Life in the Hood…

I’ve grieved before.  My brother and my mom died within 6 months of one another, back in 1996.  It knocked me senseless for…hmm…4 years or so?

After the first year I volunteered at a local hospice and sought out one training after another, getting certified in various aspects of grief and crisis response and compassion fatigue.  Which led me to training that allowed me to facilitate bereavement groups for the community.

I knew shit, you know?  Ask me a question about grief and the impact of grief and the many ways people grieve and I could tell you shit that would make a difference in your life. I have stacks of notes and testimonials citing the many ways I helped people.

And then Chuck died.

BAM!

I don’t know shit about grief.  Or rather, I know a shit load of stuff about grief and what I know doesn’t make a damn bit of difference to how I’m grieving and I question my sanity as much as any newbie and I feel the same disconnect between my heart and head as many in my groups expressed to me in their time.

I don’t know shit.

And I depend upon my friends in the bereavement field to tell me naw, you ain’t crazy. You’re grieving.  Make sure you hydrate.  Remind yourself to breathe effectively.  Call me when you think you’re crazy and I’ll listen.

Even more so I depend upon my widowed community.  Those people get it. Big time.  I’ve met numerous widows who fucking rock their widowhood.  Not because they’ve gotten it all figured out but because they are so open and vulnerable about it and with it.  Which I admire to the nth degree.  Honesty also makes a person vulnerable to judgement and criticism, of course, and cries of oh you must be positive you must flip that switch so that you’re happy instead of sad you are choosing this way of reacting…and blah blah blah.

Life in the hood, as my son laughingly called it and I loved that he laughed when he said it, is fucking hard.  I’m beyond blessed that I have a strong, supportive, community around me for the most part.  And by that I don’t mean people who yes me to death how fucking boring that would be but people who understand that there is a difference a ginormous difference, between encouragement and judgement.

Encouragement is I’m right here with you this sucks the big one want to talk about Chuck or would you rather be distracted?  It’s understanding my blunt response when you ask if I’m having fun and I say fuck no because that word and its’ definition don’t even register with me and that’s okay.  It’s just cheering me on in my sometimes huge strides and my more often desperate yet intentional attempts to make something of this new life in the hood.  It’s not just moving your lips when you say there is no timeline to grief but meaning it in your heart and giving me that space while I figure this shit out. It’s working with me on ideas to earn money and stay on the road or just joking with me about how fucked up all this is.  I’ll take care of the emotional shit.  Help me with the practical and/or logistical.  But no trying to fix that, either.  Just work with me.

Look, grief is hard.  I know it.  You know it.  I think you do.  I hope you do.  Except actually not because it means that a loved one of yours died and I don’t wish this shit on anyone.  I’m not going to sit here and compare one grief over another;  it sucks no matter what.  What makes life in the hood just a difference in matters of degree is this:  most often, when 2 adults partner up for life, is that every fucking area of your lives entwine and entangle.  In a good way, not in a and this comes with judgement in tone but as a woman you’re supposed to be your own person even if you’re married!  How horrible that you weren’t your own person! Where’s your own identity?  How could you lose your own identity? 

Fuck that.  Keep your judgements to yourself, right?  Also, let me introduce you to what being really, deeply, passionately, in love is like, hmm?  In that most wonderful way that you feel stronger and more confident in your own sweet self as you have ever felt.  Ever. Because you were married to this incredibly cool guy who pushed you and encouraged you and supported you and your dreams in all the ways that he could.  Because he, you know, loved you just as much, if not more, than you loved him.

Let me be totally and brutally frank and honest here, okay?  Cover your eyes if you need to, peek between your fingers if you wish, clap your hands over your ears, or don’t read beyond this point if your sensibilities are too delicate or you’re one of our kids.

What takes widowhood to that whole different level is, let me put this delicately, or try…the continual exchange of bodily fluids over the course of a healthy marriage.  Passion? Sexing? Doing the nasty?  Okay, fucking.  You know, that thing that married people love doing I hope you loved doing it as much as Chuck and I did sorry if you don’t.  When you have that with your person, when you do that regularly because you are in a really amazing, excellent, loving. relationship/marriage, it brings a whole level of intimacy to the life that you share and is the very basis of everything else  that you share.  Sex, finances, chores, more sex, love, jobs, kids, daily life, sex…it all entangles you, hopefully, in a gorgeous package of intimacy;  legs and arms and hearts and minds and tongues and words and souls and bone and I swear, cells of your damn body and thoughts in a sweaty heap on the bed.  Or the floor. Wherever.

And that is what takes life in the hood to that deeper level.  No comparisons to other grief, I promise. Just sayin’, right?

Did I just veer completely off my original talking point?  I think I did.

Anyways…encouragement is a good thing, okay?  Let’s do a judgement free zone, hmm?

Thank you.

*I blame the raw honesty of this blog on those of my widow sisters *you know who you are* whose favorite word is fuck and the widow sisters who write openly about sex in the widowed community *gasp*.  It’s your fault and, also, thank you*

*Also this does not apply to my own support community because they you, pretty much rock*

 

 

 

Tripping Through the Galaxies-Widow Style~

Before I met him, Handsome Husband was a flight navigator on C-141’s.  As such, he learned to read difficult instrument panels, use a slide-ruler, numbers..I’m not sure what else.  He was good at it and he brought those talents to our life together on the road as Happily Homeless.  Points on a map that need to be figured and reconfigured;  he did that well in his time in the Air Force and in our adventures.

Me?  Not so much.  This life that I have to create without him is a blank map in every way.  In my mind I stare in a fog at the knobs and buttons facing me on my own panel and blindly push one, twist another, uncertain of the outcome of my efforts.  It is all completely unfamiliar, very much unwelcome and yet…it must be done.  It must be done because I haven’t died and am still alive (those are two vastly different statements in my mind).   It just is.  Period.   And I hate every fucking second of it because I would rather not be here.   Yes, I said it. I would rather not be here on this earth because I don’t like life without him.  In fact, I can more honestly say, I hate life without him.

BUT.  Here’s where all of you come into my story.

You respond to my writings, you share your own story, you reach out to me as another widow/er, as a recovered alcoholic, as a fellow traveler on the road, as a woman also traveling alone, as a fill in the blank and you are, for me, points on a map.

The map I picture is one of the galaxies, and you, as you reach out to me, are stars and planets that suddenly light up my darkness and give me something to point towards.  Amidst the grief and agony, I see lights out there and think well that gives me a direction and maybe I’ll learn something along the way that will ease this heaviness.

And so I steer PinkMagic in that direction, knowing that there is something there, something tangible, and that gives me a moment of surety, a compass marker to steady me.

Currently, my direction is South, towards Florida.  These roads are filled with so many searing memories of my and Handsome Husband’s adventures and these memories don’t help me remember the good times; they blazon into my soul only that they will never happen again, that he is not next to me, that I am without him, that such possibilities are gone forever.  And in the midst of nothing being okay, it’s kind of okay because this is what grief is for me and I do what I can to breathe into it, breathe through it and I look for another marker, and another and another and I push one button and twist another on the navigator’s panel in front of me with no clue about what it is but with no fear and thus draw one more line on this map of mine.

I thank each of you, far and wide, for being my markers on the compass.  It’s kind of like you’re over there, waving at me, holding up a welcome sign, bringing me in for a temporary landing of my aircraft, offering me so much love that my heart overflows, offering me words not so much of hope but of blessing and affirmation, standing with me, bearing witness, sharing memories of the man with whom I shared a love story, bringing your own introspection, allowing space for where I am.

I’m navigating this because of you.

I’m willing to bet that you had no idea of how powerful you are in my life~th

Cancer Fucking Sucks

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(from Rachael)

I just learned that the mom of my two oldest friends (sisters that I have known since the fourth grade) has been diagnosed with lung cancer. I grew up with this family. Their parents were like a second set of parents to me. I was their “adopted” third kid. Summers were full of swimming in their backyard pool, almost nightly slumber parties, roller skating, fashion shows, climbing up into the rafters of their garage, dinners, walks and bike rides, waiting at the bus stop together…the list goes on. Needless to say you can imagine how heartbreaking this news was to hear. Tears have already started flowing- some for me, but mostly for this wonderful family.

Cancer is not a death sentence for everyone. And I obviously wish the very best for them. I also understand the realities of this diagnosis. Even if the treatments work and their mom gets a clean bill of health, it does not change the fact that right now, it’s fucking scary as hell. I know because even though my story did not come with a happy ending, I still remember how it all felt. And there is nothing I can do for them to make it go away. All I can do is show them the same love and support that they showed me and my family when we were living and grieving through my dad’s cancer.

Family and friends (humanity in general really) react differently to this kind of news. Naturally people want you to stay positive and strong. Of course they do. Most have the best of intentions with Hang in there!, If anyone can survive this, (fill in the blank) can!, Think positive thoughts!. That’s all well and good, but you know what else  you need to hear? That this really fucking sucks. It’s not about pity, it’s about allowing them to feel whatever they need to without everyone else telling them to buck up. You know what I say? Cry. Scream. Be scared. Be hopeful. Cry some more. Talk it out. Write it out. Be with it. Go for a run. Pray if you pray. Dance it out. Blast some music to help drown out all of the thoughts that may be running through your head. Do WHATEVER you need to and don’t have any judgement about it. Know that everything you are feeling is OK and NORMAL. And don’t apologize for it.

However this all turns out, I just want them to know that I am holding them all in my heart. I am wishing them all nothin’ but love. I will be an ear for listening if and when any of them may need or want one. And I am pulling for their mama with every fiber of my being.

I love you guys. *HUGS*

Idle Thoughts~

I read this in a book the other day.  “Grief flows like blood beneath my skin”.   Well said.

People who are grieving aren’t trying to not feel good or not be positive.  They are, quite simply, grieving.

The more I read about death and grief, the more I realize how ill-prepared we, as a society, are to support it.  We want death, and grief, to be wrapped up in a neat little package to make it make sense.  Death doesn’t make sense.  It is simply a part of life that happens.  Whether its’ from cancer, heart attack, other illness, blunt force trauma, IED’s, injuries-whatever.  People live, people die.  God isn’t sitting somewhere in a cloud dealing it out or judging who lives, who dies.  Its’ life.

Grief has no map.  It’s all over the place.  Up and down, back and forth.  One year of grieving doesn’t make it go away.  For many people it intensifies because the anesthesia wears off and the reality of your loved one’s absence smacks you in the face and the gut daily and…minute…ly.   The reality of it can leave you breathless.

You know what I’m thankful for (people tell me to find something to be thankful for).  I’m thankful for Ignatia Amara and Star of Bethlehem, two homeopathic remedies that for maybe up to an hour at a time, slow my heart rate a bit from the adrenalin rush of grief that causes it to pound relentlessly in my chest and helps me feel a little bit less like I’m suffocating.

I’m not thankful for my life (I’ve been told that I should at least feel grateful to be alive).  Though I guess that isn’t completely true;  I suppose I am grateful for still being alive, at least for my kids’ sake.  I don’t want them to have to mourn 2 parents so closely together.  Left on my own, I think I’d head to the desert in my PinkMagic rig and shut myself away.  All that life is for me right now is life without Handsome Husband.  No, he wouldn’t want me to feel that way.  Yes, he’d understand that I feel that way.

I wonder sometimes if all of this is because I’m feeling sorry for myself.  Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?  Why do we put judgment on emotions?  My rational self knows I’m not feeling sorry for myself; I’m just grieving the death of a man who was my life-blood in so many ways and I feel his absence keenly.  I need to stop judging my grief.

I need to email and call Handsome Husband’s friends to ask them to talk to me about my husband, about who he was in their lives, about memories they carry.  The other day I realized that nobody talks to me about him.  Nobody says his name to me.  That is a killer, over and over again.  It makes him seem more gone than ever.  Part of that comes from me being so far away from his community, I know.  But I need to hear people talk about him.

I look so fucking normal on the outside.  My insides, right behind the face everyone sees on a daily basis as I’m out and about creating a life for myself, are a war-torn, shredded mess of blood, sweat and tears.  Believe me, hysteria lurks directly below the surface.

A One Year Dance~

Grief is an emotional, mental, physical, gut-wrenching, life-changing, soul-shattering, struggle.  Grief is endless nights  of cat-naps but blessed relief if unconsciousness actually happens so that the missing-ness can temporarily recede into nothingness.  Grief is getting up one more day and appearing normal on the outside (not because you’re trying to appear normal but because you just weirdly appear normal in spite of)  while the insides, right behind the eyes and right underneath your skin, are churning with the debris brought ashore by the tsunami that killed your life.

Is that over-stating it?

Family begins arriving today.  Our niece, Stephanie, who has been busily traveling the world, comes in from California, her first port of call after months in SouthEast Asia.  Tomorrow Fireman Nick and SugaPie fly in from Connecticut.

The reason?  Monday marks the one year point since Handsome Husband died.  Each stroke of the alphabet as I type that three-letter number slices into me.  The cognizance that one year just passed doesn’t make this time more painful to me; it makes it only more surreal to me.

Friends will join us at Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona on Sunday for a ritual to remember Handsome Husband.  Not everyone will be there-life interferes with no accommodation for sadness.  My step-daughter has 2 children to tend, with the attendant school and care issues so she’ll adjust the time difference (she’s in Vermont) and remember from afar with us.  Our NJ peeps, Bruce and Mary Ann, and so many others there…same thing.  All around the country, they’ll be remembering with us.

Words fail me (in spite of how much I’ve been writing recently).   At some point grief reaches such a saturation point that there is nothing left to say and silence falls.  I think back and remember this happening when my brother and mom died.  After 6 months, after 1 year, what is left to say?  It becomes repetitious.  I’m sad, I’m grieving, I’m desperate, I’m lonely, I can’t stand this life, I’m lost.  Understandably (but no less annoyingly) the general public starts to look at you and think “depressed”.  Cue the threatening music.

Grief is so much not depression and to name it that is condescending and dismissive and it also leads to the easy fix of medication.   (No, I’m not dissing medication as a personal decision.  I keep homeopathic remedies on hand to help me through the worst of it;  I’m just not going to get myself involved in prescriptive medication).   By its’ very definition, grief means a lack of.  Lack of focus, lack of sleep (though sleeping too much also happens), lack of joy, lack of patience, lack of most of what used to be.

Primarily, lack of the one who died.  Lack of their love, lack of their touch, lack of…them.

And it takes time to adjust, time to build a new life, time to find your feet underneath you so that you can build that new life.  Not one year, very often not two years.  Whatever time it takes.  You can’t just lay about and wait for it to happen though.  You have to get out there and do it, in spite of.  Which I’m doing.

Grief is a seesaw of emotions and not because emotions veer back and forth.  At least in my case, I’ve found that my emotions are fairly stable, in that there is nothing but pain as a baseline.  It’s a seesaw because we must search out balance again.  We must plant our feet in the middle of that seesaw, moving our weight from side to side until both ends level.  Not an easy job in any way.

On Sunday, at Bell Rock, I’ll play music  to celebrate Handsome Husband and we’ll all dance and I invite you, dear readers, wherever you are, to join us at 3 pm and dance your own dance.  Dance with us as we remember a man who touched our lives, and touched so many lives because of us.  Dance with me as I shout my love, and defiance of the death that took my most beloved husband from me last year on April 21.  Dance with me and our kids and our family and our friends and shout out your love for those who left you behind but also left so much love behind.

Dance it out.  Shout it out.  Love it out.

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Whoa. That’s All~

Beaumont, Texas.   Thanks to Charlie, who suggested this State Park to me, I was able to rest my very weary body for the night.  After backing PinkMagic, by myself, into the campsite.  Which, yes, is a huge thing to do.  It’s my second successful backing up.  A couple of days ago, I impressed myself terribly when I did a holyfuckdidyouseemedothat!! 3-point turn in order to get out of where I was.  Yes, accolades are in order.  Believe me!

Life is surreal for me now, and life is full of ironies that would make him laugh out loud.  Try these on.

At times, during our travels, Handsome Husband and I spoke about RV’ing or camping full-time.  I was ardently against such a thing.  I’m not an outdoorsy person.  I appreciate nature and am okay with hiking in it (by which I mean walking casually in it).  I named myself an anti-campite, a la’ Seinfeld.   Mostly I loved curling up in a soft chair with a good book.  I loved indoor things.  Here I am now, in a pink-trimmed T@b trailer, camped in the woods.  Using community bath-houses.  With signs, at times, that warn about wild things out there.  I hitch and un-hitch, I set up and break down.  Holyhell, before you know it, I’ll probably have a gun rack perched somewhere.

For most of the years or our travels, Handsome Husband put the miles on our car, steering us into so many adventures.  He loved to drive.  I drove some while he recovered from his first cancer surgeries.  He wasn’t a good passenger, though he did try to be and felt badly that he made me so nervous.  We had an occasional knock-down drag out about driving habits and then I said to myself “Hey, if he wants to spend the next 20 years driving, far be it from me to inhibit that”.  And kicked back with my feet on the dash.   I’m now doing nothing but driving.  Thank god I have a different car now.  It would cause such agony for me to drive our old car;  I’d see him endlessly, not there any longer.

I had no faith in my map-reading or directional skills.  I still don’t, and I thank Fireman Nick’s sweetheart, SugaPie, for encouraging me to upgrade to an IPhone with travel apps galore.  I cross-reference maps, google aids, etc to get where I’m going.   Before he died, Handsome Husband told me (yes, he did), that, as I traveled, if I thought I was supposed to go in a particular direction, go the opposite way because that would be the correct way.  I remember that.  He also reminded me that, by staying at 50-55 mph, we’d saved up to $300/monthly.  That’s pretty much the speed I maintain.

It caused endless anxiety in me, as I contemplated full-timing on the road on my own, mapping my routes, making reservations, pulling a tow, the extra fuel money because of towing; I was in full panic mode constantly.

In the months since Handsome Husband died in southern California, I’ve driven to Arizona to see 2 of our kids, drove to New Mexico for a family wedding, picked up my dear sister-in-law, Diana, in Albuquerque, New Mexico so that she could road-trip with me to Indiana for me to pay my respects to his mom and attend a family reunion, drove alone to New Jersey to prepare for and hold his memorial service, bought my T@b in New England, and prepared for this Odyssey.  And now, a month and a half on the road has taken me to Key West to scatter the first of his cremains, sat me down to dinner with his Air Force buddies and their families, touched me down at military Fam Camps along the Gulf Coast, and grown my determination to honor him and his military service.  Which translated to our story on the Biloxi news, WLOX.  (http://www.wlox.com/story/24473960/alison-miller-proves-that-true-love-never-dies).  And now, here I am at Village Creek State Park in Beaumont, Texas, waiting for the sun to rise so that I can ready myself to continue my drive to San Antonio.

I do what Handsome Husband always said to do:  I suit up and show up.  My brain is fogged with grief- so I don’t over-think things.  I’m allowing my heart to lead me, I’m listening to my gut each day.  I have no attachment to how the day unfolds.  Not because I’m irresponsible but because my inner self is dislocated and lost;  my compass companion is dead.   So I trust my heart, I trust his love that he left for me.  His love, our love we had together, is my guiding force and my only force.  With that fully entrenched in me, I’ll find my way.  I’ll drive and I’ll camp and do whatever I need to do to continue this Odyssey and I’ll keep my heart and soul open to what life unfolds before me and I’ll do such an amazing job of it that, wherever he is, he’ll be fucking applauding me endlessly and his eyes will shine with pride and joy and no surprise because he knew.  He knew, when he said his forever goodbye to me, that the woman he married, this woman he loved so passionately, and who loved him passionately and forever in return, is a kick-ass and take names type of woman.  He didn’t expect this of me.  He knew it of me and as devastating as it was for him to say goodbye and kiss me for the last time, he knew I’d make it happen.

And I will.  I am.  I’m a fucking warrior goddess and I’m on an Odyssey of Love and if I have my way, the entire military world and the world at large is going to learn about Chuck D, and our love story and how someone you love can suffocate in front of you and you can bathe him and dress him and help put his body on the mortician’s gurney and press the switch to open the crematorium doors to admit the body of the man you love, and walk out of there and place his urn and his flag next to you in the passenger seat and point your pink car in the direction of life and you can bygod open your soul to love and even though you’re no artist, you can set a blank canvas up and splash color and joy and pain and grief and every emotion you need onto it.

And create a masterpiece of magic that will leave the world panting.

Puzzle Pieces and oh, The Stories~

So here’s the story of today and a piece of the larger puzzle that has no color yet, no shape, no certainty other than it’s based on the love that Handsome Husband and I had for each other and my search to reconnect with him as I travel this Odyssey across this land to not only carry out his final wish to me but to find him again, to find something to believe in again that will ease my pain and grief.

PinkMagic is key to this ongoing puzzle.   It sounds like a fluff name but there is a true depth and intensity to it.  I didn’t choose the name lightly-it revealed itself to me.  It cost me money I didn’t really have to paint my car and my T@b in this color but I knew it was necessary to my new life.  I knew it would draw people to me to hear the story behind it.  My hope was (is) that through telling my story, I’d find the way into my new life without my beloved husband.  Except that what I’m discovering daily is that it’s more than the telling of my story with him.  It’s the stories that others tell me, the stories of their lives, that is leading me to him again and I fully believe that this storytelling wouldn’t happen if I was driving a silver car, or a white car, or one of any other color.  I needed PinkMagic to draw people to me, and indeed it has.

This morning I stopped at a grocery store to buy food for the day before heading to Truman Annex here in Key West to work on my computer.  As I was unlocking my car I was hailed from behind and a man asked me if I was the lady from Sigsbee with the pink trailer.   He quickly introduced himself and asked my story.  I told him and yes, the liquid love spilled from my eyes unabated as I spoke.  I miss Chuck so much and the tears are frequent.   The immediate response from Martin, for that was his name, was to tell me that I would very definitely absolutely be reunited with my husband again someday and he spoke those words with total conviction.  And then told his story.  His wife and a deep brain tumor and a coma and the doctor giving the option of surgery that he’d only performed once and the patient died but what was there to lose and the surgery happened and his wife died on the table and yes, yes, yes, saw a bright light and heard what she could only describe as effervescent music and sure that could all be dismissed but she was also, in spite of her eyes being taped shut, able to describe the color of the doors inside the operating room, the head cover that her surgeon was wearing (which was very distinctive with Sweet William flowers on it) and then repeat to the surgeon upon waking the exact words he’d said when he realized she had died and decided to continue the surgery and went down deep in between the two halves of her brain and removed the tumor.   And as I heard Martin’s story, I wept harder and my heart opened and opened more and I knew he spoke the truth in a way that was sacred and I knew that Handsome Husband sent this man into my life this morning to help me know that he is not only near but still looking out for me and knows the slicing and screeching pain of my heart and soul and wanted to give me a belief in something because my heart is overwhelmed and I need to know he is somefuckingwhere and from his love for me he sent me Martin.

This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have PinkMagic.   Months ago, after this man, this wonderful, beautiful, loved, man, died, I began listening to my gut and my heart and my soul and allowing them to lead me where I need to go.   I didn’t question the new car, the paint job, the T@b, nothing.  I did all that because I knew it was the basis for the magic that was (is) going to happen in my life.

Being out on the road full-time is  hard.  It’s lonely, but so would anywhere else be because it’s a loneliness of the spirit and the soul and heart.   I told my kids after Handsome Husband died that I needed to get back out on the road because that’s where I’d find him again.  That’s where I hoped he’d find me again.   There are many uncertainties to all of this, along with the loneliness.  Supporting myself, or how to continue supporting myself, is an issue.  Most of this is daunting, learning this new life, hitching and un-hitching the T@b and maintaining it, trying to eat well and take care of practical matters, in addition to the massive emotional tsunami that is swirling and pitching me about.

And yet.

Before Handsome Husband died, I told the kids that they needed to be aware of who was crossing their path, what words were being spoken because, as I chose to describe it, magic was afoot and bigger things than we could envision were happening.  And so it is now for me.  I don’t know what this puzzle will look like when it’s done.  I don’t know the colors or the edges or anything. There are pieces scattered here and there that are beginning to form…something, and that’s all I know.

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and my gut led me here and I will allow it to continue to lead me to the next place and time and person and circumstance.  I’m suiting up and showing up and people are coming into my life to help me with the next piece and that’s the way I operate on a daily basis.  I’m letting myself be right where I am physically and emotionally.  It doesn’t feel good, it gets dark and uncertain but the one thing I don’t have is fear.  I’m allowing this to unfold in whatever way it needs to unfold.

Storytelling.  Mine, but not only mine.  Mine with Handsome Husband.  The men and women who are sharing their stories with me as I travel.  Their essential stories that I need to hear because it is the stories themselves that will make clear the connection that is still there with my husband.  Their stories are not only reminding me but helping me dig more deeply into what I already know but have forgotten I know.  Each day, each moment, has a story in it and all I need to do is open every part of me to it and welcome it whether I like it or not because this is bigger than I am.

Love.  Magic.  An open road in front of me.  And more love.  All the love in the world that he had for me and I for him and the blooming awareness that he didn’t just disappear when he died.   In his last phone message to me he said he will always, always, be with me.  He never broke a promise to me and it’s out here, as I knew it would be, that he’s making that clear to me.

I carry your heart, D.  I carry it in my heart.

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Thank you for today~

 

The Sheltering Dark~

The me that was me for the last few decades is gone.  I miss her dreadfully.  The me that was married to a handsome, passionate about me and about life man, is gone.  I hate that.  I grieve that as much, I think, as I grieve him being gone. Maybe I should have had a funeral for her.

I wonder if Handsome Husband would even recognize the me I am now.  Not because I’ve grown hard or bitter but because I’m so shattered and broken. He, of course, knew me and loved me through the deaths of my brother and my mom, 6 months apart, back in the 90’s.   Those deaths rattled my world in every way.

I thought.

My years with Handsome Husband were rich in color and passion and life and dancing together, and kissing and holding hands and him sweeping me off  my feet with love and desire and exploring and adventuring and pushing my comfort zones physically and yes, arguments and discovery of more about each other and…and…and…

Gone.

Without self-pity I say now that my life is starkly black and white.  I see no color, feel no passion for anything, have no desire for anything.  I see the world and feel pretty much nothing.  Certainly no excitement.   I bought a new car and painted it pink.  I bought a T@b trailer and trimmed it out in pink.  I’m going back out on the road to continue the traveling life and it will be an entirely different experience than it was with the man I loved and I’m not excited about it and I wish I was filled with joyous expectation of the adventure but I’m not.

I’m not who I was.  I’ve even given thought to changing my name to reflect that.  Which isn’t too much of a reach for me, given that I legally changed my name for the first time when I was 19.

Here’s the thought that followed the thought that I’m no longer me and will never be me again.

I won’t ever be who I was.  I loved who I was and it’s cut me deeply to know that woman is gone forever.  Yes, that sounds like such a big thing to say and I can hear people rush to assure me that oh, I’ll find her again, just give it time, be positive, keep an open mind.  Blah. Blah. Blah.

The fact that the me that I was is gone, shattered into dust as much as Handsome Husband was when his body went into the crematory and I pushed the button to incinerate his body, is not a negative.  It isn’t a positive either.  It just is.  It’s what happens when there is nothing left but scorched earth after a conflagration of such magnitude as his death in my life has been and continues to be.

Scorched earth lies silent and blackened.  Fire blows through, destroying everything physical in its’ path.  Trees, plants, flowers, markers, houses, people, everything.  But.  Give it a few years and see the beauty that defiantly grows from that.  A couple of years go by and a tiny bit of green  shows through, so tiny and almost not there.  And then-BAM!  A new forest.  New color.  New life.

Is that dramatic enough for you?

Maybe it isn’t so much that I’m a different person as it is that there is nothing left but raw.  I’m a gaping, bleeding wound, thoroughly scorched.  Vulnerable in a way I’ve never been before.  The last 4 years of travel unearthed many layers of me and I very willingly shed so much that I didn’t want or need.  Things and ways of being.  The seismic event of my husband’s death ripped through me and destroyed what remained in a matter of weeks.  Even in the midst of this, I’m not frightened by that concept.  I’m not excited by it but I’m not frightened by it.  He and I lived a life both physical and mental, that was adaptive to change.

I’ve had numerous discussions with strangers and loved ones about life and death and one of the saddest things I’ve heard is that when such a thing as the death of a loved one happens, it would leave them incapable of dealing with life.  The prediction, even prior to death happening,is that a hospital stay would be necessary so that they could cope.   Medications necessary.  I hear this frequently.  “I can’t do what you do.  I don’t know how you’ve done this.”   Me neither, frankly. No frickin’ clue how I’ve done this.  Mind you, I’m  not ruling out the use of medications, if and when they might help.  I’m talking about the mind-set that sets up such a scenario.  We all do what we need to do when death happens.  But ahead of time we have no clue about how it will play out.  This is  just me and how I need to do it.

But it does sadden me.

I’m in front of the line of people who shatter and fall apart when a loved one dies.  You’ve read my blog, dear readers.  I’ve been honest with you every step of the way. I’ve considered medication, would love to not feel my way through this.  Would love to sleep well and not have a barrage of images piercing through without surcease.  Would love to not feel any of this.  Except, not really.

The thing is, I think, to not be afraid of the shattering and falling apart.  To not be afraid of the blackness and nothingness of the insides.  Not to want it, not to like it, to hate it with every particle of the old you.  Just not to have fear of it.  To be open to the darkness and see it as a cocoon.  Fear is the real killer.

I’m reminded, as I attempt to think this out, of a conversation Handsome Husband and I had a few years ago, prior to his first fucking cancer, in which I told him my favorite quote of all time is from Eleanor Roosevelt.  She said, each day find that one thing you fear the most and do it.

The thing I fear the most is living without him.  Not because I can’t manage but because I loved and felt loved by him.  And each day I wake up from a not really sleeping place and get up and do it anyways because, as I’ve said often, apparently this grief isn’t going to kill me.  And I won’t allow it to make me bitter.  So I just suit up and show up and do what I can while my heart and my soul lie scorched.  I don’t even use energy to hope that this changes.  I just let it be whatever it is while I do what my gut tells me I need to do.  Seriously, there’s no thinking going on here, folks.  It’s all gut response.

Which is okay with me.  The darkness doesn’t scare me.  There’s not much that scares me any longer.  My husband suffocated in front of me as his body struggled against it.  I bathed and dressed him and covered him in flowers and pressed the button that opened the doors to accept his physical body and obliterate it forever in scorching flames that I didn’t and couldn’t verbalize at the time but were incinerating me as much as him.  (Hey, that’s a pretty good comparison there…).  I folded into the floor with accusations that were flung at me regarding my care of him in the end.  I broke and shattered.

This darkness.  I’m okay with it, not because I like anything about it but because I’m not afraid of it and, I suppose, because there is a far distant part of me that I only recognize in my gut, that the new me, desired of being or not, is ruminating and forming and metamorphosing and preparing to come into the light in a burst of being.

I have no interest in being this new me.  I didn’t ask for it and don’t want it but then, nobody asked me.  It’s happening and I won’t let fear of the process be bigger than the process.  Anything I’ve done since Handsome Husband died hasn’t been done because he’d expect it of me or want it for me.  I’ve done it because this is who I am and I know that he knew that I would do this because he knew me better than I knew me or anyone else knew me and he knew I was a woman who knew how to kick ass and take names.  He knew how I felt about fear and going into it not with fists raised but with heart open. He knew that the love he and I shared was (is) bigger than the tangible physical being of our us.

My tattoos, so recently marked on my body, are my warrior paint, giving me courage to abide with open heart, in this dark place, in the scorched me.  The new me will emerge with a burst of light at some future place, willingly or unwillingly.  It is what it is.  The power I have in this is to just let the process happen with no fear (practiced on a minute-by-minute basis) inhibiting it.  It’s painful and I fucking hate it because I loved who I was and how I was with him.  So I cry and I break and I miss him unbearably and I eye the fucking warrior goddess boots that sit in shadow in the corner and my heart breaks open.

FWG.  He knew it and I don’t want to know it but I do know it and he knows I know it.  So, basically, I’m fucked.  Collage

FWG~(you figure it out)

Since Handsome Husband’s death (and, oh how writing those words make me stare unbelievingly at them) I’ve joined a few online communities of women and men who are grieving the death of a spouse.  I don’t oftentimes comment on them but I read so that I can find out what their normal is and how they’re getting through this most grievous of losses.

I’m struck at the numbers of people whose worlds, in the time since the death, have narrowed in so many ways and I come away filled over and over with gratitude that out of this great loss, I at least haven’t suffered the additional loss of my social network.   To the contrary, my world has expanded.  Exploded almost if I really allow myself to think about it.  And I don’t say that by way of anything other than I need to look at myself squarely sometimes and acknowledge for my sake of sanity how far I’ve come in these 6 months since my world was flattened and destroyed by a tsunami of such force that nothing is the same or will ever be the same.

The above isn’t a negative statement; it’s a simple observation.   I glance at pictures of me and my most dearly loved husband in times past and the me in those pictures is unrecognizable in any way.  The joy in my smile as I gazed up at him, the passion for life, the spirit of us together.   There is no joy, no passion, no spirit for life in me right now.  Not because I’m depressed but because I’m in the darkness of grief.  Which is also okay.  A phrase from a book I’m reading comes to mind, that it’s in the purging of the soul that space is opened up and transformation can take place.

I’m counting on that.  Part of me believes that.  The other part wants to believe that.   I’m working on not being fearful of the process.

So, back to my original thought that brings my ramblings together.   From the moment my husband took his last breath, in spite of the soul-slicing pain, a part of my brain kicked into action for protection.  Not protection from the pain, but protection while I’m going through the pain.  Even if I could, I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t there.   But I knew, and still know, that I need to shore myself up.  I was out in California, knew nobody, knew our lease was up at the condo, knew I had to leave, which meant I had to get in the car and drive to Arizona so I could be with 2 of our kids briefly, then start heading East to New Jersey to plan his memorial.   And attend a family wedding in New Mexico on the way and get to Indiana to pay my respects to his mom and attend his family reunion for him.  When all I had energy for or wanted to do was crawl under the covers and wait for the pain to abate.

Under the covers for any length of time, first and foremost, isn’t my personality.  And, were he alive, Handsome Husband would indulge that for a brief time, but only briefly.  So, yes, I say my brain kicked in but honestly its’ been instinct and my gut that guided me than and is guiding me now.

I told Handsome Husband I would paint my car pink so that he could find me out on the road.  That was my first reason for searching out Anthony of Supreme Garage in Arizona to spin his magic and create my color.   The second reason was instinct.  Not only do I hope for HH to find me out on the road, I need others to find me.  Grief is isolating.  Being out on the road is isolating.  Neither of which is a good thing for me for long.   A pink car?   Who isn’t going to wonder about the hows and whys of that?  People are drawn to me, they ask me those questions and I get to talk a little bit about Handsome Husband and our travels and our story.   Telling the story is a huge part of what grieving is all about but so often, we run out of ears after a while.   I’ll never run out of ears.  This Pink Magic is named that for a reason.  It draws people to me all the time.  I tell my story, I hear theirs.

And now I’ve added my T@b, trimmed out in “Chuck’s Watching Over Me” pink, painted by Bob in N. Stonington Connecticut.  It’s my home on the road and believe me, the now named Pink Magic Combo makes a statement.   On the road, at the rest stops, restaurants, anywhere I go, people seek me out..  I’ve joined an amazing group on fb of fellow T@b trailer owners and they are all reaching out to me with hints on this new lifestyle, with information, with reassurance (which I sorely need).

In the time since Handsome Husband died, his military and AA buddies have reached out to me.  In person they’re hugging me, online they’re cheering me on and extending invitations to stop and visit on my travels, attend their weddings,  join their festivities.  Others who have suffered this loss reach out to me daily with the same sort of invites as I travel.  Friends of my kids, women from my community-the list only grows.

How do I say this without sounding grandiose or like I’m gloating?  Because I don’t mean it in either way.   You know what?  I do feel triumph that I accomplished, and continue to accomplish, this feat.  I vowed to myself that in spite of the depth of the grief, in fact that in accordance with the depth of my grief, I would open my heart more.  And more.  Each time my heart beat in pain (which is every beat) it would be a further cracking open that allowed more love.  I would reach out and reach out to people with honesty about where I was and allow them to be a part of this and of me.  I wouldn’t hide or try to protect them from my grief.  I would be just simply me.  And I would do it in pink.

I’ve consciously striven to put myself out there, to open up, to invite people in, to search out.  The old me would say that it’s been a hard effort to do so.  The new me, operating solely from my gut, knows that there is no true effort.  I’m not thinking about it.  It’s coming right from my heart and straight from my gut.

Handsome Husband oftentimes said that it doesn’t matter what you feel or what you think.  It’s what you do.  It’s about suiting up and showing up and being right where your feet are.  I’ve done that and I’ve done it not because I’ve ignored or shoved away this darkness of my life and the horrible missing-ness of him but because I started digging a space for myself from the moment he took his last breath.   I continue to dig by reaching out, by telling people what I need and what does or doesn’t help.  It’s up to me, in the end, to figure this grief out, to find a place for it.  But that doesn’t mean that I shut people out;  it means is that I need to be clear with people and open to life.

His love.  My love for him.  I carry within me all the strength of his love for me.   It transformed my life while he was with me and is my armor now.

That armor fits well on a woman he knew to be a fucking warrior goddess.  IMG_0035

 

The Cloud of Heart~

It isn’t easy being around me these days, I fully realize.   Or maybe I’m projecting that onto people around me when what I really mean is that it isn’t easy for me to be around me these days.

I cry easily.  When I’m not crying, I’m numb with emotional pain.  And, at times, physical pain from holding emotional pain in so that I can get through a day and whatever needs to be gotten through.  For the last week or so, my neck and shoulders have been in excruciating pain, in a not-wanting-to-turn-my-head to the right, way.  Tonight I had  dinner with some friends, and tears and agony spilled out because they’re very safe people for me, and what do you know?  A good part of that pain is gone.   Not completely but, yes, we hold grief in our muscles and tendons and bones, as well as in our heart and soul.

I miss Handsome Husband holistically.   My body, my mind, my soul, my every inch of being feels his absence.  6 months in, the reality of it still slams into me on a regular basis.   Quite simply, he is missing from me, and I feel it.  There are times (frequently) when I can feel the energy of my body straining towards where he used to be, at my right side.   Only to find fucking nothingness.

There is no salve for grief.  It must be gone through.   I feel battered and beaten up and uncertain and in pain and left behind.   I get angry at him (go figure), for leaving me behind.  Knowing full well that it wasn’t his choice in the least.  I know that leaving me was the worst part of dying for him.   I know so much, in my head.  My heart and soul-it’s a different story all together.

Dear friends reminded me tonight of what he often-times said to them and it holds true for me.  It isn’t a matter of what you feel or think, it’s a matter of what you do.  And I, they told me, am doing.  Doing while shattered, but doing.

Keep suiting up and showing up.  That’s what Handsome Husband often said.  And I am.  And I’ll keep doing that.

But what I want to know is:  if I keep suiting up and showing up, will this godforsaken, soul-slicing, heart-ripping, fucking agonizing pain of not having him here with me, at some point I beg of you, not be part of me any longer?