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~

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~

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~ 

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~

Scary. Because, you Know…Widowed~

Widows scare people, I think.
Even if they (we) are ordinary in appearance.
No warts on our long noses.
No narrow, scraggly, fingers with sharp nails (for poking).
Oh, wait.
I’m describing witches.
We do (sometimes) wear black though. Like witches in the storybooks do.
And I do believe that we frighten people.
Family people and strangers people.
Because we’re (shhh, don’t tell anyone!) dark, you know.
We carry death with us.
Some of us are even (gasp!) sad.
And we talk about dead people! Our husbands and wives. Who are DEAD!
Which makes people uncomfortable.
I think, too, that we frighten people, family and strangers, because they think we might need something from them.
Maybe money.
Or we might want to live with them, so that we have a sense of connection at a time when the loneliness is overwhelming.
Maybe we can’t afford to live on our own. Because, you know, money. And because it’s too freaking expensive to live in a decent place on one salary.
It’s like we’re teenagers again, going out into the world for the first time. Living in a crappy place in a crappy, unsafe, neighborhood. A crappy, undependable car and a job we keep only to pay the bills.
We’re dating again, some of us.
Having to play that game again. Yuck!
It’s adult teenagerhood.
We scare people. Nothing can convince me otherwise, 5 years and 8 months in. I read the stories. I talk to other widows. I see the reactions in my own life.
Even though we go out of our way to live independently and are ardent in our efforts to show how un-needy we are, how intent on not burdening anyone…
They get nervous.
There isn’t a place for widows in our culture. In most cultures. Our culture shuns in a more civilized manner than many, possibly, but the shunning is still there.
Get over it. Get on with it. Stop talking about death. Don’t bring your darkness around me. Fake it, for my sake. Be who I want you to be, not who you are. Do this the way I think is best for you, not the way you know is best for you.
We stand our ground as best we can, while fighting to hold off negative energy rays coming from such people.
No wonder we’re so tired.
Sometimes we cut those particular people out of our lives entirely, because we have to.
Widows.
Scary people, right?
Especially the ones decked out in pink~