Friday, November 11, 2011

Grief: Embracing It All

Bad blogger! I like to post more often but I got a little overwhelmed there for a while.  My husband, a recovering alcoholic (I guess he's recovered now since he doesn't have a body any more) used to say "What's wrong?  Nothing's wrong, that's what's wrong."  I had so many good things happen all in a rush I found it a little tiring and yesterday had one of those sad old bad old days.  Sometimes a lot of good things build up a wall for me to smack into because - I think - I miss so much sharing them with Artie. I'm one of the ones who think my grief needs me to pay attention to it or it seems to build up and bite me.  Not that that's bad.  That's what I mean by embracing it all.  I'm learning that fear and sadness are okay with me.  That's why I don't like to call them negative emotions.  It's a technique to look at my behavior and say, "Isn't it interesting?" or "Isn't it curious?" instead of being self critical.  For example, "Isn't it curious after having so much fun I spent a day in bed recovering?"  My diet doctor asked me if I felt guilty if I ate sugar or overate.  I said no.  I don't anymore.  I look at why I'm doing it and decide if I can do something different the next time.  Sometimes I can.  Sometimes I can't.

I went to Memphis to Celeste Wray's 90th birthday party.  Celeste said that she is a widow who has lived alone for 26 years because her husband is her one true love.  Without bitterness - with acceptance.  Her only child, a remarkably giving man, died unexpectedly four years ago.  Yet she told us that she believes in genuine love.  That all the love that has ever existed in the history of the world is available for us to breathe in, experience, and share.  I had never thought of it that way.  All the billions of people who have loved, who love - that's a lot of love.  She has a cane now but she still dances.  She still volunteers and takes classes.  She has visited prisoners, done hospice, protested the death penalty - I can't think of all the things she has done.  Once two huge men were fighting in the street with lead pipes and she took her tiny self with her cloud of grey hair into the middle of it all and said, "Now boys, you don't want to be treating each other that way."  They were so astonished they stopped fighting.  She is truly amazing - and inspirational.  I was with my friend Marty (short for Martha) who then came back to NYC with me. 

On Tuesday night Marty came to my storytelling class show.  I got an e-mail the next day that the guy filming it thought I was a ringer - that I was a professional storyteller that the teacher had put in with his students to sell his class!  What a great compliment.  I am doing my first real storytelliing show on Thursday.  (The stories are true and around ten minutes.)  I hope I look professional in the company of professionals. :)

On Wed. night we went to Stand Up For Heroes - a fundraiser for the Bob Woodruff Foundation which is all about providing services to men and women who return home after having served in various war zones.  (  It was a great show - Bruce Springsteen - Ricky Gervais - Jon Stewart - among others - the surprise guest was Bill Clinton.  The most memorable person was a soldier who had his legs blown off in Iraq.  From his wheelchair he said, "Life is precious."  He talked about one of his buddies who recently committed suicide and said he was grateful to be in a wheelchair because people saw his wounds and helped him and so many folks come home looking fine but with deep psychological scars.  I thought about the time after Artie died when I thought about killing myself.  I'm so glad I didn't.  I would have missed so much.  If this young man can say that life is precious - can't I say it as well?  And live like it?

Then Marty went back to Tucson.  It's still a little strange to be in the silence of my apartment.  I never get used to not hearing Artie's voice.  I never get used to not hearing him move around.  Last night I had dinner with a friend from Alabama.  She has a husband she loves and a son who is about 8 months old.  I'm so happy for her.  She is a very sweet, precious woman.  When Artie first died it was irritating to be with people who were happily married.  I don't feel that way any more.  We went to see a play called "The Mountaintop".  It is about Martin Luther King on the night before he is assassinated.  One of the main messages of the play is that the baton passes on.  Life is like a relay race and no one can hold the baton forever - so it has to be passed on.  The question is - what do we do with it when it passes to us?  How do we run with it?  If we drop it - how do we pick it up again?

That's been the main question; the most difficult thing since Artie died.  How do I live my life fully without him here?  Even losing weight - I'm so sad he's not physically here to see it.  Why couldn't I do that when he was alive.  Isn't it curious that I couldn't?  I feel when I wake up in the morning getting out of bed is the most difficult part of the day.  Even when I have a sad stuck day I try to do one thing that I can be proud of - even if it is going on Facebook and posting something that might help someone.  I am trying to change my perspective a little.  I'm trying to look at what I have done instead of what I haven't.  I know I've watched a zillion DVDs.  My way of escaping.  They just released a new season of Prisoner Cell Block H - which will bring me up to 300 episodes when I finish it.  Eek!   I saw another play and it was all about writing. The world seems to be saying - do more.  Will I?  I don't know. 

I do know that next month I will be a grandmother for the first and probably only time.  Gwendolyn Ruth is almost here.  Here is my honest mixed feeling - I want to live a long time to love her and watch her grow - I want to live a short time to be with my husband.  I can see him shaking his head.  We have an eternity to be together.  I don't have to rush.

That's my dancing with grief life.  I'm very grateful, very lucky.  I'm very sad, I'm very lonely.   I'm very brave.  I'm very frightened.  It's all a balancing act.  The exercise I do involves balancing and I am much better at it than I was when I started.  I'm better at grief too.  I think it has partly to do with forcing myself to take action, while allowing myself sometimes to collapse.  I think it has partly to do with all of you who give me support.  It definitely has to do with staying alive!   A lot of what I have been exposed to lately has to do with my choice in asking, "What do I need?" and/or "What can I do to help someone else?"  If you've read some of my blog you know I'm a great lover of wallowing in self pity - but I also want to do it less and less.  I keep recreating myself.  I want Artie to be proud of me.  I want my daughter and soon my granddaughter to be proud of me.  I think I actually want to be alive.  For me.  That's a big statement for me - but maybe a good one to end on.  Pardon my language but someone once said to me L'chaim which is Hebrew for "To Life" and I said, "Fuck you!"  I'm not saying the fuck you to life is totally gone - but if I embrace it all I also have to embrace the part that loves life.  Artie loved life.  He loves me.  So...wishing you all love - some to keep and some to give away.  xo

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