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Friday, December 30, 2011

New year...

This time last year I was dreading the arrival of a new year. I did not want 2010 to end, as it was the last year that my husband was alive and somehow the calendar change felt like closing one more door on my old life. I wasn't ready to exist in a year in which he never would.

This year I'm not minding the thought of starting a new year. I have a pretty fresh perspective on things. I'm learning that I like the new "me" that has emerged since his death. I'm more assertive in speaking up for my own needs. I communicate much better...If I think it, I say it. I don't put as much stock in what other people think of me, and am living more authentically for me. I value the people in my life even more than before. Strangely, I even have less anxiety about the future on most days. I still have moments where I want to control everything and plan out how the next 5 years will go, but on most days I'm at peace with not knowing what the future holds. I've finally accepted that even if I plan it...it usually doesn't happen that way. I've allowed God into my life even more and my faith has continually been strengthened. I focus more on having fun and enjoying what I have while I'm here, instead of looking for things that need improvement or change. I still think of Andie every day and talk to him every night before I fall asleep. He shows me he's here less and less through signs, but I know that's because he knows I need to move on. Though I don't doubt that he's still very close by, protecting the three of us. I've been involved in a very special relationship for a few months and it feels comfortable and peaceful to have someone in my life again. It feels good. And it feels right. My girls are shining beacons of hope for the future. They grow and change every day and remind me that life is not stagnant. It keeps going whether we want it to or not.

This year, I'm happy to be along for the ride.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's here!

The first installation of my book has been published! It's a coffee table style book and is therefore at the higher end of the price range due to increased publishing costs needed to print on high quality paper and to include photos.

There is a version for ipad and iphone that is cost efficient, and I am currently working on the paperback version which will be at a competitive price range with other paperbacks that are currently on the market. The paperback version will also be available for Kindle users.

I'm not sure when the paperback will be released, but rest assured the process is underway and I'm "push"ing to get it done!

Click on the link above or to the right and you will be directed to the website to preview and purchase. Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's coming...

Many people have encouraged me to publish the blog or write a book about my grief journey over the past year. It's a deeply personal decision but one I feel compelled to do, if for no other reason than to have a compilation for my girls to read one day.

Soooo....

I have decided to move forward with the blog-to-book project. It will be self-published so it's nothing too fancy. I am currently working on formatting and editing the blog into a book format and hope to have it complete by the end of the year. It will be a compilation of all of the blog posts during my first year of grief. I am considering the idea of also adding some of my "never-seen-before" private journal entries to further complete the story of my grief process. People still contact me and tell me that they are referring others to the blog for support so I figured an easier way for people to get the whole story is through a book rather than clicking backwards through a gazillion blog pages.

Just wanted to give all of you who are interested a head's up that the project is underway...plus I figure if I put it out there to the world then I have to follow through and get it done. No more procrastinating!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Catch...

Most days are good. Most days are filled with joy and laughter with the girls. Andie still crosses my mind every single day, and it is usually with fondness that I remember him. I still talk to him every night before I go to sleep. But there are still moments that cause my breath to catch and hot tears to well up in my eyes.

Like when the girls brought home artwork from school when they were learning about families. Little balloons on construction paper. Each balloon labeled, "Mommy", "Daddy", "Addison", and "Allison". I see the word "Daddy" and debate in my head whether is is more appropriate for them to have given him a place in their artwork or not...I decide in the end that I'm glad he was included.

Or like the moment in church this week when I had take a few deep breaths to hold back the tears because all of a sudden memories of us sitting in the pew whispering and snickering to each other like children came flooding back...

Or watching the girls play in the bathtub and realizing that he never got a chance to see their beautiful, playful personalities start to emerge...

Or the moment two nights ago when my wedding ring sitting on the bathroom counter caught my eye. I was compelled to put it on again to remind myself what my hand used to look like with it on...it felt so heavy. I didn't remember it being so heavy.

Or even as I sit and type all of this and acknowledge to myself that the pain is still in fact, very much there, and very much real.

These are the kind of moments where just for a second the world stops again.
Where I am thrown back into a kind of surreal existence in which I have to make myself believe again that it all really happened.
These are the kind of moments that cause my breath to catch...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Think less...

I decided to sell Andie's truck since it has been sitting in my driveway for over a year and is rarely used. His cousin came down from Oklahoma to purchase it this week.

Yesterday I was running errands around town when I pulled up to a stop light. At the light perpendicular to me was Andie's cousin. Driving Andie's truck. It caught my eye from a distance and my breath caught...as I got closer and realized it really was his truck the tears immediately began to fall. Seeing his truck out of context like that was almost like seeing a ghost. I was wiping away tears before I even realized I was crying. Before I even had a chance to try and stop them...

It's funny how a deep emotional reaction always happens at least a split second before your rational brain can process it. One of the reasons it's so hard for people to hide their true emotions I suppose...the facial expressions of pain and anger that flash across the face a second before we can compose ourselves is almost always a dead give away.

This makes me think of how whenever I ask the girls to apologize to one another for something, they never actually use any words despite the fact that they can talk. They always choose to give each other a hug and kiss as a way to say they are sorry. They actually feel it rather than just think it and say it. They're still innocent enough to be okay with processing emotions instead of shutting them down like adults do.

Maybe they're on to something there.
Maybe the emotional center of the brain that short circuits the rational mind is programmed that way for a reason.
Maybe we all need to allow ourselves to feel more...and think less.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Alone...

24 hours have passed in which I have been 100% completely and utterly alone.

My children are away with their grandparents for the weekend. My mom is out of town. My best friend is doing her own thing.

I have not been alone and by myself for more than a few hours in well over a year. There is always someone here to keep me company, distract me, entertain me, check up on me, or rely on me for something.

I have been anxious and terrified to spend this time alone. I have dreaded it for days...but now that it is here I realize I am surviving it. Just like I have survived every other moment for the past year. The anticipation of this has proved worse than the actual experience of it, which is usually the case.

I have had moments of feeling lonely, but more than anything I feel triumphant.
One more thing that I have done, and done alone.
Literally.

Monday, July 25, 2011

voice...

I have lost my voice.
My writing voice.
I have not posted in a while because I cannot wrap my mind around how to explain the place I'm in. There is a lot going on that I'm not sure should be shared with the world. There are good things happening, sad things, angering things, exciting things, and even some scary and anxiety provoking things.

There are things I literally cannot write about- expressly forbidden actually.
There are things I want to write about, but out of respect for those involved will not.
And there are things I simply am choosing not to write about to protect myself...I need to not be so bare to the world right now.

I'm not sure if I will ever come back to writing like I used to. It served a wonderful purpose in allowing me to cathartically release my grief and emotions for a long time. But I don't know if that is necessary any more.

Maybe my voice will find it's way back to me in time...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

heartache...

The girls have been particularly interested in Andie's picture again lately. I find them often standing near it. Talking to the picture, gesturing, waving, carrying it around, kissing it...

I watch how they interact with the men in their lives. Their grandfather, uncle, male friends of mine, even how they were with the new guy. They love to curl up and cuddle with a big guy, they love to horseplay and be silly with a man, they crave the kind of interaction with a male that I can't provide.

It will only be another year or so before they realize they don't have a father and the questions will start.

My heart hurts for that day...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Purging...

I started cleaning out his closet a few days ago. I have felt the need to clean out closets, get rid of clutter, re-organize my life. Get rid of all that is unnecessary and get back to simple. It feels almost like nesting, only I'm not nurturing a new life within me- I'm trying to create a new life around me. I finally finished his closet today.

Neatly sorted boxes of things I will keep and things I will give away. It is amazing how much one person accumulates during a lifetime. I'm astonished that there are five large boxes of clothes to give away, and only one box that holds the clothes I feel so strongly connected to that I want to fold them reverently and stack them gently as though they could be hurt in this process.

I was rather detached while doing it. They are just shirts, and pants, and belts, and ties...but I cry openly when I come across the t-shirt he wore the day the girls were born. Their tiny sets of footprints stamped on his chest in black ink after the nurse finished doing the same on their birth certificates. It was one of the happiest days of his life, and had you told us then that 10 months later he would be gone...

Out with the old, in with the new.
Purging.
Lots of purging...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's over...

"It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

After a lot of heartache and much discussion, the new guy and I are over. Our life circumstances were just too much to overcome. He lives close to 300 miles away and it would be a year before he could even entertain the idea of moving. We would have to maintain a difficult long distance relationship that would be very expensive with the amount of travel required to see each other. We both have children who are our first priorities, and leaving his daughter isn’t an option. Uprooting mine right now to move to be with him is also not an option. Not to mention, there is a lot of emotional baggage to deal with on both sides of the table when there is a widow involved. He had his own emotions, thoughts, and feelings regarding my widowhood and where he fit into the equation. And I have mine. Navigating all of this just became too much. The hardest part to accept is that we were really great together. It’s hard for two people who want desperately to be together to call it quits… to let something so wonderful go when you know that if the circumstances were just a little different you could be great together. Luckily the split was amicable with no hard feelings on either side, and we will maintain a friendly relationship. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have our paths cross again someday under different circumstances.

Though the relationship was short lived it taught me a lot. It was the push I needed to want to live again and to love again. It taught me that I want to be adored and cherished by someone. I want to be that very special something to someone. It taught me that my heart really is open to receiving joy. I loved being married and I love being in relationships- I crave emotional intimacy with another. I want to be married again. I love the security of being with one person.

It was so nice to be appreciated and admired again. It was great to have someone enjoy my children and be around to help me with them. It was nice to have a shoulder to lean on and an open ear. It was wonderful to have a man make me feel gorgeous and great just the way I am. He motivated and challenged me to be a better person in so many ways. We seemed so perfect for each other; we connected intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. We had great chemistry- people who saw us together could tell we had a true, genuine affection and love for each other. He is a phenomenal man who set the bar very high. I’m afraid that nobody will be able to measure up and be as patient, mature, and understanding as he was. I have a hard time believing that any other man would be so willing to take on the difficulties of a widow with young twins and do it with the strength he did.

I am saddened that we couldn’t find a way to make it work. My evenings will once again be very lonely with no one to look forward to talking on the phone with. No one to text me during the day just cause they’re thinking about me. The loss of comfort and companionship will reopen some of the wounds of grief that were not yet healed. A risk I knew I was taking when I entered into the relationship…but knowing you could get hurt doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I will always remember this relationship with fondness.
I will always remember him with admiration.
When I started this relationship I was constantly nervous because it all seemed too good to be true.
I just wish I hadn’t been right…

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heavy...

I felt like I was on an upswing for a while but something washed over me today. Things were getting better, but as is the case with grief, it comes in waves. You can only ride the crest so long before it crumples beneath you.

There is a new relationship to look forward to, new hope for the future. Maybe, just maybe, the girls and I will have a complete family someday. Or maybe not, I feel so uncertain. Relationships are hard. They take a lot of work. I’m not sure if I have the emotional strength and fortitude to devote to it as the great man deserves; I’m not sure I believe in myself and my abilities to cope anymore. I feel weak and doubt myself. I don’t want to give up on the hope of happiness. I’m just feeling like I’m not good enough to make it through the tough stuff. I’m feeling overwhelmed with single parenthood. I’m feeling tired of spending the evenings in silence because there is no one to here to talk to. I’m tired of feeling needy and desperate for attention and reassurance. I’m tired of worrying about what the rest of the world thinks and trying to please others, or grieve the "right" way in the "right" time. I feel indignant that this is the hand I’ve been dealt. I feel guilty that I did not have the guts to visit the cemetary on the one year anniversary, nor on father's day; back to back days that were just too much. Will he think I'm a coward? Will he think I have moved on past the point of caring? Is he even there?

I feel dark, despondent, and discouraged….
I just want it all to get better now. I’ve made it through a year. When is enough, enough?
Grief feels so heavy tonight.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

At a loss...

365 days have passed. For the first time in a long time I feel at a loss for words. This day is not what I expected it to be. It did not feel heavy and dark as I anticipated. Strangely, it has felt almost like any other day in this journey. Just another 24 hour period to get through. Just another succession of steps- one foot in front of the other.

The first post I did after Andie died stills seems appropriate after a whole year has passed…


Originally posted 09/5/10:

"So it's been a while since my last post. You've probably noticed a lot has changed on my blog. Well, that's because a lot has changed in my life. Andie passed away on June 18, 2010 and left me with two beautiful daughters to raise. It's taken me a few months to feel like I have my feet back on the ground and even that seems only momentary.

I considered not blogging anymore but have decided that it's a good way for everyone to keep up with how me and the girls are doing- I know you're all wondering. Raising twins is hard, but raising twins as a single parent is TOUGH- and humbling.

I've learned a lot about myself in the past few months. I've had to ask for help more than I'm comfortable with, I've had to compromise on a lot of things, and I've had to adjust my life plan. I've learned that I have more love and support than I ever knew was possible, but I've also learned that all of that seems inconsequential when you've lost your other half. I've learned that grieving for your spouse is just a small piece of the picture. You also grieve the loss of who you were as a wife, the loss of your hopes and dreams, the loss of the future you had planned, and most of all you grieve for your children and how they will never know and experience their dad as you did.

People often ask how I am doing. The truth is: it depends on the moment, the day, the hour, what song is on the radio, what street I'm driving on, or who's asking. I'm doing as well as I can with what I've been given. My girls are my saving grace and keep me looking forward to the next moment, day, or hour..."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Transitions...



This is such a time of transition in our household...changes are happening all the time.

The girls attended their first day of daycare yesterday and did wonderfully, though the morning routine was a little rough on Allie. Addie was very excited to go and thrilled about her new big girl lunch box. Allie wanted nothing to do with any of my best attempts at getting her excited about going. Addie tried to reassure her and make her feel better by giving her hugs and kisses. Then headed for the door eager to get in the car. Allie proceeded to throw her lunch box and pitch a fit. We managed to get to daycare and they only cried for about 15 minutes after I left and of course when I arrived to pick them up 7 hours later they weren't even excited to see me because they were having so much fun. I have to admit that I had envisioned the movie scene where the kids coming running across the playground and leap into your arms because they've missed you so bad. I barely got a nod and smile when I walked up before they went back to playing. All in all, I'm happy that this was not a difficult transition for them...or for me.

For a year now I have visited his grave every month and marked the time by how much grass had grown over the dirt patch. I had it in my mind that when the grass was completely filled in, and there was no longer any sign of the earth being ravaged, that then it might actually seem real. While the dirt was still fresh I just could not wrap my mind around the fact that he was in the ground...and this is still a hard concept to grasp. Yesterday afternoon I gave the final approval on Andie's headstone. It will be here in several weeks and is so symbolic of the finality of his death, and of this year. Seeing it there will serve as a reminder that this all really did happen.

The school year has finally come to an end and as of yesterday I'm officially finished with work for the year. I tend to measure my years by the school year rather than a calendar year as many who work in schools do, and being that Andie passed away this week last year it only deepens the feeling that "this past year" is coming to a close. I always welcome the summer when I can mentally put away all the stresses of the previous school year and start fresh in a couple of months. I especially feel this way now. I am looking forward to a summer this year with hope and excitement of having some time to enjoy with those I love. I want to savor all the good times and continue to strengthen the bonds I've developed with new and old friends. My relationships with others are so much more important to me now and I don't want to take them for granted.

So much has changed in the past year and there are so many new things on the horizon for us. New adventures and experiences for us all. New relationships are starting, and old ones are evolving. Most of them in good ways, with a deeper bond and appreciation for those around me ever present on my mind. I have a renewed focus on doing what is right for me and the girls and reprioritizing so that it fits our needs, not what I think everyone else wants. This has been the hardest year of my life but it has brought me some perspective and maturity.

I'm looking forward to all the new transitions we have headed our way.
I feel positive about our future for the first time in a while.
I am ready to start the rest of my life with a new focus.
As they say...
The only thing that stays the same is...
Everything changes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

feel better...

The weight of this week is bearing down on me. I am irritable and lack patience with the girls today because I am stressed and worried about all the things I need to accomplish this week. I try to remain calm with them but am appalled at my own behavior and how quickly I get angry at them for minor things. How many times can you tell a toddler "no" before they finally get it?

I have come to the realization recently that I can't do this alone anymore, and do it well. I don't want to do this alone anymore. I don't want to be a single parent. I'm tired of it. I don't want the girls to be raised in a single parent household. I cannot be a good mother to them without help, as hard as that is for me to admit. I need a co-parent, a partner, a support system that doesn't come and go a couple of nights a week. I need someone who will have my back and be there to emotionally support me, so that I can be healthy enough to emotionally support my children. It's not fair to them that I am tired and overwhelmed most of the time because they end up bearing the brunt of it. This, I am not okay with. Paradoxically, I find myself behaving in some of the ways that I used to get angry with Andie for when he lost his patience. Funny how that happens isn't it? I guess when you are left to take on the role of both parents you step right into those shoes...no matter how uncomfortable they may be. Because you don't know any other way to do it, really.

I just want to feel better.
About my life.
About my parenting.
About my future and theirs.
About myself.


"Just Feel Better" by Aerosmith and Santana

she said i feel stranded
and i can't tell anymore
if i'm coming or i'm going
it's not how i planned it
i got a key to the door
but it just won't open

i know i know i know
part of me says let it go
that life happens for a reason
i don't i don't i don't
because it never worked before
but this time
this time
i'm gonna try anything to just feel better

tell me what to do
you know i can't see through the haze around me
and i'd do anything to just feel better
i can't find my way
god i need a change
and i'd do anything to just feel better
any little thing to just feel better

she said i need you to hold me
i'm a little far from the shore
and i'm afraid of sinking
you're the only one who knows me
and who doesn't ignore that my soul i weeping

i know i know i know
part of me says let it go
everything must have its season
'round and 'round it goes
every day's the one before
but this time
this time
i'm gonna try anything to just feel better


tell me what to do
you know i can't see through the haze around me
and i'd do anything to just feel better
i can't find my way
god i need a change
and i'd do anything to just feel better
any little thing to just feel better

i'm tired of holding on
to all the things i leave behind
it's really getting old yeah
i think i need a little help this time

i'm gonna try anything to just feel better

tell me what to do
you know i can't see through the haze around me
and i'd do anything to just feel better
i can't find my way
god i need a change
and i'd do anything to just feel better
any little thing to just feel better




Sunday, June 12, 2011

Brace for impact...

“Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

This time next week will be a hard day. All the pomp and circumstance of the one year anniversary the day before will be over. Just like after the hustle and bustle of funeral arrangements end and you manage to survive the actual day of the funeral, it is the day after when the quiet ensues and the let down of emotion begins to surround you. If I steel myself for it and brace for impact, then maybe it won’t wipe me out so hard…or maybe it will.

When I reflect on this past year I am amazed at how fast it has gone. I think because most of it was spent in a stupor and I didn't really even realize days were going by for so long...it's like the first 6 months were a blur, then I woke up and the last 6 months have crept by. Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe it all crept by, day by day, in the beginning and lately time has sped up. I’ve come so incredibly far, yet still have so very far to go. I think about the coming months and all the “big” dates that will be fast approaching. The ones that did not even register on my radar last year because I was still in shock. My birthday, the girls’ birthday, our wedding anniversary, the holiday season…they will feel different this year, I know. The sting will be stronger because the numbing anesthetic of shock has worn off.

Though this year will be harder, there is also so much more to look forward to. There are so many things on the horizon for me that give me something to hope for. This time last year my outlook was so bleak- I did not think I would ever find any joy in anything ever again. I am especially grateful for some of the friendships I have that have deepened through this experience. I feel so supported and loved by such a great group of friends who have unconditionally supported me in my pursuit of hope and healing.

This coming week feels heavy and overwhelming. I’ll be busy all week with last minute plans and tasks to help get the 5k run in honor of Andie off the ground- we will run on the one year anniversary on Saturday. There has been a lot of focus on all the details over the past few weeks and it’s been weighing on my mind heavily. I’m also meeting with the home builders this week to go over the first round of plans for the house. I’m still not sure I can afford to build it on my own so that’s part of the discussion we’ll have. But I’m excited about the prospect of having a project to look forward to, and for the opportunity to literally “rebuild” a life for me and the girls somewhere. I was supposed to go out of town to visit the new guy this past weekend to give me a small mental break before this week wiped me out. Plans changed quickly though when he called and said he had an impromptu job interview down here and would be coming my direction instead. He interviewed on Thursday and we spent the weekend together. If he gets this job and moves to this area it will push our relationship to a different level. One in which, we can actually see if this could work in a real world sort of way instead of just weekend visits every now and then. I’m excited about it. But it’s also a lot to take in and consider, giving the timing of it all. He is supposed to know by midweek if he got the job or not. I must also approve the final sketch of Andie’s headstone this week. Almost a year to the day of laying him in the ground, I will finally approve what will mark his presence there forever. There’s a lot of weight in that decision and it’s not something I’m looking forward to. And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, I’m starting the girls in daycare this week for the first time ever. I’m so excited that they are growing up into sweet little girls, but this huge milestone also reminds me they are not babies anymore. I am so sad about how fast they are changing and growing. I want to hold onto these sweet years with them, it is hard for me to even remember what they were like a year ago…not even walking or talking. They are the starkest reminder to me of how much time has passed and the fact that life keeps moving whether you want it to or not. Might as well get on board and enjoy the ride.

As the year anniversary draws near I think of how most of the world wants to you to be pretty much done with the grieving process by now. One year: the universal marker of healing. Most other people have moved on in their lives and they realize that certain days will still be hard for you, but for the most part they don’t want you to wallow anymore. They don’t want to keep hearing about your dead spouse or how hard your life is. This is when people start pushing you to be happy again, or get out and do things, to move on already. They don’t realize how much of your life and your major life decisions are still impacted by the loss of the person who used to help you make those decisions; or how much you still miss sharing with that person on a daily basis. Then there are those who believe you are moving on too fast, taking on too much, or who just aren’t ready to move on themselves so they are hurt by the pace you’ve set.

Those of us who grieve know that the timeline is arbitrary. It is personal to each of us and fluid in its movement. Some days we are ready to shut the door on the old life and embrace the new. Other days we want to go back in time and stay stuck in the memories of the past, hoping that somehow we can just wake up from this bad dream. We feel pulled between two worlds, stuck in the middle never knowing which direction is the right way to go. There is no right way, of course. You just have to go with your gut and hope that it’s the right decision for the time. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m not sure if I’ll build a new house, or manage a brand new relationship well, or ever be okay with the fact that the girls are continuing to grow and becoming farther and farther from the babies they were when he died…but I do know that I feel a peace in my heart about all of my decisions.

I know this next year will be hard.
I know there will be struggles and difficult decisions to make along the way.
I know my children will always serve as a vivid timeline for me, how each day we all get a little bit farther away from him.
But all I know to do is keep moving, keep striving for better, keep praying,
And of course…keep pushing.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Punch drunk...

"There are people who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who don’t know what the hell happened".- Unknown


Usually I’m one who makes things happen. Today, I don’t know what the hell happened.

It really all started yesterday evening. Maybe it was because I had been with the girls all weekend and was feeling worn out. They had been sick and had grossness coming out both ends for three days straight. More likely, it was grief that I have put on the back burner letting me know that it has not forgotten about me, though I would like to forget about it.

Yesterday I started having a feeling of dread come over me. Not sadness or despair or anger. Not loathing or melancholy. Just dread. I couldn’t really pinpoint what it was all about until tonight.

A series of small setbacks happened today that under normal circumstances would’ve been easy to deal with. But today for some reason they all seemed overwhelming and insurmountable, and underneath it all was a sense of dread. As is my usual custom, when I start feeling deep emotions I turn inward and pull away from others. The new guy noticed right away- long before I even acknowledged to myself that something was going on. As is normally the case with a new relationship we went down a path of wrong assumptions and miscommunications. I continued to pull inward instead of just saying what was on my mind, which is that the one year anniversary is around the corner and I flat out don’t want to deal with it. I feel like I need 6 more months if I’m being honest- this year has gone by so very fast.

He felt more and more edged out and didn’t know why. I was trying to spare his feelings and not harp on my issues over my dead husband. Which only backfired, leaving him feeling left out and me feeling confused about how my consideration for his feelings was the wrong thing to do. Sometimes I feel like the deck is stacked against us; we are in a new relationship at the hard part where you are learning each other’s idiosyncrasies and communications styles, then add to that the fact that we live 300 miles away and only see each other occasionally (not exactly how a normal relationship develops), then top it off with the grief monster. So while all of this was rolling around in my overly analytical and apprehensive brain, I got a call from my mom. She’s been having hip pain that won’t go away. She was on her way to get an x-ray today since the medication they’ve given her hasn’t helped. I got off the phone with her and immediately went into doom and gloom panic mode. I was sure she had bone cancer and was going to die. I was even picturing how the phone call would go in which she would tell me that things looked bad. Crazy, I know. She called me when it was done and said they want to do an MRI to look more closely but it does not appear to be anything serious, or at least life threatening. Then some irritating things happened at work that only added to my work load, and bothered me on a level it never would’ve if I wasn’t already worked up.

So there I sat trying to finish up my work for the school year, ruminating on where I went wrong with the new guy (despite the fact that we had managed to get back on the same page), if my mom was gonna die, and how I was ever going to finish the work I should be focusing on when they just added to my plate. And down the spiral went…dread was closing in big time.

The kicker of the day was that I had to leave work and go straight to a meeting to finalize plans for the 5k in honor of Andie. Ever since yesterday when this first started creeping into my psyche, all I can think is “Why did I sign up for this?” And that’s where the dread started. I’m feeling like I don’t want a yearly reminder that requires months of planning ahead of time…I’ve worked myself into a situation that will require that I devote a couple of months a year before the anniversary to thinking about him. I should’ve left well enough alone and just had to deal with the one day of the anniversary. Way to go, overachiever! Lately I’ve had the overwhelming sense that I just want to move on. I want to shut the door on this old life in a way and start over. I want to run away from the pain. Not very brave of me, and not very strong- but it’s the honest truth. I’m just so tired of having his death be the focus of my life. It feels so heavy all of the time and I want to cast it off.

I walked in the door 11 hours after leaving my house this morning feeling drained, obliterated, and incoherent. I felt emotionally exhausted and couldn’t really do more than sit on the porch in a stupor while the girls played.

And that’s when all of this finally came together in a flash of insight.
I finally saw how I got from point A yesterday evening: dread
To point B tonight: punch drunk*
Maybe I can sleep it off…


*punch-drunk
adj.
1. Showing signs of brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head. Used especially of a boxer.
2. Behaving in a bewildered, confused, or dazed manner.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Quiet mind...


“Go in all simplicity; do not be anxious to win a quiet mind, and it will be all the quieter. Do not examine so closely into the progress of your soul. Do not crave so much to be perfect, but let your spiritual life be formed by your duties, and by the actions which are called forth by circumstances. Do not take over much thought for tomorrow. God, who has led you safely on so far, will lead you on to the end.” - Francis De Sales


I love this quote because now more than I ever I feel like my life and the decisions I have to make are the product of circumstance. This is certainly not how I planned my life. And it surely is not how I could’ve ever imagined it. But it is my life, the only one I have, so I must take it as it comes and make decisions based on the hand I’ve been dealt. And I must believe that God has a greater plan that I just can’t understand at this point.

I know it will be a difficult process as I continue to walk the fine line between being excited about someone new, while still actively mourning the loss of Andie. I am not na├»ve enough to think that my grieving is done. I am not “over it” and I have not “moved on”.

It has been a struggle to decide when I should let the world in on the fact that I am seeing someone. I didn’t want to make the announcement too soon only to find that this relationship would fizzle out and I’d then have to face all the ensuing questions. I didn’t want to keep it a secret as though it was something to be ashamed of, but at the same time I needed to feel secure before I announced such a momentous step.

And while I have had a couple of months to adjust to the idea and process my feelings about it, those who are just now learning of him are still shocked and surprised. Which only makes my comfort with it all the more awkward. I think they expect me to not be ready so soon, but I’ve done a lot of emotional leg work to get to this point. I've simply had a head start.

I am sensitive to the feelings of those who are still hurting, and who are not ready to see me “move on” with my life. I understand that Andie’s family and close friends will have a harder time accepting this than my own family and friends. I know it will take time for people to get to a place of acceptance.

I know that people ultimately want me to be happy. Many have said as much to me on several occasions. In the weeks after his death people told me that it was okay to eventually move on. But saying that, and actually being okay with it when it happens are two very different things. I think people have been okay with the idea of it, but when they actually see another man beside me they have almost a gut level reaction to it. I can see it in the subtle shifts of facial expression or body language. It seems that people are okay with the idea of it if it fits their version of how it should go and when, and not necessarily my version of it.

I have grappled with the idea of moving on for almost a year now. Mainly because people would often say to me that they knew I would find someone new one day. My own father in-law has had this discussion with me at least three times that I can remember. I almost felt a pressure about it in the early months after his death and it made me angry and indignant. But with time I have come to accept that this is in fact what I want for me and for my children. And it is also, I believe, something that Andie would want.

This is a hard position for me to be in. Wanting to be happy and being okay with this transition for myself, but also understanding that others are not yet ready for me to make this transition. However, what most people cannot even begin to fathom is the emotional work I have done to get to this point. It is I who has had to live every second of every day without him. I am the one who has two beautiful, yet constant reminders running around that look just like him, reminding me that he is not here. I am the one who remembers what it was like to have his face be the first thing I saw every morning, and the last thing I saw every night. Nobody else has had to deal with his absence on such a global level. Nobody else’s life was changed with such magnitude. Most people get the emotional reprieve of going on about their own lives in their own schedules, which allows them to feel some normalcy. I have not had that luxury; nothing about my life has stayed the same. Nothing is as it was. And nothing feels normal. It has been a long, hard, process to get to this point.

He still consumes my thoughts for much of the day, albeit in a different way than before. Now it is often with fond memories. Sometimes I talk to him in my mind, imagining how he would guide me in daily decisions. It is rarely with pain that I remember him anymore. I would venture to say that to most people though, he is only a fleeting thought. He probably does not cross the minds of his friends daily anymore; only when something happens that triggers a memory for them. I can tell that me and the girls are not on people’s minds as much by the drastic slow down in contact from others checking on us. And this is okay. It means that everyone is healing, and everyone is moving on…just at a different pace.

The bottom line is that I have to do what feels right in my heart. What makes me happy, content, and fulfilled. I have to move on with my life in a way that gives me a quiet mind. Worrying about what other people think of my actions only increases my anxiety and apprehension. And letting go of the control feels so freeing. This is a new part of me that has emerged through this experience. A more mature part of me, and I like it. I don’t have to control everything in my life, and I don’t have to have it all planned out. Controlling comes from a place of fear. I don’t want to live my life in fear. I want to appreciate what I have while it’s here instead of always planning for the worst case scenario.

The circumstances of my life have drastically altered who I am, who I want to be, and where I want my life to go. I am giving it all up to God with faith that he will lead me in the right direction in the end.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Leap of faith...

"Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down" - Unknown


There is a wonderful new blessing to my life. Someone who through fate, timing, answered prayers, or maybe just dumb luck eased his way into my life over the past couple of months.

First through emails, then through texting, followed by phone calls and visits…never pushing past my comfort level. Letting me move at my own pace, but standing by all the while ready to walk this journey beside me. Allowing the connection to grow and evolve on its own. Slowing down to allow me to catch up if he got a step ahead of me. He has stepped aside to give me time and space as I need it…never selfish in his pursuit.

He is honest and respectful. Understanding and reassuring. Strong and confident. Gentle and kind. Caring and insightful. Interesting and intelligent. Protective and accepting. And above all, he is patient with me and this convoluted process.

He inspires, motivates, and challenges me to be a better person. He pushes me to let go and just trust in him, believe in the possibility of us, and have faith in God.

He is the answer to the repetitive prayer I’ve prayed: For God to allow my heart to be open, and accepting of whatever or whomever He puts in my path. For me to trust that if love walks into my life I can accept its presence with grace and dignity.

I have to admit that when I have heard stories of other widows who have moved on there was always a sense of judgment on my part. How could they move on so soon- how soon is too soon? How could they proclaim to still love their dead husband, but still have enough room in their heart to love another? I couldn’t understand how that could even be possible. There was also a sense of jealousy that they had gotten lucky enough to find love again; I did not think that would ever be possible for me. But once you start down this road the issue becomes, how do you continue to hold the love in your heart for your husband while making room for new love to grow there too? I’ve found it’s like having more than one child- your heart expands to fit the need. How do you incorporate who you were then, with who you are becoming? How do you integrate your old life with your new life? I don’t have the answers to these questions. These are still challenges I must face and I realize they will continue to be for some time…

I never imagined that I would be in the very position that I had scoffed at. I couldn’t fathom that I could ever let go of my pain, or that I would ever even want to let go of the pain long enough to find happiness. After all, holding onto the pain has been all there was to hold on to. And I think that’s why this worked. He eased his way into my life ever so gently that I didn’t even know he was beginning to take up residence in my heart until it was too late to deny it.

I am on the precipice of something exciting and grand. I’m ready to take the leap of faith and see where I land and where this experience takes me. My perspective has shifted again and I find myself back in the place of believing that there is a power greater than us that guides us in the right direction even when the fog is too dense to see through it. I am acknowledging that I don’t have all the answers to how my life is going to work out, nor am I supposed to.

I’m learning to enjoy it one moment at a time. To take things at face value without questioning or analyzing them to the point that I destroy them or push them away. I’m learning to let go. To surrender the control and accept that it’s out of my hands…I’m learning to place the responsibility on the shoulders of someone much grander than I.

In my journey to find happiness…I am finding peace in my heart.
In my journey to find comfort…I am experiencing a calm stillness within.
In my journey to find love…I am opening my heart and allowing myself to take a risk.

Here I stand, humbly accepting that the universe indeed has more to offer me than I ever thought possible…


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Calendar

I'm a planner. Always organized with events on the calendar well in advance. At least I used to be. I'm not so good at it anymore. I always carry a calendar/planner in my purse. Today I took the 2010 planner out. I've stumbled across it several times since Andie died but always throw it back in. It's one of those little things I haven't wanted to face so I just let it languish at the bottom of my purse for almost a year now- right next to the 2011 planner.

Today I took it out and thumbed through it. So strange to see remnants of a normal life documented. Doctor and hair appointments neatly penciled in. Vacations and and days off of work. I was going through some health issues at the time and my doctors were playing around with my medications. Taking me on and off to see if my symptoms would subside. There are notes in this calendar about when to stop the medicine or start it again; comments about if my symptoms were getting worse or better so I would know what to tell the doctors when I went back in for a check up.

I see the days where I circled the date four days in a row in a repetitive pattern and am reminded of how regimented the schedule can be when you are married to a cop. Andie's schedule was always rotating making it very difficult to plan things in advance. He worked 5 days on, 4 days off, another 5 on, another 4 off, then 6 days on followed by 4 days off. Then the whole cycle repeated again. I would go through the calendar months in advance and mark his rotation of days off so that when I was planning things I didn't have to sit and count the days over and over. I remember how irritated I would get when I would get off by a day and mess the whole pattern up, then I'd have to start from the beginning again to figure out where I went wrong. Grief is a lot like that...playing things over and over in your mind, going back to the beginning again to try and figure out where it all went wrong. Wondering where was the one moment that shifted everything in your universe? Only there's no erasure marks and do-overs with grief.

I look at the week he died. There is nothing there except the notation of when I started my menstrual cycle. We were on vacation when he died and I find it strange that I did not have the vacation written down. It's just a blank week on the calender, as though nothing happened. As if it were just a boring, uneventful week in our lives. I keep looking and see that I had worked out his days off rotation until the beginning of August. Obviously planning for him to be around. Never imagining that I could stop caring what days he had off of work on June 18, 2010. The week after he died is completely blank too. Then the activity picks up again and there are meetings with lawyers, HR reps, insurance people, the funeral photographer, and a host of other things penciled in. Dying is busy work for those left behind. The barrage of paperwork and decisions seems endless. Almost a year later and I'm still dealing with estate paperwork and final decisions on his headstone.

This planner is like a time capsule.
A glimpse into the mundane rhythm of life we had.
A written document that proves I had a normal existence once.
I consider throwing it away but instead decide to put in a drawer with the rest of the memorabilia that I have kept.
But for the life of me I can't think of a rational reason why...
It is just a calendar after all.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Contingency plan...

This morning I went to a meeting with the committee planning the 5k in honor of Andie. It feels good to be doing something to honor and celebrate his life. I am pleased that I have chosen this as a way to mark the one year anniversary of his death, and I hope that it can be a peaceful day for those who loved him to come together in friendship and have a good time.

After that I had to go to another meeting. A meeting that will essentially memorialize him and permanently mark the end of his life. I went to the cemetery office today to finalize the plans for his grave stone. I picked out the design very early after he died. I was still in a complete haze of disorientation then, so I ask her to show me what I picked because I honestly don't remember...I was pleased to find that even in the the shock of grief I still had good taste. Though expensive taste I am reminded, when I have to pay the several thousand dollar balance in full. I opt to not change anything.

The next step is determining what I want it to say. Which font do I like? What color do I want the background? Which color granite do I want? Do I want any special emblem or symbols? I choose to keep the design simple, masculine, and classic. Something he would approve of.

Then we get to the part about my name. I originally ordered a stone large enough to put my name on should I decide to be buried with him. But I don't want my name on it right now in the event that I move, or get remarried, or just plain decide I don't want to be buried but rather cremated. There are so many contingencies to consider. More than once she says that it doesn't happen often that these contingencies have to be considered...she is a little befuddled at how to handle such a young widow. "Oh yes, I didn't think about that..." she says when I throw another hypothetical situation at her.

The plaque with my name must be ordered now- it is not an option to do it later. Though she is quick to reassure me that the plaque can be moved to a different stone should I be buried elsewhere or with someone else. I would just have to buy a new piece of granite to put it on. I am not happy about my name being on a grave stone at this age, but I acquiesce and agree to this.

The next step is to determine exactly how we want our names printed on the plaques. I choose full names- first, middle, and last. When we get to my name I stump her again. But what if I do get remarried? This plaque will say "Simmons"...she offers the suggestion of using my maiden name. No, that won't do. We talk some more about the options for all the contingencies that could befall me in the course of my life. I am one who always has a back up plan. Who always plans out all available courses of action in order to make the most rational decision. But I eventually realize that this something that I will have to consider when the time comes as I cannot predict my future at this point. She asks for my date of birth. As she finishes writing, "July 23, 1980" she says to me, "You're too young." Yes, this I know.

If all goes well, I will have at least another 30 years ahead of me. Likely more. It is hard to fathom that I actually have more time ahead of me than behind me, and already I have essentially ended one chapter and am beginning a new one. Life as I knew it is over, and I am starting afresh. It is within the realm of possibility that I could be married to a new person longer than I have actually been alive up until this point. And yet, my name with my husband's surname will appear on a grave stone... waiting for me to die. It is mind boggling and surreal to consider.

My day will culminate in a visit from a guy I have been emailing and talking with for several weeks. He lives almost 300 miles away so we have only seen each other once before now. I am excited to see him again- to see if the connection we have established through conversation is as good in person. The last time I saw him went well, so I imagine this will too. We will spend the weekend going to dinner and concerts, meeting friends, maybe going to the lake, and getting to know each other better. I am happy about this development in my life. It brings me hope for my future. I know some will judge me and say I am moving on too soon. Or I am trying to distract myself from my grief, and there really is no way I could be ready. Some will judge him and wonder what in the world he could possibly see in a widow with young twins who lives 300 miles away. That's an awful lot of baggage for him to take on. But if I've learned anything in this process it is that there is no right or wrong way to do this. I can only proceed in ways that leave my heart and mind feeling content and at peace.

So while I started the day with a meeting to honor and celebrate the life of my husband, and followed it with a meeting to memorialize him forever, I will end the day with the opportunity to do something that helps me look towards the future. I have given up on always having a contingency plan. They never work out how I imagine them anyway. I am learning that the more I try to control my life, the more God shows me ways that I can't. He is the one who makes the plans.

So maybe, just maybe...
this new great guy who makes me happy,
is God's contingency plan...
for me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New...

"Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent." – Maria Rainer Rilke

So I was watching Oprah the other day and they showed a clip from an old show when Dr. Phil used to be on as a guest. He was talking with a woman who was stuck in her grief, 10 years after losing her daughter. She had not been able to move on and let go of the pain and anger. He said something to her that struck a chord with me.

He asked her if her daughter would feel betrayed in some way by her mother moving on and leading a happy life. The lady of course replied that her daughter would not feel betrayed by her moving on, but rather would actually be mad at her mother for continuing to be miserable every day. Her daughter wouldn't want that kind of life for her.

Dr. Phil replied, "Maybe the betrayal is focusing on the day of her death and not on the event of her life."

This hit close to home for me. I find myself continuing to struggle with the idea of moving forward, finding joy, and living again rather than merely existing. Sometimes I feel like it is a betrayal to not still be debilitated with grief. But at the same time, I'm really tired of being emotionally drained, and want to have the same optimism about life that I used to carry with me before I became a widow.

Hearing Dr. Phil reframe it in this way made me realize that I can celebrate the life he had and the life we had together, without focusing on his death, which was really only one day in the grand scheme of his life. He is so much more than his death. He truly would not want me to be miserable every day. He would want me to feel fulfilled, and excited about life and my future. He would celebrate how far I've come, and he would encourage me to continue to carve out a new life for myself.

Many days I still feel caught between two worlds. The life I had, and the new life I must now create. Going through this process is like being stripped to the core and rebuilding from scratch. Relearning what you value, how you view things, and who you want to be.

As the quote above says, "...a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent."
A stillness, a sense of peace eventually comes and you realize that it is okay to be new again.
To start over.
The newness stands silent, waiting patiently, until you are ready to accept that it is there, then it welcomes you with open arms and allows you to become whatever it is that you want to be...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finding our way...

"Out of every crisis comes the chance to be reborn, to reconceive ourselves as individuals, to choose the kind of change that will help us grow and fulfill ourselves more completely. "– Nena O’Neill

I attended a new church today with the girls. Just the three of us. Just our little family. Starting something new on our own- making a new way of life for ourselves. I am in a phase of rebirthing who I am and who our family will be without Andie in it. It’s a necessary part of the healing process for me to find my own way again…to choose the kind of change that will help me grow into who I want to be. Only when I find my own way, can I successfully lead the girls and be the strong parent they deserve.

Religion was always a minor point of contention with Andie and I. I being raised Methodist, and he being raised Church of Christ, we didn’t always see things the same way. Before we got married we talked about what religion we’d like to practice and how we’d like to raise our kids one day, but the reality of how we led our lives was far different from the hypothetical conversations we had. As is often the case with these kind of issues.

We said we would allow both religions to be a part of our lives as neither one of us wanted to completely give up who we were in that sense. We would alternate which church we attended, or just find a new one that we both felt comfortable in.

But the reality was that we always went to his church. Only when I really pushed did he agree to visit a Methodist church a time or two. It became something that I acquiesced on just to keep the peace. We didn’t go to church often mainly because he was usually working, but also because it wasn’t hugely important to him. And since I didn’t have a strong connection with his religion I didn’t push the issue. We went when we went. It wasn’t something either one of us felt convicted to do because we hadn’t established a strong bond with the church as a couple.

But through this process my yearning for a deeper spiritual understanding has increased.
I have been longing to reestablish that part of my life.
To rebuild myself, and to rebuild my relationship with God.
So I tried something new today in the hopes that I just might fulfill myself more completely.
In the hopes that maybe I can navigate my way out of this grief and lead us as a family into a new way of life we can call our own.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

11...


11 months today. So close to a full year. What's the difference really, between now and one more month? No difference in the grand scheme of things. It has all gone by so fast. I think about a conversation I had with a friend when the girls were younger. We were talking about how you report your children's age in weeks for awhile, then in months. There is no clear transition as to when to switch over. Are they 24 weeks old, or 6 months? I feel the same about this...when do I stop counting the months and start counting years. At 13 months will I say my husband passed a year ago or will I continue to mark the months in time?

This morning as I am getting ready for work I think about what jewelry I want to wear. I have a little pile of jewelry that holds special meaning on my counter. I choose the necklace with my Push and 10-4 charms. I put my wedding ring on my right hand as many widows do. It's the first time I've put it back on in any capacity since I took it off a few weeks ago. The weight of it feels good. Like it's meant to be there. I put my pink gold anniversary bands that he bought me in honor of the twins on my left hand. I have lost so much weight that I must wear them on my middle finger now. Shoving them over the knuckle I broke in middle school that healed crooked. I feel like this is a metaphor for my life: shoving past things to make myself fit. To try to get back to normal.

I go to put on my socks and realize the ones I pull out are his. They are slightly too big for my slender feet but I wear them anyway. Last night I wore one of his "Sheriff" t-shirts to bed.
I guess subconsciously I'm trying to stay connected through tangible symbols, but feel more and more like I'm losing grip on it. The always tenuous and delicate connection to him feels like it is slowly fading.

I visit his grave before work. The tears flow easily this morning as I listen to some of the music from his funeral and several other songs that remind me of him. Like a teenager who self-mutilates just to feel something rather than feeling numb, I choose to listen to this music to get to that deep place of emotion I rarely allow myself to visit. It is cathartic to release the tears and I feel better.

As I drive to work I recall a conversation I had with my ob/gyn yesterday. It was the first time she has seen me since my follow up after the girls were born. I talked on the phone with her right after Andie died but hadn't seen her until now. She wants to know how I'm doing- how I'm really doing. She commends me on how well put together I seem. She comments that I have "strong faith" after I tell her I just do what I have to do to keep going on most days. She says I'm doing a great job to be raising the girls alone. All I can think is how great I've gotten at putting up a good facade most of the time. She asks to see pictures of the girls and is stunned by how much they look like him. "I can just see him sitting right there in that chair," she says pointing to where he sat during my exams. "As if it were just yesterday," are the unsaid words hanging in the air. We give each other a knowing glance and she hugs me. I wonder how long I will run in to people who don't know or I haven't seen since his death and I have to have the awkward conversations.

I realize that though the connection feels like it is slipping he is still here. Not in the way we all want, but in the only way he can be. In our memories, in the faces of our children, and in our hearts.


"You're still here" by Faith Hill

Thought I saw you today
You were standing in the sun then you turned away
And I know it couldn't be
But my heart believed
Oh it seems like there's something everyday
How could you be so far away
When you're still here
When I need you you're not hard to find
You're still here
I can see you in my baby's eyes
And I laugh and cry
You're still here

I had a dream last night
That you came to me on silver wings
And I flew away with you on a painted sky
And I woke up wondering what was real
Is what you see and touch or what you feel
'Cause you're still here
Oh you're everywhere we've ever been
You're still here

I heard you in a strangers laugh
And I hung around to hear him laugh again
Just once again
Thought I saw you today
You were standing in the sun then you turned away

Friday, May 13, 2011

Peace...

I shamelessly stole this from another widow blog. Sunny Sings the Blues had it posted the other day and it spoke to me. I've been coming back to it for days, letting it seep into my consciousness. Thought I'd let you all know what has been occupying my thoughts...


"Desiderata" by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.


This line especially speaks to me:
"And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be."

I am finding peace...
finally.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Connection...

In the beginning there is an obsession with the one who has died. A desperation for the thread to not unravel, to hold all that you had as couple together for as long as possible by trying to keep every memory you have in immediate awareness. Striving to stay connected by any means possible. Eventually some acceptance settles in that no matter how hard you try, there is no way to keep them alive through memories alone. The constant drive to stay connected tapers off; the fire within subdues and the rumination lies dormant.

After a while there is a stirring inside. Something sparks a curiosity. A yearning for new connection.
Real.
Human.
Connection.

A desire to be fulfilled by another. To be appreciated, understood, comforted, and admired.
There is a longing to be touched. To be whispered to. To develop the subtle give and take that comes when two people develop a unique bond and share in the human experience together.

Once you’ve experienced fulfilling love the desperation to have it again can be intense. At times, the desire to interact with another on a level that is unique to only the two of you can be powerful and overtaking. I find myself watching other couples in public. Jealous of the nuance between them that only they truly understand. A certain look, a tilt of the head, a hand placed on the shoulder just so.

When you know what you’re missing, you suddenly have a new appreciation for it and seek to find it again. Perhaps that is why they say that widows who were in fulfilling and happy marriages tend to remarry sooner…because they crave that kind of closeness.

Eventually the rumination returns, but with a new focus when you begin to see that you might find another worthy of your attention, and they in return may also find you worthy.
When it comes within striking distance you seize it for fear it will get away.
For fear that you might miss your one shot to be truly happy again.
And the connection becomes the new obsession…

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

With appreciation...

In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us. – Flora Edwards

Most of the posts I write get commented on. Usually by my faithful followers. But what amazes me is how often I get emailed privately about my posts. Several times a week I get an email from someone telling me that something I have written resonated within them and made them take pause. Most times it is by someone who is not even grieving, but rather they can identify with the emotional undertone of my post as it relates to their own relationships. I am told that they can see themselves in me, or that I have made them change the way they look at things.

In my selfish act of baring my soul and using the blog as my own personal therapy, I am touching others. Making them reflect and self-evaluate, and in the end hopefully helping them become more self-aware people.

This is the greatest compliment I could ever receive. That through my personal pain and catharsis, I might be helping someone else to heal one of their wounds.

And in return, I heal a little more too…

It is with a humble heart that I thank all my readers today for continuing to push me along in my journey by choosing to share what’s in your heart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

ugly side

Looking back at some recent interactions I have had with those close to me I realize now how emotionally guarded I must have been my whole life. I didn’t really understand how much I have kept people at a distance. And continue to keep others at a distance…until now. Now I see me for what I am: vulnerable, terrified of getting hurt, afraid to show weakness.


It is hard for me to accept that sometimes “good things” just happen…I’ve always felt like the kind of person who draws in the “bad things happen to good people” vibe from the universe so I always have my guard up. I’m in a constant state of hyperawareness, overanalyzing, planning my escape route. Waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop, and never wanting someone else to get the best of me. It takes me a long time to trust someone and even those who are in my closest inner circle rarely get a glimpse of how I truly feel. I’m a born skeptic, constantly thinking about the “what if’s”. I find myself pushing the limits to see how far I can go, sure that when I cross the limit and someone finally gives up on me, I can stand back and place the blame on them for not being able to take all that I dish out. Not always giving due credit for what they did do and how long they did endure.

Ridiculously immature of me. I see now the ugly side of me. The martyr, the “woe is me”, the “can’t I catch a break” whiny side. I wonder how difficult Andie must have found it to be in this constant sparring match of wits with me. Always trying to stay one step ahead and continually reassure me. Sometimes feeling as though he could never win…in truth, cause he couldn’t. I never let him. I see now that when I thought he was giving up on me, he was really just refusing to engage in a losing battle. Knowing I’d always come around somehow. I want to tell him how sorry I am. That I didn’t realize how difficult I was being. That if he were still here I’d start letting him win every now and then. Recently, I have begun to embrace the idea of sharing my honest feelings and have been surprised by how freeing it is to allow someone to see through you. To the real you. And I like it.

The grief process is funny; it’s not always about the grief. More often it turns out to be about you and your underlying issues. It continually challenges us to reevaluate who we are and face things we were never forced to face before, and in doing so we have a new perspective on who we once were. We see ourselves through a vastly different lense. It’s not always fun, and it’s definitely not always pretty.

I realize now how unfair it is to keep people at a distance.
I want to let them in.
I want to be able to share myself on a genuine level.
I just have to start letting go of the fear…

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Big Step...

I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. – Thomas Edison

I have taken a huge step in this grief process.
I have taken off my wedding ring.

I feel the need to keep pushing myself onward through this and I can’t co-exist in two worlds. One in which I am still betrothed to my husband, and one in which I will allow new relationships and new beginnings into my life. I cannot continue to be committed to someone who is not here. “Til death do us part”…I said those very vows and I thought that I meant them. Turns out I meant “Til death do us part, plus 10 months just to be sure”.

So in an effort to keep moving and keep growing, to get out of the stagnation of grief, I have done something that tells the world that I am no longer married. I feel at ease and at peace with the decision. Something I could not even fathom just weeks ago.

It has taken me a long time to accept this for myself. I have taken a few steps forward and many steps back in this process. I know my steps will continue to falter along the way.

But I’m ready to embrace the new life set before me.
The life I must now cultivate and create based on my needs.
And I simply cannot do that if I stay married to a dead man.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Finding meaning...

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing”. A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which the hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself.”
- Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking


There is a dissonance between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is.
They are rarely one in the same, never really rising to the expectation of the other.

We search for meaning in all of it, often finding no satisfactory answer. Eventually relegating ourselves to the fact that we are not meant to know the answers, or it is futile to continue the relentless search. Giving up on finding meaning.

But sometimes, just sometimes you find meaning where you thought there was none to find.
What you think is going to knock you on your ass and throw you for a loop is sometimes exactly what you needed to PUSH forward...to confront that which you so feared.
And in the quest to find your purpose, you give your life new meaning.

Monday, April 25, 2011

beginning afresh...

Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself. I mean, do not be disturbed because of your imperfections, and always rise up bravely from a fall. I’m glad that you make daily a new beginning; there is no better means of progress in the spiritual life than to be continually beginning afresh. – Francis de Sales

I’m trying to remember to learn to be patient with myself. This process of grief is long, hard, and often paradoxical in the way it forces you to yearn for an old life while also learning to appreciate the new one you’ve been given. “To be continually beginning afresh”…

Yesterday was a particularly hard and emotional day for me. I had no idea I was going to get blindsided by it. One of the songs we sang in church was one that we played at Andie’s funeral. Then we went to his parents’ house for lunch and for the kids to do an Easter egg hunt. All I could think about was this day last year when the girls were not even walking yet, and Andie and I talked about how fun it would be this year to see them actually hunt for eggs. It was like a movie continually being replayed over and over in my mind, of how this day was just a short year ago.

The “firsts” of my birthday, the girls’ birthday, and our wedding anniversary came so soon after he died that I was still in a complete fog of shock and disbelief. I was still completely numb, so they didn’t hurt. For Christmas this year we went out of town- something completely out of the ordinary so I didn’t have to be at home doing the same old routine and traditions. So Easter was the first holiday that was kind of the same ol’ thing. It was the first holiday that I’ve come across so far that felt routine and familiar. And in the routine and familiar, the pain seeps in because the void of the person missing is so apparent.

And while all of this hurts deeply, and makes me question if I’ve made any progress at all rather than just spiraling back around to the same issues, I’m still finding things to be joyful in. I’m still learning to appreciate new experiences, new friends, and a new way of life for myself. I’m finally getting to the point where I can accept, albeit in small doses, that happy experiences don’t mean I love him any less. I can hurt and ache for him, and still hold love and fulfillment in my heart- it's not all or nothing. It doesn't mean that if I have one, I can't have the other.

It just means that healing is taking root. Hope is on the horizon.
It means that I make daily a new beginning.
Each day I begin afresh.
Each day I rise up bravely from the fall…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April...

Around this time 10 years ago Andie kissed me for the first time and we never were apart after that day. April 11, 2001. A day that will be etched in my mind for eternity. A moment that changed my entire future.

This time last year, in April, Andie and I had just closed on 2.5 acres of property in the hill country on which we were to build our dream house. We knew it would take us a couple of years to plan and save, but we had a plan. Signing those papers was a moment that we thought would change our entire future.

Strange how it takes just one moment to change your entire future.
Whether you plan for it or not...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Charades...

Ten months today and it still does not seem real to me. Many days I feel like he is on an extended trip and most definitely will return soon. I delude myself into thinking that this is all not really happening. It is only in small increments that my mind can process that he is never going to walk through the door again.

I dreaded this anniversary because the girls were only 10 months old when he died, and I feared that it would be hard to consider that half their lives he has not been with them. It is sad to think that from this day forward they will have had more time without him than with him. I am particularly sad for my girls today- more so than for me. I am hit with the gravity of how much they will miss. Have already missed. How little they knew of him. I had about 10 years with him, they only 10 months. Months they will never remember. And no matter how much I tell them about him, they will never truly know him like I did.

I am extremely sad that in all likelihood they will one day think of another man as their father. I want them to have a father figure and I want them to have the emotional connection with a man they can love, trust, admire, and look up to. But I am not okay with the fact that it will not be with their father. The man who helped create them. Who loved them with every ounce of his being just because they were his. I am not ready to accept that another man could love them as much, and as well as their own father. And for that I feel angry that they are the ones getting cheated. How do you ever begin to accept second best for your children?

Every night as I take them to bed we stop at his picture and tell him goodnight, that we love him, and that we want him to visit us in our dreams so we can tell him about our day. I wonder when the day will come when they ask me why we talk to this picture. Who is this man that we have to say goodnight to?

For on that day, the charade will end and I just might actually believe that he's really gone...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spirit...

We've got spirit yes we do, we've got spirit, how bout you?

I remember that grade school cheerleading chant so well...


Us widows tends to shy away from the compliments we get about being strong. It feels undeserved to say we are strong when we are only doing what must be done to survive. We didn't choose to walk through the fire, we were forced to and we feel the burn. So we feel like a fraud to take on the "strong" label because it doesn't feel like we rightfully earned it. It was just given to us.


But the truth is, we are strong. And we should own it. Not everyone can suffer a devastating loss and continue to move through the world with grace and poise. Not everyone can lose everything that ever mattered and still choose to get up the next morning and keep going. Not everyone can continue to hold their head up while in the depths of deep despair. But we do. Not because it's something we wanted or chose, but because we have to. We choose not to give up when we lose. And in the words of a current Sugarland song, "Sometimes you gotta lose til you win."

So maybe we shy away from being called strong. Perhaps we could wear the "spirit" label better. We are strong and we are courageous, because we have spirit.


My aunt gave me this sign and I love it.
Because it speaks to me about the unbroken spirit.
It speaks to me about getting back up when life has knocked you down.
Pushing back when life pushes you.
It speaks to me about bouncing back. Getting back on the proverbial horse.



It speaks to me of resilience.

And that is something I can own...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding joy...

Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday. Was it worth it? – Siddhartha

I had a great weekend. On Saturday I took the girls to the lake for a little while and they got to swim and play in the water. It was joyous to soak up a couple hours of sunlight and bask in the glow of their smiles. Today my mom met me at the Home and Garden Show and then we decided to head over to a local BBQ joint to hear some live music that the local radio show was broadcasting. The girls were gloriously behaved all day. It was exactly the kind of weekend that Andie and I loved. The reason we chose to live in the quaint little town that always has some fun activity going on.

On the way home I was thinking to myself that this was the first time in a long time that I have felt like life really might be worth it after all. I felt like there might actually be things to look forward to. We walked in the door and mom flipped the switch to turn on the kitchen light. Another bulb blew. The first in many, many weeks. I smiled and cried a little thinking he must be with us enjoying the perfect weekend and just wanted to let us know he was here.

I actually cooked a real meal for dinner. Only the third or fourth time I’ve done it since Andie passed. It felt good to feel like a “real mom” who actually puts a home cooked meal on the table and eats with her kids. Usually I throw together kid food and then skip dinner for myself. Tonight I savored the tilapia and zucchini (“nini” as the kids call it). It was one of Andie’s favorite dishes of mine.

After bath time the girls were giddy. They horse played and loved on each other for about 30 minutes straight- giggling the whole time. As any mother knows, there is no better sound than that of your children’s laughter. I even got some spontaneous kisses out of them. Bonus!

All in all it was a wonderful weekend, one in which I found some joy.
Of course there was a huge piece missing, but for once I was able to not focus on that.
I was able to focus on what was actually in front of me.
And for once I was able to not worry about tomorrow…

Friday, April 8, 2011

Believe...

Truth is simply whatever you bring yourself to believe. – Alice Childress

Not long after Andie died I read a couple books pertaining to signs that our loved ones give us from the other side. I was terrified of missing some sign or communication due to lack of knowledge about the subject. One of the most common ways that our loved ones communicate, according to both books I read, is through electrical currents. Often flickering lights, or burned out lights, or things turning on and off for no apparent reason.

Four months after Andie died I decided to have the kitchen backsplash tiled. It was something he and I had discussed many times but never did because he didn't want to spend the money. He thought it was frivolous. When the tile guy came to give me the bid and measure the backsplash we discussed why I was deciding to do it. I jokingly said that I was doing it because my husband never wanted me to and now he wasn't around anymore to tell me "no". That day one of the recessed lights in the kitchen went out. We've never had any of the recessed lights go out in this house since we moved in. When it happened I joked that it was Andie's way of giving me a sign that he still disapproved of having the backsplash done. I replaced the bulb and didn't think anything of it again. A couple of weeks later the guys showed up to actually install the backsplash. That day another bulb blew out; a completely different one from the first one. And I started to really wonder if it was in fact a sign from Andie.

I have since had between 6-8 light bulbs go out in my kitchen in the last 6 months alone. The last two that burned out I never replaced because I got scared that I must have an electrical short and I didn't want to risk a fire. They've been burned out for several weeks now.

I had an electrician come to the house today to take a look. He checked the switches that turn the lights on. Both were perfectly fine. Then he went into the attic to make sure there wasn't a short, or a wiring problem. All looked good- so good that he complimented how great of a job the electrician that wired the house had done. I showed him the light bulbs I have been using to make sure I wasn't buying the wrong kind or wrong wattage. They were exactly what I needed according to him.

He said he had no reasonable explanation for why my lights would randomly be burning out. He said it was "strange" that it wasn't always the same light, and that it wasn't always burning out in the same way. For instance, sometimes they burn out after they've been on for a while, and other times when they've been off and you flip the switch they pop and go out. He said sometimes recessed lights go out when they overheat but then they come back on. He'd never heard of them popping and blowing like mine do, and he couldn't think of a reason that this would be happening. He said he'd talk with some other electricians that he knew to see if they had ever come across this problem, but it was nothing he could fix because there was nothing even wrong. Everything looked perfect.

"There's one more thing I want to tell you," he said before he left. "You're a really good mother. You're so attentive to your girls." I was almost brought to tears by the sincerity of the compliment, and by the fact that it was so out of context from the rest of our conversation. Especially since he had only been in my house and able to observe me with my kids for a couple of hours. I have to admit that for half a second I wondered if Andie was speaking to me through this man, perhaps sending me a message...

The fervor to see signs from Andie isn't as strong anymore.
I feel more content with the unknown than I did in the early days when answers and absolutes seemed necessary.
I still don't know what I believe about signs from the other side.
I'm still trying to find my own truth in that.
But I have to admit that after what happened today, my interest is piqued...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thinking of you...

This time of year is hard-It was our favorite time of year. The weather is turning nice and we loved to be outdoors more. You loved to BBQ and talk walks around the neighborhood. You liked sprucing up the yard…taking pride in how it looked. The wildflowers are blooming. The hill country becomes pretty again. The changing of the seasons reminds me that I am edging closer to the time last year when you died. I’m flooded with memories of things. It seems almost anything these days can make me think of you. Do you think of us too? Are you still here?
I wonder if I will always have you so fresh on my brain and readily accessible. So much reminds me of you.

I’ll think of you when…
I eat ice cream
I smell the familiar aroma of a grill lighting up
I hear a fish jump at the lake
I seem someone wearing the kind of fishing shirts you had taken to wearing, almost exclusively
I see a jeep

And I’ll think of you when…
I drive down hill country roads always scanning to look for deer or other wildlife like you used to do
I see a center console fishing boat- just the kind you always admired.
I pass a Dairy Queen that has their blizzard of the month posted on the marquee
I see a police car crest a hill on the horizon in oncoming traffic. It still makes my heart stop for a split second thinking it could be you…
I sit on the dock at the lakehouse soaking up the sun, feeling your presence
I hear the familiar rumble of a loud truck down the street
I eat at Herbert’s Taco Hut or make spaghetti- your favorite dish of mine
I replace the empty toilet paper roll
I load the dishwasher…trying my hardest to do it as you taught me. To pack in as much as possible

And I’ll think of you when…
Summer rolls around- our favorite time of year.
Someone mentions Texas Hold ‘em, and I remember the time we went to Port Aransas to gamble on the boat there and I forgot my ID and we had to drive all the way back to where we were staying to get it because they wouldn’t let me on the boat without it. You were so irritated with me and teased me about it ever since.
When someone mentions the border or Del Rio. We had a horrible trip there but laughed about it for years afterward.
I see a weimaraner. I gave you a weim puppy for our first anniversary. We took him to Kerrville for a weekend get away (against your wishes and better judgment) and had to come home in the middle of the night when he threw up on us in the bed. We laughed about that one for years too.
When I'm tired and being an only parent seems unbearable

And I’ll especially think of you when…
I look at our children and hear them laugh and watch them grow into beautiful women- the kind you’d be proud of
I wake and realize your side of the bed is still empty
I finally make a decision about whether or not to keep pursuing our dreams, or start making some of my own
I have to make the hard decisions in life…and the easy ones too

I will think of you when…
One day, I have found myself again



And I will think of you too, when the bluebonnets bloom…

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Intangible...

The necklace with his ring on it is sitting on my bathroom counter amongst a pile of random jewelry that I haven’t gotten around to putting back in its proper place in my jewelry box. I took it off 9 days ago. I thought I’d make it to a year at least before I decided I didn’t need the weight of its security around my neck.

I took it off mainly because I got sunburned that weekend and it was irritating the back of my neck. I had intentions of putting it back on when my sunburned faded. But I didn’t. And I’m okay with that.

At least I feel like I’m okay with it. I haven’t missed it over the past 9 days. I’ve enjoyed being able to wear some of my other necklaces that have been patiently waiting their turn in my jewelry box.

But. Ever the analytical one, I worry that I’m just deluding myself into thinking I’m more healed than I am. I worry that I’m not really working the grief these days, but just putting it on a shelf to deal with later. I’m afraid that I feel too okay about this. I worry that I should not be doing so well. I feel like I should be hurting more. I should be searching for joy, not already finding it. I should be hoping for peace, not experiencing it. I should be wracked with guilt about disconnecting from him, even if it’s only in a symbolic way; not resigned to the quiet acceptance of it.

What I’ve realized is that holding onto the tangible doesn’t make him any less intangible. Wearing his necklace with his ring on it, continuing to wear my wedding ring, keeping his clothes in the closet right where he left them…none of it means that he’s not gone.

My biggest fear is that the more I heal, the more I fear I will forget him.
And that is what makes the pain return and the tears fall.
The thought of him being just a faded memory when all I want is for him to still be vivid,
and real,
and tangible.