhaps because they are afraid to, or they don’t know how. When we grieve, we learn about ourselves. Though grief is brought on by the loss of someone else, when you are thrust into grief, you spend a lot of time trying to comprehend your own reaction to it.

There is a park that I drive past often, my husband and I used to run there, we’d take the dog to the lake, we’d photograph prairie plants. It’s a vast park with woodland and prairie trails, and it lies along a scenic, but busy country highway.

I remember several years ago noticing a dead tree that stood on its own, near the road. It punctuated the top of the hill as you drove past the park, it was such a lovely silhouette. I told my husband that I wanted to photograph it. It was one of those things you say, but never do. It would have been hard to photograph, it would have to be done from the road, there wasn’t really a good place to stop, it was dangerous, last year a cyclist was hit and killed. And really, I have always thought, not everything has to become a photo, right? Some things should just be experienced.

Well, one day we came over the crest of the hill and the tree was gone. It had crumbled, or fallen, perhaps taken down in a storm. As we zipped past (going at least 55mph, as is the posted speed limit), I could see the remnants, how the tree had fallen, on its natural way to decomposition. On this busy commuter road, probably no other soul even noticed. But I have often wondered, did anyone else notice?

I noticed. Every time I drove past the park, it bothered me! I mourned it, the old landscape. The striking view, that was once worthy of a snapshot, had lost its star performer. This singular element gave the whole scene meaning, tied everything together. Like my life. My marriage, my partnership. The Fred, of Fred and Ginger, gone.

That is one of my greatest anxieties now. The worry, and frustration, that I am the only one who remembers there was once a beautiful and unique tree, completing the hillside, completing the picture of our life. The other commuters continue on, busy with their lives, too consumed with their own comfort to stop and take note of a landscape forever changed. But that is an assumption. And I hope it’s wrong.

I know he wasn’t “everything” to “everyone”. But he was everything to me. And his death has altered me, my view, and viewpoint. And even though I have slowly gotten used to the landscape at the park, I have accepted its softer silhouette, I will never be able to look at it without feeling the absence of the tree, without missing what once was.

And those who knew him, I can only hope that they too will remember him, that he will forever be a part of the landscape of their lives, even in his absence. They probably don’t realize that every time they mention him, or mention their grief, it’s a treasure to me, it helps diffuse the burden, the weight, the worry that I am the only one working on the scrapbook, desperately trying to keep the pieces together, every single story, every memory, like dots of ink on paper, building to create the complete picture, a snapshot of a life once lived.

Going through the (e)motions.

VICTOR 07I just learned something this week. Something new about grief.

Yep, I’m still on the grief train over here…albeit in “panicked passenger” mode…desperately seeking the drink cart, woo-hoo!

And just to completely derail for a moment, I have been on many trains. We lived in Switzerland during my high school years, and my mom is from a picturesque little town in the alps, Wassen. Wassen is known for its beautiful church that sits out on the edge of a slope. It is also known for the train tunnels and tracks that wind up through the mountains, the Gotthard pass. From the town, if you look up the mountain, you will see the same train pass by 3 times. Each time a rung higher, and each time going in the opposite direction. Continue reading

Driving through a snow storm.

In about 3 months, we will reach the day.

It’s a day that looms large for all who have lost someone. People seem to think that in the first year you are grieving and “getting over it”, but the way I see it is that for that first year you are just surviving, just getting “into it”. Slowly being forced out of sedation, to face your injuries. (The biggest one being a hole in the heart. And for me, also a hole in the brain.)
Making it to the anniversary of his death, will be a fucking testament of my survival. It will also be a tough, tough day. And, unfortunately, the hard work is still to come. I knew it from day one. This is going to hurt, this is going to take a while.

Yesterday, I saw a job that I am interested in. It’s in an entirely different field, but one that I’ve been wanting to transition into. My heart lept when I saw the job posting. I thought, that’s it! My chance!! It’s what prompted my post yesterday about following my heart, because my heart has been racing with anxiety and excitement ever since I saw it. I read the description and thought, I am all those things. I can do those things! I have those skills. I will work on my resume and apply. See what happens. If nothing, then fine, it wasn’t meant to be. Go for it! That’s the “old me” talking! Good to see you! Where have you been?!

Then last night a storm hit. Like in “Back to the Future “. The “new me” met the “old me”, and it got trippy. My future got funked up. Continue reading