Tuesday, November 29, 2011
But this isn't about his books; it's about mine. Particularly the first two books of a series I love that were among his belongings that no doubt ended up at the charity thrift store, it never occurring to anyone to ask me if there was anything of mine, or anything I wanted, at the home of my lover of two years. But I'm not bitter.
(Hell yes, I am.)
I recently checked up on that author, and downloaded her latest book to my Kindle, and along with it, a short story that told of the meeting of the two main characters through the eyes of the man (who happens to be Sherlock Holmes); the original novel told it from the girl's (she was a girl when the books started, anyway) perspective. And that made me want to go back and reread the whole series, which I haven't done since the Little House books a million years ago. But of course, I couldn't, because I don't have the books. The completist in me had often thought about replacing them, but somehow, I couldn't, or didn't. I can't even tell you why I never did. Maybe it was a tiny cross I was hanging myself upon, a reminder of how I'd been wronged by his family, and worse, his ex who evidently took charge of the disposition of his things--she had the legal right, if not the ethical right; I think it may be worse that I don't think it was malicious; I don't think they gave me a thought one way or the other.
In any case, tonight, 5 years, 4 months, and 2 weeks after his death, I bought the books again and downloaded them to my Kindle as well. My main impulse was that I wanted to read those books again, but it brings up a whole bunch of other stuff, of course. If he hadn't died, I'd have them, or know who did. If his family could've found it within themselves to care a little more about my feelings, I might have them. I am looking forward to rereading the books (and the story of their May-December romance between people of uncannily like minds), and resentful that I had to buy them twice, and sad because they were the least of what I lost, but they are the tip of that whole iceberg and it all comes back. They just can't be two books that went missing. I'm a widow, and too many damn things in my life are fraught with subtext that only I see and can read.
On the surface, it's no big deal. I had to replace two paperbacks. But there's an emotional kick that I can't avoid. I can anticipate it, and I can survive it, but I cannot avoid it. And frankly, I think that's a bitch. Even when you're mostly free of the pain, and the heartache, you're never free and clear. There's always something that can pull it front and center, where it mocks you in your helplessness. You can't fix it any more now than you ever could. And you know that only too well, with more clarity then you had way back in the beginning. Grief and loss? They're emotional herpes: something that won't kill you, but certainly has the power to cause you pain, inconvenience, and to cramp your style. It just pisses me off sometimes.
Monday, October 24, 2011
It's been weird, and I've felt frustrated, because my instinct is to reach out to him. I am, to my knowledge, the only other person at the company who's been widowed. I have grief books to share. I have experience. I have the URL of a sometimes wacky, but overall helpful, support website I could give him. I have an open heart and a listening ear. I could, and would, be there for him but for two things: we are only friendly, not actually friends, and he has no reason to confide in me, or to imagine he could; and I am not out as a widow to the world at large, just select segments of it. And I don't see any point in coming out 5 years after the fact to someone at work. Too risky.
But I have to say, it was bad enough when my being a closeted poly person interfered with my own grieving; now it's interfering with my ability to be compassionate. Or rather, my ability to demonstrate that compassion. And that sucks. The suckage of that never seems to end. I think about that sometimes, as my parents and my friends and I all grow older. How many times will my ability to empathize be constrained and stifled because it still seems prudent to keep my love of A on a need-to-know basis? How many times will I bite back, "I do know how you feel," because they don't know that I do. Sometimes, I think "fuck it," I'm tired of keeping that secret, and that I'll let the chips fall where they may. But I never do; somehow, beyond the imagined risk, it seems disloyal and cowardly; if I wasn't going to 'fess up when it was happening and he was here and it could've mattered, why would I do it now, when that particular reality is long gone, and only the meanest souls would think less of me for it?
So I do what I can, but mostly, I feel I stupid because it ain't much. I don't ask him how he is. I ignore the subject, just like everyone else seems to around the office, and maybe that is, in fact, what he'd prefer. A lot of widows I know have expressed how they got really tired of people asking "How ARE you?" with that look. And it's not like I can ask him. So basically, I'm behaving like any other DGI--Let's all pretend M's wife didn't die, and that it's business as usual for him. I cringed when a coworker ran into him outside my cube, and chirped brightly, "Welcome back!" like he'd been on vacation or something; he spent the last 5 months watching his wife die. Jesus.
I guess, if I'm honest, I'm projecting the feelings that arise from my old wounds onto him, and he may be feeling none of that himself. But it's not about me. And maybe that's what I need to remember in my frustration; I have to guess he has other means of support. It is no doubt pure ego to think that he needs what I have to contribute. That makes sense to me; there's just that bit of doubt that nags at me, as I remember how many rats fled my sinking ship, and worry for him: what if I were the one person who might've supported him, but didn't?
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Another widow thing; it makes us socially uncooperative in so many ways.
I am hoping for the very best, for my friend's sake, of course, but also my own; I can't lose another best friend. But at the same time, I know it's totally out of my hands, as most things are. So I find myself in the limbo between unreasonable-yet-comforting optimism and fatalism. The die is probably already cast. She came through the surgery well, but now there's a waiting game. Did they get it all? Will it come back? Will she have to do chemo or radiation after all? Will she, and those who love her, ever be able to relax again?
It may all be fine; but I have plenty of reasons to know that it isn't always. I no longer believe I wouldn't survive another great loss of a loved one; I just don't want to, you know?
Saturday, September 10, 2011
That is not my issue.
What keeps running through my head is this: We have been reminded, exhorted, and otherwise encouraged to never forget that day, to keep the wound fresh, seemingly so it can be exploited by any number of people for whatever self-serving reasons they may have, most likely control and commerce. People who are passionately angry can be riled up and swayed. People who are afraid can be influenced and coerced. However cynical that may be, the fact of the matter is, as a nation we have been in mourning, actively grieving, for a full decade. And it's been encouraged everywhere you look. Even people who were not personally affected by the 9/11 attacks are encouraged to wear widow's weeds for a nation that died that day and was reborn as something different, something vulnerable, something afraid.
As someone who got a month, tops, before people were bored and uncomfortable with my widowhood and explaining to me that I needed to grieve better, faster, and more correctly, I really don't understand the patience and passion it takes to keep an entire nation, the majority of which was only affected emotionally and intellectually, not personally, by the tragedies and the loss of so many lives, in mourning for 10 full years and counting. Did the 9/11 widows and widowers get 10 years of compassion, of genuine empathy, of listening, as they tried to put their lives back together? Maybe in New York, where the scar of the attack burned and smoldered for so long, where the skyline had changed so dramatically, where there was no way anyone there could forget...maybe there was more compassion for longer. But what about the families of the people on those planes from other parts of the country? Did their neighbors and coworkers and friends soon get tired of their grief? I've read the stories, because they've abounded in the last week, of people who HAVE rebuilt their lives. They have moved forward, and healed. It's a good thing; it's just that their nation hasn't followed suit. If the USA were another widow in this emotional place after 10 years, we'd say she was stuck. Really stuck. But we're not saying it.
I don't know. I really don't. But I suspect that the patience for individual grief, even for those who lost loved ones through this heinous act of murder, was still too brief than it seems to be for national grief. Where grief-stricken individuals are pushed to "get better" and "move on" and heal as soon as is convenient for their observers, the level of pathos, of anger, of vowed retribution seems unabated in all this time, and the scab is regularly pulled off the wound wherever it seems useful to do so. Why is the general impatience with grieving suspended in this case?
I guess I feel some anger and confusion that at 5 years out, I'm supposed to be well over having been widowed, and I certainly should not be still talking about it, but as an American, I'm never supposed to get over 9/11. In fact, I feel like the message being broadcast is that it's my patriotic duty to never move forward from it; I'm supposed to be just as hurt and angry and torn up about it as I was the day it happened.
What is that about?
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I spent last weekend attending a guitar festival in northern California with a couple of my girlfriends. It was beautiful up there. We had fun and laughed a lot. We drooled over guitars. We shopped. We ate at great restaurants. It was a good time.
But at the same time, it was hard for me to be there. For me, the Bay Area will always mean A to me. I loved it there, because I loved him there, and we explored a lot of it together. And up until now, I've looked for excuses to go back there, to revisit places we visited together, as if I could revisit our life together, like some kind of historical reenactor, I guess. I hadn't been back for 3 years because I haven't been back to guitar camp, so was looking forward to this trip. But the melancholy hit me as we descended into San Francisco and remained as an undercurrent for the rest of the weekend.
In the past, flying over that vast green landscape was a time of excitement and anticipation; I consciously remembered that as we neared San Francisco, though I've only flown into San Francisco once before; it was always San Jose. But from 35,000 feet, at 700 mph, it's much the same view. I would be nervous and jittery with anticipation of holding A in my arms again, seeing him smile, talking with him, kissing him. And that just wasn't going to happen this time around.
A and I had discussed going to this very event, but hadn't had a chance to do so, because it only happens every 2 years. I wasn't ready in 2007, or in 2009, but I thought I was ready to do it without him this year. And I was, but it was more challenging emotionally than I had anticipated, because honestly, I didn't anticipate it being challenging at all. Maybe that was naïve.
In quiet moments, I felt it was all wrong. I wasn't supposed to be there with my girlfriends. If A were alive, I would've flown to him and driven up and met them there, with him at my side. To be there without him just opens up a chasm in my heart in a way being at home does not. The land, the light, it all conspires against me in California, highlighting what is not there. It isn't comforting like I thought it would be; it's actually painful, and I know it affected my mood on and off all weekend. I missed A terribly. And I was homesick, missing E and the dogs in a way I never have before.
It got worse as the weekend wore on, and by the last day, as we headed for home, I was pretty much silent and solitary whenever I could get away with it. I was in my own head, and terse when I did speak; I was irritable, the most consistent indicator of unvoiced grief I have now. I don't know how much of that my traveling companions noticed, but they didn't ask, and I didn't volunteer, because the weekend wasn't about me and my widowhood and I doubt it occurred to anyone that any trip I happily volunteered to take might be bittersweet nonetheless. They wouldn't have understood anyway.
At one point, I took a break from all the guitar stuff and sat out on the lawn, listening to music, enjoying the feeling of cool, damp grass on my hands and legs. As I sat there, soaking up a different kind of sun, the kind that kisses you instead of burns you, feeling the cool breeze, and luxuriating in the change of scenery, an idea for a song came to mind. But it gave voice to what I'd end up feeling all weekend:
There's something about coming back to a place
where love used to live
and finding no one home
and finding your key doesn't fit in the door
and finding it's not home anymore
It may be too sad a song to write; I'll have to sit with it for awhile.
In any case, the feeling I'm left with is that I'm not sure that I want to go back again. I mean, it's entirely possible that life circumstances might make it necessary, but I don't know that I'll be looking for reasons to go anymore. Because the reason I always went to California is gone, and it's just too hard to reckon with that again and again. It brings up so much stuff, stuff I still can't do anything about, will never be able to do anything about, and I don't know that I need to do that to myself. In the early days of grief, there is wisdom and healing in feeling it all, processing it all, however painful; but now, five years later, it seems to me avoidance of known triggers, especially the totally optional ones, may be the wiser choice, the emotional version of "Doctor, it hurts when I do this!" "Then stop doing it."
Monday, July 18, 2011
And then I dreamed about A, which I almost never do. And it wasn't a happy reunion dream. It was sad and desolate. It was like one of my trips out to visit him, and we were doing things we always did, but he barely spoke to me, and when he did, it was like he was out of it...nothing he was saying seemed like him, or made any sense. He barely seemed to notice or care that I was there. I remember being worried about him in the dream, that he was going senile or some such, and what was I going to do? It was all so sad.
The interpretation of that one seems clear enough: he is far away from me, and I can't reach him, and he won't reach me. I can't get through to him now. And he either can't or won't get through to me. I kind of hoped for an irrefutable sign this weekend; I didn't get one. The dream I got is not one I would've hoped for--one where we could be together and happy for a little bit of dream time; instead, it manifested the insurmountable, depressing distance between us now. If nothingness can be palpable, that's what I feel--a totally one-sided love. I want to believe he loves me still, wherever he is. And I think that I do; but it's a hope I think about, not a fact I can believe. Sometimes I get angry at him, and think, "Well, if you're going to ignore me, I'm going to ignore you, too." And then I wonder if that's exactly what is supposed to happen so that we can get on with getting on with it.
Where's the handbook on all this? He's dead and I'm alive, but I'm in limbo when I try to reconcile those two facts with the love I still feel for him. I don't know what to do with all these loose ends that I thought were tied to him, but no matter how I pull on them, I can't get him any closer to me. Do I tie them off in a knot and hang them up somewhere?
Friday, July 15, 2011
But I try not to think about it.
I’ve spent the entire week waiting to fall apart, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been in considerable physical pain since last weekend because of my stupid back, and I suppose that has been a pretty significant distraction. Any whimpering and whining this past week (and there hasn’t been much) has been about that. My back is worse than usual due to some random mechanical factor I can’t put my finger on (as usual), but it also gets worse in the damp and when I’m PMSing, and I’m doing the latter while we’re full into monsoon season; it also occurs to me that while I’m not feeling consciously stressed about this impending milestone, perhaps it is subconscious, and contributing to my back problems. My body fell apart completely in the year after A died, and I’ve never really gotten it all back together. It’s not impossible that I’m revisiting the physical as well as the emotional this week.
I have plans for every day of this ugly weekend. The usual Friday night hang-out with the girls. Concert of a favorite artist Saturday night with a pal. Usual Sunday night dinner with the girls and E. And my back is what I’m most worried about ruining my good time Saturday night; it’s general admission. A would like it that I’m at a concert, rather than home moping.
It’s trite, but “it is what it is” is mostly my feeling regarding this stage of my widowhood. I accept that missing him is what I do now. It isn’t at the forefront of my thoughts most of the time, but it is never entirely gone, either. Nothing I can do about it but shrug, in any case. Not because I don't care; not because I don't miss him. But because I can't do a thing to fix it, or feel differently about it, and this is my new normal.
You can get used to anything. Anything at all.
Then again, there's also the possibility that it's all just roiling under the surface. I found myself particularly easy to enrage after work today; that kind of irritability is usually a subtle sign that grief is at work on me, even if I think otherwise.
There are 2 As now: the one in my head, and the one he really was. Sometimes I get a clear memory, or reread an e-mail he sent me, or a chat transcript, and I remember exactly who he was when he was alive, in astonishing, unadulterated vibrancy. But a lot of the time, it’s the construct of him that sticks with me, one that is necessarily informed in every part by my perceptions, my loss of him, my grief, my feelings about his absence. There's a bit of distance to that one, too, and perhaps that's why it's my more constant companion: it's safer. They are similar, of course, but the real one is better; and it's the real stuff that, in remembering, that makes my mouth smile, my eyes tear up, and my heart ache. The real man provokes the real feelings that I can't afford to feel constantly every day.
I often feel like I want to tell people all about him, because he was such an awesome, amazing person, but every time I try to sketch his character in words, I fail, because there was so much to him, and I can’t convey that totality with any justice. And even if I tried, it wouldn't matter to them because they didn't know him. They didn't love him, like I do. In the end, I fall silent, because in remembering who he was, all of it, I am forced again to reckon with how much I go without because he’s not here.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Even though I wouldn't have been able to pick Andrew Gold out of a lineup, and didn't know him by name until today, news of his death has hit me hard, because it echoes A's death. A was born on a spring day in 1951; they were born the same year. And A died, also too young, of a sudden heart attack.
My feelings are a jumble: frustration that men of a certain age are so vulnerable to deadly heart attacks; sadness that I seem to be moving into a stage of life where the actuarial tables showing that the mortality rate quadruples once you're in your 40s are illustrated daily among friends, family, and acquaintances; and also envy, that Andrew Gold and his loved ones got an extra 5 years that my sweetie didn't.
It's selfish, I know, to find in someone else's death, some other family's misfortune, an occasion to think about my own loss and my own pain, but I am not immune to triggers; it'd be more surprising if, given the parallels of the cases, if I didn't make those connections.
I learned Friday that the wife of a coworker has most likely received a death sentence, via metastatic cancer that was just found. They're probably in their sixties, but still relatively young, to me. Maybe they will have a miracle happen; but miracles are always a bit thin on the ground.
That's the thing about death. It's easy enough to accept intellectually as something that happens, and something that happens to every living thing. But it's difficult to accept the mighty upheaval it causes in your life and the lives of all who are left behind. Death in the abstract is simple enough; death, concrete and immediate, is complex, and takes years and years to unravel. How many years? I don't know; I'm still unraveling it. Obviously.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
WHILE I'M OVER THERE, YOU'LL BE OVER HERE
BUT WE'RE IN LOVE SO HAVE NO FEAR
'CAUSE DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE, GIRL, WITH LOVE.
WHILE THAT SAME FAT MOON THAT SHINES ON YOU
IT'S THE SAME OLD MOON SHINING ON ME TOO
AND DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE, GIRL, WITH LOVE.
SO LET'S DREAM, DREAM, DREAM,
LIFE IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS.
YOU'RE THE GIRL I'M DREAMING OF
SO DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WITH LOVE.
(Makes no difference, girl, with love)
FOR LOVE TO ME IS BOTH YOU AND I
IT SURROUNDS THE GLOBE, FLOATING ON THE SKY.
SO DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE, GIRL, WITH LOVE.
FOR I AM YOURS AND YOU ARE MINE
AND THIS WILL BE TILL THE END OF TIME
AND DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE, GIRL, WITH LOVE.
SO LET'S DREAM, DREAM, DREAM,
LIFE IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS.
YOU'RE THE GIRL I'M DREAMING OF
SO DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WITH LOVE,
DISTANCE MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WITH LOVE,
IT MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WITH LOVE.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
"Postsecret.com is a website where people can anonymously reveal their deep, dark feelings. I came across one entry that I think would be perfect for you to use as your own in the coming weeks. "I don't want to cover up my scar," it read. "It's a good conversation starter and it makes me look bad-ass. But thank you anyway!" To further inspire what I hope will be your fearless effort to claim the power inherent in your wounds, I also offer this spur from musician and author Henry Rollins: "Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on."
This was my horoscope today, for the next week. Been thinking a lot about my scars...or rather, the scar.
In a strange twist of fate, my anniversary of meeting A falls three days after my anniversary of marrying E, which makes for an especially fraught week as it leads into Memorial Day weekend every year, the last weekend A and I were in the same place at the same time. (If you don't count my walking through the redwood forest where his ashes were scattered. Which I only count when I'm engaging in dark widow humor to myself.) Even though I talked to him every night between then and when he died, when I think of our last goodbye, it is always the one where we hugged and kissed and said "I love you," my eyes filled with tears as I went through airport security.
The attempt to balance the celebration of one relationship with the mourning of the loss of another is something that generally leaves me feeling entirely unbalanced. I find I alternate, swinging between them: I celebrated during the day; I cried at night.
When I am really missing him, I remember a hug we had in his kitchen that last morning before I left. He was wearing a red shirt, and he felt so big and strong. My sweetie was 6'2"; he made me feel safe and protected; it's such a rare, surprisingly sweet thing, my being smaller than anyone. In remembering that hug, I can feel the solidness of his chest and the strength in his arms holding me close, and the muscles in his back as I ran my hands over them. It's one of the strongest physical memories of him I have, and I try to keep it evergreen, because it means so much to me, and does so much to calm me when the ache threatens to tear me apart. I feel like I have lost as many memories as I've managed to keep. I cannot remember his voice now.
I cannot remember his voice.
It's been nearly 5 years, and mostly, when I hear his words in my head, they're in my own voice, and it feels like an exceptionally grave loss. There are one or two phrases I can almost hear in his voice, but even that I doubt the accuracy of. I went to sleep the other night, on my wedding anniversary, thinking about that, crying a little, begging both him and my own memory banks to conjure up his voice in my dreams so that I wouldn't lose that, too, but as usual, my dreams did not cooperate.
I tried to tell myself that perhaps I heard my own voice in my head because he and I were so truly connected that it was one and the same. But while I considered the possibility that it might be true, I didn't really believe it.
I remember reading my first grief book a couple weeks after he died, and seeing the chapters that dealt with beyond the first year, going out to the fifth, and I couldn't imagine what that meant. Would I still be grieving 5 years out? That terrified me. Would I be better 5 years out? I couldn't imagine how that could be true.
The answer to both questions turns out to be "yes." Time has passed, and I've grown accustomed to the duality, accepting that while there may be momentary confusion in the comparison, it really isn't so impossible to live in seeming emotional contradiction. Our hearts are not linear, feeling one thing at a time, in its turn. I wonder, now, why I ever thought mine was.
I suppose this is true for many, if not most, widows, but I can't "celebrate" these anniversaries. I met A 7 years ago; I've celebrated 5 of these anniversaries without him. The day passes each year without failing to give me a blithely malicious kick. There are few days on the calendar sadder than birthdays never attained and anniversaries celebrated by only one person.
At every step of this journey, I've wondered if whatever stage of healing I was at was as good as it was going to get, and then I've ended up finding out it wasn't. But it's been the same for a really long time now, and I think maybe this IS it. And what does it look like for me? It means missing him a little every day, and terribly some nights; it means a few quiet tears in memoriam here and there; it means sighing and carrying on, because there's nothing else to do. It means appreciating every little good thing that comes my way. It means realizing the strength, and moving. On. Forward. Sideways. Sometimes backwards. But moving.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
But at the same time, I know (as anyone who reads this page regularly knows), I still don't feel like I'm doing this life thing with an optimal attitude. And I think it IS my attitude, formed by my experiences, because intellectually I get that life is what it is, and probably isn't persecuting me or anyone else personally. Life is life; I have no control over that. I only have control over how I navigate it.
So while I've always been a little smirky-snorty-eye-rolly about the whole life coach concept, I fully admit the possibility that someone else might have a different piece to this puzzle that I do not currently have, and that I can use. How can I know unless I check it out for myself? I signed up when I found out she was doing a seminar for what basically amounts to tips...you could donate whatever you felt like donating, because, frankly, I could use a little more joy in my life, a little more contentedness as a baseline, rather than the pendulum swinging, rather speedily, between "I'm fine, life is pretty groovy" and "Jesus, is this all there is?"
She's adorable, and young, and she's got a lot of good ideas that, if you've never considered them before (and it's entirely possible that you haven't in a culture that is constantly judging you as deficient in a thousand ways, urging you to judge others as harshly, and that runs on dissatisfaction and competition rather than peace), could be revolutionary. The commentary on the running chat that accompanies the broadcast indicates that for some folks, it is, and good for them. I am, regardless of my own personal growth agenda, thrilled that young people are reaching out to other young people to share these new, counterculture messages that they are awesome, right here, right now, always were, always will be, even as they continue growing and learning.
She talks about feeling your feelings, but choosing your attitude, giving examples like being pissed off because it's raining or because you're stuck in traffic. And as I know people who tend to blow piddly crap all out of emotional proportion, I'm aware that plenty of folks need guidance on even that level. She says shit happens, life happens, and you just have to choose to deal with it head on. She talks about loving yourself. She talks about negative, neurotic self talk and how destructive it is. And how "should" is limiting. She shares a lot of important messages, exciting ones if you haven't heard them before.
But the stuff that is the lead weight to my balloon of joy is a little more serious than a rainy day and old biddies driving 15 mph in a 40 zone. It's missing my beloved. It's a world where people treat each other in stupid, abominable, inhumane ways and don't seem to notice or care they're doing it, and my frustration with that. I'm kind of beyond this Self-Actualization 101 stuff. I was looking for, hoping for, more. More wisdom. More depth. More than I have.
Because I keep looking for sages with answers, even just tidbits, that will light my way further than I can manage myself, and what I keep finding is that other people are equally benighted as I am, or worse. (Much worse, in some cases.) And while I guess it's neat that I've managed to figure some things out in this life, I want good answers from someone wiser than I as much as anyone else does. But I just can't seem to find that someone.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Last night I was driving over to my friend's for a massage, listening to music and pretty pleased with myself as I thought about an e-mail from an acquaintance I'm negotiating with to start a musical duo (with the hopes of finding a drummer and becoming a trio at some point). She'd told me that she'd shared some of my tracks with some of her friends, and they were "quite impressed," and that she's excited to get started. I am, too.
The thought popped into my head that this might well have been where my life was heading before I met A. My unique circumstances mean that, unlike for most widows, my life now looks very much like it did for years before I was widowed, and before A came into my life. It took me aback, the idea that the last 7 years has basically been a detour of 2 years of a gorgeous, wonderful dream and nearly 5 years of slowly receding hell, just to drop me back where I was: Married to E, with dogs, in the same house, at the same job, making my way into some kind of amateur music career.
Granted, I am not at all convinced (though A was) that I would be a musician today without his influence and encouragement. But in any case, it's weird and more than a little disconcerting as I think about it. Is that what's happened?
On the one hand, getting back to normal is the dream of the bereaved isn't it? Even when we know it's impossible. On the other hand, I cannot pretend the last 7 years didn't happen, either; it wasn't a detour—it's been my life. I just don't know what to make of it. My life, on the outside, may look very much as it did, and was going to, before A, but my life, lived from the inside, feels so very different from then. So it's weird that the comparison would've occurred to me at all.
Perhaps the conflict is in the constant tension between past and present. Sometimes I think, "If I had no past, if all I had and all I knew were what's going on in my life today, I'd be pretty happy." But there is a burden of prologue, and we must carry our joy and our pain and our lessons with us. I don't think there's any avoiding that, unless you trade it for the burden of iron-willed denial; either way, it's heavy, and there seems to be no option to set it down, short of amnesia.
I fantasize about that kind of amnesia sometimes, about forgetting the events of recent years, and even the idea of not remembering A, not remembering how we loved each other, not remembering everything he taught me, nauseates me.
The best I seem to be able to do is to decide when and how much I will let the past influence my current choices and actions. But the awareness of his absence and my sadness whenever I consciously confront that fact again, that doesn't go anywhere. It may not be flowing unchecked over the bar, but it's always on tap.
As I sit here in my cubicle at the same job I've been complaining about for nigh on a decade, and consider last night's epiphany, I have to wonder if the fact that my life now so resembles my life before is my fault…that I haven't done as much as I might've with the time, and rather than the universe playing a nasty joke on me, to put me through all that and drop me back right where I was in the end, that it is some kind of stagnation on my part.
Or possibly, what I'm looking at is a personal victory, in that I have managed to steer out of the rocks and get back on course. Because if I consider only the present, it's all pretty good. I'm pretty good. It's not a bad life at all. The problem, as always, is in knowing what you're missing.
In early grief, the signs that you're improving are pretty obvious: less crying; an occasional smile; being able to tell the story without a meltdown; feeling like you don't have to tell the story to everyone you run across. As you get further out, and you integrate the loss, it necessarily becomes more difficult to separate the widow experience from the life experience, and evaluate how you're progressing.
Maybe the answer is not in evaluating it at all.
How do I (not) do that again?
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
Friday, February 25, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Saturday, January 1, 2011
We had to make the decision that we never wanted to make, the one that of course we would make for ourselves if we could, but making it for anyone else...that's a whole other thing. And it doesn't matter how right it was, or how much my baby isn't suffering anymore, or that it was inevitable, or that we did all we could for him, more, my vet tells me, than most would've. It wasn't enough, and it's just unquestionably horrible. And I have learned once again that getting the chance to say goodbye doesn't making letting go one tiny bit easier. Watching the whole process doesn't make it make any more sense. I keep thinking that life is just merciless. People may be merciful, but life is not.
When we let our eldest dogter go, just 9 months after A died, I was still such a wreck from A's death, that there wasn't far to go in grieving for her, as well. I was already grieving; it hurt a whole hell of a lot to lose her, but I was already hurting so bad that it didn't hit me quite as hard. You can't fall down when you've been on the ground for months.
This has hit me really hard, probably, in part, because I have recovered. I spent most of the day in a stupor, or in bed, or in a stupor in bed. There's this numb place I can (evidently) go to where, like how you can make your eyes let go of focus and blur everything, I can let my mind blur it just enough that it isn't hammering me with its awful truth. I know it's there, but I'm not looking directly at it and I can breathe. And between those numb spaces, I cry until my chest hurts and my face aches, and I remember that this was how it was. I had managed to forget, to a certain extent, exactly how it felt. But grief has come back into my life again, and I know it so well. So well that I know that this is normal, that I will heal eventually, that the pain can be overcome, and that, in this moment, knowing that doesn't help a bit. It just keeps me from being scared that I will never be right again.
And yet I can't help but wonder...how many times can a heart break, before it is broken irreparably?