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~

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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~

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…

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…

Numbers Again~

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.

Love.

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.

10 years. 

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~

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~

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~