Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm Tired

Every time I say those words, in my head I hear Madeline Kahn singing the song in Blazing Saddles.  While the reasons why I am tired are very different than the reasons of which Ms. Kahn is warbling, I'm still kaput!

One of the things I did not expect from mourning is how physically and mentally draining it is.  I expected emotionally draining, but it has depleted me body, mind and soul.  My grief counselor has repeatedly told me that it takes all of our life force to mourn.  I easily accepted that at first.  But, come on, its been 20 months, that should no longer be the case.  Sadly it still is.

Feeling my feelings takes a lot of energy on any day.  Then throw in the hidden land mines that are unexpected, like cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and opening the cabinet with all of Tom's coffee.  Tom loved him some good coffee.  If we didn't have 10 pounds of coffee in the house something was wrong.

Now add in the self care.  Being so depleted meant that I really had to look deeply into my nutrition as well as stress management.  So there are regular grief counseling appointments, massage appointments, acupuncture appointments, naturopathic appointments.  And then there were the two eye surgeries with the myriad of appointments and four times daily eye drops for over two months.  I haven't even been able to think about getting back to the gym--soon I hope.

Did I mention all of the death duties?  Estate matters, paperwork.  Disposing of Tom's personal effects, which is both emotionally and mentally exhausting--decisions to be made and then the actual "letting go".  And then I must deal with all of my estate matters--trust, will, power of attorney, etc. 

How about a dash of daily living?  Shopping, cleaning, cooking, bill paying, pet care, laundry, auto maintenance, home maintenance.  I have made more trips to the hardware store in the last several months than I did in the last several years.  I swear that the light bulbs in my house have band together to go on strike and burn out!  I can't believe how many I've replaced this year.  I didn't know we had that many lights in the house.  I used to have someone to share all of these chores with and now I must do them all alone.

For grins, lets add in making a living.  Going to work, running a business.  I certainly haven't been able to apply the usual energy that I would to my career, the intensity that I would work.  But working is something that I must do, both financially and emotionally necessary.  So much of my self identity has been wrapped up in my career.

And then there is the energy that goes into relationships--maintaining the relationships that I have, and fortunately there are many.  There is very little left for cultivating new friendships, but there is still a void to fill and a future to rebuild. 

There is one thing that is really missing and that is FUN!  Not much left for fun.  But I have had some and I need to have some more.  I am looking forward to going to Hawaii at the end of the month.  It will be bittersweet since it was our happy place.  It was also a place we went for restoration and I'm hoping to have that again. 

And finally, there is the emotionally energy it takes to look forward, to remain hopeful for the future, and to remain optimistic.  No wonder I am tired.  I can't imagine what it must be like for those still raising children or caring for others.  They must have more reserves than I have to survive that.

I have beaten myself up over my "laziness" because I've not been able to force myself to do all the things that need to be done.  I've been expecting myself to do the impossible.  In reality I am not able to do so.  Job number one is to recover, and to re-engage with life.  It is going to take much longer than I thought and certainly much longer than I had hoped. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Missing doesn't really describe the big void that is in my life, but it will have to do.  At last month's dinner with my widow/er's group, we were talking about how the "missing" has set in.  And so it has.  I seem to miss Tom more than ever.  Even as I continue to recover from his loss, I miss him so much.  I miss him in our daily life.  I miss the partnership, the help with daily living, the laughter, the support, the sound of his voice, the reverberation of his snore, the warmth of his hugs and the tenderness of his kiss.  I miss him taking Zora on walks around the valley, the smell of his coffee in the morning, the silly word games, cooking for him.  I just miss being with him.  There is a depth to this emptiness that cannot be measured.  It is different than it was, perhaps because it feels so real and so very permanent. 

I am amazed at how the process of mourning the loss of my husband continues to unfold.  It is a constantly changing landscape.  It reminds me so much of the topography of the Big Island.  Tom and I would vacation there just about every year.  The first time we went there and drove out of the airport, I thought we had landed on the moon because the black lava created such desolate terrain for as far as one could see.  But then there would be a twig of green or white coral graffiti on the side of the road.  In the distance we could see the green of the mountainsides and the deep blue green of the ocean beyond the moonscape. 

Mourning is similar.  At first I felt like I had landed on the moon.  The terrain was rugged, desolate, and unfamiliar and went on forever.  Then I started to see little tufts of green, regrowth, show up--those moments of happiness, sometimes hope.  Then I started to see the lush green in the distance, abundant life.  Sometimes the road takes a turn and all I see is a field of lava, and then it turns again and there is green in the distance, the road starts to go uphill for a while and the going is harder, but the view is of the beauty of the sky and the clouds so I push on.  Then the road turns again and green valley and blue ocean are in view but I can't reach it yet.  But I see it, and I know that such abundance is in the future, but I have to get off the road to get to it.  That is where I am.  I see the green in the distance, its not as far away, but it isn't right here, although there are patches of green around me.

About three months after my dad died I remember the day when I said to myself "I don't want my dad's death to be what defines my life."  After my mom died, it took about nine months until I reached that point.  At twenty months since Tom died I am not yet ready to say that.  But what I can say is that I don't want the rest of my life to be defined by my loss.  I'm not ready to make that jump, but I see it in the future.  But until that time, I will continue on this twisting turning road through the rugged terrain of grieving, embracing as best I can experiences of this journey until I reach the portion of the road where joy and happiness is a part of the scenery.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Canonization of St. Rado

Have you ever noticed that after someone dies, they suddenly become saintly?  People talk about how wonderful they are and no human person could ever live up to the exalted life of the one who has passed.

I said that I wasn't going to do that.  And yet I've found that perhaps I am.  We all know that Tom was less than perfect, there were things that drove me crazy.  However now some of those things are missed.  He had many shortcomings. He would be the first the tell you about them.  But.  But.  But.  I am finding that I really tend to focus on his goodness.  I don't want to be guilty of making a him a saint.  What I remember most though are his best qualities, the things that were really the essence of his soul.  His kindness.  His sense of humor.  His big open heart.  His ability to be present.  His protectiveness.  His humility.  His love. His care for others. His big booming laugh.  His hugs.  In some ways I feel like I am more in tune with his goodness, with his soul's essence since he has been gone because all of his messy human-ness is not constantly in my face. Tom would just laugh if people thought he was saint, he was far too humble for that.

So I think I now understand.  Perhaps I should build a shrine to St. Rado.  Of course it would have to have pizza on it.  And music.  And an eye-talian beef.  And a golf club.  And coffee.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Eighteen Months

Today it has been eighteen months since Tom died.  It doesn't even seem possible that it has been both so long of a time and so short of a time.  That is 546 days, or 13,104 hours, or 786,240 minutes, or 47,174,400 seconds.  But who's counting?  Well, I am.  Not nearly as much as I used to, but I am a count-er.  Eighteen months is a milestone.  I'm not quite sure exactly how I feel, perhaps a bit numb.  Perhaps the tears and the sorrow will come later.  It has been such a growth process for me.  I found on Facebook Memories today, the post he made two years ago today:

"In a moment my life has taken an unexpected turn and shook me to the core. I have been diagnosed with appendix cancer. It feels surreal as if I am watching a movie outside myself. Moments pass and will never return and I wonder what is ahead. I say "how could this happen" but there is no answer. I know only how to move forward in spite of fear and that's what I will do. Having hope, faith and finding moments of peace and serenity."

Who knew that six months later he would be gone.  He did move forward in spite of fear, with hope and faith, finding moments of peace and serenity.  I admire his courage and strength as he fought so hard against the evil bastard that took his life.

There is a Facebook challenge these days posting photos of spouses and tributes to them.  It makes me glad to see happy married couples, while at the same time, it saddens me because my husband is no longer alive.  Tom was a wonderful husband and we had a great marriage--not always perfect--but great.  We had our happily ever after and stayed together until death parted us.  We were blessed.  I am blessed to have so many great memories of our lives together.  So here is my response to the FB challenge, from the occasion of my mom's 90th birthday photo shoot:

I talk about Tom, I post about Tom, not because I am stuck in the past or not moving forward.  I am rebuilding my life without him.  I talk and post about him because I want to remember him, that I want to keep his memory alive for me and for our family and friends.  He walked this earth for sixty-two years and he had a big impact on many lives.  His life mattered.  What he did with his life mattered.  The tragedy would be that he is forgotten, that his love and laughter and music and acts of kindness, and even his shenanigans, are not remembered and cherished. All of our lives are better because he lived.  This isn't just something that is said in the immediate aftermath of his death, but for the rest of our days on this earth.  We each carry a piece of his spirit with us.  I happen to carry a very big piece of it with me.  I have the "Tommy Aura" attached to me and I am proud to be the guardian of it.  So please, please talk about him, laugh about him, remember him, bring up his name.  Do not worry that it saddens me, because it doesn't.  It brightens my day and lightens my spirit, because I see that he lives on in the lives of those he knew and loved. I think that is what each of us we would want when we are gone--to be remembered.

As I move forward I carry him in my heart, and in the drum ash urn that hangs over my heart.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Stepping Out

I must say that I've felt, not stuck, but stagnant, lately.  I've been moving through death duties.  I've been selling some of Tom's things, giving others away to family and friends, and donating things.  I've been very good at living in the moment and not worrying too much about the future.  But here's the thing, I feel like I want to see some forward progress.  And recently I've thought that perhaps I should take some action to move forward.  The problem is, I don't know what it is I want to do, or should do, or am supposed to do.  Throw me a bone here, Universe!  How about a clue?  Its not like my brain is working at its regular capacity. 

Like many, I look for those big AWESOME signs, for big AWESOME direction.  Yeah, that's not happening.  But here is what does happen when you ask the Universe for some help.  Little tiny baby step clues.  So subtle that if you aren't paying attention you miss it.  And here's what happened.

Lately I've been thinking about Phoenix, our nan-sun conure that we brought home the year after we married.  I miss him.  I had donated his big cage last summer (almost a year after he was gone), but I kept forgetting to take his travel cage for donation.  And on Monday I had things to take for donation and remembered to put the cage in the car for donation.  Except when I got to Goodwill, the truck was full and I couldn't leave anything.  And that was also the case at the other donation sites.  Then yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook in the afternoon (not something I am usually doing in the afternoon) and there is post from the Marin Humane Society that they have a 20 year old conure who needs a new home.  His family is moving and can't take him with them.  And he is really unhappy and depressed.  The average life span of a conure is about 25 years.  Phoenix was 19 when he died from a cancerous tumor on his wing.  This bird, known as Big Bird now, is about a year younger than Feenie.  I had thought of getting another conure but wasn't sure a 25 year commitment is something I could face.  But this guy, I can do that.  So I went to see him immediately.  He seems sweet, but was withdrawn (as I would expect).  I came home and talked to Zora about it.  She was not Phoenix's biggest fan, mainly because he was so loud.  I expect that this guy will be too once he is settled in.  But his personality seems, as least at this early stage, similar to Zora's.  After sleeping on it, I decided to adopt him and he will be coming home within the next 24 hours. 

This is stepping out for me.  Opening my heart to another being that needs love and attention.  This guy is grieving the loss of his family and I most certainly understand grieving.  This is the first major decision I've made since Tom has been gone.  It is my first step into my new life.  And I have to say, I am a bit nervous about it.  I have a feeling that Phoenix and Tom had a hand in leading me to him.  Its a tiny little baby step, but it feels like a huge leap.

So Big Bird has a new home.  But first order of business is to get him a new name.  I just don't think Big Bird fits him. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Five Hundred Days

It has been 500 hundred days since Tom died.  When we started this cancer journey two years ago, we were told that the average survival time with his disease was 3 years (about 1000 days).  I remember thinking, as we were waiting for results of one test or another "we'll know in 10 days, oh--that's 1% of the time we have left together".  It puts each day into perspective when you have a countdown clock.  I don't count the days anymore  (well, with the exception of the ones that end in 00).  But I find the perspective of what a day is in a life to be profound. Alas, he did not have 1,000 days, he only had 200, just 20% of the time on the countdown clock.  I still feel like I waste days, just recovering from this loss, days that I will never get back.  But there is such value in those days too.  One might look at it as saying the further I get from the loss of Tom, the closer I get to being reunited with him.  Well, yes, that's true.  But there is going to be a whole lot of living going on between now and then.

This week I accepted an offer on one of Tom's drums kits.  It wasn't his favorite kit.  He had been talking about selling it before.  I've been trying to sell this kit for a six months.  I guess it wasn't to be.  Of course, its not a sale until the money is in my hot little hands.  It made me sad when I accepted the offer, even though I KNOW it is what needs to happen.  But his sound will go on.  I also signed and received all of the paperwork for my trust, along with a will, power of attorney, etc.  I now have about 15 more tasks added to my to do list.  This being a responsible adult is a lot of work.

So how am I doing at 500 days?  At some point during the first year I was asked to think about my emerging self.  (Emerging self, I thought.  What?)  After careful consideration, there were three things that I identified that I wanted in my life:
1. To lead a spirit-led and spirit-filled life
2. To be lean, fit, and healthy
3. To have love in my life.

1. Tom's death has led to a profound spiritual awakening for me.  I am just beginning to tap into things that I never thought possible for me.  I am redefining what higher power means to me.  I still can't explain it.  These are things that most likely would not have happened otherwise.  But I have come to live in the moment and not be fearful of the future (well, most of the time anyway).  I am more comfortable and secure in having faith.  My track record for surviving difficult things is 100%.  I'm pretty sure I will be surviving this also.  I am excited to see where this path will take me.

2.  I am making progress here, slow, slow progress.  But it is forward motion.  I've done a lot of self care over the last four months.  I've done all of the required wellness checks and endured a bit of a "scare".  I will be having eye surgery this summer.  Yes, I truly have my mother's eyes.  And I am seeing a naturopath since my allopathic physicians cannot explain or treat the fatigue that doesn't end.  I will get there, I am making the changes necessary, even when I don't want to.  Forward progress

3.  I have love in my life.  I have a loving family that I am spending more time with and growing closer to.  We are a blended family, but no one could tell that if they saw us together.  They are such a blessing.  I have a lot of loving friends, who have walked this journey with me.  And I have Zora--the epitome of unconditional love.  There is not a romantic love in my life.  I know that someday there will be, when the time is right.  When the very best of me is available to give.  Right now the very best of me is still mourning Tom and healing.  I waited a long time for Tom and he was worth every minute of the wait.  So I know that when it is time, it will be.  And I can wait.  And it will be worth it for whomever it is that is waiting for me.

Yes, I am making forward progress.  I still have much to figure out and make decisions about.  The future is mine to choose and create as I heal.  I am in a good head space today.  I'm going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Waiting Room

I've heard this term before in regard to widowhood.  One meaning is that the surviving spouse is just waiting to die to be with their departed loved one.  For me it has a different meaning.  I feel like I am waiting to get better, to feel better, to start to live my life again.  I've made it through all of the firsts, and am into the second year.  But for everyone else around me, their lives have gone on.  They have new jobs, new homes, new relationships, adventures.  And me.  I am just waiting.  Waiting to feel better, to reclaim the energy and vitality that mourning has taken from me.  I have little extra energy to engage in life.

I am in an intensive recovery period.  Physically I am doing some of things that are necessary to recover--regular massage, acupuncture, getting enough sleep, but there is a lot more that I need to do--nutrition, exercise.  Emotionally I do what I can--regular meetings with my grief counselor, social meetings with other widows, I definitely feel my feelings.  I feel them all over the place.  They are generally not pretty.  I am seeing the beginnings of re-entry.  I am able to work, but not at the intensity that I've always been able to.  And I can at least engage in some sort of social life with my friends, limited though it may be.  I still have many death duties to complete, mainly dispersing of Tom's personal effects.  However, I fall short of doing what I think I need to be doing.  Some days the best I can do is just wait.

Last week I read about Sheryl Sandberg's commencement address.  She told the story of how her friend Phil stepped in to help with her children after her husband died.  When she cried that she wanted her husband, he said that wasn't an option and this was plan B.  And he said "Let's kick the shit out of Plan B".  I like that.

I plan to kick the shit out of Plan B.  As soon as I figure out what it is.