Friday, October 31, 2014

A Hundred Years

The night gets away from me around the same time each night. My mind begins to wander. My thoughts begin to form worries and wishes. My memory becomes foggy. My sense of self becomes confused.



I feel like I live a hundred years each night as I go through different scenarios, fears, dreams, plans, memories, and questions. I lie in bed, living out my life - a long life - with tears and smiles and excitement and worry. I play out happy experiences and snatch them away, crying for myself, wondering how it will all really work out.

It's so tiring to live a hundred years every night. Every night. Every night.

I have a longing to feel safe. Secure. Comfortable. Comforted. 

I can wait. But I hope I won't have to wait too long.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sometimes Reeling, Sometimes Healing

Every week is a new adventure. There are days I figuratively leap around, having fun and enjoying every element of this thing called life. My laughter is never forced, my smile is never weak, and my joy is real. Then there are days I am figuratively slammed with grief, smacked so hard I can hardly catch my breath. I cry and cry. I feel a deep, dark space inside of me. It's a roller coaster, a back and forth, and that crazy ride is what keeps me exhausted on a regular basis.

But still, every week is a new adventure.


I can tell that I am healing. There are scabs on all the wounds I feel inside. I hurt, but I am healing. 158 days of blogging... Every day I am heard is a day I am healed a tiny bit more.

It reminds me of a stream of consciousness prose-poem I wrote almost 10 years ago. Back then, I wrote it feeling a multitude of other things...but it's so relevant now.


Fight the good fight, know the wrong right, fill the void and see the light. Here I go, again and new, fresh, awake, alive and true. Passing by the life I know and focusing on where to go, for I will follow where I’m neededpaths are taken, prayers are heeded. Brain’s mad switch is flicked off…on…I’m not here but I’m not gone... jittery and full of life, I need to live before I die. I need to find the reasons why and cry and sigh and say I tried. Dipped inside a vat of pain, I know I gain when I remain a seer of the songs of old and preacher of the words I hold. Along the sky I write my voice, in ink of breath…a thought, a choice. And still I’m waiting...day’s sad end has seen me weep but still I bend. My words I send to you and yours, alone I smile as my heart soars. I know it pours. Water? Blood? My soul? My life? It pours, now cut through like a knife. And still I say, away away, fight the good fight, know the wrong right, fill the void and see the light. Flickers of the sky’s dark space—it really makes you know your place—and will erase the pain you felt when all those others cruelly dealt their blows to you and all your soul, just breaking you, and you were whole, but pieces looked about to fall and so we’ll catch them, one and all. The sky knows best, it does not rest, and I protest…never. Fight the good fight, know the wrong right, fill the void and see the light.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unfinished

There is now a large wooden bookshelf in the back of my living room where Rick's desk used to be. I'm sure I'll fill it up with books just like all the other bookshelves in my home.

I looked around the living room tonight for stray books to put on the empty new shelf. I emptied my "book basket," a large wooden bin that held about 30 books I have yet to read. I added them to the shelf. I found a few others lying here and there to add to the shelf too.

Suddenly, my eyes landed upon a thick book underneath the end table. I knew immediately what it was. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. The last book Rick ever read. More accurately, the book Rick was still reading the day he died. He never finished it.

I picked up the book and held it in my hands. The bottom of all the pages was water stained and slightly bent from when Rick had been reading in the pool. His bookmark was still in its place. I flipped to the page he'd last read. Page 733. He made it to page 733.


Atlas Shrugged is a large book. Rick was a slow reader. He had been reading the book for about a year. He kept on, always interested, telling me he sometimes re-read certain passages because they were so good he had to ingest them twice. Other times he'd tell me he would re-read passages to understand the full depth of their meaning. He thought Ayn Rand was brilliant and wanted to soak up the whole book, even if it meant he'd be reading for months.

Page 733. He made it to page 733. He never finished. He never got to finish. He will never get to the end.

Atlas Shrugged is 1168 pages. Rick read 773. I don't know why this makes me so sad, but it does.

I have not yet read Atlas Shrugged. Tonight, I wanted to read the last page that Rick ever read. I opened it up to the bookmark and was faced with a passage that helped me to understand my husband a little more. I would love to post it, but I'm pretty certain it's an important piece of the book, so I won't.

His life, like his book, will always remain unfinished.

My life is anything but finished. There is more to do, and see, and be. Atlas Shrugged doesn't have to remain unfinished for me either.

I put the book on the shelf. Maybe I'll read it some day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Humor

Today, I...

a) talked to senior citizens about bullying each other

b) went to Wegmans without crying

c) carved a pumpkin into a cat

d) all of the above

[last year's pumpkin]

[this year's pumpkin - shockingly, a happier one]

Yes, it's (d), all of the above. Those are my small accomplishments for the day. Now, I'm immobile in my chair (strange how I've grown used to calling it "my" chair, even though it was Rick's chair), ready for tea and cats. The house kind of settles around me and I feel a sense of relief to have made it through another day.

When I'm feeling low, one of my cats does something funny. They have a knack for choosing the right moment. I think they must whisper about me, deciding between them who will be the funny one that day.

That's why I wasn't really surprised to find my lady cat Juice wearing my high heels.


Rick knew humor. Rick was always making me laugh. Humor always wins. Sometimes I think he gives the cats ideas.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Journeys

5 months ago today was my first day back at work after Rick had died the week before. I just read through the post from that day. I read it as though I am another person, another woman... shocked that a person had been able to return to work after a week of mourning and shock and tragedy. I remember only snippets of that first day back to work.

I made it through.

And I continue to make it through.

There are times I pride myself on how normal I can be. I think for the most part I do a good job. 

There are also times, feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, when I feel like saying, "Do you know how astounding it is that I am even here?"

Sometimes in the mornings, at work, I sip my coffee and look around the room bewildered. How did I get here? How did I get out of bed? How did I get dressed and ready? How did I drive here? How am I actually at work? As the day goes on, I become less and less bewildered and more and more in the groove. 

There are times I feel so capable... and there are times I feel so... not. 

There are times I race home just so I can cry. There are times it feels like a reward for being normal all day. How can crying be a reward? 

On the nights I feel as though I am in so much pain, I remember that first fuzzy week of returning to work...and I know that I have the strength to get up, get out, and get moving. I know that it can never feel as bad as it did then. I can see how far I've come when I read these posts. I can see the progression, the healing, the journey.


The word journey always makes me feel better...because even when I'm feeling stuck, I know that journeys always continue. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Exhaustion

Grief pulls me forward and drags me backwards at will. I feel almost normal, laughing and having a good time one day, then isolating in my bubble the next. My mind churns with questions, thoughts, daydreams, worries, and wishes.

I long to be among people, having conversations and laughter fill the long hours. I enjoy time spent away. I enjoy working and feeling useful. I enjoy telling stories and sharing fun moments. Then suddenly, like a flipped coin, I'm on the other side: thankful to be alone again at last where I can breathe and return to grieving. I cling to my solitude as though it was slipping away. I want to retire to my quiet, I want to curl up and be alone, I want to hurt where no one can see me.

The feeling of exhaustion consumes me. It's like a heavy blanket I can't shake. I feel too tired to wash my hair. Too tired to cook. Too tired to put gas in my car. Simple tasks are simple one day and so taxing the next. One more mindless hour of TV and tea or wash my hair? One more hour, I think, then I'll move. I stay in my chair with my blanket - the real one and the one made of exhaustion - and I don't move. I'm too tired. 4 in the afternoon or midnight... it doesn't matter.

Sometimes I'm up to any challenge. Usually once I get started, I'm good to go. It's the getting started that takes work.


Sometimes I feel so delirious that I stay in my chair with my cats and my blanket, just wishing nonsensically that someone would come and carry me up to bed. Take care of me. Tell me I don't have to go to work. Or even get dressed.

Why does this happen?

I'm ready to feel the lightness. The clarity. The energy back.

I know the ebb and flow, the push and pull, the back and forth is all part of this crazy game. But I'm ready to get off the roller coaster. I'm exhausted.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The World Goes On

You know when someone dies and the world goes on? And it's a terrible feeling that feels wrong in every way?



Well today I was reminded that when someone dies, the world goes on. And it's a great and a wonderful thing too.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Stillness

There is such a stillness now where before there was the chaos of grief. There is still some disarray... There are still some loose ends... There is still a sense of disrepair about the aftermath of death... But the chaos is gone and a stillness has come.

I am actually enjoying my solitude. I am in the groove of my routine. I feel introspective daily, ready to take on challenges without falling apart, resolute, sometimes even pensive... But the pensive stillness is so much better than the hectic raging of grief.


Instead of jagged edges, my heart now feels smooth. Tender, yes... Sore, yes... But smooth and quiet. 

I can breathe. I can breathe again. 

I think a lot. A lot. I worry, I wonder, I ponder, I fear, I feel, I remember, I hope, I imagine, I think. A lot. 

I let the stillness envelope me and I think. 

The clanging loudness of my internal struggle and my external struggle has ceased. Even when I'm feeling heavy, the stillness surrounds me. I breathe through it. 




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Flickering

The other day, my mom was over at my house helping me with things like laundry to make the time pass more easily. As we folded clothes on my bed in the bedroom, the large overhead light above the bed flickered for a steady several seconds while we stared at each other.

"It's Rick," I said. "It happens from time to time." I was glad she was there to witness it, because I don't like people to think I make things up to make myself feel better.

The light above my bed has flickered on and off since Rick died. I know it is Rick. In fact, just a few weeks ago, my dad came over to unscrew the big fixture and replace the lightbulb for me, then screw it all back together very tightly. So 1) it's now a brand new bulb and 2) I know for a fact he reattached it even better than before. The light still flickers at different points.

It flickers when I'm thinking about Rick or when a certain song comes on.  Sometimes, I think it flickers to tell me something.

Lately, it's been flickering only in the mornings. I'll be getting ready for work, fixing my hair or putting on makeup in the bathroom. Behind me, through the open door of the master bathroom, I'll see the overhead light in my bedroom flicker for a steady 5-10 seconds before stopping, like a signal to get my attention. It always makes me stop what I'm doing and I say, "Hi, Rick" or "Hi, baby."

I realized today though, that I don't think it's Rick saying hi. I think it's Rick looking out for me, taking care of me.

Lately, for some inexplicable reason, I've been more sluggish in the morning...more forgetful. I mess around on the internet on my phone in bed before getting up. I feed the cats, but I take my time wandering around in my head while I take care of things in my kitchen. By the time I'm actually back upstairs getting dressed and ready, I'm rushing. There's no clock in my bathroom and at least 6 times now, while I'm putting on mascara, changing my earrings, or getting distracted by the song that's playing while I get myself ready to go, the light flickers. I peek out into the bedroom each time to acknowledge what I'm seeing, and when I do, I notice the time on the digital clock. Every time the light flickers, it's about the same time - a time I'm not supposed to still be upstairs in my bedroom. A time I should be grabbing my purse and running out the door to get my butt to work...

This has happened so many times now that today, it clicked. There's no clock in the bathroom. I'm wallowing or dilly-dallying and he's getting my attention to let me know it's time to go. If he didn't flicker the light, I'd be late to work - no question about it. I'd never be alerted to look in the bedroom at the clock.


So this morning, when the light flickered, I said, "Thanks, Rick!" then glanced at the clock (sure enough, I needed to MOVE) and ran downstairs and off to work.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deleting

In my iPhone, in the Reminders app, is a list called TO DO WITH RICK. I suppose I ought to delete it. It's wedged in there among my other lists, like TV shows I watch, things I need to buy, stuff I have to do, and adventures Jennifer and I are going to have.


I guess I should delete TO DO WITH RICK, because I won't get to do any of those things with him. But it's hard. I can't delete it yet, for the same reasons I still have the golf he recorded on the DVR the weekend he died.

It's not that I watch the golf. It's not that I re-read the list of things I wanted to do with Rick. It's not like I'd really miss them if they were gone from my DVR or my iPhone.

It's the act of deleting.

I can't.

It's final. Once deleted, there is no getting it back. And in a little corner of my heart, it means something to me because it reminds me of Rick.

It's not a bad thing to be reminded. So for now, there is no hurry. There is no rush to delete.

Deleting is not an option. Deleting is permanent. Final. It feels deliberate. And scary.

Deleting makes me feel fragile.

delete (verb):
to strike out or remove (something written or printed); cancel; erase; expunge.

Most of all, it feels hypocritical. I can't delete something associated with Rick when I all I want him to do is stay.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What's Inside...Now

Just over a month ago, I posted a feelings heart I colored with what was inside of me. Today, I made a new one. It has the same feelings, but a drastically different layout. Besides that, the capacity of each emotion is very different than before. 


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

Monday, October 20, 2014

No More Why

Earlier in my grieving process, I found myself asking, "Why?" It's a question typical of grief, but even more typical of suicide grief.

I have stopped asking why.

I will never know why. I will never fully understand why. I may be able to tick off on my fingers the reasons Rick may have felt. I may be able to guess. I may be able to assume. I will always miss him. I will always wonder. I will never completely know.


So like I said, I have stopped asking why.

I hope, if you're reading this, that you will stop asking me "why?" too. For the most part, the folks who read this blog make statements of comfort or offer consolation, friendship, and love. They do not ask questions. But I can tell you that even now, 5 months since the death of my husband, people ask me why.

"But I don't understand. Why did he do it?"

I DO NOT KNOW any more than you do. Please, I beg you, stop asking me.

I can reply that he was in excruciating physical and emotional pain. I can reply that he was depressed. I can reply that he felt he was out of options. I can reply that he felt he was doing me a favor. I can say all those things or nothing at all, but I don't really know WHY. Please, please, stop asking me. I have asked myself over and over again. I do not have the answers.

I know it is shocking, even heartbreaking, to hear of my husband's death. I realize that people who know me, or who have followed me on the web for a period of years, who have heard me speak or read my writing feel surprise and sadness when they learn of Rick's death. I understand that they feel for me. That they just can't imagine how Rick could leave me.

I have no malice, no meanness, no scolding to offer. I get it. I can barely wrap my head around it myself. It's almost crazy to hear that my husband took his own life and left me alone. I get it.

But it hurts me more than you can know to hear the questions. It confuses me. It upsets me. It catches me off guard. It makes me tell the story. It makes me go back. It puts the responsibility on me.

I have so many questions floating around in my head. So many pressing upon my heart. And finally, I have stopped asking why. There is no benefit to asking and re-asking such a question. Not for me. Not for you. I have not come up with a comforting answer in all the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months I have asked myself why. I have stopped asking why. If I'm speaking sadly in the dark of night, or upset and crying, I prefer to tell Rick I love him rather than asking why. I prefer to tell Rick a funny story rather than asking why. I prefer to explain what's on my heart rather than asking why.

There is no more why. There is only now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Acceptance...

I know that by now, a deeper level of acceptance has set in. I have, in many ways, grown accustomed to my new life. I feel more at ease with it than I expected to be, but in all honesty, most of the time I choose to just power through...to work, hang with the cats, watch TV, run errands, and see friends without actually reminding myself of the reason why this is my new life.

When I recall that the suicide of my husband is the reason for this new life, I am startled. My mind knows all the facts. I have actually, for the most part, adjusted to this widowed life. But my heart hasn't quite caught up to it all.


I can do this. I can live this life. Sometimes I am okay with it and sometimes I'm not. But either way, I can do it. Acceptance has found its way to all the parts of my mind. The blurriness is gone.

I have begun waking up without sadness. It now feels normal to wake up in bed alone. I have begun listening to different music. It now feels normal to hear things I was afraid to hear before. I still have a list of things I can't listen to yet, but the list of what I CAN hear is growing.

There's a certain sadness in this. There is a dull ache that comes with knowing that waking up in bed alone is now normal. I still talk to Rick. Sometimes I whisper. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I tell him funny things. Sometimes I cry to him. Sometimes the loneliness is almost unbearable. And it's the kind of loneliness that nothing seems to fix.

I still feel very out of place in the world around me. I have grown accustomed to my life at home, to new routines, to me. But I don't feel that way with the rest of it. I still don't feel on top of my game. I still feel out of sorts at times. I still get caught off guard with little things.

I have a lot of fear about what's to come. I actually have more fear than I expected. My mind knows Rick is gone, but my heart says, "Are you sure?"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

It Could Have Been...

It could have been a bad day, but it wasn't.

It might have been a difficult day, but it wasn't.

It could have been a sad day, but it wasn't. 

It might have been a lonely day, but it wasn't. 

Today, it is 5 months since Rick died...since he took his own life...since my whole existence changed. I met the anniversary head on with my friend Jennifer.  We had our first annual Pumpkin Day.


We did all things pumpkin. We began the morning with pumpkin pancakes. Then we went to the pumpkin patch. After getting lost in a corn maze and carrying 60 pounds of pumpkins back to the car, we treated ourselves to homemade pumpkin ice cream. Upon hearing of our Pumpkin Day, the server brought us a third dish of the ice cream. 

I left my cell phone at the ice cream place and as Jennifer and I were driving to our next pumpkin destination, I realized it. Even though he was no help when we needed directions in the corn maze, I'm pretty sure Rick made me realize all of sudden that I needed to turn the car around to go get my phone. 

After retrieving the phone, Jennifer and I purchased pumpkin lattes and pumpkin beer (for later). We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening finishing season two of the Gilmore Girls. 

Today could have been terrible, but it wasn't. 

It was fantastic. 

If I had to handpick activities and experiences to comprise the perfect autumn day, today incorporated them all. It's true that I wish so much I could tell Rick every fun and funny thing that happened - especially our tales of the corn maze - but he already knows. And he's immeasurably thankful Jennifer was by my side on what had the potential to be a very sad day. 

Today, I missed Rick...because every day I miss Rick. But today, I smiled. A lot. Today, I laughed. A lot. 

Apparently pumpkins have mood-altering effects. Today could have been bad, but it was the opposite. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Calendar Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something. I was looking at my calendar in my kitchen at home. It's a dry erase board calendar that I update each month. I fill in all the things I have planned, all my commitments, and all my regularly scheduled events (such as Gilmore Girl nights with Jennifer and giving my cats IV fluids subcutaneously every other day). What I noticed was that I was crossing off the days by putting a line through the day after it ended, or a large X.

This is what many people do.

But I stood in my kitchen, staring at my calendar, and I realized that every time I drew an X through a day, I was feeling like this:

Well, I made it through another day.

OR

Yup, another day over.

And I really, really didn't like that. It felt like the wrong attitude. So I decided that I would no longer draw an X through each day.


Instead, when the day is over, I now draw a smiley face. I feel so much better already. It makes a big difference. Envision yourself drawing a line or an X through your calendar day today. Now, envision yourself drawing a smiley face to mark the day as complete. It's really hard to feel negative or sad when you're drawing a smiley face to say the day is done.

I highly recommend it.

Take it from the cat widow.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Major First

A little over an hour ago, a friend said something to me about crying. And I realized something amazing:

Yesterday was the first day since Rick died that I did not cry.

He will be dead 5 months on Saturday. I have cried every single day. Sometimes it's a monsoon. Sometimes it's a trickle. Sometimes it's a meltdown. And lately, it's been just a moment or two in the morning, before bed, or when something unexpected catches me off guard. But yesterday, I did not cry once.

It finally happened. It took 5 months of pain, but it finally happened. A tear-free day.

Even as I type it out, it sounds both ridiculous and powerful. I never would have imagined that it could possibly take so long to go just one day without tears. 150 days is a long time. That is a huge stretch without a tear-free day.

But here I am. Finally.

I know that there will still be days of tears, even if the tears only last for a minute. I know that I could even cry again tonight and go a while longer without another tear-free day again. But it was a milestone. And it means that more tear-free days are in my future.


Somewhere, soaking up rays of peace, I imagine Rick breathing a little easier. Here's to more tear-free days to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Mess

I look forward to the day when I'll be completely on top of my game again. I can't shake the feeling that I'm missing the mark just a bit in all things I undertake. I guess grief, even at almost 5 months in, really rocks a person. Sometimes I wonder if I'm coming up short. I think about the effortless ways in which I operated before Rick's death and I want that again. 

There are moments when I don't have the energy to care about things and I hate that. My laundry might pile up. My bed might remain unmade. There are mornings when I lie in bed a little too long, perusing Facebook and pretending that everything is hunky dory. There are times I watch reality TV shows when I should really be doing 865 more productive things. But I don't. I can't find it in me to move. To try. To care.

Luckily, those moments are short-lived. Luckily, I reframe those moments into "self-care," telling myself that zoning out, pushing things off, and giving in to a "whatever" attitude is okay sometimes. 

There are also moments when I miss my old life so much it hurts. There are moments when I have to remind myself: "This person needs you right now," "this part of your day is more important than your grief, " or "this is not about you." It's so easy for me to fall back into feeling like this is all so new so I shouldn't be expected to operate at my baseline. But that's just a form of self-pity I think.

There are things I wish I could do better. Like do fun things with my nieces. Plan a bridal shower and bachelorette party for my best friend. Get back to making weekly eating disorder recovery videos. Like...I can do all those things, but I'm angry because I know I could do them better if I was where I was in life before Rick died. No one is getting the BEST of me. And it bothers me. I want to do more. Be more. But I can't. It just doesn't work. It's like something in me is broken and I'm repairing it, but it's not yet up to par. 

For the most part though, I think I'm doing pretty well. I feel like I'm alive instead of just existing. I feel that I can enjoy what's around me. Sometimes I feel strange, sometimes I feel lonely, and sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed... but for the most part, I feel like I'm adjusting. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction at least.

There are times when I try to examine my life. I try to mentally take a step back so I can view myself through the eyes of others. I worry that I'm not the person I used to be.

And then I realize that I'm not. I'm not the person I used to be. And in some respects, I'll never be that person again.


But somewhere in that mess is some pretty cool stuff. It's tangled, mangled, frayed, fried, jumbled, ripped, shredded, and torn, but it's in there somewhere. It hasn't gone away. And I desperately want to be a better daughter again, a better friend, a better sister, a better social worker. I want to be a leader. I want to be on point. I want to be 100% present, sailing for the beautiful horizon with my grief left behind on the dock.

I'm not there yet.

I'm not at my baseline. I'm not at my best. But I am doing my best.

I'm thankful for everyone who's loving me in the moment, patient and kind. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Personal Ad

So I started writing tonight and instead of a blog entry, I came up with a personal ad.



30 years young with sad blue eyes;
Single and hard-working;
Will not deal with lies.
Sometimes hair's straight, sometimes it's curls;
Pretty much an open book;
Not like other girls.
Hooked on TV, addicted to books;
Not just into average;
Not just into looks.
Needs to have coffee, needs to have cats;
Friends are so important;
Loves clothes, shoes and hats.
Writer at heart, with an old soul;
Pretty damn relentless;
Happy with a goal.
Not into fancy, not into cost;
30 years young with sad blue eyes
Seeking the love she lost.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thirty

I'm 30 years old today. I'm 148 days a widow.

I'm not concerned with the age. 30 doesn't scare me or worry me. Age is just a number. I don't care about it. It's more that I'm celebrating my first birthday without Rick...a milestone birthday at that...and I'm thinking about how different my life is at thirty from what I imagined.

Physically, I feel 20. Mentally, I feel 80. So the fact that I am 30 doesn't really phase me. It's just another number. That said, birthdays have always been a time of contemplation for me. I reflect. I make goals. I look at my history. I ponder.

So here I am, another year down. Another year beginning. 10 years ago, when I was 20, if I pictured 30 I never imagined I would be lonely, childless, and a widow. It's hard to come to terms with such a weird existence. It's hard to contend with "thirty" when so much of my life has been altered.

Just a few weeks after Rick's death, I found a birthday card he bought for me months in advance. It was in the top drawer of his desk, resting in the envelope, chosen with care. I read it then, but after that I saved it, telling myself I wouldn't look at it again until my birthday.

This morning, I woke up alone as usual and walked downstairs to my card from my husband. I read it with tears, but something inside felt so good to hear him wish me a happy birthday.




I felt very loved today. My co-workers definitely brightened my morning. I left my house kind of melancholy and was cheered up more and more as the day wore on. I work with good people. I received cards and gift and delicious desserts. By the time I left work, I was smiling and my work buddies Stacy and Ashlee enjoyed some drinks and appetizers with me before I went home with my momma. My mom left me to blog and snuggle my kitties. Tumbler's been lying on me for a while now...

About 200 people have wished me a happy birthday on Facebook. I've gotten messages and phone calls all day too. I'm definitely lucky and loved.

It was the kind of day I'd love to come home and tell Rick about... but honest-to-god, if I listen closely, I think I can hear him chuckle. I can actually hear his familiar voice as he says what he always said: "Everyone loves you, Arielle."

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recognizing Supreme Happiness

Today is last day of my 20s. Last night, for the first time, I did not blog. There was a lapse in the nightly ritual. Instead, there were friends. Instead, there was fun. 

My best friend Libes came from Connecticut. She planned a dinner out for me at a great restaurant with two of my other friends, Sarah and Jennifer. 

There were drinks. There was good food. There was friendship. 

I'm not much of a drinker. As I said to my friends last night, I get nervous when I drink alcohol in front of other people these days, because the more I have, the more emotional I become. I worry that if the drinks are flowing, so will my tears eventually. 

But last night I did not feel a void. I only felt love. I had fun. I forgot about pain. 

I actually forgot.

It's true that eventually as I sobered up, the pain came back. It's true that I still missed Rick. But it's also true that the love of my friends was still there. 


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. 

Last night, I was with three of them:

A friend who addresses my birthday card as "Other Half," who stands in the bathroom with me trying to calculate at what age our years of friendship will equal half our lives, who picks out what I should wear because "you only turn 30 once," who drives me, who hugs me, who has seen me at my best and worst, who always, always, always takes care of me, who faces life's challenges with me - and we've had our fair share, who invites my friends to a dinner I don't know about, and yes - who even holds my hair and rubs my back when I throw up Sangria and Nyquil at home in my bathroom. 

And another friend who brings me a birthday card but makes a point to tell me she has more for me on Wednesday, who spends more time in my house than any other person including my own mom, who medicates my grief with Gilmore Girls marathons and photos of cats, who channels Rick in the things she says to me, who easily fits into conversations with my other two friends of 12 years and 24 years - proving yet again that true friendship is based not on the number of years you've known someone, but on how long it FEELS like you've known them.

And another friend, who despite being 8 months pregnant with twins was a happy member of our little party, who was there toasting to me with a Shirley Temple, who can talk as easily about animals as about theatre, who laughs with me but not at me, who brings me a card and gift when all I need is her hug, who proves that lifelong friendships can really exist, because we roller skated together in tutus 24 years ago at age 6 in her parents' basement, were in each other's weddings, and somehow here we are, tackling life's crazy swerves head on. 

Life is unpredictable. So, so, so unpredictable. But these women are not. They're solid. They're my friends. And I couldn't be happier about it. 


Friday, October 10, 2014

On a Shelf

I was cleaning a bit today when I got home from work, getting things ready for Libes to stay over tomorrow night. I went in what used to be "Rick's bathroom" for the first time in a while and opened the medicine cabinet. Early on, I threw away every used toiletry he owned. But in the medicine cabinet, I forgot I had kept his cologne next to a bottle of Listerine.

There it was, something I couldn't throw out. There it was, full of memories. There it was, just begging to be smelled.


I took it out and held the bottle in my hands. Joy or pain? I wanted to remember the smell. But I was afraid to feel the rush of a cry well up inside me and come out if the scent hit me in the memory part of my mind. 

I held the cologne bottle. I remembered how funny it was a couple of years ago when Rick decided he wanted to switch colognes. He ordered samples of a bunch of different high end colognes, and created a rating system for all of them on a spreadsheet. One of the categories was which one I liked the best. He wore each one - I think there were 7 options - for two days to give them a full assessment. He ended up getting the one I liked the best. It smelled so good. 

He was so serious about choosing one that it was hilarious and I'm sure I made a Facebook post about it. 

I miss that smell. That cologne. 

I didn't want to torture myself by smelling the cologne from the medicine cabinet. But I didn't want to miss out either. After all, it's kind of like an old friend. 

I held the bottle to my nose and inhaled. It smelled like my old life. 

Tears sprang into my eyes immediately, like a reflex. I held the cologne bottle to my chest and said something to Rick before placing the bottle back in its spot in the medicine cabinet. 

My old life belongs on a shelf. But I can remember it any time I feel the need. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Memory of Joy

It is not the current measure of sadness that causes such great pain in my day to day life. It is not the reiteration of emptiness or loneliness. It is not the realization of horror.

Remembering what once was... remembering the good, the great, the love, the sweetness, the special memories, the sense of home, and the humor - those are the things that deeply wound. Those are the catalysts of pain.


The memory of joy is the most painful. It's a thought bubble, a daydream, a pleasant memory that brings a smile to the face - and then POOF! It's gone. And I am left with utter despair. A void that is dark, cold, and shocking. It almost echoes with eerie hollowness. It almost vibrates with bone crushing pain. 

The beautiful memories of joy, smiles, and laughter... the cozy and comforting hum of every day life as I knew it... the beckoning call of the little things I had grown used to... They are what keep me from listening to certain songs, looking at certain photos, going certain places. The memory of joy is so drawing, so appealing... and yet, I know the blow of pain will hurt so much I just can't go there. 

I feel these feelings and think to myself: Thank God I have the life I have, and not some other life. Thank God I have the outlook I have, and not some other outlook. Thank God I know the people I know, and not some other people. It makes so much difference. I'm not sure how I'd ever get through.

I came home from work to a beautiful and loving card and gift from my friend/co-worker Cheyenne. I had a great early birthday dinner with my parents, complete with laughter and tears. I came back home to affectionate cats. My phone bleeps with text messages every day. My weeks are full of hugs. My blog is read. There is always balm for my sore heart.

I'm so, so, so tired. No amount of sleep can give me rest. No amount of rest can soothe my soul. But day after day, no matter how exhausted I become, there is always someone to help me keep moving with a smile. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Looking Forward

Still sick, with a raspy voice, tonight I escaped through TV with my friend Jennifer. I am still feeling overwhelmed and downright sad about some things from the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day I had yesterday. I'm trying to hope for the best, let it go, and remember all the good stuff that's hanging out around me.

It's such a horrid mind game to feel good and triumphant one day, then down and reeling the next. Grief is such a tricky thing. The good news is that I feel organized and am good at self-care. Onward I go...


There are moments when I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up a year from now. I become so exhausted, so tired of dealing with stuff. I just want to push it away and remember a simpler time. 

Instead of listing all the things I'm thankful for today as I did yesterday in the midst of a meltdown kind of a day, tonight I'm going to list the things I'm looking forward to:

1) Sleeping in on Saturday.

2) Going out to dinner to celebrate my birthday with my parents tomorrow (my birthday is not until Monday).

3) Libes coming for the weekend to celebrate my 30th birthday.

4) A day of "all things pumpkin" with Jennifer the following weekend. 

5) Alicia visiting from Michigan in less than a month! 

Holding on to good thoughts. Good night.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I have had a terrible day.

Maybe the worst day since Rick died and the day of the funeral.

I'm not going to give more energy to the terrible-ness right now.


I'm still sick, still have no voice, and instead of telling you what happened, I am going to end today on a positive note by stating the things I am thankful for today:

1) My co-worker/friend Stacy who came into my closed office today to check on me and comfort me when I had been crying for 30 minutes.

2) My parents for being their ever-wonderful selves. I am very, very, very lucky. Without them, I'd have very different circumstances.

3) Tea with honey x 7

4) My cats who know that snuggling is the best medicine.

5) My best friend Libes who speaks to me and my mother in the same conversation and knows that curse words are important in certain situations.

6) My brother-in-law Keith who listened to me croak out tales of woe with my horrible lack of voice and yelled at Rick with me.

7) My friend Daniele who read the longest text message in history because I had no voice to talk to her, but needed her love and support. If text messages were made into books, our conversations would probably be Bible-thick by now.

8) And speaking of epic book-long text messages, my friend Jennifer who both texted and listened to my raspy attempt to communicate. And who offered to write me an excuse for work so I do not have to run conferences all afternoon tomorrow.

9) My co-worker/friend Laura who checked in on me and made a plan.

10) My bed.

Good night.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Home

When I was a kid, I enjoyed family vacations, but weirdly my favorite part was always rolling back into the driveway after being away, opening the back door, and breathing in the smell and feel of my home again. It didn't matter if there had been adventures, relatives, rides, exciting events, swimming pools, beaches, hotels, or dinners out. My favorite part of any vacation, no matter how wonderful, was coming home.

I always felt a little odd about that, but one day I read a book called Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle. Most people know her as the author of A Wrinkle in Time, but I knew her for over a dozen other books I read as a child, young adult, and later as an adult too. The book Meet the Austins is about a family and even though it was written in 1960, I found it completely relevant and meaningful. In the last chapter, the family goes on a vacation and has a great time...but the last paragraph describes them arriving back home, and the last line of the whole book is: "Maybe that's the best part of going away for a vacation— coming home again."

I remember feeling like the author of the book totally understood me.

Interestingly enough, Meet the Austins is about grief. It's about plenty of other things as well, especially life. I actually didn't realize until I started typing this post that one of the main themes of the book was grief. It was a book unlike any others of its time. I still think about it sometimes and still have my worn copy.


I've been thinking about the concept of home lately. The Wizard of Oz will reiterate time and time again that "there's no place like home," and it's a statement that's always rung true for me. Home is a precious place, an important feeling.

The problem is that nowhere feels like home now that Rick is gone.

I have spent 7.5 years in this house and that home feeling left with Rick. Years ago, before the show ended, I used to watch LOST every week at my parents' house with my mom. I'd leave Rick at home after dinner, watch the show with my mom, and because it was on late, I'd drive home after 11:00 pm in the dark. Every time I pulled in my driveway, slipped into the house quietly, and snuggled into bed next to Rick I had the distinct sense that home was a feeling, sometimes a person, an emotion... not a place.

I had the same feeling every night after grad school, when I'd drive home late alone and see Rick's notes to me waiting on the kitchen table. My brain would think, "Ah, I'm home." And it wasn't the walls and warmth, it wasn't the comforting stuff all around, it was the feeling of love and contentment that translated to "home."

I have a great house, all my basic needs, and two loving cats who make entering my house bearable. There is love here. But despite all I do have, I feel like a woman without a home. My home left the day Rick died.

I know that in time, the feeling of home will return. I know that all is not lost. I know that I can make my own home. I've been trying with valiant efforts. Rearranging, reorganizing, buying new things, getting rid of old, decorating, creating... it helps, but it doesn't give me that home feeling. It has nothing to do with needing to be married or even needing to be in a relationship. It's just that I had a sense of home that got stripped away. And I'm not exactly sure how to get it back. I miss that feeling. There are days when I feel like I'm searching and searching...because I want to go home...

I look forward to the day when I can pull into my driveway after a long trip, a weekend away, or even a work day...and feel that old familiar feeling... that best part of going away...the coming home again.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Action

Today I walked in memory and honor of Rick. Today was the Greater Lehigh Valley Out of Darkness Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I did not have to walk alone. I had with me what my friend Daniele calls "Arielle's Love Parade." I had a beautiful and supportive army of almost 40 friends and family members.


My grief is not cured, but the action certainly helped a great deal. My loved ones came from near and far to give me hugs and walk by my side. As a group, we sported t-shirts that said RICK LIVES ON. And live on he does, through this blog, through my stories about him, through the connection of friends and family, and through my love for him.

There are not enough words to thank the people who have walked beside me on this grief journey. I wish I could say that we have reached the end so that I could send them on their way, but sadly the journey continues. At only 4.5 months out, I have a long way to go. I am so incredibly lucky to have such incredible people with me today and every day.

The people who were there today are a representation of the many who support me. I know there are friends far away who could not walk with me physically, but nevertheless sent their love and kindness. I am ever grateful.

I walked with old co-workers, current co-workers, old friends, new friends, family (including both my small nieces), and so many connections in between.

 [me & my brother]

My parents have been with me every step of the way. They would do anything for me - and often do, and Rick always knew I would have them to take care of me.

[me with my wonderful parents]

But Rick, this day wasn't about me. It was about you. Your suicide was not prevented, but I pray that the suicides of many others will now be prevented. I personally raised $1,605 for the vital cause and my fantastic and admirable team raised $3,550, beating our goal by $550. I am proud, lucky, and honored to know everyone who surrounded me today.


Rick lives on. Rick lives on. Rick lives on. Forever.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Moving Past Fear

I've spent today lying around, sitting around, blowing my nose, watching TV, drinking tea, browsing the internet, and thinking. It's amazing how much thinking can occur when you don't even realize you're thinking. I'll finish watching a TV show only to notice that I didn't retain the last 15 minutes because my mind wandered to deeper things. 

I find myself imagining conversations with Rick. I feel like I know exactly what he would say in so many situations. It's comforting, but it's also sad. I sit in my living room, nodding my head up and down to the sound of his voice that isn't here. 

Months later, I am still unable to wrap my head around the fact that he is not coming back. Factually, logically, I know it. But no matter what I do, no matter how many days pass, no matter how times I push reality into my brain, it still does not feel real. 

I can't understand how after 4 and a half months of this, my heart is so unwilling to "get it." The lack of closure messes with me. There was no slow progression towards death. There was no indication that May 18th would be different than any other day. The unexpected nature of Rick's death has created this weird stretch of time during which I am still coming to terms with everything that has occurred. I have been over this so many times. And yet...my mind is still a turning wheel. 

Since he left this world so suddenly, his death feels like a problem to be fixed. I walk around day after day with the feeling that I must come up with a solution to what has happened. Typically in life, 1) Bad Thing happens suddenly. 2) You try to fix it and make it better. 

There is no fixing this and it feels so...bad. I've read all the books. I've counseled other people. I understand the psychology of grief. I comprehend the trauma of tragedy. But somewhere deep inside, I'm still looking for a solution to the problem that is Rick's suicide.

And there is none. There is only acceptance. And hope. And grieving. And grieving is really taking a lot out of me.

I am afraid.


Fear is ever-present. What will it feel like to let go? To hammer into my head that there is no solution, only support to move forward. What will it feel like to stop hearing Rick's voice? To forget the way his hand felt when it touched mine? His smell? The exact way his eyebrows curved or even the way he walked? To not remember exactly the way his laugh sounds? What will it feel like to not cry every day? It's all I know. What will it feel like to let grief unfold into life without him?

Like a whisper in my ear, matter-of-fact and firm, Rick would say, "You can't let fear rule your life, Arielle." 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sickly Rememberings

I don't even have a shred of a voice left. It's gone. It's a croak. My chest hurts. My head hurts. My nose doesn't work. This cold is kicking my butt.

I am trying so hard to stay positive about the walk. I have been waiting for it for so long, putting so much effort into it. I don't want to feel like crap on Sunday.

My sweet Mom brought me chicken noodle soup and my kitties are snuggling me.

I can't even think straight enough to write coherently tonight. All I know is that I miss Rick more when I'm sick. It feels extra lonely to be sick all by yourself. All I can think about is how he took such good care of me all the time, anticipating needs before they became needs.

I remember one time when Rick and I both had the dreaded Norovirus. We were both violently ill and could barely even watch TV because we were so weak... and he still went out to the store to buy ME Gatorade to replenish my electrolytes. While we suffered together at home, Rick every bit as sick as I was, he even stood in the kitchen and made me broth.

You just don't find people like that every day.

When I tell stories about him like this, it still feels as though I'm talking about someone who "will be back" in some way. It doesn't feel like I'm talking about someone dead. I don't know if that's good or bad or just weird. I'm sitting here in my living room, covered in cats and used tissues, tears streaming out of my sore eyes, and I want to be like, "OMG, Rick, remember back in 2009 when we both had the Norovirus?!" But I can't. I can only tell the blog.

I get such a hollow feeling when I realize I can never laugh with Rick again.


Crying is definitely no good for a stuffed up, scratchy, sick woman. I'm usually so full of energy, so I despise being sick. It kills my positive mood faster than anything else.

Tonight's agenda:


  • stop crying
  • eat more soup
  • drink more tea
  • drink more tea
  • drink more tea
  • take Nyquil
  • sleep

And for self-care purposes, tomorrow's looking like more of the same.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Shirt for Rick

The Out of Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention is on Sunday. I am so blessed to have a 40-person team supporting me like a small army. We reached and surpassed our team goal of $3,000 and there are still a few days left. I personally raised $1,485 and I couldn't be happier. Right now I'm the top fundraiser of any team for the Greater Lehigh Valley walk this weekend.

None of this will bring Rick back, but it does make me feel better. I feel the restless need to DO SOMETHING about all of this pain leftover after suicide shredded my life. I want to spread hope and help and awareness.

I ran out on my lunch break at work to pick up the t-shirts I ordered for my team. Our team is Rick Lives On and the shirts reflect that simply. They look exactly like this except there is a small "afsp.org" at the bottom too.


I can't believe that on Sunday there will be 40 people wearing shirts with my husband's name... walking with me for him... it's surreal. Because he should be here. And he's not.

I did something kind of silly. I ordered Rick a shirt in his size. I don't know why. I thought it was silly even while I did it when I placed the order. But I still did it.

I'm still sick, but I'm hoping to kick this cold by Sunday. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wellness at Bay

"People who are grieving get sick more often." This is something I have read on countless grief and loss sites. I know it's true. Our energy goes towards coping. And often, our immune systems are not up to par. And then throw in not sleeping well for long periods of time and that just adds more fuel to fire.

What I'm trying to say is I have a bad cold again.


I feel like a big baby, but I feel terrible. My throat is bright red. It feels like it's on fire. I must have drank 4 bottles of water, a can of soda, and a large hot tea just during my work day today. I talked for hours straight to run conferences for families and now I am just spent.

Jennifer is here as usual, fairly warned that I'm not feeling well. Pizza, water, meds, and Gilmore Girls will hopefully push some life back into me. She said she was unafraid. I am hoping that tomorrow I'll wake up feeling better. I am so nervous that I'll still be sick for the Walk for Rick this weekend that is so important to me.

Tissues and Nyquil. Tissues and Nyquil. It's that kind of night. I used to have a great immune system, powering through day after day tirelessly. Not so much anymore. Rick would tell me to stop complaining, then he'd give me a kiss, and tell me to stop fighting what's good for me and go to bed.

After Gilmore Girls, Rick. After Gilmore Girls.