Sunday, October 30, 2011

Grief: Bah Humbug - Go Away Self Pity and Regret

Today was one of those non-starter days.  The night before last I smelled something burning and the fringe on my lampshade was actually on fire.  I put it out.  Then it snowed and I went for a long walk, had a lovely lunch, came home and talked to my daughter for a ridiculous 4 hours.  Today not so much.  Maybe I should have something on fire every night to wake me up!  I think it's the holidays coming around the corner and Artie's birthday.  There always seems to be time for self pity but then at the end of the day I wish I hadn't wasted so much time.  I have been having this fantasy that I wake up and Artie is in bed next to me and I say, "Goodness, here you are.  I was so stupid.  I thought you were dead."  Of course he is really dead.  So in the morning when I wake up I have to jump over the fact that my head knows he's been dead a long time but somehow my body still doesn't.  Some days when I try to jump over this fact I trip and lie there for a while.  Self pity can be so darn seductive.  All the great things I have in my life and one little gigantic fact causes me to stumble.  Eek and darn and oh well, that's the way it is.  That's why I'm writing now so I can say - I ate too much, didn't do everything I planned but AT LEAST I did the laundry and put clean sheets on the bed and wrote my blog.  That's my self pity weapon - fire at least one thing every day at it. 

Regret.  I'm not usually one to regret things.  Someone's father died and he regrets not spending more time with him.  That's my biggest regret.  Artie and I love each other brilliantly and yet often we turned away from each other instead of towards each other.  I hate when I see people do that.  You just don't think that there will be end - that there will be a day when you can't visit, can't get that hug, have that talk.  That's why I hope that Artie and I will be together again so that we can treasure the time we spend together more.  He used to say he needed time to be alone - I used to say I needed time to travel or be in New York.  Now I wish that we had always just enjoyed our laughter and love and not gone in different directions.  No blame.  We were very lucky to have time before he died to talk.  He apologized for all the ways in which he failed me and I apologized too.  I think if my fantasy could come true and he could come back we would fail each other less often.  Things I got so angry or hurt about seem so unimportant now.

I don't know.  Two and a half years.  Some days I'm good at dancing with grief - somedays not so good.  It's good that I have a clean bed to crawl into - but not so good that it is really cosy now!!  I don't want to waste my life - yet some days it is easier to hide than to come out and play.

Tomorrow I have someone filming me at my balancing exercise class.  That should be funny.  Nothing like falling over on film.  :)  

Laughter.  Maybe that's one of the keys.  As much as I have those moments of self pity and regret I also laugh a lot,  Trying to help other people.  That's another key.  Being grateful.  A third.  Sometimes the thing is that I do have a key ring with lots of keys - but some days I can't get any of them to fit the me that is locked inside the loneliness - the me that has to live without my husband being physically here for me.  I still sometimes say, "Come back!  Come back!"  I know he can't. 

Yesterday was a snowy day and I went out and had fun turning into a puddle wearing my sparkly gloves and scarf for the first time.  Today here in NYC it was sunny again and it was the sun I found hard to take.  Silly old me.  I have a love letter from Artie saying how proud he is of me watching me fall and get up and try again.  That's the main key.  When you fall down - get up and try again.  Grab for that actual hand of friends and family - grab for that spirit hand of those who aren't physically here any more. 

I hope tomorrow is a getting up day.  Katja - the woman who is filming me asked if I had time to do something afterwards. I said, "If I can still stand!" 

That's it.  Keep standing everyone.  Don't let life - or death - knock you flat.  What lovely things will I come up with to do tomorrow to keep self pity and regret quiet and joy and gratitude and glorious memories saying amen and hallelujah?  What will you do?

It's Halloween tomorrow.  I've already had the trick - time for a treat!   xo

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grief: Life, Death and the Meaning of Confusion

Life:  I loved being with my daughter in Seattle.  Her baby is due December 18th.  Her baby shower was fun until someone started talking about wanting to work in hospice and knowing what dying people want and how intuitive she was.  Not intuitive enough to notice me gnashing my teeth.  Death at a baby shower.  I did mention Artie dying and that you can't know what people want without asking them.  I left the table for a safe place.  My granddaughter Gwendolyn is kicking and dancing in my daughter's womb.  Life always triumphs.  I went to a birthing class with her (I closed my eyes when they showed an actual birth on a movie screen) and a doctor's appointment.  It's fun buying things for her and the baby.

Death:  I'm not used to being outside my NYC nest.  I have all my support systems in NYC; phsycially and emotionally.  I wasn't used to being in Seattle.  I have to find a way to do that.  I didn't realize how many pictures of Artie I had put out until my friend and her daughter came over.  I turn everywhere I am into Artie land.  My eating was off.  I felt strange being away from his ashes.  How silly is that?  His ashes can't miss me.  I'm thinking that I need to find some strategies for dealing with being in a new place.  I've always hated going from coast to coast but being with my daughter when she has the baby is more important than my comfort.  If I could be more alive in myself and not long to be with Artie so much.  Ah. 

Life:  We will see how I feel when Gwendolyn is out in the world, all cuddled in my arms.  Will I have more pictures of her than of my dead husband?  Maybe I will.

Confusion:  We were having a talk about falling in love with people who are emotionally unavailable.  I asked if that's what I'm doing.  Someone said no.  With Artie it's the reverse.  He's not emotionally unavailable but he sure is physically unavailable.

The Meaning of Confusion:  Sorry, that was a trick.  The meaning of confusion is that you're confused  I'm confused.  Life without my husband feels like a living death and yet I am surrounded by life and I am grateful and laugh a lot.  Life with my new grandaughter coming soon feels like a living life and wouldn't that be what my loving husband would want for me to live life with the wonder of a new little baby.  Everything fresh and surprising.  But even then...he'll be dead and after over 2 years I still wake up in the morning a little shocked to find that he's not on his side of the bed.

Maybe the meaning of confusion is that it's okay to be confused.  It's okay to feel the wheel spin and not know where the little ball will land at any moment. 

I'm sorry I didn't write while I was away.  I didn't have the emotional energy for all that life.  It made me tired instead of energized.  Isn't that strange?  That's one goal - to find a way to write when I'm in Seattle.  I'll be there a long time December/January.  Here's to us having the energy that life gives us - finding a way to breathe it all in even though everything reminds us with all the people in the room - someone is missing.  Don't let the person that is missing be ourselves.  xo

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Grief: Loneliness, Acceptance, a Sigh

I don't know if I am the only one who is ashamed to say I'm lonely. As if loneliness were a failing on my part. I'm usually so honest but I like to pretend I don't mind solitude.  It's not true. Without Artie I am lonely.  With Artie sometimes I was lonely.  I wish there was a way someone could die and come back so I could take all the things I have learned since his death and go back and do things better.  One of those things is how precious every moment truly is.  I used to get so angry at the stupidest things.  Part of me took for granted that he would always be there.  It didn't occur to me that if I was busy with something and he wanted to kiss me that one day there would be no more kisses.  It didn't occur to me that if I felt bad that he wanted to do something late at night that there would come a time when I could never do anything with him at all so why should I mind if he came downstairs at 10 pm instead of 6 pm.  I know there are things he would do diffferently too.  It's not a blame game.  Relationships have two people in them.  I'm the one left alive so I'm the one left to wonder about the things I could have been more understanding about, the things I could have been more creative about. 

If he could walk in the door I would be so grateful if he interrupted something I was doing.  There is this unending silence; this emptyness.  Even in a room full of people, in the middle of a laugh, of a great time - a triumph - the silence creeps in.  The loneliness creeps in.  For him.  For that one person who is dead.  I think that even if I had another great love the Artie loneliness would persist.  I used to say his smile lit up the world.  I nicknamed him Dazzle because of that smile - he called me Panache. 

I have a recording on a small alarm clock of him singing a song and then talking to me - I think I wrote about it before.  I hold it up to my ear and it is like he is whispering to me.  Then I make myself put it down.  That voice doesn't exist any more.  I think he still exists - but my earth me in my earth body can't adjust to not having his warm earth body next to me.

Am I choosing loneliness by relentlessly staying married to a ghost?  Maybe.  I don't know.  It's hard to think how I could not miss someone who was the biggest part of my life for 23 years. 

I went to see the Buddhist monk Thict Nhat Hanh (sp?) Friday night.  He talked about mindfulness, about listening to your sufferering.  I sat still when I got home and cried for the first time in a long time.  I bought something he wrote that said Let Go, dear.  It was the gentleness of the dear that got me.  I could hear Artie saying, "You don't have to let go of me, but let go, dear.  Let go of the pain and the sadness."  That's why I cried.  I am doing more - feeling better - yet the sadness doesn't seem to leave.  I've never been very good at acceptance.  I can't change his dying.  I can't accept it either.  He is more alive to me than the living.  Especially when I am home alone - when I wake up in the morning - in the evening.  Acceptance.  Come hither acceptance and surprise me that I have discovered you. :)

Most of the people I know now have partners or spouses.  Not everyone but most.  I relate to widows who stay widows and yet wouldn't it be nice to have someone to share things with again.  It is a puzzlement.

So, I may not admit it to the world - but I admit it to you.  I am lonely.  I am grateful for being loved - I am grateful for so many things - but none of the leftovers - even the beautiful ones like the love letters and the photographs - replace the real living man. It will be strange to be with him again.  What will that be like?  If we don't have our bodies - will I still be lonely?  Will he laugh at me for saying that even in Paradise where all might be perfect - I miss the way we used to be together.  I'm lonely for your mustache!   That would be very silly.  I do hope that some day we are together again, that we really do tumble together through time - in whatever shape whatever form.

Sigh.  I hope tonight you are not lonely - or if you are you find a way to comfort or accept that loneliness and in embracing it find at the very least an awkward kind of peace.  xo

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grief: The Courage To Be Real

Thank you my friends.  I have received a lot of love and support in the past few days.  A lot of time I read about people painting on a smile.  I don't go around screaming in the street.  Okay, it's NYC, sometimes I do.  I can be business like when necessary.  I don't tell random strangers my woes.  However, I do ask people I know for help.  It makes for such a close and beautiful relationship when I am honest with someone about my struggles as well as my triumphs.  They help me, I help them.

One of the few of my husband's friends who has stayed in touch gave me an Artie quote I didn't know, "Are you listening to the noise someone is making with their mouth?"  That is just what I was doing.  Over and over in my head I was defending myself against things someone said that have no basis in my reality.  I know they have basis in her reality - but no one else feels about me the way she does.  Why would I give so much time and attention to someone who fails to understand me no matter how often I try to explain?  I am lucky to have people that do understand.  By reaching out to them I have learned a lot.  One is that I use too many words.  There is nothing wrong with trying to be a peacmaker but when someone's lack of understanding is preventing me from doing the work I should be doing there is nothing wrong with accepting that continuing to engage only causes me harm.

There are different sides to me.  Someone wrote today about walking away from your wounds.  I don't want to walk away from mine - I want to walk through them.  Someone said that being a widow is like a bird flying on one wing.  Today I realized that I have both wings - it is only that the second is now made of spirit not of earthly matter.  I wrote this to the woman who had told it to me.  She said it brightened her whole day.  I pictured her husband and mine sitting (do they sit?) laughing at me getting  the message that had popped into my head and heart.  This is a beautiful woman that I barely know and yet I know very well.  It happens that way some times.

The people that don't get it - that hurts.  I make the mistake of thinking I can make them get it.  Sometimes I just can't.  I laughed when I wrote to someone that I need to be slapped upside the head to know when I am being abused.  Not a very good way to put it. Still.  Part of my job of being fully alive is finding the people in the world who will support me.  They don't have to agree with me, but they do have to accept me.  Artie used to call it buying the whole package.  I am who I am.  I do what I do.  I can do better.  Some days I do splendidly, some days not so much.  If I am my real self with people I often find that people respond well.  I am only voicing what other people feel and are afraid or think it is improper to say.  I always regret it when I don't say something out of fear of how others will respond.

On the other hand, when I think someone feels or thinks a certain way I always check it out with them to see if I am getting it right.  That was a major problem I had with my no longer friend.  She would say I felt angry or sad when I didn't.  If I had an opinion that was different than hers she thought I thought she was stupid.  She made a mistake I make sometimes, but not as often.  She couldn't hear all the nice things I said, only the ones that made her feel hurt.  She said her reactions were valid.  My reactions aren't always valid.  If you say something to me and I misunderstand and I get angry with you - that's not a valid reaction.  I'm reacting to something I imagined not something that happened. 

Oddly enough, that's what's difficult about all my conversations with Artie.  I have no way of knowing if they are my imagination's way of keeping me sane or if he is really talking to me.  He says he is tired of me doubting him - but I do.  Yet, I don't doubt our love.  I don't doubt that his love continues to guide and support me.  I have so much to learn by being the real me.  I have so much to give as the real me.

Today I was asked to open my eyes and my ears.  When I opened my eyes I saw so many beautiful things I hadn't noticed before.  Opening my ears was more difficult.  I like silence now that Artie's voice is gone.  Maybe if I practice opening my ears I will hear some beautiful things.  Wishing you all people who know and love the real you and respect and honor you for who you are - the great shiny brilliant part of you and the part that is flawed and struggling.  That's what love is for.  To love the real us.  xo

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grief: When A Friend Betrays You

I don't have an answer to this topic just a wriggling pile of unpleasant feelings.  A woman who I thought was my friend for six years always treated me with love and respect.  Then I gave her money to do a project that I thought was going to be a collaboration.  She shut me out.  Every time I tried to say something to her she said I was criticizing her or that I thought she was a moron.  She is having many problems with this project and I have so many resources.  She refused to consider any of them.  I don't understand that. First of all, people love my ideas.  They are creative, practical and funny.  Second of all, I always want feedback on my own projects.  That's how I learn. When I tried asking her to get together like we used to and not talk about the project she said she was too busy.  Then on Saturday we had brunch at a lovely restaurant.  I put any bad feelings aside and gave her a big hug.  About half way through the meal she started to tell me what an unreasonable and horrible person I was.  I got up to leave - and I should have - but for some silly reason I thought if I sat there I could get her to understand that she never heard any of the many compliments I gave her and when I stated an opinion it was an opinion not an insult.

It was so weird.  It went on and on and on until I realized people were actually coming in for dinner. I felt nauseous and angry and sad.  She said she felt better.  I e-mailed her and asked to have my name taken off of the project.  I never have my name on anything if I don't have any creative input.  I wished her well and said I knew she would do a great job.  Instead of saying thank you - which I would have - she said I was ending our friendship because of sour grapes and that it was utterly ridiculous.  Ending a business collaboration that obviously wasn't working seemed to be a wise decision that had nothing to do with our friendship but after that response I did end our friendship - and still wished her well.  I couldn't let her continue to be abusive to me.  So why do I feel so bad?

It's difficult when someone you trust becomes so unreasonable.  I know she thinks it is me.  I have heard that she acts like this with other people.  Her insecurity doesn't allow her to hear what people say.  If there is a problem to fix, or someone has a good idea, she sees it as an attack when it isn't.  She even did something as silly as noticing I have bangs (my hair) and saying they look nice.  It would have been a compliment except I've had bangs for the past 6 years.  It's not important but it shows not only does she not know who I am - someone with integrity and intelligence - she doesn't even know what I look like - not really. Now, that part is funny.  So is the modern day version of revenge: she blocked me on Facebook.  Poor woman, now she won't get all the funny things I post. :)

It is so much harder to deal with these kinds of things with my husband Artie being dead.  I have many friends and am very lucky but I wish he was here to tell me what he thinks.  He probably would say I let myself be ripped off because I am still naive and trust the wrong people.  Even if he said something like that, it wouldn't matter, because then he would hold me and all my hurt feelings would drain away. Since Artie died I feel that I am hurt every day so that any other hurt becomes unbearable.  Things I could shrug off before are harder to handle now.

Even with this - I wonder why - when there are so many good things in my life - and so many good friends - do I care so much when one person disappoints me?  Someone told me they texted someone, "You were mean to me."  That's such a simple statement.  I used so many words and tried to let her see that I saw things from her side and all I should have said is, "You're being mean to me.". 

I'm mean too sometimes, especially if I get hurt or angry.  I always say I'm sorry afterwards.  I have to take responsibility for my actions.  I don't feel good if I don't.

Tomorrow morning I'll go to balancing exercise with Alex who will make me laugh.  Maybe that's what life is.  One long balancing class.  If things happen and you lose your balance you keep trying until you can stand straight again without falling over.  I read a quote that I like a lot - follow your heart but don't forget to take your brain.  I followed my heart and let my brain not notice all the signs that it should have.  I learned the hard lesson that in business of any kind you have to get everything in writing.  I always keep my word but I can't assume that other people will.

You know what?  I always want people to fight for me.  When I have a friend and we get into a disagreement I fight for the friendship.  With this woman, not only did she not fight for it - she assumed I was ending it when I wasn't.  My best friend Marty is different.  Once I wrote her ways that my feelings had been hurt.  She thanked me for being honest with her and said that she had been self absorbed lately and would try to do better. She was grateful for a friendship in which we could be honest with each other. Even Alex my exercise trainer - I got angry one day.  When I told him about it, he complimented me on being so straightforward and powerful.  I'm trying to untangle a tangle that can't be untangled.  I have to let it stay tangled.

If you have read this all the way through I hope it has made some sense.  I hope all of your friends hold you close and value you for who you are.  I'm lucky that I have friends that do that.  Friends I've met in actual life and friends I've met in cyberspace.  There was a time in my life when I was young that I didn't know how to make friends.  I had a talk with another friend about how much value I put on friendship.  It's true.  If you are really my friend it means something deep and precious to me.

My words of wisdom for today are that some days it's okay not to have any words of wisdom! xo

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Grief: Hello: I'm NOT Wallowing & A New Technique

The rant first.  I just read a post from someone who was relieved they didn't have to "wallow" in grief but could sort of merrily we roll along after the death of her husband.  If she can do that - bless her.  However, to assume that carrying one's grief in one's heart and soul and mind is wallowing is a misconception.  Yes, there are always people who wear only one color.  They are angry all the time or sad all the time.  However, grieving the death of my best love, my best friend, my best sparring partner will always be one of the colors of my rainbow.  That is not wallowing.  It is simply acknowledging that when I open my eyes in the morning and he is not there it is a sad and lonely thing.  Even if there was someone else in my bed (there isn't - can't go there yet - maybe not at all) it will still be a sad and lonely thing that my unique and special Artie cannot share my life in the same way.  I am not wallowing or stuck - merely acknowledging a fact.  When Artie died I lost someone who can never be replaced. 

I had a friend stay over last night.  She is a poet and a lovely young woman.  She is pregnant and her partner is finishing his degree in another city and won't be with her during the pregnancy except for one week and then for the last month.  She cries every night and is so lonely for him.  They skype and she sends him pictures of her belly every day.  However, not having him with her hurts.  Yet, they will have a homecoming.  They will have a time when they rush into each others arms and I think the love they have for each other and their baby will make for a beautiful and loving family.  My loneliness for Artie doesn't have a homecoming during my life.  His spirit is with me but it is not always easy to lean on a spirit.  My homecoming to Artie is my death.  Hopefully a transition, hopefully a reunion.  However isn't what all of us want who have a beloved person die the impossible thing - a homecoming here on earth?

We can hold more than one emotion at a time.  I can hold my sadness and loneliness for Artie and my happiness and feeling part of a community with others at the same time.  How many faces do I see in NYC every day?  Doesn't matter.  Artie's face only exists in photographs and memory.  I love him.  I miss him.  So what?  Emotional pain isn't always a bad thing.  It's what you do with it.

I went last weekend to my first NLP training.  Neuro Linguistic Programming.  Doesn't change the story but changes the structure of it.  It's too complicated to explain here.  However there was an exercise I wanted to share with you that was very helpful.  At the end of your day sit in a chair and say out loud two or three things you are proud of, that you accomplished and also anything you feel you might have done better.  Then go to another chair and talk to yourself as yourself,  Jan, I would say, and tell myself things I did well that day and things I might have done better.  Then stand up and step into someone you think of as a mentor.  I picked Artie but you could pick anyone - the Dalai Lama - Jesus - Sherlock Holmes - Hillary Clinton - Maya Angelou (I don't mean to be disrespectful by including such varied examples - but it could be anyone you admire - real or fictional.)  Have them talk to you and say what they feel you did well and what you might do better.  You have to actually move and you have to actually use your imagination.  If you do, chances are you will hear different things from each position.  One thing that I said when I was being Artie talking to me was, "I'm so proud of you for all the things you do.  I'm proud that you keep trying."  Then I said (being him) , "Clean up the apartment, you know I don't like things messy"  !!!    Try it.  The trainer says he does this about 6 days out of every two weeks and amazing things happen.  I did clean up a lot.  :)   I hate cleaning.  I would never have said that as me.  I like clutter. 

One thing we do during the training - and would be lovely to do in a bereavement group or any group setting:  We are given small pieces of paper with a simple picture on one side, blank on the other.  We write on the blank side something we like about anyone in the group.  Fold in half and give it to them at any time.  I, of course, immediately turned into a little kid - scared I wouldn't get any.  I did.  People wrote lovely things about me. I keep my little pieces of paper in a pretty box to look at when I need a reminder that life is worth living to its fullest.  We are all like pebbles thrown into still water.  We never know how far and wide the ripples we create will grow and who we will touch.

You all touch me when you read what I write.  I have said this many days.  Today I will start my book.  I hope today is the real day.  Wishing you all a full rainbow of emotions - including ones that make you smile.  Wishing you all many words that tell you how special you are and how brave to do whatever you do while being a grief warrior.  xo