Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grief: An Idea Is Just A Breath

That was a phrase that came to me on Sunday.  An idea is just a breath.  We need to take that idea and transform it into something.  Don't change the world.  That makes me want to take a nap.  Tell the person who bags your groceries that they have beautiful hair - if they do.  Find a small thing. 

I have had so many people lately ask me in a nice way what I am going to do with the rest of my life.  I'm trying to rev it up but it's hard without Artie.  That's my racket.  That's my excuse.  Sorry, can't do it, dead husband.  It's the truth but it's my job to breathe the idea of energetic creative life coming into being even with dead husband grief. 

Saw a play today called The Mountaintop.  Pass the baton.  It's everyone's job to have a dream, to find out what their purpose is in life and be willing to take the risk to fulfill that purpose.  Find a fierce radical love - for yourself and for others.  The film Poetry of Resilience (poetryof about survivors of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Rwanda and many other places won the award for best short documentary at the Woodstock Film Festival on Sunday.  I spoke briefly and received many nice compliments.  It was hard to take in.  There is from a moment of kindness a ripple effect.  Kimenyi - the poet from Rwanda - died about a year ago.  His widow Mathilde didn't say, "I can't take one more death."  She celebrates her husband's life.  One way she does this is with an organization called Friends of Rwanda Association.  FORA.  It helps orphans in Rwanda.  When she and her husband got to finally return to Rwanda after the genocide there they had a memorial for the people who died, and then a family reunion for the few that managed to survive.  Family reunions are an American idea but now lots of families are having reunions in Rwanda. Family reunions that are fractured with the number of dead - but still celebrate the living.  I lost one person and I spiral down and make his death an excuse - I don't walk home next to a river filled with bodies, or live a town where all the houses are empty because a million people have been slaughtered.  If Mathilde can live her life with joy, surely I can find my way.

Not saying it's easy.  I get tired.  I get sad.  I got a lovely facebook message from Artie's daughter who had no contact with him for many years.  She watched Pull Me Back - the DVD of the show I did about our life and love and his death.  She thanked me for loving him and taking care of him.  She thanked me for my grief.  I let her know that he loved her and was proud of her.  Somehow they have found a path back towards each other through me, even after his death.  My difficult damaged husband who I love so much.  Come back.  That's what I keep saying. Come back.  I know he can't.  Roll my memories backwards and here he is.

I was being worked on by a chiropractor - deep muscle manipulation that HURTS so I take my mind and go somewhere else.  Artie hated to travel when he was alive.  He said - "I don't have a body anymore.  Come fly up in the sky with me.  You can do it."  Was it my imagination?  I don't know.  But the chiropractor said that he can see when he works on me that I go somewhere. 

Someone writing a grief blog stopped after two years saying he was returning to the living.  I am part of the living.  Yet I am also in love with my ghost.  Proudly, stubbornly so.

Wishing you all the whoosh that it takes to make that breath of an idea into a reality.  To be who you are meant to be.  To fly in the sky, stay rooted on the earth, do what it takes to be part of this terrible, beautiful, sad, wonderful complicated thing called still being alive. xo

Friday, September 23, 2011

Grief: Staying Alive or Living

A character in a movie said, "I live in the past.  That is my future."  That made me sit up and take notice.  A while back I decided to stay alive; not for me but for the people who love me.  Now I am thinking why bother to stay alive and not live - not be fully alive?

Five people have asked me the same kind of question this week.  What do you want to do with the rest of your life?  Do you want to be a poet, a good poet, a great poet?  Why are you placating people instead of telling them what you want and deserve?  You are a powerful, creative woman.  Why don't you feel like it and act like it?  Someone even said, every time I open my mouth my brilliance comes out.  Well there.  How's that for a throw down.  Come on, Jan, Panache, Twiglet (Artie used to say I'm the tree and you're the branch - then we decided God as you think of Him/Her is the tree - Artie's the branch and I'm the twig - it was a joke - we learned from each other), laughbuttons, Janushka, ME.  How do I do it?  Be on my side.  Be driven.  Had lunch with an woman at HBO (I won't name drop) who is DRIVEN.  Doesn't need to be any more to pay the rent but she gets out of bed whether she wants to or not and works constantly to achieve her goals.  Isn't it my turn?  To do it for myself? Do I have the moxie to not hit the snooze button a zillion times?  I don't really want to be driven.  Dedicated is a better word.  Devoted.  Dedicated and devoted to letting myself achieve more of what I want to.

Artie's death might stop being my racket, my excuse.  Artie's death might start being my inspiration.  Do it for me.  Do it for Artie.

Good stuff:  Still going to all the exercise and body work places.  Just skipped one Rolfing session this week because I was tired.  Googled diet plan and NYC and found out there is a diet doctor with a whole team (nutritionist etc...) one block away from me.  Was that a sign or what?  Have an appointment next Friday.  Probably have to break up with sugar.  No news there.  Although, there is a diet that allows one cheat day... I know, I'm a tough case!

More Good Stuff:  Going to Woodstock for a reception and showing of a film that was generated by a conference I did.  Asked the guy to drive me that I've always liked talking to - he had given me his phone number and I invited him (with two other friends) to the reception and the screening.  Not a date but a teeny tiny crack in a firmly closed door.

Even More Good Stuff:  A friend asked me to be on her web radio show to talk about grief.  Kevin my storytelling coach is having me tell a story in November on mainstage RISK (that's the one with the celebrities.)  When I do stick my head out people notice and I get to do things.  I find that both exciting and terrifying.  The excited part wants to do more.  The terrified part wants to hide more.

Stuff Stuff (not bad - just stuff stuff) - cancelled three things I would have enjoyed.  Cosy in bed with DVDs.  Excuse or reason?  My body is sore getting used to all these changes - even though they are good ones.

Questionable stuff - always wonder about wearing my wedding ring with Artie's wedding ring again full time.  A friend said - why not - her granny wore her wedding ring the entire 40 years she was a widow.

Hopeful stuff:  Have a full day to myself tomorrow.  Start writing the book.  Write a poem.   

Lesson:  schedule better - don't be busy every day even though I am grateful that I have all these wonderful friends to be busy with. 

Good question.  Why not?

What would happen if we all looked at what we want to do and don't and said why not?  I'll always leave time for connecting with other people.  That is very important to me.  I'll always leave time for being with my beloved ghost.  I'll always watch some DVDs and maybe start reading more again.  I always plan to shift the balance and accomplish more tomorrow.  But never today.  Saturday is a good day for starting.  Anybody want to start with me?  Accomplish one thing that means living in the present and not in the past for at least part of the day?  Like I say some times, "Watch this space."  xo

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Grief: Off Balance

I'm taking care of my body these days.  Not with eating yet... but Mondays and Fridays I go to this balancing exercise class where I stand on slant boards and a rocking sort of half ball on one leg at a time and do various things - luckily while holding on to a handsome young man with a sense of humor.  He says, "Stand on your left leg, leave your right leg straight, do slight knee bends, if you put both feet on the rocking half ball you'll fall on your butt.  Now. Relax!"  Tuesdays I have this chiropractor that works with a team - heat, electric impulses, deep massage, Active Release Technique and other things.  Thursday I get Rolfed - a deep massage that separates what sticks muscles together.  It all hurts and I am tired. It's hard to take care of myself without Artie.  However, I have hope for the first time that some of my pain will go away.  I wish my medical doctor (some medical doctors are great) would have come up with these things.  When my chronic pain goes away what will I blame my lack of action on?  It is not unusual to wish for death to be with a loved one.  It is different than committing suicide and doesn't necessarily need to be treated.  I am grateful that I am 60 not 20.  On the other hand I don't want to miss my granddaughter growing up. Ouch.

My mind is snarky because sometimes I get tired of all the happiness bubbling around.  Sometimes I enjoy the happiness bubbling around.  I'm contrary and too sensitive and not sensitive enough.  Do I want to be thin?  Do I want to be a great poet, a great writer, a great story teller?  Do I want to have something happen with my solo show?  If I was motivated to DO things.  No, I do things.  If I was motivated to do MORE things.  A lot of the time I don't seem to care much.  Do I want to care much?  Does it hurt less if I don't care?  I'm honestly scared to go back to my first post and see what I have written.  I am great at having good ideas and rather poor in executing them.  Self discipline is not my natural way.  Artie being dead makes me tired. 

I actually have a very busy week next week.  Lots of potential.  Every day has a lot of potential.  It doesn't feel safe in the world without my husband waiting at home for me.  I was always a procrastinator.  Maybe being snarky is another way of protecting myself of not feeling how sad I still am.  It's a lovely sunny day.  I did work on poetry today.  I was going to go out afterwards.  I don't want to.  The temper tantrum kid is back.  I don't wanna, I don't wanna.  I wanna stay in bed and watch DVDs.  That's my pacifier. 

I don't feel excited about anything today.  I don't feel depressed either.  I have a little digital alarm clock where Artie sings a song stanza and then says, "I love you. You're my heart."  I put it up to my ear and it feels like he's whispering in it.  I make jokes about there's nothing wrong with being married to a ghost if that's who you're in love with.  It's lonely sleeping with a Yankee jacket and stuffed leopard with a bag of ashes in it. There's a Sondheim song...Am I Losing My Mind?

Whine Whine Whine.  Someone called them grief bursts.  The thing is, right now, I don't even feel like I'm grieving.  I feel like I'm going through the motions of being alive.  Like a robot.  Laughing, crying, being entertaining and all the time wanting to crawl back in bed and pretend it never happened.  When is my husband coming home?  Never.  When am I going to learn to live, really live even though he is dead.  Tomorrow?  I'm lazy.  I want it to be easy.  I need his hug.  I need his smile.  I need his eyes to look into mine.  No way, kid.  Not going to happen.

Tomorrow morning, balancing on one leg.  What a metaphor for my life.  Some days I balance rather well, exquisitely well.  Other days I spend falling on my butt over and over again or not trying to get up at all.  I don't want to hold on to a stranger.  I want to hold on to my husband - and that means going backwards not forwards. 

No words of wisdom here today except to say I am still here.  I will not stop because sometimes I don't succeed.  We're here together.  Last week I remember feeling happy that my body was getting stronger and thinking maybe the way to a healthy soul was through a healthy body.  Today not so much.  Just when I think there are calm waters ahead another storm comes.  I don't want to stop loving Artie.  I want to be more fully alive but some days his death is like a knock out punch.  All the things I've learned, every good thing I know disappears and I'm down for the count. 

Tra la la.  I hope today some of you are balanced and are laughing at me being like a clown doing pratfalls.  Maybe tomorrow I will feel balanced and surprise myself by letting go of the handsome young man with the sense of humor and be able to stand tall without holding on to anyone at all - no matter how rocky the earth is beneath my feet.  Is this what they mean by growing pains? xo

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grief: Touch

Sorry for being a slothful blogger.  My pregnant daughter was staying with me and since Artie died I find it hard to do more than one thing at a time.  I get tired emotionally.  We had a lovely time together.  If you don't believe in change, let me introduce you to my daughter.  A bad crystal meth addict sober over 5 years.  I thought she was going to die and now she is full of life - about to give birth to new life - and is an inspiration to me when I take my great self pity mud wallow!

I'm calling this one touch.  The physical touch of my husband gone forever.  I was lucky to do a set visit on the TV show Criminal Minds and my daughter and I spent the day with Joe Mantegna who is a uniquely sweet man.  When I was leaving he stroked my cheek.  Just a goodbye, thanks for the day gesture.  I almost cried.  I never told him because I didn't want to sound like some kind of weird stalker chick - but it was the first time since my husband died anyone had touched my cheek.  Now after two years I have found a chiropractor who knows all kinds of modalities who might actually be able to get rid of this chronic pain I have been having.  Seems my entire right side is out of alignment so every movement I make undoes any progress I make.  (Sounds like my body is imitating my mind!!)   He reminds me of my husband in his kindness mixed with bluntness.  He also touches me - on my shoulder, on my hand - not in an inappropriate way, but in a reassuring way.  It feels both lovely and sad at the same time. I can cuddle all the teddy bears I want - hold that Yankee jacket close - but nothing matches my memory of how it felt to have Artie touch me. We have to think of that loss.  A small child's hand, a pet's tongue, a spouse's hug, a mother or father's pat on the back.  Any combination of the above.  We miss our loved ones in our minds and hearts but our bodies miss them too.  Our bodies hurt and we must be gentle with them.

Another kind of touch.  A touch that reaches out to others. A young woman I friended on facebook who is only 20 might kill herself.  She has tried before.  A whole community of people are reaching out to her, trying to keep her alive until she finds a place of comfort, of joy - just one little reason to live instead of die.  I hope we succeed.  There is so much pain out there in the world.  Sorry folks, it is not all good.  We must be warriors for ourselves and also for those who do not have the strength to be warriors for themselves.  What is so important about the touch that reaches out instead of in is that it reminds me how my pain can give me compassion for others.  That the fact that I wanted to die and decided to live might somehow give someone else the courage to do the same.  If it doesn't I have to accept it.  I don't want another death in my life.  Those of you who pray -  her name is Samantha - I hope you will say a prayer that she lets the love she is being given start to heal her heart.

Isn't that the message for all of us - even me.  How do I let the love I am being given heal my heart?  I hold so tightly to the hurt.  Artie loves me, there is a lot of love in this world.  I hope today that we all find a way to let the love that is there for us touch us, even if it brings tears as well as joy.  I posted an Ojibwa saying:  I go about in self pity and all the while there is a great wind bearing me across the sky.  Let's go fantasy hang gliding - gliding on the winds - being touched by the beauty of the stars above and the earth beneath.  Keep strong.  Help keep others strong.  xo

Monday, September 5, 2011

Grief: Where Is Everybody?

Where is my husband?  That's the first question.  I mean - he's dead.  I know where his ashes are.  I don't have an idea of what "heaven" or the afterlife is.  I feel his spirit with me.  I'm earthbound - stuck in my body - so I keep working on having a relationship with my husband ghost.  Someone asked the other day about falling in love again.  I never can decide if I am holding on to my hurt by holding on to my past.  I only know how I feel - which is still married.  I would like a warm living body in my life but it's not something I can control. I still love Artie so much it's not something I'm willing to work at.  How does he feel?  I think he would be happy for me - but even dead - I think a part of him would prefer I wait until we can be together again.  If that is delusional - I'm very fond of my delusions!  So...unless someone walks into my life and scoops me up that's the way it will be.

Where are my husband's friends?  Aha.  That's a familiar one.  I went to a bereavement group and a widow said 700 people came to her husband's funeral and not one of them were still in contact with her.  There are two of his friends who have stayed in touch with me so that makes me lucky.  I don't know why this happens.  Are they moving on?  Do they think I moved on?  Is it too painful to talk to me?  I know when he was dying he asked people to look after me because he was afraid I wouldn't want to live without him.  They did for a while.  Not any more.  Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who remembers him, who cares that he's dead.  I know that's not true.  His death was difficult for many people who loved him.  I wish they would want to keep a connection going.  I'm grateful for the two who have.  One is a guy who called me girlio in an e-mail.  I loved that at 60 - girlio!!  Some of his friends called him Boss - and this guy calls me Mrs. Boss.  I love that too.  The other is a very special young woman who inspires me all the time.

Where are my friends?  I am lucky in that most of my friends have hung in there with me.  The only thing that has changed is that they talk more about their husbands/partners than they used to.  Sometimes it is okay.  Sometimes it is tiring.  I have a special love for friends who acknowledge that it is okay for me to still miss Artie, still love Artie, still be sad that he isn't here.  I had one friend, Mary, who I knew for over 30 years.  She disappeared.  On the year anniversary of Artie's death I sent thank you notes to people who had given me a lot of support.  I sent her a card and said how weird it felt that I couldn't do that with her.  I sent her a DVD copy of the show I did "Pull Me Back"  with a note saying I don't know what to do about you because we have so much history together - but then you go away.  Haven't heard a word.  Probably never will.  Strange.  I'm also lucky in the new friends I have met both in the real world and through Facebook and the blog.  They all know Artie - I talk about him all the time.  I have found a great support system in other widows and other people who have had a much loved person die.  That's because they really understand.

Where is my daughter?  She has been a great support.  For those of you who have been following our saga - she promised to move to the east coast (I'm in NYC) then said she was going to stay in Seattle.  Now that I have a year's lease on an apartment near her house in Seattle (she is having my first grandchild - Gwendolyn) in December - she said she is definitely moving east in Feb. or March.  Whatever she decides is okay with me.  I decided that if she is near or far I will make this new part of my life an important part of my life and show up for it. Gwendolyn will have to get used to grandma telling Artie stories!!

Where am I?  Here.  Good days and bad.  I'm still afraid to go back and look at all my posts to see if they can turn into a book.  The truth is I have changed.  I don't cry hysterically for hours.  I don't believe Artie is going to come and get me.  I'm not thinking of suicide.  After a little over two years I miss him more every day.  I do cry sometimes.  I like to spend time with him.  I feel married to him and wear his wedding ring and mine all the time now instead of just when I am home.  I'm trying to look at what I have accomplished as well as what I haven't.  Still have far to go.  Do better when I get out of my head - when I try to help others - even by encouraging folks I don't know on FB.  Maybe I will be performing more.  Maybe I will write that book or get that poetry manuscript together.  Still have very stuck days - but less.  Still sleep with a Yankee jacket instead of a human being.  I'm straddling two worlds - the world where I am in love and married to a ghost - and the one where I try to live fully.  I can't tell if that will ever end.  Like I always say.  Watch this space.  :)

What a winding path it is having someone - or a loved pet - die.  I hope as you walk your path today you find some flowers growing and that if you notice them they make you smile instead of irritate you!  xo

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grief: Taking Care of Yourself

I am calling September fall cleaning instead of spring cleaning.  The good part:  I am trying to take better care of myself - physically and emotionally.  The difficult part:  I get a gold star for procrastination!

I am looking for new ways to take care of myself physically.  I have started to do Rolfing which is a kind of bodywork.  I like Beth very much.  She is my age and understands that sometimes age (I'm 60) brings pain.  I'm trying to limit the amount of pain my body has from not eating well and from surgeries I have had.  I also have a young person who does yoga and something called ART and another technique that is deep tissue work to try to break up the adhesions (scar tissue) from past surgeries.  Ouch.  I'm going to stick with it for a while but I feel that she is less understanding about what it is like to be me.  It makes me regret the times that I wasn't as sympathetic to my husband as I might have been.  He was older that I was and I didn't always get how much pain he was in.  I especially didn't get that he had cancer.  When I see the last film I took of him it is obvious he has cancer (even though his doctor was telling him he was fine).  I thought the way he looked was a result of old age.  Interesting, whenever I talk about me I wind up talking about Artie.  Even after two years we are so connected in my mind.  Is that good or not good.  Don't know. It just is.  I miss him. 

The important difference is that now I am doing these things for me.  How to develop the desire to look good for me without the pang that I won't hear Artie say, "You look beautiful."  How to do difficult things without having his hugs waiting for me when I get home.  I've talked about the fear of being in hospital without him but even coming home from the dentist is difficult.  So many loving people in my life and yet missing that one special one.  People don't always think about how when our spouse dies we lose our cuddler, our back rubber, our favorite smile, our private jokes. Other people give me a lot of joy, but it's not the same.

I'm also trying to have amnesia for sugar!   My body doesn't carry extra weight like it used to.  If I do date again my chances will increase if my body is fit.  There's still a big question mark on that one.  Am I hugging my hurt and loneliness too close?  Is there room for Artie and another man as well - a living one?  Watch this space.

I getting a calendar set up for the next few months.  I hope that if I write down specific times for listening to hypnosis tapes, writing, submitting, practicing my storytelling, exercising etc... I will be more likely to do them.  Every day I want to do at least one thing that makes me feel proud.  After two years I am trying to do more than one thing - get out in the world more.  Do things even if I am frightened or uncomfortable.  I am a capable, intelligent, creative woman.  I need to hide a little but not as much as I do now.  With the therapy and other things I have done I am more careful with my language.  There is a phrase - negative hallucination.  When I think of what to do during my day I can create a negative hallucination of a weak woman who cannot live fully as a widow or I can picture myself being strong and living fully.  It's up to me.  I'll still have sad old bad old days but I want them to be less.  I do schedule time to be sad.  I will lie down and hit the alarm for 10 minutes and spend that time with my grief.  If I ignore it completely it overwhelms me.  Sometimes I need more than 10 minutes but I am trying not to let it permeate my whole day. 

Yet, still Artie Artie Artie.  It amazes me how someone who is dead can be so much a part of my life.  There are no new stories, no new memories.  He is dead.  Yet in my mind he lives and I think about him and talk about him all the time.  When I dream, however, I am always searching for him and I can't find him.  Trying to find a way to have my dream life be happier.  I think that will make waking up a little easier.

My life is like this blog - I start with a plan and then I wander off in a lot of different directions.  I would like to develop more focus so that I can accomplish more.  I'm not going to say everything was a straight line when Artie was alive.  It was tangled then too.  However, I used to curl into his arms and tell him it was the only place I felt alive and safe.  Now I must create a world where I take care of myself (with my friends, my daughter, and in December my brand new granddaughter).  I must create a world where I am alive and safe and can let my light shine even though I don't have those arms to curl into anymore.  I still stand on the shoulders of our love. 

I read a blog once where the person writing it said after two years he wasn't going to write any more.  He was going back into the land of the living.  I am in the world of the living and in the world of the dead.  I think that is okay but sometimes I wonder if my beloved ghost wants me to stay with him or wants me take advantage of every aspect of life.  I don't know. 

That's my Saturday morning.  More questions than answers.  Maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe answers limit possibilities.  It's Labor Day Weekend.  I hope you find time during these days to take care of yourself.  I don't have family events.  If you do - I hope you can celebrate the memory of how they were when your loved person was physically there with you without feeling too sad that they live in another space/time now.  Remember, sad or happy - that you CAN take care of yourself - or if you can't - you can find a way to hold yourself, accept yourself until you can - maybe sooner than you think.  Maybe even my procrastination is over before I am aware that it is gone.  xo