Beginning my New Year~

My new year begins each April 21.

That’s the date of Chuck’s death.

It’s the only new year that carries any meaning for me.

What do I care about January 1? 

April 21 is the day my life incinerated and I was eviscerated.

So it stands to reason, at least in my mind, that this is the day where I look back, and, insofar as I’m able, look ahead.

I knew, to the depths of my heart and soul, and into my bones, that this April 21, just recently passed, is the year where all the energy of my Odyssey of Love, would expand and grow, and it’s already happening.

Since I began my Odyssey of Love, just weeks after Chuck’s death, I’ve been laying the foundation for…something.

I didn’t know what, and I still don’t know where this is all taking me.

I just know that it’s taking me somewhere big. 

Where big is, I don’t know, and I’m not concerned about where it is.

All I’ve known, since Chuck died, is that it is my responsibility to suit up and show up and let the day unfold. The outcome isn’t up to me.

And I’ve done that. Whether I felt like it or not.

I had to make meaning out of this fucking devastation, or go nuts.

And I realized, very early on, that there ain’t nobody going to do this for me. 

I could have gone to ground. Isolated myself. God, that would have been so easy to do. It’s what my instincts told me to do.

But how could I make meaning out of any of this if I disappeared?

How could I maybe somehow connect to Chuck again, if I disappeared?

So I painted my car and trailer pink and donned my pink clothes and set out to connect with people. Share my story. Listen to theirs. Write about our Love story. Write about my fears and doubts. Write what it’s like to navigate widowhood while towing a trailer around the country, navigating new roads and pushing beyond my comfort zones.

I made myself vulnerable, in spite of the grief and pain.

It wasn’t easily done. It isn’t easily done. I’m just doing it anyways.

And where has it brought me?

It has brought me to a place where, this coming fall, I’m meeting a woman who is a photographer/videographer, in Arizona, who, along with her partner, is teaming up with me to film a documentary about my Odyssey of Love.

Wait…what?

Yep. We will create a spectacular documentary about all of this that I’ve been doing for the last 6 years. Holy shit, right? I met the exactly right person recently who has the skill, the vision, the magic, to help me translate my story into an epic documentary that I’ll take on the road with me.

I’ve been wanting to do this for…well, forever.

And it’s going to happen.

And it will be fucking epic and you’re going to want to see it.

My rig, PinkMagic, covered with the names of loved ones from around the world, will have a starring role, of course.

I plan on hosting a premiere showing of it and inviting the world.

This is the first time I’ve been excited about anything since Chuck died. 

I’m holy shit excited about this.

The energy around my Odyssey of Love has shifted and is palpable.

It’s time, you know? 

Time for all of what I’ve been creating from the depths of my shattered heart to get out into the world in a bigger way.

It’s my way of reaching my hand back, and out, to anyone else trying to figure out the “now what?” of widowhood.

Maybe someone will see it and think well, she did it. So I can do something too.

In the name of Love. THE most powerful force in the Universe.

Here I am, Chuck. And look what I’m doing with what you left behind for me.

I’m making meaning out of the godawful missingness of you. 

I’m making what we had count for something.

And I’m doing it all…including breathing…in the name of LOVE~

Ignorance Gives Me Writing Material~

A huge shout out to a person no longer in my life, and her partner, for providing material for this blog.

This topic has only arisen a couple of times since I began my Odyssey of Love, and I addressed it then, and will now.  Possibly laying it to rest, now and forever.  Amen.

*I do not write this with angst.  I simply wish to address the issue*

Recently, this person accused me of driving all around the country as if I am on vacation.

Webster’s Dictionary defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or amusement.

First of all…sigh….

Second of all…sigh followed by raised eyebrow as if to say seriously?

So…I haven’t had a sticks and bricks home since May 29, 2009 when Chuck and I sold it and went on the road together.  My home, now, and since October 2013 has been my T@b trailer.   My home on the road, as it were.

And this is for amusement…how?  Wow.  If this particular male personage defines vacation by what I’m doing,  then thank you very much but I’ll pass on going on one with you!  My idea of a vacation is more along the lines of a white sand beach in a warm climate, on a very comfy lounger, with a seriously good book, sipping non-alcoholic but delicious drinks with umbrellas in them.  It most definitely is not my husband’s cremains sitting on the passenger seat next to me.  With the flag from his memorial service next to his cremains.  untitledbbbLiving in a trailer, driving headlong into grief on a continual basis, but meeting up with so much love from those I meet on the road *except from you.  No love from you.  And, apparently, not even a wisp of a clue about my Odyssey, bless your heart*

Here’s the thing, folks.  Or folk.  Person.  You know who you are.  This Odyssey of Love is so not a vacation.  Duh. It is my life.  The same way that the life Chuck and I led on the road was not a vacation;  it was how we lived.  Now it is how I live.  I’m doing it on a wing and a prayer because it is what I need to do.  And in these last 4 years since Chuck’s death, I’ve been building a foundation that will, I say hopefully and prayerfully, take me into the next part of my life with some semblance of financial security.

I do, of course, fully realize that there are people in life, those who exist to tear others down, who cannot see beyond what they were taught to see.  They do not, and cannot, envision a life lived simply, with few accumulated material possessions, a life that doesn’t conform to a narrow-eyed version of the precepts with which they were raised.  Where, you know, people matter more than things and life is a continually unfolding mystery on a daily basis.

I was raised to look beyond my own vision, to look at possibilities, to use my imagination as a vehicle for what could be instead of what is.  That is the very thing that allowed me to say yes to Chuck when he suggested selling it all and going out on the road together.  Individually, we didn’t care to fit into the so-called norm.  Together we forged a life beyond what we could see and, in the process, we found others of similar thinking, and I thank god for it.

Chuck’s death blew my world into smithereens.  I took what I’d learned in our 4 years on the road, I took what I’d been taught about having imagination and vision, and I bought a trailer and stepped way outside my comfort zone, choosing to live a gypsy life.  It isn’t always easy, by any means, but in my thinking, it’s no more difficult than living in an apartment somewhere.  And I’ll continue living it until I’m done living it.

Vacation?  Jesus, I’d love to take one.

Book one for me, won’t you?

*more response blogs, as I call them, coming soon to a computer near you*

#thankyouforignorantpeoplewhogivemewritingmaterial

 

 

The Pulse Beat of Love Over Everything Else…

I have to remind myself, as many of us do, I expect, that this widowhood is, as I learned in AA, a matter of progress, not perfection. Because I, for one, consistently seem to expect more of myself than is realistic. By which I mean, I continually scan my body and mind and heart to see where I am in this grief and why I’m not further along, even as my mind tells me to stop such nonsense and lays out all the reasons why I need to stop such nonsense.

Still it continues. But I’m getting better at just letting it be and not gauging my grief by anyone else’s grief.

So…progress, not perfection.

In the months after Chuck died, I remember writing on my personal blog about an issue that arose in terrible ugliness while he was in hospice. Without getting into gory detail (because family issues are rife at such a time for many of us, I know), what I’ll tell you is that in the 2nd week of our hospice time, which was the week before he died, I was told by his daughter that he’d asked her to be his medical advocate. Instead of me.

Because my career was in hospice, death/dying/grief were fairly regular topics at our dinner table. Chuck and I had done all the paperwork of wills, advanced directives, etc. I’d written particulars down on a piece of paper so that I’d have an easy reference sheet.

Once he and I went on the road, and most especially after his first cancer, he and I spoke even more frequently about such matters, clarifying our individual wishes. I was as clear on his wishes and desires as he was with mine.

The day previous to being informed of this matter, he and I made a personal pact: whatever he needed, I had his back. I recall him holding up his pinky finger (which he’d never, ever, done), indicating for me to do the same, wrapping mine with his in pinky swear. I promised that I would have his back and kick ass and take names as needed. It was intensely emotional.

And then the next day I was told what I was told. And, no, as implausible as it sounds, I never questioned him about it. I believed that, if I did, it would further agitate him because he’d feel caught between me and his daughter and I would not, would not, would not, add to his agitation.

There were many comments and actions in his hospice time and the weeks and months after his death that pretty much sent me over the edge, and, though I don’t wish to be overly dramatic about it, the added trauma seeped into my bones and marrow.

What I recognized even amidst the devastation of this conversation with her was that my husband had needs to be met in regards to his daughter and it was my responsibility as his wife, as the woman who loved him, to ensure they be met to the best of my ability. It wasn’t necessary for him to articulate those needs to me; after 24 years together, my instincts regarding Chuck were sound….so I stepped aside, I stepped back, and gave space to his daughter.

Now, lest you start crowning me with halos, let me quickly disabuse any notion of saintliness or such nonsense on my part. I struggled every day and night with the decision I made to step back and was talked through it every day and night by my sister, who called me daily.

However, because I’m not a fucking saint, stepping aside as I did, though done with and for love for him, also raised in me a sense of helplessness and rage…and rage while in the insanity of grief is what I felt when I lifted the cover of the box he was in for his cremation and it horrified me that this was my last feeling for him, when I’d never in all of our years together felt such an emotion towards him.

Today’s EMDR therapy took me into the depths of that rage and helped me delve more deeply into the layers of it. I realized that Chuck’s supposed request of her to serve as his medical advocate made me feel betrayed; clearly he must have thought me to be weak and incompetent and incapable of handling his illness.

The reality is that I don’t know what he said to her, if anything, and whatever he said, she heard what she needed to hear and ran with it, due to her own issues and agenda. Chuck and I were square on everything and I suppose, as I think of it, that’s a good part of why I was able to step aside, even as I craved more time with him.

The biggest revelation for me today was this: in our hospice time I loved him even more perfectly than I’d ever loved him. Even as the cancer consumed his body, I made his final few weeks about life and living for him. I encouraged his Air Force buddies from around the country to visit him and made sure he had alone time with them. I encouraged numerous of the men he’d sponsored in AA to come from Jersey to California to bring him meetings and meet one on one with him for final sponsorship and so that he could say his final goodbyes to them, and that very important aspect of his life.

I advocated for him every minute of every one of those days and I made it all about the love he’d brought to so many and most especially to me. And he died knowing how much he was loved.

Death is, in the simplest of circumstances, I believe, traumatic for those who witness it, who bear the grief of it afterwards. Which is not to say we ought not to witness it; I’d do every big and small thing again and again. But memories and words and anger and pain from emotion-wrought times seep into the marrow of our bones and become trauma and it gets carried through our bodies and into our hearts and minds, even as grief swirls around and through us.

If Chuck were here, he and I would have a conversation about what happened and he’d clarify to me what he said to his daughter and we’d work our way through it, as we worked our way through all issues. Ultimately, he would tell me how proud of me he was for what I did and how I did it, and he’d thank me and tell me how much more he loves me, even now. That is the man he was to me for 24 years and that didn’t change in hospice. He spoke highly of me to his friends and co-workers through all of the years of our marriage; his pride in me and his love for me, shone brightly, always.

Grief is indeed a matter of progress, not perfection. We put our own pressures on ourselves even before the world does, to be more, to be better, to be different. Trauma sets into our bones and we may not even be aware how it simmers into that progress and chokes it until it chokes us so that we can’t breathe.

There is a sense of relief in me after today’s therapy. Perhaps as I consider the revelations of this consciousness, the tide of trauma will wash out to sea and the soft lapping of the love he left behind for me will become my pulse beat.

This man I loved more than my own life…he left so much love behind for me. How I miss him with every pulse beat. But maybe now, as I allow the trauma to wash through me and out of me, this grief will have cleaner lines to it.

Maybe this is where the twin sides of simple grief and love can now dwell…with love becoming the stronger and mightier of the two…10685434_807833169271619_169846425441466326_n

7 Years of January 7~

Facebook timelines and grief and reflection. Much of grief is about meaning making, about looking back, trying to make sense of stuff that really doesn’t make sense but striving to anyways.

Timeline on fb is a sure way to show us all how quickly life changes:

On January 7, 2009, Handsome Husband and I signed the papers that put our house in Jersey on the market.

srj traveling

Handsome Husband

We wanted to sell everything and go on the road and adventure together. Which is what we did, and loved it. He was “time wealthy” he told people.

 

On January 7, 2010 he and I were on the road as Happily Homeless, IMG_2784and back in New England, celebrating the holidays with our kids and grands.

 

On January 7, 2011, Handsome Husband underwent a 4 hour surgery to biopsy a tumor that, in the space of 4 months, had grown from the size of a bb pellet to the size of a grapefruit. His oncologist was so concerned that he personally walked it down to the lab for immediate results. It ended up taking a couple weeks to determine the type of cancer and all the details. It was a peripheral nerve sheath tumor, on the inside of his left wrist.  189597_1650969277272_3069653_nIt was incredibly aggressive and very rare. Our travels stopped short as we dealt with what would end up being 5 major surgeries. I remember well how, hearing his oncologist say the word “cancer” took my breath away.

On January 7, 2012, with the primary, 12 hour surgery to remove “Wilson” as I called it (the tumor was so huge it needed its’ own zip code and I thought naming it might remove some of the fear), he and I were back out on the road, and in Destin, FL, sitting on the crystal white sands, absorbing the warmth of the sun.  403752_280915965296678_1988399988_n

On January 7, 2013, Handsome Husband and I were on our way west from Arizona, after spending the holidays with a couple of our kids. He’d been ill over the winter months, with what we thought was a systemic fungal infection. We did what we could to treat it IMG_9385homeopathically, as he wasn’t getting any satisfaction from allopathic doctors.

All told, we had just shy of 4 years on the road together, as Happily Homeless. downsized_0813121702

On January 7, 2014, I was a widow, and had begun my Odyssey of Love for him, scattering his cremains at our favorite places.  I’d only been on the road for roughly a month, and was at Sigsbee NAS, in Key West, FL. Our youngest son, Fireman Nick, accompanied me from Connecticut to Florida, to help me scatter Chuck’s cremains at the first spot: the Dry Tortugas, off of Key West.

On January 7, 2015, I was in Arizona, visiting a couple of our kids, before continuing my Odyssey of Love. A 6 month long road trip with my daughter was already in the planning stages and would culminate in a cross-country trek as she and I honored my husband/her dad, scattering his cremains at his and my favorite places.  fueledbymagic.jpg

January 7, 2016…here I am, in Arizona, trying to get my shit together, knowing I need to return to the road.

Life bounces us around gently sometimes. Other times it’s a blood-curdling, holding on by fingernails type of ride. It can rock us slowly, then abruptly turn us upside down and spin us at the same time.

4 years on the road with him.  Almost 3 years on the road without him, making it work somehow, when I didn’t know how to do one day without him. But I bygod have made it work, however messy it might look.

Love is the only thing, as far as I know, that makes it all make sense~ Collage

What Meds Don’t Do~

Here’s what I now know about medications and grief.  This isn’t all personal experience, at least as far as allopathic medications are concerned; this is what I’ve gathered from other widow/ers.  I speak only of the herbs/homeopathic remedies that I’ve employed to help me with my grief.

This St John’s Wort, widely used in Europe as a mood elevator, works for me in that it almost immediately dropped a gossamer veil between me and my grief.  I picture my grief now as the filter used in old-time movies to soften the features of the actors and actresses.  I know my grief is there but there is very clearly something keeping me from fully absorbing it.  And that is indeed the purpose of St John’s Wort so…mission accomplished on that.

What it doesn’t do is take away or remove everything else that companions the meat-cutter of grief.  There is no filter on the shattering loneliness.  The lost feelings of being someone’s someone.  The steady thrum of starvation from the lack of touch by the man I love.  The empty silence where all the words I want to speak fall not on deaf ears but no ears.  The shuddering absence of the energy that shimmered and shifted next to me through the years.  The hole in my soul.

I don’t believe that there is any medication or herb in the world that changes these realities.

Yes, I can find a group of people with whom to discuss issues.  And I do talk with people constantly in the course of my day. And my kids and friends call, and they give me hugs and I’m so thankful for that. And yes, I have grand-kids and I love them all dearly. And none of that makes up for/replaces what I had with Handsome Husband.

I crave his touch and my body starves, knowing I’ll never feel his hands on me again. I wonder how it would feel to have another man’s hands on me, feel another man’s arms around me, dance with another man, even as I realize it is my husband I desire, not just any man.  And I know that even if I invite another man into my life someday, Handsome Husband will always be my husband even should I fall in love (which I hope to do).  I’ll always be his widow because he was my husband and there is some strange beauty in that in this fucking weird new world without him.

These thoughts spin round and round in my heart these days and, contrary to how I appear, I’m really very confused.  Which is, I know, pretty well reflected in this particular piece of writing.

Really, all I know is that I miss my husband.  I miss Chuck.  I miss him in ways that can only be imagined in the nightmares that come in the deepest, darkest hours of sleep that waken you sweating and screaming and breathless with adrenalin.

Beat, thrum, throb, cut, slice goes my heart…

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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….

Collage

 

 

This Curious Grief~

As shocking as it is still to me, I have now lived for 22 months without my husband.

Am I supposed to be further along with this grief than I am?  I’m just kind of letting it happen in a way I’ve never allowed anything to just happen ever before in my life.  I’ve always grabbed life by the balls and done whatever I could to influence it.  I’ve always been passionate about life but, yeah, that feeling is gone.  Quite honestly, I’m allowing life to just happen more because I don’t have energy to do anything else.  While it’s just happening, I’m going out there and creating a life for myself without him, as I’m supposed to do and as I have to do because here’s the thing.  I’m still alive.  And, as I’m not going to kill myself, that entails a certain amount of effort to ensure that I have a place to sleep, food to eat and…well, that’s pretty much it for what I’m caring about.

Let me shock and appall the general public with my next statement.  I don’t give a flying fuck about life since Chuck died.  Quickly, quickly, let me respond to the in- drawn breaths of horror that statement likely invokes, and please take back the anti-depressants you’re holding out to me.  Yes, Chuck would want me to be happy.  Yes, I know I’m supposed to be grateful for being alive.  Yes, I have kids and grandkids I love desperately and that should be enough to make me feel engaged in life.  Yes, I know you (that’s a general you) are horrified that I’ve given up (or seem to have given up).  Yes, I know you believe that Chuck is everywhere around me.  Yes, I know I’m supposed to think positively towards life and not allow negative thoughts in my head. (and I will as soon as someone tells me what is positive about the love of my life dying).

Its’ almost become a humorous thing for me, the degree of grief I feel and the almost instantaneous response I get when I speak of it at times.  Because we’re supposed to get on with it, don’t you know?  We’re supposed to at least be grateful to be alive!  And it discombobulates people when you don’t follow the general life program.  Fortunately, those who people my life are supportive (though they have been called enabling by others) and encouraging but holy shit, the stuff I hear from others in grief and what they go through isn’t to be believed.

See, I’m not really here.  My body is here, but I’m not.  That woman who was deeply in love with her husband, the woman who lived passionately and absorbed and enjoyed the sensuality of life and love…she’s not here any longer and I don’t have a fucking clue who this woman is who wears my body.

Pity is unnecessary and unwelcome.  No sympathy needed.  Just trying to be honest here.

For god’s sake, go find someone who’s grieving and offer them empathy.  Go right now.  Pick up your phone and call them.  Ask them if they would like to talk about any of this shit and what it’s like for them.

That’s how you can make a difference and, maybe, help them find themselves again~

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