Roads, Places, and Memories~

70. 20. 10. 65. 85. 60. 1.

East to west to north to south and back again.

The Oregon coast. The road to the Keys. New England. The Southwest. Deep South.

Roads and directions and places and, most of all…memories.

We…you and I…were everywhere together.

I travel to as many places, the same roads as we did.

I don’t go to places though.

I don’t go to National Parks or monuments.

I’m not much interested in places since you left this earth.

Since you and I parted.

None of it carries the same meaning for me.

The thrill isn’t there, alone.

Or with others, really.

So I don’t go places.

But I do go. I do see.

I travel the roads you and I traveled and my eyes light on a roadside picnic table and I think to myself…we sat there under an umbrella and ate lunch, marveling at our surroundings.

I suddenly realize that the road I’m on is one we were on in our red Escape.

I’m on that same road now, in my pink car, towing my pink trailer that bears hundreds of names written in red pen.

It isn’t the same.

I didn’t expect it would be, of course.

How could it be?

It’s powerful.

To me and to so many others.

What my pink car and trailer represent, I mean.

I’m passionate about what I’m doing.

I’ll do it as long as I can.

But oh, my dearest Love, my eyes search for you on these roads.

My heart searches for those memories. It searches for all we felt for each other.

I try to feel it again and it’s there but distant…a memory of my mind because it’s been so long.

So very long since I glanced over at you in the driver’s seat and reached out my hand to massage the back of your neck as you steered us into adventure and you returned my glance and smiled and rested your hand on my knee.

Oh, my Love, my dearest Love…

I wish you back, adventuring with me.

I miss you~

My Life from Movies~

It seems that my imagination…what goes on in my mind to help me manage this life…has ramped up.

Almost any situation I encounter has a counterpart from various movies I’ve watched over the years.

The big picture of all of this is me in the middle of a romantic comedy.

I’ve always loved watching romcoms.

Chuck used to watch them with me.

Within the big picture romcom, scenes and quotes from other movies interpose themselves.

This past week I headed to Louisville KY to visit a dear friend/wid sis/AF wid/AF veteran. She and I met a few years ago in the 3rd year of my Odyssey of Love, and we’ve maintained our friendship.

I was coming from IN where I’ve been visiting Chuck’s mom.

Part of this story that I want you to know is that I was listening to a playlist that I’d created for my Odyssey of Love from tunes sent to me by a few hundred of the community that follows my Odyssey.

I’d asked them to give me the names of songs their loved one loved, or that they loved together. Or just their favorite tune.

Frickin’ amazing. Really.

And these were the tunes I was listening to a few days ago as I rolled down the backroads of Indiana. Windows open. Tunes blaring. Me singing with them because I’m making a point of doing that. It’s my new challenge. Feel the energy of singing. Which I haven’t done since Chuck’s death a little over 6 years ago.

Cruisin’ along…

My pink car draws up to a 4 way intersection. Which is a normal thing to come upon on any road across America.

But, as I sat there momentarily, scanning for oncoming traffic, my mind drifted to the movie Castaway, with Tom Hanks. Specifically the end scene where he sits in his truck at a 4 way intersection in the middle of nowhere, looking thoughtfully in each direction. 

The movie ends with that. We have no idea except we kind of do which direction he takes.

I turned right, heading to KY. Not a big thing.

Except that, as I made that turn, for the first time since Chuck died 6 years and almost 5 months ago, the thought kind of appeared in my mind that I’m driving into my future…

As my car settled onto the road, into my mind came the scene from Practical Magic where the sister, Jillian, is driving east to help her sister, who’s just been widowed. The scene changes from night to day to night again, as she drives. Open road in front of her.

I considered to myself how I’m way over defending how I widow. Trying to convince people that I’m okay, in the midst of a world that is not at all okay. All the bullshit we hear, you know?

And into my mind came the speech made by the President in Independence Day…

We will not go quietly into the night!

We will not vanish without a fight!

We’re going to live on!

We’re going to survive!

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

Here’s the thing.

I’m devastated, living without Chuck. This life isn’t better than the life I had with him.

AND

I’m by god going to continue doing what I do. I drive my Odyssey of Love. I wear pink. I carry Chuck with me in every way possible. I honor him and his memory everyday. I reach out to those I meet in order to create community. I keep my heart open, even in its’ shattered state. I’m not broken. I’m not carrying baggage with me in the sense that I’m emotionally broken. On the contrary, I’m the woman I am because I’ve refused to allow others to dictate how I do this. If, at some point which I honestly don’t believe will ever happen a man comes into my life, he will be strong and confident and sure enough in himself to honor Chuck with me. I know how to love. I’m really good at being in a healthy relationship with a man. Any man would be damn lucky to have me. I’m a fucking warrior goddess.

Love is what fuels this life of mine. The Love left for me by Chuck. The Love I’ve created for myself in a nationwide community. All of this right alongside of the pain and devastation. 

It isn’t enough.

But it, by god, is what I have and I’m going to keep doing it.

I will not go quietly into the night. I’ve been fighting to survive since 11:25 pm on April 21, 2013.

I’m writing my own script for this movie I’m in~

To Us~

Yes, You~

to those of us left behind
standing amidst the ashes that remain
atop the skeletons of our lives and ourselves.

to those of us left behind
who struggle with unseeing eyes blinded by grief
and limbs made heavy with exhaustion
and shattered souls
uncertain about…everything.

to those of us left behind
who must learn to live in the without
and open our hearts to life
when all that is in us begs to close those very hearts.

to those of us left behind
who loved so deeply and so passionately
whose lips whisper names into the darkness
of the soul and heart and body
and hear only an echo.

to those of us left behind
who stagger through each moment and each hour
of every day and night
as the months pass by and the sharp blades of a love gone
cut and shred.

To you, to me, to us
left behind but left behind
with the love that can and will and must
become bigger than the absence of those who
have gone beyond our reach.

We who grieve the grief of a lover gone
and slowly dance our spirit dances and speak their names in our hearts
as our hands and souls entwine with theirs
and our bodies search and our minds question and the deepest part of ourselves
burns and become determined and we become Love in remembrance of the love we once held close.

To those of us left behind
searching the heavens, finding our footing, seeking,
gasping, breathing,
being…

To us~

A Breath Away~

You are so far away now.

6 years away.

A lifetime away.

A moment away.

But a moment that is memory rather than feeling.

Remembrance.

I stare at your picture,

At pictures of you and I together,

And I look at all the pictures in the years since you left,

I almost wonder…

Which ones are real?

You and I, passionate together, 

Or me, alone, passionate in a different way,

At a different level,

That passion that peaks when I speak of you, dream of you, write of you, live for you.

Alone, there is mostly just a vast emptiness 

that reflects your absence. 

How is it possible for your absence to feel as strongly binding as your presence once did?

In the beginning, in the horror filled new years of without you,

my mind took me to and from and back and forth and up and down and inside out,

As I strove to make sense of me walking this earth alone.

Now, in this just past 6th year,

I wonder no longer.

About any of it.

I may see you again. I may not. I am in pain. I am empty.

I miss you with a dull throbbing, even as I strive to live this life of color and travel trailers and open roads and new friends and fading memories and daily challenges.

Oh my dearest Love…

My dearest Love…

You are me and I am you and your Love is me and I am both of us and I…

I carry our story.

I carry us, now.

Oh, my dearest Love…

Living on Koiros Time~

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)!

Time. 

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.

Kairos.

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.

Now placed.

Thank you, Krista Tippet and Richard Rohr~

This Uncertain Terrain~

The landscape of widowhood.

Of grief.

The Alaskan tundra.

The Sahara Desert.

The Australian Outback.

Every side road in between cities and towns.

This parched landscape

Of devastation.

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…

A Thousand Years Ago~

A thousand years ago

I leaned down

Placed my hands to each side of your sunken cheeks

Closed my eyes,

As yours were closed,

And so very gently kissed your lips that had gone completely white

As you took your last breath.

A thousand years ago

As I kissed your lips,

As I’d kissed them thousands of times before

This time now, for the last time…

My heart shattered,

And my mind went blank,

As I stared into a future without your kisses,

Without your touch,

Without your arms around me,

Without our feet moving together in dance…

Without you.

Without us.

Without.

A thousand years ago~

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~

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~ 

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~