Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Lessons

10 months ago, I described myself this way one day when I returned home alone:

I sobbed my way into the house and cried so loudly on my living room floor that I was sure the neighbors were going to hear my awful wailing. I imagined my heart as a flower that was wilting, all the petals drooping and falling off one by one, like whatever was inside of me keeping me alive was dying. I was crying so hard I could barely breathe. I was so exhausted I could barely move. I called my mom and probably scared her half to death with my sobs as she answered. Rick always comforted me when I cried. Now I'm back to needing Mommy.

9 months ago, I described myself like this:

I put my grief in a box and keep it there as best I can throughout the day. I make appointments with grief for later, when I'm alone, when I'm able to self-care.

Of course, there are times during each day that the box is blown open and I'm unable to keep it closed. Maybe it receives a jarring and something falls out of it unexpectedly. Other times, the box is dumped upside down and I scramble to put the contents neatly back inside again.

But often, on my own terms, I open my box of grief and stare inside. I count the items and instances that are seemingly alive in there, writhing in agony. I give them permission to come out, to be present with me, and to have a voice.

That's when I write... eyes bleary and blurry with tears, fingers flying over laptop keys, the stillness of my house heavy around me.

The box lies empty before me and my grief surrounds me, exposed, dark, precious, real, and vulnerable.

And 8 months ago, I wrote:

There are these questions that always seem to be ever-present in conversations of grief and loss. How can I be whole again? When will I be whole again?

I don't worry about that. I know it's possible, because I was always whole to start with.

I existed before this death - long before Rick came into my life, in fact - and I was whole. I slept, I breathed, I played, I worked, I laughed, I cried, I wrote, I talked, I lived...

I knew myself and I still know myself. A work of art, with lots of layers of paint and detail, I am now simply a work of art with extra layers and extra detail. This death has enhanced me, not broken me apart.

I am whole.

I'll always be whole.

I'm not half of a person...I'm not lost because Rick is no longer here...I'm different, but I'm still me.

And it will take a lot more than death to break me down.

Wholeness comes from within, like peace... like happiness. It's an inside job, and if complications come my way, as they certainly and inevitably will, I'll still be whole.

I embrace the grief, but I don't give it power it doesn't need to have. It does not have power over me.

This grief comes and I greet it - sometimes it feels like a friend and other times it feels like an enemy. But always, I greet it the same way, the way I would any person I meet in life. I teach it to treat me as the whole person I am.


I felt so many things those first 3 months and here I am now, embarking upon the last 2 of this first year. Changes have happened around me and also inside of me. I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a sense of pride that this life-shattering event never broke me. It's still difficult for me to get a handle on the concept of time - I feel sometimes as though ions have passed since that terrible day. I do look at other people my age and feel I'm decades older at times, though my looks belie what has aged inside me.

And yet, the moral of the story is: The flower that was my heart has been watered and tended back to life, blooming more vivaciously than ever. The box of grief has emptied out and been filled with beautiful lessons and experiences. And as an already whole person, I'm not looking for someone to complete me - just someone to say with words and actions, "Sign me up for life beside you!"

Monday, March 30, 2015

Excelente

Two nights in a row of no writing! That's never happened yet these last 10+ months! But here I am, back on track...

I think my best friend's wedding weekend can be summed up in one word: Excelente!

The groom's family and friends are from Argentina (as is he), with many non-English speakers among them, so the weekend was like one big Spanish lesson. 

I had a lot of fun being part of the festivities, but most of all, I had fun watching my best friend's face as she married the man she loves and enjoyed herself.



Back in September, I went to my first wedding alone since Rick died. It was difficult, but I had friends by my side and luckily, it wasn't a traditional wedding with dancing into the night or assigned seating. 

This time around, it was my second wedding alone. Again, I had friends by my side and I was the Matron of Honor, so I had much more important things to keep my mind busy. I had a really good time.

I have to admit, it's difficult not to focus on the fact that you are alone when you're sitting in a sea of almost 200 people, sipping a glass of wine, and the DJ plays a slow song out on the dance floor. 

Luckily, the Best Man took pity on this Matron of Honor and viuda so I could dance like everyone else without feeling sorry for myself. 

Many successes really. I gave a speech without breaking into sobs the way I did each time in my living room while practicing! I didn't lose the bag of stuff I thought I lost (including the bride's cell phone)! And I drank several glasses of wine without feeling sick the next morning! 

I also heard something profound from a friend of the bride's mother that I wasn't really able to put into words before. Timetables for love after death can seem long or too short, depending upon who is commenting on your life. But when you're one of the few who had something really good with someone else and you lose that person, it actually makes a lot of sense to feel emotionally ready to really love someone else again without a huge span of time elapsing in between...since it's because you actually know what you're missing and you want something that great or better in your life again...and you know it will be worth it. (Thanks, Lisa!)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Importance

Question: What is important in life?

Answer: Living in the moment, positive relationships with the people in your life, genuine interactions, kindness, laughter, real love, hope, passion, honesty, respect, and fulfillment.


These are the things I wish for my best friend and her almost-husband as they begin their new chapter of life together tomorrow.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Today's List

My day consisted of:

• A pleasant morning phone call
• Saying good bye to the catkids
• Packing up my car
• Meaningful written correspondence
• A long, contemplative drive to CT
• Rain
• Coffee
• Time with the best friend
• A good (free) lunch
• A manicure
• A pedicure
• A massage
• Champagne
• Snacks
• Laughing with some of the bridal party and bride's mom 
• Chatting
• (Free) dinner
• Pajamas
• And this selfie



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Selfies

Today, in the archives of my phone, I saw a picture of a woman named Arielle that was taken in June. I stared at it for a solid minute and determined that selfies can show as much progression as my trips to Connecticut. 

Look what's happened from then until now...


The selfie on the right is from less than 2 weeks ago, when I was about to head out to my mom's art show. 

If you ignore the fact that my curls are back to their blissfully natural buoyant state, there are so many other differences. The light in my eyes. The smile taking over my whole face. The full participation in life that shows physically. I am filled up to the brim with hope, excitement, and happiness...and it's evident.

It's always been a process. I've smiled along the way to here. There was not a sudden change. Gradually, I pushed my way through every day life with a smile and a positive attitude for all who met me along the way...and then somewhere, somehow, as 2015 clicked into existence and the new year welcomed me, external factors collided with internal changes and I opened up like a flower in the sun. 

The heart is a strange and beautiful place, and mine shines through my eyes. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Oh, Connecticut

My best friend got engaged just over a month before Rick took his own life, therefore the wedding planning process has coincided with my first year as a widow. My grieving timeline, therefore, can be chronicled by my trips to Connecticut.

I actually drove to Connecticut just 3 weeks after Rick died. In a haze of sorrow, just 2 and a half weeks after the funeral, I found myself in dress shops with my best friend Sarah while she looked for her perfect wedding gown. I struggle to recall most details of the weekend, but I was glad I was there. One thing I do remember from that weekend is sitting on a bench at the beach with my best friend, pouring my tears out over the ocean in the dark of the night. In fact, I read my own words from that linked post above, and it amazes me that I was even able to write it then.

My friend Jennifer gave me the amazing gift of a comedy CD for my car that weekend, because I wasn't able to listen to any music so early on without crying while I drove. I remember how I used to wonder how I'd handle wedding things so soon after losing a husband. 

July saw me in Connecticut again, less than 2 months after the death and still somewhat reeling. That time, we picked out bridesmaid dresses, attended their engagement party, and I was finally able to listen to music on the long drive without crying. 


[back in July - 7 weeks a widow - before the engagement party]

By October, when I found myself back in Connecticut for the bridal shower, I wrote about the world going on with life and how it was actually a wonderful thing. I felt somewhat off my game having to help plan a shower for my best friend in the first months since Rick died. I wanted so much to be better than I was for her. But though I wasn't up to my own standards, I had definitely given grief a run for its money at that point.

In December, I was back in Connecticut again, though this time celebrating my best friend's birthday. The theme was fearlessness by then - I was embracing the new mantra of "Do One Thing Every Day that Scares You" and I was on fire.

By January, partying in NYC with the Bachelorette, I compared time and revered friendship, back in the swing of everything fun. 

And now, here we are at the very end of March. Sarah gets married on Saturday and I'm one full day away from heading to Connecticut once again, this time for a long weekend. I've blogged from Connecticut many a time this past year. There was a time I slept better there than in my own bed, somehow stripped of nightmares when I spent the night away from my house. 

This exciting and awesome journey I've been taking with my best friend and her fiancĂ© is not one I ever imagined I would be taking simultaneously with my journey of grief. It just worked out that way. I've done my best to make my tragedy fade into the background, even at the beginning, and that's the thing about real friendship - when you're with someone who gets you, you can let the bad stuff very easily be covered by the good stuff so you can't see it anymore. And it works. These days, I'm no longer contending with grief the way I was early on... the journey has progressed and morphed... it's given way to bigger and better things. It's never held me back. And I'm happy...in some ways happier than I've ever been...perfect timing for my frame of mind and my buoyant heart as this wedding fast approaches. 

So off I go, day after tomorrow, to visit Connecticut, my old friend that's seen me through one tumultuous year. And to see the best woman I know - my very best friend Sarah - marry the love of her life and gain two beautiful step-daughters at the same time. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Song of a Woman

Within the confines of my heart, there is so much.

There are mysteries, emotions, fears, and excitement just waiting to burst out. I keep watch over what grows there, tending the garden diligently. Being a wife taught me a lot about life - what I want, what I don't want, what it means to compromise, to sacrifice, to plan, to prepare, to trust... Being a widow taught me a lot about life, too - what's important, what's not, what I can endure, what I am capable of, what remains and what leaves...

As I wrote back on December 2nd, I may have been a wife and I may be a widow, but along with both of those titles or without any of those titles, I'll always be a woman.

I don't associate strongly with the word "widow" anymore. I know it's true, that I am one, but for a while now I've been thinking of myself as a woman. Just a woman. Before I was ever a wife, before I was ever a widow...I was a woman.

I breathe, I work, I celebrate, I love, I cry, I laugh, I make mistakes, I smile, I dream...as a woman, not a widow. There is a song in my heart - the music that comes after lessons and pain.
There is a song in my heart - the music that springs forth because happiness has slipped in. There is a song in my heart, and in my heart it will stay, protected and treasured...but one day, you will hear it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Good Company

One of the things I like to do is to look back in time to see what I was doing and feeling on any given day. I've done it several times on this blog - looked back to an old post to mentally mark progression or just receive a message from myself.

Well, tonight I looked back even farther (not on this blog, obviously) just to see what I could see. Two years ago this week, I left an anonymous letter for a stranger at a Dunkin Donuts in Allentown. That was back when I left an anonymous letter for a stranger to find every single Monday in 2013.

"No road is long with good company," the little Turkish proverb in the card I left professed. Inside the card, I wrote:

Dear You,

Even if today is a good day for you, I want you to know that hope is there waiting to help you cope when a bad day begins. If today is less than perfect, then I'm glad this card found you. You don't have to have an army at your side to be supported and loved. It's about quality not quantity. One true friend can make all the difference. "Good company" can mean a select few or even just this letter. You matter. You are not alone. Keep that in mind and any long road won't seem so long. Much love,
Me

It seemed fitting I would find this today, archived on the web as so many of my doings over the past few years are...because prior to my internet trip down memory lane, I had been finalizing my Matron of Honor speech for my best friend's wedding (which is next weekend). After crying each time I read through it out loud to myself today (practicing to NOT cry), it occurred to me that in addition to a toast of well wishes, my speech is actually a (loving) letter to my best friend.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thank You for the Wait

It's about that time of night when I settle into my thoughts and say thank you for all the things I'm grateful for today. There are a lot of them.

The lock screen on my phone is an image that says: Thank you, Universe, for all the good things in my life that I don't yet know about!!!

I like to see it a million times a day as a reminder.

For all the great things I have, feel, and know, I am thankful. For the rest yet to come, I will wait.


The Universe works at its own pace. And since my every day already holds great things, it's easy to believe that even better things are coming. As Tom Petty sings, "The waiting is the hardest part..." But I will always, always, always wait for the things that are worthwhile in this life.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Home Is...

I had two more house showings today. The first one went well - they said the house was great for the price and it would be a contender in their search. I don't have any information on the second showing yet.

It's funny... I tend to have very little patience and move at a steady (or rapid) pace when I'm sure of something. But as soon as I got the call that someone was even just a little interested in my house, I had this feeling like I wanted to...halt.

Don't get me wrong, I still want to get out of this house. I don't want to live here forever. But I guess I'm not in as much of a rush as I thought I was.

My game plan is still the same, but I think I'm feeling a little less urgency. I guess I'm just more content these days than I was when I made the decision to sell back on January 12th. There is a little more bounce to my already bouncy step.


Wherever I can sleep, eat, drink wine, pet my cats, dance in my underwear, and blog to my heart's content...that will be home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Goals

I used to keep this little list from about the age of 20 or 21 called Things I Want to Do By the Time I'm 30. I tweaked items on the list from year to year as life changed. Sometimes I laughed at myself as I got older and noticed how silly some of my goals began to look on paper, but for the most part, my list remained constant.

Well, I'm 30 and I've only really accomplished 4 of the 11 items that have made it to the final draft.

get a better job
get a Masters degree
- become a mother
- publish a book
travel somewhere outside the US
- re-learn Spanish
start a successful eating disorder support group
- visit England and all the friends I have there
- start a mentoring program for girls - going into schools, facilitating groups, presenting good role models for today's youth and answering the questions the kids really want to ask
- visit the West Coast
- go on a trip with the purpose to help a group of people, not be on vacation (I've always wanted to go somewhere like India or Mexico or Haiti for like 10 days just to put my MSW to use and have an eye-opening experience)


I did get a better job and I'm thankful for that. I did get a Masters Degree! I did travel outside the US on my honeymoon to St. Lucia (2008) and again for a friend's wedding in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (2009), but it seems so long ago that I even looked at my passport. It will be 7 years this summer that I've led an eating disorder support group in the Lehigh Valley.

I guess I'll have to revise my list's title to Things I Want to Do By the Time I'm 35 and see how far I get.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Wild Frontier

Here I go, counting time again. The 18th of the month is upon us. It's now 10 months I've been a widow. I looked back through some old posts just now and came across the one I called Braving the Frontier. I wrote it when I was just 2 months a widow:


Lately, I feel like the heroine of one of those old movies. The ones in which there's a young wife who goes out to the frontier or the old west or some equally remote place with her husband. And then her husband suddenly dies. And there she is, this young widow, out on her own...trying to make her way. Trying to be bolder than she feels. Stronger than she looks. She struggles to survive the winter...or the demise of her farm...or life in a new town... Whatever the premise, I feel like that young widow. Forced to go it alone on the rugged terrain of life.

I kind of chuckle to myself when I ponder this. She always puts her boots on and scurries outside, ready to do what she has to do. She always surprises everyone around her. She always learns a lesson about independence / finds love again / changes the town in which she lives.

She always comes out on top.

If there's one thing I've learned in my 29 years and 9 months on this earth, it's that real life is nothing like the movies. It's way more interesting.

So I'll pull my boots on and brave the frontier.


Many months later, I still chuckle as I imagine myself the heroine of such a plot. I can see how the story is unfolding and it makes me smile. I strain to hear the soundtrack in the background, rising and falling - crescendo after crescendo as I face life head-on, meeting challenges, fighting for what I want, and of course, having fun in spite of the trials and tribulations that inevitably come my way. I am every bit as wild as this frontier.

And it's always a good idea to laugh at yourself. Roll credits.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Solution

The problem with wanting something too much...is that it might actually happen. So really, it's not a problem at all...

Does anything really have to be a problem? Maybe every moment we live, we're just one step closer to the solutions.


I am a firm believer that when we look for solutions, we find them.

Remember the definitions of a promise and a guarantee?

Well, solution (noun) falls right in line among them.

-the process of determining the answer to a problem or question
-the answer itself

All kinds of things fly around us, slam into us, hold us down, keep us from living our full potential or our total happiness. When something awesome is supposed to happen - meant to happen - the solution does not have to be found. The something awesome becomes the solution.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Joella's Insight

There’s something about being with kids that makes everything better.  At least for me. They make me laugh, they make me smile, they say the most interesting things. Today, I colored Easter eggs with my two nieces. No matter how cheerful I am, Joella, the oldest, has this quality of always wanting to make me feel better. It’s sort of like ever since Rick died, she has considered me sick and wants to do what she can to make me well again. 

To her, I am Auntie A (Aunt Arielle is kind of a mouthful for little ones) – formerly of Auntie A & Uncle Rick, a duo, an entity of two. She understands that something happened to that entity a while back and so in her mind, I think she realized my house, my table, my bed, and my life were somewhat emptier. 

Rick died back in May of 2014. So last summer, as my world was very slowly turning to color once more, my (then-3-year-old, now 4-year-old) niece Joella had a new toy phone.  One afternoon, she kept asking people to make pretend phone calls. Outside in the sun of my parents’ backyard, her little blond head turning from side to side in thought, Joella handed me the pink phone. “Now call Uncle Rick,” she said.

After the moment where my only 2-months-in broken heart broke a little more, I realized that a toy phone can call anyone we desire. So I took the phone and I called Rick. I called Rick in Bliss, which is what he always called life after death. Joella cocked her head to the side, smiling. She knew Rick was gone. She didn’t understand the concept of death, but she knew she couldn’t see her uncle anymore. Joella urging me to call Rick was her way of trying to make me feel better.  I remember how she said, “Now call Juice, but Juice is at home,” indicating that she knew my cat was at home, but sadly Rick was not. 


I remember Joella’s mom telling me how Joella kept a picture of Rick next to her bed and would talk to him. It made me smile so much when she told me that Joella was explaining Uncle Rick to her baby sister Harriette.

I can see as time marches on that Joella knows I’m happy and okay now. She uses her usual greeting for me of “Hey, You!” and we draw pictures or build things or she sings for me.

I got the sense the other day that she was feeling me out – trying as always to “make me feel better,” but also trying to get a handle on my current state of mind these days. On Tuesday, Joella called me just to say hi and then out of the blue said, “Don’t worry, Auntie A, I think Uncle Rick will come back to this world.” 

For a minute, I was stunned, but I didn’t say I wished he would, I didn’t say that I was sad without him, and I didn’t get upset. Because I didn’t feel that way. And I think that’s really what Joella was listening for.  So instead, my niece just sensed my genuine happiness, my healed heart, and my praise of her compassion. 

My mom had been telling Joella about her art show at Bethlehem’s Twisted Olive and Joella said that if I was going to be there, that maybe Uncle Rick would go too. After some explanation from my mom, that was Joella’s train of thought when she called me that night. 

I give this kid a lot of credit. I feel strongly that when she sees me, she is thinking to herself that Auntie A is supposed to be part of something more, deserving to be part of a pair of some kind, that Auntie A is just too good to be alone. Last night was the art show and I was there by myself. I know my niece could see me there, smiling and alive in my pretty dress, lots of hope in my heart spilling over into all the conversations I had with people. Joella gave me a big hug and a “Hey, You!” She did not ask about Uncle Rick.  She sees the change in me and she knows now that I’m more than okay just being Auntie A… and that one day I’ll be part of an entity of two again, happier than ever. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Sails

6 months ago, when I had already been grieving for several months, I posted this:


Today I spent four hours in the car, driving two of my co-workers to a work event. Our conversation inevitably turned to personal lives and I found myself discussing my fears surrounding this new phase of life.

It's always nice to hear people say good things about you, but when you are living with pain and fear in your heart daily, it's nicer still. I guess according to them, I am grieving with grace, if that is such a thing - an interesting concept when I feel such a mess sometimes.

I was trying to figure out why our car conversation was so validating and comforting to me. And I realized it's because my co-worker friends found another way to say, "It's going to be okay." In their own words, in their own ways, they were saying that it already is. That I'm already doing what needs to be done. That I'm already making my way. That they see it and they respect it.

This is the worst storm I've weathered...but I'm still here. I'm still standing. I've adjusted my sails. And I'm still going. I will not stop. I will not lie waiting in the water, letting life pass me by. I will adjust. I will move. I will go forth. I will do whatever it is I want to do.

And one day I'll look back on this car conversation with a smile, because my sails will have taken me so far from this moment. 


Well, today was that day when I happened upon that old post...today was that day when I looked back on that car conversation with a smile...today was that day when I realized my sails have taken me so far from that moment. In that moment, I was doing fine. I was actually doing very well. But now, looking back, I can see how far I've come even from that day. I love life. But then again, I pretty much love everything. :-)

Friday, March 13, 2015

One Day

I enjoy being pleasantly surprised. That tends to be the most fulfilling kind of life - the kind that surprises you.

All my life, in my head, I've been saying One day... One day... One day...


After all I've seen and heard, escaped and met head on, experienced and lived through, dreamed and planned, envisioned and imagined...I still go to sleep thinking When will one day come?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mantras

I think if you wanted to get a real handle on who I am and who I want to be, you could take a look at my mantras for life. I have a lot of mantras and I try my very best to live them:


"We get in life what we have the courage to ask for."

"Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places."


"It is not happy people who are thankful. It is the thankful people who are happy."

"There are only two options: make progress or make excuses."

"Let your smile change the world, but don't let the world change your smile."


"If we wait until we are ready, we'll be waiting the rest of our lives."

"A goal without a plan is just a wish."

"Show up in every single moment like you're meant to be there."

"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got." (Janis Joplin)


"Be the heroine of your life, not the victim." (Nora Ephron)

"Fate loves the fearless."

"Your attitude determines your direction."


"Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us."

"Do one thing every day that scares you." (Eleanor Roosevelt)


"Those who do not believe in magic will never find it."

"I like things to happen. And if they don't happen, I like to make them happen." (Winston Churchill)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Progress

Months and months ago, not long after Rick died, my friend Jennifer and I began a Wednesday ritual. Dinner & a TV series. But not just any TV series... The Gilmore Girls, a funny, touching, non-stressful show. We're still going strong, despite our busy schedules. It started out as a way to help me grieve, a way to lighten my heart... and it became a staple of friendship time.

She brought this simple ritual into my life, and it's amazing what a ritual can do. 

Rituals can be comforting, of course, but I also look forward to this one. It serves a purpose. There is meaning behind it. 

It's so easy to let things lapse. Especially rituals that are weekly occurrences. It's easy to say, "Oh not this week," or "We'll do it next week instead." Then the breaks become more frequent and before you know it, the ritual itself has fallen apart. Not with us. It isn't so much that we take it seriously (though in a way, we do), it's that we're both very loyal people. When we start something, we like to finish it. When we make a commitment to a friend, we follow through. So on each of our ends, this ritual has become something solid. We keep it going. I keep it going, because it kept me going.

It's a bit funny to note how a TV show marked my grieving process. Here I am at the other end now, remembering how it got me through. Remembering the love and care of a friend. Remembering those first few Wednesdays when I could laugh at the TV for an hour here and there, transported away from my painful existence. When everything felt weird and off, we could watch our show and forget. 


My living room changed around us...photos taken down...furniture coming and going. Holidays came and went. Food was in variety...whether delivered to my door, cooked by me in my kitchen, or picked up on the way home. Between travel and illness and other events, a Wednesday here and there was skipped, but there was always a plan on the calendar for the next time we'd reconvene. We've cried. We've laughed. We've gone through tissues and Dove Bars and tea. These Wednesdays have seen a lot of conversations between us, a lot of life changes, and so much...progression. In so many literal and figurative ways.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Self-Pity

I have to be honest. In spite of gratitude, positivity, and zest for life, there is a pesky little part of me that dips into self-pity every now and then. I suppose it's only natural. We're all human after all. I am not exempt.

As I was leaving work today, I realized that I didn't really want to go home. And when I realized that, I realized that I never really look forward to going home. 

Whether I'm grabbing a salad for dinner or making homemade meatballs in my kitchen at 6:00 pm, it's all just food, which is just another way for me to kill that time between leaving work and going to sleep at night so that I can run back into work again. Same with watching TV or cleaning or doing laundry or reading... It's all just another way for me to kill that chunk of time when I'm at home, lonely and thinking, drinking wine and making lists of things to look forward to, filling my schedule with things I enjoy or that keep me busy. 

Because... It's during that chunk of time at home that self-pity likes to slip in...

The questions begin to form in my mind...
Can't anything ever be easy? Don't I deserve to be happy? Haven't I been through enough? Can't something just work out for me? Do I get to ever have the things I want? Will I ever be enough?

I go through these questions, sometimes with tears in my eyes, which angers me even more, and the questions seem so much like a child's tantrum - one big paragraph of "It's not fair!" - that I am immediately frustrated with myself. I shoo away the self-pity, take a few deep breaths, and remind myself of all the beautiful things in my life, the gifts I've been given, and the real happiness I feel regularly these days.


I'm so ashamed of the self-pity, but maybe that's where changing it begins - to speak it and hear it and wave it away with a firm NO. I'll be okay, because I always am.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Savoring

Do you remember when I wrote - so long ago - at just one month in, that I was going to be a phoenix? "I won't let fear hold me back," I wrote. "I have no choice but to move forward. So I will. I'm going to do my best to be like the phoenix - to rise from the ashes to a new life...and begin again."

I like to jokingly say that I was born ready, but the truth is, you can't wait until you're ready. "Ready" is not a time. It's a feeling. And sometimes the only way to make that feeling happen is to just decide you want to LIVE.


I may be young, but I feel as though I've lived a lifetime in my heart. I have so much left to learn, but I get this. This whole life thing. I'm ever-ready for what it offers. As I said three months ago on this blog, "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." 

I've collected a beautiful assortment of gems, among them some of the greatest lessons life has to offer. You will never catch me wasting what I'm given. I savor moments. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Crossing the Ocean

If there is one thing I've learned over the past year, it's courage. I latch on to the words strength...resilience...positivity... but really, more than anything, courage is what I've learned. 

Courage is, simply put, the ability to do something that scares you

So...why would you do something that scares you? Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes your husband dies and you are forced to live a new life, one that is mentally, emotionally, sexually, and financially very, very different from what you knew. So you do the impossible. You dive head first into life and you cross that ocean.

Sometimes you do have a choice when it comes to doing something that scares you. You are faced with decisions, with challenges, with wants and needs, with possibilities.  You have options, you have problems, you have hopes, and you have dreams. And so of course, you have fear. 


The ocean may be vast. Losing sight of the shore may be the scariest thing you've ever done. The unknown is alarming. But what's across the ocean might just be more wonderful than anything you ever knew before. 

And you'll never know unless you jump in and start swimming. 

I only know this, because I have done it. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Another Saturday

This morning, I visited my mother-in-law...well, Rick's mom... I guess she stopped being my mother-in-law when my marriage ended by death, even though it wasn't a personal choice. She held my hand and told me the exact same things she always tells me when I see her:

"I'm angry at God."

"I can't believe my Ricky is dead. I wish it was me instead."

"You are too young and cute to be alone. I hope you get married again."

"I feel so sorry for you, my little girl."

I tell her not to be sorry for me. I tell her I'm doing great. I tell her life isn't fair, but we choose our attitudes.

She is a blend of tragic and hilarious. She repeats herself - because of her dementia - and usually by the end of my visit I'm blushing with embarrassment from all the cute things she says about my appearance and/or holding back tears from remembering the day I had to tell her that her son was dead. Today, she couldn't wrap her head around the fact that Rick has been dead for almost 10 months. To her, it still seems fresh every morning. Not fresh as though it happened yesterday, but not as old as 9.5 months either.

She remembers to ask me how my cats are. She remembers my parents live close by. She knows the day of the week when I'm there, because I almost always come on a Saturday. She always tells me to find a good man to take care of me and to bring him to meet her. She tells me I deserve to be happy again. She talks about the past. Then she does it all over again. Asks the same questions. States the same topics of conversation.


I try to think of things to tell her that are exciting. I talk to her about my nieces, my job, the wedding I'm in, the weekend trips I make to my friends' homes in Philadelphia or Connecticut, my decision to  sell my house. I try.

She passes her time in her private room at an Assisted Living Home, addicted to chocolate and Coca-Cola. I know she is content. I know she is well cared for. I know she doesn't need anything. She is always happy to see me...a familiar face and a link to her dead son.

I help her fix her hair, I help her use her walker to the dining room, I give her a hug and a kiss good bye, I tell her I love her. "I love you," she always says when I leave, "and don't worry, you don't have to come see me if you have other things to do sometimes." But I try. I try.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Heart

Over 6 months ago, only 3 months into grief, I wrote that I pictured my heart as a tender onion, layer upon layer upon layer...that the first several layers were ripped and shredded and bruised beyond recognition, but the inner layers leading to the core were strong and resilient, waiting to be seen.


Today, 12 days away from the 10 month mark, I feel remarkably free from the old life I had. It isn't that I want to forget any of the good and bad experiences that made me who I am. But I do want the chance for a new kind of life. The outer layers of the onion that is my heart are no longer ripped and shredded and bruised. They've been ripped away completely and that strong, resilient core is all that's left. My heart beats in a different way now.

And I really like it.

No, I love it.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Awake

A few days ago, I wrote about feeling alive. But you know what else I am?

Awake.

Finally awake.

As in...

awake (adjective):
-fully conscious, alert, and aware; not asleep


I have such a good feeling about life. Sometimes in the morning, as I turn in my bed, it starts as a semi-conscious knowledge that there is something to look forward to... Then it becomes a smile that I feel before it even forms on my face... Then it's an excitement, deep in my soul, because I feel alive and awake... And then it's something more - an intuition almost (some would call it a gut feeling) - letting me know that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. That life is going in the right direction. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Celebration

I was reading something the other day, the gist of which was basically: "Go where you are celebrated, not just tolerated." It's really worth dissecting this concept. And I think it makes all the difference between joy and mundane...between living and just existing. Going where you are celebrated is like living a real, genuine smile. Every day. Going where you are just tolerated is like a shrug. Every day.

It's good advice for anyone. So often, we forget how much we really deserve...we forget what's possible, because we become so used to the status quo.

Several years ago, on a different blog, I wrote:

The world is waiting for you. It's waiting with open arms and a smile. All you have to do is live.
Though this attempt to live can be the single greatest thing you ever do, it is in fact probably the most difficult thing you will ever do. This is not to say that "living" requires complete happiness every moment of every day. Living life means experiencing the bad with the good, but when the bad consistently and greatly outweighs the good, you are not living. You may be trying to live, but you are not living. 

Do not confuse existing with living. The two are very different indeed. 

Somehow, we forget to live. Really live. It's difficult to even pinpoint exactly how this happens, but it does. All too often. And before we know it, we are lost in the crowd, lost in the troubles, lost in the pain, lost in the life we think is a life simply because it is a reality. Maybe no one ever told you this, but...

You can change your reality.

I still believe that. We don't have to change ourselves. We can change our realities if we are not happy with them. We can choose to go where we are celebrated and not just tolerated. We should do that. We deserve that. 

This is the reason why - in addition to seeking such a life for myself - I will celebrate and not just tolerate. That is what makes life worthwhile. It's about really feeling, it's about not wasting the time we are given, it's about being genuine, it's about gathering close the stuff that's meaningful and discarding the stuff that isn't. If I bother to have you in my life, I care deeply. I will give you my undivided attention. I will tell you my honest thoughts. I will remind you that you are important. I will take care of you. I will make you smile. I will cheer you up. I will not take you for granted. I will do my best. Always.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dreams


Exactly 6 months ago today, I wrote this as the ending to a post:



And last, I feel surprise. I am surprised by the twists and turns my life has made...and I am also surprised by my lack of being able to predict my own life these last, let's say, 10 years. When I pictured my life, I saw so many things - but those things were more like predictions than dreams. I have learned not to predict, but to dream. I used to imagine what I thought would happen. But if I do as the Eagles say in Love Will Keep Us Alive (one of my favorite songs), and just "let it ride," I can appreciate everything as it comes and understand that my dreams are just seeds ready to make realities bloom. There is no sense in thinking you have life all figured out. Who has life figured out at 20? At 30?  

I ride this life with no expectations. I have wishes, hopes, and dreams, but I will not predict my life. I will simply live it.



It's much more fun to dream than to predict. I've always dreamed. I'm a pro at dreaming. But no one ever said, "Hey, that sounds perfect. Let's do it." I just don't think I ever really understood that dreams don't have to stay dreams. They can come to fruition sometimes. I used to think that all the things I dreamed up were fantasies...that they had no business being realities. I used to think that I was the only one who wanted the things I want. Or that I had to continually sacrifice. Over and over again. I don't have big plans... I have simple visions... very simple, really... but they are meaningful to me. And so far in life, though I've been lucky and thankful for what I've had, I haven't been able to let my dreams be seeds that make realities bloom. It is wonderful and touching to realize that I can live the things I envision for myself...that it is possible to feel truly excited about life...that I can just let it ride...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy

I didn't blog last night, and tonight I don't have too much to say. I've just been remembering all those posts I used to write about having sad eyes or some kind of difference in my face after Rick died, even if I was smiling and living life very well...like I could tell happiness/contentment was still not filling me all the way up. For the longest time.

So I wanted an excuse to take a photo with my brand new iPhone6 (yay!) and to say THIS is what a happy person looks like. A really happy person.