This Pink Anniversary~

Today, Tuesday, is an anniversary of sorts for me.
It isn’t an anniversary connected to Chuck, since it happened after he died.
And yet, it is entirely connected to him.
Because today is the day, 5 years ago, that I picked up my new Ford Escape from the garage, and the man, I’d taken it to after buying it from the dealer.
I took it directly from the dealer to a man named Anthony, who had his own garage.
He and I had spoken a week or so earlier, when I’d called him and told him that I was looking for someone to create a shade of pink for me and paint my car in the created color.
I shared with him the Love story that Chuck and I had for 24 years. I told him what Chuck said about me wearing pink after his death. He knew I’d need color around me. I told him about our Happily Homeless travels for our last 4 years together. I told him that I was staying on the road, alone, and I was terrified and devastated and didn’t know how to do it, but I was doing it.
The price he gave me was just too high for me, but I told him how very much I appreciated that he listened to me and we hung up.
Not half an hour later, Anthony called me up again and quoted me a lower price. He really wanted to create a color for me and paint my silver car.
The first shade of pink that he did was too dark, and I told him to lift the brown out, and add a creamy white, but that I didn’t need to see the second shade. Paint my car in the color you get and it will be the exact right shade.
A couple weeks later I went with my daughter to pick up my car. She cried and I cried when I saw it, and we cried more when Anthony handed the can to me, with the formula for the paint on it…and the name he’d named it.
The name….
It’s to give you courage to return to the road on your own Anthony said.
Chuck’s Watchin’ Over Me was what he’d named the color.
God, did I cry.
And a few months later, I bought my tiny trailer. It’s a T@b Teardrop, and before taking it off the lot, I gave the guy my paint can with the formula on it and said anything that’s yellow, paint it pink! 16114600_1227243173997281_3474194353379356472_n
I was terrified to return to the road on my own. My heart was shattered into pieces and it felt as if a meat slicer was in my chest. Alternatively, it felt as if my heart had been seized from my chest and thrown on the ground and a sharp-edged ax was slicing at it haphazardly.
I’d never camped and I’d never towed anything.
I knew nothing about what I was about to do, and I was fucking riddled with anxiety. Waking up every morning was unbearable. How could I do this when I didn’t even want to live? When I felt numb and breathless with pain at one and the same time? When I couldn’t focus on maps and reservations and routes? When I didn’t know where campgrounds even existed and how to make reservations with them? How far would I drive each day? What if I broke down? What if I was attacked? What if I just couldn’t do it suddenly, and I stranded myself somewhere?
How could I possibly do any of it, when all I wanted was my husband?
Maybe it was fortunate that I didn’t have a home to return to. Maybe it was fortunate that I was too young (55) to live with my kids. Maybe I was fortunate that I didn’t know what else to do. Maybe it was fortunate that I was so filled with fear and anxiety that it opened my eyes to doing the impossible. Maybe it was fortunate that the fierce grief and exhaustion, even as it killed my energy, forced me on.
I learned as I did it. I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing or where I was going. So I learned to make myself vulnerable and ask for help from whoever happened to be standing near me.
I learned as I joined every fb group of campers and military people that I could find, so that I could reach out with my concerns and confusion.
I learned as I began writing my blog and posting daily on my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, knowing that all that I held inside my heart and soul was impossible to hold inside for long.
I learned as I began saying why not to any idea that came into my head, no matter how outlandish it might seem.
I learned as I began listening to my heart, trusting it to guide me much more than I trusted my brain.
I learned as I insisted, to myself, that the Love Chuck left behind for me must must must be fucking stronger than the grief, or I’d go over the edge completely.
I learned as I reached out to my widowed community and began visiting them around the country. I got so many hugs and each one took me another mile.
I did whatever I had to, reached out, pushed my boundaries and comfort zones and grew Love bigger.
I miss Chuck unbearably to this day, 5 years later. I always will. Life is less than without him. My heart and soul get so tired. My body gets tired, being out on the road constantly. When it gets to be too much, I find rest with family or friends.
What I learned, most importantly, I think, is that there ain’t nobody going to do this for me. This is it…my life. I had 24 years of Love from a man I adored, who adored me. And my world now, will never be the same. And that isn’t okay in any way. But this is what I have.
And by fucking god, I will, and I AM, living it in color, living it as much over the top as I can manage and I’m doing it in Chuck’s name and in the name of our Love story, and in the name of Love.
That’s it in a nutshell.
All the pink. It’s the color of my courage and determination and the Love Chuck left behind for me, and the Love that meets me on the road daily.
You don’t have to wait to feel better to do whatever it is you think you might want to do. You don’t have to wait til you’re not as sad as you are now. You don’t have to wait for anyone’s approval.
You just pack every damn bit of that stuff up in a suitcase and take it with you.
It’s in the doing that you learn. It’s in the doing that you gain some measure of confidence. And it’s in the doing that you find that dark bit of humor that lets you announce to the world that you really don’t have a grand flying fuck clue what you’re doing….
But you’re doing it anyways.
So, no, this anniversary isn’t about Chuck. But yes, it’s all about Chuck and the mission that he started me on, as his cancer filled body lay on that hospice bed and I told him that my plan was to continue traveling, as he and I had done, and he asked me to return to our favorite places and scatter his cremains but he only named 4 places because the other places would be up to me, and I’d have to keep my heart open in order to know them. And, in keeping my heart open, I know that he hoped I’d create a new life for myself.
My Odyssey of Love continues, beloved husband.
My knight, my lover, my hero, my light, my life…529438_552029828185289_1995679461_n

 

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Missing Him on 40~

I’m on the road again.
I left Arizona, headed to Arkansas, a few days ago. Or maybe it was a week ago, now. I’m kind of tired after driving some long ass days.
Tune up on my car. New tires, brakes on my rig, PinkMagic, fixed.
Our daughter was road tripping to Arkansas with me, to see the opera camp where I work for the summer. It’s my second year back there, as the groundskeeper.
We were planning a fairly easy trip, stopping to visit family in Denver, taking our time.
Well, as they say…
The best laid plans of mice and men…
We were only 200 miles out when we heard a loud pop from the rear of my trailer, followed by smoke billowing out, and brake fluid trailing behind us.
Fortunately, I’d just pulled off the highway, so that we could drive the main drag of Winslow. You know….
Standin’ on the corner and all that.
Again, fortunately, I have roadside assistance and called them and they sent a tow out to us. He quickly diagnosed major problems and I followed his tow truck, very slowly and carefully, to his garage.
Where he removed the drums and discovered that all rubber parts had melted and all metal parts had turned to dust. They dissolved to the ground as soon as the drums came off.
Not good.
But better than what could have been, which was a fire from the massively overheated brakes, which could have easily burned my rig into nothingness, and taken the car too, I suppose, since it’s all so small.
Scary shit.
We ended up camping out at the garage for 3 days and 2 nights while they sent for parts and worked on the brakes.
High Chaparral Garage in Winslow, AZ; the best people EVER. They went above and far beyond what was necessary to keep us safe while there and take us back on the road.
Hooked us up to electricity so we could sleep comfortably. Put a large mat outside so we didn’t track grease inside PinkMagic.
Worked diligently on the brakes. We were right on the famed Rt 66, so people stopped in to say hi and take a tour of the inside of my rig.
Gave us great tips for exploring the area while we were stranded.
We’d go downtown to the corner and drink chai while watching the world go by.
Before leaving, even though it was late at night and we were all tired, the wonderful guys at High Chaparral tightened up the spare, power washed my car and trailer, signed the back of it with loving words, gave us hugs, told us to keep in touch…and away we went.
During our stay at the garage, I met 2 other widows who were 5 years out, as I am now. We spoke of the ravages of cancer and how it changes lives.
Because I was stationary, albeit unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to speak on the phone to a radio host with a program called Bringing Love to Life, about my Odyssey, and my marriage to Chuck.
Because we were stuck, so to speak, for the time we were, timing was set into place that brought us to a rest stop further on where we met a young couple, themselves stranded, trying to get to Montana to see the young man’s dad before his dad died of liver cancer. Remembering that desperate feeling, we were able to buy them a tank of gas, some groceries, and give some cash to help them on their way.
It’s the kind of thing that Chuck would have done, and all I asked in return was for them to remember the name Chuck D.
Our continued travels took us from Arizona to New Mexico to Texas to Oklahoma and then into Arkansas, and every mile along the way was filled with memories of my and Chuck’s travels, what seems so many years ago now.
How is it possible that it is 5 years since his death?
Next month I’ll have been on the road alone, as a widow, longer than he and I were, together.
That thought messes with my mind.
He is everywhere along Rt 40, through the middle of our country. He is at every roadside rest stop, at the picnic tables where we’d stop to eat lunch. He’s at the national monuments and parks, where we’d visit to learn local history. He’s in the wildflowers growing in the median strip and in the flat lands of west Texas with the huge sky overhead.
He is everywhere, in memory and in my heart.
I missed him for the entirety of 40.
I miss him on that road and every other road that I drive.
And I also know, more than ever, after the experience in Winslow, that his legacy is strong and vibrant and that our Love story is as strong as it ever was, and that I am doing just exactly perfectly heart wide open what it is that I am destined to do…
Live this Odyssey of Love. For him. For me. For all my widow brothers and sisters and their ones. Live it for all those I meet along the way, for all those whose path I cross or who cross my path.
Just, quite simply, live the Love that he left behind for me.
Fiercely. Strongly. Powerfully. Confidently.
Always.

And. Not Or~

We all know the power of words, especially in widowhood.
Words stream at us in loving support, with awkwardness, clumsy grace, and, unfortunately, in judgement.
We hear these words and phrases and they make us stronger or they make us want to hide.
We begin, as time passes, to hide ourselves. To isolate ourselves.
We present artificial selves to protect ourselves from judgements and maintain our daily lives, while our hearts and souls go underground.
Early on, in what I will presume was good intent, a friend told me to just fake it til you make it.
Instinctively, I knew that wasn’t an option for me. It felt like an unhealthy response to a genuinely traumatizing event.
As these few years have passed, I’ve spoken about life without my beloved husband, and the struggles of widowhood, in as real and authentic a way as possible.
I refuse to hide myself from it. I refuse to allow the world and its’ judgements to force me into isolation. I can’t, for my own sanity’s sake.
And I’ve also had to create a life and do my daily tasks, which I can’t do if I’m sobbing my way through my days.
So I’ve put on the face, so to speak, in order to get shit done, like we all do.
But this isn’t a fake it til you make it face.
In what I consider a healthy response, I’ve morphed into two people. Which, as a Gemini, is no big deal to me, honestly.
And I’ve learned that this widow life isn’t an either/or proposition.
It’s an and situation.
I am this person AND I’m that person.
I am devastated empty lonely yearning sad missing him AND I am creating and creative engaging being and showing and receiving Love…daily.
I am a shadow of myself AND I am shining more brightly than ever.
I don’t want to be here on this earth without him AND I am more determined than ever to carry our Love story every day.
I feel empty AND feel so full each and every day.
I am this AND I am that AND I am perfectly okay with this duality.
This duality, for me, is how I widow~

This Still Beating Heart~

When was the moment you realized you would survive this?
Your person’s death…this new life…
I never doubted for a moment that I could and would survive this.
From the time Chuck was told that the cancer was everywhere.
My fear was that I would indeed and unfortunately, survive this,
And live the rest of my life without him.
I did.
I have.
I cursed myself daily, that I was surviving his death.
Surviving this widowhood.
I didn’t want to survive this and I cursed whatever it was in me that made me keep on living.
I researched broken heart syndrome, and was disappointed to meet all the criteria, yet continue to live.
How was that possible? How?
Did I really not love Chuck enough? Was the stress of his illness and death and the fucked up family dynamics that sent me into meltdown anxiety attacks, not enough?
Why did I not qualify for broken heart syndrome? Why?
And yet, here I am, 4 years and 11 months later, widowing.
Fuck.
I suppose I’ve lost all that energy I spent wondering why I didn’t die.
Lost the will to search and curse that I still lived, that I still am, that I still must.
I’ve driven thousands of miles since Chuck’s death, following highways and backroads of our country.
Honoring and remembering him.
Missing him.
More aware, each mile, of how he is missing from me
And my life is less without him.
Now I wonder…
Is there death from empty life syndrome?
I’ve learned so much about widowing
About living in the after
How it isn’t only about healing our hearts
But healing our minds.
Reframing
Plugging in
Honoring the process of grieving in a world that has no patience for grief,
Or anything that requires more than a pause in doing and rushing and performing.
I’ve insisted on doing this my way, which we all know, is the only way to get from here to there.
I don’t know where there is
Mostly I don’t know where here is.
And I wonder still, in passing thought, how it is that I’m still here,
Without him.
It’s a mind fuck of the Universe.
Some would say that I’m still here because I still have work to do.
To which I say…
Poppycock. Baloney. Hooey, and bunk.
I’m here because I haven’t yet died.
Whether there is a reason for it or not is up to an individual’s personal beliefs.
I cringe, still, at the thought that I may yet live centuries without him,
Which is what it already feels like,
Only 4 years and 11 months in.
No broken heart syndrome here.
Fuck.
Just plugging away, reaching out where I can, living on Love.
An emissary, a servant, a courier, of Love~

Dance Partners~

I used to dance with my beloved husband…

We danced dreamily, to Clint Black, to Chicago, to Elvis, to whatever tune happened to be playing, wherever we were.
Oh, how we danced…his right arm around me, my hand clasped in his.
At the end of the dance, he’d always dip me back in his arms, and then kiss my hand.
I dance still, these 4 years and 10 months since his death.

I dance the Widow dance.

Sometimes I dance what I call Spirit dancing, which consists of turning on music we used to dance to, and putting my hand in his hand that is no longer there to clasp mine, and placing my other hand on a shoulder that no longer supports me.

My feet move in the same pattern and I always close my eyes, remembering back.

But mostly, now, I dance with an intangible partner that is hard to name.

Grief, but so much more.

Loneliness is a consistent and dependable partner. It’s an awkward partner, this one. Moving my feet with it, not feeling, yet feeling everything. I don’t like how Loneliness is always just there, insisting on every damn dance.

My partner named Dislocation is always there too, waiting on the sidelines. Our dance together entails quite a bit of bumping into sharp edges and uneven ground beneath us. Kind of like Elaine on Seinfeld; uncoordinated stumbling, but with flair, if such it can be called.

Heartache is a gentle dance partner. Our dance is one of synchronization, shadowing one another gracefully, our toes pointed, our hands reaching to the Universe, or wrapping tenderly around our bodies. The lights dim when Heartache and I glide out to the dance floor. We are familiar with each other and we move separately and in tandem, with no hesitation. We know each other well.

Emptiness doesn’t dance with me as much as it jumps up and down in a crazy free style frenzy, demanding my attention, causing me to wonder why it’s always there and never seems to change, or go away, even if I accept a dance from…

Adventure. Adventure seeks my hand and leads me into steps that have no particular direction or pattern, and allow me to feel unfettered and open. Where might this partner lead me, I ask myself. We slide from one type of music to another, tentative at times, but sure nonetheless, never knowing where our feet will take us. Quick tempos with swirls and dips, holding hands or, even sometimes, sending me spinning off on my own. Adventure is quick but steady and sure. We work well together out there on the floor.

My dance is a widowed dance now, and it isn’t anywhere near as satisfactory or fulfilling as it was with my beloved husband, but it is powerful and even, I think, abandoned.

And maybe, in the abandon of this whirling dervish of a dance, I’ll find my beloved somehow. Or find me. I don’t think I’ll know which until I stand breathless from exertion, breathing it all in, when the music stops.
Maybe both.
It’s all about the dance, meanwhile~

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…

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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