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~

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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~

This Hall of Memories~

You and I, my Love,

We…

Are echoes in the halls of memories.

In lands far away and beyond the clouds

so beautifully and achingly tinged with vibrant colors,

I search for you.

Green tinged mountains with trees so tall they reach up into and beyond those clouds,

Valleys of rock that jut sharply into one another and, if I squint my eyes, become castles of ancient times,

Rivers that wind and rush into oceans,

Names and places and adventures and shared history

That are carried now only by me, in my hall of memories.

Carried with me, deeply embedded into my heart and soul.

Carried, not without sadness, but carried, too, with all that is the Love we had together.

I am the courier of us.

The emissary of our Love story.

The herald of who we were

In our time.

Who you were, who I was, who we were…

What we did, what we shared, how we lived together, the secret language of us,

Carried in me, in the halls of memories.

Forever, my Love and my beloved.

Never forgotten. Always remembered.

You and I,

Who we were,

In the clouds, the mountains, the rivers and valleys,

The very air I breathe, and the pulsebeat of my heart,

The aching of my soul,

This sacred hall of memories~

Widowhood and…Grammar?

Yes, tildes are a thing. Unlike exclamation points, which everyone learns in grade school, you probably won’t recognize the term, though you might very well recognize the symbol itself.

Lest you think this is a blog about grammar, let me clarify my why of writing about grammar points.

Both of them have played a significant role in my life for the past 5 years and 9 months since Chuck’s death.

Godalmighty. How is it possible that it’s been so excruciatingly long since he died?

Anyways.

Exclamation points and tildes

I stopped using exclamation points in anything I wrote, after Chuck died.

In paragraphs. In sentences. In idle comments.

If I was doing amazing things. If others were doing amazing things. 

I never used exclamation points. Ever.

In this last year, I actually did use an exclamation point, maybe 4 times, I think.

And, yes, the lack thereof has been, is (because I still use them very sparingly) directly tied to this damn widowed life.

All levels of excitement, for myself or others, left me when Chuck died, and that lack of excitement carried over in my use of grammar.

You climbed Mt Everest? You’re pregnant? You’re getting married? You succeeded at something? You’re in love? Etc. Etc. Etc...as the King of Siam would say.

It isn’t that I didn’t appreciate any and all of this for you…whoever you are.

It was, and still is, mostly, that I don’t feel excitement about much of anything in life.

I appreciate exciting shit, but I don’t seem to get excited about it, in that I don’t feel excitement.

Maybe because it’s all temporary, whatever it is that excites people? Maybe because I’m numb?

I don’t know. 

Which brings me to the tilde.

I, myself, just learned the word, even though I’ve been using the symbol forever. Forever being these 5 years and 9 months since Chuck’s death.

This is a tilde…don’t blink or you’ll miss it! (that makes 5 times I’ve used an exclamation point this year).

~

That wavy little line.

I use a tilde at the end of every thought. Not every sentence, of course. 

But when I’m finishing a thought, after writing a blog, or a comment, a tilde is totally useful.

Why do I use a tilde, you might well ask, instead of a period, like normal folks do?

Quite simply, I use it instead of a period because my thoughts and ideas and beliefs are continually changing, depending on the circumstances, and the use of a period seems so very definite and final to me. 

As if I’m saying well, here’s what I think and that’s that. Period.

Somewhere deep in my soul, a tilde resonates into my thoughts that life is so completely impermanent and changes on a dime at any given moment, and any plans I make can shift and change, and what I think I know in one moment may not be true in the next (because I learn something new), or a bomb might explode, or a shooting happen, or I might get in a car accident, or, I don’t know, yet another loved one in my life might be killed off by cancer, pushing my entire world into a tilt position, where every known thing slides off into oblivion.

Nothing is permanent. Everything is changeable, at any given moment. Thoughts, emotions, knowledge, life…might all be one thing at one moment, and vastly different 5 seconds from now.

Periods just have no place in my life.

Tildes, though…that wavy little line at the end of a sentence, signifying approximation, or a trailing off, with uncertainty behind it…yep. I relate to that.

I may or may not use more exclamation points this year. I’ve tried to generate a bit more enthusiasm towards people’s exciting experiences. Go me, right?

The tilde, though, my favorite grammar symbol, will always be a part of who I am.

I don’t necessarily view my use of the tilde negatively, however.

Maybe it’s so significant in my writings because it leaves the door open to…possibilities.

Which is what I’m all about, as I travel this Odyssey of Love, keeping my heart as open as I can possibly keep it. To new experiences, new friends, new places.

While a period, in my mind, conveys a closing of doors, and options. 

A period closes a sentence, and a thought. Done. Finito. 

And this life of mine, apparently, is not done. Even as my heart has shattered.

Somehow, I’m still here. And I’m living this life boldly, in as many shades of pink as I possibly can, every damn day.

Nothing is finished. 

Say yes to tildes. Possibly yes to exclamation points.

No to closing a sentence with a period.

How’s that for deep, true blue, self-analysis?!!

Let’s not go overboard on those exclamation points~

Words in a Book, From the Grave~

St Thomas Aquinas said that Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility. It is therefore able to undertake all things. To hear your laugh again did wonders for my heart. I feel so deeply for you and want you to be as happy and fulfilled as you can be.
I know that Betty is now free of pain, is with Kysa, and both are celebrating their new life.
I know that love is a powerful emotion and if anything can help, it is love.
Together, in love and through love, we will get through this difficult time.

For most of our 24 years together, my beloved husband, Chuck, and I kept a journal for Love Notes to each other. We did this instead of exchanging cards. I’d write a note to him, a page maybe, and then place it on his pillow for him to find. Or he’d write a note to me before leaving TDY (military travel) and put it on my pillow to find and read while he was gone.
Our Love Notes journal has traveled with me for all the years since Chuck died. Mostly I haven’t opened it; it’s been too painful. But it resides snugly with his flag and cremains, within hands reach each night, whether I’m in my trailer or in a room somewhere.
A few nights ago I opened it again. Just read the first couple entries I told myself. That much is bearable.
Our first few entries began the same year my mom and brother died. Each of them had a different kind of cancer. My younger brother died, and when I called my sister to tell her that our brother had died, she told me something was wrong with my mom. Six months later my mom died. Chuck was newly retired from the military, unable to find a job, money was tight, and death seemed all around us. It was an impossibly stress-filled time.
The quotes above are Chuck’s words that he wrote to me in the first two entries of our Love Notes journal. He writes the words about my brother and mom, about grief, about death…but he is speaking to me from the grave, isn’t he? Because the words he wrote are what he believed, they tell me his concept of the afterlife, his fervent belief in the power of Love, and yes and most especially, what he wanted for me then, what he would want for me now. untitledvv.png
These words are so very important because I’ve agonized since Chuck’s death, trying to remember what he believed of an afterlife. I know we must have had numerous conversations about that, and about a Higher Power but I can’t recall any such conversations. I don’t know what I believe and it has literally sickened me that I may not ever see him again, that maybe our 24 years is what we had and that’s it and it’s done and over and I can’t bear that thought. I just can’t.
Within those sentences, within those words that I read night after night so that I can memorize them into my heart…I read them and I physically felt my heart begin to pound. Here it is, I thought, here they are…his words Chuck’s words his beliefs here they are! I don’t need to try to remember any longer because they’re right here to read, in a tiny journal of Love Notes, words that were written from him to me over 20 years ago.
His words echo what my heart and my instinct have told me continually since I began my Odyssey of Love. That Love is all that matters, that with love and through Love, I can get through this. It’s what I have left of him and what I live daily, mile after mile, year after year.
Chuck spoke to me from the grave yesterday, powerful words on the pages of a little book covered in stars and moons. He spoke to me in the here and now, from a day in the past, and told me what he believed and what he hoped for, and what he wanted for me, and each and every one of his words are what he would write to me today, as I widow my way.
Love is powerful. Love is what he and I shared for 24 years and Love is what he left behind for me and Love is all that matters to me now and forever. We were Love and now I am Love.