I’m not averse to opening my heart to Love again. Indeed, I know well how to love and be loved, by and with a man who honors, respects, and loves me more than his own life. I know what it … Continue reading
How I’ve survived/lived since Chuck’s death on April 21, 2013…
And, yes, I do keep track of how long it’s been. In days and moments and months and years.
Yes, every moment of this life is defined by his death because the only reason I’m living this life as I am is because he died.
Yes, every moment of this life of mine is defined, equally, by the enormous quantity of Love that he left behind for me.
I strive, each day, to sift all that is this grief, which is much more than sadness, through the filter of Love.
In the beginning time of widowhood, by which I mean the first 5 years, this wasn’t possible for me to do. I knew the Love we’d shared was there, but it didn’t matter, because he was dead and it wasn’t enough.
It still isn’t enough, but I take all that is unbearable and impossible and sift it into that Love that he left behind for me.
The only thing I know to be true in this life without Chuck is that, if it is at all possible, he left all that Love behind for me when he died.
We were in a rental in southern CA. I had no physical home to return to; Chuck was my home, as I was his.
We’d spent our last 4 years together living full time on the road, staying at inexpensive hotels and at military base lodgings.
The idea of settling down without him, anywhere, freaked me out in the extreme. I didn’t want to be where he wasn’t. Maybe I’d find a connection to and with him out on the road somewhere, was my thinking.
I bought a trailer to go with the new car I’d bought with his life insurance money. No, I didn’t feel guilty or sad about that. I used the money exactly what it was intended for; creating a life for myself after his death.
Before he died, having told him that my plan was to continue traveling, I told him, too, that I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the open road. I’ll forever remember the small smile on his lips as he looked right into my eyes and responded I’ll be looking for you.
I was terrified to set out on my own. Grief is isolating. I knew nobody out on the road. If I did as I’d promised him…paint my car and trailer pink…that would draw people to me and keep me from isolating myself.
If I started writing about navigating widowhood and the open road, in the midst of devastation, if I posted something everyday on our Happily Homeless fb page, then maybe, if I didn’t post on a particular day, someone would notice and reach out to me, asking if I was okay.
All I wanted to do was drive into the desert and disappear. It took everything in me not to do that. On some days, especially now in the midst of the trauma and chaos of our world, I still fight that urge.
My wardrobe, already pink in most ways, became almost entirely pink. Chuck said to me, in his last week don’t mourn for me in black. It isn’t your color. Wear pink.
I wear something pink everyday since he died. My goal is to wear pink everyday, ultimately. And I’m proud to say that I’ve gained a rep as that lady in pink.
I haven’t allowed myself to disappear, no matter what.
As I drove around the country, I discovered workamping as a method to support myself, and I worked at an opera camp where I drove a tractor and learned the New Orleans strut from our sous chef, and a renaissance faire, where I learned about theater and spoke to a Prince and my personality began to shine again.
My voice strengthened as I projected it, as my job required to interact with thousands of guests each day. I started repurposing clothing, even though I don’t sew. A bit of trim here, an old button there, taken from an old piece of clothing, and added to another piece of clothing. I grew comfortable wearing what most people consider costuming, especially while out on the road.
A beautiful pink top hat that I decorated with feathers and trim. A bright yellow bodice made for my faire days, but worn as a top over a bright pink blouse. Lace leggings with a jangly scarf tied around my hips. Knee high boots with sparkly necklaces wrapped around the instep.
It doesn’t bother me in the least that people stare at me. And they do. Honestly, I assume they’re staring in admiration, wishing they had half the nerve to dress how they please, but don’t dare, for fear of judgement.
Also, people staring at me is a bit of the point.
Too often, widows hide themselves from the world, for too many reasons.
Too often, the words we wish to speak choke us before leaving our throats.
Our words, our hearts, freeze in place, because we fear that judgement from others.
And yes, that judgement is there. For me, too.
Here’s the trick to that.
Don’t give a fuck. Not with anger, but with Love for self and survival.
The knee high boots I wear, draped with jewelry, are perfectly capable of kicking in doors, figuratively speaking. Kicking in and kicking down the doors of judgement and silence as our culture shuts down the unpleasantness of grief that we represent.
The pink clothes I wear are the armor that I don every morning. I refuse to fade into the shadows. The sparkle and glitter I wear ensure that light casts itself on what is real. Shadows and light. I wear armor because I know…have known…since I learned, one month before Chuck died, that I would soon be a widow, that I was in for the fight of my life and it would, and does, require every ounce of strength and courage that resides in my bones. I am a warrior.
I promised Chuck before he died that I’d spend the rest of my life ensuring that every person I met would know his name and who he was, not only to me but to the world at large. I’d get out there and kick ass and take names.
All in the name of Love.
My pink car and my pink trailer, with the color named in Chuck’s honor. It’s my chariot.
My chariot, not only painted pink but covered in hundreds of names and Love notes from chance met people on the road, takes me where I need to go on this Odyssey of Love. It is covered with Love. A traveling tribute to Love.
My two selves battle each other every morning when I swing my feet to the floor. One self doesn’t want to live this life without Chuck.
The other self hopes that I have enough time left on this earth to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, with my Odyssey of Love. This self wins out every day, if only begrudgingly.
I know who I am, even as I create myself. I know my why, even though I have no end game. I’m completely comfortable living with one foot in the past, with Chuck, and living this life as a fucking warrior goddess. I preferred that life, but this is the life I have and I will, by god, make it as grand and passionate as the life I lived with Chuck. And, since this life pales in comparison, in my mind, I’m also completely comfortable with the fantasy life I live in my head. A life that is filled with romance and Highland warriors and passion and intimacy and, well, all that I had with a man named Chuck D.
I know I was loved more than any woman was ever loved, by a man who touched my life deeply.
I know that I’m a fucking warrior goddess, and I have much to do in order to complete the mission that Chuck set me on in that last conversation before he sank into oblivion and took his last breath.
And though I am, of course, vulnerable as a human, I am fucking invincible in spirit.
And that, my dears, is how I survived, and how I live.
I am armored in Love.
Curious people along the way have admired my rig and said oh, it’s like a Barbie house!
I’ve hidden my disdain well, but I very pointedly respond that no, this is most definitely not Barbie pink.
It’s FUCKING WARRIOR GODDESS PINK, and it’s my color only, not some pale ass Barbie color.
Said, of course, with all the Love in the world, because I have no room for any other emotion.
Don’t mess with this pink.
Don’t mess with this FWG.
Ultimately, I will draw you into the weave of all this Love, and you will feel strengthened and braver than you ever thought you’d feel, and I’ll tell you about Chuck and we’ll speak of Love and how it is the most powerful force in the Universe, which is how we live on, no matter what.
I promise this to you.
As I promised it to Chuck.
All because of Love~
My fingers glance gently over the clocks in the hall,
Measuring time that carries no meaning.
My slippered feet wander past rooms of memory.
That are so far in the past, yet ever present but indistinct.
Are my memories real? Are they true?
Or an imagined figment of an imagination grasping at what once was and is no longer?
The doors of these rooms along that long hallway are open,
But I can’t pass into them…
So I simply pause at each one, allowing my eyes to study each piece of furniture, each window hanging, each picture on the wall.
That bed with its’ brilliant white coverlet, scarlet pillows fluffed…
Where our passion came alive and where we found blissful sleep,
Your arm curved over my hip as we nestled together.
The framed pictures of we two,
Holding hands, smiling at each other, kissing, feeling loved.
The billowy curtains framing our backyard where we sat in the swing, admiring our colorful gardens and sweetly scented grass…
Our kids’ bedrooms, posters on walls, dirty clothes in a pile on the floor, mixed with clean clothes, no matter how often we admonished them.
A living room colored in pops of green and raspberry and cream…soothing to our souls as we’d sit together in the evening,
Me with a book and you on the computer.
A dining room that saw so many meals on so many evenings, over so many years, sharing our days, sharing our philosophies, telling stories of exploits and hard won wisdom with the kids.
I drift past those doors in my mind,
In my heart,
Hearing the muted tones of bygone days,
And I wonder how life feels so full, and then so empty, and both full and empty at the same time…
Memories of yesterday and a life today, though it is without you.
I’m here and yet, in so many ways, not here at all,
No matter the efforts I make each day, each moment, each month and each year.
And I think that maybe, it’s okay to be here, and there, too,
As I wander those halls of memories,
My fingers gently trailing over the clocks,
I thought of you last night,
One night among the thousands of nights that have passed since your hand last grasped mine,
As we lay next to each other in the dark.
I thought of your breath,
Of your arms braced,
As you raised yourself above me,
The passion in your eyes
A mere reflection of mine.
My dearest, my beloved, my knight, my hero, my lover, my husband,
I thought of you last night,
As I turned my body to face where you would be,
In another lifetime and if life were fair.
I turned to face you,
And my eyes lit not upon you,
But on a rectangular box covered in pictures of you when you were here,
and a triangle shape of red and white stripes and white stars.
My hand reached out to caress what is left of your physical form,
Fingers curled around those stripes and stars,
And I remembered your strong body raised over mine…
Your eyes…your breath…
Passion, and Love…
So much Love…
Written on the eve of what the world celebrates as New Year’s.
But since Time has ceased to hold any meaning for me since Chuck’s death, I’ve taken it upon myself to designate my New Year as beginning on April 21; the anniversary of Chuck’s death.
That’s the time when I reflect on whatever needs reflecting upon. It’s when I do a self-check, and it’s a time that is meaningful to me. I realize, more and more, that Time is merely a social construct. It’s necessary, in our culture, to keep our worlds moving, I suppose, but for those of us left behind, it’s a mish mash of how can it be so long? and oh my god it’s been forever! There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of in between.
Recently I also made the decision to stop counting the years since Chuck’s death. Not because it doesn’t matter; it very much does. But my heart can’t manage the reality of all the years yet to come. I started sorting it all out and it will soon be 7 years and…nope. Not doing 7 years. In my mind, and what I will forever tell people henceforth, it has been 6.5 years. Period.
Additionally, since I’m stopping counting the years since his death, I will no longer age. I’m 61 now, and that’s the age I’ll stay. I’m already one year older than Chuck was when he died. Enough already.
Yes, yes, of course there are those who might say, behind their hands, that I’ve gone nuts. Crackers. Over the edge. Look at the crazy widow! they’ll whisper.
Behold the field of fucks I don’t give.
I stopped caring about other’s opinions of me a looooong time ago. In fact, the first thing I’d tell anyone new to the grieving community is to install a hinge on their elbow so that it automatically shoots up when someone offers an opinion/comment/suggestion about the right way to grieve, and your fingers automatically flip them a bird.
You can, of course, in order to appease such people, stare at your elbow/hand in shocked surprise that this happened. Act horrified if you wish. You’ve made your point with them.
In some ways I relish the prospect of being known as the crazy widow lady. Kind of a cool rep, in my mind.
I may very well create a reputation as that crazy widow lady dressed all in pink and what’s that all about? they’ll ask, not really certain if they want to know the answer.
That’s okay, too.
I’m going to just be over here, driving my pink car, towing my pink trailer with the names of all these loved ones on it, shooting sparkle and glitter at everyone. Giving hugs. Getting hugs.
The crazy widow lady in pink.
I’m continually searching for new and fascinating podcasts to listen to as I drive my Odyssey of Love. Podcasts by people who think outside the box. Live outside expectations. See beyond what we’ve generally been taught, whether intentionally or culturally.
This perception in thinking isn’t new to me; I was raised to read and question and educate myself.
When Chuck and I started our traveling days together, we let go, willingly, of our material possessions. A huge bit of it was donated to friends. What we kept, we’d go through each time we visited our storage unit.
And what I found was that, as our pile of possessions grew smaller and smaller, I began looking inside of myself.
Why did I believe what I did? Where did my absolutes come from? And were they serving me in my adult life?
A few years after Chuck’s death, I gave away everything left in our storage unit.
Everything I own is in my car and in my trailer.
And, as I did when he was alive, I’ve gone inward to see what’s there and what does/doesn’t serve me any longer.
How can I further expand my heart and soul and mind?
For me, it’s a matter of survival.
I find it difficult to live in the world that was, and no longer is.
Through idle searching, I found a podcast, and episode, of Krista Tippett, with Richard Rohr. He’s a Franciscan monk (I think that’s the proper term). Well educated, as they all are (or used to be). He’s older, more in my age group, with a nod to all of those who recognize the term post Vatican 2.
Part of the conversation was given to the meaning of Time, which is when I learned something I didn’t know about. Not language wise, in any case. I’ve experienced it but didn’t know that the Greeks named it centuries ago (Go, Greeks)!
We mostly experience it and define it in Chronos. Which is time by the clock. By the seasons. Predictable time.
But there is another term for time that the Greeks recognized and tried to define, insasmuch as they could, what with being human and all. Knowing that there was something bigger than our experience of time.
Time again. But time expanded. Deep time. The moments of Chronos time. The moments of recognition. Contemplative time. Those infinitesimal seconds and beats of your heart.
This is how I live.
I haven’t yet figured out how practical it is, because our world demands Chronos. It almost feels defiant to live inside of Kairos.
Except that it pretty much comes easily to me. Chronos turns the world but my world, and my experience of time, changed drastically when Chuck died.
Richard Rohr spoke with Krista Tippet and I’m very loosely translating this to my perception about the before time that consists of so much order. As in, doing the shit we learned to do. The life trajectory that so many of us absorb
Grow up (albeit in a dysfunctional household), graduate/college/graduate/marry/kids/job/2 cars/picket fence etc.
Chuck and I never bought into that lifestyle, though we lived it outwardly as we raised our kids.
We most definitely bucked it when we sold everything and chose to live on the road.
In many eyes, I went over the top, or possibly, over the edge, when I chose to live on the road alone, after he died.
But everything about life changed when he died. Time ceased to have any meaning for me, even as every moment was experienced in pain and grief and dislocation and disruption.
This time, the years of my life after Chuck’s death, this is the disorder that Richard Rohr spoke of. How I translate his words into my life.
And, to quote him again, it is my job to just get out of the way.
Again, nothing new to me, since beginning my Odyssey of Love.
I’ve always known that I’m not in charge of how this is going. I just need to suit up and show up and let it all unfold. Now I realize that I’ve just naturally been living in Kairos time.
Cue Don Williams, and change the lyrics…
It’s only when I get in my own way, when I revert to Chronos time, that shit gets messed up.
It’s as if the Universe is trying to tell me Look, sister, back off, right? I’ve got this going on and happening and you’re trying to interfere. Just step back, right?
The Universe. Love. Some call it god. The Force.
Whatever you call it, it’s the same thing.
As long as I let Love guide me, show me…as long as I live in Kairos time…it happens. I can’t explain it but my heart and soul know when I’m in it.
Chronos time is head space and it fucks with me and messes up the right stuff that’s going on. Chuck used to lightly tap me on the side of my head when he saw that I was getting into that space and say Snap out of it, Miller!
In a wierd and strange way, living in this disordered time is what keeps me open to possibilities. Open to Love. Giving and receiving. Which, you’d think, would fuck me up. But it doesn’t. It works.
Another piece of the puzzle that is my Odyssey of Love.
The landscape of widowhood.
The Alaskan tundra.
The Sahara Desert.
The Australian Outback.
Every side road in between cities and towns.
This parched landscape
This existence of one where there was once two.
I picture nothingness
In the midst of these tundras and deserts.
Nothingness under bright blue skies and a sun so piercing
It makes me squint my eyes.
The only water available streams from overheated eyes…
The eyes he used to look into, and smile.
Crawling on hands and knees, searching for something familiar,
Aching muscles and shattered self…
I don’t know where I’m going with this.
It’s been a rough day emotionally.
All I want is the life I had with Chuck,
And that life is dead and gone,
Same as he is.
Do you ever get tired of being brave and courageous,
Even though that’s a very real part of you?
I think of myself as Thing One and Thing Two now and wouldn’t a shrink have a field day with that?
I’m that woman with parched throat and hollow self, crawling through the tundra and desert,
And I’m the woman decked out in pink, foraging for hugs so that I don’t lose my sanity,
Keeping the Love front and center, so that I don’t lose my fucking sanity.
I’m Thing One and Thing Two and both are real.
I desperately miss my beloved husband, Chuck.
The longing for him, the yearning for his touch…that’s my desert. My tundra. My Outback.
And I don’t know what to do with any of it.
So, I write this…
On May 29 I celebrated 10 years of fulltiming on the open road.
The first 4 were with my beloved husband, Chuck.
The last 6 have been solo. Widowed.
Wishing for it to be different, and living it fully, at the same time.
Living on the road in my little pink trailer, driving my pink car, this Odyssey of Love, is just what I do, and I don’t give a whole lot of thought to it.
But my DIL and one of my best friends suggested to me that a decade of living on the road was something I needed to acknowledge publicly, and celebrate.
Since I’m workamping at Opera in the Ozarks, I thought it would be the perfect place to have the celebration, so I planned it out pdq.
I decorated the tables in the cafeteria with pink tablecloths and strewed pink heart beads and necklaces across it, and pink napkins.
Our on site baker made a cake for all of us. Strawberry cake with chocolate frosting, with a road made of pink glitter and a pink camper she’d found perched upright on that road. Underneath the road flowed the words of my motto Love leads the way.
I bought sparkling cider for everyone, because I wanted them to toast with me.
Lots of the students wore pink in my honor.
When dinner was finished I stood up and shared how my Odyssey of Love began, and the power of the Love that fuels every mile.
It is only because of Love that I’m still here, and sane.
I told them that it’s up to us, even when we’re devastated, to go out into the world and create community for ourselves, and build connections with others, because nobody but we ourselves can do the footwork.
I explained to them all the names and messages of Love written all over my pink rig.
I told them about Chuck and how much he loved me, and I, him.
And then I asked them all to raise their glasses in a toast to the most powerful force in the Universe.
When I sat down, my chair had my back facing the rest of the room and I knew that everyone was applauding but one of our staff told me to turn around and look.
Which I did, and they were all standing, applauding.
It choked me up.
I’m on year 10 of my life on the road.
I’ve been on the road solo for 6 years.
The same amount of time that I’ve been widowed.
In a few days I’ll be 61 years old.
That’s one year older than Chuck got to live.
My heart breaks when i think of it.
While this life that I’ve created is colorful and adventurous, at least to some, it isn’t my first choice.
I’m only living it because Chuck died and I had to find a way to make everything that he and I had together, matter.
I had to make our Love matter.
I had to find a way to live with purpose.
I’ve done that. I have purpose in my Odyssey of Love.
I live on memories and on the Love that I find in the community I’ve created for myself.
And I don’t much care whether that meets the approval of the latest psychological studies or not.
4 with him.
6 without him.
In a few days, 1 year older than he was when he died.
I don’t know what to do with any of this, if I stop and think about it.
So, I don’t think about it.
I just hug people and allow myself to be hugged.
Love is the only thing I hold to be true.
Here’s to Chuck and the Love he left behind for me that gave me, gives me, the courage to live out on the open road by myself.
Here’s to me, and listening to my heart.
And…here’s to Love~
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~
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.
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.
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.
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~