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~ 

Advertisements

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~

This Hall of Memories~

You and I, my Love,

We…

Are echoes in the halls of memories.

In lands far away and beyond the clouds

so beautifully and achingly tinged with vibrant colors,

I search for you.

Green tinged mountains with trees so tall they reach up into and beyond those clouds,

Valleys of rock that jut sharply into one another and, if I squint my eyes, become castles of ancient times,

Rivers that wind and rush into oceans,

Names and places and adventures and shared history

That are carried now only by me, in my hall of memories.

Carried with me, deeply embedded into my heart and soul.

Carried, not without sadness, but carried, too, with all that is the Love we had together.

I am the courier of us.

The emissary of our Love story.

The herald of who we were

In our time.

Who you were, who I was, who we were…

What we did, what we shared, how we lived together, the secret language of us,

Carried in me, in the halls of memories.

Forever, my Love and my beloved.

Never forgotten. Always remembered.

You and I,

Who we were,

In the clouds, the mountains, the rivers and valleys,

The very air I breathe, and the pulsebeat of my heart,

The aching of my soul,

This sacred hall of memories~

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.

Accepting the Ampersand~

Widowhood
Submerged me into the tsunami
Of death.
Of grief.
Of a world no longer recognizable.
The world I knew…
Of Love, of security, of confidence…
Of being wrapped in strong arms
Cherished and nourished…
Annihilated.
Devasted.
A wreckage of what was.
Wandering, and wondering. Confused and disoriented. Anxiety ridden and inconsolable.
Grief shamed by good intentions gone wrong.
Don’t you want to be happy? Why are you so attached to that word…widow? You must choose joy. Make a decision.
It’s a light switch, you know.
But nobody can judge us more harshly than we judge ourselves.
So I strove to be somewhere I wasn’t. In a future my heart couldn’t imagine.
Be better. Be different. Be somewhere you aren’t. Get your shit together. Be stronger than grief. Do better.
Using energy I didn’t have to be something I couldn’t be but felt I had to be.
And then…
I discovered the ampersand.
You know the ampersand.
It’s this…
&.
The symbol for “and”.
At which point I realized
That I could be this AND that.
I could be disoriented and confused
&
I could be sure and confident.
I could be anxious and inconsolable
&
I could be strong and, yes, luminescent.
I could be uncertain
&
I could be powerful.
I could be, and am, a widow
&
A Fucking Warrior Goddess.
I am both sides of the coin of life.
This & that.
The one drives the other.
Grief drives the Love.
Widowhood drives the Warrior Goddess.
This, for me, is true alignment.
Recognizing these two parts of me.
And, having recognized
Realized
Accepted
The ampersand…
I have found a strange sort of peace~

A Roar of Defiance~

Along about the second year, definitely going into the third and then the fourth…I just wanted to scream at people.
Not in anger, but in shredded grief and pain…
Why can’t you just let me be sad? Why does it feel like I must defend myself against you? Why does it then feel like I have to defend my grief even to myself? Why does it feel like I can’t just feel what I feel, be whatever I am? Why must I expend all this energy defending my right to feel all that this is? Why is it not okay with you that I can’t find my feet and I’m feeling so disoriented that my stomach continually wants to heave its’ contents? Why are you trying to make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?
Why can’t you just let me be fucking sad?
These are a mere sampling of the piercing reactions that took up so much space in my heart and soul and mind in the first years of grief, in reaction to all the well meaning mostly discussions that people would have with me. To me, really, because they weren’t seeking discussion with me as much as they were telling me where they thought I should be with this, or how they thought I should be with this.
Grief, I mean.
How I was grieving vs how they thought I should be grieving.
They didn’t realize this is what they were doing, of course. At least, I hope they didn’t realize this is what they were doing.
Whether that was their intention or not, shaming is how I heard every word.
And every word from them shattered me more, because I, and we, already judge ourselves so much, when we grieve.
Am I grieving too much? Too little? Am I “okay” too soon? Not “okay” soon enough? What if I break down in public? I’m so exhausted…should I go out or not? They expect me…does that matter? Can I just get in bed and pull the covers over me and not go out for a year? Is that okay or not? Does that mean I’m depressed? Am I depressed? Should I go on medication? I don’t want to go but I’m going to go so that I can show everyone that I’m “okay” even though I’m not okay by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t want them to worry so I’ll go. If I talk about him, how much is too much? How much is not enough and then they wonder if I’m forgotten him? I need to get back to work for distraction/money/I’ll lose my job but I’m so exhausted. I can’t function but I have to. Hold the tears back. Okay, now cry. Breathe hard…
All these questions, and ten million more, are questions and doubts that we hold already in our hearts, when we grieve. And then well-meaning people voice them to us and this widow thing becomes more impossible, more unbearable, than it already is.
I knew I didn’t have to defend my grief, or my right to grieve, of course, even though it felt like I did. My grief would not be denied; it streaked through my DNA and took up residence and I wrote about it and made my writings public so that grief wouldn’t kill me. Which was, and always is, a risk, but it was one I had to take, or vaporize into a mist of non-existence.
Here’s the thing. It is normal to grieve. It is normal to grieve hard. With tears, with tearing of hair, with a closet full of black or a closet full of color as we scream our rage and defiance to the skies. It is normal that exhaustion set in that we think results from the strength of our emotions but is really a more holistic exhaustion that comes from, well, all that is grief. It is fucking normal to react however you react according to your situation, your history, your relationship, your background…your everything. It is NORMAL.
It was somewhere in my fourth year that true acceptance set in with me. Not acceptance of the death, which is what we’re told acceptance is all about. Acceptance, for me, wasn’t about the death. It was about my right to grieve in whatever fucking way I needed to grieve, for as long or as short as I needed to grieve. When people, possibly in true ignorant fashion, seek to instruct me, now, on proper grieving, I say to them thank you for your opinion, and continue on my way.
The ever popular anger stage of grief…which isn’t actually a stage of grief at all, but a step in the process, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, for those who are DYING, having nothing to do with the grief of those left behind so for god fucking sake, people, can we get rid of that..is, I think, anger at those who shame us as we grieve. Yadda, yadda, yadda, give them that they love us, want us to be okay, want us to be, ultimately, who we were before, so that they can feel comfortable with us again.
To which I say….bless you! in the same manner that Whoopi Goldberg, as the nun in Sister Act, said bless you to the guy who was going to blow her head off at the end of the movie, and she wanted to curse at him but the Mother Superior was standing right there and being a fake nun and all, instead of fuck you she said bless you!
I was angry a few times but did my best to respond diplomatically to those who were outright cruel in their words, as I grieved. Diplomatically because I’m not one to be cruel in return, and because, initially, I was in such shock, and it’s only as I look back that I see the intensity of my shock, that I didn’t fully realize then. Diplomatically because I’m not a cruel person.
But what I wanted to say to the family member, who was very close to Chuck is…how dare you bring your bullshit to this sacred space we have created for him? How dare you bring your darkness to this man who is leaving all that he loves behind him? How dare you try to sully his memory with the ugliness that you hold in your heart? Keep that to yourself; there is no place for it here. Ever. Take your doubts and your guilt elsewhere. Not here. Never here. And…bless you!
And to my friend who was loved by Chuck, but who decided, 3 years in, to take confidences that I’d shared with her about the family member and make them her own and cast her own darkness into them and onto them and throw them at me…the friend who told me that I needed to settle down and get a job instead of gallivanting around the country, dragging my husband’s name through the mud…you clearly never knew me, and you most certainly didn’t know Chuck, and, quite simply, you betrayed him because of the darkness you carry in your own heart and in your life and that’s not on me or him, so…bless you!
At 5 years in of this widowhood, I don’t know what I’m doing, mostly, but I’m totally confident about doing it anyways, whatever this is. I don’t give a grand flying fuck about other’s opinions about me or how I’m doing this. I focus on Love every damn day so that I don’t lose my fucking mind because, guess what, folks? In spite of the grief shame you sought to cast upon me, I’m still grieving! You didn’t make things better for me…surprise! I miss Chuck so damn much it takes my breath away…yes, even 5 years later! My nights are unbearably lonely and I reach for his flag that I was given and I trace the stars on it and I clutch it close to my body, with the same passion that I used to draw him close to me. My heart hurts and it aches and I feel numb and I feel disconnected in every way…so I get up every damn day and I wear something pink and I go out and I find the Love.
I find the Love, wherever and however I can. And I miss him and my vision literally blurs with tears that I must live without him but the tears don’t keep me from seeking out Love…wherever I can find it.
You know what I do with my grief, all you grief shamers out there?
I fucking find the Love~