Thursday, February 23, 2012

Grief: Who Am I Now?

I was going to do a podcast; telling stories and interviewing interesting people I know.  The man who was supposed to be producing it is lovely.  However, even though he has good intentions his follow through was very poor.  I have done this before.  Hired someone to do something who is not, for whatever reason, capable of doing the job.  I care about them and let things go on and on.  This time I didn't.  I decided not to do the podcast (like a radio show only downloaded from the internet).  I decided this in two months instead of after a year or more.

I have always wanted to be a writer.  I was accepted into Bread Loaf, a writer's conference that is very difficult to get into.  You get to be mentored by famous published writers.  I was accepted in 2009.  Then Artie was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I had to cancel.  He died that summer.  He was what is called my first reader.  Whenever I was writing (even an e-mail that was too snarky!) I gave it to him to read and comment on.  He loved my writing and encouraged me.  He cheered me up when I got rejection slips.  When he died, except for the blog, I stopped writing. 

I got a brochure a couple of months ago from Bread Loaf.  The same writer, Thomas Mallon, that I wanted to work with that dying summer, is teaching there again.  It was time to try again.  I had to write what I want to get out of the experience if I am accepted.  I had to go back to my manuscript.  It is a story about a young feisty woman out of her time who marries a Puritan man and comes over on the Mayflower. Eventually she falls in love with an Indian and runs away from the settlement to be with him. (There is actually historical evidence of a woman doing that.)  It's good.  I don't know if I will get accepted to Bread Loaf this time but the process reminded me that I have always wanted to be a writer. 

I have talked about writing a book on grief: part memoir, part techniques for surviving, part poetry and metaphor, and part journal so people who buy it can write their own story next to mine.  I have 19 pages. It's time to write some more.

Making decisions without talking them over with Artie is difficult.  I'm lucky to have a lot of people to talk with, and I do. None of them are Artie.  He understood me in a way no one else can.  I understood him too.  I'm proud of myself that I made a good decision to spend time writing, helping people when I can, and nurturing relationships.  My daughter and grandbaby just left.  The apartment is quiet without them. However, that is the balance I want to try to achieve.  I was glad to spend a lot of time with them when they were here.  Now that they have left it is time to do other things.

I have a photo of Artie in a frame.  In another frame next to it I have a picture of my daughter Erin and my grandbaby Gwendolyn.  I stood in the silent apartment looking at the pictures.  I said, "Hello my little family.  I love you."  My dead husband who feels so alive, and my very alive daughter and brand new 2 month old granddaughter. 

It's hard to figure out who I am now that Artie is dead.  When I was out walking I looked up - I always feel that when I hear him it comes from up and to the right and is outside of my mind (but maybe I am delusional!)  I said, "Thank you."  He said, "I've been trying to tell you not to do the podcast for a while."  I said, "I know, but it's not that easy to hear you when you're dead!"  I don't think I said it out loud - but if I did, it's NYC - no one would care!  

It's hard to make decisions now that Artie is dead.  How many times can one person say "I miss you.  I miss you.  I miss you."  An infinite number of times.  However, I'm still here.  Like my grandbaby I'm learning.  I'm flailing my arms and legs making noises.  I'm learning to walk and stumbling and getting up again. Sometimes I walk very quickly in the wrong direction and have to backtrack and start again.  I'm learning to talk and saying the wrong thing and then figuring it out. 

So many people out there.  Trying to find their way.  Getting lost - then found.  I don't think I've said this in a while.  An army of grief warriors marching together to make our lives have meaning and joy until we are together again - hopefully we will be together again - with the ones we love.  Sometimes that meaning and joy is with a brand new love - sometimes it is in the way we are solitary in our togetherness.  The important thing is no matter the number of meltdowns, the days of sorrow which come, that we remember that we don't need to start over.  We have wonderful memories and things our loved ones have taught us to learn from and build on.  Do you remember that old Elvis Presley song, "Are you lonesome tonight?"  I am but - and this is sillier still - I have the teddy bear that Artie gave me.  I love stuffed animals.  They don't die. 

I hope some day I will write that I got into Bread Loaf, and some day later that I have finished my books.  Who are you now?  What is it you can do?  However big, however small. I want to do it do in honor of Artie - and I guess - how did I get this far? -  in honor of me too.   xo

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