Saturday, July 11, 2015

Bright Sun

My first week at the new job has come to a close. I feel good about my decision to leave my last place of employment, but I have to admit that I miss my old job terribly. I am struggling to get into a new groove, and while I know it will happen, it hasn't happened yet.

I have met a lot of great people at my new job...and the work itself is rewarding and just the right amount of challenging.

As is typical when meeting new people, I have been asked questions that require me, for some reason or another, to tell my story of widowhood.

"What brought you to hospice?"

"Why were you interested in working with families dealing with grief and loss?"

"Are you married? Do you have children?"

"Where do you live? Do you live alone?"

Sometimes my response is brief. Other times, there is more explanation. Often, my answers create more questions. It still amazes me how many questions people ask. The shock value is always there, even though I never intend it. People see a young woman in front of them, cheerful, positive, smiling brightly, eager to do a job, quick to make a joke, and even quicker to laugh. They see bouncing curls and pretty clothes. And then it all gets broken open for them when they discover I'm a widow, a survivor left behind in the wake of a tragic suicide, or someone who has dealt with unimaginable loss. I guess I just don't look like someone who has dealt with great loss.

I don't prance around, telling my tale for all to hear. I simply respond to the questions as they arise. It's normal for people to discuss their personal lives, so there's really no way around my story once the chit-chat begins and the usual questions come up.

That said, I don't feel like a widow too much these days. I have so much burning inside me - so much life and excitement and love. I read once that being vague while speaking or writing makes a person's words seem more powerful...but I don't believe that. I have never liked being vague. I think being direct and honest is far more powerful (and empowering). But bear with me...

I look forward to the day when I can tell a different tale to those who ask me questions. I look forward to the freedom of being direct at all times. I look forward to being able to share as many good things as I have shared bad. I look forward...

The week began with pouring rain which continued for a few days, but has ended with bright sun.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

What's Cooking

Tonight I did something I haven't done for a long time: I cooked a real recipe

Over a year ago, back when Rick was still alive, it was typical for me to cook several nights a week. I made meals that lasted for more than one night, but I cooked a lot. I had a whole binder of collected recipes and I flipped through it every weekend in order to make my shopping list so I could plan our week. 

I considered myself a decent cook and a lover of food.

Once Rick died, I went through that initial period of wanting to do nothing "extra." People brought me food, they sent me food, they froze food for me, and some even did my grocery shopping. When that period ended, it still felt too taxing to cook. Any free time I had was devoted to taking care of business - the business of death. I had an endless to-do list full of more pressing matters than making meatloaves or casseroles.

Once the paperwork, phone calls, bill paying, and appointments finally tapered off, I found that making dinner for one was a) difficult and b) kind of annoying. It actually annoyed me to think about having to make meals for myself. So much prep and zest was my usual way in the kitchen, but with only me left to enjoy the fruits of my labor, everything was a letdown. Cooking was no longer enjoyable.

Over the past year, I made a meal a couple of times for my friend Jennifer and me when we watched the Gilmore Girls on a Wednesday night, but that was somewhat different - it felt more like cooking for a purpose (and a person other than myself) once again.

Once a wife who cooked, I resorted this past year to picking up salads on my way home, ordering a random pizza I'd proceed to eat for 3 days, or going out to dinner with friends. I even found that I began to tailor my eating habits to having my main meal for lunch where I could eat with my co-worker friends and then eating something smaller for dinner when I was alone. I can name several local places who know my face if not my name (Salad Works, WaWa, Primo Hoagies, Panera Bread), because they became the frequent provider of Widow Dinner as I made my way home from work.

About once a week, I ate at my parents' house. I also tried buying frozen bags of Italian food or frozen pizzas, but that annoyed me almost as much as considering cooking real food because it felt lesser, as if I was demoting myself from a woman who used to cook to someone who didn't know how. Bags of frozen food I bought months ago are still sitting in my freezer, unmade. Around once a week, I ate at my parents' house. On nights when I didn't grab something on the way home or call for some kind of delivery, I realized that I ate things like Parmesan goldfish crackers or cheese and pepperoni after a heavy lunch at work, which seemed pathetic and less than well-balanced.

Well, tonight I made Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup. It wasn't a very difficult recipe, but it was a real meal that I actually created from an actual recipe. I even chopped cloves of garlic for it. I'll eat it with a salad.

Tonight, I did something else I haven't done for a long time: I cried. And not for something I've shed tears for in the past. I cried tonight for a different kind of loss: the loss of my former job. I found myself with a horrible lump in my throat as the reality set in that I wouldn't be driving to my former place of employment tomorrow morning. And then I felt tears form in my eyes...and the thought that actually made me cry was my former co-workers/office neighbors listening to the radio trivia in the morning and how I wouldn't be there to help them guess the answer. I pictured my office-that's-not-my-office-anymore and the fact that tomorrow is the Lessons in Loss support group I used to lead with Pastor Ginny and I won't get to hear what the residents talk about. And Ashlee's probably going to ask what's for lunch, but she won't be asking me...

It's a bit tangled in my heart... because I really want to be there...but I also don't want to be there. I know I did the right thing by moving onward...and I know I don't have to say goodbye to the people I met at my old job...and I'm not sorry I'm heading to a new, exciting, good job in the morning...but it feels really WEIRD.

Weird isn't bad. For now, it's just weird. And I have to remind myself that no amount of tears changes the fact that I took control of my life to do this. I chose to leave. And I'm happy about it. It sets the stage for the rest of my life in a bunch of awesome ways, and I go to sleep knowing that. So in true Cat Widow fashion, I'm going to taste my comforting soup, wipe my eyes, and toast to new beginnings.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


There are people we meet who ignite a spark within us, people who pop into our lives and suddenly it's like they have always belonged there. The unexpected, when it's terrible and painful, is brutal - a reality check and a loss of ground. The unexpected, when it's beautiful and awesome, is exhilarating - a dream come true and a lesson in inner happiness.

It's exciting when you find parts of yourself in someone else. It's meaningful when the presence of another person makes you look forward to tomorrow. 

Some things are better left unsaid, tucked away into a quiet place in the heart. There is plenty of time for stories, explanations, and thoughts. Right now, it's good to just feel good. 

Today was my last day at my job before I embark on a new professional journey - nervous, eager, and full of anticipation for all the good that is yet to come...