Friday, June 1, 2012

Grief: Seeing Progress not Perfection

That was one of my husband's lines from his experience as a recovering alcoholic.  Progress not perfection.  I've said I would look back at my first blog posts but that frightens me.  It's the same fear that is making me procrastinate about writing my book/journal on grief.  I don't want to open up to the pain I felt the first months after Artie died.  I'm not someone who believes it "getting over it" or "moving on" or "letting go" but at the same time I have to acknowledge that I have worked hard to change.  Honestly, and truly without avoiding things too much.  For those of you who have had someone die in the last six months, that first wave of grief is the strongest.  Someone at my beginning told me that grief doesn't go away but it gentles down a bit.  Part of me wants to fight that.  I want to claim that I am as broken now as I was almost three years ago.  It's not cheating on Artie to say that's not true.  I don't have to feel guilty.  I know he would hate it if I didn't miss him at all; but he wouldn't want me to be in constant pain either.

When Artie first died I was busy.  I was lonely and sad but I planned a fabulous Celebration of His Life.  I moved permanently from our house in California to NYC.  I couldn't stand being in the house without him, it was too lonely.  I insisted on doing everything by myself - the constant whirl of busyness helped.  I still cried.  I was a little in shock.  Then I came to NYC and I literally cried and screamed.  I would reach my arm up to the sky when I was lying in bed and beg him to grab my hand and take me with him.  I honestly believed he didn't wouldn't leave me here alone.  When I realized this was going to happen I thought about suicide. Seriously.  I researched it on the internet.  It's odd and sad how some people like Heath Ledger can take a small mixture of pills and die and other people can take massive doses of drugs and wake up four days later and still be alive.  I had the delusion most suicidal people have, that my friends and family should let me go.  I thought of suicide as a destination.  I twisted things around to believe that if I loved Artie I should take the risk to try and be with him.

I wasn't interested in anything or anyone.  I still loved my daughter.  I loved my friends and didn't want to hurt them.  I didn't even want to hurt the strangers that would come in contact with my body if I killed myself.  But there is a difference in loving people and being interested.  I talked a lot about it.  I asked my daughter once how many times I mentioned Artie in one day - she said she had no idea - she would need a clicker! I started writing the blog to throw my feelings into cyberspace.  I thought if I could help one person that it would be worth it.

I started putting my body places where life was.  I went to theater.  The first plays I saw I slept through.  How could I enjoy something without Artie?  I went to a wonderful meet up group called Culture Circle where artists of all kinds come to share their work.  Someone might read a poem, someone might sing a song, someone brought the most delicious vegan food.  I went to a bereavement group and to therapy.  dI found everything sad and depressing so I took  a class in comedy sketch writing.  My Facebook page has the most ridiculous cartoons on it.  I looked for things to make me laugh.

I was lucky to have friends who held me up during these days and continue to do so.  I was lucky to find new friends through the blog and sites on Facebook.  However, luck is only part of it.  Part of it is being willing to be a searcher.  To force yourself out of the corner of pain you are hiding in and see if there is another way.  This journey has been to save my own life.  At moments it was literal - I didn't know if I could stay alive - now it is a metaphor.  How do I transform myself to be the me I was meant to be?

Because I put my body where life was happening I started to feel more alive.  My moments of happiness increased.  It took me three months to decide to stay alive - not to commit suicide.  I was doing it for other people.  Then I realized, if I was going to be stuck here one earth, maybe I should learn how to stay alive for me.

I got bored being a client so I got training in NLP and neo-Ericksonian hypnosis.  I learned about Provocative Therapy.  In the blog posts there are various techniques I learned that help.  The ones I personally use the most are to remember that I am one thought away from a different feeling - to be a sniper and shoot out the bad thoughts and replace them with good ones.  I choose what I think. When I saw tennis was on my first thought was sad, Artie can't watch it anymore - quickly - it changed to how much he enjoyed it.  If I'm walking through the part thinking about death and being alone I force myself to look outside me and notice the colors and movement.

I love rolling my memories backwards.  I can be with my husband in my imagination whenever I want to.   I believe his spirit is with me.  I also ask the questions, Isn't that interesting?  Isn't that curious? and what else?  whenever I am stuck.  I don't want to judge myself - I want to think about my nonproductive actions and their positive intentions for me - and then how I can change.  The what else?  is always what else I am feeling? What else could I do?   With what else? is also who else?  Yes...I am a widow, a grieving woman who misses her husband.  Who else am I?  The answers are many.  The more I ask the question the more answers I come up with.

I also use people to find answers.  When my beautiful grandbaby was born I asked another widow about having mixed feelings - the way love and loss were tangled up in my mind.  She told me her experience with her granddaughter.  Aha.  I am normal.  That's one of the most important things - and why I continue to write this blog.  There aren't stages of grief there are bumps and twists and unexpected earthquakes and hurricanes.  What we feel and do is NORMAL for grieving people.  Yes, you can follow the model of pasting on a fake smile and pretending that you aren't sad.   I don't like that model.  I like the tedious and fulfilling work of transforming myself and my grief so that I become authentically a happier person.

Another thing was to do at least one thing a day I felt proud of.  Even if it was washing one dish.  Showing up.  Being willing to turn corners.  All the while taking time to spend with Artie - saying I love you, I miss you, I'm sad.

Today, I write the blog.  I support people who support me.  I'm getting fit.  I'm traveling more, reading more.  I laugh more.  I'm going to a wonderful person, Doug O'Brien, to help me not look at my past.  He is so good at deflecting whining about my past.  He even killed my inner child.  It's too late to have a happy childhood.  It's not too late to be a happy fulfilled 61 year old.  What are my intentions for my own life and how do I fulfill them?  Awkwardly sometimes - but still searching, still trying.  How do I reprogram my brain to make me more alive.  My sadness, loneliness, and pain haven't gone away but they have gentled down.  I still hide and escape and get stuck - but not as often.  I have work to do on earth - it's not my time to die - so I should make the best of it.  Keep searching to find ways to free me from myself so I can be fully alive.  My past informs my present and I learn from and love Artie every day.  That's different than being stuck there.  I refuse to live in any box someone wants to define with me.  I'm just me.

Thank you to those of you that are fellow searchers.  Together we hold each other up, catch each other when we fall, and cheer each other on.  The rest of our life may be like a marathon.  The NYC marathon come by my window.  Those people in wheelchairs speeding by. The pack in the front.  The stragglers who can barely walk as it turns dark but are determined to finish.  Some of it has to do with preparation, some with determination, a lot with attitude.  How to get an attitude of joy and confidence. We are in this race together and we are all the winners.  Even when we have to stop because it is an effort just to breath.  The finish line is the mystery - where I hope Artie and I will be back together in the same form and we will be laughing because it will seem easy then.

If I had died I would have missed so many things; so many happy times.  I would have left so much work unfinished.  I still want to be with Artie but I know waiting is okay too.  I'm so glad I stayed around to met my grandbaby, Gwendy blue eyes.  I'm so glad i stayed around to meet you.  xo

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