Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grief: Light and Shadow : Do I Have Anything Left to Say?

I haven't been posting because I'm not sure I have anything new to say.  I don't want to say I'll never post again because then something will happen and I will want to share it. 

I went on Friday to see Edward Hopper paintings at the Whitney Museum with a friend.  A lot of his paintings use light and shadow.  There is one of a white building on the right - and on the left is a dark and mysterious forest that casts a shadow.  There is another one of a bright blue sea with green trees full of sunlight - that made me think of the Mediterannean on the right and on the left are two women sitting at a cafe table almost completely in shadow.  We also saw some modern art which I have never understood.  Then we went to have something to eat - delicious toasted sandwiches and rich pastry. 

I walked home alone.  It was like the first day of spring - women were out in shorts and flirty skirts.  Men were in their shirtsleeves.  There was an air of excitement.  Most people love spring and their happiness flows like rivers over the concrete of the city.  I looked at all the people, listened to their laughter.  I felt like an alien from a different planet - and yet I knew that if someone who felt as I did walked by me with my friend while we were in the museum or eating in the restaurant - they would have thought I was one of the people who fit it and was happy. 

That's my world since Artie died; light and shadow.  A clear line separates my life before he died and my life after he died.  One of things we had in common was that we never felt like we fit in the world - only with each other.  (It wasn't the reality like it isn't now - but it was how we felt.)   Luckily - as much as we fought - he had me until the day he died so he never had to feel like he didn't belong anywhere again.  Me - I'm still trying to figure out where I belong without him.  The strange thing which many of you understand is that all the love in the world doesn't help - because of that stubborn little child inside me that wants only one person - my husband.  Can't have him back.  Can stop wanting him back.  A boring refrain that won't stop.

I am like a string with no knot on the end.  The most beautiful beads are put on the string by me and by others and they glitter and glow and then they slip off leaving me with their memory and an empty string.  I haven't figured out how to tie a knot yet.  I haven't stop working at it.  Still look for new beads - and have gone back to therapy.

I don't know if things will change - it has not been two years yet.  I have three choices - to listen to the death whisperer and fade away - to live this sad life that has sparks of happiness in it - none of which catch and burst into flame - or to find a way to live my life fully as I know Artie would want me to - until it is my time to join him.  I have been thinking about people like Carrie Fisher, Winston Churchill, Queen Victoria, William Styron - I don't like the word depressed - I don't feel depressed - I feel sad - melancholic - grieving - but people who in spite of difficulty engaging with and loving life managed to not only live but have productive lives and produce great creative works.  I wonder if I can be one of them. 

I have watched people I have met through this blog and through other grief groups and sites make that journey - from total grief - to hope and joy in their new life.  I have even watched people fall in love again - feel a little guilty - but know that new love doesn't erase the old one.  I have watched other people stay stuck in their tears and loneliness who feel that life is just a waiting room now - waiting for the hope of reunion with whoever they have lost.

Who will I be?  I don't know today.  I know I have a lot of plans in the next three months - even after I finally do my show on May 14th - I have signed up for a stand up comedy class.  After that...

Feel free to e-mail me if I don't post again and you are curious about me.  I do have some interesting therapeutic things coming up - so may want to share about that.

I am so grateful for all the people that have read this blog - and especially grateful that some people have felt supported by it.  The archive will remain whether I post or not. 

Remember to take good care of yourselves - all of you grief warriors.  You are so brave to get up in the morning and do whatever you do - however much, however little.  I wish you all find the way to tie a knot at the end of your string so that all the beads of life you collect will stay - and that you can feel the joy of life wash over your grief until your grief is less and your happiness more.  I wish that your memories of having love bring you comfort even when comfort seems impossible to find. I wish you laughter to go with your tears.  Again, I thank you over and over for always letting me know that I am not alone on this journey - wherever it leads me.   xo J

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grief: Memories are my flowers this spring

I want to be inspiring.  All around me are people happy with signs of spring, people moving on, people laughing and loving life.  I want to write that I have found my way to do this.  I want to write that I am inspired.  There is a site on Facebook called Second Firsts that bubbles with positive thoughts and people being inspired and inspiring.  It irritates me!   I know I'm doing the best I can and that I always advise people to accept themselves where they are.  Other people tell me that I am amazing, fantastic, wonderful and that I have done a lot.

Inside I'm still that sad little girl that wants her husband back.  Maybe that's part of the process.  To feel what I'm feeling and maybe some day I will wake up and not feel so sad. 

I wish I could tell you something wonderful.  It's ironic - when I lived in Carmel with Artie I hated being in a small town and always wanted him to come with me to NYC.  Now that I am in NY without him I think about our garden in Carmel.  I think how it must look with the roses blooming.  There is a rosebush that you see as you step outside the back door (if it is still there) that blossoms with impossibly huge beautiful roses.  We used to call each other to look when a new one came out - and stand holding hands to admire it.   I think about the trees we planted together and if they are growing taller and stronger.  I wish I appreciated things more when I had them.  I have told people that if the new owners of the house change the garden - not to tell me.  I want to always remember it the same way - only bigger and better.  When he lived in Phoenix in a condo - I bought him a tree to put on his tiny balcony.  It was a solanum - they are also plants - green leaves and purple flowers.  Wherever we lived from then on we always planted a solanum tree and called it our love tree.  At the celebration of his life I rented two solanum trees to put at either side of the sofa that I sat on with one of his friends.  It was the sofa he used to sit on when he led his Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  We had to bring it down to the auditorium because all the people who wanted to come couldn't fit in the meeting room.  So many loving and also funny stories were told about my husband that day. 

See - I think I live too much in the past but I don't know how not to.  I was lucky to be truly loved and love.  I can't seem to let go of it.  I thought I would just write - feeling sad - goodbye - and instead - memories grew - maybe those are my flowers this spring - memories springing up all over.  xo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grief: Poor Me Syndrome

I'm telling you - I went back to therapy yesterday.  I have this wonderful life and without Artie I cannot find a way to make any happiness stick.  I can enjoy the moments but when I'm back in my empty apartment by myself - especially when I wake up in the morning - Ouch and Ouch again.  I watch other folks around me think positively and move on.  I watch other folks around me who have had a loved one die much longer ago than Artie did still flapping around like a goldfish lying on the floor without water.

The thing is - I'm just me.  I don't know how to stop being in love with my husband and feeling that at 60 it would be easier if I could just go to whatever train station or airport and hop on whatever ride takes me to wherever he is.  My therapist is great because she is allowing me to talk about how I really feel underneath what looks like being better.  The thing is I've built myself a grief box, crawled into it, and nailed it shut.  The other thing is I kind of like it in there.  There's a part of my brain urging me to get up and out - which is why I have so many adventures and why I'm going back to therapy - but there is a part of my heart that keeps stomping it's foot (how's that for a mixed metaphor!) and says NO! NO! Artie is, was, and always will be the only man for me and without him life sucks.  I can't even get to the place that says - okay I'll be a widow for however long I live - but I'll be a widow that lives life with zest and love.  It's like trying to get from Washington DC to NYC by going south.  I know it's not the right way - but it's the only road I've got right now.

I just sent a friend an e-mail.  I have so many happy times - I really do.  I live in this wonderful apartment - I have great friends - I never thought I'd be a performer and I am getting all these compliments when I manage to show up and perform - but when the day and night ends and I walk into my apartment alone - it's like someone turns out the light in my soul and I can't figure out how to turn it back on.  By the morning it's all black and then I have to struggle to get up again and paint the day bright with colors.  Do I dare give up the struggle?  I read somewhere there is actually a misery gene.  People who are naturally positive are actually genetically different than folks like me who struggle.   As many problems as my husband had - he loved life.  He grabbed it with both hands as long as he could - and I know he wants me to do the same. 

It's why I'm the only one I know trying to hold back spring - talking about moving to the North Pole (only kidding).  Maybe therapy will help.  Keep moving.  Baby steps.  Keep piling on happy moments and maybe one day - snap - I'll walk into my cosy apartment and the happiness won't seep out through the cracks but will stay inside me. 

Keep strong. xo

Monday, March 7, 2011

Grief: Not Being Able To Share Things

I'm up in the middle of the night again.  Crazy.  One of the things I'm missing is not being able to share things with Artie.  I can still talk to him - but it's obviously not the same.  I have a lot of people I can share things with.  Nobody is Artie.  That's the problem I can't seem to solve.  What do I need?  I need my husband.  What do I want?  I want my husband.  Ridiculous to keep wanting and needing what isn't possible - at least not right now - but I can't seem to stop.

I am reading a book written by someone who thinks Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray (about a man who becomes more and more evil and decadent but looks always very young and innocent - it is the portrait of him he has hidden that changes) was written about Jack the Ripper - that Oscar Wilde knew who he was.  Artie would find that interesting.  I saw a play today (to get me out of the house) called the Whipping Man.  It was about a Jewish confederate soldier returning home and his relationship with two of his freed slaves who were Jewish because the family were Jewish.  I know quite a bit about the Civil War but I didn't know that in April when Lee surrendered to Grant and Lincoln was assassinated it was also Passover.  There is this scene of one of the black - no longer a slave - men setting up a Seder in the ruined house in Richmond - that was brilliantly beautiful and sad.  When I liked a play I would buy two copies and Artie and I would read it together.

Of course, I can't spin him stories of my trip to Russia either. 

So many times a day things happen that I want to share with him because he got me - understood me - in a way that no one else does.  Also - we were first in each other's lives - with all the love I have that I am grateful for - there is the lack of that special connection.  They talk about having an empty nest.  My daughter is supposed to grow up and move out.  My nest feels empty because my husband died and moved to where it is that dead folks live.  He couldn't help it.  He didn't leave me because he wanted to.  It was his time to die. I just hate being left behind.

So...I write things off into cyber space.  Don't know exactly where that is either! 

I read on a grief site that some women take their weddings rings off fairly quickly.  I usually don't wear mine when I go out - but I like wearing them.  I always say I'm not in denial - but maybe feeling married is denial.  That strange place of not wanting to be alone but being in love with a specific person who is not available in any earthly way any more. 

No answers today.  Just questions.  Maybe one answer.  Keep writing, keep moving, keep searching.  Keep being a grief warrior instead of a grief casualty.  I have two stories to tell tonight I have to practice today - so will be out tonight at least laughing with friends.  Keep finding the laughter - let it fill the empty spaces.  xo

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Grief: It Followed Me Back Home!

Sorry.  I meant to write as soon as I got back from Russia.  I wanted to write - I had a great trip.  I feel great.  Life is good.  Didn't want to write that I feel like I'm standing in a glue pot!  My feet won't move.  My heart still hurts.

Russia was like every day.  I had some amazing experiences.  It was so beautiful with everything frozen and covered with snow.  Lake Baikal was even frozen and cars were driving on the lake.  The circus in Moscow has people doing amazing things - like a man climbing a high wire that goes up diagonally to the ceiling while he has a woman balancing on one leg on his head! - and an act with three huge tigers and panthers and other cats.  People train themselves to do the most amazing things.  The KGB agent was very interesting - and actually a sweet and funny man.  Said today we mostly cooperate - as the enemy is terrorism not each other.  But people long for a strong leader - even a dictator because of corruption and crime and terrorism.  Some even have a fondness for Stalin.

Me - I just long for my husband.  I felt bad for the friend I went with.  She doesn't mind - or so she said.  We laughed a lot and shared a lot of good times - but a lot of the time I was sad and complained about things.  It was a great lesson about expectations.  She had a great time because she had no expectations about the trip.  I had planned it and expected certain things - so often when those things didn't happen the way I had planned I was upset.  Same trip - happy for the person experiencing the moment - unhappy for the person with failed expectations.  How much like life is that!!

It was hard for me knowing that she was going home to her husband and to her children and grandchildren that live nearby.  I love her and am happy she has all that love around her - but it made my empty apartment seem even more empty.  My daughter is very loving - I just wanted her to be loving on the east coast - not 3000 miles away.  I hate phoning it in.

Expectations again.  It has been over a year and a half and during that time I have done some amazing things - and I am proud of what I have accomplished (not the watching a million DVDs part!) but I expected to feel better by now.  I don't.  Being in love with a dead man doesn't get easier.  It seems in some weird way to be getting harder.  I know a lot of people say that the second year is harder than the first.  Wish I wasn't in the group that feels that way! 

What am I doing about it? Good stuff.  I have lots of plans for the next couple of months.  Some new friends.  I'm going back to therapy. I am doing a half hour version of my solo show about my experiences - which is now called Pull Me Back - because when Artie was about two hours away from dying he asked us to pull him back - and because I need to be pulled back to life - on April 4th at 10 pm at the PIT in NYC (123 E. 24th St.) and then the full version at 2 pm at the same theater on May 14th.  I hope I can pull it off.  :)   I had a photo shoot with a friend - for postcards to advertise it.  That was fun.  I had this black cape that I didn't know had a pointy hood - I looked like some demented Little Black Riding Hood.  We took pictures in Central Park by the bench that has the plaque on it that says "Artie and Jan Warner, Mr. Dazzle and Mrs. Panache, You're My Heart,  I love you,  Always"   That was my favorite thing out of all the loving things he would say to me. I don't know how to put pictures on the blog - but when I get them I'll put some on my Facebook page.

The not so good stuff:   Spending too much time in bed sleeping - calling it jet lag - but it's dead husband lag.  Feeling the pain more than the joy - not using all the techniques I know. 

At least today I'm writing the blog again.  I hope tomorrow I can write that I got dressed and went to the gym.  I vaguely remember the gym!  Also, that I practised the show.  I need to work on it and I am so darn good at avoidance.  If I was climbing a high wire to the ceiling I would be sprawled on the floor from lack of practice.  Maybe it's more difficult to climb with a dead person balancing in your heart than a live person balancing on your head!!

Wishing you all love and days that are easier than mine right now.  Hope none of you have your feet in the glue pot today but can run easily wherever you want to go.  xo