Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grief: Hope and Being Willing to Feel Good Things

I went to the chiropractor today.  He asked me how my writers' conference was.  I told him that a literary agent had asked to see my book proposal on a grief book.  The working title is Alive With Grief.  If you read this you know that my perspective is you can be a fully alive happy person even with the sad part that hurts your heart.  The format for the book will be part memoir, part techniques, part poetry and art - creative stuff.  I told the chiropractor that I got my new apartment and would be moving in October or November.  I told him my grandbaby, Gwendy blue eyes, was crawling and she chases after the dog now and tries to steal her toys.  He said it was so much good new he had to sit down.

This is a person who only knows me because I see him once a week when I am in town.  Yet, he felt my good news more than I do.  What's wrong with this picture?  I am a very lucky person.  I have a lot of wonderful friends.  I have the opportunity to do many things.  I am a talented writer.  I love my daughter and granddaughter.  I have problems.  Things dont' go well.  I just can't seem to get that Artie space in my heart to loosen up.  I'm scared without him; even after three years.  I'm sad without him; even after three years.  I know all these ways of getting past my fear and sadness and yet I have this attachment to being stuck.  I have watched some folks who have read my blog or gotten to know me in other ways move through their grief better than I am. 

No, that's not necessarily true.  I say that we have to look at ourselves through the eyes of those who love us.  If you asked my friends they would say I was pretty amazing.  I don't feel amazing.  I need to notice the things I am doing.  I need to stop flailing around.  One of my husband's quotes was, "You won't give up failure without a fight."  Another one was, "What's wrong?  Nothing's wrong.  That's what's wrong."  We get used to being unhappy.  I make a joke that I'm going to change my first name to Malcontenta.  I make another joke that I am following my bliss...it just runs faster than I do. 

There's something more serious going on here.  When I was at Bread Loaf - the writers' conference - I felt this glimmering of something I hadn't felt in a long time.  Hope.  Hope for me, for my future.  It blinks on and off again.  It's up to me to hold on to it, to make it shine brighter.  I want to find a way to feel my own good news more often. 

I have many happy moments.  There are things I enjoy.  I am starting to read a lot more.  I used to read all the time and then when Artie died I stopped.  Writing is something that requires self discipline.  I wish I was writing the blog more often.  Some people stop after a while but I think it is important to keep the process going. 

I was in the airport in Vermont and a TSA agent asked me about my book idea.  She said her husband died 11 years ago and she went to a wedding recently and it all came back.  I know this is all normal.  A TSA agent who was supposed to be impersonal told me something very personal.  We want to share our grief as well as our happiness.  We want others to understand and honor it.  I want to flip that over though; my pancake needs to cook on both sides.  I need to want and feel my happiness as well as my grief.

There are moments.  Artie used to say that moments are all we have. 

I sat next to a young girl at lunch.  She was beautiful and sweet.  She said when she first got to Bread Loaf she was frightened and thought she shouldn't have come.  She thought maybe she wouldn't fit in.  I doesn't matter how old we are or what we look like.  So many of us are insecure on the inside.

There's that DVD watching/sugar eating part of me.  Then there's the part of me that has someone interested in a book I haven't written yet.

I know what Artie would say.  He would say, "You go girl!! You can do it." 

I bought a book that is called "Do It Now!"  I haven't opened it.  It is a way to organize my day to accomplish what I want.  Maybe I will do that when I am taking the train from NYC to Boston (4 hours) near where my daughter lives.  It's so easy to have it be 8 pm, have been busy all day, and have the feeling nothing has been accomplished.  I told the chiropractor that.  He said the same thing happens to him.  I never thought he would feel that way.  He does so much good for people.

Let's promise to look around and notice the happy things and find some way to let them in.  Breathe in happiness, breathe out sadness.  I need the lightness of hope.  Not the hope that Artie and I will be together soon, although I need that too.  I want the hope that that my life will be a rich and full one.  I can miss my husband and be happy too.  I can have my heart hurt and be scared and still write my book. 

I want to have things to whisper in my husband's ears, things that I have done.  I want him to look at me and be proud.  Okay.  Good feelings.  Bring them on!  xo

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Grief: Dragging, Wagging My Tale

I am at Bread Loaf.  It is a writers' conference started by the poet Robert Frost who wrote the poem The Road Not Taken.  The welcoming in the Little Theater started with a woman telling us how to escape the building in case of an emergency.  That is because Frost was bored with someone who was reading and threw his lit cigarette into a trash can.  It caught fire and he burned the building down.  He was excused on the grounds that his wife had died and grief made his behaviour erratic.  I am very proud to say that I have never burned down a building, accidentally or on purpose.  Have you?  See how well we are doing?  (If you have - well then - how full of fire are you?)

I was watching a woman knitting with turquoise and startling pink yarn.  That simple repetitive motion answered all of my questions.  That is how you do things.  Stitch by stitch, word by word, breath by breath.  Sometimes you follow a pattern.  Sometimes a totally different pattern than the one you started with starts to emerge.  It doesn't happen all at once.  People may not recognize what you are doing or what your plan is.  You may not know it yourself. You only have to do one stitch at a time.  If you drop a stitch, or do a wrong one - I believe the term is unpick what you have done - and start over.  Every time you start over you may feel that you are starting at the beginning but you have a skill set you didn't have before.  You are wise.  You have to remember to access your wisdom.

I know that because I have been swimming in the self pity river.  I have been wondering how my life would have been different if I had buckled down and was here as a successful writer instead of a searcher.  I have been missing Artie and feeling like a ghost.  It is very social here but there are others like me that are solitary wanderers.  I had forgotten what I know.  It is the showing up that is important.  Three years ago I was accepted here and I had to cancel because it was my husband's dying time.  It's okay that it seems strange without him.  Of course I feel a little sad and a little lonely.  However, I am here.  I am learning.  I am working - finally - on a book proposal for a workbook on grief.  I have a meeting with someone on the 22nds to discuss it. 

I had an e-mail from a special friend telling me how amazing I am.  She told me that it didn't matter if I wrote a book or not.  It mattered that I took the risk and that I am here.  She reminded me of all the wonderful things I have done.  I had an e-mail from daughter Erin. My 8 month old granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes pulled herself up using Erin's legs and then sucked on her toe and grinned.  Erin said that wasn't going to happen again.  Gwendy would have to find another way to get her attention.  My daughter said she was proud of me.  Whew.  I need to remind myself that sometimes I can see more clearly through the eyes of others.  I miss my husband's loving eyes.  I need to change - this isn't my word - but I love it - perspectacles.  Focus on my accomplishments while trying to use my talents as best I can.

I always tell people to be gentle with themselves and then I carry my own whip.  Put it down, woman!  So...if you are swimming in the self pity river today...I will pass on what I have been given.  Grab my hand and come on out to sit on the riverbank and feel the sun warming your beautiful faces.  Don't let grief win.  Find your laughter and your peace.  Have a good cry if you need to - and then like golden retriever - shake the water off and wag your tale.  Purposefully mispelled.  You have a tale to tell.  You have to live or you will have no stories.  Tell the stories of those who have died - and create new ones so that when you die you will have something to brag about on the other side (or is this the other side?).  

I'm coming back into the land of living I was about to say...but the truth is I am always here.  There are signs and wonders everywhere.  I only have to open my senses to be aware of them.  In my own time.  In my own way. xo

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grief: Who Will I Tell About The Rain?

I was on a train from Boston to NYC.  It was sunny until we reached Connecticut.  There was a flash flood.  The cars at a station parking lot were covered with water up to the top of their wheels.  When we stopped and slowly pulled into the station the announcement that came over the loudspeaker was, "We are happy to announce that Amtrak will not be making the news today."  A few miles down the line the sun was shining again in its pure beauty or fury depending on how you feel about hot and humid days.

All I could think of was calling Artie and telling him about it.  I could have called a lot of people.  I did call one.  However, Artie loves (loved?) me in that special one of a kind way. When I told him something he either didn't listen at all or was utterly entranced.  He didn't listen sometimes because he said I used too many words.  He did listen a lot because he said I was the only person who was never boring.  I wasn't his first wife but he always said our marriage was his first real marriage.  We share so many stories and so many memories and so many private jokes. 

It's also about coming home.  It's wrong to say no one loves me.  People love me.  There's something different though about that special way someone loves you who waits for you to come home with great eagerness and joy.  I took it for granted some times.  I would give him a big hug and kiss and then open my mail.  I wish I had just curled up with him and told him stories as soon as I got home.  We always held each other before we went to sleep.  Once I went to a Passover dinner at the Rabbi's house. Artie didn't want to go.  I was late coming home but I didn't call because what kind of trouble can someone get in at a Rabbi's house?  When I pulled into the driveway after 1 a.m.  he was in front of the house pacing up and down.  Artie was so worried about me and I laughed at him.  No one is worried now.  No one is there.

I had a dream.  I dreamed I was with a group of people and I got a phone call.  Someone told me Artie had died.  I was sobbing.  I said I had no home to go to.  I couldn't face it.  Everyone was very nice to me.  In my dream this handsome young man gave me a big hug.  When he went to sleep he wanted me to lie down with him so he could comfort me.  I did for five minutes but soon got up.  He wasn't Artie.  There was no comfort anywhere.  Then I was standing on line at the airport searching through my purse for my boarding pass.  I started to cry again and put it in between my teeth because I had too much baggage to carry.  I thought, "I can't do it.  I can't go home if Artie isn't there."  I woke myself up. 

In my waking life I can show up for things.  I can change my thought patterns, use techniques when I care to.  I don't know what to do about a dream like that - after three years - I think I dream those dreams often.  My subconscious mind telling me how lost I feel.  It may be why it is so difficult for me to wake up and be motivated.

It's been a rough time lately.  Back down the black hole.  Grateful for the support of friends and loved ones but being sluggish and grouchy.  I am leaving Wednesday for Bread Loaf.  It's a writers' conference that only accepts 26% of people who apply.  It was my dream to go there.  I got accepted in 2009.  Artie was dying and I had to cancel.  Whenever I wrote something he read it first.  He was my best champion and my best critic.  I should be excited to go.  I'm scared.  My memories of that dying time are all tangled up with the present.  I'm still avoiding writing because when I finish something he's not here to read it. 

I guess it all goes on my forgiveness list.  Like writing the blog.  I've been thinking about you all and meaning to write but haven't done it in much too long.  I need to awaken myself to life again.  I need to find a home within myself.  There is no magick kiss to awaken me from a curse...my handsome prince is dead.

I'm very lucky that I have people who understand.  I got a text from one of Artie's dearest friends. It simply said, "I miss Artie."  I texted back, "Me too.  He's here, but I wish he was here...if you know what I mean."  He texted me a heart.  Knowing someone else was still missing my husband made me smile. 

What is needed is to never give up.  When my passion leaks away and I am left with listlessness and longing for whatever is on the other side it is my job to remember my granddaughter Gwendy blue eyes who is all life force.  We all need people and things in our world to pull us, push us, prod us to be the light we are meant to be. 

Thank you for your patience with me.  Thank you to those who support me and listen to me whine and make me laugh anyway.  Thank you for being fellow grief warriors letting love triumph over death.  xo