Sunday, July 31, 2011

Grief: Am I Going Up the Down Escalator or the Other Way Around?

Around the time of the second anniversary of Artie's death my daughter was staying with me.  I told her I was totally insane.  I was.  My behavior was very erratic and she got irritated with me.  Part of me understood that I wasn't much fun to be with.  Another part of me wished that she understood and cut me some slack.  Now that the date has passed I'm not a champ - as you all know - but I am functioning better.  My daughter apologized to me.  She said she couldn't understand at the time why I was acting the way I was.  Somehow explaining it to her over and over again didn't make sense to her.  There is still that feeling everywhere - why aren't we over it yet?  But looking back on it she realized how much I was hurting and said that she wished she could have been more supportive at the time.  I hope she remembers if it happens again next year.  :) It meanas a lot to me that I was able to to keep the loving and communication going on my end - and even more that she was able to respond.  My daughter is a woman who is a recovering crystal meth addict.  I am so proud of her she has over 5 years of sobriety now.

Still not accomplishing as much as I want to.  I don't know why bed seems so safe and being creative (writing, making up stories) seems so hard.  I'm not willing to give up yet on my negative protection - watching DVDs, eating too much, holding onto Artie's Yankee jacket.  When I'm ready I'll do more. 

I'm going to Seattle tomorrow to visit my daughter.  I'm sorry for those of you who have had children die.  I always feel a little guilty when I talk about her.  I hope you don't mind.  We are going to find out if my first (and probably only) grandchild will be a girl or a boy.  I am bringing my computer with me this time - so MAYBE MAYBE MAYBE I will write something.  I do write the blog.  That's a good thing.

I have been posting on widow sites and went to a depression site on FB.  I always hope there is something I can share that will help someone.  Today I ran into a couple of sick folk who called me nasty names.  I blocked them but I'm shocked that while you can report a comment to FB and block someone there is no way of trying to get a person removed - that I can figure out - who is consistently nasty.  (I don't mean disagreeable - I mean four letter word name calling.)  To me FB is about building up communities of support among other things and it makes me sad to see that the only way some people can respond is by being crude and cruel.  I did learn something though.  They only have power over me if I give it to them.  I've met some very special people on FB and I can't let a couple of nasty folk stop what I am doing.

That was part of trance camp.  Learning how to be centered and stay centered.  Haven't got that mastered yet!  But if I am centered within myself there is nothing anyone can do to hurt to me.  It is like psychological martial arts. 

It is the second anniversary of the death of one of my friends's only son.  He is having a hard time.  It helped him when I told him how much I regressed around the second anniversary of Artie's death.  That's why I keep sharing and reading.  With all the so called studies on grief it seems to depend on us to comfort each other by being honest so we know that we aren't crazy - but grieving.  Folks that make it through more easily - or have new loving relationships - I am so happy for them.  Folks that struggle like me - well, we just do.

Keep being strong except for when you can't and then we'll all paddle together in our tear puddles.  Thank you for being part of this healing circle I never knew existed.  I'm such a private person - only at 60 am I learning the value of community.  xo

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grief: Let The Journey Begin

I made it to the gym today.  Ouch.  Hooray.

That's it for me.  Lie down sometimes - get up other times.  I have a lot of writing floating in my brain.  I need someone out there who is psychic to get it down on paper.  Ha!  Does anyone remember paper?  Tupelo Press is accepting poetry manuscripts until July 31st.  What if I gathered all my poems together and submitted them?  Wouldn't need to get published (although that would be a lovely yes from the universe) but it would mean I was working at writing again.  I have this fantasy about people hacking into my computer and stealing my work. 

All these posts - there is a book in here somewhere.  The posts about grief - but also from a Doug O'Brien/Nick Kemp workshop - stories that start:  I never imagined  it could be this way.  With blank pages for people to write their own "I never imagined  it could be this way." stories.  They can be real wishes - or just letting your imagination flow.  I never imagined it could be this way:  I woke up happy and went to the gym. wrote a poem, ate a salad, and spent time with my friends - smiling all the way.  I never imagined it could be this way:  My husband came home and said, "Got a special one day pass."  and we spent all day loving each other person to person before he had to go back to wherever he is (he says right here with you - only in spirit).   I never imagined it could be this way:  Weapons turned into chocolate bars with no calories and instead of killing each other we put on party hats and dance.  The possibilities are endless.  I just have to pick up my sword and cut through my own crap and do it.  :)

Here is a poem I wrote in trance camp.

Let The Journey Begin

The death whisperer beckons:
I turn to follow.

Spirit winds blow.
I pause.

"Follow me" cries the owl.
"Follow me" coos the dove.
"Follow me" caws the raven.

My dead husband's hand in the small of my back.
I turn.

A rent in my soul;
scarlet blood drops
become seed scattering poppies.

My dead husband lifts me on to his lion's back
He whispers
"It is as it was and ever will be."

I speak.
Tiny birds fly out of my mouth
carrying life to edgeless earth corners

The lion begins to move.
Spirit winds blow.

My grief is not a monster clawing at my back,
but a small furry creature whimpering by the side of the road.
I raise it up to warm it upon my belly.

I say.
"Let the journey begin."

Here's to all our journeys - however winding the path - and may we find unexpected delights by the side of the road and meet strangers that quickly become friends. xo

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grief: Rolling With The Punches

Two nights ago I got a phone call from a reporter from the Monterey Herald.  Artie and I used to live in Carmel, CA near Monterey.  It's a long story but the doctor that misdiagnosed him and treated his Stage 4 cancer with Cipro and Gatorade was convicted of forcible sodomy (anal rape) and sentenced to 6 years in prison and to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.  Imagine, finding out the doctor who was your husband's friend for 8 years was not only an alcoholic and a cocaine user but also a serial rapist.  The appellate court is looking at his case and the reporter wanted to know if the Medical Board had ever contacted me (yes) and if the DEA had ever contacted me (no).  His medical license was revoked when he was found guilty.  I was very angry at the medical community for protecting this dangerous man at the expense of his patients.  My husband would have died anyway - his cancer was very aggressive - but we lost any chance we had to fight. 

I didn't realize how strongly this phone call brought back all the feelings from that time.  Watching Artie get sicker and sicker and being powerless to help him because he was stubborn and his doctor kept telling him he was fine.  After six weeks he finally went into the hospital and only lived for six weeks after that.  We were lucky he got to die at home.  Jazz music was always playing and he was surrounded by people he loved.  A lot of laughing.  Then he was dead. 

We all get these punches.  This is a big one but there are so many small ones.  A story you want to share.  Something you want to buy.  A loving couple or if you have lost a child - folks talking about their children.  Usually I am a fighter.  Today I did something different.  I just lay down on the bed for about 7 hours.  I didn't cry or watch TV or listen to anything or even sleep.  I just lay there and rested.  I feel much better now.

At first I felt guilty - there were several things I wanted to do today.  I even cancelled an appointment with my story telling coach.  Then as I continued to not get up the guilt went away.  My body and mind needed stillness and rest.

It's hard to know when to push yourself and when to stay still.  I was going to write that I wasn't sad any more and a tear just dripped out of my right eye!   A little wet message that I will always be sad.

One way to roll with the punches is to come out fighting.  Another way is to just be out for a small count. It's strange how peaceful I feel.  Must have been what my body and mind needed.

There is tomorrow.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a high energy day now that I have allowed my soul to take a rest.

I have been getting lovely messages from people from trance camp.  Another community to be part of - this one from all over the world.  I am lucky to be part of so many different communities. 

I'm feeling excited about going to Seattle on Monday to see my daughter and find out if my grandbaby is a boy or a girl.  Even after today's willing collapse - the work I did at trance camp made me feel much more connected to her - and to life.  I know that is what Artie would want. If it is a boy she is going to name him Oliver, if a girl - Gwendolyn.  Unless she changes her mind!!

Wishing you a peaceful heart and a calm mind.  Sometimes that peace and calm do come.  Sometimes they really do.   xo

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grief: After Trance Camp

Aha.  I don't know.  How about that!  I have though learned to use the words - isn't that interesting?  and isn't that curious?  Isn't it curious that for the first time since Artie died coming to my apartment feels like coming home.  This is where I live now, by myself.  By myself with my husband's spirit.

Isn't it curious how it still feels so empty without him even though my heart is full of his love.  Breathe space around the emptiness.  What can I see when I make the space - the energy field - my imagination - whatever you want to call it - bigger? 

I came home a day early.  There were two ways of working.  One was in the center with the whole group and the help of the leader Stephen Gilligan.  The other was with the two people who were your "pod".  It was decided by lottery.  I got a blank piece of paper instead of a number.  I did the old dance.  Sadness, anger, acceptance.  Using my resources, my friends.  Using my allies to fight my demons.  Then when the next night I said rather loudly in the gratitude circle "Fuck you" I was embarrassed.  It just popped out - but I had to look where it came from.  It came from the place that now knows how to say "I don't have to except a blank piece of paper.  I deserve a number."  Even if I can't have one, I deserve one.  Not more than anyone else - but just as much. 

Things are confidential - but I did stay long enough to work with my pod and got terrific support.  Look with Artie's eyes through my eyes.  See what he would see.  See me as he would see me.  Let my light shine in the present.  Then I felt that I could no longer hold all the work that other's did without be able to get it for myself - in that way - so I came home a day early.  When I changed my plane reservation I could breathe.  I got a big hug from Stephen.  He understood how much I needed to work with him - and also that I didn't blame him for the blank piece of paper.  He was watching me and knew I was giving as much of my presence as I could until I couldn't give any more.

Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Now that I am home, what will be my practice?  Will I meditate, will I write, will I tell stories?  Will I go back to sleep?  I don't know.  I always am gentle with myself my first day home.  I have made commitments to balance, to holding a wider energy field that lets in more joy, to life.  I have had people see my fierceness, my tenderness, my playfulness and my desperate crying.  How do we take this disruption of everything we hold dear and not let our gifts disappear?  I learned that privacy means depriving the community of your light.  How much time will I spend in the community - how much do I deprive myself by hiding? 

It's all questions right now but they are good questions.  What will I choose to be?  Who will I choose to be?  Will I live with intention, no matter what happens?  That, I think is the only way to defeat death - is to live with intention no matter how difficult it is.  For me, with space for breathing, crying, collapsing, but gathering together my warriors (which include my internal ones but also all of you).  Isn't that the best way to honor my husband - with living my life double - for him and for me.  With learning how to reweave connections even if I want to hide.  My animal isn't yet a tiger or a snake - but a turtle.  Turtles stick their necks out but sometimes they tuck them in again.  And yet...slow and steady wins the race.

I think maybe later I will write a poem.  That would be a good thing.

What is your intention; your gift, your light?  Can you absorb the shock of death enough to let it come into the world stronger and brighter?  Can you say to all the death threats (all the things that make you paralyzed, that make you freeze) - I hear you, I see you but I will not die.  I will live.  I will respect the wisdom of my refusals, but also never stop looking for past, present and future resources.  May we go on our hero's journey finding strength in each other.  xo

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Grief: Breathe a Little Space Around It

I am still at trance camp.  Today I asked about trauma that you know happened in the past but that you feel like it is happening over and over again.  I was told the first thing was to breathe space around it, widen the energy field.  I think that is something I have learned to do - not all the time - but a lot more.  I wake up in the morning and am always rather started and stunned that Artie is dead.  I then take (when I have time) as much as an hour or two to think about him, be with him, and then move in to what it is I want to do with the day.  I was also told that when you suffer a trauma the warriors that you have inside of you to protect the light - or the gift - that your presence in the world is meant to be - can disappear or be weakened.  I think a lot of the work I have been doing running around to all these trance/hypnosis workshops is to call back my warriors.  It's interesting that I have always called us grief warriors.

It is so easy, I am being told, to let my "racket" - my grief story be all that I am.  I can't do this - I can't do that - because my husband died.  I'm too sad.  I have to let go - not of my grief - but of the idea that this grief story is my only story.  I am trying to learn how to claim back my energy - or even wish - for life. No, I am doing more than trying, I am doing it.  Piece by piece. Not easily mind you. Tonight when the teacher said L'Chaim (to life) to me - I - without meaning to - said Fuck you!  He didn't mind.  My fierceness was erupting.  I also have so much invested in my grief story - I was protecting it - or maybe Artie was speaking through me - maybe he was jealous that another man was saying that to me! :)

I unravelled rather nicely around the second anniversary of Artie's death.  However, I was told that was normal and accepted it.  I hope that in the future I can look into the future and see myself as I will be.  A strong, amazing me.  That is the me that people often tell me I am, but I don't believe them. 

This is exhausting work.  I can't talk about it too much because of confidentiality but it is beautiful to watch people being willing to share their truest deepest most wounded selves and then find healing - as part of a supportive community. 

I am proud of myself for not bolting.  I have wanted to run away many times.  It is always difficult for me to stay as part of a group but this time I am staying.  We finish on Sunday and I am looking forward to being back home.  Part of me still wants to hide but my work here isn't finished yet.  I wonder who I will be when I grow up.  Funny kind of question to ask when I am 60 years old. 

I know that Artie is supporting me and encouraging me. 

I wish you all the ability to hold the darkness and the light.  I wish you all to be powerful warrior kings and queens - to be fierce, tender and playful.  xo

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grief: It's Almost Midnight

It's almost midnight and soon after it will be the second anniversary of Artie's death although it feels like he is dying right now and I can't stop it. 

I am not home under the covers crying - although I do have his Yankee Jacket with me.  I am at trance camp in San Diego.  The idea of generative trance is to create a field of energy in which all things can be held with intention.  This week is based on Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey.  Here are the steps Stephen Gilligan (who leads trance camp) describes:  The Call, The Refusal, Crossing the Threshhold, Transforming Demons, Finding Allies, Completing the Task, Returning Home.

Artie's hero's journey was going from being a homeless drunk to someone who when he died had - one day at a time - 47 years sober.  No matter how frightened he was, how many demons he had, he always was available to addicts and alcoholics.  He sponsored many people and always led a meeting.  He answered his call and I am so proud of him for doing it - and for all the people he helped.  I love him so much.  Love doesn't die when a person dies.

My hero's journey today is to keep answering the call - whether to write the blog - post on FB - write a poem - or if I am in The Refusal place - to accept that.  The bigger the refusal the bigger the call.  When you have a refusal don't blame yourself - think - how interesting this is - what is it telling me?  Crossing the threshhold for me is continuing to learn how to live without my husband.  I miss him so much.  Yeah - I hear you - you ARE here - but I miss you in the flesh!!  My demons are fear, loneliness, despair, rage.  How do I hold them, dance with them, and not let them defeat me.  My allies are all of you grief warriors that support me, my friends, my daughter, people who inspire me and of course Artie who is always my biggest ally.  Completing the task.  Sometimes I can.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I can't because of me getting stuck in the refusal or blocked by my demons.  Sometimes I can't because the world isn't ready for what I want to do.  Returning home.  I think that might mean returning home to myself - but I think of it as when my work is complete then HOORAY I get to return home to my husband.

I got a massage and now I am spending some time on line after being off the grid for a few days.  It feels good to concentrate on myself for a while - in a positive way.  This idea of generative trance is to keep an energy field that is stable and balanced that can hold all things.  Tonight I am holding sadness and loneliness and happy memories and joy and all of you in your journey.

I wish I didn't have to write this blog.  I wish you didn't want to read it because all your loved ones were alive and you had no idea what I am talking about.  However, tonight especially, I appreciate all of you who walk my path with me so that even alone I am not alone.  How do I hold this all?  I don't know but I am learning new things and that is good.  I love you Artie.  You're my heart.  Always.  I will never forget our love.  Even though you are dead your spirit sustains me.  I am so grateful for that love.  I wish magical moments for you all.  Much love on this night when my darling husband breathed his last breath and yet somehow I kept on breathing.  xo

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grief: Too Long Between Posts as My Own Personal Doomsday Approaches

July 17th is the anniversary of Artie's death - or as I call it - doomsday  My excuse for not posting would be that I have been away and also busy.  The real reason is that with this date approaching I am like a wind up toy that is running down.  It was Artie's job to turn the key and keep me going and now that I have to wind myself up as the date approaches it gets harder and harder.

Someone wrote me that she is starting year three of missing her husband and I started to cry.  Year three.  How many years will there be?  Yet Artie is no more dead today than he was yesterday so I wonder why these dates pack such a wallop.  He was dying two years ago and yet I feel like he is dying today and I can't do anything to stop it.  When I read a biography of Abraham Lincoln I always say out loud, "Don't go to the theater!" (Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's theater.)  You can't change history.  Artie's death is history but my feelings about it are present.

Even though I have learned all these techniques and  have a lot of good times I still feel so alone. Perhaps that is part of my puzzle.  I look for changes in myself and although I have done much to be proud of I still feel the disconnect.  My beautiful pregnant daughter is in NYC with me.  Her belly is pooching out with my first grandchild and part of me is delighted and part of me still lives in the misery of where is my husband.  I am totally excited for her but wish I was more excited for me. 

I know Artie wants me to live life fully and I want to live for both of us.  Sometimes I can do it.  Sometimes everything seems to unravel.

The show I did - Pull Me Back - which is about my relationship with Artie and his death at home - and life afterwards - has been put on a DVD.  I have sent it to friends and am shopping it around to see if anyone wants to take it to another level.  I have a meeting with a producer about it tomorrow.  I feel that I owe it to the material.  It is important to me that we talk about our grief.  I am grateful for the folks who stick around.

I have been very grouchy and snarky and am especially grateful for the folks that hang around that.

Someone e-mailed me that one of their children said they live in their own little world.  I feel that way.  I go out with friends and look quite normal most of the time but inside there is this place that will not heal.  I want it to be full of good memories and the joy of great love but it remains full of loneliness and pain as well. 

I keep doing things to try to get better - to make myself more whole again.  Find it difficult to feel whole on my own.  I am going Tuesday to trance camp.  Nine days of hypnosis to generate my own power as a human being.  I will see how that works.  Spending doomsday in a totally different environment with totally different people participating in a totally differnt experience.  I know I won't forget - and I am going to tell the leader Stephen Gilligan what is happening so that if I start crying for no reason not to worry about me.  I am still grieving. 

That's my road.  Say what I want to say.  Feel what I feel.  Hope people understand that this is what my grief looks like.  One of Artie's friends - one who has been so lovely in still being there for me - watched the DVD and in messaging me how much it meant to him - called me girlio.  What fun.  A 60 year old girlio. 

Decided the bravest knight of all isn't even mentioned in history - Sir Laughalot.  Trying to keep the laughter going along with the crying.  I am especially grateful for all of you on this journey with me.  Especially sad that you have to be on it but having terrific admiration for your courage and honesty and dedication to being real. 

I am going to try to figure out how to use wireless in my hotel so I can post more often.  Wishing you all courage and love and a way to be awash in happy memories that bring you comfort that at least balances the pain.  Sometimes moving forward means going in a circle.  I have no idea what that means.  It's either profound or silliness.  Take your pick.  A new day is starting soon and I am going back to bed to see if I can sleep a little more.  Here's to all our beloved dead - may we feel their love and take strength from it.  xo