Birthdays~

Chuck threw me a huge birthday party for my 50th.  To be honest, our daughter, Rachael-Grace, helped out with it quite a bit, but it was lovely.  A dear friend, who died the year before Chuck, baked a red velvet cake.  My friends were there from all walks of life.  Our kids were there; it was a memorable 50th.

Life changes quickly, and the following year, for my 51, we were just beginning our new life on the road and Chuck surprised me with a trip to Graceland.  I’d always been a huge Elvis fan and he knew this would be a huge hit. As it was.  I didn’t have any idea where we were headed until I saw the sign that said Memphis.  We stayed in a hotel that had framed Elvis pictures in each room, a guitar shaped swimming pool and Elvis music playing throughout the grounds. All songs which I knew and Chuck got such a kick out of me singing along with them.

One of my earliest birthday memories, after Chuck and I married, is the year he took the time leading up to my birthday to get my address book and ask everyone in it to call me on my birthday.  He also alerted his family and friends.  I spent the day answering our, yes, land line phone, and hearing Happy Birthday, Alison!  Chuck made my birthdays so special, every year.

My next few birthdays were spent on the road; I don’t even remember where. What I do recall is that I spent them with him, hiking and exploring the USA.  We had all the time in the world together and that was the greatest gift of all.  With lots of wild and crazy birthday sex.

The last great present I received for my birthday, my 55th, was the news that Chuck’s first cancer had been eradicated numerous surgeries.  He was cancer free, with really really really good odds that it wouldn’t return.  God, did we celebrate…I knew a cancer survivor! and that cancer survivor was my beloved husband.

I’m 59 today.  Chuck has been dead for 4 years.  Fucking cancer got my cancer survivor after all, and my birthdays have never been the same.

I know, I know…I can hear it now.  But you must celebrate you! You must grab life and savor it and live it!

Here’s the thing.  I know, because I’m a smart, loving person, that I must allow our kids to celebrate me. I must allow my friends and family and all who love me, to celebrate me. And I do and it means so much, especially since Chuck is no longer here to wrap me in his arms and plant a huge, lonnnngggg kiss on my lips, leaving me dizzy.

In just the past month, I’ve received 2 gifts that touch my heart in the only ways that matter:  I was reunited with my younger sister, after many years of estrangement, and my wee grandson, Owen Charles, was born.  Each of these huge events touch my heart.

But there is a loneliness that goes along with my birthdays in the years since Chuck’s death and that’s just a fact of life.  It’s the new world that I live in.

So, today, here in the Ozarks, at the opera camp, on my 59th birthday, living a life I’d never imagined or planned for (emotionally), my gift to myself is telling each person that I meet that it is my birthday and I want hugs.

I want hugs from every person who comes within my radius today. Hugs, hugs and more hugs.  All the love that comes with those hugs is what keeps me going, and my heart expands with each hug.

And that’s what I ask of you, too.  Anyone who is reading my words today.  For my birthday, your gift to me is to hug people you meet along your way today.  Stop for a minute, share some time with them, connect with them, and don’t leave them without hugging them.

And maybe, whisper a word to Chuck, whether you know him or not, that you’re all looking out for his girl.

Thank you.

Happy birthday, me~

 

An Unconventional Life~

I have a difficult time defining my life to myself since Chuck died, never mind to anyone else. Not that I need to explain it to anyone, but, holy shit, does it come up in conversation. Not just this widowhood, but my lifestyle.

I full-time on the road, as many of you know. In the last year I’ve taken more time off the road than I ordinarily would so that I could take care of various issues, such as getting intensive grief/trauma counseling, which kept me in Arizona for just shy of 6 months, but the open road is my home, as it was when Chuck was alive.  I’m in Arkansas now and I’d initially planned on a lengthier stay, but as it happens, I’m leaving for points east after not quite a month here.

A scholarship came through for me to attend a Where Womyn Gather festival in PA. 4 days of creative workshops, sweat lodges,crone councils, artistic endeavors, and meeting women from around the country. It will be a great way for me to immerse myself in the healing arts and I intend to soak up every bit of it and, someday soon, return to facilitate a workshop.

Additionally, while here in Arkansas, I applied to volunteer with Team Rubicon USA, a non-profit that does disaster response, nationwide and overseas, wherever they’re needed. A friend told me about them months back and I researched their website and was immediately impressed when I saw that their motto is We get shit done. In that language. How could a woman like me, who uses the word fuck liberally, NOT be impressed with the real-ness of that? They primarily hire veterans to work in both paid and volunteer positions but also accept kickass civilians. My kind of people, right? I’m pretty sure I qualify as a kickass civilian at this point in my life.

I had no idea what my next step would be when I contemplated Arkansas. All I knew was that I needed to return to the road full-time. What I did believe is that my next step would reveal itself to me once I got here. Which is what happened.

I have faith in very little since Chuck’s death. I have no religious faith, but I do know that he left me an incredible legacy of love, and I know that I have a huge support community around the country, seen in the hundreds of hugs from strangers on the road, as I travel. Love, really, is my spiritual baseline and it’s how I stay strong.

Generating an income is necessary, of course. Not imminently so if I’m careful, but I don’t want to leave it to a time when it’s an emergency, so I’m always thinking about it. Mostly my ideas seem to float around in the atmosphere and I’m unable to grasp onto them; it’s hard to know where to start. But I refuse to allow anxiety to rule my days.

Because what I do know, what I’ve known instinctively since April 21, 2013 when Chuck died, and I set out on the road solo a month later, is that I’m building a foundation, have been building it for 3 years, and it will lead me to what I need. Not in a pie in the sky oh magic will happen and there will be enough money way, but because of that trust I have in the love he left behind for me, trust in my abilities and some instinct that tells me to continue doing what I’m doing….being out on the road, meeting people, connecting…this is all leading somewhere. Don’t ask me how I’m so certain of that; I just am. In my old life I would have thought myself crazy and spent endless days worrying myself sick about the practicalities of life. Not these days…and I really can’t explain the whys and wherefores of it. It is just something that is as real to me as the love he felt for me and I, for him.

A woman came to me shortly after Chuck died, a woman who didn’t know me, didn’t know my story, couldn’t know my story. I’d mentioned Chuck’s name so she knew that, but no more than that. This woman delivered to me a message from Chuck…I wouldn’t leave you without a road map, he said. Be aware of the sign posts I’ve left for you, both tangible and intangible.

Numerous other strangers along my way have also sought me out in a similar manner, encouraging me to continue doing whatever it is that I’m doing, because I’m on the right path, they say. They have said things to me that could only come from Chuck, even if I try to convince myself that their words couldn’t possibly come from him.

Which brings me back to the beginning of this post.

It was difficult enough for people to understand that Chuck and I chose to live on the road, driving and adventuring. And it’s 100 times more difficult for them to understand my choice to solo on the road, a woman alone, with all this grief and uncertainty and all the possible dangers.

Why on earth would I choose to live this way?

I’m going into my 8th year on the road. 4 years with Chuck, 3 on my own, now on the 4th year. At the end of this year I’ll have been on the road for as long as Chuck and I were.  I’m a long, long way from the days of living in a sticks and bricks home. Not that a sticks and bricks was my definition of home in any case. Chuck was my home, as I was his. Now that he’s gone, I feel a visceral need to maintain this way of life.

Yes, it’s tough living this way at times, and grief lies around the corner at any point. But for me, it would be much tougher to stay put. So I drive.

My driving next week will take me to PA, and, as soon as I fulfill beginning requirements with Team Rubicon, I’ll volunteer from wherever I happen to be in the country. Anticipation of working with them is the first true spark of life I’ve felt in this grief. I’ll be working side by side with veterans and will feel closer to Chuck because of that. Disaster response is what I need to do in this part of my life; I need something that equals the hugeness of what is in my heart and body and soul, and this meets that mark.

All of this…this unconventional life that I live…is leading me to where I need to be, where I’ll have financial security and be okay. That’s all I know to say. I’m going somewhere and I know this in my bones and in my heart and soul. My life isn’t the life for everyone and my choice is difficult to understand for those who are accustomed to a more traditional lifestyle. But it’s my life and works for me to the degree that anything works for me since Chuck’s death.

My heart, the love that filled my heart when Chuck was alive, the love that he left for me, and his memory that I carry fervently in my heart now…I have to believe that it will, that it is, carrying me into a future that will be squarely mine.

PinkMagic is the chariot carrying me into that future…sss10649826_10203576907175805_5053873018434830644_n