Grace Absorbed~

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This picture expresses it all for me.
Where I am in this widowed life.
It was taken 3 years ago, but even then, without knowing….I was determined.
Determined that Love must be bigger than the devastation.
Determined that if I knew nothing else, if I remembered nothing else, I would know and remember the Love that Chuck left behind for me.
And I would make it shine forth from me so brightly that it would rival the sun.

And it does. It shines and it shimmers and it glows.
It isn’t any easier for me than it is for anyone else in this widow life.
What you can’t see in this picture, what is invisible to the human eye and completely visible to my eye, is the humongous shape of Chuck’s absence that is always with me.
His physical and tangible absence right there to the left of me.
That’s the side he walked on, always, because of deafness in his right ear.
The day this picture was taken, I very consciously chose my clothing, wanting them to reflect the fucking warrior goddess that I was determined to be.
I chose a clear crystal to wear around my neck, on a strand of pink beads.  Clear crystal, so that the light would shine through. Pink because, well…pink, and Chuck said wear pink to mourn for me, not black.  Pink is your color.
I wore leggings that I laced with pink thread. They were a bit ragged, which suited me.  I was ragged and torn up. I still am.
A lace shirt to remind myself of softness and light and my femininity. What I was, what I felt, when Chuck and I were together.
A laced suede vest denoting armor.  Widowhood is not for sissies.  Life is a battle for me, everyday.  I make the decision every day to get up and suit up and show up, and I armor myself in pink, for strength.  For Love.
A sword. But a sword for Love, not violence. A sword because a fucking warrior goddess must have a sword.
I purposefully went barefoot that day, as I crossed streams and climbed red rocks to get to a rise above the earth. I wanted my feet to sink into the ground.  I wanted them dirty and natural and bare.  Bare and as stripped down as I felt.
And, as I posed and lifted my face to the sun above me, I felt, even as my shredded heart beat beneath my lace shirt and suede vest…I absorbed the grace descending upon me.
Grace.
What I needed then, what I need now, to carry me, along with the Love that is the only real and tangible thing to me in these 4 years and 3 months of without-ness.
I lift my face to the sun, still, and I lift my face to the moon and stars at night, as I travel my Odyssey of Love.  I speak to Chuck and I ask him to send even more Love here to me, more Love to hold onto, more grace to continue on.
Love…the Love that Chuck left behind for me, the Love that I feel for him now and always, is the very breath of my existence. It fuels me, it gets me going, it keeps me going.
I lift my eyes to the skies to absorb Chuck, wherever he is, if he is…and I breathe the Love from him into every step I take, every mile I drive.
It’s all I have.
And it isn’t enough.
Except that..
It is.

It must be.

One Week

1908022_686124304775840_8575168731822894139_nIt’s been one full week on this Nothin’ But Love tour. Our first night was spent boon-docking off a forest road just outside of Sedona, AZ. The crickets chirped and the stars were bright. A hot air balloon greeted us in the early morning as it landed by our campsite. Camping for me typically involves not much more than a tent and perhaps a hammock. This new form of glamping (as “they” call it) is so up my alley. Night two in Dewey, AZ welcomed us with a home cooked dinner, storytelling, hula hooping, and a glorious view. Our hosts were warm and generous. The third night took us to a Flying J in Barstow, CA where I had a surprising solid night of sleep. Days 4, 5, and 6 put us in Morgan Hills, CA at USVA Pines RV Park where green vineyards, rolling hills, and tall trees kept us company. It also gave us some time to rest (sort of) and catch up with friends and family who lived in the area and brought with them so much love and many hugs- all of which keep us moving forward on this Odyssey of Love. One more long day north up the Pacific Coast Highway filled with winding roads, a fog covered ocean, and floral dotted cliffs finally brought us to our landing place in Fort Bragg, CA where we treated ourselves to a hot meal and comfy hotel room.

This first week has brought with it a wide range of emotions. Memories take hold and plop a smile across my face as I remember times traveled with my husband. Familiar places fill my heart with love for him. Other moments warm my heart but also tug at its strings as my mom and I happen upon places that she and my dad visited in their first year of travel. It helps me to know and feel closer to my dad as I stand in view of the very same sites he set his eyes upon in times past, but with that comes the grief of knowing that he will no longer hold my mom’s hand as the adventure continues. I also find myself wondering if my mom ever feels out of breath when she turns to look towards the drivers seat and finds me sitting there in place of my dad. Needless to say, it’s been an emotional roller coaster. 10491221_10153133209695400_8993084184656114303_n

I also miss my husband. It’s only been a week so it’s relatively easy to pretend I am simply on a short trip and will return home soon. The days come and go with gentle ease, as they are filled with many distractions. But as the lights go out, I climb into bed, and the sounds of night take over the bustle of the day, I miss him. I miss his arms around me. I wear his college sweatshirt to bed every night and shall until I can crawl up next to him again. He and I have always enjoyed falling asleep wrapped up in each other. It is a place I feel safe and oh so loved. It gives me the tiniest glimpse of the life that my mom is now forced to lead. This is a trip that I chose to do voluntarily, and one that he has been supportive of from day one. He and I both knew that this was something that I just needed to do with my mom. I have no regrets about that but that doesn’t make it any easier. I have left behind all comforts and everything that I know for 6 months to hit the open road. The only thing that I do know is that this adventure is being led by intuition and nothin’ but love.

 

So, what is to become of my life at the end of this time on the road? I have no idea and am completely ok with that. I will be a changed woman at the end of this particular experience- of that I am sure. I am moving forward with an open heart and allowing my world to unfold before me. And you know what? It’s kind of beautiful.

Days. Nights. And in between~

Errands must be done.  Business must be taken care of.  Organizing must be done to ready for the next leg of my travels.  I don’t know whether to be thankful I’m busy or to resent all that must needs be done.  Whatever.  I feel so untouched by so much right now.

Get up.  Face the day.  Wander around the condo.  Stop and look at Handsome Husband’s picture on the table.

Eat crap because it doesn’t occur to me to eat anything else and I don’t have much else in the fridge anyways.  We kept special food around for Handsome Husband but no need for that now.  My brain is so fogged that it only recently occurred to me that if I ran out of eggs I could eat cereal.  Oh.

Organize paperwork for the day.  Do I need to make phone calls?  Wander around condo looking for phone, phone numbers and paper and pen.

Phone calls made.  Not sure if I understand or remember all that was said so it’s good I wrote most of it down.  Notes will end up misplaced at some point.  Notes will be found at some point.

As I’m making phone calls, informing one more agency or business of the death of my husband, contemplate the pain of grief.  Say to self again “He must be dead. Otherwise I wouldn’t have to make these phone calls”.

Shower, dress.  Pretend to care.  Or don’t pretend to care.  Catch glimpse of self in mirror.  Still a shock to see my lack of hair.  And a shock to realize I don’t care what it looks like.  Who am I trying to impress?  Handsome Husband is dead.

Gather what I need.  Go out to car.  Realize I didn’t bring my phone.  Or IPOD for music. Contemplate that I don’t really want to listen to music anyways.  Go back in.  Find phone.  Remember keys.

Driving on roads that slam me back to the winter.  Driving these roads with Handsome Husband.  Contemplate the grief.  Contemplate the hollowness of grief.

Contemplate the not knowing he had cancer again.  That it wasn’t a fungal infection.  Or at least, not all of it.

Drive, drive, drive.  Look at the beautiful Arizona mountains.  Realize that yes, they are beautiful but I don’t care.

Mind drifts to Saturday and being back on the road.  Pull my mind back.  I must stay in the moment and not anticipate.  I’m here now, I’m here now, I’m here now.

Mind meanderings as I drive:  is my grief at this point normal?  should I still be feeling this level of pain?  should I get some medication?  whether it’s normal or not, can my body long sustain this level of pain?  do I want to continually feel this way?  can I force myself to not feel this pain?  tried it; it doesn’t work. oh well.

Drive to Verizon to cancel his phone.  Such a simple thing to do, canceling phones.  And yet, as soon as I speak the words to the technician, my throat closes up, my eyes well up, and I have to stop.  One more connection to him.  Gone.

Drive to AAA offices.  Cancel his card, start an account in my own name.  A pickax to my heart, many times over.

Call auto insurance.  Put it in my name.  Agony.

I observe these things and many others, as I do them.  I’m interestingly kind of removed from myself as I do them.  Interesting because even while I’m removed, I’m in more pain than I’ve ever thought possible to have and yet….live.

I’m in the company of millions, I tell myself.  These feelings are not unique. I bet Handsome Husband would be handling this better than I, my mind says.  And quickly adds “You know what he would say to that!”  (He always reprimanded me when I was harsh with myself).

Errands done.  Back at condo.  Look at piles of everything as I prepare to pack.  Eat crap again.  Contemplate that I should go exercise.  Who cares, I respond to myself.  What the fuck does it matter?  Watch TV.  Or rather, turn on TV.  White noise.  Read a book.  Wonder what I just read.  Not really.  I don’t care what I just read.  Its’ meaningless to me.

Don pj’s.  Wander around condo.  Drink diet pepsi.  I outright call it aspartame.  Its’ bad for me.  But I don’t care.  I’m in survival mode.  Contemplate drinking water.  Maybe later.  Sit down.  Study phone.  It’s his phone.  I’m using it now, with my number.  His is less scratched.  Contemplate that he held this phone, he put it to his ear, he spoke a last message to me on it.  Waves of pain.

Bedtime.  No set time, because what does it matter?  He isn’t here to put his arms around me, to talk with me as we drowse into sleep.  He isn’t here to touch his pinky finger to mine as we rest side by side.   When I can stay awake no longer, my eyes close to the torture of sleep.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Since March 27 when I took him to the ER.  Non-stop fucking grief tsunamis.

No, my grief isn’t special.  I don’t think for a minute that it is.  I don’t give it that much thought, really. It just is what it is.  My own whirling, slicing, dicing, whiplashing, gut-splitting, heart-rendering, new world.

Looks like~

A few posts ago, I posited the question “Should we continue to travel, or settle?

At the time of that wondering, we were in a long-term stay in Phoenix AZ.  It was a wonderful three and a half months there, filled with hiking, dinners, hooping, belly dancing, celebrations-with both family and friends.  (Our younger daughter Kamahooptra and her husband live there, and our older son Snads and his girlfriend).  Loved our time there!  I found my mojo again, which has been sadly absent, between dealing with Handsome Husband’s cancer, his systemic infection, my menopause-basically having the life sucked out of me.  But, its back-hallelujah and yay!  So, Arizona was reallllly good for that.  I spent so much time with Kamahooptra, brainstorming and creating for the business that we’re starting (Moonstruckgatherings.com), and loved every minute of it.  So much so that I got it in my head that just maybe I wanted to stay put, grow some new roots, and put the brakes on our traveling.

Not so fast!  We spent Saturday on the road again, leaving Arizona and pointing our SUV in the direction of Las Vegas, Nevada.  In the process, traveling  along Rt 74 to 60 and then to 93, we meandered through what always thrills me to no end:  IMG_9335IMG_9323IMG_9369This terrain will look stark and dismal, maybe, to those who like green and mountains, and cities and suburbs.  Me?  The very wildness of it feeds my soul and almost hurts my eyes for the beauty.  This West and Southwest stirs me to the depths of my heart.  I love it in every way, and I can’t conceive of not continuing to travel, so that we can see more of it.  Arizona. Nevada.  California next.  At some point, Montana and the Dakotas again.  Wyoming.  The terrain.  The history.  The aching beauty.  The wide-openness.  The skies that go on forever, along with the roads.  No, I’m not ready to settle down.  The thrill is very much there.  It felt so good being  back on the road again and that feeling will be there again tomorrow as we head towards Death Valley.  Wagons west again, folks!

PS.  These last few days have been spent with more members of our tribe; an Air Force buddy of Handsome Husband’s, (Wayne) and his lovely, oh-so-welcoming wife, Mona, and their sons.  Thank you for the welcome, the comfortable bed, the nourishing meals, and the jaunt into Vegas itself to see the scrumptious Chinese New Year decorations at the Bellagio!  IMG_9495IMG_9511

 

So. Traveling and being healthy. Can it be done?

Exotic, isn’t it, what we do?  Exploring new places.  Meeting new people.  Searching out our American history off the beaten path.  No jobs.  No housework.   Living the dream of so many!

And, yet, as we all must know, life happens no matter where you are or what you’re doing.  Its been a little shy of four years since Handsome Husband and I took to the road.  Retired.  Him from civil service, me from Tapestries of Hope.  Check.  Furniture, household items, books, clothes, outside stuff, donated or sold.  Check.  House sold (right as the housing industry went bust).  Check.  Friends left behind.  Check.  Life changed in every way.  Check.

We’ve seen all of the lower 48s-and been back again to explore more thoroughly.  The Pacific coast.  Check.  Gulf Coast.  Check.  Wintered in Florida.  Check.  Northern and southern routes, back roads, highways, logging roads, pathways.  Handsome Husband has needed to get a new suitcase twice, mine has held up very well.  We’ve streamlined what we carry with us, and built it back up again.  I’m finding that I need comforts around me, at least in a small way, so I’ve added some color and softness to my repertoire.

Life has happened in a huge way that was a nightmare as Handsome Husband dealt with the FC (that’s fucking cancer, but I don’t want to spell it out and offend anyone).  One surgery after another and finding out that we didn’t leave our friends behind at all.  They came out of the woodwork.  And now we’re AC.  After cancer.  I lived for this day while going through it with him.

Menopause while traveling-can that be an entirely separate blog?  Hot flashes that are really more accurately termed Heat Surges.  Rapid fire day and night, making me sleep deprived.  Causing such heat throughout that panic can set in, and hitch the breathing, which can lead to panic attacks unless breathing becomes a meditation.   Hormones racing so obviously through my blood that I swear I can feel them.  At such times I’m just better left alone-give me my two feet of space all around me.  Not because I get bitchy, but because the heat I give off is so strong that anyone within those two feet can get scorched.  (Yes, I exaggerate slightly here, but not much).

Systemic fungal infection, resulting from massive doses of radiation to kill the FC.  Yes, radiation was necessary.  We’d do it again, to save his arm.  But it killed his immune system.   Fighting this is a daily event, a minute by minute battle at times.   It’s a battle Handsome Husband is fighting on his own.  Doctors know, or don’t want to know, about fungal infections, and, if forced to do so, will treat symptoms, not the cause.   This has been tougher on him than the FC was, Handsome Husband says.  It just won’t go away. Its gotten better, with all that he does to treat it.  He should write a book about it, I tell him.  Weave your story in with all the massive research you’ve done, and put it in laymen’s terms, for the average reader.  Medical insurance doesn’t cover any of this, of course.  Call me cynical, but you’re never going to convince me that there isn’t some give-and-take between the medical profession, pharmaceuticals, and the insurance industry.   There would be no money if this was easily taken care of (like so many other things).  So we pay out-of-pocket for what works from one month to the next.  Because fungal infections can change, and what works at one point, doesn’t work at the next as it builds a resistance.  Dealing with this would be tough if we were stationary in a home, I have no doubt.  Out on the road its doubly difficult.   Nutrition on the road is something we never got figured out in a healthy way anyways, and this upped the ante considerably.

All of which to say, between me and my menopause and Handsome Husband and the systemic illness he deals with, we strive to exercise regularly every day, so that we can stay as healthy as possible.  Who wants to end up looking like a long distance hauler?  (no offense and bless their hearts, but you know the weight gains happen with that lifestyle-how can it not)?   We want to continue our Happily Homeless status for as long as possible, and it would put a real crimp in our plans if we each started looking like the Sta-Puff Marshmellow Man.  Not going to allow that!

So, yes.  You can travel even while dealing with health issues, or massive hormonal changes.  It can be tough, and yes, every situation is different.  Yes, it can add stress.  And you can keep from killing each other while going through it. It can be done.  We’re proof.   Our stay in Arizona continues through the end of January.  Next stop is California, for a few months.   Because I want to stay healthy, and need  to challenge myself, I’m beginning an intensive (well, intensive for me), exercise program.  I’m going to do push myself, my boundaries, my ohIhatetoexercise mindset.  I’m going to become the best me that I can be. (Doesn’t that sound triumphant)?   Gonna do it, gonna do it!   Today is day one.   Hiking, hooping, yoga-ing.  Running.  Walking.  Weights.  Making it happen right here!  Want to join me?

Over My Shoulder~

2013.  Here we go!  One more year under our belts as Happily Homeless.  Not for the faint of heart, folks.  This life we’re leading can look pretty exotic from the outside, I fully realize that, but I’m owning up to the fact that it gets tiring at times, in spite of the  hotel stays, and no job to have to go to. We’re living the words of America the Beautiful  and yes, it does make for excitement.  I think of all the cool stuff, and I’m torn.  Keep traveling or settle down?

We’ve seen those spacious skies-IMG_7525

 Amber waves of grain-IMG_7185Purple mountains majesty-IMG_7345

We’ve been from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  This year we had, again, the joy of connecting with family throughout the country, renewing bonds that had grown lax over the years. We had the chance to see our grandson on his last day of school, and, right before we left Vermont, accompany him on his first day of 5th grade.  In between we hiked mountains, rode the rides at country fairs, watched our grandson learn to sail on Lake Champlain, hosted sleep overs and swims in the hotel pool, painted our faces like butterflies, and made memories that will be in our hearts forever.pizap.com13570917955681 We connected with family again-that was one of my favorite parts of this year!

pizap.com13570935153611We said goodbye to a dear friend-that was hard.  We miss knowing that you’re here on this earth with us, Baker Mike.IMG_1377

Handsome Husband and I were proud to meet my dad in DC for his Honor Flight.   We visited battlefields, forts and monumentsManassas, Saratoga, Ft Union,- and were hosted by our daughter’s in-laws. (I’ve had discussion with numerous people as to what exactly to call that relationship and the one I love best is that they, Sam and Angie, are, simply, part of our tribe.  I like that.  Except maybe I’ll say clan instead, seeing as I come from Scottish stock.) IMG_6219I pushed my boundaries on a zip line, accepting a double-dare from the friend who is so close to my heart as to really be my sister. (And we all know that it just isn’t done to refuse a double-dare!)  Yep, I took a breath and jumped~IMG_3751But, dear readers, if I’m being honest here, there are moments, amidst all of this, where Handsome Husband and I think “Is it time to settle down?”  Arizona has been steady ground under our feet for the past 3 months, and there is so much to do here, (hiking, belly dance, hooping, family dinners, the list is endless!) and so much that I’ve grown interested in, and so we do think sometimes, that maybe its time. There are so many things I want to do still-my idea of retirement and Handsome’s, are clearly two different things!  It’s a twist in me:  after having seen so many friends and family, I wonder, how much am I missing those permanent ties of staying in one place?  And the next second I think, well, if we were to settle down, it wouldn’t be possible to see everyone as often as we do now, by traveling. A conundrum, that’s what it is!  And, fortunately, one that doesn’t need an immediate decision.

So, in the meanwhile, we’re open to new travel and new opportunities as we step into this new year. What lies around the corner?  Next month will see us headed towards California for a few months,  a return to Arizona for the birth of our grand-baby, then New Mexico for a family wedding.  East again.  Its will be a full year, and then, of course, there’s always the unexpected that jumps into the middle of plan making of any sort.  Life is open in front of us!

What do you think?  Settle down?  Continue traveling?

The love that makes life easier~

Our culture doesn’t have many ways of marking the passages of a person’s life.  Oh, we have birthdays and anniversaries, and parties for various events, but how often do we really stop and recognize the depth of a milestone?   Well, I’ve now truly celebrated the big change going on in my life.  Yes, folks, its menopause time!

Menopause on the road.  Life changing.  Body changing.  Mood changing.  Poor Handsome Husband.  I’ve been as honest as I can be with him on any given day, informing him of my emotional temperature as best I can.  Honestly, I’ve never been a woman to give in to, or allow, mood swings as an excuse for bitchiness.  Completely unacceptable!  That’s not to say, however, that I haven’t had them lately.  Fortunately, we’re temporarily settled here in Arizona, and that gives us both space when we need it.

And, because we’re here in Arizona, and our younger daughter is nearby, she decided to gift me with a day devoted entirely to celebrating this new phase of my life.  Menopause Blessingway happened at her house.  It was a day of healthy eating, yoga (ohmydoIneedtolearntostretchmybody!), Thai massage, a Reiki session with essential oils and chakra stones, chai with chocolate and strawberries (oh, yum!), chicken wraps for lunch, sparkling cider, and, oh, yes, happy hooping in the backyard!  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

The day started with a crown she’d made, and, of course, she blessed me with some glitter (so very appropriate!)

a foot bath in lavender scented, rose petaled water (with some glitter added) and a manicure
yoga for an hour in the beautiful sun dappled yard

a Reiki session with essential oils and chakra stones

after a facial and makeup session-feeling pretty! (and the fan helped with the heat surges)

a traveling altar she made for me, for meditation

spicy chai break, with strawberries and chocolate!

wrapping up the day with happy hooping!

feeling beautiful after a day of celebration~