Done, and Doing~

How I’ve survived/lived since Chuck’s death on April 21, 2013…

And, yes, I do keep track of how long it’s been. In days and moments and months and years.

Yes, every moment of this life is defined by his death because the only reason I’m living this life as I am is because he died.

Yes, every moment of this life of mine is defined, equally, by the enormous quantity of Love that he left behind for me.

I strive, each day, to sift all that is this grief, which is much more than sadness, through the filter of Love.

In the beginning time of widowhood, by which I mean the first 5 years, this wasn’t possible for me to do. I knew the Love we’d shared was there, but it didn’t matter, because he was dead and it wasn’t enough.

It still isn’t enough, but I take all that is unbearable and impossible and sift it into that Love that he left behind for me.

The only thing I know to be true in this life without Chuck is that, if it is at all possible, he left all that Love behind for me when he died. untitledl

So.

Chuck died.

We were in a rental in southern CA. I had no physical home to return to; Chuck was my home, as I was his.

We’d spent our last 4 years together living full time on the road, staying at inexpensive hotels and at military base lodgings.

The idea of settling down without him, anywhere, freaked me out in the extreme. I didn’t want to be where he wasn’t. Maybe I’d find a connection to and with him out on the road somewhere, was my thinking.

I bought a trailer to go with the new car I’d bought with his life insurance money. No, I didn’t feel guilty or sad about that. I used the money exactly what it was intended for; creating a life for myself after his death.

Before he died, having told him that my plan was to continue traveling, I told him, too, that I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the open road. I’ll forever remember the small smile on his lips as he looked right into my eyes and responded I’ll be looking for you. 920592_10152805925115441_611082349_o

I was terrified to set out on my own. Grief is isolating. I knew nobody out on the road. If I did as I’d promised him…paint my car and trailer pink…that would draw people to me and keep me from isolating myself.

If I started writing about navigating widowhood and the open road, in the midst of devastation, if I posted something everyday on our Happily Homeless fb page, then maybe, if I didn’t post on a particular day, someone would notice and reach out to me, asking if I was okay.

All I wanted to do was drive into the desert and disappear. It took everything in me not to do that. On some days, especially now in the midst of the trauma and chaos of our world, I still fight that urge.

My wardrobe, already pink in most ways, became almost entirely pink. Chuck said to me, in his last week don’t mourn for me in black. It isn’t your color. Wear pink.

I wear something pink everyday since he died. My goal is to wear pink everyday, ultimately. And I’m proud to say that I’ve gained a rep as that lady in pink.

I haven’t allowed myself to disappear, no matter what.

As I drove around the country, I discovered workamping as a method to support myself, and I worked at an opera camp where I drove a tractor and learned the New Orleans strut from our sous chef, and a renaissance faire, where I learned about theater and spoke to a Prince and my personality began to shine again.

My voice strengthened as I projected it, as my job required to interact with thousands of guests each day. I started repurposing clothing, even though I don’t sew. A bit of trim here, an old button there, taken from an old piece of clothing, and added to another piece of clothing. IMG_3262I grew comfortable wearing what most people consider costuming, especially while out on the road.

A beautiful pink top hat that I decorated with feathers and trim.  A bright yellow bodice made for my faire days, but worn as a top over a bright pink blouse. Lace leggings with a jangly scarf tied around my hips. Knee high boots with sparkly necklaces wrapped around the instep.

It doesn’t bother me in the least that people stare at me. And they do. Honestly, I assume they’re staring in admiration, wishing they had half the nerve to dress how they please, but don’t dare, for fear of judgement.

Also, people staring at me is a bit of the point.

Too often, widows hide themselves from the world, for too many reasons.

Too often, the words we wish to speak choke us before leaving our throats.

Our words, our hearts, freeze in place, because we fear that judgement from others.

And yes, that judgement is there. For me, too.

Here’s the trick to that.

Don’t give a fuck. Not with anger, but with Love for self and survival.

The knee high boots I wear, draped with jewelry, are perfectly capable of kicking in doors, figuratively speaking. Kicking in and kicking down the doors of judgement and silence as our culture shuts down the unpleasantness of grief that we represent.

The pink clothes I wear are the armor that I don every morning. I refuse to fade into the shadows. The sparkle and glitter I wear ensure that light casts itself on what is real. Shadows and light. I wear armor because I know…have known…since I learned, one month before Chuck died, that I would soon be a widow, that I was in for the fight of my life and it would, and does, require every ounce of strength and courage that resides in my bones. I am a warrior.

I promised Chuck before he died that I’d spend the rest of my life ensuring that every person I met would know his name and who he was, not only to me but to the world at large. I’d get out there and kick ass and take names.

All in the name of Love.

My pink car and my pink trailer, with the color named in Chuck’s honor. It’s my chariot.

My chariot, not only painted pink but covered in hundreds of names and Love notes from chance met people on the road, takes me where I need to go on this Odyssey of Love. It is covered with Love. A traveling tribute to Love.

My two selves battle each other every morning when I swing my feet to the floor.  One self doesn’t want to live this life without Chuck.

The other self hopes that I have enough time left on this earth to accomplish all that I want to accomplish, with my Odyssey of Love. This self wins out every day, if only begrudgingly.

I know who I am, even as I create myself. I know my why, even though I have no end game. I’m completely comfortable living with one foot in the past, with Chuck, and living this life as a fucking warrior goddess. I preferred that life, but this is the life I have and I will, by god, make it as grand and passionate as the life I lived with Chuck.  And, since this life pales in comparison, in my mind, I’m also completely comfortable with the fantasy life I live in my head. A life that is filled with romance and Highland warriors and passion and intimacy and, well, all that I had with a man named Chuck D.

I know I was loved more than any woman was ever loved, by a man who touched my life deeply.

I know that I’m a fucking warrior goddess, and I have much to do in order to complete the mission that Chuck set me on in that last conversation before he sank into oblivion and took his last breath.

And though I am, of course, vulnerable as a human, I am fucking invincible in spirit.

And that, my dears, is how I survived, and how I live.

I am armored in Love.

Curious people along the way have admired my rig and said oh, it’s like a Barbie house!

I’ve hidden my disdain well, but I very pointedly respond that no, this is most definitely not Barbie pink.

It’s FUCKING WARRIOR GODDESS PINK, and it’s my color only, not some pale ass Barbie color.

Said, of course, with all the Love in the world, because I have no room for any other emotion.

Don’t mess with this pink.

Don’t mess with this FWG.

Ultimately, I will draw you into the weave of all this Love, and you will feel strengthened and braver than you ever thought you’d feel, and I’ll tell you about Chuck and we’ll speak of Love and how it is the most powerful force in the Universe, which is how we live on, no matter what.

I promise this to you.

As I promised it to Chuck.

All because of Love~

 

Life Through Found Objects~

Where was it, and what was my hair doing when I met Chuck? I do remember the ugly brown, military issue, glasses I was wearing the first time he knocked at the door and I opened it to find a man dressed…and well-dressed, I might add…in his uniform camos. Continue reading

Softly Spoken~

Stay with me, my beloved husband.
Don’t leave me.
I don’t want to be without you in this life.
Words uttered only in my heart as my hand gently touched your forehead.
As my hand glided over your cheekbones, sharpened by cancer.
As my two hands wrapped around your fingers, stroking your knuckles. 733925_10152250642650400_2024366887_n
Remembering the strength of your hand wrapped around mine in our lifetime together.
As your spirit slowly faded away from me.
Rest easy, my Love.
Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for showing me how to love.
I will always remember you.
I will make sure that every person I ever meet from here on
Will hear your name from my lips.
Hear who you were to me.
Who I was to you,
And who we were to each other.
I will always remember you.
I’ll always be okay.
I promise.
Just let yourself rest, my beloved.
You are loved.
Slip away when it’s time for you to go.
It’s okay for you to go.
You are loved.
Eyes filled with Love as lips spoke these words aloud.
How could I wish for you to linger on when you were so spent?
So I spoke words that I hoped you would hear even as you traveled on without me.
Words to reassure you,
Words that shattered my heart, 12932923_1006554602732807_3717615266670319827_n
As the very air around us changed and Time ticked minutes and then seconds,
And sacred beauty filled the room,
Even as tears fell.
Where are you, my beloved?
Where did you go?
I don’t know where you are.
You know where I am.
Come find me.
I will wish you into being, as I travel on without you.
Perhaps if I yearn desperately enough for you,
You will return…
Stay with me, my beloved husband.
Don’t ever leave me.
I can’t bear to be without you.
Place your hands upon my shoulders.
Wrap your left behind Love around me.
Let your spirit shine within me. IMG_1745
Let your Love beat strongly in my own heart
Add it to the Love I had for you,
And let our combined Love shimmer and shine so extravagantly
That the world must stop in wonder and awe.
Be with me, my beloved husband,
As I live on, for both of us.
I love you.
I was loved by you.
I carry you with me and within me.
Your Love, my Love, our Love, is my armor. 33384992_1687491431305784_6535730087411580928_n
Chuck Dearing
April 21, 2013
11:21 pm

Love in the Time of…This~

I’m not going to write about what’s going on all around the world right now.
We’re all getting enough of it on a 24 hour basis.
I will, instead, write about Love.
I’m going to write about the power of Love in uncertain times. Continue reading

Once Upon a Time~

All good love stories begin with Once upon a time.  Once upon a time a man and a woman met and fell in love, created a life together….and, it pretty much ended there. We don’t hear much of the fullness … Continue reading

Yes…He Would~

Quite early on in this widowed life, as I went out on the road and realized that I didn’t recognize myself or my life in any way since the night of April 21…
I remember thinking to myself…though it was more in the way of torturing myself…with the thought…
What if Chuck were to come back to life?
Would he recognize me?
How could he possibly recognize me when I no longer had any sense of who I was or what I looked like and everything inside of me was frozen?
The mere thought that he might not recognize me caused me immeasureable pain loaded on top of the pain of his death.
Because he might come back, right?
Reality had nothing to do with it for me.
It was like shards of glass embedded in my skin, that question.
Embedded in my skin and in my blood vessels as I stood in hundreds of campgrounds around the country, looking up at the night sky in futile frustration, asking what the ever loving FUCK happened to my life?
So I posed that question to our kids as I visited them along my Odyssey of Love.
Would dad know me if he were to return and maybe, I don’t know…see me at some campground somewhere?
Such a simple question, really.
But not simple at all, because at the root of it simmered all my doubts of who I’d become after his death.
Was I hardened? Was I bitter? Was I too shellshocked? Was I…gone?
Each one of our kids responded unequivocally….YES. Dad would know you right away. Even if he saw you from a distance.
Without doubt. Absolutely.
I’ve been widowed for over 6 years now.
I’ve been on the road, alone, for 6 years and 8 months, living in my pink trailer. Driving the roads of our country on my Odyssey of Love.
And this is what I know now, for certain, way down deep in my soul. All the way to my toes and tips of my fingers.
If I were in some campground somewhere, my pink trailer sitting right next to my pink car, my outdoor living space glamped up, a pretty pink umbrella with crystals hanging from each point, music playing…
And Chuck were somewhere nearby, with his own, much more military like, campsite, maybe talking with someone who stopped by to talk to him…
And out of the corner of his eye he caught sight of a whole lot of pink…
He’d turn and look at my campsite in full…
Excuse himself to the person he was talking to…
And stride over to all this pink…
See me sitting in one of my pink chairs, on top of the pink flowered rug, with a clear crystal gazing ball propped on a lace covered table…
He’d come right up to me, with a smile on his face…a grin, really, because he’d be so intruiged…
And he’d say Hi. My name is Chuck. I couldn’t help but notice and he’d wave his hand around and I had to come over and meet the woman who created all of this. IMG_9097
I’d smile. and stand to greet him.
My heart would melt and my knees would weaken, and I’d feel the same surge I felt the first time I opened the front door of my mom’s house, way back in 1988, and saw this handsome man standing there, dressed in BDUs, with that same smile on his moustached face, looking right into me.And our Love story would start all over again…

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~

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~