For the last 3 days I've been turning something over and over in my head. I am SO ready to write, but just can't seem to settle on a new blog title. I have a million and one *ideas* but none of them translate to a blog title that makes me proud. I don't think it's my perfectionist tendencies coming out...rather, I think it's that I am trying to pigeon hole what I have to say into a tiny category in order to give it a name. I didn't realize that until Jeff essentially stated it for me.
I'm frustrated, because I feel like unless I'm writing I'm not really living. I wasn't sure how to put it into words until just now...but that's it. Unless I'm writing, I feel like I'm not really living.
For me, living is awesome...full experiences peppered with emotions...people...places...things...but until I write about it, it's like a beautiful sketch without the paint. For me, writing is what gives my cherished experiences their color. Then they stay in my mind, blazing with vibrancy and hue for years to come.
There are still people who read The Cat Widow. There are people who, even now, become newly widowed and find it through the internet, reading through every post as though I still write daily. It will always have a place. It will always have a purpose.
I'm ready, though, to leave it all behind...to keep it published on the web as a chapter of my life I went through...as a chapter of my life to which I had to give voice...but to end it and instead transition to a new chapter and a new blog.
I know it's been a while since I've posted. It wasn't because nothing was happening. On the contrary, it was because so much was happening. There are so many things I could have shared...so many things I could have written...but the fact of the matter is, I have been (at least in part) holding back on the blog out of respect and privacy for the man who has (in a nutshell) lit up my life.
Much to my surprise, I found love again. I turned around and it was there. I didn't even know what was happening until it had already happened.
It felt like: Is this real? Is this right? But wait, is this real? Oh my God, it is.
I love the way he makes me feel. I feel like things are falling into place. When I look into his eyes, I see so many things...and all of them are amazing.
He is thoughtful, fun, nonjudgmental, smart, confident, and passionate about life. He makes me feel good. He is respectful of me and of my situation. I feel excited about life with him. He understands me, because our personalities have so many threads of the same fabric. He loves me for who I am. He's the kind of person you want to be around. He knows what he wants and he makes it happen. And he is unapologetic for who he is, a quality I realized is almost as important as confidence and zest for life.
I have been in love before...but I have never felt this way about anyone before. I don't want to lose it. It's too awesome.
I see so much happiness in my future as it evolves. I'm almost scared to write that down.
There are times it seems almost too good to be true that I could have so much fun with someone, but also be so comfortable too...that I could giggle easily and freely but also feel so understood...that I could continue to be surprised but also feel that I've known him much longer than I have.
When I look at him...whether he is making me dinner in the kitchen, talking to the football game on TV, laughing at something I've said, or kissing me good bye, I'm just so...happy. How can a person do that to another person?
I can't remember the last time I felt so...wonderful...in the presence of another person. Although it sounds downright cheesy to admit it, there have been nights I've fallen asleep saying to myself, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for this person being sent to my life."
There is risk in every endeavor in this life. We can't predict the outcomes. But for this - I'd risk it all. Every day I wake up happier than the day before, full of gratitude that I took a risk on love...because to not take a risk would be an insult to this astounding and amazing gift that's presented itself.
I sit here, one day after my 31st birthday...nearly one and a half years a widow...thinking: This is the kind of feeling I've been waiting for my entire life. 31 years may not be a long time, but I know that if I searched for 31 more years, I would never find such depth of feeling again with someone else. This gift of passionate yet fulfilling love and companionship was knocking me on the head, smacking me in the face, jumping up and down screaming THIS IS IT! DON'T MESS THIS UP! DON'T IGNORE THIS! THIS IS THE REAL THING!
He will make me better, I will make him better, and incidentally, life will be better for both of us.
He once asked me somewhat incredulously, "Don't you want anything?"
The truth is, I want happiness. I want to be allowed to be happy. And I want to share that happiness with the person who makes my whole being feel alive. I don't want material stuff. Or the best of everything. I don't want the things money can buy. I want time, memories, touch, fun, and emotion. I want to live. And I want love. Real love. And...holy shit...I've found it.
It's been over a month since I last blogged. I find that these days, the more I have to say, the less I write.
But I miss the blog, you miss the blog, we all miss the blog...and while my posts may be more sporadic, the blog is still here.
The new job is going well. I still find that I miss my old job, especially around 8:45 every morning when my internal clock tugs on my heart and tells me it's time for morning meeting and I'm not there around the table with my former co-workers. There is a part of me that feels as though I'm on vacation and will be returning at any moment. And yet...I'm working hard, so I don't feel as though I'm on any kind of "break." I am learning the new job more and more every day, solid with my social work skills and fine-tuning everything else that goes along with my new position. I feel good about where I am, but I'm still adjusting.
I do feel called to the work I am doing. I do feel privileged to work with people as they move through dying, death, and grief. The process is an honor.
As tumultuous as life can be, my inner happiness grows each day. And I can tell it is more and more visible to those around me. I do not have the perfect life...and a perfect life is not my goal. Instead, I hope to navigate through difficulties with grace, work through mistakes with humility, and remain ever grateful for the things and the people which have entered my life.
The light is definitely back in my eyes... I can't fake it, I can't shake it, and despite life's challenges and my own shortcomings, I am taking one day at a time with a smile. As my blog falls silent or only whispers a post from time to time, know that I am moving forward...know that I am happy.
My first week at the new job has come to a close. I feel good about my decision to leave my last place of employment, but I have to admit that I miss my old job terribly. I am struggling to get into a new groove, and while I know it will happen, it hasn't happened yet.
I have met a lot of great people at my new job...and the work itself is rewarding and just the right amount of challenging.
As is typical when meeting new people, I have been asked questions that require me, for some reason or another, to tell my story of widowhood.
"What brought you to hospice?"
"Why were you interested in working with families dealing with grief and loss?"
"Are you married? Do you have children?"
"Where do you live? Do you live alone?"
Sometimes my response is brief. Other times, there is more explanation. Often, my answers create more questions. It still amazes me how many questions people ask. The shock value is always there, even though I never intend it. People see a young woman in front of them, cheerful, positive, smiling brightly, eager to do a job, quick to make a joke, and even quicker to laugh. They see bouncing curls and pretty clothes. And then it all gets broken open for them when they discover I'm a widow, a survivor left behind in the wake of a tragic suicide, or someone who has dealt with unimaginable loss. I guess I just don't look like someone who has dealt with great loss.
I don't prance around, telling my tale for all to hear. I simply respond to the questions as they arise. It's normal for people to discuss their personal lives, so there's really no way around my story once the chit-chat begins and the usual questions come up.
That said, I don't feel like a widow too much these days. I have so much burning inside me - so much life and excitement and love. I read once that being vague while speaking or writing makes a person's words seem more powerful...but I don't believe that. I have never liked being vague. I think being direct and honest is far more powerful (and empowering). But bear with me...
I look forward to the day when I can tell a different tale to those who ask me questions. I look forward to the freedom of being direct at all times. I look forward to being able to share as many good things as I have shared bad. I look forward...
The week began with pouring rain which continued for a few days, but has ended with bright sun.
Tonight I did something I haven't done for a long time: I cooked a real recipe. Over a year ago, back when Rick was still alive, it was typical for me to cook several nights a week. I made meals that lasted for more than one night, but I cooked a lot. I had a whole binder of collected recipes and I flipped through it every weekend in order to make my shopping list so I could plan our week.
I considered myself a decent cook and a lover of food.
Once Rick died, I went through that initial period of wanting to do nothing "extra." People brought me food, they sent me food, they froze food for me, and some even did my grocery shopping. When that period ended, it still felt too taxing to cook. Any free time I had was devoted to taking care of business - the business of death. I had an endless to-do list full of more pressing matters than making meatloaves or casseroles.
Once the paperwork, phone calls, bill paying, and appointments finally tapered off, I found that making dinner for one was a) difficult and b) kind of annoying. It actually annoyed me to think about having to make meals for myself. So much prep and zest was my usual way in the kitchen, but with only me left to enjoy the fruits of my labor, everything was a letdown. Cooking was no longer enjoyable.
Over the past year, I made a meal a couple of times for my friend Jennifer and me when we watched the Gilmore Girls on a Wednesday night, but that was somewhat different - it felt more like cooking for a purpose (and a person other than myself) once again.
Once a wife who cooked, I resorted this past year to picking up salads on my way home, ordering a random pizza I'd proceed to eat for 3 days, or going out to dinner with friends. I even found that I began to tailor my eating habits to having my main meal for lunch where I could eat with my co-worker friends and then eating something smaller for dinner when I was alone. I can name several local places who know my face if not my name (Salad Works, WaWa, Primo Hoagies, Panera Bread), because they became the frequent provider of Widow Dinner as I made my way home from work.
About once a week, I ate at my parents' house. I also tried buying frozen bags of Italian food or frozen pizzas, but that annoyed me almost as much as considering cooking real food because it felt lesser, as if I was demoting myself from a woman who used to cook to someone who didn't know how. Bags of frozen food I bought months ago are still sitting in my freezer, unmade. Around once a week, I ate at my parents' house. On nights when I didn't grab something on the way home or call for some kind of delivery, I realized that I ate things like Parmesan goldfish crackers or cheese and pepperoni after a heavy lunch at work, which seemed pathetic and less than well-balanced.
Well, tonight I made Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup. It wasn't a very difficult recipe, but it was a real meal that I actually created from an actual recipe. I even chopped cloves of garlic for it. I'll eat it with a salad.
Tonight, I did something else I haven't done for a long time: I cried. And not for something I've shed tears for in the past. I cried tonight for a different kind of loss: the loss of my former job. I found myself with a horrible lump in my throat as the reality set in that I wouldn't be driving to my former place of employment tomorrow morning. And then I felt tears form in my eyes...and the thought that actually made me cry was my former co-workers/office neighbors listening to the radio trivia in the morning and how I wouldn't be there to help them guess the answer. I pictured my office-that's-not-my-office-anymore and the fact that tomorrow is the Lessons in Loss support group I used to lead with Pastor Ginny and I won't get to hear what the residents talk about. And Ashlee's probably going to ask what's for lunch, but she won't be asking me...
It's a bit tangled in my heart... because I really want to be there...but I also don't want to be there. I know I did the right thing by moving onward...and I know I don't have to say goodbye to the people I met at my old job...and I'm not sorry I'm heading to a new, exciting, good job in the morning...but it feels really WEIRD.
Weird isn't bad. For now, it's just weird. And I have to remind myself that no amount of tears changes the fact that I took control of my life to do this. I chose to leave. And I'm happy about it. It sets the stage for the rest of my life in a bunch of awesome ways, and I go to sleep knowing that. So in true Cat Widow fashion, I'm going to taste my comforting soup, wipe my eyes, and toast to new beginnings.
There are people we meet who ignite a spark within us, people who pop into our lives and suddenly it's like they have always belonged there. The unexpected, when it's terrible and painful, is brutal - a reality check and a loss of ground. The unexpected, when it's beautiful and awesome, is exhilarating - a dream come true and a lesson in inner happiness.
It's exciting when you find parts of yourself in someone else. It's meaningful when the presence of another person makes you look forward to tomorrow.
Some things are better left unsaid, tucked away into a quiet place in the heart. There is plenty of time for stories, explanations, and thoughts. Right now, it's good to just feel good.
Today was my last day at my job before I embark on a new professional journey - nervous, eager, and full of anticipation for all the good that is yet to come...