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.

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…

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

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

Parallel paths

I was at the dog park the other day, getting ready to walk the loop. It was the first warm day we’d had in while. The first true inkling of summer. It was gorgeous, and on the inside and outside, I felt good to be alive.

As I entered the park, I found myself walking along side a nice young man. When I say young, I just mean he wasn’t the retired chatty college professor I have ocasionally walked the loop with. And I should clarify, that it’s not exactly customary to “walk the loop” with other dog owners, but sometimes if the dogs connect and the conversation between owners is flowing, it just happens, and you find yourself walking the whole way round with a stranger.

So, this young guy and I just happened to be walking along together, on parallel paths. We didn’t really talk much, mainly about the beautiful day. I’ll admit, I snuck a few glances at him. He was cute. I liked his energy. And for the record, there are plenty of loonies at the dog park, too. It’s amazing how you can sense their energy from miles away; I steer clear of them, as I have enough of my own “crazy” to contend with right now. But this guy seemed nice, I could tell he was someone who appreciates nature. He said he heard it might be in the 80s all next week, and I said, really? I don’t look that far ahead anymore. Then his dog went one way, my dog went the other, and our paths diverged. It was completely natural.

As natural as the feeling that followed. My heart relaxed and a sliver of light got in. I took a deep breath, and I thought, yes. Maybe one day, I will meet someone again who I will want to shimmy up next to, and walk a parallel path with. It might not be today. It might not be with this young man. I won’t be going home and immediately uploading a dating profile, but I am open, and that’s saying a lot.

I’ve got a bad case of the Tuesdays…

photo 4There is some other-wordly power that gets me going on Mondays. Ok, let’s do this. Start the week, get it rolling, an object in motion stays in motion, get in the shower, put on some clothes, feed the dog, start the car, drive to work, there you are.

After my husband died, some other-worldly power got me through my first year, too. Or perhaps I don’t give myself enough credit. Let me re-phrase: somehow, I got myself through the first year. I DID IT. But I don’t know how. I wasn’t myself. I was beside myself. Like Tuesday, cast in the shadow of Monday.

Continue reading

When the monkey is away….

I have written many posts about grief that don’t get posted. The same words tend to pop up, about drowning, battling, fighting, then relinquishing control….

It’s not easy to experience grief (understatement of the year), but the metaphors of the experience seem to come with ease. And while writing about it and getting it off my chest is part of healing, even to me, the story gets old.

New experiences…putting myself out there, trying different things, meeting new people, that too will give me something to write about, or, at least experience. Grief won’t be going away anytime soon. But my life, well, I’m all too aware of how finite it is.

Continue reading