6 Years. And 6 Centuries~

This Sunday it will be 6 years since Chuck died.

Just writing that number leaves me breathless, and not in a good way.

Jesus.

How can it be 6 years?

Though it might as well be 6 centuries. That’s how it feels.

So, my thoughts on these years/centuries as they meander through my mind…

I spent last weekend with our older son and his family, which includes two grand-goddesses, 5 and 3 years old.

I love them so very much.

And I love my son and his wife so very much, as I do my other kids and their spouses.

But-and I don’t know if this is just me-it’s almost…painful…to be with them. Well, maybe not so much in being with them, but after I leave.

Grief surges up in me as I drive away from them, or any of our kids, after visiting.

Thinking about Chuck, and driving down the road with him. 

Now, looking out at the desert and the mountains…I feel so fucking empty.

Where the ever loving fuck did he go?

If tasked to respond to the question what is it like now, as opposed to those nightmarish days right after he died, this is what I’d say:

It is exactly what a dear widow sister of mine, who was further along than I, told me in my 3rd year of grief.

It isn’t that it gets better. We just get stronger to carry it.

Yes.

I’m definitely stronger to carry it.

6 years out, and contrary to what I look like on the outside, I’m wiry and my arms are strong and my back is straight and my stride is sure.

I know in every part of me that I am living Love out loud.

I approach everyone I meet, whether stranger or family, with Love. Even people I don’t care for.

I’ve learned the subtle art of not giving a fuck. With all the Love in the world, of course.

Anyone who chooses to see me as desperate, depressed, dark, too much, fill in the blank, chooses to question me or my life/methods of navigating this widowhood, etc…oh, I am WAY too strong to be taken down by such judgement.

I wish I’d learned this strength much earlier on, but it happened as it happened, and believe me, that strength is who I am now and it comes from such a place of Love and surety of the Love that Chuck left behind for me, and certainty of what I’m doing along this Odyssey of Love…it makes me absolutely unbeatable. I cannot be taken down by others’ opinions of me. 

This life isn’t easy in any way. It is painful beyond unbearable. It’s impossible. 

And I’m fucking doing it anyways.

I remember what was told to me by a woman I met in a Target store early on my Odyssey of Love. She didn’t know me, had no way of knowing anything about me.

But she purposefully caught my eye as I browsed in the clothing dept of that store. After catching my eye a second time, she approached me and asked if she could tell me something.

I’m always open to whatever comes my way, so I nodded yes. She put her hand ever so gently on my lower arm and looked right at me and said this…

I need to ask you -do you know that you are surrounded by angels? You have so many around you that I can’t even count them. And you are protected. They are protecting you in whatever it is you’re doing. So keep doing it. Just keep going. They are all around you and you are protected.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I thanked her and we went our separate ways. 

But I’ve never forgotten her words.

She was one of the people…the markers…that Chuck told me in an earlier message he’d left for me to help me find my way on this Odyssey of Love. 

I wouldn’t leave you without a road map. I’ve left markers for you along the way, both physical and metaphysical. Look for them.

Those words were told to me, a message from Chuck, by yet another woman, just a few months after he died. Also a woman I’d never met before, who sought me out.

So here’s the thing, world.

Don’t fuck with me. Because, yes, I’m protected and I know it.

I’m protected by a legacy of Love that is more than most people know in a lifetime. By the Love of a community I created for myself around the country. By the Love of 3 adult kids who live their dad’s legacy every damn day. 

I was loved by Chuck.

Five simple words that carry the power and force of forever in them.

I was loved and I am Love.

And no matter what else happens, 

That makes me the fiercest woman alive~

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Widowing and Renaissance Faires~

My motto, since Chuck died, is push your boundaries. Stretch your comfort zones. Go where you’ve never gone before.

It hasn’t been difficult to do this, honestly.

Chuck died in southern CA, in our 4th year on the road.

I had no home to return to; we’d sold it, and our belongings, years before, to go adventuring.

So I was already well accustomed to living outside my comfort zone. Already living a different life each day, as we traveled from one state to another…hiking, climbing, visiting National Parks and monuments, meeting new people.

Living the traveling life suited both of our personalities.

And then he died…

And I packed the contents of our rented condo in southern CA into our car and hit the road.

Sold that car, bought another, painted it pink, bought a trailer, painted that pink, and set out on my Odyssey of Love.

I couldn’t bear to travel the way Chuck and I had; staying at military lodgings, inexpensive hotels. 

Emotionally, it was a big no.

I knew, too, that money would quickly become an issue, even living in a travel trailer.

So I started looking around fb, asking questions, allowed myself to be vulnerable with the world…and learned of all the possibilities.

How to earn a living? There are soooo many ways beyond what we think there are, having nothing to do with settling in one place.

I discovered workamping. Seasonal jobs that allow me a place to park and a paycheck.

An opera camp in the Ozarks was my first one. I’m returning for my 3rd season this summer. 

The students, the set designers, the orchestra, watching professional operas performed…I realized that the theater world carries a huge appeal to me.

The magic. The costumes. Characters and personalities…I loved it all.

And then I began working at a Renaissance Faire where I had to dress in costume. Me, having to dress up? I’m there!

I pushed my comfort zone and took a job working the front gate, which put me in the way of thousands of people. Huge crowds. Personalities of every sort. It was intriguing and I did my best with it, and came away feeling stronger for the experience.

I’m in the midst of my second season at the same Renaissance Faire, and even I recognize the changes I’ve undergone.

I’ve learned to project my voice. Yes, I’ve always been comfortable in front of people, on a stage or otherwise, but this is up front and personal.

I have to keep a line moving, tearing/scanning tickets, while welcoming each patron. I talk to the small kids that come through in costume, exclaiming over them, make eye contact with as many people as possible, keep up a continual chatter, while keeping an eye on everyone coming through, raising my voice to keep order in my line, bantering back and forth as I stop them to tie off a sword or dirk, teasing and flirting.

At the end of the day, as we stand at the gate to bid farewell, I’ve learned to duck into the crowds to retrieve alcoholic drinks, and I’ve held up signs to make the guests laugh.

I’ve stepped outside of myself in colorful ways, and I’ve become more determined than ever to never live a traditional life. Ever. 

My voice is stronger now than it’s been for these almost 6 years since Chuck’s death.

No, I don’t consider this one of those gifts we’re supposed to find, and appreciate, in grief. I don’t believe grief has ever offered me anything that I’d count as a fair trade for Chuck’s life. It just is what it is.

What I do know is that life without Chuck requires much more of me than living inside a traditional box.

And how cool it is that I discovered, last week, while at the faire, that there is actually a character who plays the part of professional mourner!

Shit, I can do that character with my hands tied behind my back. Black clothes, leaking eyes, broken heart…I wouldn’t even have to pretend, right? 

Talk about walking right into the jaws of the lion called widowhood.

I’m already thinking of auditions next year for that role. And developing a character that I can take to all the faires around the country.

Pushing boundaries. Pushing comfort zones. 

It’s the only way I maintain this shattered heart of mine~

Calling a Spade a Spade~

I’m 5 years and 9 months into life without Chuck.

I don’t think I’m supposed to call it that.

Life without Chuck, I mean.

I think I’m supposed to structure it, this life after him, in a more positive manner, according to society at large, pointing out all that I’ve gained since his death. All the appreciation for life, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Whatevs.

The one thing I’ve done really well since Chuck died is be real about this widowed life shit.

And it ain’t sunshine and roses, no matter how I try to dress it up.

Which I don’t try to do, honestly, because I don’t have it in me to be fake about it, or plant that pretend smile on my face.

I refuse to show it as anything other than what it is.

A shit show.

AND…

I engage in life and with hundreds of people and I laugh at funny shit and I connect with family and old friends and new friends and push my boundaries and comfort zones, daily.

And it’s still the most emotionally lonely life I could have ever imagined.

Which doesn’t keep me from doing all the shit I mentioned a sentence ago.

At the end of the day, when I close my door, whether it’s the door to my rig or the door to a room I’m staying in temporarily, that soul deep ache of missing him that is always present but from which I can distract myself during the day as I go about the business of living, still surges forth.

No, dating isn’t the answer, as I tell people who helpfully suggest that I start dating.

I’m not lonely for a generic man. 

Duh.

I’m lonely for my beloved husband.

It ain’t rocket science, figuring that out. I don’t think.

Life just isn’t as good, now, as it was with Chuck.

That’s just the god honest truth.

But here’s the other side of that truth, which is what makes me, as I told my daughter, possibly the strongest woman ever to walk through her life.

Even with this emotional wasteland of life without Chuck…

I’m going out and doing shit that is way beyond what many would consider ordinary. Full timing in a colorful car and trailer, taking seasonal jobs at opera camps and Renaissance Faires, talking to strangers daily…the list is endless. 

I’m living life, whether I want to or not, because it isn’t in me to not live. Even as I wonder, often, why the hell I didn’t die of broken heart syndrome. But I’m doing it, andthat is what makes me the damn strong woman that I am. Lonely for my husband, Chuck, but fucking killing this life I’ve created.

If I have to live life without him, which I have to do, clearly, then you can by god be damn sure I’m doing it MY way, living as much outside what is considered traditional/normal, as I possibly can on any given day.

With the full recognition, and realization, that anyone who has a problem with my hows and whys, generally speaking, are just not strong enough to even be in my sphere.

My life without my beloved husband. My terms.

All in glorious shades of pink.

All of which is what makes me a Fucking Warrior Goddess~

Love, on this Odyssey of Love~

Perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in a little over 5 years of widowhood is this…
I don’t have to be anything different, feel anything different, aspire to anything different…before going and doing whatever it is that I feel I must do to live this life without Chuck.
I don’t have to have hope. I don’t even know what hope looks or feels like.
I don’t have to have faith. Seriously, I have no clue what faith is, especially as related to religion. Which I shed many years ago in any case, with no interest in returning to it.
I don’t have to have confidence. Mostly, since Chuck died, the road I’m on diverges and changes at any given moment. I’m living a life completely removed from the life he and I lived, even as we spent our last 4 years living full time on the road. I started out on my own not having a clue, and, though I believe I present a fully confident face to the world, each day is another day of figuring it all out. Even if I have some of the technical stuff figured out, about living in a trailer, the emotional components leave me, often, wandering in circles.
I don’t need to feel any of these to do what I’m doing.
Then what do I need? What does get me through each day and each night?
I get that question a LOT.
It’s quite simple, at least to me.
Love.
It is only Love that keeps me driving mile after mile, getting up each day, and wrapping me in its’ embrace each night.
Love.
I stop and think, sometimes, what this widow life would be like for me, if I’d settled into an apartment after Chuck’s death, and I’m fairly certain exactly what would have happened.
I would have closed the door, drawn the shades, and the only thing that might have possibly drawn me to the outside world would be the occasional need for groceries. I would have had to get a job, so I’d have forced myself outside for that, and then retreated as quickly as possible to the rooms behind the closed doors.
Isolation would have been public enemy number one. It is for many of us in the widowed world,  I expect.
Instead, I bought my little trailer and painted it pink and began my Odyssey of Love.
It began as a tribute to the Love that Chuck left behind for me. It was a tribute to our Love story.
I added his name, in decals, to the back of my rig, in my 3rd year of widowhood.
In my 4th year, I realized that this life of mine without him was bigger than me and Chuck…bigger than the Love story he and I shared. So I decided to ask around my widowed community for who might like me to add the names of their person to my rig, PinkMagic.
Very quickly upon that thought was…it’s about our Love for them, certainly…but I want to honor those of us left behind. So I added the names of my widow sisters and brothers too.
My thinking continued to expand…
This Odyssey of Love was, and is, about all the Love left behind, and it’s about honoring those left behind, but it’s also, quite simply, about Love and all the power that is carried in those 4 letters.
I was workamping at Opera in the Ozarks and many of the students there, and orchestra, were coming to me to read Oracle cards for them. We’d have deep and insightful conversations borne of the cards they drew, and I started inviting them to sign my rig with messages of Love. We’d get pictures of us together after they signed it.
They wrote lovely poems and true messages of Love, cheering me on my way. They’d even write messages of Love to my rig, PinkMagic, thanking her for carrying me on this Odyssey.
All of this energized me, and I put the word out to everyone who follows my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, to send names of those they love and I’d add those names. Send a message of Love you’d like me to write and I’ll write their names on PinkMagic. People started sending auto paint pens to me so that I could write and write and write on PinkMagic and the words and names would remain, no matter the weather.
My rig is covered in names and words of Love. Front, back, sides.
As I continue my Odyssey of Love, driving along the roads of this country…highways, 2 lane roads, back country roads…people passing me by will see those names, read those names, find my blog and know the power of Love.
My god, the fucking power of these names and words of Love….the sheer fucking power of Love.  iPiccy-collage
Every time I glance in my side view mirror, I see those names. I step outside my rig and I read those names and I feel all the Love that those names represent.
I don’t know what I’d do with my life if I wasn’t doing this. It’s the only thing that gives me any sense of purpose in this life without Chuck.
And what I found out, as I began this Odyssey of Love 5 years ago, is that the only thing I need to do this is believe in the power of the Love that Chuck left behind for me. I only knew it intellectually when I first began, and that was enough to get me going.
It took me almost 5 years to feel it in my heart, to feel the connection to him in my heart, but that’s okay.
I still struggle with feeling it, but that’s okay.
I don’t need to do any of this perfectly.
I just need to do it.
Because ain’t nobody going to do this life without him, for me.
It’s all that I trust in, in this widowed life.
Trusting in his left behind Love. Trusting in all the Love that I meet on the road. Connecting with as much Love as I can, every mile.
Trusting that Love will continue to carry me.

 

This Pink Anniversary~

Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devastated and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.
The name….
It’s to give you courage to return to the road on your own Anthony said.
Chuck’s Watchin’ Over Me was what he’d named the color.
God, did I cry.
And a few months later, I bought my tiny trailer. It’s a T@b Teardrop, and before taking it off the lot, I gave the guy my paint can with the formula on it and said anything that’s yellow, paint it pink! 16114600_1227243173997281_3474194353379356472_n
I was terrified to return to the road on my own. My heart was shattered into pieces and it felt as if a meat slicer was in my chest. Alternatively, it felt as if my heart had been seized from my chest and thrown on the ground and a sharp-edged ax was slicing at it haphazardly.
I’d never camped and I’d never towed anything.
I knew nothing about what I was about to do, and I was fucking riddled with anxiety. Waking up every morning was unbearable. How could I do this when I didn’t even want to live? When I felt numb and breathless with pain at one and the same time? When I couldn’t focus on maps and reservations and routes? When I didn’t know where campgrounds even existed and how to make reservations with them? How far would I drive each day? What if I broke down? What if I was attacked? What if I just couldn’t do it suddenly, and I stranded myself somewhere?
How could I possibly do any of it, when all I wanted was my husband?
Maybe it was fortunate that I didn’t have a home to return to. Maybe it was fortunate that I was too young (55) to live with my kids. Maybe I was fortunate that I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe it was fortunate that I was so filled with fear and anxiety that it opened my eyes to doing the impossible. Maybe it was fortunate that the fierce grief and exhaustion, even as it killed my energy, forced me on.
I learned as I did it. I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing or where I was going. So I learned to make myself vulnerable and ask for help from whoever happened to be standing near me.
I learned as I joined every fb group of campers and military people that I could find, so that I could reach out with my concerns and confusion.
I learned as I began writing my blog and posting daily on my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, knowing that all that I held inside my heart and soul was impossible to hold inside for long.
I learned as I began saying why not to any idea that came into my head, no matter how outlandish it might seem.
I learned as I began listening to my heart, trusting it to guide me much more than I trusted my brain.
I learned as I insisted, to myself, that the Love Chuck left behind for me must must must be fucking stronger than the grief, or I’d go over the edge completely.
I learned as I reached out to my widowed community and began visiting them around the country. I got so many hugs and each one took me another mile.
I did whatever I had to, reached out, pushed my boundaries and comfort zones and grew Love bigger.
I miss Chuck unbearably to this day, 5 years later. I always will. Life is less than without him. My heart and soul get so tired. My body gets tired, being out on the road constantly. When it gets to be too much, I find rest with family or friends.
What I learned, most importantly, I think, is that there ain’t nobody going to do this for me. This is it…my life. I had 24 years of Love from a man I adored, who adored me. And my world now, will never be the same. And that isn’t okay in any way. But this is what I have.
And by fucking god, I will, and I AM, living it in color, living it as much over the top as I can manage and I’m doing it in Chuck’s name and in the name of our Love story, and in the name of Love.
That’s it in a nutshell.
All the pink. It’s the color of my courage and determination and the Love Chuck left behind for me, and the Love that meets me on the road daily.
You don’t have to wait to feel better to do whatever it is you think you might want to do. You don’t have to wait til you’re not as sad as you are now. You don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval.
You just pack every damn bit of that stuff up in a suitcase and take it with you.
It’s in the doing that you learn. It’s in the doing that you gain some measure of confidence. And it’s in the doing that you find that dark bit of humor that lets you announce to the world that you really don’t have a grand flying fuck clue what you’re doing….
But you’re doing it anyways.
So, no, this anniversary isn’t about Chuck. But yes, it’s all about Chuck and the mission that he started me on, as his cancer filled body lay on that hospice bed and I told him that my plan was to continue traveling, as he and I had done, and he asked me to return to our favorite places and scatter his cremains but he only named 4 places because the other places would be up to me, and I’d have to keep my heart open in order to know them. And, in keeping my heart open, I know that he hoped I’d create a new life for myself.
My Odyssey of Love continues, beloved husband.
My knight, my lover, my hero, my light, my life…529438_552029828185289_1995679461_n

 

Missing Him on 40~

I’m on the road again.
I left Arizona, headed to Arkansas, a few days ago. Or maybe it was a week ago, now. I’m kind of tired after driving some long ass days.
Tune up on my car. New tires, brakes on my rig, PinkMagic, fixed.
Our daughter was road tripping to Arkansas with me, to see the opera camp where I work for the summer. It’s my second year back there, as the groundskeeper.
We were planning a fairly easy trip, stopping to visit family in Denver, taking our time.
Well, as they say…
The best laid plans of mice and men…
We were only 200 miles out when we heard a loud pop from the rear of my trailer, followed by smoke billowing out, and brake fluid trailing behind us.
Fortunately, I’d just pulled off the highway, so that we could drive the main drag of Winslow. You know….
Standin’ on the corner and all that.
Again, fortunately, I have roadside assistance and called them and they sent a tow out to us. He quickly diagnosed major problems and I followed his tow truck, very slowly and carefully, to his garage.
Where he removed the drums and discovered that all rubber parts had melted and all metal parts had turned to dust. They dissolved to the ground as soon as the drums came off.
Not good.
But better than what could have been, which was a fire from the massively overheated brakes, which could have easily burned my rig into nothingness, and taken the car too, I suppose, since it’s all so small.
Scary shit.
We ended up camping out at the garage for 3 days and 2 nights while they sent for parts and worked on the brakes.
High Chaparral Garage in Winslow, AZ; the best people EVER. They went above and far beyond what was necessary to keep us safe while there and take us back on the road.
Hooked us up to electricity so we could sleep comfortably. Put a large mat outside so we didn’t track grease inside PinkMagic.
Worked diligently on the brakes. We were right on the famed Rt 66, so people stopped in to say hi and take a tour of the inside of my rig.
Gave us great tips for exploring the area while we were stranded.
We’d go downtown to the corner and drink chai while watching the world go by.
Before leaving, even though it was late at night and we were all tired, the wonderful guys at High Chaparral tightened up the spare, power washed my car and trailer, signed the back of it with loving words, gave us hugs, told us to keep in touch…and away we went.
During our stay at the garage, I met 2 other widows who were 5 years out, as I am now. We spoke of the ravages of cancer and how it changes lives.
Because I was stationary, albeit unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone to a radio host with a program called Bringing Love to Life, about my Odyssey, and my marriage to Chuck.
Because we were stuck, so to speak, for the time we were, timing was set into place that brought us to a rest stop further on where we met a young couple, themselves stranded, trying to get to Montana to see the young man’s dad before his dad died of liver cancer. Remembering that desperate feeling, we were able to buy them a tank of gas, some groceries, and give some cash to help them on their way.
It’s the kind of thing that Chuck would have done, and all I asked in return was for them to remember the name Chuck D.
Our continued travels took us from Arizona to New Mexico to Texas to Oklahoma and then into Arkansas, and every mile along the way was filled with memories of my and Chuck’s travels, what seems so many years ago now.
How is it possible that it is 5 years since his death?
Next month I’ll have been on the road alone, as a widow, longer than he and I were, together.
That thought messes with my mind.
He is everywhere along Rt 40, through the middle of our country. He is at every roadside rest stop, at the picnic tables where we’d stop to eat lunch. He’s at the national monuments and parks, where we’d visit to learn local history. He’s in the wildflowers growing in the median strip and in the flat lands of west Texas with the huge sky overhead.
He is everywhere, in memory and in my heart.
I missed him for the entirety of 40.
I miss him on that road and every other road that I drive.
And I also know, more than ever, after the experience in Winslow, that his legacy is strong and vibrant and that our Love story is as strong as it ever was, and that I am doing just exactly perfectly heart wide open what it is that I am destined to do…
Live this Odyssey of Love. For him. For me. For all my widow brothers and sisters and their ones. Live it for all those I meet along the way, for all those whose path I cross or who cross my path.
Just, quite simply, live the Love that he left behind for me.
Fiercely. Strongly. Powerfully. Confidently.
Always.

Shattered Glass and Dust Motes~

This shattered glass strewn around my feet, under my feet,
Glass that was once my leaping joyous joyful heart,
Shattered as I shared a last breath with my beloved.
Turned into a meat slicer roosting in my chest,
Where my heart once beat in rhythm with his.
His. Now forever stilled.
And mine?
Still beating. Somehow, and mysteriously.
My heart that once beat with his, now shattered glass into glass dust strewn at my feet…
Tiny luminous particles of dust motes dancing in the air
Kicked up by my feet that still walk on this earth
Unbelievably but absolutely.
Uncertain yet determined feet that crunch loudly through the shattered glass powder under my feet,
Striding into this shattered glass dust life of his absence.
Glimmering glass dust motes swirling into the air…
Shimmery dust glass reflecting light back to me around me.
Shimmer and glimmer and beauty and pain and missing and Love…
Beating heart to shattered heart to glittering dust that, tenaciously and insistently,
Rises around me,
And illuminates my way~