Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Circles or spirals

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

Happy birthday, Sweetie

You're supposed to be 60 today.  Do you care?  Or are you reveling in your infinite self?  I hope you're reveling, for your sake.  I was just thinking the other day that I wish we could talk across this space between us, but then I wondered if what you can see and do and experience now is ineffable; could you even share your "day" with me now?  Would I understand?  Or is it one of those "you had to be there" things?  I can tell you about the dogs and what I'm up to, and you'd have to try to explain what it's like to be a supernova, because you get that now.  And I'd be dumbfounded, and Google would be no help.
Still, I wouldn't mind giving it a try.
As tempted as I have been to just take some time to mope tonight, I'll be going to open mic to honor you instead, singing songs for you.  You know the ones.  I always sing for you, of course, but this is expressly in your honor.  I figure you'd prefer that to moping.  I'm doing my moping on the clock instead, in my cubicle.  I'm a multi-tasker like that, as well you know.  A few tears today, when I wrote S to tell him it was your birthday.  He's the only one in my life who knew you, too, and had a relationship with you of his own, and cares, and I needed that connection today.  I'm sure your family and your other friends are thinking of you today, too, but...well, you know how that goes.
Anyway, there's nothing to say now that I haven't said a million times.  I just wanted to tell you that I wish you were having a birthday today, and that I love you so very much, and miss you an equal amount.
Tu J, siempre xxooxx<3

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ageless, timeless, endless

Tomorrow would have been...should be...A's 60th birthday.  He's missed 5 birthdays now.  He only got to be 55 for a few months before he passed, though we (and by "we," I probably mean "I") had great fun teasing him about his official senior citizenship.  Now that he was 55, we were going to enjoy that nice 5% discount at Jack in the Box when next I visited, among who knows what other untold discounts he might be eligible for.  We were going to be on high times, me and my senior discount sugardaddy. 
I never got to take advantage of that, though, because my next visit was scheduled for 2 weeks after he died. 
Yes, I still feel cheated.
While I'm always a little sad around his birthday, this one has loomed in my mind for a few weeks now.  I think it may be because it's a milestone birthday.  60.  While I felt like 55 was still firmly in middle age, even if it was at the tail end of it, 60, to my mind, seems to be the gateway to actually being old.  It's at the youngest end of old, but it's old nonetheless, and it's kind of a big deal.  I would like to be giving him crap about that now; when we addressed our age difference at all, it was mostly to tease each other about our age and youth, respectively, although he tended to comment on how old I was.  He would've had a field day when I hit 40 this fall.  And I would've reminded him he was still a helluva lot older than I, and a grandpa, and then there was the matter of his bifocals.  Game, set, and match to moi.
Only he's not as much older than I as he used to be.  The gap has narrowed, from 20 to 15 years now, and it will only get smaller.  I may well surpass him, albeit later than a lot of my other young widowed friends and acquaintances who have already dealt with that personal milestone.  And I don't like this.  All these markers of time passing just remind me of what I'm (still) missing, what he's missing, what isn't happening.
I have been particularly annoyed by these new American Cancer Society "Happy Birthday" commercials, where they style themselves the "proud sponsors of more birthdays."  A didn't die from cancer, and I certainly don't begrudge anyone more birthdays if they can manage them.  It's just that someone I love isn't having anymore birthdays, and that fact is especially front-and-center for me at the moment, and dammit, I just don't need Celine Dion (who is oddly creepy to me, anyway) reminding me of what I don't have.  It's a little of that early grief tenderness and self-focus on the emotional side, even if I know better on the intellectual side.  I KNOW the American Cancer Society isn't doing anything on purpose with the intention of hurting me.  However, as far as I'm concerned, they and the statin commercials can do me a favor and go far away from my TV set.
I'm not even that's just this heavy, poignant awareness that, shit, he's still dead.  I'm still at it without him.  I still miss him.  Situation normal...for whatever that's worth.
It occurs to me that, had he not died when he did, his heart disease might've gone undiagnosed throughout these 5 years, and he could've had that fatal heart attack anytime.  I could've lost him any minute; there is no guarantee I would've had these 5 years; clearly, the odds were against it.  And though it wouldn't have saved me one minute of widow pain to have one more year, one more week, one more day, one more hour with him before he died, I still wish I'd had it.  It'd never be enough, but it'd be more.  And while I'm almost certain that being able to let go of that impossible desire for more of him is what could end this ache in my heart, this longing for what can't be, I don't have the first notion of how I would do that, or what it would cost me if I did.