What Was. What Is~

Your death

stripped me down to bone and marrow.

It dug my heart out of my body with sharp talons

And flung it, bloodied, onto the ground

A sharp bladed axe,

Such as was used for beheadings in the days of Henry VIII 

Hacked away at that bloodied heart of mine on the ground.

Slicing and dicing it into miniscule pieces.

It took effort and determination and grit

And all the Love he left behind for me,

To string those pieces of you and me together.

My heart doesn’t look the same now, as it did when it was full in my chest.

I don’t look the same as I did all the years of our together lives.

I am stripped raw.

Exposed.

Vulnerable.

That isn’t a bad thing.

Or a good thing.

It’s just what I am now.

I’m still dislocated. Dispossessed. Disoriented. Displaced. In dissaray. 

I’m okay with all this, too.

In a world where nothing is okay because you are no longer in it…

I’m weirdly okay.

Living and missing you. Living while missing you with each breath. Living. And missing.

Empty and filled with Love for you.

I don’t try to reason any of it out any longer.

Perhaps that is the true freedom that comes with grief.

In the truest, most loving, strongest way of letting go…

It is letting go of people’s expectations of me. 

People’s opinions of me.

People’s anything of me.

Or judgement of myself.

I’m just me. 

Still, and always, in Love with a dead man.

With a heart open to Love every day.

No matter what.

Aching with Love.

Aching for you.

Loving you~

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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~

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~

This Woman Who Showed Me the Way~

I don’t write about my mom too often. Not because she wasn’t important to me but because, since Chuck’s death, all I can think about is him, and my life without him.

I’ve always known that I inherited some very clear traits from my mom. She passed along her love of reading to me. Her inability to suffer fools gladly…that she got from her mom. Her sense of humor.

This morning I realized I got a trait from her that I’ve not given much thought to, but one that looms large in my life. The one that has brought me to where I am, 6 years after the death of the man who was my life.

Betty Catharine, my mom, passed along to me the tenacity, the determination, the grit, that has kept me grounded and sane, to the degree that I can claim any sanity at all.

My mom, Betty Catharine, was an active alcoholic for most of my growing up years. There were some rough years, especially in high school.

She got sober, cold turkey, on the day my younger brother Kysa was diagnosed with cancer, and set about making amends (without calling them such) to her eight kids.

How she managed to get sober on her own, without medical intervention, after 30+ years of heavy drinking, I don’t know how she didn’t suffer delirium tremens or anything life threatening, and she never spoke of it, but she did it and stayed sober until she died one and a half years later, of breast cancer. Six months after Kysa died of Hodgkins cancer.

Honestly, as I’ve grown and matured, in the years since mom’s death, I’ve come to know her in more ways than I knew her during her life. As milestones have come and gone in my life that were nothing in degrees to what she’d gone through, I’ve wondered about how she got through the challenges in her life.

She was an Army wife at a time when the military did a bare minimum in supporting families, moving, as she said often, 29 times in 30 years. She had eight children born in 5 states and 3 overseas, and was always either pregnant or had just given birth with many of those moves. My dad frequently reported for duty ahead of her so she’d be in charge of kids, supervising packers/movers, adapting to new homes/countries, knowing nobody, far away from family.

I don’t wonder at all that she took up drinking. The family story is that she went to a doctor for stress (this was in the 50’s) and he told her to have a drink of sherry each evening after the kids were in bed.

She was the daughter of a Presbyterian minister who, in adulthood, converted to Catholicism. She was a nurse. She was the most intelligent, well read person I’ve ever met. She never remembered the punchlines of jokes. She had a droll sense of humor. She adored the royal family and, the older she got, the more like Queen Elizabeth she looked. She left me notes on my pillow as a young teen and called me every morning at 7:30 AM after I left home, cluing me in on political news and encouraging me to call the White House comment line to express my opinion. She’d given me the phone number and I kept it next to my phone on an index card.

She loved me the best she knew how and gave me what she had to give me, in spite of her struggles.

And what she gave me the most of was the grit and tenacity and determination that made her keep standing up when she was knocked down. She never gave in, in spite of what my young eyes saw growing up.

My mom was more than her alcoholism, and it didn’t take me long after her death to realize that.

I’ve no regrets, no blame. Only Love and the heartwarming memory of sitting at the kitchen table with her and my younger sister, Maggie, sharing Hollywood gossip, family stories, politics, everything under the sun, while laughing over our coffee or diet pepsi, in the last year and a half that I had with her, sober and loving and joyful, holding her hand over her mouth when she was doubled over with laughter.

My mom, Betty Catharine, gave me everything I would need as an adult, and it was my privilege to call her mom.

I hope, this Mother’s Day, that, if she is somewhere…and she believed in Heaven so I’ll picture her there…that she has found Chuck, and I hope that they share a hug with each other, from me, the woman who loved them both. Who loves them both so much, still.

I miss you, mom. Thank you for who you were.

What you gave me has helped me continue standing up again and again.

And I always will.

Just like you did~

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~

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~