Sunday, January 30, 2011

Grief: The Freedom to Feel

This wasn't what I was going to write but I woke up this morning with a painful stomach ache.  Had a lovely physician's assistant that I know make a house call.  It's just gastritis.  What I had with it was FEAR.  It is so hard to be sick without Artie.  I could have called a friend but it's Sunday.  It's so different not being able to say simply, "Honey, I don't feel well.  What should I do?"  If I had needed to go to the hospital - the same thing.  That one person whose life I was first in is gone.  I know my friends wouldn't feel bad if I asked them for help.  This physician's assistant has treated me before.  As soon as she was here I felt better - my stomach still hurt but I knew I was safe.  I didn't know I was going to write that.  Without Artie I never feel entirely safe.  I'm not in any danger - but emotionally - my comfort is gone.  My go to guy is gone to "beyond" or wherever.  I live very comfortable and am lucky and grateful for that - but all the comfort in the world can't make up for that feeling of comfort, happiness, and safety I always had when he held me.

I'm sorry I'm not writing more often.  Coming up to Thursday which is my 60th birthday but also would have been my 15th wedding anniversay.  Artie and I would have been together 25 years.  A quarter of a century.  I'm trying to deal with it well. Making plans, doing things.  It works only occassionally.  I'm exhausted a lot.  I'm not surprised I got sick.  All those DATES.  The dates we should be sharing with those we love - and we can - but not in that phsyical - get back in your body Artie - way. 

A stranger messaged me on Facebook and said she was a life coach and she could help me with my depression.  I understand marketing but I felt that was very intrusive.  Sometimes I post on different sites if I think I can be of help - and I do put the tagline so people can check out the blog if they want.  I told her I am not depressed - I am grieving.  Then she messaged me back telling me what grief was and how she could help.  I turned into the Queen of being snarky - but I couldn't believe the nerve of a stranger telling ME what grief was.  I also couldn't believe that she assumed I didn't have friends, family, a bereavement group, a therapist when I need one and I needed a stranger to explain grief to me.  I told her that maybe I could help her with her issues; like setting boundaries - and that if she is going to be a life coach she needs to have the basic knowledge that you ask people what they want to accomplish and don't assume anything.  I have a Masters in Counseling degree and although I don't work as a therapist any more - I did work in child abuse prevention and suicide prevention - I have gotten back into learning about NLP and Neo- Ericksonian hynosis - because it is fun.  She, of course, wrote "I'm sorry for your loss."  I hate that phrase but from someone who knows me - even from FB or the blog I accept it as an attempt at kindness - but from someone trying to market her services I thought it was incredibly insensitive.  I asked her how sorry she actually was - did her throat close up - did she cry?  I also pointed out that I didn't lose Artie - he's not keys or a pair of glasses.  He died.  I don't think I'll be hearing from her again.  I never mind people sharing resources but I was outraged that someone would try to exploit MY grief, MY pain for their own financial gain.

Which brings me to what I wa going to write about before I got sick.  This is my personal opinion.  Grieving and depression are two different things.  Grief can cause depression and if you feel better with anti-depressants that's fine.  However if someone you love dies you are supposed to feel sad.  It's not bad to cry.  It's not bad to spend some time losing your ability to navigate in the world.  That's why I call this blog Stop Thief: Don't Steal My Grief.  There are times when I'm depressed (which is not the same as having depression which needs to be treated) but most of the time I'm grieving.  I always encourage people to do whatever will make them feel better - part of which is - at some point - figuring out how to create a new kind of life for yourself.  However, as I do that - I don't mind stumbling.  I don't mind not being "happy" all the time.  Good gracious.  Valentine's day with all those darn hearts every where I look.  Sometimes I can see them and think how lucky I am to have this wonderful love and I can come home and read the all the loving notes Artie wrote me over the years and feel happy.  I have the last Valentine's Day card he wrote me framed with one of his pictures.  Sometimes, though I feel anger or sadness - or simply today I'm not moving.  Tomorrow I'll accomplish something - but not today. 

There is a lot of pain caused by the misunderstanding of grief and the lack of support for a person's right to grieve in this culture.  That's why even though I'm a more solitary kind of person I have found the community of grieving people so helpful.  When Artie first died I thought I had gone crazy.  I'm not crazy.  Greif manifests itself in many ways.  Some of them strange - like how I always used to put my clothes on backwards for a couple of months after he died.  I mean, I've been dressing myself for a long time now!   Some of them difficult and painful.  Sometimes the most simple task becomes impossible.  Human beings come with a full component of emotions.  Sure, it's nice to spend more time being happy than sad.  That's why I do all the things I do - to try to increase my moments of joy.  But to think of sadness, anger, fear etc... as "negative" emotions is like saying why don't we have a rainbow that's purple and red and leave out all the other colors.  It wouldn't be a rainbow any more.  There is a real disease called depression.  If you have that you should get treatment for it the way you would get treatment if you broke your arm.  On the other hand, it is a disease that some professionals are way to eager to diagnose.  It's okay to trust your own judgment.  Someone you love very much died.  That's a real life event with real life consequences. 

I'm supposed to go to Los Angeles tomorrow to spend a couple of days with my daughter.  Hopefully I'll be feeling better by then.  It's beautiful outside my window with all the snow.  Hope you found something beautiful to notice today.  If not...maybe tomorrow.  xo

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Grief: Keep Breathing

I think about breathing sometimes.  What it was like to watch my husband breathe in and out and then in and out - and not in again.  Off he went rising on that last expelled breath to "beyond".  Free of all his pain and fear but also that energy, goodness, charity,wisdom, love no longer bound by a failing body.  Me - still here.  How to honor all that he was - all that he is.  Next week would have been our 15th anniversary - is our 15th anniversary?  25 years of love- mine still earthly - his surpassing that.  Someone who is getting a divorce told me how lucky I am that I had that.  I am.  He didn't leave because he wanted to; he left because he had to.

It's like a seesaw - sadness and joy.  Trying to create a balance.  Today I felt overwhelmed.  I am trying to breathe more, live more and sometimes I fall down because evn though his spirit can catch me I want his body to catch me.  I don't want to live curled in a corner with a black band of death over my eyes but sometimes I have to rest there.  The world offers so much light and so much darkness. 

When it's finally my turn to be there - where? the there where he is - I want him to be proud of how I soldiered on.  I want him to be watching over me and see me shine.  He knows if I can be me and accomplish things it is partly because he loves me and I will NEVER forget him.  I will never stop telling his story.  He also knows if sometimes the pain says, "Today is my day." that is the way it is and his spirit cradles me and tries to breathe into my body the willingness to take on tomorrow in a better way.

It was good to tell a funny story in the small theater Monday night and make people laugh.  It is not easy sometimes to tell his story - my story - our story - because all the happy memories are mixed up with the loneliness.  I don't know if this is how the solo show is going to end up in its final version - but I have pictures of him and as I talk about him dying I push them over until they are all face down and all that is standing is his obituary.  I used to think the end would be that I sink down amid all the memories and stay absorbed in them - then I realized that - even in the show - I can take some of him with me but I have to get up and strut out of the theater into the light.  I was angry at the snow today because I was going to use it as an excuse for not doing anything and then it stopped snowing and I stayed in without an excuse.  It's okay.  I'm allowed.  But tomorrow I'm going to feel his hand in the small of my back gently pushing me back into life.  Willing me to breathe for me, breathe for him.  Live for me.  Live for him.

Keep breathing folks.  And send me some nighttime sleep for day time energy!!  xo

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grief: Our Ghosts Need One Of Us To Stay Alive

That is a line in a poem someone read at Culture Circle.  It affected me deeply.  My life never seemed to make sense since Artie died.  When he was alive we used to joke about my throwing myself on his funeral pyre.  Crematoriums don't offer a two for one policy - especially when one of the people is still alive. :)  I have thought in darker moments that when he died I should have sent everyone away and taken pills and curled up in the hospital bed in our living room nestled next to his body.  That would have been a terribly wrong thing to do.  Yet, I haven't been able to stop thinking that I belong with him in whatever form he is now. 

Until I heard that line.  If I wasn't here who would be left to tell the stories?  Who would be left to remember?  Who would be left to keep him alive not only in my heart but in the hearts of others?  It's great fun to have people feel like they know him even when they never met the alive him - because of me.  It changed the way I think.  It emphasized my duty, my responsibility, to live the best life I can because I carry his love with me always.  It's often a heavy burden to be here on earth without him but maybe it's a burden I can make lighter by being proud that I am trying to live twice as fully - for both of us.  He is waiting for me where he is - and I am waiting for him where I am but if when I was in NY and he was in CA we were together - even more so now - wherever he is we are together. 

Doesn't mean I'm skipping happily through each day.  The longing is so strong, so painful.  I am lonely without him.  Mary Lincoln wore her wedding ring until the day she died.  It was inscribed "Love is Eternal".  Even if I don't stay single forever - who knows what is ahead of me - I think I will always be anxious for the day when we can be in the same form.  My body seems a very limited container that will not open itself up and let me escape to see what is next - to do whatever is the next form's version of curling up in my husband's arms.  But my husband ghost needs me to stay alive - as well as my daughter and my friends - and I guess - even me.  What I do with that life is up to me.  May I have the creativity and the grace not to waste it - yet not forget to leave proper space for my grief to express itself. Wishing you courage for the day and night ahead and personal global warming that melts the ice of grief.  Maybe that's where the tears come from - the melting of the frozen parts of our personalities to let us grieve and dance the dance of life instead of grieve and stay paralyzed.   xo

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Grief: Valentine's Day Turn Around and as always etc... etc...

I went into the dreaded drugstore again - filled with Valentine's gifts.  I stopped for a moment and said (to myself) "Wait a minute."  I decided instead of running away to look at all the cute stuffed animals with big hearts and instead of thinking how sad I was Artie is dead, I remembered all the presents he had given me over the years.  I thought about what he would pick out this year and how he would worry about it so as not to disappoint me.  One Valentine's Day he had a friend help him and decorated the whole room where I worked - I kept the decorations up for months.  (The truth is I took them down when I got angry with him about something.  Silly me.  If he could come back I might still get angry about some things - but not stupid little things.)  I remembered the cards he had written with the poems on them.  I have the last one framed now - didn't know it would be the last one.  "For 23 years you've been all mine.  I know you'll be my Valentine."  I felt happy.  The memories made me happy. 

I'm writing this at almost 5 am.  The other side is I can't sleep.  I'm doing these weird mood swings where I am honestly having a good time going out and feeling like a person - alive and excited - and then waking up in the morning (if I sleep at all) and just lying there not being able to get out of bed.

It's good taking the risk and speaking about grief.  I was very honored Friday night at a meet up group called Culture Circle where you bring any kind of art you like or do - poetry, short stories, musical instruments, songs, paintings, food - anything.  I often read poems about Artie and his death.  One woman sang a song she said she was inspired to write when her father died because of the things I had read and talked about. 

It's all good and all bad and all in between.  Hoping one of these days to sleep again - didn't have any problem at all for a while.  It's like you pat the grief down in one area and it pops up in another!  Hello, I'm feeling fine then a burst of tears.  Rainy with a chance of sunshine.  Sunny with a chance of tears.  I never know. 

Keep showing up when I can and keep trying to turn things around.  That Valentine's thing really surprised me.  I hope you get some sunny surprises instead of the rainy ones.  xo

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Grief: Who Put The Super Glue In My Bed?

I wasn't going to write today.  I'll tell you.  I had nothing planned and was going to be PRODUCTIVE.  I have my gym pants on my bottom and my pajama tops on my top.  The pajama tops won.  I know I'm in the valley between the year and a half anniversary of my husband's death and my 60th birthday/would have been 15th anniversary - but come on.  I guess I needed an I am collapsed day.  Wasn't even watching anything - just laying there. 

Finally got up and looked at my e-mail.  Someone asked me to do a podcast.  Someone asked me to do something else.  The world was bouncing about all around me and I wasn't about to join it. 

So I decided to sign on just to say tomorrow is a busy creative day.  Tomorrow is a busy creative day.  Tomorrow is a busy creative day.  I'm going to take those super glue sheets and replace them with ejector sheets. xo

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grief: The movie Groundhog Day

If you saw the movie Groundhog Day you know the main character wakes up to the same day every day.  I feel like I do the same thing.  I know my birthday which would have been my 15th wedding anniversary is Feb. 3rd which means I have another DATE coming up. (We were together 10 years before we got married.)   On top of that I am going to be 60 which is not old but feels old and  brings me closer to being with Artie (hopefully again) but I wonder a little how I got here.  I know for 23 years I got here with Artie's help and for the last year and a half plus 2 days (counting again) I've gotten here with gritted teeth and lots of tears.

I wake up every morning feeling like there is no point in getting out of bed.  I do not want to be on Planet Earth.  Then eventually I force myself out of bed - and as I start doing things I feel better.  Last night I went to see a very funny and talented woman - Sarah Jones - with a friend who I met when I was taking acting classes.  She is a brilliant photographer and we had great conversation about almost everything including creativity and some possible projects we could do together.  I went home feeling jazzed and excited.  Woke up at 3 am again (Artie's dying time) and watched a DVD.  It was almost noon before I got up - I had gotten that back to 9 or 10 am so don't like sliding back.  Now that I am up and doing things I am feeling much better.  I have another storytelling class tonight and have to go prepare.

This up and down is exhausting.  I'm grateful for the ups - wish the total feeling of loss and emptiness and struggle would go live somewhere besides in my body.  I am doing a lot more.  I have to say that for myself - but still can't get the good feelings to stick. 

Sometimes this blog seems a little strange - a private journal that anyone can read.  The struggles of grief - of figuring out how to live life without the person we love being alive anymore.  Sometimes it seems very repetitious - but the thing is life is repetitious.  Even if I do exciting things I can't adjust to not coming home and sharing them with Artie. 

So - I guess the get up - get out of bed is one of the answers.  Maybe tonight if I wake up at 3 am I will try to go back to sleep right away or read instead of watch TV.  I used to read all the time - it's still hard to concentrate on reading.  I also used to read out loud to Artie.  He like that.  He would fall asleep and wake up as soon as I stopped.  He'd say he wasn't sleeping - and I would ask him what was the last sentence I said - which was usually about 10 pages back.  I don't think it was the story so much as the comforting tone of my voice that allowed him to sleep.  Sometimes I got frustrated reading to him when he was asleep - I wouldn't be frustrated if he could come back.  I would read to him all night if he wanted me to.  Maybe that's what I'll do if I wake up at 3 am again - I'll read to him for a little while.  Maybe he can hear me where he is.  I miss his voice!!  

Hope you are having the good part of my days not the sad parts! xo

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grief: Get Up Get Up Get Out of Bed

An update on yesterday.  I went to bed at around 2 pm and slept for two hours.  I woke up feeling like the only thing to do was to remain as motionless as possible.  But...I did it - I got up and got dressed and went to RISK Storyslam which is in a now beautiful 100 seat theater instead of a cosy little theater.  Last week it felt intimidating - this week it felt okay.  If you are in the NYC area it is at the PIT (People's Improv Theater) and a lot of their shows are free or only $5.  This one is every Monday at 6 pm.  You put your name in the "golden bowl of destiny" and if they pick your name you tell a story - anything you want - as long as it is true.  I was picked and I had the skeleton of the story but my memory is wonky these days and kept forgetting what I was going to say - but when I did - I went on a riff.  Parts of it were sad (you only get 6-8 minutes) but some of it turned out to be very funny.  I love making an audience laugh.  One line that I made up on the fly was - I started the blog because they have this idea that if you are grieving more than six months you have a mental disorder called complicated grieving which irrritates me.  My therapist kept saying I had complicated grieving so I made my grieving less complicated.  I stopped seeing the therapist.  :)  I also wound up with a different ending - I said that even though my mind had stopped counting the dates my body hadn't - today is the year and a half anniversary of my husband's death.   I guess the message is even if you are standing on the stage and can't remember what you are supposed to say next - you show up.

Then I walked up to this weight loss workshop that uses trance and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). There is a kind of hypnosis that uses two voices - it confuses the conscious mind so it can't interfere - but the unconscious loves that kind of play and takes it all in.  It was just four really nice women - including me - and one of the trances they did - two men were the leaders - they walked all around the room talking interchangeably so that you never knew where the voice was coming from - and sometimes if they were saying something that particularly related to you - they would massage your shoulders lightly.  There were other things too - the goal setting sheet was particularly intimidating it said FAILURE to me.  Then they said something I liked a lot

There is no failure only feedback.

I like that.  When you do something you think of as "failing" instead of describing it that way - think of it as a source of information about how you behave and whether or not you want to change that behaviour and how.  That was fun as well.

Then of course my massage when I got home - I have this night owl wonderful Irish woman with a sharp sense of humor that comes to the apartment at 10:30 pm on Monday nights so I can have a massage and fall into bed afterwards.

I'm not "cured".  I woke up this morning feeling the same sadness and loneliness - but I wanted to write and share with you how by making myself move I turned an incredibly bad day into a genuinely happy and productive night.  I can't always do it.  Sometimes I cancel things and curl back up into bed - but I'm proud of myself when I resist the pressure in my chest that wants to hold me down and get out and do something.  Although, my favorite day is Thursday because I have nothing scheduled day or night. That day - if I want - I don't have to do anything.  I always make time for grieving.  I find it works better to do that instead of pretending it doesn't exist.  I still love my husband ghost and want him back.  I still feel a lot of fear without him to hold me - but I'm glad when I can do what I want to do even better - grieve for Artie's death and live fully - instead of letting the grief overwhelm me and paralyze me.

I'm not used to being up this early - will I stay up or go back to bed for an hour?  My coach is coming at 3 pm to work on the solo show and I have to exercise my brain muscles.  In one way I'm lucky to be retired - doing the writing and storytelling without having to earn my living - in another way if I had to work - I wouldn't have so much time to feel sorry for myself. 

I'm also supposed to go out with a friend after the two hour working session.  That's still hard for me - it sounds silly - two things in a row - but I'm doing it more and more.  Learning how to walk all over again - even if I do fall down and skin my knees sometimes.  It's so hard to do all this without Artie - but how much better for me if I said it's so easy to do this with Artie's spirit and all of you holding me up.  Watch my language.  Keep it honest but catch myself when I'm putting things in front of me to trip over that don't need to be there.

I hope you are having happiness in your day - and if you aren't - some unexpectedly jumps out and surprises you.  xo

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grief: A Year and A Half Has Gone By

I have been in a hole - popped out a little to do some things - but sorry I haven't written.  I am so tired.  Still waking up at 3 am which is the time Artie died (a little after midnight California time).  I am tired from not sleeping and tired from missing Artie for a year and a half. 

Tonight I am going to tell a story - about it being the year and a half anniversary of my husband's death - and how at the one year anniversary of his death my mind stopped counting every day but my body didn't. Then I'm going to a weight loss thing - again.  I always take my comfort in sugar. It would be interesting if someone out there had a system that actually worked for me.

I was going to say I have no words today - but I guess the words are to keep moving.  Someone asked if they can stay the weekend after next and I said yes instead of no.  I'm supposed to meet someone tomorrow night and I might do it.  I like Thursdays because usually I have nothing scheduled on Thursday and I can stay totally still if I want to. 

My daughter has a new dog that she got from a rescue shelter.  She still misses the one that died but she is all excited and happy with her new little friend.  I wish it was that easy with people.  Maybe some people can start up new relationships right away. I don't know.  Artie was such a specifically special person to me - no matter what difficulties we had when he was alive - I can't imagine anyone else.  I don't like the idea of being alone for the rest of my life - but I don't like the idea of being with anyone besides Artie.  Talking about putting myself between a rock and a hard place. 

I have learned all these wonderful things to make myself feel better.  Some days what makes me feel better is not feeling better!!  Maybe you all can feel better for me!  Or we can all cry together and find a dry stream bed somewhere to flood. :) I'll probably feel better when I get out - and I do have my massage tonight.  That's a good technique - having things in place that make me feel good whether I want to or not! 

What do I write all the time?  Accept myself where I am.  Use my imagination to think of happy, comfortable, safe times and how they feel and pull those feelings over me like I pull the comforter that Artie and I slept under over me.  Think how lucky I am to be so sad - because it means I am lucky to have a great love.  Be a grief warrior and march on - remembering that we all hold each other up when we fall.  Thank you for holding me up.  xo

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Grief: I Forgot Everything I Know

On Monday it will be a year and a half since Artie died.  I thought I had stopped counting.  My body hasn't.  I got a bit of gentle scolding for being too hard on myself after the last post.  I forgot that I am grieving and what is simple for some people is difficult for grieving people.  I forgot that my whole body mind and soul is reacting to the fact that Monday is another date; that Feb. 3rd is my birthday - and my birthday present was to get married - so it is also my anniversary - that Valentine's Day is coming up.  I went to the drug store to buy toothpaste and managed to avoid all the aisles with hearts and cute little presents and then at the checkout counter was a big sign "Don't Forget Valentine's Day."  It's not even the middle of January yet!!

Last night I had my second storytelling class and I was back in my groove.  It was five women and a teacher I like a lot.  One woman's sister had been murdered and she simply, quietly listed all the things that people have said to her since (kind and unkind both) and then she quietly said, This is my pain not yours.  It belongs to me.  It was very moving.  There is nothing anyone can say that reaches the little screaming child inside of me having a temper tantrum wanting only one thing - the impossible thing - my husband to come back.  He can't.  It's not my time to go join him so here I am.  Surprise, surprise that some days I can't show up the way I want to.  I forgot that.  I piled on a whole bunch of things and did do them poorly.  Like no one else in the world has ever done anything poorly!! 

I'm proud of a lot of things I've done.  I've also been paralyzed with grief a lot.  I can't remember if I said I wake up every morning at 3 am.  I couldn't figure out why.  Artie died with me by his side at our home in California around midnight - I am waking up as he is dying.  It is like he is dying every night instead of almost a year and a half ago.  Of course, I'm tired.  I'm hoping once Monday passes I can go back to sleeping through the night.

I, luckily, don't get panic attacks but I've been feeling frightened a lot.  I think if I ease up on my expectations for myself maybe some of that fear will go away.  If you see me walking down the street in NYC some days I have my hand curled outward - I don't look demented (it's hard to look demented in NYC) - I'm pretending that Artie is holding my hand.  I know he's holding my heart. 

Tonight I'm having dinner with a good friend and I am going to keep showing up when I can - and try to be gentler with myself when I can't.  I was going to go to the storytelling place - the Moth - but I think that's too much right now.  They grade you there - and I'm not ready to be graded.  Maybe after I get through all these dates. 

Sometimes when you're swimming in the grief pool you forget to come up for air.  I have a hypnosis tape - Melting Phobias and one Hurdling Hesitation.  I think I will listen to those.  I will keep trying to get the happy moments to stick.  I have them - times when I'm genuinely - not oh look it's all shiny everywhere - inspired and full of laughter.  What happens is that they seem to drift off into the distance and I need to keep calling them back.  What's important is that I don't stop calling.

Artie used to say, "There are no winners and losers just quitters and triers."

That said - I am going to take my vitamins for health - and lie down for an hour.  Give myself a - I hate it that my husband's dead hour - and then - having acknowledged all my sadness and grief - maybe some energy will come forward to do some work. 

Wishing you all the ability to remember what you already know - the ways to take care of yourself - and the wonderful joy of love that is coupled with the difficult pain of grief.  I promise to allow myself to do things poorly sometimes and do them well sometimes and sometimes - not do anything at all!   xo

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Grief: Accepting Myself Where I Am

Maybe I should follow my own advice.  My mind has told me it is time to get off my backside and be much more productive.  Jan. 17th Artie will have been dead for a year and a half.  I am doing a lot more - and all of it poorly.  I was going to go to a storytelling venue tonight called the Moth and am sitting here after not practicing my solo show enough and when my coach was here forgetting half of what I was supposed to say - which I know very well - it's my own words.  I feel guilty and want to kick myself.  If it was a friend I would be supporting them instead. 

Tomorrow is another day to get up and try to get a better routine going.  Tomorrow is another day to do what I did not do today.  Feeling that I am falling apart is a good reason to start putting myself back together not to tear myself apart more.  It's a good time to look at what I am doing. 

I want to be a normal person.  I'm not.  I'm a grieving normal person.  Learning how to live a productive creative life with no Artie feels like trying to turn on the lights when the power is out.  How can I learn to be my own generator?  I have in a lot of ways - but sometimes I forget.

Supposed to be another snowstorm in NYC tonight.  If so my world will be all frosty and white when I look out the window in the morning.  I like that.  I like plodding around in the snow. 

I know so many people who accomplish many things every day.  I can't do that yet.  What I can do is make the effort and see what happens.  I don't know the difference between needing to heal and being lazy.  I have to figure it out  - and allow myself time to figure it out.  It's not easy when the first thing that happens in the morning is I open my eyes and Artie's not here. Yeah, Artie, I hear you - I know you are here but you're still not earthbound here.  I'm earthbound here.  I want to talk to Artie - in the flesh - about everything that is happening.  I want him to help me.  I want to see his face and hear his voice. I keep telling everyone to grieve in their own time - at their own pace.  It's so much easier to tell other folks what to do than to do it myself!  :)

That's it for today.  All my words seem to have flown off somewhere.  Maybe in order to tell a good story sometimes you have to allow the silence to take over.  xo

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Grief: Is Every Day A Memorial Day?

I have been having some what I called in another post "Free Refills".  I am doing all the things I can think of to get moving and feel better and groan moan gosh darn can't even say how the elevator goes down much more easily than it goes up.  I had stopped counting the days since Artie died but Jan. 17th it will be a year and a half.  My body is telling me that.  My spirit is telling me that.  A lot of people say the second year is the hardest.  I want to wake up and say "Hooray" instead of "NO! Please NO!" 

My daughter had to put her dog to sleep and she is grieving for him the way I first grieved for Artie - constant tears - not wanting to go into her beautiful house because it is so empty and quiet.  They were constant companions for 11 years and as I try to hold her grief I think of my own.  Some people don't consider a pet like a person - but for my daughter her dog was her best friend.  There is no way for me to comfort her except to be there for her.  I like to picture that her dog is playing now somewhere with Artie - that there is some place we cannot even imagine where the spirits of all are gathered for the next step on the journey.  It is so selfish of me to wish that I was already there. 

I remember how sad Artie was in his last couple of years when three of his best friends died.  A man at one of the funerals came up to us - we didn't even know him - said, "There's nobody left." and then walked away again.  I am lucky I have so many people left - and new people coming in.  I am missing one person and yet the absence of that one person sometimes seems to fill my whole world.  It's like the world is a sieve - all the good and happy moments seep out and only the grief stays.

Artie used to call me a malcontent - there is actually a misery gene - which I seem to have - but I fight it - oh how I fight it.  Yesterday I went out into the snow.  Some of you saw this on Facebook - I was on a subway train and a man walked in with a very nice face but he was carrying a bag with a long sharp saw blade sticking out.  I kept staring at the bag.  Finally I said - "I've been watching too many murder mysteries."  Everyone laughed.  How can such a funny person and such a sad person exist in the same body?  I even went to the gym.  Lazy old me likes going to the gym now.  That means change is possible for sure!!

Today I am trying a losing weight challenge meet-up group.  Did work a little on a couple of new stories to tell and start a new storytelling class tomorrow. My goal there - in addition to working on my storytelling skills - is not to hide in the corner but try to be friendly with people.  I have this outrageous personality and love being on stage - but one to one I am very shy and awkward.  Artie and I used to say we were neurotic about different things but between us we had everything covered.  :)

The truth is I am getting bored spending so much time hiding in bed watching DVDs.  I want to want to be more involved in life and less stuck.  I took a few of Artie's things and put them in the closet but my bedroom still looks like Artie Land.  The problem isn't really the bedroom - it's my heart and soul and brain are Artie Land.  I need to patch the holes where all the happiness and good times are leaking out and keep them in.  I have to be big enough to hold it all - my tears for Artie's death, my love for him, the joy we had together, and all the new joyous experiences and accomplishments I can have if I - well - it's simple really - if I get out of bed and do things.  Not all the time.  More time.  More time with the living - less time trying to be dead because Artie is.

Here's to living life the way our loved ones would want us to - to triumphing over pain - to being glad to be alive - and especially - this part is easy for me - to be grateful and happy that I have this great love.  I would rather have that than to have less grief because I had and have less love. 

Thank you to all of you who share my journey and read this.  I am trying to publicize it a little more.  Feel free to share the link with anyone you think it might help - feel free to share my e-mail as well.

Time to get dressed and go out into the world - and pay attention to what is outside not what is inside - to what is there - not what is missing.  Artie will come with me - he always does.   xo

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grief: F is for Fear and Fun and I Can Think of Another One...

Fear:  As I go into a mode of trying to be in the world more I find that fear is filling me up and I need to shake it out or follow it or work worth it or express it or escape.  Not fear of anything in particular.  I have been waking up at 3 am and not knowing why.  I realized today that the three hour time difference (Artie and I lived together in a house in California) means that I am waking up every night at the time he died.  I have stopped counting every day, every month he died but Jan. 17th it will be a year and a half and my body is counting for me.  I am using the techniques I have learned - but come 3 am nothing works and I hit play on my remote and watch something until I am tired again - a half hour or an hour - and I can go back to sleep.  Everything is fine.  I am safe.  As I get out more I will feel better - but sometimes - like today - I had to accept the fear and come home and do things inside the house.  All dressed for the gym - but I did what I needed to do - and then - home to Artie land.   Wearing my sneakers and gym clothes - but being out wasn't good for me today.

Fun:  Have fun!  Make time in your schedule for fun!  If you don't know what fun is any more - think about all the things you have wanted to do and never have gotten around to.  Or think of something you might have been interested in before your loved one died - and try that.  We get so busy these days.  You have to make appointments with yourself (or with others)  time to have fun and time to take care of yourself.  When someone want to schedule something else you can say, "Sorry, I'm busy."  I'm trying to get better at approaching people I take classes with and talking to them.  I'm trying to find the courage to sometimes go somewhere by myself.  I don't mind movies or theater because I am just sitting in a seat - but I love Irish music - and I could have gone to a pub tonight - but that is hard for me.  There are also a lot of open mic nights for poetry and storytelling.  I do one - but there are more I can do.  For me if I can drag myself kicking and screaming out of the door when I get where I am going I usually have a good time.  It is too easy for me to say - nope - gotta watch the next episode of whatever DVD I'm in the middle of.  How much am I cultivating my own loneliness?  What can I cultivate instead?

Friends:  (that wasn't the other F word I was originally thinking of!) I do a pretty good job connecting with friends - and although I'm introverted by nature I know some great folks.  A lot of times they are busy.  I could widen my circle of friends if I widened my activities.  I could widen my cirlce of friends if I took more risks.  In public I look very extroverted but I am really very shy. 

What can I do every day that lessens my fear and increases my fun? 

There is a group in NYC called the Moth where you put your name in a bowl and tell a five minute story.  I chickened out for the last one.  There is another one on Tuesday.  I hope I can tell you I went.  Sometimes they have 50 or 60 names in the bowl - so I could have a story ready and not get picked - but I can get in habit of going - like I go to the gym - me - little let's lie down and rest after my rest - going to the gym fairly regularly.  I thank George who used to be my personal trainer before he got a better job - and Doug O'Brien for his CD  Why Weight? - and me.  Now if I go to the Moth on Tuesday - I will have turned fear into fun.
The new alchemy - not turning base metal into gold - but turning fear into fun.

Let the magick begin.
Me (letting yourself begin to be fully alive)
Action (taking actions that will make you feel better)
God (or spirit or will or faith or however you define it. Even agnostics believe in someting!)
Inspiration (from other people, quotes, your inner self, nature, architecture, humor, anything.)
Courage and Community (It takes a lot of courage to be a grief warrior - but we are a great community.)
Knowledge (What you know, what you know that you didn't know you knew, and what you learn.)

Aha.  It's easy to write it.  Let's see if I can live it!   xo

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Grief: All Feelings Tell Us Something

I'm a strange kind of person I think sometimes.  Things aren't easy for me and yet I accomplish a fair amount.  A lot of people get very excited and are helped a lot by inspirational comments and suggestions. I have a dark sense of humor and wonder at the way folks slide by things that I think should impact them.  Am I getting in my own way of being a happier person?  I don't know. 

For example, I hate the expression - "It's all good."  There are a million horrifying examples but right now my daughter's dog is dying.  She is having it put to sleep on Friday - maybe - postponed it from Tuesday.  It's not "good" it's very sad.  She loves her dog and he has been her best friend for 11 years. 

I read somewhere that we get frozen in grief and that is acceptable.  I don't find that.  I find the pressure is the other way - to get out and do things and not spend much time grieving - after all - that is all in the past.  Artie is in my blood and bones as well as my heart and soul.  I think we should realize all the things we can do and be - but that we also need to allow ourselves to feel sadness and anger and whatever emotion is a normal reaction.  It needs to be moderated - if I'm angry at someone I don't get to hurt them.  If I'm sad I don't get to hurt myself.  It's good not to hold on - then we're not living in the present.  What seems wrong for me is to try not to feel it at all.  We wonder why there are so many problems with drug and alcohol addiction in this country - when the attitude is to medicate everything away - and some people medicate it away legally - others illegally.  I take medicaiton - it helps me survive - but I don't take so much that I don't feel anything. 

I am inspired by people more than pretty words.  The people who inspire me often have a certain degree of struggle and a certain degree of self awareness.  You can achieve things by hard work and luck.  The idea that if you visualize something it will happen is a strange one.  My daughter has been trying to get pregnant for almost a year now - she visualizes it every day - she sees her whole life in terms of when she will be a mom.  We don't always get what we want - and I don't think it is negative to be realistic about things.  I would love to be a singer.  My voice would frighten a deaf man.  I'm 60 - probably wanting to be an Olympic ice skater wouldn't be a good choice.  I can do anything in my imagination - but in the real world there are genuine limitations and also genuine tragedies.

I know I can go to the gym and eat better which will make me feel better.  I know if I write more and submit more I have a better chance of getting published but no guarantee - there are more and more writers and less and less outlets for publishing.  Some times there is some place I could go where I would have fun - but I decide to curl into bed.  I wouldn't want to do that all the time - there are people who never leave their house - that wouldn't be right for me. However, I don't mind hiding and licking my wounds some of the time.

This may sound weird but I'm glad I'm sad.  I'm glad I'm struggling.  I'm glad I'm grieving Artie.  I'd like to wake up in the morning and do more.  I'd like to participate in liife more.  I'm working on that.  But I don't think in order to do that I have to put Artie in the past.  I don't think I have to have another husband - I might - but if I don't want to - what's wrong with that?  Even with my daughter's dog - I don't tell her to get another dog.  She might want to - but the dog she has now is the dog she loves.  When he dies she might have fun to have a puppy to get to know - but she will still miss the dog she has now.  I've told her I love her and she should do what ever feels best for her.

My inspirational words  for the day are - don't be inspired unless you feel inspired.  On the other hand - notice the things that are inspiring - sometimes they are right in front of our face and we don't see them. When I'm a joyous happy person I want it to be genuine - all the way through - not a mask I put on - not a mask I need to put on.  I'm glad I'm going through this process and going through it with others.  Someone called it misery loves company.  I don't think so.  I'm not reaching for the negative - I'm feeling what I feel and then taking actions to help me feel differently.  Hopefully I will do more and more - but Artie's still my home.   I don't know how to make it be otherwise.  I did move one picture and I will - I think - put a few things in the closet for more space on my bookshelf.  The thing is - I like looking at his face - and the only way to do that now is in pictures. 

My opinion is that you can feel what you feel and still work at finding purpose and meaning and excitement and joy - not work at - play at finding many good things to brighten the darkness.  That's different than saying the darkness doesn't exist.  xo

Monday, January 3, 2011

Grief Has A Hard Time Welcoming A New Year

I've been feeling fragile and rather incompetent and unsettled since New Year's Eve.  In spite of myself I set expectations for myself that somehow magically welcoming in a new year would be a great motivator.  The truth is it is another date.  A date human beings use to mark time.  Artie is just as dead this year as he was last year.  The challenges of grieving and living are as great this year as they were last year.  The grief has settled down and I have done 2 and half days of the new year.  I have heard from other grieving people that the relief they expected when the holidays were over has not come.  I think it is partly that - although the obvious celebrations all around have ended - time hasn't.  We still wake up in the morning with the burden of our loss and then - if we can - get up and keep going.

I am a great procrastinator.  Always have been.  My plans for the day are to get dressed - Artie  used to have post it notes that would say simple things like take a shower, shave etc... to remind him to take care of himself.  I am going to the gym again and hope I eat better today.  I signed up for a dating site and then didn't pay for it because I am so ambivalent.  I look at all the pictures of probably - some of them - very nice men - then I look at the pictures on my desk while I write this - those are the pictures of my man.  Ashes now.  Almost left it that way.  Ashes and great energy and spirit - cheering me on - understanding my hurt.

I need to work on my solo show.  I need to write.  I need to clean up a little.  I need to find an accountant because it will be tax season soon.  I need to live.  There is a meet up group going to Irish music tomorrow night.  I love Irish music - used to live in Ireland.  Do I dare to walk into a room alone instead of curl into bed with my past and watch another DVD?  How much do I forgive myself and allow myself to be still - and how much do I push myself to act and go and do and live a full life.  I guess I don't really know yet what the balance is.  I know that usually when I push myself and arrive somewhere it is good - and if it isn't I can always leave. I get tired sometimes of the struggling.  I would like to be one of those folks that leap out of bed eager for a new day.  I'm not.  I'm like a car engine on a cold morning - you think it's never going to start and then it does - hopefully.

The thing about all the techniques I've learned and the CDs I have and the resources I have - I have to use them; not turn my back on them.  I wish I was a character in a movie and this is where the script writer gives me one of those scenes where you run along the beach into the arms of someone you love and live happily ever  after.  Roll credits.  I have to write my own movie today - make things happen that make me feel warm inside instead of chilled.  If I lived in a tropical climate or a desert I would still feel chilled inside. 

That's the thoughts for the day.  Sorry they aren't more cheery.  Going to get moving and at least spend time at the gym.  Then when I come home and look around at my choices I hope I make some good ones.

I hope when you read this you are thinking that thank goodness you are having a great day.  I hope you are.  I know things will swing the other way - and I won't give up - but right this very second I am back in the sluggish grey looking for the glitter.  It's out there.  I'll find it.  We'll find it together.  xo

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Grief: New Year's Day With and Without

Whew.  This was a hard day not just for me for a lot of people.  It's odd how as human beings we mark time.  2011.  A brand new year.  Can I face it, conquer it, love it, live it without my husband?  The Widow Warner.  It makes me laugh when I say it that way but it was like death this morning.  The old - how am I going to get out of bed if I have to live another year without my husband?  The old - what's the point?  The old - it's not worth it.  The old - it hurts too much.  It's too hard.  I can't do it.  It took me a while but I dug myself out.  I had a lovely time last night until they started singing Auld Lang Syne.  Then - aside from the tears - it was like a bad horror movie - Zombies Ate My Heart.  I was still smiling and laughing but I felt so empty. 

I did eventually get up, not this morning, this afternoon.  I spent a little time on line and then went to the gym.  I was never a gym person but I had this wonderful personal trainer for a while and I know if I do at least one thing I will feel better about myself at the end of the day.  So I went to the gym and a woman I had never seen before wished me a happy and healthy new year and that was nice.  I kinda wished it was a 45 year old guy (my daughter says I can't date anyone under 50 - that's her territory) - but I really wished it was my husband.  Still can't figure out if I want to date.  Part of me wants to have someone to share things with again.  Part of me is content with my husband ghost.  It would take a very brave man to come into my bedroom which looks like an Artie museum.  I call it Artie land.  I thought - I'll put one thing away every day.  Then I thought - no - not yet.

Here's the problem.  You can read my list.  I do set up my life so I can do as many interesting, exciting and caring things as I possibly can.  I'm very lucky that I am financially able to do this - although there is a lot of free stuff about if you don't have money.  I purposely live in a city where there is always something happening.  How can I describe it?  I'm having a perfectly happy moment and the Death Whisperer comes up next to me and whispers in my ear - life sucks, come with me, join your husband.  I have to tell the Death Whisperer to shut up.  It's not my time yet.  I heard the actress Liv Ullmann say that Kierkegaard the philospher said that when we are born we are given Secret Orders.  We never know what they are but when we are living our lives in a way that makes us feel centered and on track we get a sense of what they are.  If we choose an actual death or a living death we aren't fulfilling our destiny - we aren't carrying out our Secret Orders.  If I write - if I do something nice for someone - if I go to the gym - if I do storytelling - those are the kind of things that make me go to bed at night with a sense of satisfaction.  The thing is - no matter how much I do - I can't seem to get rid of the Death Whisperer.  Artie - my husband - was a great bufferer for me.  When I felt life was too hard in general or something specific happened like someone said something mean or I got a rejection slip - he held me and I felt safe and loved.  Now where he used to be there are buckets full of spirit and energy - but I need a simple earthy man - that one man: Arthur Warner.  How do we go on - and happily not miserably - on when there is someone we love so much that we can't look at and touch and listen to.

I was looking for New Year's quotes for my Facebook Page and I found this one by Bernadette Devlin.

"Yesterday I dared to struggle. Today I dare to win."
Now there's a challenge.  I do a tremendous job struggling.  I could get an Olympic gold medal in struggling.  In 2011 do I dare to win?  Me.  Me by myself.  Me with the help of all the folks who get it and all the folks who don't but try to.  Watch this space.

I hope if you had some happy times over the holidays you can stroke those, hold those, remember those and whoosh - blow away the dark sad moments.  We are grief warriors - watch out world - we dare to be honest about our feelings and keep on living.  Maybe this is the year - if we haven't yet - that we dare to win.  (However you define winning.  Today - for me - winning was getting out of bed - going to the gym - and writing this.  Winning can be the tiniest thing - if it's something grand that's grand - if it's something as simple as going into the garden for five minutes that's grand as well.)  xo