This Uncertain Terrain~

The landscape of widowhood.

Of grief.

The Alaskan tundra.

The Sahara Desert.

The Australian Outback.

Every side road in between cities and towns.

This parched landscape

Of devastation.

This existence of one where there was once two.

I picture nothingness

In the midst of these tundras and deserts.

Nothingness under bright blue skies and a sun so piercing

It makes me squint my eyes.

The only water available streams from overheated eyes…

The eyes he used to look into, and smile.

Crawling on hands and knees, searching for something familiar,

Aching muscles and shattered self…

I don’t know where I’m going with this.

It’s been a rough day emotionally.

All I want is the life I had with Chuck,

And that life is dead and gone,

Same as he is.

Do you ever get tired of being brave and courageous,

Even though that’s a very real part of you?

I think of myself as Thing One and Thing Two now and wouldn’t a shrink have a field day with that?

I’m that woman with parched throat and hollow self, crawling through the tundra and desert,

And I’m the woman decked out in pink, foraging for hugs so that I don’t lose my sanity,

Keeping the Love front and center, so that I don’t lose my fucking sanity.

I’m Thing One and Thing Two and both are real.

I desperately miss my beloved husband, Chuck.

The longing for him, the yearning for his touch…that’s my desert. My tundra. My Outback.

And I don’t know what to do with any of it.

So, I write this…

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Numbers Again~

On May 29 I celebrated 10 years of fulltiming on the open road.

The first 4 were with my beloved husband, Chuck.

The last 6 have been solo. Widowed.

Wishing for it to be different, and living it fully, at the same time.

Living on the road in my little pink trailer, driving my pink car, this Odyssey of Love, is just what I do, and I don’t give a whole lot of thought to it.

But my DIL and one of my best friends suggested to me that a decade of living on the road was something I needed to acknowledge publicly, and celebrate.

Since I’m workamping at Opera in the Ozarks, I thought it would be the perfect place to have the celebration, so I planned it out pdq.

I decorated the tables in the cafeteria with pink tablecloths and strewed pink heart beads and necklaces across it, and pink napkins.

Our on site baker made a cake for all of us. Strawberry cake with chocolate frosting, with a road made of pink glitter and a pink camper she’d found perched upright on that road. Underneath the road flowed the words of my motto Love leads the way.

I bought sparkling cider for everyone, because I wanted them to toast with me.

Lots of the students wore pink in my honor.

When dinner was finished I stood up and shared how my Odyssey of Love began, and the power of the Love that fuels every mile.

It is only because of Love that I’m still here, and sane.

I told them that it’s up to us, even when we’re devastated, to go out into the world and create community for ourselves, and build connections with others, because nobody but we ourselves can do the footwork.

I explained to them all the names and messages of Love written all over my pink rig.

I told them about Chuck and how much he loved me, and I, him.

And then I asked them all to raise their glasses in a toast to the most powerful force in the Universe.

Love.

When I sat down, my chair had my back facing the rest of the room and I knew that everyone was applauding but one of our staff told me to turn around and look.

Which I did, and they were all standing, applauding.

It choked me up.

I’m on year 10 of my life on the road.

I’ve been on the road solo for 6 years. 

The same amount of time that I’ve been widowed.

In a few days I’ll be 61 years old.

That’s one year older than Chuck got to live.

My heart breaks when i think of it.

While this life that I’ve created is colorful and adventurous, at least to some, it isn’t my first choice.

I’m only living it because Chuck died and I had to find a way to make everything that he and I had together, matter.

I had to make our Love matter.

I had to find a way to live with purpose.

I’ve done that. I have purpose in my Odyssey of Love.

I live on memories and on the Love that I find in the community I’ve created for myself.

And I don’t much care whether that meets the approval of the latest psychological studies or not.

10 years. 

4 with him.

6 without him.

In a few days, 1 year older than he was when he died.

I don’t know what to do with any of this, if I stop and think about it.

So, I don’t think about it.

I just hug people and allow myself to be hugged.

Love is the only thing I hold to be true.

Here’s to Chuck and the Love he left behind for me that gave me, gives me, the courage to live out on the open road by myself.

Here’s to me, and listening to my heart.

And…here’s to Love~

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~

Calling a Spade a Spade~

I’m 5 years and 9 months into life without Chuck.

I don’t think I’m supposed to call it that.

Life without Chuck, I mean.

I think I’m supposed to structure it, this life after him, in a more positive manner, according to society at large, pointing out all that I’ve gained since his death. All the appreciation for life, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Whatevs.

The one thing I’ve done really well since Chuck died is be real about this widowed life shit.

And it ain’t sunshine and roses, no matter how I try to dress it up.

Which I don’t try to do, honestly, because I don’t have it in me to be fake about it, or plant that pretend smile on my face.

I refuse to show it as anything other than what it is.

A shit show.

AND…

I engage in life and with hundreds of people and I laugh at funny shit and I connect with family and old friends and new friends and push my boundaries and comfort zones, daily.

And it’s still the most emotionally lonely life I could have ever imagined.

Which doesn’t keep me from doing all the shit I mentioned a sentence ago.

At the end of the day, when I close my door, whether it’s the door to my rig or the door to a room I’m staying in temporarily, that soul deep ache of missing him that is always present but from which I can distract myself during the day as I go about the business of living, still surges forth.

No, dating isn’t the answer, as I tell people who helpfully suggest that I start dating.

I’m not lonely for a generic man. 

Duh.

I’m lonely for my beloved husband.

It ain’t rocket science, figuring that out. I don’t think.

Life just isn’t as good, now, as it was with Chuck.

That’s just the god honest truth.

But here’s the other side of that truth, which is what makes me, as I told my daughter, possibly the strongest woman ever to walk through her life.

Even with this emotional wasteland of life without Chuck…

I’m going out and doing shit that is way beyond what many would consider ordinary. Full timing in a colorful car and trailer, taking seasonal jobs at opera camps and Renaissance Faires, talking to strangers daily…the list is endless. 

I’m living life, whether I want to or not, because it isn’t in me to not live. Even as I wonder, often, why the hell I didn’t die of broken heart syndrome. But I’m doing it, andthat is what makes me the damn strong woman that I am. Lonely for my husband, Chuck, but fucking killing this life I’ve created.

If I have to live life without him, which I have to do, clearly, then you can by god be damn sure I’m doing it MY way, living as much outside what is considered traditional/normal, as I possibly can on any given day.

With the full recognition, and realization, that anyone who has a problem with my hows and whys, generally speaking, are just not strong enough to even be in my sphere.

My life without my beloved husband. My terms.

All in glorious shades of pink.

All of which is what makes me a Fucking Warrior Goddess~