Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grief: Coming Home to an Empty House

I used to be a vagabond.  When Artie and I fell in love and eventually got married I still travelled a lot.  He hated to travel and we liked missing each other so I would go by myself or with a woman friend.  Part of the rituals of travelling were the phone calls - one in the morning and one at night.  One when I arrived to say I was safe.  Calls from airports to say I was almost home. I once called him from Timbuktu - my cell phone actually worked better in Timbuktu than it does in my apartment in NYC!!! When I got home there was always a welcome home love note taped to the door.  Then a big hug and kiss.  We were always so happy to see each other again.  Sometimes I opened mail or watched TV - I wish I hadn't done that - I wish I had spent every minute with him as soon as I returned.  I wish I never took his presence for granted for a second.  I miss it so much now.  I want all the time back I did unimportant things when I could have been with him.

I have taken a couple of small trips since he died but I haven't left the country.  Halloween is my daughter's favorite holiday and we are going to Transylvania (in Romania).  It should be fun but I am not excited yet.  I know he is not in his clothes or pictures or even in his ashes - but it will feel uncomfortable leaving them behind.  It will feel very uncomfortable not having him to call.  The first time I went away after he died I got physically sick.  I don't think that will happen - once I am there I will probably - hopefully - have a good time and come home with lots of great stories. 

Every day when I open my eyes - even after a year - I am still a little surprised not to see him.  When I come home from anywhere I want to say - "Hi, honey.  I love you."  When he first died sometimes I would say that - and pretend that we just missed each other and he'd be home later.  I love where I live.  It is very comfortable and I am lucky to have such a nice apartment.  It is full and yet completely empty.  I will try to stay in the present when I am away - and enjoy all the new things I will learn - and laugh - and yet in the back of my mind I will be reaching for the phone to dial a number that doesn't exist anymore.  I will try not to think about what it will be like to come home and not have a note on the door - not have him eagerly awaiting me.  I wonder if when I die there will be a note on the door of heaven!  "Welcome home."  Assuming, of course, there is a heaven and I get to be let in!  Heaven for me will be wherever Artie is.  That's why I feel homeless with such a lovely home - home for me was wherever he was. 

I'll be off line until November 6th.  I'll probably bring one of his shirts to sleep in.  This letting go thing - just not possible for me yet.  Let you know how it goes when I come back.  xo

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Grief Poem

I've also put  this on the Grief Poetry page. :)

The Working Fairy and the Dancing Fairy

The working fairy and the dancing fairy
loved their home in our California garden.
Roses; persimmon scarlet and butterscotch,
a river made of cut glass flowing through,
night lit with imaginary shimmer.
Dainty footsteps wafting mint scent
as she danced to the sound of his hammer
building dream ladders by day
to climb softly each night
to peek in window corners
as we slept.
Husband and Wife.
They smiled at our large tangled shapes,
soft and warm with synchronized breath.
It was easy to be guardian fairies then.

When you died and I moved to New York City.
the dancing fairy convinced the working fairy
to find us once again and drink of my tears.
They do not understand Central Park.
It is too big and they are lost.
You everywhere and myself nowhere,
or is it myself everywhere and you nowhere?
Dream ladders can’t reach apartments,
even as low as the second floor.

The working fairy has put down his tools
to carry the dancing fairy up Madison Avenue.
She limps now.
His wrist hurts and their wings are dusty.
The working fairy tries to amuse his love on city streets.
He kisses her tears and soothes her,
whispering that only by being lost
can you be found.
How, she wonders, can she be found
when she is slowly forgetting the dance

Grief: Wonder Grows Anyway

I went to a process painting class.  In process painting you paint from your instinct.  No skill required.  I was going to paint Artie in his hospital bed and then put layers of black covering everything.  Thick thick black.  I'm not much of an artist.  I started by putting the paper at an angle - since everything in my life feels off center.  Then I drew the hospital bed in black and Artie lying on it.  To my surprise I took a small brush and curls of red and orange and pink shot up from the bed and all around the paper.  Then I got the biggest brush I could find and started with the black.  It streaked as it went over the center where Artie was.  When I first met Artie he had a condo in Phoenix with a small balcony.  I bought him a tree. No one had ever done that for him before.  It was a solanum - lots of green leaves and tiny purple flowers.  Wherever we lived we planted one and called it our love tree.  At the celebration of his life I rented two and they were on either side of the couch where I and a friend sat at the front for the celebration.  As I painted big red arrow came out of his heart pointing up and then it turned into a tree.  Green sprouted out from the black - from the border and the hospital bed - and everywhere in addition to the big love tree that was coming up from the center.  Everywhere on all the green sprouts there were purple flowers.  It wasn't what I intended.  I intended to let the black take over - but it refused.  Like my life.  I feel that the black has taken over but I keep going out and doing things.  Keep filling my life with growth while I wait to be with Artie again - hopefully I will.  It's hard to adjust to his body not being here.  Sometimes the sadness is too much.  I bought a beautiful necklace today - I want to wear it for him.  And yet...things keep growing out of the black.  Maybe our love is such a rich soil things can't help but grow in it.  Watered with tears. 

The funny part was that we were standing on cardboard to protect the floor.  Everyone had very clean cardbooard.  Mine was covered in paint.  I had brushes in my smock pocket and in my hand and a pallet (interesting slip - a pallette for paint - not a pallet for a dead body!).  Painting like a crazy lady.  Then I covered a second piece of paper in a purple wash.  I was going to go back today but my allergies took over.  I was going to write I don't want to be happy - then I broke it down - I don't want to be.  I don't want to.  I don't want.  I don't.  I.  There it was.  Eventually it's I.  I liked we better but now it's I (in an earthly body) and I have to choose what words to put after the I and try to act on them - or maybe not do that all.  Probably do it sometimes - and other times just escape from the fact that Artie's dead and dream we are still together.  He says we are.  I know that - but I mean pretend he can walk in the door later and give me a big hug.  I know he can't - but in my imagination I can create anything.  A very powerful thing that - imagination.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Grief Isn't Negative

I wasn't going to write tonight - but what's with all this emphasis on being happy all the time?  No wonder so many people take drugs.  I'm writing this in the third place in a row in response to an article that "positive emotions" can be part of grieving.  Who decided some emotions are positive and others are negative?  I don't think sadness and anger are negative.  I think they are.  Emotions are negative when they are out of balance.  One way to get them out of balance is to discredit them or think they are bad.  I think it's good I am sad that my husband died.  I don't mind being angry sometimes that I am here without him.  Life is this wonderful tapestry woven of threads of all colors.  It shouldn't be changed so that only jolly colors are allowed in.  One way to get emotions out of balance is not to pay attention to them.  Let them all come to the table and have their say.  When you are sad  be sad.  When you are happy, be happy.  Of course there are things you can do to make yourself feel better - that doesn't mean you can't have a bad day or schedule in time for grief.  If I feel I have been too busy I'll crawl into bed and set the timer to give myself 20 or 30 minutes to talk to Artie and tell him how much I miss him and how sad I am that he isn't with me but that I understand he had to leave.  If I don't give myself time to be positively sad or angry - guess what - I'm probably going to get sick or start making stupid mistakes.  If I make my mind ignore my feelings - my body is going to take over and let me know what is happening.

Why does this culture want to take away the richness of the palate of human emotions?  I wonder if this need to follow your bliss all the time leads to a lack of compassion for the suffering of others.  If we can't have empathy for someone grieving the death of one person they love (even if that grief lasts 100 years) how do we have empathy for survivors of plane crashes, earthquakes, genocide etc...  If you were in a concentration camp you don't forget.  If you were injured in a war you don't forget.  If you were in a city that was bombed you don't forget.  I want to weep for all these people that suffer. All we can do for those who have died is make sure they are remembered.  That is why people build memorials.  My husband died. I'm not going to forget.  I can live a full and happy life and still have time to grieve. 

Well - sometimes I just have to stop writing and take a shower.  See - time for ranting and for clean hair too!  Here's to a world that allows light in the darkness and doesn't deny the darkness in the light. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grief - Weaving It In

I always write about weaving in grief but never about the way I  do it.  I woke up this morning with my usual drink of self pity to swallow - no matter how long it is I am always a little shocked to open my eyes to an empty bed.  Can't get used to not having Artie hold me in the morning with his physical body - watched part of a DVD while I ate breakfast (in bed)  - got up - GOT UP - thought of the sad lyric

Cause there's somethin' in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone
And there's nothin' sure to dying that's half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleepin' city sidewalk and Sunday morning coming down

answered e-mail - writing the blog - wishing I was with my husband - okay - I'm not  - what can I do anyway.

I'm going to see a movie, by myself today,  and work on my story for storytelling class tonight. Tonight I'll be in storytelling class performing and listening and most likely laughing a lot.  Yesterday I had breakfast with two poet friends and went to a movie with with a friend who has produced a wonderful documentary about love - which somehow I am willing to see and enjoy (I have seen the rough cut.)

The sun is out, which since Artie died, annoys me - but I will try to enjoy it a little as I walk through Central Park to get to the movie theater.  I will notice the families and couples and those like myself who are walking by themselves.

I'm not depressed.  I'm grieving.  I'm taking my grief out for a walk and I will forget for moments that it is there and then I will remember.  Sometimes I am drowning in it; but I have learned in the past year and a half to swim and sometimes I am merely bobbling along on the surface of it.  Last night I went to bed wearing my husbands pajamas - covered myself with his robe and his blanket and felt as I always do - a mixture of sadness, comfort and stupidity.  He is dead.  I am alive.  I thought again about putting one of our mementos away.  Just one.  I don't want to.  I'll know when I'm ready.  No one else will. 

That's what I mean about weaving.  No labels - trying to make a better balance between being frozen and in motion.  Somedays succeeding; somedays not.  That's why I don't judge others; I am trying not to judge myself.  It is hard to be alive without my husband.  I know he had to leave - and hope that he has joy wherever he is - but am a little irked with him that he had me to comfort and support him to the end and I am left behind.  He says - as always - that I am not alone - that he is here; loving and protecting me.  I believe he is - but I am still in my human form - and his is gone.  I don't know how to put that burden down so I strengthen my muscles to carry it with a little more grace; a little more ease.

Here's to some lovely Sunday memories that might surprise us even if we aren't expecting them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grief Is Not A Box

I'm sorry.  I keep going on and on and on.  I get so angry.  Grief is not something to measure and quantify.  I'll just be NYC blunt - I think people who tell you how to grieve - whether medical professionals or family - are ignorant or arrogant.  I was ignorant before Artie died.  I'd say to someone, "I'm so sorry." and then forget about it.  You can prattle on all you want about stages of grief and grief recovery and complicated grief.  I'm not buying into it.  We all grieve in different ways.  We all love in different ways.  Grief is not an illness.  That doesn't mean you shouldn't avail yourself of all the resources out there that can help you.  It does mean that you shouldn't judge yourself for how you feel or compare yourself with other people who are grieving.  I have a sign that says, "Have an adequate day."  It makes me laugh, but when Artie died and I saw it I thought, "I can do that."  I couldn't at that point have a good day - but maybe I could have an adequate one.  It's hard enough relearning how to live our lives when someone we love very much has died without the added pressure of tailoring our feelings and behavior to other people's expectations.  It's lonely to have to lie about how you feel because people want you to be "better".  Some folks actually read this blog now, but I started writing it for me.  I wanted a place to say what I felt.  My husband's dead.  He was everything to me.  I don't want to let go.  Am I better?  I don't know.  I do a lot of things.  I don't scream and cry myself to sleep.  I have good times.  What I don't have is my husband in his earthly form.  He can't come back.  Living with that truth is difficult.  Some days I accomplish a lot.  Some days not so much.  The one thing I won't do is live my life with other people's definitions.  I'm not depressed.  I'm grieving.

I'm happy for people that move on quickly.  Although I must say that sometimes when people say they are "fine" and I share how I feel with them they start to cry.  I'm about making a space for people to be honest about how they feel - good or bad - without them having to hear words like "recovery" and "moving forward" and "letting go".  We are complex beings.  We can hold more than one emotion at a time.  Don't judge me when I take off my wedding rings - and don't judge me when I put them back on.  Allow me to be confused and angry and have good days and bad ones. 

I am so touched by the smallest gesture of honest understanding.  My daughter called this morning and I was tired and grouchy.  She called back later and said she loved me - she thought I needed a little burst of love.  That was comforting - I was so grateful she didn't tell me to cheer up - but instead accepted me where I was.  I did get out - got to the gym.  Maybe will submit another set of poems.  That might not have happened if I had to deal with being judged on top of what I was already feeling.

It's 5:30 pm - time for lunch.  Sometimes that's just the way the day goes. :)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Grief: Whoever Thought I'd Be Writing About Ronald Reagan!

I was at an event last night at the Paley Center for Media here in NYC about GE's Ronald Reagan Theater - a series of television dramas they produced many years ago.  They had some personal artifacts.   One of them was a love letter he wrote to Nancy while he was travelling.  It was so beautiful and reminded me of the love letters that I have from my husband.  I thought of how it doesn't matter who you are.  There is Nancy Reagan; the wife of someone who has been president, rich, thin, many friends - not someone I know at all except through the media - and the look on her face at her husband's funeral.  Whatever you think of his politics - it made reminded me that it doesn't matter what station you have in life - if you lose the person you love most - who loves you - the grief is enormous.  There was also his journal - open to the page when he got home after being shot - it said something like "It hurts to be shot.  I thought should I hate this young man who tried to kill me and then I thought of the lost sheep.  If I am to heal I have to forgive him and love him and hope he returns to the fold."  I'm not very good at forgiving people so I always like to be around people who can - hoping some of it will rub off on me.

I have watched so many people coming back to life - and so many others staying deep in grief - and those like me - I go back and forth.  My capacity for doing more increases - and it would be untrue to say I don't have many good times - but I cannot seem to - or even want to - rid myself of this great sadness and feeling of being alone.  The loneliness is not from solitude - but from Artie not being on earth anymore.  So many times I reach for the phone and there are so many folks who would listen to anything I wanted to say - and I don't dial (aha - dial - who even knows what a dial is anymore) I don't push the buttons because I want to talk to Artie.  Like last night.  He loved hearing about what I did.  Even when I went away without him I always called him both in the morning and at night. 

I did submit some poetry to a magazine for the first time since he died and hope to do more of that this week.  Here to as much as light as possible in the darkness - as much joy as possible mixed in with the grief.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Grief Poem

Well - here it is again - way past whatever time I was supposed to be doing something else.  However, I have figured out how to have a separate page for poetry - but I will put my written today poem here.


Once we stayed up all night singing
Once we went to the aquarium
to watch the jellyfish dance

Afterwards you waited on a bench
because your body was failing you
while I went to get the car
You were frightened
You thought I would not return

Once we travelled together to imaginary lands
Once we planted trees in our garden
to watch them root and grow

Now I wait on the bench
because your body failed you
there is no car for me to get
I was frightened
I thought you would not return

Then I felt the breath of a butterfly
saw a dewdrop glisten in the moonlight
let the stars tell stories

of the death of once we

and the birth of once I

I was inspired by another poem I read which talked about how used we are to creating new memories with our loved ones and then sharing them - once we did this - once we did that - and now it is up to us to figure out how to create memories without the physical presence of our loved one - good memories.  I do sometimes write poems about other things - as I often do other things.  This is where my grief speaks.  Sometimes shouts.  But with love and hope...or sometimes just hello there I'm awful sad without my husband  here in the flesh.  If sometimes my writing isn't very good - the hardest thing about it is that Artie was always my first reader.  Maybe he still is. Odd picture that - spirit folk in spirit cyberpace.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How Many Emotions Can I Have in One Day?

I think the answer to that - is how many emotions are there?  I woke up hearing the footsteps of people walking in the house where Artie and I lived together and I don't even know if they are physically in the house yet. (If you are reading this for the first time - our house is sold).  Then I got a phone call from a wondrously loving and wise friend whose husband died 20 years ago.  She still misses him - especially when she sees other older couples holding hands.  She wanted to grow old with her husband.  Her only son also died.  She is full of love - and joy - and yet she said something that summed it up for me.  With all the love and joy in my life with Artie no longer on earth - I am not first in someone's life. Artie and I, as independent as we were - we had our own friends, and spent time apart - were everything to each other.  We held each other first thing every morning and last thing every night. We belonged to each other.  It isn't like I had a husband slot and he filled it and now I can find a replacement.  I might fall in love again - I might even remarry.  But no one will ever be Artie.  Artie and Jan.  Jan and Artie.  All of you that have had that kind of love and live on - whether it is a spouse or a child or a pet - they are not replaceable.  There can be something new - but someone precious and beloved is forever gone. As difficult as it often is now,  I think it's a blessing to have that kind of love. 

I think that's why I posted on a site "I don't know why but I have to keep saying it.  I don't like the word "recovery".  I like remodel, rebuild, reinvent, weave.  I don't want to recover from my grief for my husband.  It is a measure of my love for him.  I want to learn how to use that grief to inspire instead of block me.  Not always an easy task - but when I can grieve and live my life fully it is a measure of my husband's love for me - and how it still supports me even after his death. I like the image of us being warriors marching through life proudly carrying the colors of those who have gone before us."

Then I had a lovely day - for those of you who watch the Food Network - I got to see three Iron Chefs (Bobby Flay, Garces, and Morimoto) speak and then Paula Deen.  I was inspired.  Then I walked into a bookstore to buy a book for a friend and saw a book I had been reading out loud to Artie and never finished.  I didn't cry but I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.  I came home to friends - turned down their dinner invitation - and slept.  Now I am up and I read that someone planted a tree in memory of someone they love who has died.  I thought of all the trees Artie and I planted in our garden and that no matter who lives there - they will always be the trees that we planted - growing and full of life.  Now I am writing and thinking what to do tomorrow.

It's like some crazy carnival ride.  Holding on - trying to be inspired and not paralyzed - a rodeo guy only has to stay on a bucking bronco for a few seconds - we have to stay on for as long as we live.  I'm not willing to get off the beast - so I have to try to tame it - and I don't think bucking broncos eat ice cream.  :)  I'm mixing my metaphors terribly.  Anyway...that's the widow Warner's thoughts for today.  Keep strong. Be kind to yourself whatever you are feeling.  You deserve it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Grief: The Complexity of Simple Things

Escrow is closing on the house Artie and I lived in California.  I had spent a weekend in the empty house and thought I had said goodbye.  Even did silly things like looking for my husband in the closets and under the sink in case he wasn't really dead, just playing hide and seek.  Also lit candles and cried.  Thought I had also come to terms with selling the house at a loss - the economy is bad - and I am blessed to have as much money as I do.  Then the woman from the title company combined incompetence with rudeness and a simple transaction turned into what felt like hammer blows of "Your husband's dead, your husband's dead, your husband's dead."  I did healthy things, talked to my daughter, thought about how lucky I was to have such a love in my life - and then it all collapsed into tears and I went back to bed and couldn't even watch a DVD - just made myself sleep.  Was thinking about going to the gym but instead it is a wasted day.  I have to stop being hard on myself and accept that some days the grief will take over and my day will overspill with it.  That happens less but it still happens.  Luckily by the end of the week escrow will be closed and I think the probate of his will is also over.  Now I have holidays - there's a lot of gremlins lurking in those - and also the strange moments - like seeing a couple holding hands - or a T-shirt he would like - or a pretty necklace that I don't want because I don't have him to wear it for.  Honest grief is such a winding process (sometimes a whining process!).  The world is full of loving people - yet having just that one special one missing makes the entire planet sometimes seem totally barren. 

I couldn't sleep the other night and like a fool picked out a documentary to watch called Forgiving Dr. Mengele about an amazing woman who survived Mengele's twin torture that he called medical experiments - and has found a way to forgive the Nazis.  She lost her whole family.  I do not know how she maintains her joy.  What she says is that she refuses to continue to be a victim.  I am astonished.  I don't feel like a victim - but I feel - what do I feel - alone in the midst of much love and joy.

I keep working on that  - how to have all the fun things I do and all the people that I know love me - fill the place inside my heart that seems to belong only to Artie.  I'm looking at a picture of him on my desk as I write this - and a little note that he wrote me that says, "You're my everything!!"  That's the problem.  When you make someone your everything and they have to leave you phsycially because their bodies are too damaged to live - how do you fill that empty space?  Thank you for walking with me all my warrior friends.  As always; the hope that the light grows brighter and the dark comes less often.  That we can laugh with our dead more often that we cry about them.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Grief and Homelessness

The house where Artie and I lived in California is sold.  A couple with two small children will be living there creating their own stories.  I hope the house will be filled with laughter and love again.  I love my apartment in NYC and am grateful to be able to live in such a wonderful place.  Yet...ever since Artie died I feel homeless.  I always felt that a person - my husband - was my home - not a place.  My new hypnotherapist who taught me some good things thought I wanted to recover from my grief.  Couldn't get the concept that I want to be better at weaving it into my life so it doesn't overwhelm me.  How could I ever stop missing that wonderful man who loves (loved?) me?  Why would I want to?  I like spending some time - not all the time - with my ghost. 

I wonder if I will ever feel at home in this earthly body again.  I never did completely - but when Artie held me - I felt safe and comforted.  Now I must find that safety and comfort in a different way.  Doing a lot of wonderful things but still sluggish - particularly in the morning.  Even thought it's been over a year whenever I open my eyes my first thought is "Oh my God!  He's dead."  I don't cry much anymore.  Just fight the feeling of how pointless it is to get up and get going without him.  Then I get up and get going and often accomplish a lot and have good times.  Then the circle completes itself as I come "home" to an apartment full of his things and his energy - but not him- not in the human form I love (loved?). 

Life and loss.  A friend is staying with me, going to a conference of performers - many doing pieces about genocide and tragedy on a great scale.  I don't know how they go on.  For me, the loss of one person I would say is unbearable - except I am bearing it.  If I wasn't I wouldn't be writing and creating a new life.  In spite of feeling homeless and rootless and sometimes scared and always always wishing for the impossible.  All the things about him that most irritated me I would grateful to experience again.  That would be pure magick to have him appear in the flesh for one more day.  I wonder what it will be like when it is time for me to die.  What will we be like together without our bodies.  What is that form we take after we are dead?  If there is nothing - it will be okay then because I won't know it.  Now - I cling to the sense that there is something - some continuation of the journey we were on together - maybe still are. 

I know life is full of opportunities and I try to take advantage of them - but there is an impatient longing to join him now.  I love my daughter to much to do that - but the longing remains.

Here - as always - is hope for all of us have many moments of light in whatever darkness we have.  Helen Keller, I think, said "Don't curse the darkness.  Light a candle."  How many candles will I light today?