Blogiversary . . . and Beyond

When I picked up my pen (uh, mouse) to begin this blog, I had no idea how long the conversation would continue. In those dark days, I had no words.  Yet, I had plenty because, well, that’s how I roll. Sometimes they made no sense, even to me. All I could do was send my soul out to the universe in kooky missives that, gratefully, you read and shared back to me. It’s been two years this month since that first blog post, and it’s only now, as I survey the emotional landscape, that I realize those words were actually breadcrumbs strewn toward the land of the living. They helped me leave behind the expectant vision of two old people rocking on a front porch that clearly would never be, and somehow steadied me on the path I now walk alone.

“The most painful state of being is remembering the future.” Kierkagard

Don’t get the idea that these last two years have been clarity-filled light bulb moments. There hasn’t been an overwhelmingly gung ho determination to race through a bucket list. Full disclosure? Most days, I’m not too sure of anything at all.  I just bluff pretty damn well. Okay, there was that time (twice to be exact) I came out on the winning end of a them vs me go-round with car dealers, especially the fight for Blueberry 2.0. And of course, there was the reluctant (what’s not to like – it was free) trip to CA, where in spite of myself, I had a good time. I even wrote a pretty damn good review for my client. Bonus. Christmases have passed, so have Easters. Valentine-less Days and birthdays without my man. But lonely I wasn’t.  Surrounded by super great adult kids, gorgeous, blooming grandkids and amazing friends in abundance, I can only be grateful.

“Life must go on; I forget just why.” Edna St. Vincent Millay Continue reading

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Letter to a Younger Me

Time traveling was never in my wheelhouse. Like it or not, we can never go can go back in time. Our life playbook has only one gear – forward. So since I’m already pretty far forward in mine/our life, kiddo. I thought 18 is a pretty good age to catch you up on a few things. I had to cross a lot of time zones to see the number you are now, but I thought it was time for a chat. Taking the long view (and it’s gets longer every day) there will never be a better time to let you know that no matter what – it’s all gonna be okay.

It won’t always be easy and you’re going to make a hell of a lot of mistakes. You’ll be pushed sometimes beyond your breaking point but you won’t break, I promise you. You won’t always be strong; but you’ll rock it when you need to. In moments you feel the most insecure, the most vulnerable, the most scared, those moments will also most shape you. When you think you’ve reached a dead end, a new path will open. When you feel most like a failure, you’re the closest to finding your center. Sometimes you’ll wonder if you’ll ever recover. You will.

Spoiler alert. The jury is still out on happily ever after but judging all that’s happened, the chances are iffy.  Your heart is going to be broken more than a few times. Trust me that you’ll feel a wee bit resentful that you skipped art school to put a husband through college. That choice will never feel dumber than after said husband exited stage left and you become a typing, filing single mom of three instead of the artist you thought you’d be. But kids grew up, jobs came and went and doors opened to new possibilities. You’ll discover gifts you didn’t know you had. Okay, your art will be less Michelangelo and more commercial illustration and graphic design, but, hey, you’ll be doing it. Your creative self will evolve as you do. And every time you get sucked into the stigma of missed college, a shelf full of creative awards will remind you that, while you did it backwards, you did it. Continue reading

Count Your Blessings

Praise the lord

Each one of us have been dealt an iffy hand in this life. Often more than one. Sometimes we get a straight flush; others force us to cash in the chips. (I don’t play cards so I’m winging it here) In the game of life, it sucks to lose but when you stack up all your cards, you might be relieved to take back your own.

There will be times that being thankful is a stretch. When you’re in that lowest of low places, gratitude is a foreign word. It’s easy to be thankful for stuff that makes us happy, makes us feel good. Being grateful for more complicated things is a bit more challenging.

The struggle ends, when gratitude begins. Neale Donald Walsh

Before you think I have this gratitude thing nailed down, I don’t. There are days I rant with the best of them. There are nights when pity parties reign. My writing is often just as much a reminder and inspiration to me — as to anyone else. That being said, in a nanosecond I can still write a list of 10 things I’m grateful. They would probably have a lot in common with your own list – family, friends, health, a home come easily to mind. These days, there’s a world in turmoil beyond our small periphery.

There are reminders everywhere that so much of this world cannot take safety or stability for granted. In many places outside our safe bubbles,  there are no nearby megastores packed with an overwhelming variety of food, clothing and things we don’t even really need. There’s no Uber; no HBO. It’s hard to be immersed in gratitude in the face of poverty, terrorism, war and loss of life, either of our loved one or of other people’s loved ones around the world. Yet, an attitude of gratitude is pretty global and somehow exists in the midst of the worst of human experiences. Continue reading

Happily Ever After, they said.

Heart in the bark of a tree.Tree with heart shape. Heart wooden cut texture

When this all began, we knew there’d be a price…”Jekyll & Hyde

Some wondered if it was a good idea to marry a man with cancer. Looking back, it wasn’t really a decision. It was actually a no-brainer.

I loved him.

Everyone arrives in your life with baggage. Everyone. Some carry bags as small as coin purses; others drag a dumpster. When we met, it seemed neither of us carried more than a wallet.  (okay, mine included a make-up case, keys with the fuzzy duck, two pairs of glasses and all the just-in-case stuff, but you get the idea) My husband’s, however, grew to industrial size proportions. Even so, we figured real love is a match for ANY luggage, right?  It has to be – when the baggage is cancer. Continue reading

“You Are You. Now isn’t that pleasant.”

winding_road

Dr. Seuss always nails it.

You are YOU — just a wee bit different than you were ‘before’.  The first time you check  the “widow” status on a form, have to change your emergency contact or start to say ‘honey, I’m home’ and realized no one is there, you are a different you. And it sucks. But it’s life now. Whether it happened with no warning or after months of dread, the title ‘widow’ is as foreign as if you shucked your identity for the Witness Protection Program. You feel  like you woke up on another planet — without rocket re-entry to your old life. This is it.

My husband is gone almost 10 months. I should be used to the title but ‘widow’ still doesn’t compute. To totally absorb it, means I need to accept the basic fact that my husband died and is never coming back. Before you think I’ve lost it entirely, of course I know he’s gone. I know he’s not just on a business trip; he’s not on a road trip. I get it.  I’m the one who found him that fateful night.

Cancer perched on the sidelines of every facet of our lives for years. Often sneaky, even silent, sometimes we ‘almost’ forgot it was even there. There were more emergent battles to fight. Debilitating treatment side-effects that dogged him constantly that we both knew would never leave. But sometimes even the most upsetting can be business as usual when you’re immersed in the day to day and you almost forget the gorilla waiting to pounce.  Continue reading

Keeping It…REAL

pakiet.na-zdrowie.3Newsflash – No matter how any of us try to be perfect – that’s not happening. Neither people – or marriages are born to be perfect. Sure, we may WANT perfect, the ideal — but  REAL is what we get.

Marriage is rarely a Hallmark movie or 24/7 euphoria. Instead, authentic marriage means sacrifice, issues, chores, schedules, love, irritation, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, anger, affection (not always in that order). It’s also idiocyncrasies, snoring, worries, richer and poorer. When critical illness and its side effects enters the mix, now that really transforms the playing field. One partner undergoes endless procedures/surgeries, diminished quality of life, anger, pain and fear. The other juggles worry, research, is the keeper of the medical records, and caretaker extraordinaire. That was our  marriage; that was our REAL.

I’ve poured my heart out these past months, writing about deep grief, and the missing of a husband I loved beyond words. It came to me recently, that the painting was incomplete. It was in black and white with pieces missing. While stark pen and ink art has always been my forte, when it comes to portraying a real picture of real marriage, black and white doesn’t cut it.  Grief outlined only in high contrast is pretty flawed and does a disservice to the flavors and colorations a real marriage holds. Continue reading

Celebrating the Knight who said — ‘pie’

FullSizeRenderThey say a knight in shining armor is a man who never had his metal tested. I met a few of them; I even dated them. You know, the dudes whose metal suit was actually tin foil. That’s why I almost missed the knight whose armor had as many dings and tarnishes as his car bumper. He was the real deal. He fought his share of dragons, especially the most fearsome of all. And when you constantly battle the beast, even the most deepest of loves have emotional jousts. But then again, as I stood all those years beside my husband, he had way more than his ‘metal’ tested. His spirit, self-confidence, courage and self-esteem were tried way beyond what most people can tolerate. And each time, he got back on that horse (or green Nissan) to battle another day.

Today is this knight’s birthday.

He loved everything about medieval knights. He had a little room full of toy collectible Knights of Agincourt who hung around castles he painstakingly crafted. This was a guy who took supreme pleasure in sharing his love of those men in armor with our grandsons at Medieval Times for their 5th birthdays. I could never decide who loved the pageantry more – him or them. The last time we were there, we joked that we had to rest up before we took one the smallest of the teenies but that will never happen. Grandpa knight died barely 2 months later. Continue reading