Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grief: The Emotional Shift Dance

I wonder how much of a shift is needed.

I lost everything.

The most important person in my life died but what else do I have?

What can I do to make what I have left of my life have meaning and joy?

Can   you make those shifts?  One of them?  Part of one of them?    You can make those shifts.

When Artie first died, before I learned any of this stuff, I used to say "We died." instead of "He died."  I meant it.  I thought I lost everything.  I couldn't believe he would leave me behind in all this pain.  I thought about suicide.  I researched it on line.  The irony of some people dying with a strange tiny mix of pills and other people living after taking massive doses of things.  I never read my previous posts but I would imagine the first ones are rather desperate.  I should look at them.  Maybe I will some day.  It would be interesting to read the very first one.

Why did I decide to live?  First of all, none of my friends would give me a going away party.  I had this rather insane idea that I could commit suicide and everyone would be happy for me and give me a big send off.  I even wrote a poem called The Suicide Hotel where you could die in complete and utter luxury.  Second, I couldn't hurt my daughter that way.  The thing that completely changed my mind was something small.  There is a man who works in my apartment building.  He always greets me with a big smile.  He has pictures of my granddaughter on his IPad.  One morning I came down and saw his smiling face.  I imagined how he would feel if he had to watch them carry my body out.

Then, after a while of living with gritted teeth it seemed to me that maybe I should figure out how to live not for others but also for myself.  Artie, my husband, was a recovering alcoholic.  I thought of all the people that came to our "Artie's dying party" and told him how much they loved him and how grateful they were.  I thought maybe my life would have meaning if I reached out to other grieving people.  One thing I did was start this blog.  I thought it might reach one or two people - just people who had a spouse die.  It has a much wider effect than I ever imagined.  I looked at my stats and people are reading it in the Ukraine.  The miracle of the internet.  It also seems to mean something to folks who have the sadness of any death of a loved person or pet.  Sometimes people thank me for changing their lives.  I don't change anyone's life.  I share my experience and you make the changes   you can  as   you are able.  If I had a magic wand and I could give you all what you want most - I would.  Instead what I have is words.

Then - getting tired of feeling so sad all the time and not wanting to be a client I started taking these trainings, learning all these techniques, and being able to implement some of them.  I've also met some wonderful people that give me support and make me laugh.  Of course, I've also become a grandmother.  In the middle of the photos of my gorgeous husband with the dazzling smile there is now - well, if you walk in -    you can see the big picture  of my daughter and granddaughter right in the middle of the pictures of my husband with the black roses and the crystal pyramid.  Life in the middle of death. 

There's a lot more of course.  Lots of ice cream and DVDs.  Lots of exercise - my body stretches in impossible ways as does my mind. 

Yesterday I was trying the "one thought away from a different feeling" experiment I wrote about.  I started calling myself a thought sharpshooter.  In comes the bad, sad thought - shoot it to pieces - let a happy glad one pop up in its place.  It was working.  I felt lousy.  Every muscle in my body said stay in bed, I hurt.  I went to exercise anyway and so much better after (thank you Alex) I walked home.  There was someone wearing a t-shirt from the store my husband liked.  I smiled a weird smile - one half of my mouth down - one half up.  O dear - then - wasn't it funny how Artie loved so many t-shirts I got there.  Didn't I feel great when I found something he loved.  Then I went to Whole Foods.  They must be doing a promotion.  The check out guy asked if I wanted to make a donation to the whole planet.  I thought and said - No, that was a little too overwhelming.  I noticed a pen attached to my paper bag.  Turned out it was his.  I said, "See, I did make a donation.  I donated your pen back to you."  That's more my style - can't save the whole planet but can make one person laugh.  On the way out they were playing a bluesy jazzy version of Loving That Man of Mine.  O dear again.  Who ever was in charge of the universe was really testing me.  I thought about Artie and I dancing together.  I thought about how much he loved jazz.  I thought how much I still love that man of mine.  I was doing the emotional shift dance without losing my balance.

Then, some idiot cut in front of two people, tried to pay for a $2 juice with a credit card and he wasn't allowed to.  The sales person was not overly bright.  I wound up muttering on my way out, "Okay.  Everybody's being obnoxious now and you have to stop it!"  I stayed grouchy for a while and then  I got back into a good space.

Then last night came the news that my daughter Erin would be flying in with the baby Gwendy because  her friend with cancer is in the hospital.  The chemo wasn't absorbed properly by his liver and his whole body is poisoned.  He is supposed to graduate Columbia University May 15th.  The first person in his family to graduate college.  He has worked so hard.  He might be okay.  Cancer is unpredictable and so Erin is flying in just in case.  Too much death and dying for me.  Too much everything.  Hello ice cream and chocolate chip cookies.  What's that all about?  It doesn't fix anything. 

I woke up in the middle of a nightmare.  I was lying on the bed with Artie telling him I wanted us to move in together.  He said he wasn't ready.  I had all these presents for him and I couldn't find them.  I was arguing with him.  It was like it was over 20 years ago and I was begging him to marry me.  Then when I was talking about it I realized - moving in with him now means dying - and of course - I'm not ready for that yet.  I am but I'm not.  How do I do the emotional shift dance when I am sleeping?

I'm writing my blog.  I'm cleaning up.  Remember the hits and forget the misses.  The most important person in my life - besides my daughter and granddaughter is in spirit form.  I miss him.  I didn't do everything perfectly.  However, I have great friends.  I haven't given up.  I made someone laugh.  I'm working on a story for class on Saturday.  I have my magick circles to step into. 

Maybe the emotional shift dance has some easy steps where you twirl around and around and some harder ones that take practice.  Maybe part of the dance is losing your balance and rolling around on the floor like a small child.  I'm going to keep practicing.  Why?  To honor my husband.  To stand on his shoulders and wave at him, "Hi honey!"  Why else?  For me.  Why else?  For you.  For all of us grief warriors.  Do it just for a second - think of all you have instead of all you have lost.  My daughter's friend is in the hospital fighting for his life.  Let's have the courage to fight for ours.  With love to you wherever you are today.  If it is a good place - hooray!   If it is a not so good place - hooray! anyway.  You are still breathing which means the good place may have already happened and all you have to do is open your heart to see it.  xo

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