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

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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?

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

It’s not you, it’s me (and this big black hole)

20130727-092210.jpgIf you don’t mind, I need to curl up in a ball. Right now. Right here. In this chair.

I don’t care that I am surrounded by people. I don’t care that it’s a staff meeting, and we’re celebrating national ice cream month. That’s how these things go down, that’s how grief comes round. I know it’s a corporate formality, but please do not ask me how I am doing today, unless you really want the truth along with my salty tears topping your sundae.

Because some days it hits you so hard, you have to pull over to the side of the road before you drive off of it. Then, you dust yourself off, and head to a staff meeting….

There might be a few who wonder, casually, what was it like to lose your husband? But no one has ever asked me. People are conscientious, careful, and tender-footed around the topic of death. That’s just how it is.

I can tell you this…when my husband died, a big black hole opened up right next to me. And there it remains. It will probably be there for the rest of my life, in some capacity or another. That’s what they say about this kind of loss. Most days now, I am able to drag myself out, and slither around the perimeter, see ya’ later, sucker! I’ve got my cuppa’ joe, gotta’ go, that’s right, watch me get up and walk, (I mean crawl), away. I might even ignore that bugger entirely for a day or two, now. That’s good. That’s progress. I’ll take it.

But no so fast, eh? Not today!

‘Cuz the forces start pulling on you, in the middle of a restless night, those freaky arms start dragging you down. You wake up exhausted, too tired to shower, too tired to care, and very, very confused by the strange, deranged, “fact” that he’s gone. Too hard to imagine what it would be like? It is for me, too. I’m not special, or super-human. I can’t “imagine” it either, that’s why it’s taking so long to process, to heal. I still can’t believe it. But I have to live with it. His death. Who knew, something so concrete, something so undebatably undeniable, would be so hard to grasp?

So, yes, I continue to show up. I’m at this meeting, but I cried on my way down the hall. And I just can’t eat the ice cream at the social today; I don’t have the strength. I’m wrestling the pull of the big black hole, you have no idea how exhausting it is. Sign up for a marathon? Not after this doozy. I don’t even know if I’ve hit rock bottom yet, grief has so many layers. No offense, all water-cooler, work-talk aside, how am I doing today? How do you think? I’m too tired to lie. My husband is still dead, and I can barely swallow the fact. Not after a year, not even as “soft-serve” with peanuts, caramel, and fucking multi-colored, stupid-ass sprinkles on top…

It’s just one of those days, ok? Please let me curl up and ride it out.

(Your love is better than ice cream….)

Bloodsucking gratitude

20130814-073205.jpgMan, the bloodsuckers were out tonight…Midwest mosquitoes. Because our spring was so drab, the bugs were delayed in their arrival, but now they are here with a vengeance, making up for lost time. Which is what I am trying to do with my neglected garden as well, spreading mulch after work whilst swatting the bloodsuckers. My garden is out of control this year. I can’t keep up with it because, really, it’s a two-man project, and I’m down one man. But I’m doing the best I can, and some dear friends had extra mulch that they shared with me.

Death, and losing someone, will do the same thing if you allow it, suck the “blood” right out of your life. There’s a strange apathy that hits, coating everything in gray. I won’t deny that there have been times when I have wondered what the purpose is? What am I living for? I could get cancer tomorrow, and I wouldn’t even have a mate to take care of me. So they tell you to try and appreciate the small things. Look closely, there are little breaks in the clouds. Try to be grateful for the things you do have, the things you still enjoy, and eventually the color will come back. I know this to be true. But my gratitude is a work in progress, and it often feels as unruly as my garden. A “thank you” here, a quiet moment there…

…like spreading mulch on this hot summer night. I know my husband would have given anything to be here doing this with me. Despite his hatred of mosquitoes, he loved powering through a gardening project. If he could have made a deal with death, or with the fierce she-leader of the mosquito kingdom, trading his blood for his life (along with some itchy bites), he would have done it. If only that were the choice. Cancer is a much deadlier adversary, the oft victor of life-and-death negotiations, one bad-ass parasite.

I realize my blog tends to focus on the hard parts of loss. It’s a healthy way to work through the tough, honest emotions. A person can’t just go from grieving widow to happy clown in a day. I lost two people, and my life is less without them. I miss them both tremendously. But I’m trying to shift my focus, my attitude, my gratitude.

And I realized tonight that I have turned a corner. I am not out of the woods yet, but on this beautiful summer evening, I can smell the mint and the lavender my husband planted, I am sweating and swatting, and I am grateful. Not for the mosquitoes…(I mean come on, I ain’t the Buddha!), but I am grateful for the life-blood that continues to run though my veins. Some lucky skeeters actually got to enjoy my husband’s sweet blood; I got to enjoy his sweet and funny nature, taste his salty skin. I am still relishing it, here, now, as I tend to our lush garden, full of bugs and blooms, thinking of him, on this night.

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.

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