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

Witness.

10584071_706736189381318_5111626282519408281_n(from Rachael)

“I see you.” Three simple words. People and their stories need to be witnessed. It is our basic human nature to want to fix, but most often there is no fix. Nor is it anyone else’s place to do so. Just be here. Just see me. Just love me. No words need to be spoken. Sit with me. Hold my hand. Hug me. These are the things I have learned over time and have come to understand even more deeply since I watched my dad die from cancer. These are the things that I have held closely and put to practice as I have witnessed my mom’s grief over this last year and three months.

In this last month, as my mom and I have traveled from Arizona, to California, to Oregon, to Washington, to Idaho, to Montana, and tomorrow to South Dakota, I have learned to just allow space when it is needed. For her and for me. There is nothing I can say to make her grief less. And when I do speak, it is with words of acknowledgment. I have learned the language of grief- but this language is so much more than just words. In fact, it is most often everything but. This language is in the eyes, the touch, the breath, the being

Compassion and empathy are gifts that some people are more in touch with than others- and that’s ok. It took me a long time to openly admit that I am one of those people. I was afraid to own what I have been blessed with. This gift of mine in part comes from my up-bringing, in part from life experience, and in part from the very core of my soul. I am a space holder. I am a witness. I will allow you your grief OR joy. And I will not judge. Our society openly welcomes self deprecation but seems to have a hard time embracing those who regard themselves in a positive light- and as individuals we are afraid to do so for fear of seeming egotistical, but I am here to tell you that it is time to claim ourselves. And to do so without apology.

Embrace your gifts. Share them with the world. If you can only even make a difference for one person, I promise you it will be worth it.

Nothin’ But Love.

One Week

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

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

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

 

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

Expectations…and Revelations

ImageDid you ever have one of those Aha! moments? Well, I did the other day. It didn’t exactly happen all of a sudden; it kind of continued to reveal itself to me as it was happening. It was like a holyshitIcan’tbelieveIamjustnowrealizingthis kind of thing, and it was brilliant. My mom and I were having a discussion about the expectations in grief- the ones we put on ourselves. Here is the story of my epiphany…

As most of us likely do, we compare our grief to the other grievers around us- past or present. My mom has certainly been looking at hers and wondering if she should be “further” along/why she is still grieving so intensely? I have been looking at mine and wondering why I appear to not be grieving more deeply? I loved (love) my dad with every fiber of my being- there is no question about that, so it seemed natural to me that I “should” (there’s that crazy word) be crying more, or angry more, or just overall way more sad than I appear to be. And it’s crazy for either one of us to be questioning these things. We understand that intellectually. But it’s the nature of the beast.

Mydadisinhospice anticipatory grief to my now in full swing grief has ebbed and flowed. However, I strongly recall having moments of absolute peace in my heart even when my dad’s body continued to attack him and I had no idea where that feeling was coming from. I even mentioned it a couple of times to my mom. Just a little more than a year later, and I still am able to get through most days with relative ease. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully capable of dropping to my knees in a puddle on the floor in complete agony and missing-ness, but on the whole there is a peace to my grief. And that’s when the thoughts and words started to connect. The way in which I am grieving speaks to the nature of the relationship I had with my dad. It was calm, relaxed, and moved with ease. As I began to explain this to my mom, I could see a look of deeply rooted knowing move across her face. Of course. It made perfect sense. We began to look at the dynamic of relationship and grief among others who loved my dad, and we continued to see a link.

The scientific community and the metaphysical/spiritual community both know and agree that energy exists- beyond what the human eye can see. And that energy doesn’t die. It adapts, moves, and changes. Yes, my dad died. But the energy that we shared and moved between us didn’t. It had to go somewhere. It just simply took on another form- by way of my grief. I still very much carry the energy of my relationship with my dad. No, it’s not the way I would prefer it to be, but it is there. And that’s some pretty fucking powerful stuff.

So no more judgement. No more comparing. My grief is exactly what it is supposed to be. And yours is exactly what yours is supposed to be. The. End.

*Perhaps a psychology journal will publish my revelation…*

YOU~

Today is my birthday.  Its my second birthday without Handsome Husband.  I’m 56 in regular years, but…its my second birthday without Handsome Husband and that number  holds so much more power than my actual years of being on this earth.  The day, the number 56, is means nothing to me, which I realize probably sounds so very depressing but to me is neither one thing or another.  It just is what it is. But don’t stop reading-there is more to it, I promise.

See that massive hole in the ground  in front of you that is so huge its cavernous?  That hole appears to be all black volcanic rock, broken up with sharp and brittle gaps separated with what seems like bottomless crevasses between them, stretching down, down, down into nothingness.collageThe bottom is invisible  from the top. But if you could see the bottom and you looked closely, somewhere maybe around a 1/3rd of the way from the bottom, there is a barely discernible figure, clad in, surprisingly but it’s why you can make this figure out at all…yes, pink. It’s a woman.  On her back is a clearly very heavy backpack and her feet are clod in climbing boots.  Her hair is matted to her head with sweat and her fingers are red and cut from grasping the rocks for leverage and to keep from falling backwards into the blackness.  If you could see her eyes from that distance, you’d see that their cornflower blue is clouded with devastation and loss but sharp with determination.  She doesn’t look up; her eyes are trained directly on the rocks in front of her.  It’s a slow climb, as she must continually pause to gather her strength and take a gasping breath.

She’s in survival mode.  It uses up everything physical, everything emotional and everything spiritual and mental that is in her to raise her foot one more time to lever herself up one more rock.  And you know what?  Its okay.  She’s a sweaty, devastated with grief, FWG and its okay.  She isn’t sad about being sad, she is just doing what needs to be done.b2513ddfbf608eb4ebc36d9f2712dfb2

Would you like to know what keeps her breathing?   Study this~

d178be5975dab55c10a98ddaa6c9c73dThere is a quote that says there is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.

You, my family, my friends, my fellow Tabbers, my military family, my Second Firsts family, my angel sisters of Tapestries of Hope, my SOTF, my Glampers, my faithful blog followers, my fellow widows, met and not yet met-all of you who are my community.  You are the cracks.  You are the ones who are letting the light into my heart and soul and you keep me climbing those black rocks.  Out of the darkness.

What else is there for me to say on this birthday but thank you?  From me, and I know, from Hands0me Husband, who would hug each of you individually for the love you are giving to the woman he loved more than himself.

I bow my head to you in acknowledgement.

 

Empty Apartment

ImageI’m lying on the floor staring at the ceiling fan. My jaw begins to clench. My body begins to stiffen. Tears begin to stream down my cheeks. It’s beginning to settle into my bones. The reason I am even going on the 6 month trip with my mom is because my dad is dead. My. Dad. Is. Dead. When the fuck did that happen?

I should have known. I have been irritable and tired all day- like, took 2 pretty long naps today tired. I started getting choked up when I was packing up my cat to bring her to her temporary new home today. Yes, I will miss her, but more so it was just one more checked item on the list making this more real.

My husband is trying to be close to me. Which makes sense- especially because we are going to be apart for these next 6 months, but his touch is sending my grief into overdrive. I can’t take it. More tears. I feel bad too- which causes even more tears. I want to want to be close to him in this moment, but it feels impossible. My body wants to explode, my mind is racing, my heart feels closed. So he’s just sitting with me. It’s about all I can handle.

I sit up. My body is heavy. I feel as blank as the naked wall that I am staring at. Suddenly, I have this voracious need to get these words out of my head and put them somewhere else. So here they are- in all their raw glory.

It’s my last night in my home. Tomorrow I make way over to my brother’s place until my mom and I hit the road. Sure, there is excitement. And yes, I know how proud my dad would be of me and what we are doing. But in this moment I need to grieve. I need my tears to temporarily wash away this heaviness that sits on my heart. In THIS moment, I need to only exist in the dark corner of my empty apartment.

And tomorrow? Who knows? It’s a new day.

32.

It’s how old I am today. And once again, is very bittersweet. It is the second year I celebrate without hearing my dad’s voice on the other end of the phone, wishing me a happy birthday. My 32nd year also happens to coincide with Memorial Day. A day when I used to honor and remember others who have fallen, but now have to remember my dad as well. Like I said, bittersweet.

I knew going in that my thirties were going to be transformational- and have thus far proven to be just that. My dad died just shy of my 31st birthday and I am less than a month away from hitting the road with my mom for 6 months. It will be a test of our relationship. It will test my relationship with my husband, it will push my boundaries, and I suspect I will reach a deeper revelation and understanding of who I am as a whole. I am leaving behind everything that is familiar to journey into unknown territory. Don’t get me wrong, I am really excited and open to what may unfold, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m also a bit nervous.

Life is in flux. I suppose it always is in some form or another. However, I have noticed that recently these changes seem to occur in a major life altering kind of way, around my birthday. Which kind of makes sense. Birthdays are about change. And growth (hopefully). The more adaptable you can be, the easier life cruises by. As my dad always said, “It’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you choose to handle it”. And it’s true (though I often would have to stop myself from rolling my eyes). There has been much change throughout my life- some good, some not so good, but each moment has helped shape me.

So today, I honor me, I honor my dad, I honor the moments often found in transitional spaces. I will spend my day laughing, continue opening my heart, enjoy my family and friends, dance, and love just a little bit more.

 

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How I wear my grief.

ImageI wear my grief differently. It was a discussion my mom and I were having today. I mentioned how people are constantly asking me how she is doing, and basically how, well, I’m tired of it. It has nothing to do with not caring. It’s just that I feel people are looking for a response that I simply cannot give them. What they are looking for is hope. It’s understandable. They want her to be ok. Of course they do, so do I. Hell, she wants to be ok too. But guess what? She isn’t. Her husband is still dead, and her body screams at her in pain. There is a huge gaping hole in her heart, and it fucking hurts. 

And then it hit me. When was it that people stopped asking me about how I’m doing? I can’t really even recall. There are a few here and there who ask, but overall, it’s always, “How is your mom doing?” I don’t hold it against anyone, it just got me thinking, and here is the conclusion I have come to- I wear my grief differently. My mom is constantly posting, writing, and talking about her grief- every day, in some form or another. It’s out there. She tears up and falls apart more frequently. She doesn’t hold back. Compared to her, I appear to be ok. And on the surface, I am. I teach my classes, I socialize, I laugh and smile, I post positive and loving messages, I am outwardly excited to be heading out on the road for 6 months with my mom. For all intents and purposes, my life is “normal” again. Until it’s not. And it comes on sudden and unexpectedly. Triggers are what we call them, and they can be a real bitch. 

I think because I appear to be happy, most folks assume I have moved on (whatever that means). And that’s likely why they don’t ask. Now mind you, I don’t want people asking all the time, cause guess what? The answer is still the same. My grief is still very much present and a monumental part of who I am. It has taken me to a depth of compassion, understanding, love, and heartache that I never would have been able to comprehend without my experience. I just don’t wear it on my sleeve anymore. Neither way is better or worse, they are just different. My relationship with my dad was different than the one he shared with my mom. Obviously. Neither of us love him more, just differently. He was a part of her day to day. I haven’t had that since I lived at home. It’s easier for me to imagine he is still adventuring out on that great open road- that I just haven’t talked to him in awhile, but will soon. 

And then while driving home from a magical day in Sedona, AZ, my mom’s car slams into a deer (or rather, that ass of a deer slams into her car). Suddenly, in that moment, my world is turned upside down. I want my dad. I want him for me, but honestly even more, I want him for my mom. He was her person. I at least had mine waiting for me at home. Want to hear something even more strange? I have momentary guilt about that. It’s completely irrational, and intellectually I understand that. But my heart screams anyway and starts playing that fun game of the why’s and what if’s. “Why is it that I get to run into the safe, loving arms of my husband, but my mom doesn’t?” *meltdown*  “What if my mom had been killed? She is the only parent I have left.” *meltdown*  “What if I had been killed? How would my mom handle that?” *meltdown*  They come sporadically, but when they do they hit like a ton of bricks. Sobbing, loss of stability in my legs, nausea, hyperventilation….and I am never prepared.

Be assured, my grief is ever present, but settles in a way that isn’t so obvious- even to me at times. The one thing I do know is that this is all NORMAL. And that brings a weird sense of comfort.

 

 

Class dismissed.   

 

Acupuncture and Dancing in the Glittered Sky~

Earlier today I danced with Handsome Husband for the first time since he died a year ago April.

No, I haven’t gone off the deep end but thank you for your concern.

I went for my first acupuncture treatment today in an attempt to find relief from this heart-slicing grief.  Most of the time it feels like concrete weighs down my chest.  Panic is right around the corner at any moment.  I’m surprised, quite honestly, that I’m functioning at all.

The practitioner spoke to me quietly of my grief and my anxiety about needles as she very efficiently slid the needles under my skin and I felt them not at all.  Some in my left foot, some in my right hand, some in my chest, one in my crown chakra in the middle of my forehead.  She said we should focus on my chest /lungs area with my breathing so compromised.

I had no preconceived notions, no expectations of acupuncture.   I didn’t try to clear my mind.  I didn’t try to sleep.  I resolved that I was just going to BE, with no judgement.

About 20 minutes in, I felt pain gather in my chest.  Not in an I’m having a heart attack way but in a wow I really feel a clump of pain in the middle of my chest way.  Almost immediately upon recognizing the feeling, I also felt it dissipate, as if sliding away from the center.  Immediate warmth spread through my veins and I took a breath.  A normal breath, not a forced yoga breath that required intense concentration.  No.  I instinctively took a breath that came from way down in my diaphragm and filled my lungs.  The first one I’ve taken since the oncologist said the words tumors everywhere and we knew we were facing the end of our lives together.

And then zap!  Behind my closed eyes I was spinning and spiraling and circling in a midnight blue sky, stars glittering in every direction, Handsome Husband’s arms around me as he danced me through the galaxies.  And I use the word galaxy very deliberately because that’s the word that came to mind.  We spun slowly together and there was a searing sense of forever felt in my heart.

Collaccge

And then I stood in that same galaxy, only on a precipice, the desert below me, and I raised my arms to the shimmering skies and opened them wide as if offering something and he was there again and we once more swayed together in dance.

Handsome Husband came to this very clinic in 2012 to receive acupuncture to ease what we thought was his systemic fungal infection.  Of course, it was cancer and nothing could have stopped its’ growth.  But what I took away from today, in addition to dancing through the skies with my beloved husband, was comfort that he had, in his time there, had ease from his pain.  He would tell me when he returned to our rental that he’d fall deeply asleep during treatments and I was able to see it today from his perspective.  For me today it was as if the music that played attached itself to the cells of my body and coursed along with the blood in my veins.  I was able to have his experience and ease my heart.

Today wasn’t easy.  Tears were a constant as words and images played through my mind.  Grief was continually present but also present was ease and full breathing.  I’m not certain how those two can co-exist as simply as they did and I won’t over think it.  It just was.   I felt easy with the grief.

I’m an acupuncture convert and could easily become addicted to it.  And I intend to fill that addiction with regular treatments until I return to the road.   The possibility to breathe fully again?  To ease this grief a bit? And maybe, to dance with Handsome Husband again through the filled with shimmering stars skies?

Sign me up.

*Phoenix Community Acupuncture*