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

Upon This, I do Insist~

I wonder, frequently, when grief changed from a normal, human response to the death of a loved one, to a condition that, seemingly, must be gotten through (with all due speed, thank you very much for your consideration), with clinical protocols assigned to it?

When did grief get designated as complicated and unhealthy and uncomfortable and perceived as an enemy to be overcome?  When did our culture start demanding of us that we, as grievers, choose life again as quickly as possible, focus only on the happy memories of life and not dwell in the layers of sorrow that come with death? When did grief become something to hide from the world at large?

When did we medicalize grief so that our approach is clinical instead of soulful?

Years ago I read about traumatic stress and the military, what is seen and done in war, and the suffering that occurs as a consequence of what is seen and experienced by our military. I read that it wasn’t always called traumatic stress. In past times it was called combat fatigue, shell shock, war neurosis. The term that most appealed to me and best described it was from the Civil War era. It was called soldier’s heart.

An apt description, don’t you think?

Science has discovered neurons and all sorts of scientific stuff about the brain and grief; our brains that are, of course, involved, when it comes to grief. We feel crazy and our thinking and focus goes all to hell and back again, ad infinitum. Maybe drugs calm all that shit down sometimes, and it’s good to have options to treat the crazy.  Modern times and all that…

Speaking only for myself, I see grief as a matter of the heart. I believe that every grief is potentially complicated, simply because our worlds disintegrate after our loved ones die, and that’s kind of, you know, complicated. I believe that every death potentially is traumatic because grasping the forever-ness of death is beyond human comprehension, and trying to grasp that particular concept is kind of, you know, traumatic. And once we work our way, sometimes with a good therapist, through the worst of the trauma, layers of grief remain that we must muck through and that takes a fuck load more time than the 6 months that the DSM allows for complicated grief.

A matter of the heart…

Thursday, April 21, at 11:21pm will be 3 years since my beloved husband, Chuck, died of a cancer that ate him up and killed him dead.  I was present when he died and I wonder when was the last time he looked at me and saw me before closing his eyes forever? After he died, I bathed him and dressed him and wrapped him in beautiful blankets because I didn’t want him put in a body bag uncovered. Before the mortuary took him away, I spoke with them and told them his name, that he served in our military, that he was a dad of 4 kids-3 of them step kids who never, ever, felt like step kids. Before they took him away, I told them that he was a man of honor who loved me every day of our 24 years together and that I knew they would treat him with all the respect that he deserved. And made them promise me that they would.

Before he was cremated, I opened the box that held his body and covered him with stunningly bright and beautiful flower bouquets. After gently closing the box over him again, I pressed the switch to open the doors of the crematory and watched as his body slid inside and felt sick to my stomach. After he was cremated, I retrieved his cremains that were still almost warm to the touch. I know because I touched them and buried my hands in them, bringing my hands to my face as I huddled into myself and sobbed.

In the years since, Chuck’s cremains have traveled shotgun with me, next to his flag that was presented to me at his memorial service, the jacket from his BDUs, and a picture of him as a flight engineer on the 141’s. With these precious tangibles of our love story, I’ve criss-crossed the country 8 times in my PinkMagic rig.

All of this…all of these memories, all of these tangible reminders of his existence in my life, all of the reminders that our existence together is no more…these are matters of the heart. Matters of the soul. Matters that deserve my time and attention because they were…they are…sacred times.  I have Widows Heart.

We are not bound to what our culture teaches us about grief.

Grief, in reality, has the potential to bring us to a place of our strongest connection to life. It smashes open our hearts and souls and insists on recognition of all that is holy and sacred in life. It is, perhaps, one of the few times in our busy lives that we are forced to slow down, waken to our souls, and listen to what makes us human.

I will not see grief as negative or positive. I will not see it as an adversary, something to be gotten through. I will not force it away by doing whatever it is that I’m supposed to do so that I don’t feel it, or feel it as strongly. I will not push it and shove it and force it in one direction or another. I will not run away from it. Nor will I wallow in it.

What I will do.  I will continue to be honest about grief’s impact on my life. I will continue to connect with my widowed community and the community of love that surrounds me on the road and as I tarry in one place or another.  I will continue to become familiar with my grief, because that is, I believe, how it will ultimately soften around the edges. It is not my enemy, as much as I detest its’ presence in my life.  Grief is an emotion to be honored. It is the twin to Love.

And, in the end, this grief…my grief…in the end…it is about my dearest, most beloved husband, Chuck D, the man I will carry with me in every breath I take, forevermore.

I miss you, my dearest love. I miss you. I miss you, I miss you…

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And She Became~

If I were an author writing a book about this woman who travels the country in a pink car, towing a tiny pink-trimmed trailer, living the legacy of love left behind by her husband, this is what I would write for this moment in that timeline~

And, right then and there, somewhere in the 5th month of the 3rd year of doing this crazy, crazy, Odyssey (because, really, what the HELL was she doing, living a life so far outside of her comfort zone that it was almost absurd, at least to her?) she came to the realization that her grief was SO huge, the devastation SO complete, that all she could do with the hugeness of that LOVE she carried in her heart for her dead husband was to allow ALL of those things to really, truly, exist IN her all at the same time, along with the tears and the laughter and the pain and missing-ness of him. And she’d KNOWN since he died that this is what was real but hadn’t felt the ENERGY of it BECOME in that time. It became not merely intellectually realized manifestation and not only FELT but it became HER.

And with that realization came the understanding that THIS, whatever THIS was, or is, was now who she WAS and she didn’t have to judge any of it one way or the other, or try NOT to grieve or be sad or happy or anything.  All she had to do was ALLOW all these emotions to co-exist, which she always thought couldn’t be done, honestly but time had taught her that yes, they could and not only COULD complete opposite feelings be thought and felt at one time but when she gave them all space together she felt more powerful than she had EVER felt before.

So this woman who drove a pink car towing a pink-trimmed trailer, with pictures of her love story framed inside, with shades of pink and gold and copper all ’round, with tassels and prayer flags and love banners pinned to both windows and on the door and not one bit of it anything but an expression of the love she and her most beloved husband had for 24 years….she made the down in her gut and through her blood vessels decision to make LOVE her superpower in a way never done before, ever. In the history of man, only a select few had ever had this absolute power of Love BECOME to such a degree. And it wasn’t at all, EVER, a gentle birthing; it was an explosion of all she had become FROM love and it tore through her and it burned and shredded all she had been and all her life had been and all that it wasn’t because she was without him and she would always be without him in this world now and now here was THIS, that surpassed the force even of who they’d been together but endured BECAUSE of who they’d been together and.

She became. Love and loss and grief and tears and destruction and light and darkness and nightmare and memory and love again and again and again and she became. She wasn’t sure of how and what or any of those questions humans ask of the world and of themselves. Questions no longer mattered. Explanations for not doing THIS…IT… better, more, differently… self-judgement and care for societal critique of HOW to do IT, to grieve, how to mourn the loss of a lifetime, all of the love of who they’d been and how it must now be….all collapsed into the air around her and swirled as particles and dust until it all crashed and surged into a nuclear surge of what was more than energy or power.

She BECAME in capital letters because that is the only thing she could do with THIS, with THIS that was more potent than she or him or them but WAS because of she and him and them.

A force. A reckoning. Such as this was not a natural occurence. It didn’t come to birth from nothing. Or anything. Or everything. It superseded mere words or ideas of life and love.  It could only come BECAUSE of a Love that crossed all boundaries and barriers and energy fields and became more powerful BECAUSE it must transcend breath and being.

Love became her superpower. It became her breath and life-force. The love the love of her life left behind for her that colored her world into terrifying dark and equally terrifying light when he took his last breath in this world and shattered her into dust with him…surged in her and through her and became her superpower.

And, knowing, feeling, recognizing, realizing that power, even though not fully, firmly, grasping what or how or who or when, she decided to let it all BE what it was, and not try to change it or shift it or mold it to suit anyone other than herself.  She merely decided to HARNESS it and so now there she stood, higher than she’d ever stood…lightly bouncing on that diving board way, way, up there…straddling the clouds almost.  Standing higher than she’d ever willingly stood…in spite of her abject fear of heights and falling and crashing and drowning…

She jumped.

And exploded into being.  Collage

 

 

Becoming…

This almost sacred becoming, and how it happens…

I’ve spent the last 27 months on this Odyssey of Love for my dearest husband.  For the man who helped me become who I am so that I could go out and do this. For the man who loved me with strength and humor and dedication.  The man I loved in return.

I’ve gone to the 4 places he named for me.  He was setting me on his own version of P.S. I Love You.  Minus the actual letters/notes/gifts.  I haven’t had anyone handing me those letters, as happened in the movie, but I’ve had people show up along the road, people who had no idea who I was, what my story is, who might as well have given me those tangible messages.  Instead of that, Chuck sent me actual people to speak those messages to me.

Because this is how the messages are delivered to me, I know that I must continue on the road, finding those other places for scattering his cremains.  This Odyssey is the creative process for my new life without him.

What I haven’t yet done in these past couple years and few months is fully own my part in this Odyssey. I’ve attributed all that has happened to the love he left behind for me. And it’s true that is what drives me, but I need to get fully honest with this.

A writer from a glamping magazine recently wrote a blog about my Odyssey *you can find it at http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/category/suburban_farmgirl*,  which I mention primarily because the article made me really look at myself through her eyes and shifted my perceptions for the first time.  It made me look more deeply into how skewed my perceptions of self are so vastly different from what the world seems to see.  And maybe that’s a good thing; it makes me feel stronger.

I saw what I think is the real me in that article and what I’ve done on this Odyssey for the first time, which I know can sound odd but is the truth.

So this is what I’m now acknowledging to myself:

My husband died and I took that devastation out on the road, when I was terrified to go out on the road alone but I was determined to carry out his final wishes and I bought a trailer even though I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing with that and I’d never camped and didn’t have a clue about that and I was worried about navigation and how hitch and unhitch and what if I got on the wrong road and had to back up holymotherofgod and how would I find my way and how would I see through the waterfall of tears and how would I know what to do and, ultimately, how would I live without him?

And I did it.  And I’m doing it.  And the love has fueled me, and continues to fuel me.  And even in the midst of that very early grief, I knew enough to paint my car pink and the trailer too because I knew grief is isolating and I didn’t know anyone on the road and it would draw people to me and fucking force me to not isolate and talk to people and share my story because telling the story is how you get through it and I contacted newspapers and news stations and magazines and joined camping/T@bbing/glamping/women who solo on the road, groups and shared my story with them all and I grabbed emails with names of people I didn’t know and said  I’m a widow and I want to write for your organization and now I am and I began writing my book and I connected with people all over the country and I talked and I talked and I continue to talk and reach out and I respond to emails from other widow/ers and sometimes veterans and people who are hoarders who want to not be hoarders any longer and how did I rid myself of my stuff they ask and not one damn bit of this happened by chance.

I’m going back out on the road this weekend, making my way to Texas, visiting friends and family along the way.  I’ve a long way to go in this Odyssey of Love yet.  Healing and the future and all that both of those words entail mean nothing to me and I’m not worried about either of them.  Honestly, I’m struggling a lot these days; the grief is overwhelming but that’s okay. I have this story and I have PinkMagic and I have the open road and these are the things that will create whatever needs to be created.

This is what I’m promising myself and what I want to say aloud to you, all of my dear friends/family/followers:

The next phase of this Odyssey of Love  is more sacred than ever before.  My heart must be ever more open so that I recognize where I need to scatter my beloved husband’s cremains.  This is on me now.  It requires honesty from me; I must truly own my strength that has been there since the night he died.  Yeah, it might sound overly dramatic to call this sacred but for anyone who knows of me and Chuck, and our love story and the story of our Happily Homeless travels and how it morphed into Happily Homeless is MoonStruck, you will know that no word can better describe it.

He and I had a love story.  That love made me stronger.  That love was…is…sacred in my life.  It is the blood that flows through my veins, it is the beat of my heart, it is the determination in my gut, it is what causes me to turn right or left with my pink car that tows my pink trailer.

This…this is holy to me.  And I don’t have to not feel the grief, not feel the devastation.  I don’t have to change anything in me, I don’t have to stop the tears, not feel torn in every direction, not feel desolate without him, not feel confused and dislocated..nothing.  All of that can, and will, come right along with me and I freely and openly own every bit of it, because this is my love story and I will live it forever because he was mine and I was his and that isn’t gone and it will never be gone and the world be damned if they get tired of hearing me talk about it because I haven’t even begun to tell this story.  The world needs real love stories to balance the cynicism and lack of belief and so, folks, here’s one for the ages.  Hear ye, hear ye…

This girl, who was loved by this man, who knew her better than she knew herself…this girl is on fire.  It’s a sacred fire that will take me in all directions and, if you’re lucky, you might be able to hear it in person.

Living up to what is on my T@b:  FWGFucking Warrior Goddess~ IMG_2607 IMG_2032

Ending the Search~

It’s confusing really.  This grief, I mean.

It takes time.  Don’t rush it.  Allow yourself to be where you are.  You sound like you’re giving up.  It’s your time frame, not anyone else’s.  Just be.  Get busy.  Don’t get too busy.  You need to date.  Don’t date too soon.  

I do it all.  What’s suggested to me, what I think of doing on my own.  I do nothing.  I do everything.  I move.  I maintain stillness.  All in an effort to figure this out.  Or not figure it out.  Or whatever is in between.

So, here I am, days shy of 2 years since my beloved husband died.  I’m going to counseling, where we’re using aural acupuncture and will, in the near future, use EMDR, to assist with the trauma.  Because yes, there’s been trauma.  Not only because of the bullshit that happened when he was in hospice and how it played out in the months after, but, quite simply, because of the intensity of our relationship and the every day of being without him.  As simple as that.

On a daily basis I use St John’s Wort, which is a natural mood enhancer.  Essential oils that assist in release of grief, homeopathic remedies that bring me through those horrible moments that happen 24 hours a day, and intense exercise with the Warrior training program 3 times a week, to help move the grief energy through my body.

And yet…I’ve been told (by professionals and everyday people) that the pain of this particular grief, the grief of missing-ness of one’s spouse (because it is, or can be, hopefully is, such a close, intimate relationship) can last for up to 10 years before there is any true relief, before the memories bring comfort instead of pain.

Here’s my conclusions about grief.  First, it makes no impression on me any longer, the judgements cast by anyone regarding where I am with it or how I’m doing it.  This is my grief, after all, and my body knows what and how I need to do it. Secondly, I suspect that any sort of relief or peace of any semblance will happen in my heart and soul and body only when I come to grips with the idea that the new normal that everyone refers to, means that I just have to accept the fact that this grief will always be present in my blood and heartbeat, as opposed to continually searching for ways and means of being without it entirely.  Of course, if you say any such thing to the public at large they immediately say oh that’s your choice as to whether or not you allow that grief to stay present.  That all sounds very Zen and Buddhist etc and I’m glad for those who seem able to so easily dismiss this depth of emotion, but, hey, whatever each person is able to attain, right?

It’s kind of like being able to say that, in a world that is not in any way okay, and me not being okay within it, I’m okay.  Saying that releases people from feeling obliged to fix this shit.

What I do know for certain.  My life changed forever at 11:21 pm on April 21, 2013 when Handsome Husband died, and I’ll never be okay with his gone-ness.

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Holograms and Other Worlds~

Parallel universes.  Time continuums.  Beyond the veil. Those places where energy, which exists ad-infinitum, possibly continues to exist even after death.  Where those we love who have died, might exist still.  I think of all such possibilities in an effort to find a connection with Handsome Husband, wondering if I might see him again.  Someday. In some way.

There’s another world, however, that exists along with those worlds, having nothing to do with his world and where he might exist, but my world and where I have existed since his death; a world that feels mostly fuzzy to me, as if there is a veil between me and everything, and everyone, else.

Bizarro world.  As in the Seinfeld episode where Elaine met people who were exactly like Jerry et al, but opposite.  You can find it on a rerun, I’m certain.

I lie in my bed at night, whether in my T@b trailer, or visiting family or friends, and I stare into the darkness and wonder how is it that I’m here and he isn’t?

When I’m on the road, camping somewhere around the country, and I walk around the campsite at night, in this outdoor world that is still so alien to me (maybe alien at this point only because it is so bizarre that this is my life and who the hell would have ever figured such a circumstance as me camping?) and I wonder what the fuck happened?  How is it that I’m here living this life when this is not my life? Because this isn’t me.  Or at least it isn’t the me that I was or ever imagined.  Ever.  Believe me.

These thoughts, more than likely, and I suppose I can take comfort of some sort as a result of them, are the same type of thoughts that haunt the minds of every man and woman who grieves the death of their partner/spouse.  I know this not only because I hear it from so many but because I cannot possibly be the only one who feels this way, and I’m not unique in this grief of mine.

I don’t feel of this world and yet I am of this world.  But not the world I knew for 24 years and the dissonance in that clash makes me feel even more not of this world. Taking steps, creating a new life, walking, talking..all the things other people do, but so removed, really.

Sometimes, lately, going about my day, in and out of stores, appointments, sitting at the library writing, I’ll glance around me, and catch hair-trigger images of Handsome Husband over there.  Or there.  Kind of the way, in a sci-fi type movie, holographic images of a person will appear, then disappear in a blink, confusing the character who sees them because it is so quick that by the time the eye sees and the mind comprehends, the image is gone.  In these glimpses, Handsome Husband is always wearing his blue denim shirt with his jeans and boots.  It’s only recently this holographic thing started happening and I have no idea why it started. (And don’t honestly care about the whys.)

In a so-called normal world, I can imagine this would cause concern but there is nothing normal about my world of grief (or anyone’s world of grief.)  But really…I’ve learned to just roll with whatever happens because this world without him is such a bizarro world to me.  I don’t recognize myself, I don’t recognize my life, I have no sense of self or ego.  I have no idea of how this new unwanted life without him will develop. (Who does, in reality, know anything about our futures?  We can plan but we all know how that too frequently works out).

Sgt. Schultz.  Remember him, from Hogan’s Heroes?  He was famous for the phrase “I know nothing.  I see nothing.”

I know nothing.  In the deepest, most esoteric, Buddhist, zen way.  I see nothing, in that same way.  And I’m okay with that, because I am uncertain about everything and I have no energy to waste in even feeling anxious about it.  Everything in life is impermanent and transitory.  It can change in a fucking instant and whatever I thought I knew might no longer be so.  So why think about it. (cue Scarlett O’Hara).

My world of without him.  One of constant change and uncertainty and searching.  None of which is good or bad, really.  It’s the world I live in and I have no definition for it.  It is a world of numbness, grief, effort, love abounding, new connections, one foot in front of the other and horizons yet unexplored that cause no excitement but do hold space.  And I don’t want it but must create it because I’m still here.  And it causes untold anguish that I have no certainty of ever seeing Handsome Husband again and I think that even if I do, the energy will be different and will he be able to put his arms around me and will I be able to hug him again?  (That kind of thinking is why I’m awake at this hour.)

I miss his arms around me and the sound of his heartbeat under my ear as I rest against him and I know nothing any longer and this bizarro world without him is a world that leaves me dizzy, as if I’m standing in the middle of a galaxy with all the stars and planets swirling and dancing around me and meteors shooting directly through me, leaving fiery marks of destruction but its kind of alright in a weird way that is not at all alright but has to be alright because it’s what is, at this moment.

Am I a total fucking mess or have I attained the perfect Zen state?  Hmmm….

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Angels and Odysseys~

Words.  Phrases.  Images.  All swirl through my body as a tornado, dipping and weaving in my consciousness, coming from long-forgotten spaces.  Voices murmur and rise up and linger in the air around me, dancing fairy dust.  I can feel them, though I sense that it isn’t intended for me to reach out and grasp these nebulous thoughts.  No, this calls for me only to close my eyes, trust, and sharpen my senses, standing open amidst the delicacy and shimmer of this….yes, magic, I think.

An awareness and awakening is within me in the last few weeks.  I’ve been watching dvds through the night, shows and movies chosen randomly to distract me through the night as I waken, only to nod off again.  Random.  Except maybe not so much.  There really has been no rhyme or reason to my viewing choices but scattered throughout all the dialogue skirting the edges of my mind are words and phrases that seem directed specifically to me.  Shows with angels, shows of loss, comedy that suddenly flips into intense messages for me, careless words seemingly, except it seems as if they are being spoken through a bullhorn, directly at me.

The words I hear in the night darkness are echoes of the words spoken to me as I’ve traveled this Odyssey of Love for Handsome Husband.  Do you know that you are surrounded by angels?  one woman said to me.  They are all around you.  Another said continue whatever it is you’re doing you’re on the right path.  Susan, at the very beginning of this, said he wants me to tell you he wouldn’t leave you without a road map.  Handsome Husband said to me I will always be with you.  Images of the hundreds of people I’ve met on the road leap and bound in my memory.  Giving and receiving hugs around the country.  Smiles and thumbs up as cars and motorcycles and trucks pass my pink car, towing my pink-trimmed T@b.  Notes left on the step to my colorful trailer, wishing me happy trails, accompanied by travel angels, little snacks, and other mementoes.

Have you ever felt chosen?  As in, you’re really not in charge of whatever this is and you resist because look at the horrible circumstance that brought you to where you are and you know what?  You need to do it anyways and worries and concern about the hows and whys of it can’t interfere because this is, plain and simply, your mission.  This has already been laid out for you, so go do it and all will fall into place.

I’ve never gone completely on faith.  Ever.  Maybe my word for faith is, instead, Love, and that has carried me since Handsome Husband died and it won’t leave me hanging mid-stride, will it?  How can it, really?

All I know is that my part in this is suiting up and showing up, keeping my heart open and…driving my rig in whatever direction I’m shown.

My Odyssey of Love, part two, on January 19.  Truly, nothin’ but Love~10387701_747603311961272_7235520015657922373_n

 

 

Battle and Blood and Guts and No Glory~

As time goes on in this grief, as I unwillingly forge this new life without Handsome Husband, I see more and more that there is nothing pretty or gentle about this process of rebirth.  Not for me, at least.

In the last week or so I’ve become physically aware of the battle that rages under my skin, boiling through my blood, running through each of my internal organs.  It is a battle between the old that I want again desperately, and the new that must be allowed because, you see, my dearest husband is dead and gone and, unless I choose to kill myself, there is nothing to do but create a life without him.

Writing those words, saying the words he is dead and gone and you’ll never see him again stab into me each time.  I don’t want to see them written, I don’t want to say them, but I must.  I can’t gentle it up with hopes for an afterlife where we’ll be reunited because I don’t know what I believe about an afterlife and I have to stop wondering because possibilities without knowing torture my heart and soul and confuse my mind and make life more impossible than it already is.

That thinking, at least, is laid to rest.  I tell myself that he and I had our love story and now he’s dead and I’ll never see him again.  But since last week when I allowed that thought to enter my mind and take up residence, I’ve become conscious of this internal struggle that is raging between letting go or holding on.  It’s unsettling in every way and leaves me wandering in circles at times, unable to focus on anything, as if battle-weary opponents are indeed bashing and clubbing and stabbing at each other within me, demanding space.  It is an intensely emotional experience that leaves me exhausted and more dislocated than ever.

All the meditation in the world, all the gentle words, all the best intentions in the world will not soothe this wild beast at work in me.  I breathe as best I can through it, though my breathing is sharp and raspy, as it would be if I were wielding an axe at an enemy.  This grief calls for boots to wade through the mud and muck and desperation.  This calls for armor to guard my insides that are raw and bloody from being hacked apart.  This calls for heavy sword and axe.  I feel very much as if I am in a battle for my life and, because I am still alive and something over there is calling to me, I must fight being taken down into the darkness.

Somewhere over there, beyond my sight, is something I can’t envision but it’s there and I know it.  Somewhere over there is the life I’m supposed to live without him, and that life cannot be attained without this baptism of fire and sword.

Grief is a bloody, raw, devastating battle between what I had and want, and what I have and don’t want but what I must go towards.

FWG indeed~ 10613040_10202636499934576_1832024510167418403_n

A Daughter’s Promise~

It was a deathbed promise made to her dad.

Look after your mom, he said.  I will, she responded.

A promise kept. But the how’s of keeping that promise? It was done in ways that not many could manage, or would be willing to attempt.

I was already on the road in PinkMagic, making my way towards our two older kids in Arizona last year when our daughter Rachael-Grace (Rae), called me up and offered to go on the road with me in my Odyssey of Love. Initially, I thought she said two months. No, she corrected me.  Six months.

And she was true to her word.

Rachael-Grace is in her early 30’s, married to Sean. They discussed uprooting their lives so that she could do this with me and for me and decided they were strong enough as a couple to make it happen. What this young woman did needs no embellishment, so I’ll just tell you simply.

She and her husband gave up their apartment, putting their belongings in storage.  Sean camped out in the desert and stayed with my son occasionally.  For 6 months he changed his entire life so that he could support her in this endeavor.  Shades of Handsome Husband there.

She saved up enough money to pay her bills while on the road and paid them faithfully.

She helped me create ritual as we visited each of the places Handsome Husband requested I visit to scatter his cremains. When privacy for doing such seemed impossible, she brainstormed and dreamed meaningful intention into being.

It was she who chronicled our travels in pictures, from the beginnings in Arizona, to the West coast, eastwards along the northern states to New England, south to Key West, and west again to Arizona. Without that, we’d have no record. I’ve lost interest in picture-taking for the most part.

She quietly sat with me as my body convulsed into pain and grief and made no judgement. She spoke with me of memories of her dad as I spoke of my husband.

She learned to tow PinkMagic, to set her up and break her down. If we were stationary for more than a few days she took it into her hands to create an altar for us, to establish our outdoor living space, and she cooked meals to tempt my poor appetite.

She made me laugh because she is irreverent and cryptic and, like me, suffers no sacred cows.

She assisted me with technology, locating us on her google maps and pointing us (mostly) in whatever direction we needed to go.

She patiently (mostly) listened to me tell the Odyssey story over and over again, as we met new people along the way. That couldn’t have been easy for her, I know.

She encouraged me, she pushed me, she called me out when I needed it, she tough-loved me. She taught me not to fear the dark places and shadows of grief and held a light for me to provide direction.

She listened to my (way too intimate at times) stories of me and my husband and our romance. Long before we arrived back here, her sensibilities had toughened. She knew I needed to tell my story and she opened her heart to my words and we learned to joke about it.  She became more than my daughter.  It wasn’t long after we began that the lines between mom and daughter (always close), disappeared and we became, quite simply, two women on the road, honoring a man we both loved, and who loved us.

It wasn’t easy for her and I never for a minute though it was.  It was a gift of Love she gave ardently and graciously to me but I fully realize it took an emotional toll on her.  For six months she was present every minute for me, subduing her own grief in many ways, so that she could stand strong with me.  There were many times in our months together when I know she, and her grief, must have felt invisible.  Widows generally are “seen” more than grieving daughters.  I sensed that happening and we spoke about it, but I know it had to be difficult at best.

She missed her husband desperately as PinkMagic ate up the miles and it gave her a glimpse into my world and it hurt her heart and she expressed that to me;  her husband was waiting for her when we were done and mine wasn’t and never would be again. It added yet another layer to her grief.  She was not only grieving her dad;  she grieved at watching her mom in such pain.

For six months, as we drove this Odyssey, Rachael-Grace brought life to my life. She brought Love, she brought continuity, she brought poetry and music and hula-hoops and her natural joy for life.  She brought acknowledgement and gave space and created magic for me.

She is grace personified. Her dad could never have imagined how she would keep her promise to him.  Wherever he is,  if he is, I hope he saw.  I hope he knows.

She kept her promise~10350356_10202636515534966_4300709640610250417_n

This Odyssey-and Magical People~

They seek me out.  I’ve no need to find a psychic or a medium and pay for them to fish in my life in order to give me reassurances about Handsome Husband or what I’m doing.  Not that I’ve ever been tempted; I’m actually kind of suspicious of anyone who receives payment in return for telling us about our loved ones.  Not that I have a problem with the entrepreneurial spirit at all-it’s just that in the case of psychics, I always figure that they’re very good with reading people and cast out such generalities that someone in the audience is bound to connect.

Here’s the thing.  Since I began this Odyssey of Love, following Handsome Husband’s death, there have been people I would term either intuitives, or actual angels (sometimes), who have sought me out, and the things they tell me leave me, most often, breathless with their accuracy.

My daughter and I are in Key West and while wandering Duval St yesterday, we chanced upon a shop and entered on a whim to browse.  She quickly found a few articles of clothing that are perfect for hooping and went to the dressing room while I continued to check the racks.  The proprietor, (Leslie by name, as we discovered), had been very friendly, bidding us hello as we came into her shop.  But nothing more, really.

Until.

As I moved hangars around on the rack, Leslie, who was standing not far from me, looked over at me and said You’ve been through a devastating change recently, haven’t you?  I was startled and didn’t reply immediately and she went on to say  You know you’re okay, don’t you?  Even though you don’t feel as if you are.  You’re okay.  And whatever it is that you’re doing, you need to continue doing it.  You’re on the right path.

She spoke to me for maybe another 20 minutes and I said nothing.  Really there was nothing for me to say;  I was just trying to take it all in.  At one point I almost reached for Rae’s hand to steady myself because there was a buzzing sound in my ears and I was actually seeing stars dance in front of my eyes.  Ultimately, I told her of my husband’s death and my Odyssey of Love and showed her a picture of my rig.  She was more than ever convinced of her message to me.   She told me (paraphrasing) that she had become aware of the energy around me when I entered her shop and felt compelled to speak to me and tell me what she did.  We left the store after an hour, with my head still reeling.  I didn’t seek her out.  I solicited nothing.  No money exchanged hands.  I’d never seen her before.

Last year as I made my way along the FL Gulf coast, as I took a break from driving at a Target store, an employee in the women’s section complimented me on my pink shirt and this led into a discussion of the color pink and my rig, etc.  We weren’t too far into the conversation when she took both my hands in hers and very earnestly said to me I have the ability to see things, and I want you to know that you are surrounded by angels.  They are all around you.

I’ve already written of the woman I met in NJ last year who, having no knowledge of my life, of Handsome Husband (other than to know that he had died and we’d traveled together), took my hands and looked directly into my eyes and said He wants me to tell you that he wouldn’t leave you without a road map.  And many other things that were…well…true.

I don’t know what to think about any of this, except to say that, as Handsome Husband was in hospice, I knew that something big was going on.  Not just his death, as huge as that was, and is.  But something bigger than his death and the grief that ran with it.  I termed it as something magical because I didn’t know what other word to use.

All I know, since he died, all I believe in, is that he and I were very much in love and I have to believe that the love is still present and that is what fuels me each and every day as I drive this Odyssey for him.  Meeting the people I have, being approached by messengers, the affirmations I receive from them, the messages they deliver to me, at no prompting from me…that is the magic and I can’t explain it but I know, I know, and I know, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I don’t have much money and I wonder if I should fret and worry about it running out, as it will soon, and I’m new to this full-time trailer life-style, and there is so much that could freak me out.  And yet, it doesn’t.  I don’t know why;  I’ve always worried about money.  Always.  Except now.  Not because I think money will magically appear in front of me, but because I know that this Odyssey is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and it will be okay somehow.

Our younger son, Fireman Nick, when I told him about yesterday, said to me, Ma, Pop said he wouldn’t leave you without a road map and he never broke his word.

This type of thing never happened to me prior to Handsome Husband’s death.  Never.  But even I can’t ignore that, in this Odyssey of Love, magic is very much afoot.  Somehow.

Love.  Grief.  Magic.  The open road…to what?

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