Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good Bye, 2014

2014 is ending tonight. 2015 is about to begin. I could talk about all the things that happened this year - so many of them bad...and so many of them good. But I don't need to. Because the important thing is that I'm here. I'm still here. And another brand new year is about to offer possibilities, lessons, opportunities, promises, and chances.



I'm sure there are some who would say that 2014 was the worst year of my life. But maybe...just maybe...it isn't. I choose to believe that 2014 provided me with many lessons...and even gave me many gifts.

The woman I was at the start of 2014 is not the same woman who closes out the year tonight...but maybe, in spite of all the horror, sadness, and pain that has come my way, that's for the best.

I hope, in years to come, that I am never the same woman by the end of the year that I was at the start of it. I am here to grow, I am here to learn, I am here to feel, I am here to show, I am here to change, I am here to love, I am here to do, I am here to live.

Good bye, 2104. Hello, 2015. I have big plans for you.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Good Bye, Fairway

Tonight, I deleted the golf that has been resting in my DVR. The date on the PGA golf tour: May 18th. The day Rick killed himself. He recorded golf the night before. With the intent to watch it. And yet, he recorded golf to watch.

It's been resting in my DVR as though asleep for 7 months. I watched it through as I blogged during that first horrible month after his death.

7 months ago today I resolved to watch it and then delete it. I did watch it. But then I kept it. Deleting it felt sad and permanent and weird. But now, it feels like a long time ago that I watched it...and was afraid to delete it.

It's been resting there. At the bottom of the long list of TV shows I watch. I saw it from time to time resting there. "Oh, that's Rick's golf," I'd think to myself. It was sad initially. And then it became nothing. A fixture on my TV. Part of the background. I was no longer fazed. I saw it tonight in the line-up...all the way at the bottom. MAY 18th. MAY 18th. Recorded on May 18th. The day Rick died. The last thing he wanted to watch. The last thing he never saw.


I care... but I don't care.

I don't need the golf there in my DVR.

I don't need the 2014 PGA Golf Tour.

I don't need a TV show for my husband who is no longer my husband.

And so, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You... I deleted it.

And I'm okay. Totally 100% okay.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Time

The days pass by like migrating birds...
Quick and in clusters they're gone.
As poignant as a thousand words...
And life, as always, goes on.


wrote that little poem back in 2008. I've been thinking about how true it is. Been marveling at the concept of time. So much can happen in such a short time. So little can happen in such a long time. Sometimes time is fleeting and we're left with wanting more. Sometimes it drags on and we grow impatient. 

Looking back over time amazes me. One day, today will be just a memory, a day on a calendar in the last month of 2014. I think about the year "2015" and I am stunned. How is it here? How can it be? Fifteen years since 2000 hit... I imagine a million calendar pages fluttering to the floor like confetti - time moving so rapidly that we blink and suddenly we are looking back... 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Universe at Work

Today, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I signed up for a conversational Spanish class. It's just 6 weeks long and when it's over, I'm going to do a second 6 week course tailored to professionals in a health care setting. I took Spanish for years in middle and high school, but as the saying goes, "if you don't use it, you lose it," and I didn't use it, so I lost it. I'm less interested in the grammatical, written use of the language at this point and more interested in how it can help me communicate at my job and in other random aspects of life. It's something I've considered doing, but never pushed myself to take the step.

Seemed fitting today's fear was education based too, because tonight I met my old MSW crew for dinner. We try to get together every few months since graduating from grad school over a year and a half ago (hard to believe!) and it's always nice to see them.


While I was there at the restaurant (over 30 minutes from my neck of the woods, mind you), I completely randomly ran into a friend I've been thinking about - proof that the universe puts people in the exact same place at the exact same time just for the purpose of a needed hug and an in-person "Happy New Year."

Buenas noches!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wow

Tonight I'm thinking about how much has changed over time. How far a person can go. How far a person can come. How much a person can endure. How much a person can grow. How changed a person can become. How improved a person can become. How much happier a person can become.

Life holds so many surprises.


7 months ago today was my first day back to work after Rick had died 9 days earlier.

6 months ago today I was so concerned about my cats and received such great news about my sick kitty.

5 months ago today I began to rearrange my house.

4 months ago today I contemplated the stations of life I reached on my journey of grief.

3 months ago today I talked about my needs and how they were met.

2 months ago today I marveled at my journey...and still searched for that new "normal" to really stick...

1 month ago today I did not blog...because I was on an adventure...on a "break"...out of the state...and it was Thanksgiving Day. And I was spending a non-traditional Thanksgiving feeling like a real person again.

And now, yet another month has passed... I'm unafraid (more unafraid even than when Rick was still alive)... my momentum has created a groove... I'm ready for new things and whatever life has to offer... and I'm 100% ready for 2015.

Wow.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Envisioning

I don't make New Year's resolutions. Instead, I envision my new year. I envision everything I want for myself. Everything I see for myself. And then I focus on it and am grateful for it in advance.

Tonight I am envisioning. And this is what I envision for 2015.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

We'll See

This is the first day in 7 months of blogging daily that I've been sitting here staring at the blank screen for over an hour. What should I write? What can I say?

Tonight the words just aren't coming.

That's not to say that my mind is blank. In fact, my heart is very full. I could probably write for hours and pages. But I'm not sure it would make sense to anyone but me.

I've spent 30 Christmases here on earth, practicing the same family traditions, adapting some of them as I aged, and eliminating some completely. This Christmas was decidedly different from last Christmas. And where will I be next Christmas?


Last Christmas was my last Christmas with Rick, but I didn't know it then.

This Christmas will likely be my last Christmas in this house.

There's something bigger at work here. I'll just let go. Life will flow. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

So, most years I write a Christmas poem fashioned after the most famous Christmas poem of all time. Usually, it encompasses the lessons or sentiments of my year while hanging on to the playful magic of Christmas. This is what I came up with this year.



‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
I sat in my living room, missing my spouse.
No stockings were hung, no Christmas tree lit,
Christmas spirit was there, but only a bit.

The year had been hard from May to December, 
Is it best to forget or best to remember?
The cats in my lap as a constant remained.
And for all I have lost, there is so much I’ve gained.

Then outside the house, there arose such a clatter.
Tumbler and Juice wondered what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Turning my head to the sound of the crash.

After this year, I was ready to see
Whatever it was that was waiting for me –
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

He attempted to hide, but I was too quick,
And I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
Just what was happening wasn’t too clear,
But I learned to expect the unexpected this year.

“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the roof!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

I considered the oddness of what had occurred,
But by now I had learned to embrace the absurd.
As I stood somewhat stunned and completely agog,
I thought what a great story it would make for the blog.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As the cats ran away and I turned right around,
In through the front door Santa came with a bound.

He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
His bundle of toys he had left in his sleigh
And instead held a package he offered my way.

His eyes – how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
He looked full of joy and not a bit scary.
His beard and his hair were as white as the snow,
Like many a sweet older gentleman I know –
For I realized quite soon with a laugh and a smirk
He reminded me of folks at the nursing home where I work.
He gave me a nod and winked like he knew,
Or as though he approved of the work that I do. 

So without hesitation, I took what he gave
And saw that the box displayed the word BRAVE.
I opened it up and found it was bare –
I looked at him puzzled, with a questioning stare.

He spoke not a word, but pulled out a list
So long it cascaded to the floor from his fist. 
He beckoned me closer so that I could see
The list was all names that meant something to me.

It wasn’t a list of who’s naughty or nice.
It wasn’t for shopping or to be checked twice.
As I read off the names, I knew it to be
The list of the people who have been there for me.

My parents were there at the top of the list,
Their names both in bold so they could not be missed.
And then one by one, the names of the rest –
Dozens and dozens, and I truly felt blessed.

Both near and far, they’ve been cheering me on
In all of the days since Rick has been gone.
Whether shoulders to cry on, or weekly distractions,
Whether expert advice or kind interactions,
They’ve given themselves and helped me be brave.
And I knew what to do with the box Santa gave.

Both near and far, they’ve been cheering me on
In all of the days since Rick has been gone.
Whether traveling to me or inviting me in,
Whether making me laugh or remembering what’s been,
Whether sending me messages online or by phone,
They’ve succeeded in making me feel less alone.
They’ve given themselves and helped me be brave.
And I knew what to do with the box Santa gave.

Santa gave me the scissors and I cut up the list
So the names were preserved in dozens of strips.
Then as I said, “thank you,” to every last one,
I tucked them inside of the box and was done.

No longer empty, the box Santa gave
Now held all the things that made me so brave.
And I knew that in moments of pain or despair
I could open it up and see what was there.

With a wink and a nod, Santa waved a good bye,
Then hopped in his sleigh and flew into the sky.
But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

(c) Arielle Lee Bair, December 2014


Thank you to everyone on my list. I am so grateful for every last one of you for what you have given me this year. With love, Arielle

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chances

I've been pondering this quote:

"One cannot refuse to eat just because there is a chance of choking."

I find myself substituting words.

One cannot refuse to move forward just because there is a chance of falling.

One cannot refuse to try just because there is a chance of failing.

One cannot refuse to speak just because there is a chance of being misunderstood.

One cannot refuse to love just because there is a chance of losing.


I could go on. 

Let's live.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Green Light from the Angels

Today, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You, I went to see a psychic. It wasn't just a "tell me my future" psychic. It was someone who offers spiritual guidance from my Angels and helps me clarify what I need. It was meant to just be an experience. I had no expectations.

There were many things I learned this evening, most of which I won't share here. But I did learn that Rick is "impressed" with me. Not proud, but impressed. And he approves of all the things I am doing.

I also learned that I have 3 Angels with me, which is apparently a big deal.


I did receive some insight and guidance on how to proceed with some things in my life. Baby steps. The moral of the story is that I have the green light. My Angels are completely on board with my decisions and feelings and where my life is going. I am supposed to trust my gut. I just need to take baby steps. And have patience.

"Take action" and "It's up to you" were big themes.

And she told me that this time next year, I'll have both my cats with me. :-) Which speaks volumes about Tumbler's health.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Led by Fear

Tonight I had a very therapeutic and unexpected experience. In the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I went to church. By myself. For the first time in about 7 years.

I have a very strong connection with God and the Universe and I feel that I am a very spiritual person, but I am not a churchgoer. My friend and co-worker Pastor Ginny leads a Blue Christmas service. It's meant to be a service of understanding that there are people who are not always dealing with joy and happiness during Christmas time. It's meant to have a quiet, somber feel and focus on those who have been grieving and seeking comfort. For some people, the approaching Christmas holiday does not bring with it joy and happiness. As soon as I heard about this kind of service, it resonated with me. Pastor Ginny's church is not near my home, but she told me about her friend Rev. Heather who was also leading a Blue Christmas service tonight.

I was surprised to find that Rev. Heather's church was a mere 2 minute drive from my front door. I parked, I went inside, met Rev. Heather, and as I sat in a pew in the quiet church, I could already feel the tears behind my eyes.

At the front of the church, the Reverend set out candles of all shapes and sizes. Her intern began to play his guitar.

It had been a long time since I sat in a church pew, giving in to emotion and silent reflection. It felt good. And what happened next was, as Rev. Heather later said, "probably meant to be."

What happened next was that no one else came.

I was the only one at the service.

It was initially extremely uncomfortable. Awkward even. I moved to the front of the church, laughing nervously and apologizing. But the Reverend assured me it was perfectly okay. I told her honestly that I felt as though I was wasting her time since I was the only one there. But she told me I was there because I needed it and that wasn't a waste of her time at all. Instead, she welcomed me to the altar and I sat in a circle of sorts with her and her intern. I told her I was afraid I would become emotional and feel even more vulnerable because I was all alone. Her reply was that it was okay and that she and her intern would be emotional with me. She followed the program as though I was not the only one there, but she talked to me too.

She invited me to light candles in turn for those we have lost, to redeem the pain of loss, to remember ourselves, and for our loved ones, friends, and the world. Then she asked me what my husband's name had been and I told her. "I am going to light a candle for Rick," she said. She lit a large one. I lit one too.


She also gave me a heart to represent healing and God's presence.

One of the last parts of the blessing as the service was ending was, "It will get smoother. It will get easier. It will get better."

I truly believe it, because I've witnessed it happen over this tumultuous year. I was emotional and I did cry. In fact, while the Reverend invited me to talk to her as we still sat there at the altar, I found myself saying, "I don't know what to say." And I cried. And so did she.

In fact, she went to get me a box of tissues.

I answered some questions she asked me and I told her some things about this year. "I'm a positive person," I said.

"I can tell," she told me.

Her intern continued to play softly while we talked. And when the Reverend said, "I think it was probably meant to be just you tonight," I knew it was true. She hugged me and told me I could return to talk with her.

I thanked her several times and as she walked me out, she printed her upcoming sermon for me because she said something told her it was what she should do. I hugged her again when I left and I did not feel awkward at all that I was the only one to show up tonight.

I was led.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Perhaps It's Time to Go

I've been toying with the idea for a few weeks now, and I've mentioned it to a few people in my life, but I think it's time to put it in words on the blog:

I think I'm going to put my house on the market after the holidays.

Maybe February-ish.

I'm comfortable here. I like it here. But I also don't think I belong here anymore. And I don't want to worry about shoveling snow and mowing grass and dealing with a basement where Rick died.


I love my neighborhood. I love my house. But I've come to the conclusion that I don't love it enough to stay.

I have absolutely no idea what the plan will be for the cats and me, and it may take a while for things to get moving with this process. There is no concrete strategy at this point, just a decision to go.

It's weird to think about not living here. I've been here for 7.5 years. But this was a chapter in my story. And I'm almost ready to turn the page.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What's Inside...Third Time Around

On September 20th, I made a Feelings Heart colored with what was inside me. Then, on October 21st, I made a new one. All the same feelings were represented, but in different quantities and with a different layout. (The links are to the old Feelings Hearts.)

Today, I made a new Feelings Heart. Amazing how things change. This is what's inside me now.

The most notable difference is that in October, fear took up almost a third of my heart. Today, it's just the bottom tip and nothing more.

This is what my heart looks like. This is what's inside me.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dates

It's weird how dates hold meaning. How we re-live things, or attach memories, or associate. It's interesting how a date can set the tone for a whole day. How our minds take us back. 

7 months ago today, Rick died. The 18th of each month continues to be a reminder - a milestone - until I hit the year mark. 3 years ago today, my best friend's dad died. It is still stunning to realize that such a great man has been gone from this earth for 3 years already. Time passes without our consent. We count the days and then the months and soon, the years. It seems impossible that years can pass so painfully slowly...and yet suddenly and all at once, BOOM. We're looking back. They've passed. Time has elapsed. We are here, others are not. Life went on. And we are left with dates.

My first association with this date, however, was a good one. Before the 18th of each month became a heavy countdown and a reminder of suicide, before December 18th marked the death of someone I loved and admired, it was something else. On December 18th, 2010, I adopted my cats. 

Cats aren't a big deal to some people. Some people like them and some people don't. Pets. Animals. Maybe members of the family... but I'm sure there are a lot of people who wouldn't remember the date they adopted their cats. For me, though, my cats were a true gift. On December 18th, four years ago, I found my Christmas kittens. 

Imagine a 26 year old woman, still processing the unfortunate news that she cannot have a baby with her husband. Imagine her sadness after a long time of trying only to receive such news. Imagine her childhood without any pets. Imagine her desire to love and care for others. Imagine her motherly instincts with no outlet. And then imagine Rick taking her to a shelter to find a kitty... and coming home with two.


My cats gave me immense happiness immediately. Never a cat person, I became enamored with Juice and Tumbler. I realized a level of gratitude for two cats I never would have thought possible. They saved me in a time of need. And this year, they saved me again. When I come home, they come to me. When I am sad, they snuggle me. When I sleep at night, they're next to me. 

So, for all the dates that represent hard times and sad memories, I'm glad I have my cats with me.

The Cat Widow, signing off. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Intuition

This is my 199th post. That's a lot of writing. 

I've poured my heart out here from the beginning, taking any willing participant on the journey with me. Lately in my day to day life, I've found myself pushing the envelope or coming to realizations...and I share those things here. But my heart is somewhat quieter these days. What goes on there seems to stay there. 

Some of it bleeds its way onto this blog and some of it stays tucked inside me. My thoughts and ideas and emotions are like a pile of rocks, tumbling around inside of me, growing smoother and smoother as they tumble. I'm hoping in time they'll be polished gems. 

I try to treat my rocks like gems from the beginning, because I know they have that potential. 

Last night, I laid in my bed and I talked and talked. Out loud. I have so much to say, even when it's only God and me listening. I wonder about a lot of things. I ask a lot of questions. I wish for a lot of things. I say thank you a lot. I say things out loud that I never dared say before. And every time I do, it's like a relief. Finally. And sometimes when I say them, I actually get choked up...or gasp...because even I did not realize just how powerfully I felt about something. 


But the strangest thing is that I'm listening. I'm the one talking, but I'm the one listening. You would think that after 30 years in this body, with this heart and soul and mind, I would have listened to myself quite a bit. And in some ways, I guess I have. But when I go to sleep at night and lie there in the dark and talk out loud, I figure out things I didn't know before. I make decisions. I have revelations. I listen. I really listen. 

I picture my intuition as a candle. It's been lit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Thrill

Today, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I submitted a poem to a writing contest. It's not a huge deal, but it was something I wanted to do. Sometimes fear presents itself in the form of procrastination or a random "No," to the self. But there's no reason to say "no" to myself with this. No reason for me NOT to submit my work... except fear.

It's a different kind of fear than watching a horror movie or going up in a hot air balloon... even a different kind of fear from going to work without any makeup. But if I examine it, it's still a fear.


So I sat at my computer and I submitted a poem.

And as usual when it comes to me and writing, I got a little thrill when I did it.

Recipe for a thrill:

1 part excitement
1 part pride
2 parts passion
1 part laughing in Fear's face

Monday, December 15, 2014

Learning

In my whole life, I have never learned more than I've learned these last 7 months. Through childhood, school, college, graduate school, relationships, marriage, hardship, celebration, and goal-setting, nothing has ever taught me more than these last 7 months. 

I have had experiences that have shaped me in ways I could never begin to explain. I have had conversations that have comforted me, propelled me, and made me think. I have faced fears. I have relied on my resilience. I have examined my soul. 

I feel brand new and ancient at the same time. So very young but so very old. I have felt a whole gamut of emotions from curiosity to fear to anger to sorrow to confusion to joy to pride to excitement to relief... Every emotion teaches me something...because I am listening.

There are times when I wake up in the morning when my whole body listens intently to what I'm feeling inside. The stir of the soul has a distinct sound. There are times in my car when I'm driving and listening with all my might to all the things my soul is saying. I feel the emotions shoot from my fingertips and I've been known to belt out a profound lyric or two alone in my car as the wave of my soul crashes into the shore of my understanding. There are times when I lie awake late at night, just listening. Listening to me. To what I am saying. Doing. Feeling. Wanting. Needing. Being. 

Sometimes I think I'm really onto something. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Every Risk

Today I made a promise to myself. I will not stop taking risks. I will not stop facing fears. I am on a journey to live the most authentic life I can lead, whatever that may mean on any given day, in any given week, month, or year.

That old saying, "There is nothing to fear but fear itself," is so true. I imagine how freeing it would be to eliminate most fear from my life... to live, not dangerously, but without holding back in anyway.

I have come to the conclusion that fear is not an emotion - it is what keeps us from feeling other emotions to their fullest. I have always been an emotional being...and I'm not ashamed of it. I don't want to feel only part of love, sorrow, joy, excitement, curiosity, etc. I want to feel all of it. Fear is like a curtain that keeps me from the back room where all of the best or deepest parts of those emotions are kept. I want access to it all. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. The light and the heavy.

Here I go...

Friday, December 12, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I always loved this song primarily because of the film for which it was written - Meet Me In St. Louis with Judy Garland. This year, the song feels a little sadder for me, but I also love the song because it's basically saying "don't worry, hang in there, things will get better." And who doesn't need to hear that when they're a bit down?



Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on,
our troubles will be out of sight 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on,
our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

(c) Hugh Martin & Ralph Blane "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" 1944

It's so easy to imagine all the ways in which you can be disappointed in life. Instead, I choose to imagine - no, envision - all the ways in which I know things will work out and be great. Sometimes I have a feeling about things that seeps into every part of my body and just stays with me. And I have a feeling that 2015 will be a good year.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Basement

Today, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I...went down in the basement alone. And spent some time down there.

It was rough at first, but I powered through.

I began to go through boxes. Some things I went through were mine from years ago when we first moved in. Other things were newer.

The cement floor felt cold and unfeeling. But I powered through.

I spent almost an hour down there. Alone. Finally.


Christmas music trickled down to my ears from the living room. I let the trauma reverberate and vibrate through me. I looked in disbelief at my basement, a cleaned up crime scene. I sifted through memories and found gems beneath boxes and papers. I found pieces of myself down there, nothing to do with Rick. It was meant to happen. I faced the fear. I felt the fear. And I let the fear leave me.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Exposed

Today, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, I chose to go to work without any makeup. For some women this is nothing. For others, it's a very big deal. I fall in the latter category. I don't necessarily wear a lot of makeup, but I almost always leave the house wearing some, even if that "some" is just (at least!) mascara.

And I have never gone to work without makeup. Part of it has to do with vanity/self-consciousness and part of it has to do with wanting to be taken seriously since everyone thinks I'm younger than my 30 years. 

But today, I felt the fear and did it anyway. I went to work - on a day full of care conferences - without a bit makeup.

I felt awful as I left the house, exposed as I entered my workplace, and self-conscious as talked with people. But as the day wore on, I a) began to forget I wasn't wearing any makeup, b) felt pretty much the same as when I do wear makeup, and c) really didn't even care! 


Feeling vulnerable and exposed isn't a bad thing. It pushes us and teaches us. And it doesn't have to be a big thing. We can start small and work our way up to bigger things. Every challenge in fear I face won't be put on this blog. Some are internal and others are external. Some are private and others are public. Some are small and others are big. But the ones that are worth sharing will be shared. And these mini-adventures have nothing to do with life after death... just LIFE.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Say What You Need to Say

15 days until Christmas... and it barely feels like Christmas at all. I have been listening to Christmas music since last Friday... I went Christmas shopping... but it feels a bit like a phantom holiday since I skipped Thanksgiving all together. (Glad I did.)

I decided not to put up a tree this year. Not because I'm boycotting Christmas. I love Christmas. Just because I didn't feel like going through my bins of ornaments in the basement and sorting through the Star Trek ones I bought for Rick every year and the couples ones too. Truth is, I know I'm not going to keep ornaments that celebrated our marriage. I won't put them up from here on out and I don't need them stored in a bin somewhere. But it feels a little sacrilegious to toss them right now at Christmas time.

I feel as if they don't belong to me anymore... and I'm okay with that.


I have a new lease on life and I'm going to follow my heart at all costs. I'm not afraid. Life is too short to be afraid. Little steps, big steps... whatever they are, they are just part of a ladder to higher things.

Nothing like Christmas time and the approaching new year to make a person think and reflect.

There may be a lot of things I haven't done in my 30 years on this earth, but I'm not quite as reserved as people might think. I have a bold streak and I'm going to show it. For me, it usually starts with words rather than actions. I tend to say the things other people shy away from saying. Not in an outspoken kind of way... more in an open kind of way. I'm not afraid. Life is too short to be afraid.

Sometimes, there are a lot of things I want to say. And I don't want to go to sleep at night until I've said them. Sometimes it means writing here on the blog. Sometimes it means a text message to a friend. Other times it means an email or a journal entry or a prayer to God. But whatever I want to say, I'm saying it. Every day. I'm not afraid. Life is too short to be afraid. Watch out.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back for a Yes

On Saturday, Jennifer and I walked into a store and saw a bunch of flashy, sexy clothes displayed for New Year's Eve and other festivities. I liked a mini skirt, but told both Jennifer and myself that it was too short for me. Too "young" for me. I picked it up and put it back twice. Eventually, I actually tried it on with a black suede top, talking about how it wasn't right for me the entire time.

[the mini skirt]

[the top]


When I came out of the dressing room, Jennifer said it was the most fun thing she ever saw me wear. "It's too tight and too short," I mused. "I don't wear things like this." "I'm 30 now." "But where would I wear it?" The reasons not to buy it - or WEAR it- tumbled out easily.

I thought it looked good, but it was too sexy. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't have good fashion sense... but I don't typically wear "sexy" clothes.

I put the clothes back. We left the store and enjoyed the rest of our day. Truth be told, I thought about the outfit at least a few times later that day and the next day too.

So tonight, in the interest of Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, while out Christmas shopping with my mom, I went back into the store and I bought the outfit. 

In fact, my mom talked me into buying this dress as well. "Too tight," I said. "Too short," I said. "Too revealing," I said (and to be fair, my boobs showed a hell of a lot more in the dress than the model's.)

"You never wear anything short," my mom said. "You're young," she said. The sales rep saw me telling my mom the reasons why I should not get it. "I think it looks great," she said. I wasn't sure I agreed, but I bought it anyway.


Today I took the advice of the book and said "Yes!" to something. Now I just need something to do for New Year's Eve.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Now

Nearly 7 months later, it's done. As the page in my new Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You book says, today was the day. 


Today I went through all of Rick's clothes, shoes, belts, ties... Today my mom and I packed it all up for donation. It's done. 

It was much better than I expected. 

With the exception of a bag I filled for my brother and a few things I kept, everything fit in 8 large bags. 


One of Rick's favorite sayings was "Do it now." It was always kind of like - when in doubt, do it now.  Almost 7 months and 8 bags later, it's done. And it actually feels great.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Fearlessness

Today I went shopping with Jennifer and she picked out a book for me. It's called Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You.

It's a journal of sorts that really pushes you to consistently do things that scare you. Or me, rather. Because I bought it.


It looks really, really awesome. And it is in fact a little scary in itself. With pages inside that say things such as: "The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision" and "Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness," I can tell this book is going to make me think. 


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage," professes my new book. I hope to be as fearless as possible in the year to come. 2015 is my oyster and I'm cracking it open.

Friday, December 5, 2014

New

I feel more and more like my old self. But I feel different too. Newer.

Don't ask me how death and grief can make a person feel newer, but that's how I feel. It's something about the transition... something about the promise of better days ahead... something about knowing 100% that I can do whatever I want.


new (adjective):

- not existing before; made, introduced, or discovered recently or now for the first time.
- already existing but seen, experienced, or acquired recently or now for the first time.

Yes, that's exactly how I feel.

This life is new to me. And I accept the challenge.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Only Way to Live

Somewhere off in the distance, there is a life I'm supposed to be living. I kind of fantasize about a million different things, wondering what's right and what will be, but the truth is, I'm just so worried nothing will turn out okay anymore.

I check myself pretty quickly though and pull that positive attitude back in. I make lists of stuff I'd like to do. I imagine what might happen if money was no object or if I had all the free time in the world. I guess it's really all up to me regardless.

God, I wish I knew how things would turn out. I wish I had the peace of mind. It's hard to live a life doing all the things you felt you should be doing only to have it turned upside down. 

It's difficult to take deep breaths and just expect that things will work out okay now. It feels kind of at odds with the track record. It feels like I'm jinxing myself.

But I don't believe in that. I only believe in the good of the world and the fact that the universe has my back. 

I really do. 


Sometimes I'm still scared. But I really do believe that I'm going to be protected and okay.

It's really the only way to live.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Strength

I may not know what I'm doing, but every day I become a little stronger. The coolest part is that every day, I'm the strongest I've ever been.

Every day that passes, I can keeping saying that day that I'm the strongest I've ever been.

It's a pretty empowering concept actually.


strength (noun):

-the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult.
-the degree of intensity of a feeling or belief.

Strength may just be a word, but I'd like to keep it at work in my life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

All In

I decided something.

I'm not just a widow anymore. I'm a woman.


I used to be a woman. Then I was Rick's wife. Then I was a widow. Now I am a woman again.

If you think about it, in some ways I'll technically always be Rick's wife and I'll technically always be a widow. But when it comes right down to it, along with both of those titles or without any of those titles, I'll always be a woman.

I took off my remaining wedding ring while I was away. Maybe I'm a widow, but I'm not married anymore. And I'm definitely a woman.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Returned

A week of no blogging has elapsed. I've returned home, ready to revisit the usual nightly ritual. It may be the first time in the history of this blog that I hold back, though I suppose there's a depth of honesty just in admitting that.

In the simplest terms, I went away and now I'm back. In more complicated terms, I'm not sure I have the words to explain further. What I can say is that on the flight out, I could feel the tension in my neck and back as I sat in my seat on the airplane. I was very aware of my physical discomfort during the hours on the plane. But today, on my flight home, the tension was gone. And the absence of it was almost as prominent as the previous discomfort from a week ago had been.

It was an adventure in many ways. Some of those ways were emotional, maybe even spiritual. Some of those ways were face value tasks. For example, I traveled by myself for the first time by plane. I went somewhere far from home alone. To some, that is not a big deal. To me, it was an adventure.

I'm not really as sheltered as I might seem at first glance - I've just been used to a way of life that held very little adventure. That is changing. After all, what is life if not an adventure?

As for this particular past week's adventure, the tangle of stuff I feel doesn't completely make sense in my own mind, so I'll leave it off the blog for now. I had a great time away. There was laughter. There were tears. There were words. There were questions. I'm happier now than I was when I left.

And I will certainly never forget it.


Truth be told, I struggled with holding back tears as it came time for me to catch my flight home. And as I raced through the airport to my gate, I couldn't help feeling that my physical motion didn't match what I was feeling inside, and I couldn't help thinking:

"What am I running back to?"

As I sat in my seat on the plane waiting for takeoff, I had a lump in my throat. As the plane took off, I cried silently for a minute as the rush of sound and pressure hit, unable to shake the feeling that I was being forcefully pushed back into my old life in Pennsylvania. Like, "Here we go - back to reality."

So the takeoff pushed out my tears and then I swallowed. And as the plane plateaued smoothly in the sky, I thought to myself:

"So this is what not being afraid feels like."

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Break

I am going on an adventure.

Tomorrow, I am leaving Pennsylvania on a plane. I won't be back for a week. I am going to have a non-traditional Thanksgiving. I won't be celebrating at home or with family. I won't be in a rut or a routine. I won't be here.

I finally took time off from work. I finally decided to just GO. I finally leapt out of my comfort zone.


I am going on an adventure.

The cat widow will be leaving her cats in the care of her mother. The cat widow without her cats is just a widow. The widow without her Pennsylvania life is just a woman.

While I am away, I will not be blogging. When I return, I will continue where I left off.

I am grateful in so many ways. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Change in the Air

Today was much, much better than yesterday. Support continued to flow in for me, in the form of text messages, cookies, hugs, and coffee. I am a very lucky woman in a lot of ways.

My mom was waiting for me at my house when I got home from work, petting the cats. The anxiety slowly fell away.

And it hit me:

I prevailed.


Even the most positive attitude can't change how a body reacts to trauma. I cannot always be in control of how I feel. That said, I can surround myself with all the good there is. With it, I create a shield. I create a warm blanket. I create a safe zone.

One foot in front of the other, I am walking...I am running. I am gaining ground. I am moving.

I feel a change in the air.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Survived

Let me start by saying that today was a terrible day. Let me finish by saying that tomorrow will be better.

Today was a terrible day. It was actually worse than I anticipated it would be. Some things happened that kind of made me wonder how this could possibly be my life. I can't elaborate here, because it relates to work. But suffice it to say that there was a point in my day when I thought I was going to both throw up and pass out. And I didn't get home to Jennifer until hours after I should have.


The day started off okay enough. I pretended it was a normal work day like any other as I got ready to leave the house. I began receiving loving text messages from friends. Cheyenne offered to bring me lunch at work. Libes, Daniele, Stacy, Jennifer, Haley, Nancy, Alicia, and Brie told me they were thinking about me. Jolyn came to find me to give me a warm hug. Laura sneakily left a much needed coffee and some delicious donut munchkins on my desk.

I was busy, I was capable... and then things kind of fell apart. I let Jennifer know that I would not be arriving home at the time we planned. But when I was able to go home, she met me at my house. On my way home, I talked to my mom, Laura, and Daniele, because they had heard about the events of my day. I was not alone. I was upset, but I was not alone.

Jennifer bestowed upon me cards and gifts. I don't know how I deserve such a kind friend. The cats snuggled me, especially Tumbler. Jennifer and I had dinner and watched Gilmore Girls to take the edge off. There were some tears tonight, but the day ended on a good note.

I'll be happy once tomorrow is over. I'll be happy once this weekend as Manager on Duty is filed away and I've survived.

The good news, the positive, the silver lining...whatever you want to call it...is that tomorrow will definitely have to be better.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Forced to Re-Live It

6 months ago, on Saturday May 17th and Sunday May 18th, I was Manager on Duty at my job for the weekend. It was my first and only time being Manager on Duty. I woke up that Saturday and went to work. It was weird being there on a weekend without most of my co-workers. Rick asked me to pick up gyros on my way home. I did. We saved them and had them for dinner that night. Take-out gyros were my husband's last meal. The next morning - Sunday morning - I went to work as Manager on Duty again, not knowing that as soon as I left, Rick shot himself in the head.

I kissed him good bye and we said our last words, though at the time I did not know they would be our last to each other. 

As Manager on Duty, I busied myself at work that Sunday, not knowing that my husband was dead in my home the entire time. That haunts me. I came home to a suicide note.

Every time I think about being Manager on Duty, I picture myself that day, blissfully and horrifically unaware that Rick was already dead at home. Manager on Duty is forever associated with the day my husband died, because it is what I was doing when he wrote me a note, when he took his last breath, when he died. 


Perhaps if I had worked for my company longer...perhaps if I had been Manager on Duty several times already before Rick's death, the association would not be so strong. But as it happened, my first and only time being MOD was the day Rick died. Was the worst day of my life. So if I think about being MOD, the only other thing that correlates for me is Rick killing himself. 

Shortly after Rick's death, it was time for all of the managers at my job - including myself - to sign up for MOD weekends again. I stared at my computer and couldn't even fathom having to do such a triggering and terrible thing so soon. I sent out an email to my fellow managers explaining my concern about being MOD again so soon after such a traumatic event. They picked up the slack and all the weekends got covered without me having to choose one during the next quarter. I was so grateful. 

But now the time has come. I am MOD this weekend. All I can think about is that the last time I was MOD, Rick committed suicide. I am terribly anxious and definitely feeling PTSD-esque symptoms and worries. I know that I do not have to relive that day. I know that it will be okay. But it still feels awful right now. Tomorrow when I leave for work, I think it will be okay. I expect a looming sense of dread, but I am hopeful I can manage to get in my car and go. Tomorrow when I'm there, I think it will be okay. I expect to be busy and focused on other things. But tomorrow when I leave my MOD duties to come home, all my mind envisions is the suicide note that was on the table... the body in the basement... the frantic, horrible 911 call I made... the collapse outside my house... the hours I spent in the ambulance getting oxygen and crying hysterically... the neighbors watching everything like it was a news program... 

I know that this weekend doesn't have to be scary. I know that it will not all happen again. But the association is so strong and my heart feels very heavy tonight. 

I do have a plan. My friend Jennifer will be waiting for me at my house when I get home from being Manager on Duty tomorrow. And my mom will be waiting for me at my house when I get home from being Manager on Duty on Sunday. I won't have to walk into my house alone. And if I have flashbacks or remember awful things, someone will be with me.

I think right now it's unreasonable for me to hope I won't cry tomorrow. I cried just telling my mom how nervous I was tonight. I woke up with a throbbing headache today from grinding my teeth all night and clenching my jaw in my sleep. 

I'll end on a positive note. I am choosing to be thankful in advance that this weekend will be okay. As my blog tagline has said in the righthand corner from the very beginning:

"Tomorrow may bring pain, but it cannot steal my joy."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lagging Behind

You know what's rough?

When I'm watching TV and something reminds me of a memory or an inside joke and I turn to do that knowing smile, like to see if Rick noticed it too. And no one is here.

It takes so long for our bodies to recognize that something is gone. My head still turns to smile at him or share a laugh when I hear or see something we'd both find funny. Even as my head is turning as if to look at him, I know he is not here. I know he is dead. But my body still hasn't completely gotten the message.

My body is still adjusting. It remains on one side of the bed every night, even though I know that I have the whole king size bed to myself. My body, even while asleep, can't break the routine of sleeping on "my" side.



Our bodies are on autopilot fairly often... they adjust to other people over time... especially to the person with whom we share our life, our home, our bed, our car. Our bodies get in a groove. Our bodies are conditioned to react to the other person. They adopt mannerisms that help communicate with the other person. They have a memory bank of their own.

My brain moves onward, understanding what has happened, adapting to my new life. My body is a bit behind, lagging as it tries to catch up.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What's Best

I've been craving more alone time. Not the kind where I want to cancel plans with people or sit in the darkness of my home for hours on end, but the kind where I can listen to myself. The kind that happens in my car with the right music on... the kind that happens when I wake up in the morning a little earlier than usual and have that bit of extra time to think...

I'm trying to get in tune with myself to prepare for all the roads ahead. I'm trying to have some really good conversations with myself. I'm trying to get comfortable.

There is a part of me so terrified of the "aloneness." But there is another part that wants it. Both parts fight daily. They state their cases. They each try to convince me their way is best.

And that's another concept that seems so elusive. What's best?

How can we know what is best for ourselves? How can we predict the right future, the right outcome? How can we know which direction is right at the fork in the road? How can we move forward without fear? What is best?

We cannot ever truly know. But we can feel. I am trying to listen with my soul. I want to hear what my heart is saying and take heed. I want to feel the vibrations of this life and go with the current of where they wish to lead me. I can't know what's best, but maybe if I try, I can feel it.

Listening. That's what's best.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One Ring at a Time

Rick has officially been gone 6 months today. Half a year. HALF a year. It feels like yesterday I kissed him good bye and came home to a dead body in my basement. And yet at the same time, it feels like I've been through a war and spent a whole era of time all alone.

I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love - my first book since Rick's death - and it resonates with me. With all I have been through these last 6 months, I feel like I could write my own Eat, Pray, Love story. 

Today, I began my day by doing something big. Well, big for me. 

I took off one of my wedding rings. I took off my engagement ring I've worn for the last 7.5 years. My diamond. I nestled it inside Rick's wedding ring, which is nestled inside of Rick's watch. Which sits on a large dish on my kitchen counter. 

I've written before about my dilemma with my wedding rings. How people ask me how long I've been married or because I'm young, if I just got married. It got to be a point of pain for me, because explaining or choosing not to explain or hurting either was difficult, but I wasn't ready to take off my wedding rings to make the conversations stop. 

Well today, on the 6 month anniversary of Rick's death, I decided I was ready. But in baby steps. I only took off the large engagement ring. Left behind is my thin wedding band. It draws less attention, but I still feel comfortable knowing it is there. A few months ago...even one month ago...I wasn't ready to remove either of my rings. 

But today, I was ready to remove one. 

One at a time. 


Maybe the band will stay on for another month...or two... or 6... or even another year. It is up to me, and right now one was enough. 

My hand feels strange. Lighter. I find myself looking down in panic, thinking, "Oh my God, where did it go?" But then I remember. I wield my left hand in the old way - maneuvering it so the diamond doesn't get caught on sweaters as I pull my arm through the sleeve, or so I don't cut myself while washing my hands. But it's no longer there.

This morning in my kitchen as I looked at my engagement ring nestled inside Rick's wedding band on my countertop, I said out loud, "It's okay, Arielle, because if you decide you want it back, all you have to do is put it back on. You can always put it back on."

Rick flickered the light in my bedroom for me this morning before work. I had already taken off my ring. I think he was letting me know it was okay. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just Another Day

Today I went to the dentist for my 6 month check-up and all I could think of as I laid in the chair was, "The last time I was here, Rick was still alive." Music played over the sound system - the same easy listening stuff that usually plays there - and I willed myself not to cry as emotional songs came on. It was kind of like a weird form of torture, to have to lie there motionless with instruments in my mouth while listening to sad songs I've purposely avoided for the last 6 months.


Tomorrow it will be 6 months that Rick's been dead. I touched my wedding rings with my other hand as I laid in the dentist's chair, marveling at how something as mundane as going to the dentist can evoke such emotion.

When it was over, I stood at the reception desk with my calendar open, ready to schedule my next appointment 6 months down the road. The receptionist flipped 6 months ahead. "How about May 18th?" she asked. I shuddered involuntarily.

"Any day but that day," I said quietly. The one year anniversary of Rick's death. Who knows how I'll be memorializing. Who knows what I'll be doing that day. But I definitely don't want to be at the dentist.

Already experiencing a weird 6 month journey in my mind while in the dentist chair, only to hear someone say the words "May 18th" and catapult me into next year felt really odd.

Sometimes I feel like the words "May 18th" are my words. Like no one else should say them. The worst day of my life. But to most people, it's just another day.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Asking

Tonight I turned out all the lights, I sat in my chair, and I lit a candle. I held the candle in my hands and I closed my eyes. And I asked for all the things I want.



I let the tears flow freely. I talked out loud for at least 30 minutes. I went back in time and I went forward. I remembered the past and I envisioned the future. I asked. And thanked. And asked some more.

My tears slid down my face into the collar of my t-shirt and my mouth kept moving. The darkness around me felt like space, not oppressive. I acknowledged the fears I hold inside. I spoke the secrets. I reached backwards and forwards. I talked to God. And myself. And Rick. And I ventured into unknown territory.

There is territory that no one understands but me. I must walk the path alone... and that is what is so scary. I have never felt such a desperate fear before. It's like walking through the woods alone at night, no flashlight, no compass. It's like diving headfirst into a dark abyss of deep water, no knowledge of what is beneath the surface, no light to show the way.

I swallowed, I took a deep breath, I wiped my tears, and I blew out the candle.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Past the Comfort Zone

I've been comfortable for too long.
I am ready to really live.


I'm nervous.
I'm scared.
But I'm ready.
I'm curious.
I'm not sure what really living will mean, but figuring it out will be part of the fun. 
I hope.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Layers of Healing

I have written 6 poems since Rick died.  Just looking at the titles of the poems gives me insight into my progression of my layers of healing. 



The first one, written on July 15th, was called I Don't Know How to Say Good Bye. I was raw...and I really and truly didn't know how to say good bye. Nothing felt right.

On August 30th, I wrote the poem Touch. I described the things I wanted... I wrote about connection and encouragement from beyond. 

On September 4th, I wrote the poem Ashes to Wind, when I was thinking about scattering Rick's ashes in Ounquit, Maine. I described the feelings of a day that has not yet come, and the emotions and power of letting go. 

On September 23rd, I wrote Don't Rush Me, a poem that turned out to be a letter to myself. I worked through employing patience and channeling healing. 

On September 30th, I chopped and changed a poem from 2006 I called Recounting Autumn, tweaking it to fit all that life has thrown at me. It spoke of change and fresh perspective. 

And on November 10th, I wrote The Pull, a poem about grief driving fear, quests, and life. 

I noticed something. The first three poems use the word "you" as in me addressing Rick. I write as though to him. By the fourth poem, I am writing to myself. I even call myself by name. By the fifth poem, I am nostalgic, writing about myself rather than Rick or grief itself. By the sixth poem, though I write about grief and all of my emotions as I move onward, what's obvious is not the grief part but the moving part. I begin and end the poem with the same two lines (which are repeated elsewhere in the middle as well):

It flows and ebbs, and ebbs and flows;
The pull of grief, it comes and goes.

And so, it seems clear now. Grief is still here... but sometimes it is not. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Behind the Door

I clicked back into the archives of my musings tonight, trying to see what I was doing a year ago, two years ago, etc... I stumbled upon a piece about self-awareness I wrote 2 years ago, back in the fall of 2012. I read it through as though I was reading it for the first time...

Self-awareness is a funny thing. It molds us, shapes us, teaches us, and impacts us. Without self-awareness, we cannot learn about ourselves. Without learning about ourselves, we cannot grow. Without growth, we remain stagnant and unfulfilled.

The thing about self-awareness is that it is not always pleasant. Sometimes we notice things about ourselves that we would rather push back under the rug. Sometimes we discover things that make us say, “Aha!” and revelation breaks through pain. Other times, self-awareness is uncomfortable. We become aware, maybe reluctantly...maybe even accidentally...and then we must face ourselves. We must look in that figurative mirror and ascertain what to do with what we see there.

I will not be so bold as to say that I have mastered self-awareness, but in the last several years I have become adept at seeing myself, knowing myself, and using what I see and know to live a life that feels right for me. I have also learned that self-awareness and writing go hand in hand most of the time, at least for me. I am able to process through feelings, observations, and discoveries – and by the time pages have been filled up with words, I feel I have learned a lesson or come to terms with whatever is at hand.

In a way, self-awareness is like telling yourself your own story – but without the flowery language, the sugar-coated details, and the rose-colored glasses. “Sit down right here, Arielle, and let me tell you the story of you today. Let me explain to you how this affects you, why this affects you, and what it all might mean.” That’s sort of how my mind works through whatever is present on a given day. Sometimes it’s a matter of using all my strength to push away a boulder that’s in my way so I can see the light behind it. Sometimes it’s like unraveling knots in otherwise smooth yarn. Sometimes I must open a door I would rather keep closed.

But self-awareness makes for a better person, and I’ve come to see self-awareness as an adventure. Sometimes you like it and sometimes you don’t. But you’re taking the journey with yourself. Sometimes it’s a bumpy ride. Sometimes it’s a smooth one. You are both the driver AND the passenger.

Though I am of course learning lessons every day, I feel that I have a keen and sharp sense of self. Why? Self-awareness. If I can be an expert of nothing else, I want to be an expert of ME.

Allow me to go back to the door analogy. “Sometimes I must open a door I would rather keep closed.” We are complex individuals – each and every one of us - and it is perfectly natural for even the most put-together, happy-go-lucky, and self-assured people to shy away from self-awareness at times. The smallest things in every day life factor into self-awareness. Self-awareness doesn’t have to be about life-altering, game-changing instances. It doesn’t even have to be about problems. At the core, self-awareness is simply about emotions. That’s it. Emotions.

Emotions fuel reactions.
Emotions fuel actions.
Emotions determine mood.
Emotions guide decisions.

Emotions, it turns out, are incredibly important.

But sometimes they feel larger than we are. Sometimes we don’t want to believe them. Sometimes we pretend they don’t exist. Sometimes we embrace them in order to escape other, scarier ones. There are as many scenarios as there are emotions.

But as a pioneer of your own self, you go forward. So, you open that door you would rather keep closed. And you back away, off to the side, not quite ready to deal with what may be behind it. You might stand aloof, listening while pretending not to listen. Or maybe it’s the other way around – perhaps you pretend to listen to what’s behind that door, all the while still not yet invested. You keep your distance, but you still opened the door, so it’s not like you’re not paying attention, right? It’s not like you’re not being self-aware, right?

But then, something calls to you. You don’t want to face it, but you’re ready to listen. So you stand tentatively, your ear pressed to the open door.

And now you’ve been drawn into the journey. You wait, listening, maybe even arguing with yourself. “Do I really feel that way?” “Of course I don’t feel that way.” “Or do I?” “That’s not how I operate!” “Can it be true?” “That’s not why I act the way I do!”  You’re so close to whipping your head around to the other side of the open door, to give what’s waiting there a piece of your mind... but that would mean you have to face it... and not all the things we learn about ourselves feel good.

And then, eventually, with a little gasp, you let yourself not only hear it, but recognize it, whatever it is. “I guess I AM jealous of that person.” “Maybe that IS why I get so angry about that.” “I wish I hadn’t done that. I guess I really DO regret it.” “Wow – I wanted to think I was, but I’m NOT okay with it.” Then wide-eyed and nodding, you’ve stopped the denial/defiant ego/self-pity/awkwardness.

And you know what you must do. You began this self-awareness thing. You opened that door. Now you’ve got to face whatever is back there.


And even though it might not make you jump for joy or grin ear to ear, it’s usually never as bad as it felt at first. And by staring through that door into whatever is there with 1) a little confidence, 2) the reminder that you’re human, and 3) the desire to learn about yourself, you’re one step closer to being a master of self-awareness.

The intricate workings of ourselves deserve time, attention, appreciation, and care. You can’t give any  of those things to yourself if you’re working behind a closed door. Open it. And even if it takes a while, don’t be afraid to look inside.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Progression

5 months ago today, still so shocked to the core, I ended my blog post this way:

"It's so nice to remember Rick. To hear what other people remember about Rick. Remembering is all we have now. 

Remembering, though, is kind of tiring. I want to so much to be able to just walk into my kitchen and see him. I want to be able to hear his voice on the other end of the phone. I want to roll over at night and push him out of the way. I want to argue with him, laugh with him, and talk to him. If he was here, I wouldn't have to remember. 

So I guess what I'm saying is I'm tired. And I just want to throw a tantrum sometimes. Instead, I'm going to wear Rick's bathrobe and go to sleep." 


4 months ago today, cautiously navigating my way, I ended my blog post this way:

"'Look both ways before you cross the street,' my mind seems to say. Grief is like a highway full of traffic, debris, accidents, and fast moving vehicles. I have to look both ways. I have to keep my eyes wide open. I have to pay attention. I have to be deliberate in my actions. I have to stop to ensure safety. 

I realized recently that part of grieving is about staying safe. Just as I have the Grief Zone, I also have Safe Zones. Blueprints for grief can be found, filed away in my mind and heart, the different zones mapped out and labeled so I know where my footing is most sure. I am learning this as I go. 

I am learning. And I am leading. Onward through grief and so, onward through life."



3 months ago today, contemplative but coping, I ended my blog post this way:

"When I feel sad, when I feel alone, and when I feel like Rick's suicide was senseless... I remember that at least a shred of hope exists in all things. And that shred is the domino effect of other struggling lives... lives affected by depression...alcoholism...pain...and much more... lives that will remain lives, because Rick's death stamped out an option for them.

Maybe... just maybe... if Rick had not taken his life, many others would now be dead or thinking about dying.

Those messages... those shreds of hope...keep a smile on my face some nights. I tie those shreds of hope together and remember that we are all connected. And that one precious life lost to suicide means that others might embrace the gift of life."



2 months ago today, once acceptance had really set in, I ended my blog post this way:

"He taught me. He shaped me. He loved me.

And this grief is the price I am paying for all of that. I am willing to pay the price, because it means I lived an authentic life with him - the good with the bad, the pain and the joy. I am willing to pay the price, because I have no regrets. I wanted the time I had with Rick. And I would not change that. So now I have to go through grief... because I loved.

Grief can be terrible, powerful, painful, and earth-shaking. Grief is the price of love. But it is worth it."



Then 1 month ago today, my focus was not on what was lost, but on what remains...

"I think in my 30 years on this earth, I've experienced a lot of pain. Maybe more than a lot of people who have been alive much longer. But all the grief has given me the ability to recognize happiness - true happiness. 

My appreciation scale has been adjusted. My gratitude is high. 

I have a lot of wonderful things at work in my life. I have a lot of wonderful people too."



Tonight, as I looked back on the 12th of each month since my world shifted, I can see progression... I can almost feel the life slip back into me. And I don't know how this story ends, because it continues...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reading at Last

Well, it's time to read again. I haven't read a book since before Rick died... so that's nearly 6 months. For me, that's a long time to go without reading.

Last week I purchased some books and yesterday they arrived. Now they're on the bookshelf that's replaced Rick's desk, waiting for me to open them and dive in.


I decided to buy a variety and these are just 3 of the books I purchased. The others are on their way. It's a mix of widow guidance and fiction that won't make me upset. At least that's the hope. I've been meaning to read Eat, Pray, Love for years. According to a select few, now is the opportune time.

For me, reading has always been an escape. It calms me when I need calming, comforts me when I need comforting, and appeals to my sense of adventure.

I remember countless times when I sat next to Rick in the living room, he watching sports and me reading. He would shout at the TV for hours and I would remain with my nose in a book unfazed.

There was a time we ran out of shelf space for my books. Now, I have more space for shelves...more space for books. I guess it's time to read.