My Shadow Selfie~

Many times, as I begin typing a blog, I have little to no idea what will spring from the keyboard.  Sometimes I swear that I have nothing to say…I’ve said everything that can be said. Which is kind of an arrogant way to think, isn’t it?
But I’ve also realized that ideas come from the most unexpected places. I can be out and about and hear a phrase from strangers conversing. Or I notice how someone is dressed on a particular day. Or how their hair falls a certain way. Words beget ideas for me, and that’s how this blog happened.
I was out with my grand-goddesses, who are 4 and 2 years old, respectively. We’re in Arizona, so we went for a walk to the park. The sun was out, they were wearing lightweight jackets, because 60* is cold to us here…as I hear all of you from everywhere else in the country groaning and wishing for that, as you freeze your patooties off in subzero temps.
Anyways…
The 4 year old was skipping along, and called my attention to her shadow, that was moving right along with her, of course.

As soon as I looked at her shadow, following along with her, I whipped out my phone and wrote the word in the notes section. I think of the most amazing ideas and then promptly forget them.
Shadows.
As widow/ers, we live with shadows. We become shadows of ourselves. Our shadows move with us. Our shadow represent the dark parts of grief, too…the parts we are often too frightened to explore. Also, society doesn’t like peering at us and seeing our shadowed selves, so they try to move us from where we are to a place that is more comfortable for them.
Shadows make us humans uncomfortable. We want to see what we expect to see. Or we want to see what we need to see, so that we don’t have to spend too much time on that one person. Hi, how you doing…and get on with your day.
Early on in my first year of grieving, my daughter said to me mom, maybe you need to let yourself be in the shadows for awhile. Maybe you need to stop fighting the shadows and just go there. Don’t worry. I know you’re there, and I won’t let you stay there. I’ll keep watch.
The most valuable, loving words I’ve heard in this widowed life.
Yes, it was frightening to contemplate falling into that darkness; it was all so unknown.
I couldn’t see in front of me. Because not only was it dark…tears also blinded my vision.
I couldn’t hear anything…except my hitching breath and broken sobs.

But, for me, it wasn’t so much about allowing myself to fall into that darkness; it was more about releasing the resistance to falling into that darkness. I was already there, honestly, and expending an inordinate amount of time refusing to acknowledge it. Because, you know, people continually tried to talk me out of it. Too uncomfortable for them to see me there. It made me unrecognizable to them, and that concerned them. Though, maybe I’m assuming that was their thinking. I never really asked.
So, I stopped resisting, and, in hindsight, I realized that when some of our senses aren’t working, others work overtime.
The darkness allowed me to simply feel. As unbearable as it was…I allowed the grief to claim me.
I felt  and heard my heartbeat, even as a meat slicer chopped every breath I took, when I placed my hand over my heart.
My heart, even shattered, became aware of the hands reaching out to me.
Allowing myself to be in shadow gave me a place to rest, inasmuch as I was able to rest to any degree.
And I knew that no matter how severe it all was, there was a person who loved me standing in the light of my shadow, keeping watch for me.
That mattered. It mattered in ways that are unexplainable even now. But she knows.
I lost my fear of the shadows, and now, these almost 5 years later, I welcome my shadow self, in all its’ glory, even though it’s dark. Dark, and yet, revealing, at one and the same time.
My shadow self is no longer an arbitrary unknown part of me that causes fear to rise up in me.
It exists just as surely as the walking, talking part of me.
I love my shadow self. I hate my shadow self too, honestly, because it was revealed to me as a result of Chuck’s death, and I’ll never be okay with that. His death, I mean. I’m tiptoe through the tulips happy for all those in our world who reach a Zen state of okayness with their loved one’s death, but that isn’t me.
The duality of loss, again. The duality of widowhood, always.
My shadow selfie, and this blog.
A blog that happened because, yesterday, I took a walk with my two grand-goddesses and she said Look, Granna! My shadow is following me!

And I recall the old song from years ago…Me and My Shadow….strolling down the avenue…

Strolling with my shadow selfie since April 21, 2013…

IMG_8399

Advertisements

These Mirrored Eyes~

I was struck, recently, as I perused join requests on a fb group I began a few months ago, for widows who live on the road, or camp. I vet each request to ensure that each woman meets the requirements for our particular group. Within the group, we discuss, not surprisingly, intensely emotional topics around widowhood, and the challenges of being on the road solo. So, as I’m able, I scroll the pages of those who would like to join, in addition to messaging each one to verify information.
Sometimes it’s a fairly simple thing to discern the answers to the questions I ask, so I’m able to approve the join request even before receiving a response. A picture, comments on the page, posted memes…I’m not particularly psychic, but I nailed it on one by simply finding a selfie picture as I scrolled.

One picture, a selfie…nothing unusual there, right? Except that I paused the moment I came upon that picture, because I immediately noticed her eyes. More specifically, what her eyes showed.

Agony, pain, grief, uncertainty, desolation, devastation, dislocation…
Her eyes were a widow’s eyes and I stopped scrolling because I recognized those eyes.
Her eyes were my eyes, in the days and months and years after Chuck’s death. I still see those eyes when I look in a mirror, combing my hair or applying my makeup. The uncertainty and grief and pain is more masked now, I think, but the light is gone and my eyes reflect, at least to me, the abject loneliness that streams from my heart and soul into my blood stream. They reflect his missing-ness from me.
Eyes are the mirrors of the soul. Never has that quote so resonated with me.
My eyes, in the 24 happy, passion-filled years that I had with Chuck reflected all that I was with him; confident, loved, nourished, fed, strong, joyous, content…all the words of rhapsody that describe a woman in love with the man in her life.
The eyes of this widow that I don’t know sent me to pictures of my before and after to study my eyes. Chuck’s eyes. Our eyes as we looked into one another’s eyes. Pictures of my eyes looking up at him as he snapped a picture of me. At the beach, on a pier, right after we’d had wild and crazy sex…
And then I studied my eyes mere weeks after his death. A quick selfie as I began another day of driving, and one more as I posed for an FWG photo shoot.
Wife eyes and Widow’s eyes…my god. It’s shocking, even to me.
In one series of pictures, a woman looks into her lover’s eyes with a sparkle that has clearly traveled straight from her heart and soul and there is a light in them that could, possibly, light up the entire Universe.
In the Widow series…well, the eyes speak all that cannot be spoken because words have become impossible. The present, the future, all that was lost, is lost, will never be again. It is all right there in the eyes.
I almost recoil from the before pictures, from those eyes and what I see in them and the stark contrast of light and shadow from the after time.
My eyes and, yes, what they mirror…
And I wonder if that sparkle and clarity will ever show again~ untitled

Shattered Glass and Dust Motes~

This shattered glass strewn around my feet, under my feet,
Glass that was once my leaping joyous joyful heart,
Shattered as I shared a last breath with my beloved.
Turned into a meat slicer roosting in my chest,
Where my heart once beat in rhythm with his.
His. Now forever stilled.
And mine?
Still beating. Somehow, and mysteriously.
My heart that once beat with his, now shattered glass into glass dust strewn at my feet…
Tiny luminous particles of dust motes dancing in the air
Kicked up by my feet that still walk on this earth
Unbelievably but absolutely.
Uncertain yet determined feet that crunch loudly through the shattered glass powder under my feet,
Striding into this shattered glass dust life of his absence.
Glimmering glass dust motes swirling into the air…
Shimmery dust glass reflecting light back to me around me.
Shimmer and glimmer and beauty and pain and missing and Love…
Beating heart to shattered heart to glittering dust that, tenaciously and insistently,
Rises around me,
And illuminates my way~

What I Know for Certain~

But don’t you want to be happy? Don’t you owe it to your kids to remember you as happy? Life is supposed to be happy. Maybe you’re depressed. Don’t you want to be happy?
If you’re a widow/er, then you’ve heard the same questions and comments. I know you have. Or, if you’re public about your grief, as I am, you hear it from the general public. Less frequently, possibly, as the years pass. But you hear it. Such comments were more prominent somewhere in the second half of my 3rd year. Apparently, if one is still grieving in the 3rd year, bells of doubt start ringing in the minds of those around you, whispering words like depression complicated grief not moving on not getting on with it medications therapy etc…
I’m embarrassed to admit that, upon hearing these comments (and let’s be honest, it’s thinly veiled criticism because it comes across exactly as it sounds: a judgement, as if I’m doing something wrong), I initially and inevitably ended up defending myself, and trying to explain myself, even as I knew I had no reason to defend myself. But those words made me feel defensive and attacked. So, I defended.
No longer. No. Longer.
Guess what? I’m perfectly content with my legacy. If I were to die right now, this fucking minute, I’d have zero regrets. None. Nada. Zero.
And I owe my kids nothing, because they already have all the Love in the world from me.
I know exactly how my kids will remember me and I know what my kids will remember about me. Whether I die today, or tomorrow or years from now.
Our mom was THE most kickass mom ever. She and pop had a Love story for the ages. They sold everything and traveled the country together and remember when we’d call them up we’d ask them where are you now? She nursed him with so much Love through his first cancer and they kept on traveling and when the cancer came back, she did it all again, and bigger. She ensured that all of us had one on one time with him in hospice and she honored and supported us through our own grief, even as she grieved. She bought a trailer after he died and painted it and her car pink and she dressed in pink and she drove all over the entire fucking country, honoring him and their Love and connecting with people everywhere. She was a connector. She inspired people. She was colorful and crazy and she was the Love Warrior and a Fucking Warrior Goddess and she did all that while she was grieving because she loved pop so much and her life felt empty without him and she fucking did it all anyways. She left an example to all of us and to her grandkids about determination and grit and Love. She cried and she laughed and none of it meant anything and all of it meant everything and she lived when she didn’t want to live and she talked to us honestly about the impact of his death on her and she loved hard because Love was all that was left amid the ashes of her life when pop died. She was unapologetic about her grief and her Love and she lived in spite of it and with it. And we are proud of who she was and what she was because she was real and being real was all that mattered. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.
No. I have no qualms about the memories I’ll leave behind for my kids, or for anyone else who might remember me.
My epitaph will read Here lies a woman who lived the duality of Love and Grief, who made everything around her shimmer and sparkle with Love, with a shattered heart, and she did it all in pink. She was a Fucking Warrior Goddess.

A Yoke and 2 Buckets~

What I knew instinctively as soon as Chuck died, and what I knew I had to immediately institute with myself and my body language, my behavior, my thinking:
Even though my brain was fogged with devastation.
Grief is isolating.
Do every damn thing you can so that you can’t, you don’t, isolate.  Whether you want to or not.  Don’t isolate.  Therein lies your own living death.
Make yourself visible.  You want to disappear.  Don’t allow it to happen.  Make yourself so visible that people will pay attention and, if you try to disappear, they’ll wonder where you are. This will be your saving grace.
When you walk, don’t allow your chin to drop.  Don’t allow your shoulders and posture to sag forward.  You want to do this, but don’t.  Always make sure your chin is up, your shoulders back.
Write. Write about this grief.  Write about this widowhood. Write about the devastation of living without the man you loved more than life. Write, and then write some more.  Keep writing. Always write.  It…this living, breathing, thing called grief, will putrefy inside of you and become toxic if you don’t write. What you write doesn’t have to make sense.  Just write, as if your life depends on it.  Because it does.
Be honest with those around you, whatever their response. It may not matter to them, but it will matter to you, both in the long run and the short run. Be raw and honest and real about it. Even if it hurts. Which it will.  Even if they judge you. Which they will.
Allow yourself to go into the darkness of this devastation.  Yeah, it’s scary to do so, but maybe maybe maybe, somewhere in the darkness, you will find that your other senses will sharpen, and you’ll find your way through this to whatever degree it can be gone through.
None of this is okay and it’s okay to acknowledge that.  It sucks and you don’t have to pretty it up for anyone.
However devastating, unbearable, impossible, lonely, soul-shattering this grief, is…and it is…remember remember remember every damn day, every minute of every damn day, every second of every damn minute, the Love that Chuck left behind for you and fucking make it balance as much as you can every nanosecond.  Carry the bucket of Love and carry the bucket of grief and know that, even though they slosh over during the day, making a mess, as long as they’re mostly equally filled at the end of the day, then it’s been a manageable day.

And manageable is okay~   yoke2[2458]

Numbered Days. Numbered Nights~

1567 days.
I know because I checked.
After waking up in these too early morning hours.
I didn’t check right away, of course.
Because I do what we all do when we’re not supposed to focus on what we don’t have
I try to think of other things.
Staring into the darkness of my tiny space
My gaze landing on the bright blue light of the radio.
That’s no good.
It immediately reminds me of the light in the distance
On the mountain top
Staring at it night after night as I paced the floors of our condo in Cathedral City, after you died.
What was that light?
The harder I strive to not think of you, this life without you….
The more insistent the thoughts become.
So…I stop trying to not think of things…of everything…and just let my mind go.
And the flood is instantaneous.
Words and images and emotions swirl into the whirlpool of my mind and my heart
And my soul aches unbearably
So I reach for my phone and check the days since app and yes…my heart knew what the numbers state. The numbers are almost meaningless, really, because who can define forever?
I put on a mindless TV show and stare at it, hearing nothing. I read a book and the words are meaningless. I eat a muffin and it’s tasteless. I’m not hungry and I’m not eating my feelings…I’m just trying to find something so that I don’t think for a moment…
Should I try to sleep again? I have to work in the morning. My body is wired. My mind restless. My heart painful.
Where are you, D? More importantly, why aren’t you here with me, where you belong? How many more nights of this? How many days and months and years?
My body aches for you. My mind wanders to where you and I were, but are no longer.
Distraction works for only so long in this life without you. It really doesn’t work at all, but I have to do life, right? It is required of me, by life, to do life.
So, I do.
But, oh, how untethered I am. This life, as colorful as it looks, is empty because you aren’t here in it, with me. I’m wandering, is all, jabbing at life where I can, trying to find my way, but it feels empty, no matter what I do, and my soul and body knows that something, someone, vital is missing from me.
Will this ever change? Will I ever find something anything that makes me feel that, yes, this is why I’m here still? When will I care again? When will I not wake and stare into the night again? When will I not feel the alone-ness of this life? Will I ever find a sense of peace in my heart and soul again?
I hear all the words that society says about all of this, and I do all that I’m supposed to do and I do it with intent, but in the end…
I stare into the darkness, gazing at that blue light…
And my heart hurts and I miss you I miss you I miss you…
My god how I ache for you…

Grace Absorbed~

20108495_1404276336293963_4957977052603815536_n

This picture expresses it all for me.
Where I am in this widowed life.
It was taken 3 years ago, but even then, without knowing….I was determined.
Determined that Love must be bigger than the devastation.
Determined that if I knew nothing else, if I remembered nothing else, I would know and remember the Love that Chuck left behind for me.
And I would make it shine forth from me so brightly that it would rival the sun.

And it does. It shines and it shimmers and it glows.
It isn’t any easier for me than it is for anyone else in this widow life.
What you can’t see in this picture, what is invisible to the human eye and completely visible to my eye, is the humongous shape of Chuck’s absence that is always with me.
His physical and tangible absence right there to the left of me.
That’s the side he walked on, always, because of deafness in his right ear.
The day this picture was taken, I very consciously chose my clothing, wanting them to reflect the fucking warrior goddess that I was determined to be.
I chose a clear crystal to wear around my neck, on a strand of pink beads.  Clear crystal, so that the light would shine through. Pink because, well…pink, and Chuck said wear pink to mourn for me, not black.  Pink is your color.
I wore leggings that I laced with pink thread. They were a bit ragged, which suited me.  I was ragged and torn up. I still am.
A lace shirt to remind myself of softness and light and my femininity. What I was, what I felt, when Chuck and I were together.
A laced suede vest denoting armor.  Widowhood is not for sissies.  Life is a battle for me, everyday.  I make the decision every day to get up and suit up and show up, and I armor myself in pink, for strength.  For Love.
A sword. But a sword for Love, not violence. A sword because a fucking warrior goddess must have a sword.
I purposefully went barefoot that day, as I crossed streams and climbed red rocks to get to a rise above the earth. I wanted my feet to sink into the ground.  I wanted them dirty and natural and bare.  Bare and as stripped down as I felt.
And, as I posed and lifted my face to the sun above me, I felt, even as my shredded heart beat beneath my lace shirt and suede vest…I absorbed the grace descending upon me.
Grace.
What I needed then, what I need now, to carry me, along with the Love that is the only real and tangible thing to me in these 4 years and 3 months of without-ness.
I lift my face to the sun, still, and I lift my face to the moon and stars at night, as I travel my Odyssey of Love.  I speak to Chuck and I ask him to send even more Love here to me, more Love to hold onto, more grace to continue on.
Love…the Love that Chuck left behind for me, the Love that I feel for him now and always, is the very breath of my existence. It fuels me, it gets me going, it keeps me going.
I lift my eyes to the skies to absorb Chuck, wherever he is, if he is…and I breathe the Love from him into every step I take, every mile I drive.
It’s all I have.
And it isn’t enough.
Except that..
It is.

It must be.