Beginning my New Year~

My new year begins each April 21.

That’s the date of Chuck’s death.

It’s the only new year that carries any meaning for me.

What do I care about January 1? 

April 21 is the day my life incinerated and I was eviscerated.

So it stands to reason, at least in my mind, that this is the day where I look back, and, insofar as I’m able, look ahead.

I knew, to the depths of my heart and soul, and into my bones, that this April 21, just recently passed, is the year where all the energy of my Odyssey of Love, would expand and grow, and it’s already happening.

Since I began my Odyssey of Love, just weeks after Chuck’s death, I’ve been laying the foundation for…something.

I didn’t know what, and I still don’t know where this is all taking me.

I just know that it’s taking me somewhere big. 

Where big is, I don’t know, and I’m not concerned about where it is.

All I’ve known, since Chuck died, is that it is my responsibility to suit up and show up and let the day unfold. The outcome isn’t up to me.

And I’ve done that. Whether I felt like it or not.

I had to make meaning out of this fucking devastation, or go nuts.

And I realized, very early on, that there ain’t nobody going to do this for me. 

I could have gone to ground. Isolated myself. God, that would have been so easy to do. It’s what my instincts told me to do.

But how could I make meaning out of any of this if I disappeared?

How could I maybe somehow connect to Chuck again, if I disappeared?

So I painted my car and trailer pink and donned my pink clothes and set out to connect with people. Share my story. Listen to theirs. Write about our Love story. Write about my fears and doubts. Write what it’s like to navigate widowhood while towing a trailer around the country, navigating new roads and pushing beyond my comfort zones.

I made myself vulnerable, in spite of the grief and pain.

It wasn’t easily done. It isn’t easily done. I’m just doing it anyways.

And where has it brought me?

It has brought me to a place where, this coming fall, I’m meeting a woman who is a photographer/videographer, in Arizona, who, along with her partner, is teaming up with me to film a documentary about my Odyssey of Love.

Wait…what?

Yep. We will create a spectacular documentary about all of this that I’ve been doing for the last 6 years. Holy shit, right? I met the exactly right person recently who has the skill, the vision, the magic, to help me translate my story into an epic documentary that I’ll take on the road with me.

I’ve been wanting to do this for…well, forever.

And it’s going to happen.

And it will be fucking epic and you’re going to want to see it.

My rig, PinkMagic, covered with the names of loved ones from around the world, will have a starring role, of course.

I plan on hosting a premiere showing of it and inviting the world.

This is the first time I’ve been excited about anything since Chuck died. 

I’m holy shit excited about this.

The energy around my Odyssey of Love has shifted and is palpable.

It’s time, you know? 

Time for all of what I’ve been creating from the depths of my shattered heart to get out into the world in a bigger way.

It’s my way of reaching my hand back, and out, to anyone else trying to figure out the “now what?” of widowhood.

Maybe someone will see it and think well, she did it. So I can do something too.

In the name of Love. THE most powerful force in the Universe.

Here I am, Chuck. And look what I’m doing with what you left behind for me.

I’m making meaning out of the godawful missingness of you. 

I’m making what we had count for something.

And I’m doing it all…including breathing…in the name of LOVE~

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Numbers and Changes~

Chuck and I sold our home in NJ in May 2009 to go out on the road and travel our country together. 

No more rat race for us. 

Just time together.

We had just shy of 4 years on the road together.

He died April 21, 2013.

11:21 pm is when he took his last breath.

In so many ways, I did too.

Take my last breath, I mean.

My breathing hasn’t been the same since the hands of the clock ticked to 11:21 and froze.

At the end of May, this year, I’ll have been on the road alone for 6 years.

10 since I lived in a home with Chuck.

I’ve had more time on the road alone than he and I did together, in our Happily Homeless time.

Over the years I’ve frequently been grateful, in a very consuming way, that we didn’t have a home for me to return to after his death.

It would have been impossible to keep our home, financially and emotionally.

I know it would have been too painful for me to wander around the rooms and the beautiful yard, with all the memories.

And the very thought of having to sell all our stuff, appraise the house, sell it, all on my own, without him, sends me into panic mode.

So I’m glad I didn’t have to do that.

My dear friend/wid sister, Lorri, and I have had numerous conversations about how, after our person dies, we oftentimes end up living a life that is no longer ours. 

Sometimes we have to stay put because we have kids/family/responsibilities.

But sometimes, too, we stay where we are because we don’t know we can go somewhere else. Live somewhere else. Create a different life for ourselves.

And our old lives just don’t fit us any longer.

I’ve a few friends…Lorri is one of them…who have decided to explore a life living on the road, same as I’m doing.

A couple of them are widowed. One, a guy, is just tired of living life in the mainstream.

RVs, trailers, camper vans, conversion vans, tents, cars…there’s an entire subset of people living full time in various vehicles, working along the way.

I never want to own a house again. Ever.

I don’t want the responsibility and I don’t want to settle somewhere Chuck isn’t.

If he’s anywhere in this life of mine now, it’s out there in our memories of the road and I meet him unexpectedly at road side picnic tables, rushing rivers, and strangers along the way who approach me to hear my story wow look at all that pink!

This widowed life of mine, coming up on 6 years way too soon, is a life of contradictions, duality and, well, just surreal. 

How the ever loving fuck is he not here with me?

I just finished working my 2nd year at the Renaissance Faire, and, on the 22, one day after Chuck’s 6th anniversary, I’m heading east to Arkansas to work for my 3rd year at the opera camp, where I’m the groundskeeper.

I don’t know where I fit in this life without Chuck. Mostly I don’t think about it. I just live it.

What I do know is that when I sit inside my rig, PinkMagic, and gaze upon the pictures of he and I through our years, or read the notes he wrote to me, now covering the walls, I feel as close to home as I expect I’ll ever feel. 

In this world without Chuck, where nothing is enough, it’s enough for me.

It’s my cocoon, and wraps me in memory.

It’s my world~ 

Widowhood and…Grammar?

Yes, tildes are a thing. Unlike exclamation points, which everyone learns in grade school, you probably won’t recognize the term, though you might very well recognize the symbol itself.

Lest you think this is a blog about grammar, let me clarify my why of writing about grammar points.

Both of them have played a significant role in my life for the past 5 years and 9 months since Chuck’s death.

Godalmighty. How is it possible that it’s been so excruciatingly long since he died?

Anyways.

Exclamation points and tildes

I stopped using exclamation points in anything I wrote, after Chuck died.

In paragraphs. In sentences. In idle comments.

If I was doing amazing things. If others were doing amazing things. 

I never used exclamation points. Ever.

In this last year, I actually did use an exclamation point, maybe 4 times, I think.

And, yes, the lack thereof has been, is (because I still use them very sparingly) directly tied to this damn widowed life.

All levels of excitement, for myself or others, left me when Chuck died, and that lack of excitement carried over in my use of grammar.

You climbed Mt Everest? You’re pregnant? You’re getting married? You succeeded at something? You’re in love? Etc. Etc. Etc...as the King of Siam would say.

It isn’t that I didn’t appreciate any and all of this for you…whoever you are.

It was, and still is, mostly, that I don’t feel excitement about much of anything in life.

I appreciate exciting shit, but I don’t seem to get excited about it, in that I don’t feel excitement.

Maybe because it’s all temporary, whatever it is that excites people? Maybe because I’m numb?

I don’t know. 

Which brings me to the tilde.

I, myself, just learned the word, even though I’ve been using the symbol forever. Forever being these 5 years and 9 months since Chuck’s death.

This is a tilde…don’t blink or you’ll miss it! (that makes 5 times I’ve used an exclamation point this year).

~

That wavy little line.

I use a tilde at the end of every thought. Not every sentence, of course. 

But when I’m finishing a thought, after writing a blog, or a comment, a tilde is totally useful.

Why do I use a tilde, you might well ask, instead of a period, like normal folks do?

Quite simply, I use it instead of a period because my thoughts and ideas and beliefs are continually changing, depending on the circumstances, and the use of a period seems so very definite and final to me. 

As if I’m saying well, here’s what I think and that’s that. Period.

Somewhere deep in my soul, a tilde resonates into my thoughts that life is so completely impermanent and changes on a dime at any given moment, and any plans I make can shift and change, and what I think I know in one moment may not be true in the next (because I learn something new), or a bomb might explode, or a shooting happen, or I might get in a car accident, or, I don’t know, yet another loved one in my life might be killed off by cancer, pushing my entire world into a tilt position, where every known thing slides off into oblivion.

Nothing is permanent. Everything is changeable, at any given moment. Thoughts, emotions, knowledge, life…might all be one thing at one moment, and vastly different 5 seconds from now.

Periods just have no place in my life.

Tildes, though…that wavy little line at the end of a sentence, signifying approximation, or a trailing off, with uncertainty behind it…yep. I relate to that.

I may or may not use more exclamation points this year. I’ve tried to generate a bit more enthusiasm towards people’s exciting experiences. Go me, right?

The tilde, though, my favorite grammar symbol, will always be a part of who I am.

I don’t necessarily view my use of the tilde negatively, however.

Maybe it’s so significant in my writings because it leaves the door open to…possibilities.

Which is what I’m all about, as I travel this Odyssey of Love, keeping my heart as open as I can possibly keep it. To new experiences, new friends, new places.

While a period, in my mind, conveys a closing of doors, and options. 

A period closes a sentence, and a thought. Done. Finito. 

And this life of mine, apparently, is not done. Even as my heart has shattered.

Somehow, I’m still here. And I’m living this life boldly, in as many shades of pink as I possibly can, every damn day.

Nothing is finished. 

Say yes to tildes. Possibly yes to exclamation points.

No to closing a sentence with a period.

How’s that for deep, true blue, self-analysis?!!

Let’s not go overboard on those exclamation points~

The Shame. On THEM~

In a disheartening post, a couple of years ago, I read about a widow sister who had received a nasty email from friends. Friends of her husband who became her friends also. She thought they were still friends after his death but their email made clear to her that they want nothing to do with her. She thrived on the drama of widowhood, they said, because of the attention it brought to her.
Early on in my widowhood someone I didn’t know but whom I suspect was somehow connected to Chuck’s ex, accused me, upon learning of my intent to write a book about our love story, upon learning that it was my goal to some day present a program about our hospice time, about our time together, that person felt the need to email me and accuse me of profiting off of my marriage to him. She reminded me, in an accusing manner, that he’d had a first wife and child, you know! And various other things that were equally idiotic and had nothing to do with anything. (maybe she meant that his ex was actually his widow? God, who knows? People are fucked up weird).
A woman I considered a friend, a woman I’d counseled in past years after her mom’s death and through an abusive relationship, messaged me and said you’re not the only one who ever lost anyone, you know. You just need to paste a smile on your face and fake it. This was a mere 2 months after my entire world incinerated, mind you. Also…you mean others have gone through this? Well, who the ever loving fuck EVER would have thought that?!
I let go willingly and happily of a 45-year friendship that was not a friendship at all, apparently, upon realizing that this so-called friend was blind as to who I am as a person, who attacked Chuck with ugly words and accusations, and was much more interested in the impact my widowhood had on her life than she was in how it impacted my life.
None of us are new to such ignorant people and the ugly words that spew forth from their ugly souls. Many, if not most, of us, have heard such drivel and it’s impossible to comprehend the reason why people feel compelled to use words as knives and drive them into our hearts and souls.
The drama of widowhood. Seeking attention. Endlessly talking gasp! about our husbands and the life we lived with them and how much we miss that life, how much we miss them, how difficult it is to find our footing again.
How dare we not be who we were before? Or, if we can’t be that same person, please just fade away into the darkness, thank you very much.
Get on with life, move along, move on, be happy, it’s a choice to be sad, do this, don’t do this, do that, don’t do that…what don’t we hear?
5 years and 9 months into this fucking widowhood, I’ve long let go of the dare I call them assholes who clearly have no clue at all about the impact of widowhood. No clue as to what the greatest loss is for us, never mind the mind-blowing secondary losses that pop up constantly like a bad whack-a-mole game. None of which make me want sympathy, mind you. A little empathy does, however, go a long way. Barring that, being left alone also does the trick. As in, back the fuck off if you’re not strong enough to stand with me.
We, as widows, need a very thick skin to navigate our new world. We need to learn to walk that fine line of keeping our hearts open while establishing healthy emotional boundaries. We learn new skills out of necessity, we push our comfort zones, we parent solo, we talk about our person because we know it is crucial, going through this loss, we weep, we laugh, we dance, we hide under the covers, we do shit we never imagined doing and we do it all with grief as an all too familiar companion while also often struggling financially, losing our homes, finding new jobs, etc.
Really, you know what I say to those who so easily criticize, to those who are quick with their accusations of drama and attention seeking?
How dare YOU? And also….fuck off. With Love, of course.

Scary. Because, you Know…Widowed~

Widows scare people, I think.
Even if they (we) are ordinary in appearance.
No warts on our long noses.
No narrow, scraggly, fingers with sharp nails (for poking).
Oh, wait.
I’m describing witches.
We do (sometimes) wear black though. Like witches in the storybooks do.
And I do believe that we frighten people.
Family people and strangers people.
Because we’re (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) dark, you know.
We carry death with us.
Some of us are even (gasp!) sad.
And we talk about dead people! Our husbands and wives. Who are DEAD!
Which makes people uncomfortable.
I think, too, that we frighten people, family and strangers, because they think we might need something from them.
Maybe money.
Or we might want to live with them, so that we have a sense of connection at a time when the loneliness is overwhelming.
Maybe we can’t afford to live on our own. Because, you know, money. And because it’s too freaking expensive to live in a decent place on one salary.
It’s like we’re teenagers again, going out into the world for the first time. Living in a crappy place in a crappy, unsafe, neighborhood. A crappy, undependable car and a job we keep only to pay the bills.
We’re dating again, some of us.
Having to play that game again. Yuck!
It’s adult teenagerhood.
We scare people. Nothing can convince me otherwise, 5 years and 8 months in. I read the stories. I talk to other widows. I see the reactions in my own life.
Even though we go out of our way to live independently and are ardent in our efforts to show how un-needy we are, how intent on not burdening anyone…
They get nervous.
There isn’t a place for widows in our culture. In most cultures. Our culture shuns in a more civilized manner than many, possibly, but the shunning is still there.
Get over it. Get on with it. Stop talking about death. Don’t bring your darkness around me. Fake it, for my sake. Be who I want you to be, not who you are. Do this the way I think is best for you, not the way you know is best for you.
We stand our ground as best we can, while fighting to hold off negative energy rays coming from such people.
No wonder we’re so tired.
Sometimes we cut those particular people out of our lives entirely, because we have to.
Widows.
Scary people, right?
Especially the ones decked out in pink~

To My Beloved Husband~

To my beloved husband, Chuck D, as we approach the 5th anniversary of your memorial service, which we held 6 months out from your death…
I know I did everything as perfectly as I could in those few short weeks between finding the cancer, our hospice time, and your death.
I know this more than I know anything else in my life.
And yet…
Doubt lingers in the corners of my mind and pops out in my most vulnerable moments, such as now. Such as everyday of living without you.
Just one doubt.
Was I at your side enough in our hospice time? Should I have moved into that hospice room with you and not moved until I had to? Did I err in going, every so often, back to our rented condo, to sleep…even though I never slept when I was there. Shadows of your impending death were ever on my mind. I knew I was a widow in waiting, no matter where I was. I didn’t need to hear a clock ticking away the time: my heart was more of a reminder than any clock.
I didn’t stay with you every night, and that thought has more power over me than I want it to.
There were many nights that I did, and I was there every day, but I wasn’t there every minute, even though I wanted to be. What I wanted was to lay down beside you and never move. Hold onto you for every breath. Breathe with you and for you. Take your place in that bed, with cancer attacking my body relentlessly.
I wanted to do all of that.
But I know you worried for me. I know that you watched me as I moved about your room. That you spoke to others of your concern for me. That you loved me beyond anyone else and you would want me to take care of myself, even as I cared for you.
So I preempted the conversation you might have with me, and took it upon myself to kiss you good night and return to our rented condo, having ensured that one of the kids was with you overnight. They would care for you as lovingly as I could and I entrusted your care to them so that you wouldn’t worry about me.
I was told after you died that you would ask where I was at times, and I wonder. Did you feel that I abandoned you on those nights? Or for the few hours I’d take to grab food with one of the kids? These thoughts aren’t logical, I know, especially as I consider the source from which the words came…but I wonder anyways.
I wanted to curl up beside you. I wanted to be so close to you that I became you and our bodies would be one body and even though that meant I would feel your pain, you…you would feel more strongly than ever, the depth of Love I had for you, and that would be so much more powerful that the pain of the cancer would be meaningless. I wanted to clutch your hand in my two hands and squeeze hard and hold on…but I knew I had to tell you that I would be okay and that you could go whenever your body and mind had done this enough. I wanted to look into your eyes and stare into forever…not the forever of death but the forever of a passionate Love. I wanted to turn back time and live our together life again and again, an endless round of Groundhog’s Day…so that our life together would never end. I wanted my fingers to trace the bone of your brow that I’d stroked so often over so many years, run my hand gently through the hair on your arm…while you still breathed. I wanted to breathe deeply of the breath we both shared and make it last forever…not watch as you suffocated and took a sharp inbreath and…nothing.
Instead, because I knew you would want me to take care of myself in whatever way I could, I would kiss you softly and tell you I’d see you in the morning and return to that condo and lie down on that bed that was never ours…and stare into the darkness. Waiting, waiting, waiting, until I could rise and shower and drive back over to your hospice and kiss you good morning and begin a day of living in the moment and offering Love in all the ways that I could while I shattered again and again, watching you disappear from me.   532901_10152250938645400_1112002834_n
I know you would forgive me, my beloved D. I don’t know that I can forgive myself. I know what you would say and how you would say it and how you would hug me and love me even more, for having cared for myself to whatever degree I was able to.
This one doubt crowds my heart sometimes, and mixes in with the godawful missingness of you.
As we who love you approach the 6-year mark of the day of your memorial service, all that my heart will permit me to say to you is this…
I miss you. I love you. I crave your touch. If I could only gaze into your eyes gazing into mine. If I could tuck my hand into yours and feel our fingers intertwine. If I could feel the strength of your arms enclosing me. My life is so different from what it was, with you. I’m so different, in ways that make me feel like an alien to my own self. IMG_4895
God, if I could just sink into your welcoming embrace and hear your heartbeat in my ear. Wrap my arms around your waist. Sink into all that you were, with all that I am, and breathe in, again, the peace that was…us.

This Never Ending Story~

Is loneliness the never-ending story of widowhood?
Does it end if we find another chance at Love?
Does the loneliness exist, even then,
Because the loneliness is specific to that person, your person, who died?
Is there ever a moment again
When a widow’s heart feels that lightness of being,
Once felt?
Or is the heaviness, the ache, the sadness of that particular loneliness
A lifetime sentence in the so called new normal?
Because, no matter what I do, where I go, how I push, how I involve myself in life, in relationships with family and friends, no matter how much I join in, engage, power on,
That loneliness doesn’t leave my heart, my soul, or my body.
Counseling and therapy for anxiety and trauma…EMDR, bi-lateral brain stimulation, talk, tapping, retreats, meditation, new environments, connections with others…I’ve done it all, and I continue doing it all…
And…that loneliness that only intensifies as the years pass by.
973 days. 21 hours. 34 seconds. Since Chuck died.
I’m very definitely not the poster widow for getting “over” the grief.
It isn’t the chest slicing grief of the first 3 years, so I guess that’s good, right?
It’s more a sort of numbness, even though I feel so much, which is contradictory, I realize.
I long for him more as the years go by.
My body craves his presence next to me.
It all feels so fucking relentless.
This feeling. And, honestly…life.
I’m doing all the shit and creating beauty around me.
And that default heaviness of my heart and soul is ever present.
Is this the rest of my life, I wonder?
And how can it not be, really?
He’ll always be dead
And missing from me and I’ll always long for him,
Because he isn’t here.
Nor will he ever be here again.
His deadness is relentless.
I want to wake up from this,
And I know I never will.
Will I ever feel the lightness of being again that I felt for 24 years?
Questions and more questions.
And
Dead
Dead
Dead.