Love and Magic…Does it Still Exist?

 

“Sometimes I feel like there’s a hole inside of me, an emptiness that at times seems to burn. I think if you lifted my heart to your ear, you could probably hear the ocean….I have this dream of being whole. Of not going to sleep each night, wanting. But still, sometimes, when the wind is warm or the crickets sing…I dream of a Love that even Time will lie down and be still for.  I just want someone to Love me. I want to be seen.  I don’t know.  Maybe I had my happiness.  I don’t want to believe it, but…”

These are words spoken by Sally, one of the characters in one of my most favorite movies…Practical Magic. She writes them to her sister after she, herself, is widowed.  Wondering about Love and life, as so many of us do.  As I wonder, often.

Did I have my Love story?  So many women and men don’t get one Love story; how greedy is it to think that I could have two?

And yet, I hear of second Love stories happening in the widowed communities.

I also hear of the nightmare stories of dating again.

Of the first I think how amazing and beautiful and unlikely and brave beyond measure.  What kind of Love must it be that a man or woman willingly opens his/her heart to Love again, knowing the ultimate outcome?  You’ve lived it once and you’re willing to live it again.  That’s purple heart brave in my book. But that, folks, is the power of Love.

And the nightmare stories that I hear?  They sound all too familiar to me, from my dating days back when I was first divorced.  I wasn’t good at it then, and I’m fairly sure I’d be a whole lot less good at it now.  I’m older, I’ve loved a man fully and completely, and been loved the same way in return.  Very high standards and no willingness to lower them in any way.  Add in the whole widow thing…i.e. talking endlessly about my dead husband and what a lovely man he was…I’m thinking buzzkill. But how can I not speak of Chuck?  I am the woman I am because of my life with him and my life is what it is because I am his widow.  Jesus, a mere explanation of all the pink in my life, which is unavoidable, opens everything….

I’ve been told frequently, as I’m sure you have, that I must keep my heart open to Love, so as to be ready for it when it happens.  How exactly does one know that one’s heart is open, I wonder?  And how the fuck can anyone know for certain that they are ready or not ready?  My brain tells my heart to be open, and I believe that it is.  I know that Chuck would want that for me but, seriously, how the hell do I know the answer to either of those questions?  For the most part, in any case, I believe that life is random.  Good things and bad things and everything in between happens.  Or not.

I met Chuck randomly.  I wasn’t necessarily ready to meet him.  I’d been divorced for a few years, had 3 kids and was very sure that I’d never meet a man with any desire to take on a woman with, you know… 3 kids.  My heart was actually kind of sealed.  I was angry at men, disillusioned, seeking recovery in AA, going to counseling…the whole nine yards.  And one day he knocked at my mom’s door, seeking an after-school babysitter for his daughter.

 

Remember Tienneman Square in China in the 90’s?  College students protested and the government sent out the troops.  The picture that went around the world was one lone student standing implaceably  in front of a huge tank, the gun pointing directly at him.  And he stood there, refusing to move.

 

I was the tank.  Chuck was the student.  He didn’t move.  In the face of my lack of ability to trust, my anger, all of my self-defenses…he didn’t move.  He stood there and loved me and he loved my kids and he showed me a way to life that I’d never known existed.  I learned to love, to be in love, to trust, to discuss issues…it was beautiful and hard and we found our flow and got better at it every year.  I absorbed him and his kindness and his love and humor and caring and oh, the romance that he brought to my life! And my spirit thrived.

 

I wasn’t ready for any of that, and my heart wasn’t open.  Now, without him, I consciously strive to be open and ready, but what the hell do I know if I really am? 

 

Is there a check list somewhere?

 

My heart craves to be someone’s one.  To be someone’s sweetheart, as I was Chuck’s.  As I still am.  As I will always be, no matter what.  My spirit craves a human and present connection.  I crave to be swept off my feet with romance…the kind that comes truly and genuinely, not just as grand gestures meant to impress.  I crave, again, a love that even time will lie down and be still for.  But even as I crave that, I can’t imagine it and I don’t even know that I want it or can accept it from another man.  And even if I can and do, I will still and always crave it from Chuck and how the fuck does that work when he’s, you know…dead.  There cannot possibly exist in real form, a man who can be all Chuck was, be his own, and fully accept that Chuck will always be present in my life, always in my heart.  Is there a man out there strong enough to be all of this?

I don’t know.  Who does know, really? 

But still…

 

I dream of a Love that Time will lie down and be still for…in my heart or in reality…I don’t know….

 

 

 

Kind of, yeah..Done~

 

I’m tired.

Done, I think.

At the end of this month it will be 3 years and 11 months since Chuck died.  On April 21, at 11:25 pm, it will be 4 years since the breath was crushed out of him by the liquid buildup in his lungs.  Those liquids built up in his body, showing itself in the horrid swelling of his feet and legs and hands as edema. It sweated through his body until his cancer ridden body could no longer absorb it and then it sweated out to such a degree that we had to change the hospital gown every 15 minutes or so, along with the linens on his bed.  The death rattle sounded loudly from his throat.  His eyes stared.  I don’t know when his spirit left his body.  I hang onto the thought that, in those final hours of his life, his spirit was on its’ way elsewhere…wherever that might be…if anywhere, but not there to experience physically what we were seeing, as he drowned in his own fluids.

As I’m supposed to do-how many of us hear oh, ,you must remember the good times!  Focus on the good memories!- I do remember our years before cancer took his body.  I remember the joy and our Love that grew between us daily for our 24 years.  We were as much in Love the night he died as we’d been when we first said our I do’s.  More, really, because we’d been through the worst and the best and seen each other at our worst and our best.  We’d been tested numerous times and come through it with flying colors.

When I remember Chuck, I don’t see him through a veil of death where he is now perfect but really only in my mind because he’s, you know…dead.  I remember him, and us, exactly as we were.  In Love.  Passionate about each other, about life.  I have 2 decades, plus, of pictures and words that remind me what real Love, true Love, looks like.

I took all that Love into this widowhood.  I took the words he would say to his sponsees in AA and I’ve lived them.  Suit up and show up.  I’ve done that and I’ve done it in a big way and I’ve done it in as much pink as I could.

Every bit of this Odyssey has been about the Love story Chuck and I shared and it’s been genuine and every word, every gesture, comes from the Love that he and I had and that he left behind for me.

I’ve been as honest and raw as I can be about this Odyssey, about this widowhood.  Which I know makes for uncomfortable reading.  When I write I don’t hold anything back.  I’ve never tried to dress this up or put it in a nice, neat package with a lovely bow.  Widowhood isn’t a fucking tiptoe through the tulips and I’ve never lied about that.  With all of that, I’ve also, I hope, been clear that I do not want pity, will not accept pity.  I’m just calling a spade a spade and bringing the reality of it into the light.

There is much that I don’t write about, except in a way that touches on the surface.  Not for any other reason than there are literally no words created in this language that speak to the devastation of living without him, of creating a life without him.  Mental exhaustion as I deal with the daily rigors of living on the road, the financial hardship of being one instead of two, the soul-cutting impact of the loneliness of widowhood that is not alleviated by dating, by being with grandkids, by being with friends, or our kids.  And yes, over and over again, I am so god damned grateful for each of those relationships, so please don’t raise your eyebrows in question for my lack of gratitude.  But at the end of the god damn fucking day, I go to bed alone.  I have to figure this life out on my own.  I have to live this life on my own.  Even as I’m with any of the aforesaid relationships in my life, I am alone, because they are not mine, if you get what I mean, and I hope you do.  I’m not anyone’s priority any longer, and let’s face it, that’s a hard and painful thing to lack, after having it for so long.

I wish I could be one of those widows (I’m not sure where they are, but I think I’ve read of them), who blithely sail on with life.  If I knew where to find any such a specimens, I’d study them under a microscope intently.  What do they do?  How do they do it?  Where is the fucking switch? Is there one?  Where and how does anyone reach the balance where the memories make you smile and the missing-ness become manageable?  Where is the switch that makes a woman care about life again?  Where is the switch that turns on the energy again?  Where the god damn fuck is it?

I knew, as soon as Chuck died, how easy it would be to disappear and fade away.  It was a tempting thought, honestly.  Instead, I painted my car pink, to honor his last wishes, and began this Odyssey of Love, knowing that if I did it this way..if I did this Odyssey in color, if I tasked myself to go public, than I’d have to hold myself responsible for showing up.  People would know that I’m out here and I’d have to show up for them.  I’ve made it as tough as possible to disappear when that’s all that I’ve wanted to do.  All the pink had a purpose.  It has a purpose.

Now, almost 4 years later, I don’t know if I can do this any longer.  I’m spinning my wheels.  Life and all that widowed life entails (which is much of what normal life entails, with the added topping of grief and missing-ness and sadness and all the other lovely shit) has reached its level in me. I don’t know that I have anything left in me to continue the upstream struggle.

A seed of thought in me is that maybe I’ll find a small town out west, a cowboy town, and find a room to rent and a job that is enough to keep me financially fluid, and fade into normalcy. Yes, all the grief and missing-ness will be right there with me, but maybe I can just fade into routine; go to work, go home, sleep, go to work.  Carry my memories in me and live on my memories. Stop writing publicly and live on remembering when, you know?

Please don’t read this as self-pity. It sounds pathetic even to my ears, but I’m trying to think things out.  And it isn’t depression, thank you very much. It is more a weariness of the soul, of my heart.  These almost 4 years without Chuck have taken everything in me to live it, in spite of and alongside of all that life without him entails. (which is much of what normal life entails, with the added topping of grief and missing-ness and sadness and all the other lovely shit) and, quite simply, it’s at level point.  Overflowing the banks, really.  I miss him, I miss the romance, I miss being a priority to someone who is also my priority.  I miss being held, I miss his wink at me from across a crowded room, I miss having someone know me.

Maybe all we get in this life is one amazing Love story and I’ve had mine.  It feels like that was the greatest part of my life and well..it’s gone and done.

The hard truth of all of this is that Chuck is dead and my life with him is over and I get it. I fucking get it. What I want to know is where is the goddamn switch?  Where is my spiritual awakening, the Big Top event that will make me give a damn again?

It’s all just too much, really~

 

Just Love~

When calls my heart

To the distant past that is both yesterday and incalculably forever ago.

When calls my heart

To those feelings and emotions that seem so far distant

And so deeply buried

That they are unreachable.  Unrememberable. 

Cherished.  Loved.  Nurtured. 

Secure.  In Love.  Joyous.  Passionate.  Spontaneous.  Upbeat.

What becomes of this heart

And those words that described a life, and a man,

Who gusted into my life and took my breath away with a whoof!

I knew, of course, the possibilities of Love happening in my life before he came into my life.

Zero possibility.

And then.

He called my heart and Love opened my heart

And I breathed Love and I lived Love and I loved him and he loved me and our passion burned brightly

And non-stop

For all of our years.

As we lived our Love story.

Until and then

An ugly and relentless and starving beast took that man who called my heart and opened my heart.

Took him into a world I couldn’t know.

Couldn’t go.

And left behind, calling my heart?

Still Love.  Only Love.  Always Love.

Not enough.  Never enough.  But has to be enough.

Love.  Love more.  Love hard.  Love always.

His words.  His life.  His actions.  His message.  My words.  My life.  My actions.  My message.

Only Love.

On Being Cherished. And Kissed.

I was cherished in this life.

Cherished by a man who determined, from the time of meeting, that I was the one for him. Determined, by me, that he was my one.

Cherished by a man who set out to show that love to me each and every day of our lives together, in word and deed. As I showed it to him.

This is the time, 4 years ago, that my beloved husband, Chuck, and I, began, so very unknowingly, our final 2 months together. If possible, as our world narrowed into physical pain and emotional trauma, our love expanded and deepened.

I was cherished in our healthy years, and in our cancer times.  No matter what, Chuck sought to love me even as his brow furrowed in distress and discomfort.

Oh, how he cherished me.  And, oh, how I remember his kisses upon my lips, on the top of my head, and on my hand as he’d take it in his as we finished dancing, and raise it to his lips, as a gentleman of old would have done.

His kisses rained down upon me on every occasion.  I recall reading a book about relationships early in our marriage, suggesting that a couple kiss consciously, rather than, say, a quick peck on the cheek.  I mentioned that little fact to him and he put it into practice immediately.  Our kisses at the door, as he left for work, or at the door, when he arrived home, lingered for up to a minute.  Sometimes we’d tease each other if we left the kiss too soon, so we’d start all over again.

He kissed me under the full moon as we sat on the curb in New Hampshire, our first weekend away together.

He kissed me under a full moon as we gazed at it in New Jersey, when I rented my first apartment after living with my mom post-divorce, and we stood on the balcony, savoring the pure contentment of having our own space.

He kissed me again under a full moon in Indiana when we visited his folks, and he came to get me, grabbing my hand, wanting me to share the brightness and beauty of that luminescent orb in the night sky with him, from their front porch.

He kissed me, every time he kissed me, with passion, with so much love, with possessiveness, with happiness, with pure pleasure…and I kissed him back with the same fire.  His hand behind my neck, or cupping my chin in his hands, pulling me to him…sometimes stooping down a bit, as he was taller than I, but just as much I loved to stand on tiptoe and put my arms around his neck and feel his arms around me, holding me closely and tightly…

In those final weeks before making our wild and unplanned for trip to the ER in southern California, something in the depths of my heart murmured to me each time we kissed and said remember this and after we kissed I’d stand on tiptoe again, leaning in close to where his neck and shoulders joined and I’d inhale deeply.  He noticed, of course, and asked me about it and I said to him I’m memorizing you…  He smiled, figuring I’d picked up another tidbit from another book.

We kissed in the hospital, and in hospice.  It was I, then, who would lean down to him, in the hospital bed, or at the mirror in the bathroom as he studied his image, wondering, I’m sure, what the fuck had happened to his face and body. I’d see that look and I’d turn him to me and take his face between my two hands and say you’re still my knight in shining armor. You’re still the handsomest man I’ve ever met

I leaned down to kiss him when he could no longer kiss me because his spirit was no longer in his body.  In that kiss that I pressed upon the lips of this man I loved more than my own breath was the love of 24 years and every full moon we’d gazed upon, and every dance we’d ever danced and every piece of my heart and soul.

That last kiss held all of the honor he’d given me, and all that I’d returned to him in our living Love story. In that last kiss was our beginning, all of our wonderful in-betweens, and our end…

My dearest, my most beloved husband…Chuck Dearing…

collage

Pink in the Midst of Black~

The colors of widowhood.

I reflect on them sometimes.

The colors we wear.

The colors we strive to wear personally and the colors social structures put on us, or expect from us.

Maybe not so much in words, maybe not conscious.

But still there.

Black widows are the female spiders that kill their mates after…mating.

It is the term used to refer to human women who kill their mates.

Or families.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I, of course, didn’t kill my mate.  My husband.  My lover.

But as time passes in this widowhood, I feel the pressure of widowhood and it colors my perception of self and I feel like the Black Widow.

Though I struggle to not let it color who I really am, who I strive to be in the days and months and years since my beloved husband died.

I freely admit that I am dark.  Darker than I’ve ever been.  I’m the party pooper, the one to rain on your parade because I’m not me anymore.  Or, at least, not the me I used to be.  And I have no idea who this me is now.  The lightheartedness that used to make me the life of the party, the joie de vie that guided my life…that’s gone dark.  The smile, the humor, the sparkle in my eyes…gone.

Oh my god.  Have I become the Black Widow?

To counter all of this, I wear pink.  Chuck said that to me, you know.  Before he died.  Black isn’t your color.  Mourn for me in pink.

And I do.  Not a gentle pink, though.  The pink I wear is such as the great female warriors of times past might have worn.  If they wore pink.  Which they didn’t, to my knowledge.  Though glowing pink armor would be totally radical, dude.

Pink is my armor.  My clothing.  My hair, on occasion.  My car.  My trailer.  Whatever bags I carry. Jewelry.  My boots are brown, but they need to be.  They are my Fucking Warrior Goddess boots.

I’ve been asked why do you need armor?  Why do you call yourself a Fucking Warrior Goddess?  Isn’t that all kind of a violent perception of yourself? Of widowhood?

Um..yeah, it’s necessary. What do you think this is, this widowhood?  What do you think it takes when your world is incinerated around you and it’s now just you, after having been two for so long? I do this not to protect myself from anything, but because this widowhood, the grief and the Love that propel me daily…it’s a battle.  A struggle.  For my sanity, in some ways.  To hold on when I don’t want to go on.  A reminder, daily, to myself more than others, that I am a force to be reckoned with, though I don’t feel very strong most days.  An outward symbol, perhaps, and maybe hopefully, that this pink…this pink…it’s kind of like the S on Superman’s chest.  An outward symbol of strength and determination. Yes, I’m a widow, but I don’t need pity.  I’m not needy.  I’m not here to be taken advantage of or to take advantage of anyone. 

I’m sad, yes.  I miss my husband desperately, yes.  I need to talk about him, yes.  I even need to talk about how he died…because his dying was one of the most powerful things ever to happen to me. It is part of my history now. His death and his life and everything else that has changed, continues changing…this is my life.  This is what I need to talk about with whatever warm body happens to be near me, because I don’t have my warm body near me. It’s as simple as that.  And as complicated, I guess, to the outside world.

Perhaps the term Black Widow exists because that color best describes what happens to our world when our person dies.  It goes black.  The black holes in space have nothing on what happened to my world when Chuck died. Perhaps, too, it exists because people don’t know what to do with widows.  What to say, how to respond to them, either in words or actions.  Perhaps it best describes their discomfort with us, with our intensity, as we navigate a new life.

Are we too intense for normal folk?  It really does seem so.  I’ve seen friendships end, family relationships blown to bits, I’ve heard about it all from my widowed community.  It’s kind of mind-blowing, really.

Widowhood is a world and a language that continually presents itself in new ways to me as I navigate the world, post Chuck’s death.  PCD.  There’s a huge learning curve in it for me, and, I suspect, for many.  It’s confusing and bewildering and honestly makes me feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt in my 58 years on this earth.

Which is one of the reasons I do it in pink.

I am the Black Widow, in pink…

(I wonder if being a Black Widow involves endless amounts of glitter?)

 

Do NOT Do This~

*This is a public service announcement from the world of widowhood*

Don’t do it. Don’t be a widow. There is no lonelier feeling in the world than being alone in the world without your person. It blitzes your world into pieces. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. Logistically. Practically. Holistically.

I realize you don’t actually have a choice about widowhood; if you’re one of a couple, one of you will live this. But I’m telling you; it will suck the very life from your bones, it will shred your heart…unless a ridged metal glove with spikes on it rips it from your chest first, and then slams it to the ground and hacks at it with a rusty axe blade, before putting it back in your chest along with a meat slicer that…oh, yay…works REALLY well, with really sharp blades, and continually slices away inside of you.  And this is after counseling and therapy and yoga and meditation and every other thing you can think of.

And you’ll be alone in the world. Even though you will have people (hopefully). But people have their own lives, which is right and good and proper and as it should be. What that means for you, however, is that your heart and chest will fill with words with nobody to hear them (unless you talk to yourself, but it isn’t the same, is it?). And you’ll go to bed alone every night, possibly in a bed but oftentimes on a couch even if you have a bed because the back of the couch at your back somehow feels more secure. You might wear a shirt of his, even though it no longer bears his scent. You might rest your head upon his pillow, and try to feel a connection to him by doing that. You don’t really, but you pretend that you do.

You’ll sleep restlessly through the night, waking and sleeping on a repeat cycle, and then wake up alone in the morning to face a day that might be very busy, or it might be filled with shit to keep busy..it really doesn’t make a difference; you still breathe his absence no matter what you do.

People might think, but not say so because they’ve gotten smart enough not to, but you kind of feel the unspoken words, that you’re a bit unbalanced because they just don’t get what this shit does to a life. And they might think that you’re just feeling mighty sorry for yourself because you actually ‘fess up to the reality of what widowhood really is and you refuse to lie about it, but hey, people will think whatever they think. But you aren’t crazy. Your life was incinerated, is all, and you just can’t seem to get your shit together, no matter what you fucking do, no matter how much you fucking try. Not because you’re incompetent. Not because of anything, really. And you don’t feel sorry for yourself; you just feel shell-shocked as you look at the world around you and realize that you recognize nothing in it. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, people WILL get it. They might even ask you about your world and what it feels like in it.

And you might wish that people who have only known you as a widow, when you’re not near the person you were… might have known you when you laughed freely and felt passionate about life, and words tripped from you and there was a lightness of being about you and you were clever and had a great sense of humor and oh, boy, did you smile a LOT every day, and remember how you loved to dance? ..but they never will, so the only woman they know seems, in their estimation, just a bit off her rocker and, hey, is it safe for her to be around kids? and you just have to let that go because that woman you were is as dead as he is. And I guess maybe you DO seem crazy and unreliable even though you are more reliable than ever because of, you know, all the shit…but, you know…whatever.

So, all of which is to say….don’t be a widow. I don’t recommend it at all.

*end of public service announcement*

Slow Dance. Last Dance.

I first wrote this blog in 2014, just a couple days before Valentines Day, a few days more before our 24 wedding anniversary.  It holds as true today as it did then..

So, here I am, writing my first blog right before Valentine’s Day.  Right before what would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. I’m getting ahead of myself, I know. I was going to introduce myself, give some back-story, and I promise I will.  But maybe, because of the timing of this first entry, I’ll give you a glimpse into the world that was mine with my beloved husband, let you peek through the keyhole so you can understand the missing-ness of him in my life.  This, dear ones, is the memory I carry with me in my heart and soul.  The only memory, really, that I can easily call to mind. (Why is that?)

As I remember him, and me, and our full-time travels of the last 4 years, this Death Valley dance lingers in the nooks and crannies of my heart.  Exploring Death Valley National Park in California was a dream of ours, and for 3 days we drove up and down the Valley, exploring the muted colors of the Canyons. Chuck was already sick and in pain; we thought it was the die-off from a fungal infection.  We thought it was a pinched nerve.  So this last day was taken slowly.  He’d managed a short hike back into the rocks.  Our last hike, but we didn’t know it then.  All we knew was that it was getting late, he was tired, and it was time we returned to our ranch cabin.

But, as I steered the car over the road to the ranch, looking at the changing colors of the rocks around me, my instinct told me that here was a memory that we needed to imprint on our hearts.  I’m relieved now that I listened to that instinct that made me maneuver the car to the dirt on the side of the road and say to him “Let’s dance”.  We loved to slow dance, and Chuck was a master at it.  He wasn’t quite sure of the footing on the rutted ground but I said let’s do it anyways.  And he smiled and got out of the car.
 
It was that most beautiful part of the evening that the Scots call “the gloaming”.  The quiet moment when the day is done but right before full dark sets in.  Silence surrounded us as I met him in front of our Ford Escape.  The strains of “You’re My Inspiration” by Chicago wafted from my IPOD.  Our song.  He put his right arm around my waist and clasped my right hand in his left, wrapping his fingers around mine.  In spite of everything, his body was strong against me.
 
And on the side of the road, there in Death Valley, in the setting sun, we danced what would be our last dance.  

Chuck’s romantic heart met my even more romantic heart and we kept that passion alive for the 24 years we were together.  This Valentine’s Day is my first without him.  Our 24th wedding anniversary is the 18th.  I don’t know if any one particular day is more painful than another because right now every day is filled with immeasurable pain.  I miss him kissing me and holding me and dancing with me and loving me and that slow wink at me from across a room. 
 
I miss him with every beat of my heart, with every painful breath that keeps me living without him. 529438_552029828185289_1995679461_n