Monsters

I live each breath inside of your death                                                                             Each second                                                                                                                   Each moment                                                                                                                     Each step …

And sometimes my life peeks out from your death,                                               Begging for some attention                                                                                           Wanting to smell the wildflowers, or look at the moon in the sky

And most times your death attacks my life                                                                     Pushing it down in the water until it can no longer breathe                                       And it drowns.

Your death has weapons that I cannot fight                                                         Weapons that appear from nowhere:

 Panic                                                                                                                                Fear                                                                                                                                    Anxiety                                                                                                                            Heartache                                                                                                                            Pain                                                                                                                                          Hurt                                                                                                                                Numbness                                                                                                                      Depression                                                                                                                        Memories                                                                                                                        Moments                                                                                                                                  Time                                                                                                                                  The past                                                                                                                           The future                                                                                                                               Now

 Sometimes I think I may have won the fight                                                                    or won this round                                                                                                              Joy or laughter or times with friends will feel, for a few seconds, good.                      And then it comes …

The paralyzing grief                                                                                                        The terrifying shift from living to shaking in a dark corner                                              The heart palpitations or the mind ache or the sudden sobbing fits                                They come                                                                                                                            They always come

And sometimes I’m too exhausted to stop them                                                                 And sometimes I just don’t care to stop them                                                                     But most times I cannot stop them

For they march in like enemy soldiers                                                               Overtaking me                                                                                                       Barricading me                                                                                                           Locking me inside of myself                                                                                           Leaving me naked and open and scared

And then they come back again, the grief monsters                                                   Except they don’t really ever come at all                                                                       Because they never actually left

But sometimes they trick me into thinking they have left                                          And I attempt to live my life                                                                                                Smiling                                                                                                                              Achieving something                                                                                                Finding beauty somewhere

And it is at that very moment when I have heard the most beautiful piece of music or felt the crisp cool air in my lungs or tasted the most delicious fruit, that they force themselves on me and rape me with their cruelty and their existence …

They are vultures. Grief vultures, and they grab and they take and they pull and they poke and they push and they spit and they find me in the night and punch me in the eyes hard, then kick and beat and choke me until my cough goes silent.

And just like the most stereotypical abusive boyfriend, they show up the next day with flowers, telling me they love me and everything is going to be okay. 

 

But it’s not okay.                                                                                                                     It is never okay.                                                                                                               Because grief is never leaving.                                                                                           The monsters are never gone.

Somehow,                                                                                                                       Impossibly,                                                                                                                             Grief is my new husband                                                                                                 And the vows will last forever                                                                                               As I live inside of your death                                                                                                  Inside this War                                                                                                                       This constant, vicious war                                                                                                     Living my life with a Monster.

 

 

 

My Secret Scorpio: A Second Visit with My Husband

Last year, about a month or so before the first year death anniversary of my husband; I decided, with a huge amount of skepticism, cynicism, and hesitancy; to reach out for a phone session with a medium. At that point in time, I needed more than anything to feel that I could still connect with Don on some level, even if that meant a total stranger 3rd-party on the other end of a telephone. The woman that I spoke with was referred directly to me by another widow friend, and despite my natural instinct and desire to mock the entire process and validity of what these people do, the experience was beyond moving and stunningly accurate in it’s specifics of the life we shared. (You can read the blog I wrote about that reading here: http://www.ripthelifeiknew.com/2012/05/09/husband-finally-spoke-me-said-go-yankee-stadium/).

Well, here I am just passing the 2-year death mark, and a different widowed friend offered me the gift (it was a literal “gift” – she paid for my session) of having a phone reading / channeling, with the same woman she used after the death of her fiance Sergio, who was a firefighter who gave his life in the attacks in NYC on 9/11. After reading the touching story of her reading and her connection with both Sergio and this woman Elaine, I knew I had to speak with her too. (You can read my friend Tanya’s article about her session here: http://rebirthtanya.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/love-transcends-death.pdf)

As I dialed her number from my home phone this past Monday morning, knowing that I knew next to nothing about this woman and she knew nothing about me except that I know Tanya, I felt myself silently begging her, and begging Don, to please let me feel some sort of comfort. Some sort of connection. Some sort of calm waters. Some sort of … something.

What follows is the dialogue (from my notes and from memory, so it’s 97% exact) from pieces of our conversation, along with my inner-monologue reaction to the beautiful insanity that was taking place, connecting this life to that one. The cynic in me still refuses to go away, screaming: “Don’t fall for it! She says the same shit to everybody! You are just hearing what you want and need to hear! It’s fake!” But the other side of me, which grows a tiny bit bigger by the hour, cannot ignore the accuracy to which this woman spoke, the things that she simply couldnt have known (but did), and the tone of voice she used when talking about our very rare kind of love. That part of me takes me aside, pulls me in close, and whispers: “Believe …”

Me with my dear friend Tanya, at Camp Widow San Diego, 2013.

 

Hello, Elaine?” My fingers and voice were shaking. I felt like I was 15 years old, and calling up some silly boy that I liked. 

“Hello Kelley. Thank you so much for calling. Now you told me the other day when we made the session time, that it is your husband Don that you’d like to channel today, so I’m going to start by asking God to come into our reading, surrounding us with his golden light of love and protection. Today I ask that God is able to bring Don to you, and let you feel his love and his soul and his energy. I ask God to make me the messenger today to provide words that may help to heal your heart. In this I trust unconditionally. Amen …”

She seemed to be waiting for me to respond, and since I’m not a religious person at ALL, it didn’t occur to me immediately to repeat her, but eventually, after about 20 seconds or 3 hours, I caught on. I’m a little slow. “Amen”, I finally echoed.

Oh Kelley. Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow … you have such a strong, strong spirit connection. It’s overwhelming. He is showing me silver. A long line of silver between you, which means there is a forever laser-beam between you, that goes from this world to the other world. Your connection and your love is way beyond a heart-to-heart connection. You have a true, rare soul connection. He is saying that he loved you from the start, from the very very start. Did you meet in an unconventional way? He is showing me that he knew it was special from the start, but he was afraid. That’s why he took so long to commit. He was scared, and he’s saying the only thing he regrets now is that he didn’t marry you sooner. That you didn’t have more time. What is Red? He is showing me red. Over and over with the red. Did he love you in red? Is someone’s name red? Anything with red?”

I am completely baffled and cannot think of even one thing that red might mean. “No idea”, I say, genuinely. “I don’t know what that means.”

“That’s okay. We can come back to it. He is throwing it down forcefully, almost as a validation that he’s here right now. Red. Red. It could mean passion, but I think its something else. He wants you to know that you really turned him on, you were like a gem to him, like a jewel. He says that even the way things ended with his life being cut short, he would do it all over again, just to have the short time that he had with you. You were everything to him. Do you have his wedding ring? He wants to know if you found it.” 

Okay. My first, true “Holy Shit!” moment of this session. Let’s see where this goes. 

“He is saying that he is so, so, so happy when you wear it on your hand, and he loves that you do that and how you honor him and love him always. But he said maybe you should put it on a necklace , get a chain for it and wear it all the time, close to your heart, so you never lose it again.” 

About 2 months ago, I moved from Forest Hills Queens, to Flushing, Queens, to a different apartment, with another new roommate. About a week ago, I was looking in my nightstand to get out Don’s wedding ring, which I wear whenever I want to feel close to him, on my right hand, right on top of my own ring. Well, it was gone. It wasn’t in the box. I freaked, and then realized I really hadn’t seen it since I had moved, and maybe it somehow got stuck behind a wall in my old apartment. So I emailed my ex-roommate and told him the situation and asked him to please keep an eye out for me. 2 days ago, I found it. It was in a random bag, at the very bottom of one of the pockets, stuck inside a corner. The ONLY person that knew about that was my ex-roommate, whom I emailed. I did not mention it to anyone else ANYWHERE, nor did I write about it anywhere. How on earth did she know that? Plus, Don telling me to put his ring on a chain, is totally something he would say, because I was ALWAYS losing rings. He hardly ever bought me jewelry, but when he did, I would lose it. But me losing his wedding ring had never happened until the past few days. It literally JUST happened. 

“Who loved music? Who had the connection with music? Was that your husband?”

Yes. He was a huge music person, and it was a big part of our bond and our relationship. together. We met in a music chat room on AOL.”

“He is showing me music, he is playing music for you. Playing guitar music. For you.”

That is something he did very regularly; he would come home from work, sit in the living room, and strum one of his 7 guitars. He would call me into the room over and over and make me listen to chord progressions and songs he was writing. “Is that good, Boo? Does that sound good?” We would learn songs together and I would sing, and he would play. There is nothing I miss more than hearing him play music for me. 

“Oh, he has a great sense of humor. He is showing me the red again. He says ‘Dont forget about the red. He says that something about red and a secret. Keep thinking about it. It might come to you. He is also showing me the silver again. Your wedding. He wants to go back to your wedding. It meant so much to him. He keeps saying family. Do you have a picture out right now in the room from your wedding day? With silver? Was your wedding dress made specifically for you, by a seamstress?” 

Yes. I had my dress made for me by a family friend who is a seamstress, and we had a Christmas-themed wedding, so my dress was silver. It was a very light silver with green emeralds on the neckline.”

And you have a picture with you in that dress? That is what he is showing me. At first I thought he was showing me that you were going to get re-married, but the image I am seeing is you in a silvery wedding dress, and there is no guy in the image. It is him LOOKING at you, like he is looking at you on your wedding day.”

Well this is just motherfuckin’ weird now. My absolute favorite picture of us from our wedding day, is one where we are outside, and I am looking out at the camera, and he is looking directly AT me, with the most loving and proud look I have ever seen in his eyes, ever. I keep that picture on my nightstand, look at it every single night, and it was out in front of me, during our phone session. 

“Okay. Lots of times, your loved one will send me images. Pictures. I see a lot of colors or images, and then I pass them along to you, what he is showing me, in hopes that they make sense. He is showing me a window, with snow falling. Sitting in a window, and snow. And then shoveling snow. And he is laughing.” 

Our funny Christmas Card, taken after one of many New England snowstorms…

Okay. Yes, that is two seperate things, and they both make total sense to me. He hated the snow”, I tell her, as I start to giggle at the memory of what she is referring to.

When I met Don, he lived in Florida, and then moved to NJ to be with me, after a 7-year long-distance relationship together. He was always telling me and joking around, but not really, that while he would move across the universe for me, move to stupid New Jersey, and do just about anything on earth for me, he would NOT EVER shovel snow. His exact words, several times, were: “I am not shoveling any goddamn snow!” And he never did. The other memory, about the window with snow falling, refers to Don’s absolute favorite thing to do every winter from our NJ apartment. We lived on a busy road that led to the Lincoln Tunnel and into NYC, and we paid a monthly fee to have our car parked in an indoor garage across the street. Well, every time there was a huge snowstorm, Don would gather me up, get some snacks and a drink, and we would sit in my bedroom window and watch and listen to all the many, many people either trying – and failing – to get up the huge hill in the snow with their cars, or trying to get out of a parking spot in the street, spinning their wheels over and over again. I’d say: “Arent you going to go out and help him, Boo?” He would just crack up even louder. “Help him? No way. Fuck that! This is way more fun! Look at this douchebag – thought he found a great parking spot – guess not, idiot! HAHAHA!” He found this endlessly entertaining, and that is why he was laughing, when he said the word snow, to Elaine. 

“He is talking about family again. He thinks that family is so important. He is saying that you were his family, Kelley. You were his family. Its really important to him that you share this reading with your parents. He says thank you, and thank you to them. He never ever expected that he would be leaving this world. Never expected it, never. And so he wants to say thank you. Did he have a strained or strange relationship with his mother?”

Yes”, I say, slightly laughing. “It was strained in some ways, and she was beyond strange in every way. He had a very dysfunctional family.”

You were his family”, she says again. “But his relationship with his mother is being healed right now. It is healing. He forgives her and he forgives himself, too. It’s okay now.” This makes me feel warm and calm, because my husband always had so much guilt about leaving his mother behind in Florida, to move up here with me. It pained him, but it had to done, because of the controlling and manipulative person that she was, never letting him have his own life. 

He is hugging you. Im hugging myself right now, sort of, because he is wanting to hug you and hold you, just hold you. He loves you so much. He says that it is okay with him if you need or want to find comfort with someone else, and that he wants you to be happy. He is showing me a small child. It’s a boy. It could be a son, or someone you care for, but he is showing me a boy for you in your future that will be a huge part of your life. And he shows me new love for you. He says that no matter what, he will always, always be your number one protector. Always.”

I can’t even imagine myself loving someone else, so I tell her this and I start tearing up as I say it: “The idea of someone else makes me feel physically ill”, I say. “I don’t even know if I believe that anyone out there would ever love me or look at me the same way that he did, or make me feel the way he did.”

Me with some of Don’s friends at Clearwater Beach, Florida, scattering some of his ashes there in November 2011 …

They won’t”, she responds quickly. “Nobody will ever make you feel like he did, and you won’t ever have another high soul-to-soul connection like you had with Don. You won’t have that again, but you WILL have a mate. He sees a partner for you, and you will be happy again, and he wants you to know that it’s okay and he wants it for you. But he also loves loves loves that you are still so in love with him, and he knows it will be a long time before you can love someone new. He knows. He loves you so much. I have a jewelry box here in front of me, and there is a picture of a pelican on it. He keeps directing my eyes to the pelican and saying ‘animals.’ Who had the connection with animals?”

He did”, I say, happy that she is finally bringing up his biggest passion in life. Animals. 

He is showing me a dog. And something with the color blue. Like blue clothing or blue material, and a big dog, German Shepherd or Golden Retreiver, with a bone. Im getting an image of a dog with a bone. Did you have a dog?”

No, we adopted cats together. I have cats. He always WANTED a dog, and he wanted a German Shepherd, but never had one. I don’t know why he is showing you a dog. Could it be that he is showing you that HE now finally has his dog, wherever he is now? “

Yes, it could be that. But it’s definitely a dog he is showing. Now he is showing me that he wants to thank you for something else. Was he buried? Did you bury him somewhere?”

“No. He was cremated, but I had his ashes scattered in a few different places that were special to us, and some of them are still here with me. “

Was one of those places Florida?” I am almost stunned by the question, and why she would just pull that location out of nowhere like that. “Yes, one of them was Florida. He lived there for a long time, and he lived there when we met.” 

She sighs and says very genuinely: “He absolutely loves, loves, loves that you did that. That you flew his ashes to Florida, that you brought him there and that you knew what that would mean to him. Now he is showing me either a home or a condo, on the ocean. It is on the water. It is for you. Family. Lots of family and a condo on the water. He is showing me your wedding again or around your wedding, and then this condo, and water, and family.”

My parent’s time-share on Cape Cod. The front side is on the ocean, back side is on the bay. We honeymooned there, and my parents drove up for the first night of our honeymoon and we all went bowling. That ended up being a huge joke between us. Who brings their parents on their honeymoon? And who goes bowling???” I start cracking up.

Dad and Don BOWL on our Cape Cod honeymoon ….

Who is the Scorpio? Is there a Scorpio? Is that him? Is that Don? He is showing me the red again ….”

Oh. My. God. 

“Yes, that is my husband. He was a Scorpio. November 6th.” 

FINALLY!” She says, as if victorious. “That is what the red was all about. Red is the color of passion and the color associated with Scorpio’s sign. It’s his way of validating that he is here. I don’t know why he would choose that as his way of validating, but hopefully it means something to you.”

It means EVERYTHING to me. So, remember about a paragraph or so above, when I said that Don had a very dysfunctional family? Yes. Well … without going into TOO much detail, because most of this will be in my book, and it would take pages and pages to explain here, but, my husband had two birthdays. Two birthdays. Everyone on earth, except for me and his mom and his two sisters, knew his “birthday” as being February 28th. But that was not his birthday. That was the public birthday that people knew of. His ACTUAL birth-date was November 6th. Why? Because my husband was the product of an affair. My husband’s mother, being the controlling and manipulative person she was, and not wanting Don’s rela father to know that he had a son, kept it secret from him and played it off to Don and everyone else, that he had the same father as his 2 sisters. The abusive asshole that Don grew up believing was his father, was actually no relation to him at all. When Don was 20 years old, his mother decided to inform him of who his real father was, a man named Neal Shepherd. Don’s mother , a head nurse in a hospital who had access to records and things like birth certificates, switched the dates on Don’s birth certificate, so that his “birth” would match up in the timing of him being her then-husband’s son. So, the date on his birth certificate read February 28th, and it was never changed. All documents and paperwork, even his DEATH certificate, says he was born on February 28th, but he wasn’t. He was born November 6th. Yes – this really happened – and no – it is NOT an old episode of “General Hospital.” Well, maybe it is, but it also happened to my husband. So, when Don met his real father for the first time at age 20, he also went to the courts and had his last name legally changed to Shepherd. I still have the paperwork that he left behind in our storage closet. Don told me this story once it became clear that we were “serious” with each other, and that he knew he could trust me. Nobody knew about his REAL birthday. Nobody. Just me. We would always celebrate the February birthday with family and friends, and then on November 6th, we would have a private celebration between us – we called it his “secret birthday.” The fact that Don would use that piece of information to validate that this was real – there is really no explanation for it – other than – THIS WAS REAL. 

“He wants you to know that your heart will heal, Kelley. It will take a long time, and your love was so special, and it WILL go on forever and beyond that. Soul connection. So, so strong. But you will be happy. He is always with you, and hugging you still. He wants you to know that you will be alright.” 

A couple of hours after the phone session, I was on my way into the city for my weekly session with my grief-counselor. As I was coming out of the subway, someone called my name. I turned around and it was this woman, Kate, who is an actress and photographer, and who I used to work with years and years ago. She was the photographer on our wedding day, and I literally hadnt seen her or bumped into her, ever, until now. Turns out she lives in the same building as my grief-counselor. I go there every single Monday for the past year, and I have never run into her. Not once. Until now. On this day. After talking so much about my wedding day, and Don bringing it up again and again in the reading. 

Then, something even more bizarre. About a block from my counselor, after saying goodbye to Kate, I look out of my left eye, into the corner of the sidewalk. There is a man standing there, and he is very tall, like Don. He is wearing some type of uniform. I can’t tell if it’s a cop or EMT or some kind of security uniform, but it is blue. It is a blue uniform. He has a dog, and he is bending down and petting him. It is a German Shepherd type-dog, and the dog is chewing on something. It is a toy bone.

Maybe I was right. Maybe my husband finally got the dog that he always wanted. As I walked past the dog and into my counselor’s building, I felt the wind shift and the breeze change, and I felt him holding me tight. Hugging me forever. 

 

Running

I never really liked running. Never really saw the point. For exercise? Sure, but I’d much rather play a sport or go swimming or do just about anything other than feel the pounding of my flattened and worn-out feet, screaming for mercy against the hot and unforgiving pavement. Or feel my knees hurting and buckling and cracking with each breath, showing their severe weakness and obvious disapproval of this evil form of torture.

People who run claim that it’s “freeing.” I don’t know about that. To me, it feels the opposite, like a never-ending prison sentence filled with sweat, horrible cramps, and nausea. The only thing freeing about running is maybe the part where the race or the dash or the charity sprint or whatever other forced form of hell has ended, and I am now free to go and grab a drink and a burger somewhere.

Me and Don – in the life I knew

Despite this, I have been running for just over 2 years now. It’s not the kind of running that requires good sneakers, or keeping hydrated, or carrying a stopwatch. No. That sort of thing is for amateurs. This is much different. It’s much bigger than all of that, and much more complex. This is the kind of running that takes over your life, and that is caused by death.

I began running at approximately 6:30am on July 13, 2011, when I received the series of phone calls that would jar me awake, give me the worst news of my life, and change me forever. My very first sprint was the one that took me from the inside of a taxicab, into the ER section of the hospital, just down the street from where we lived in West New York, New Jersey. My run from the door of that car to the doors of that E.R., I can honestly say, was the fastest I have ever moved in my life. I don’t know what all the rushing was about. He was already dead. Then again, I didn’t know that at the time. Until, of course, I did.

And since that time, that day, that hour – every piece of my existence has been about running. Running from pain. Running from hurt. From loss. From love. Running as far away from the memories as I can, because memories sting and they stab and they reinforce what is now gone. I am not ready for memories. Memories are for 5 years, maybe 10 years from now, when I can feel them without intense sorrow, when I can “cherish them”, which so many people who have not lost their husbands keep telling me to do. Running from pictures, and triggers, and trauma. Running from my heart. My soul. My “before.”

San Diego paradise…

Like the time I packed up everything I own and everything he owned, and finally made the decision to move out of the New Jersey apartment where we shared our entire engagement and marriage and life. The 7 years that we spent there began to eat away at my skin and engulf me – the walls were closing in on me after 8 months alone, facing the nothingness of a life that was now over, a time that would not come back.

So I ran away from the homemade birthday cakes at our kitchen table, the small dinner parties and hang-outs with our core group of friends that shattered into bits of glass, the friendly neighborhood store owners that all knew Don and looked at me with sad eyes each time I crossed their path, post-death. I ran from the hospital where he died, and the other hospital where he worked as an EMT, and the Pet-smart where he collapsed on that cold floor, alone, while working his second job to help support us. I ran from the familiar-looking ambulances with his hospital’s name on them, and the uniforms I would see around town, on other tall men resembling my husband. I ran from our special bench where we would sit at night, and stare at the city skyline, laughing and dreaming and being. I couldn’t get away fast enough from the local restaurants we used to eat at, the movie theatre we used to spend Sunday matinees at, the tennis courts he would play tennis at, just like he did one day before he suddenly died.

So after 8 months of sitting inside of it, tripping over the piles and the stuff that used to be our life, I ran. It was either that, or stay there and be further suffocated by things and objects and items – when the person that made them come to life, was no longer breathing air. And the person that I was now, a widowed woman with only one, small paycheck, could no longer afford to pay rent and live alone. So I left.

But it wasn’t enough. Running or walking or crawling or kicking and screaming away from all those things helped, but it wasn’t enough. The pain was still there. Lurking. Hiding. Approaching. Waiting …

So I ran some more, and started to add new things into my new life, thinking that new things would hurt less than old and familiar things, things that I did with my husband. I have added lots of things, big things and small things, important and mundane things. Like the new comedy class I now teach in NYC. Or the new writing gigs Ive picked up. Or my new apartment, and my new roommate (my 2nd new roommate, and 2nd apartment, since his death). Or my new membership with ZIpcar, instead of our car, which I was forced to sell and get another, safer car, which I was also forced to sell, due to my new “broke widow” title in life. Or performing stand-up at Camp Widow. Or eating and making new foods for myself that I dont associate with foods that he loved. Taking a new walk to a new place that he never saw or went to. Seeing a new film, hearing new songs, thinking new thoughts. Making new friends, breaking new ground, facing new fears.

Me with my “new” Network Comedy Class, outside Gotham Comedy Club, NYC.

But none of that was enough either. It helped, but it wasn’t enough to make the stabbing pains go away. It still wasn’t enough to take the hurt and the grief and the why away. So then I started replacing painful things, with better things, thinking that the good would eventually outweigh the bad. Like, if I felt a panic attack coming on while driving down a familiar road or seeing our exit on the Turnpike and instantly flashing back to that life – that death – I would pull over and try to breathe and think about something else. Or drive a new route next time. When the nonstop image of my dead husband’s body in that casket would appear in my heart out of nowhere, I would try and get rid of it by posting pictures of us together on Facebook, or in my blog. Happy pictures. Pictures of him alive and smiling and being. Or when I couldnt sleep at night or kept waking up with the  sweats and the panic and the anxiety, flashing back to that morning or the night before or the days after – I would get up and make myself some tea, and watch something silly on TV, like Three’s Company, to make the bad thoughts go away.

But that didn’t always work either. Well, it worked momentarily, for a short time. For now. But the panic and the stress and the thoughts of death and the cruel images would always, always return. They are burned into my brain and stamped into my skin, like a tattoo that I can never remove, and that I don’t remember asking for.

moving (running) out of our apartment …

So then I have thought to myself – I need to think bigger. I need to run away. What If I just left New York? Left my life altogether? Left my teaching job of 11 years, left my familiar, left my problems and my clutter and my stuff – and went somewhere new? What if I went somewhere else, where I wasn’t the widowed girl? I could run away to California or Colorado or The Moon, and just start the fuck over, right? What do I have to lose, when I have already lost it all? And really, anytime that I go anywhere, I instantly feel somewhat better. Lighter. Happier. The sadness still lives inside me, but there is more room for the joy whenever I go somewhere else. My week in San Diego at Camp Widow was so relaxing, so freeing, so healing. And I felt so close to my husband there, closer than I have felt to him in a long time. I slept through the nights, and I felt a sense of peace and comfort around me. New and beautiful surroundings created new and beautiful things.

But that’s the problem. If I am visiting San Diego, or anywhere else, they are new surroundings. It is a vacation. It is temporary. If I lived there, then the new surroundings are eventually no longer new – they are simply the background to where I live. And although moving away sounds nice, it only sounds that way because whenever I go anywhere for a short period of time, it is time away from what is the norm. It feels exotic. It suggests “better.” But it’s not. It only feels that way, because I don’t live there. If I moved somewhere else, my New York issues would just turn into San Diego issues or Moon issues or wherever I ended up issues. I would have their bills and their traffic and their stresses and their problems, instead of the ones I have now. On top of that, I would be losing the very things that help to keep me sane in my new and unwanted life – my old and lifelong friends, my NY connections, my comedy buddies and clubs, my job that is secure and mostly rewarding, my counseling sessions that fuel me with coping skills and hope, my family that is 4 hours away instead of much, much further if I were to move out West. I would be trading in problems for different problems, and Im just too exhausted to deal with that much uncertainty right now.

me, with one of my many new friends in the widowed community, Beth – San Diego

Like I said in my first sentence, I never really liked running. Never really saw the point.

There is no purpose to running in circles. No reason to marathon and finish where you began. No meaning to a race that cannot end.

I cannot run from the truth. I can’t run from the pain, or the hurt, or the grief. Whether I go to San Diego or Hawaii or stay right here in my new apartment, all that shit comes with me. It is inside of me, the same way that my lungs and my veins and my breath is inside of me. It is an unwanted presence, a giant scar across my face. I can keep washing it off my face, and it may appear to have gone away for awhile, but it never truly leaves. I can’t run from it. I can’t fight it. I have to live with it and through it and sit near it side by side, and learn to look myself in the mirror and not hate that ugly scar.

There is some good news though. The ugly scar and the pain and hurt and trauma and fear are inside me, yes. They go with me. They are me. But if they are a part of me, then so is the hope. So is the love. The laughter. The joy. The birthday cakes and the Christmas mornings and the walks along the Hudson.The music he played. The chords he strummed. The pets he loved and the people he touched. The lives that he altered. My life. The beautiful, epic soul that is my husband, that is now me. It is all inside me. All of it. Every single cell of it. Until the end of time, and then miles and miles beyond that  …

I just need to stop running.

 

(p.s. Been meaning to say this for awhile to my regular readers and anyone reading this now – I . LOVE. COMMENTS. If you read this blogpiece or any of my posts, please leave a comment if you can! Each comment is like a little Christmas present to me, and I love getting them. Lately, when my email informs me I have new comments, they end up being 90% spam that I have to filter through and delete. I love getting real comments from people. It lets me know that you are out there and reading and hearing me … and thank you for doing that. Thank you.)

 

 

Stop Asking About Someone New …

In the widowed community, the topic of “dating again” seems to be somewhat of an obsession by many. When did you start dating? How did you know it was time? What did you do to “get yourself out there again?” Knowing this about others seems to fascinate everyone, and it usually begins with a list of probing questions and possibilities about wedding / engagement rings.

Some people continue to wear them. Others wear it but move it to their opposite hand. Some people keep their rings tucked away in a jewelry box or safe somewhere. A lot of widowed people add inscriptions to the rings, or add the rings onto a chain to make a special necklace. Some widowed parents might hold onto the ring to give to their son or daughter one day. The combination of things that people do or don’t do with their rings is endless. And really, it’s a highly personal choice, and everyone is different. I remember, awhile back, one widow friend telling me that after awhile, she took hers off, because she was no longer married, so wearing it “felt like a lie.”

I remember thinking to myself: That’s funny. That’s the exact same reason that I keep wearing mine. Because taking it off feels like a lie. 

This entire existence feels like a lie, if you want to know the truth. Every morning that I wake up and live in this universe where my husband no longer gets to breathe air; where my future was stolen from me in a flash and replaced with darkness and confusion, where his heart stopped beating and mine stopped caring; feels like one gigantic, ugly, vicious lie.

And yet, I know the truth. I am quite aware of the harsh and horrible truth. I live inside of the truth every single day. But there is a huge difference between what you know, and what you feel, and I feel like Don’s wife. I feel married. I feel that lifelong bond and that forever connection and promise and vow, and I don’t know how to figure out the rest of my time here, knowing what I know, yet feeling what I feel. How on earth do you just stop feeling that? It doesn’t make any sense to me. None of this does. And it never will.

Ever since losing my husband, people have been constantly asking me about finding someone new. Dating. Everybody has to know if I’m dating yet, or when I will be, or why I’m not yet, and if I’m not, maybe I should get on that immediately in order to make them all feel better or more comfortable or less awkward with my existence. I have been asked and probed rudely about the dating thing by friends, non-friends, co-workers, family, and total strangers. Never was the very fine line between the comfort of the widowed community and the return to the harsh, brutal world more clear than on my return flight from San Diego to New York, after spending a week in the understanding company of a couple hundred other widowed “family” members at Camp Widow. 

I was seated in the very last row, in the Aisle Seat, right next to the restrooms. Lines of people formed all around me over and over throughout the flight, as passengers rotated turns to get up and pee or take a crap, inches from my head. Everytime the toilet flushed, it sounded as if it was flushing inside of my eyeball. Seated next to me was a very young military wife and mother, all of maybe 24 years old. Next to her was a 6 year old boy, her son. She began striking up conversation with me, because we were both terrified of the bumpy takeoff, and shared a second or ten of bonding in our mutual fear of impending death upon crashing.

Our bonding time ended with the inevitable question that you always get from a stranger: Are you married? How I answer this question changes daily, depending on the situation, my mood, and what response I feel, at that moment, might cause me the least amount of pain and anguish. It’s a crapshoot though, because I rarely know or expect what people say to me, and therefore, I find myself with a dull ache in my side no matter how I approach this. For whatever reason, with this woman, I decided to tell her the truth. She is a military wife, after all. Maybe she understands a bit about life and unexpected death and compassion. WRONG! When I told her point blank that my husband died almost 2 years ago very suddenly of a massive heart attack, she didn’t even flinch, or offer up the ole’ Im so sorry for your loss. Nope. Instead, she launched into an endless lecture that had me wishing I had a parachute to jump out of this plane and away from this offensive horseshit I was being forced to listen to:

Two years and you’re not dating yet? Why not? I’d be so excited to meet people and go out! Oh you need to get yourself out there, girl. He ain’t comin’ back. I know some good clubs and places, I could hook you up with some hot guys. I’m serious. Gimme your number. You are lucky I’m not your close friend, cuz I’d be gettin’ on your ass for not movin’ on and finding someone else already. I’m very blunt and I tell it like it is.” 

I felt like saying: “You’re also an asshole”, but I was stuck on a 6-hour flight next to this clueless dummy, and suddenly the smell of other people’s poop didn’t seem nearly as terrible as being wedged next to this person who showed zero compassion or understanding for what my life might be like. When we arrived back in New York and at Baggage Claim, we both waited by the carousel for our things. As I spotted my suitcase and struggled to lift it off of the belt; she spotted her husband, in uniform, and ran into his loving arms, just like in the movies. He picked up their son and twirled him around, and gave them both kisses and hugs. They had each other, and I had Akmad or Rashim, who would be showing up in a taxi-service soon, so I could pay them to get me home.

Why is everyone so concerned with my dating status? Why the hell does a total stranger on an airplane care if I date people or not? What is with people? Do they think that if I find a new love, maybe get re-married, that I will finally be “over this?” That they will no longer have to worry about me, that I will no longer think about Don every single day, that he won’t be more than half of the puzzle that makes up my life? Don’t they understand that wherever I go, he comes with me? Whomever I love, he loves too? There might be a day in the future when I can see myself with “someone else” – but that day is not now. Right now, the idea of “someone else” makes me feel physically sick. It feels like I’m betraying him. It feels like I’m cheating. It feels impossible to me that I can be in love with someone else, when I am madly and deeply in love with my dead husband. I know, logically, that being with someone else is not betraying him. But as I said before, what I know has nothing at all to do with how I feel. And right now, I feel like my marriage and our promised time and years together, was violently pushed into an imaginary ocean where I can’t see it, and I dont know how to swim to it. It’s just gone, and I’m still here, trying to comprehend what to do with this massive and intense love that I have for my husband, who will never be able to hold me or laugh with me or love eating my dinners.

The other day, I was on a crowded subway going into the city, for my weekly grief-counseling appointment. A man who looked to be in his late 30’s, Latino, squished himself into the middle seat, right next to me. Again, just like on the airplane, I was trapped with another fool. The entire 40 minute ride into the city, this dude hit on me, and would not give up. In the last scenario, I told the girl the truth. This time, I decided that lying might be better. If I say Im married, it will make him stop. WRONG AGAIN! He pushed even harder.

Him: Where you going? You going to work? Play? Can I come with you?

Me: No. You don’t want to go where I’m going. 

Him: You give me your number? I take you out later, another time maybe? You very pretty. Let me take off my shades so you can see my eyes, so you can see Im attractive. (takes off) You see? I look good, right? 

Me: Uh-huh, you look amazing. I’m married. 

Him: Oh well that’s okay. Those things never work out the way we want them to anyway. 

Well, he is right about that, even though that is not how he meant it. But in the past 2 years since being without my husband, these are the types of people who approach me. These clueless, creepy, weirdos with no real sense of reality. And they always have that look on their face, like they are either a pedophile, serial killer, or chronic masturbater. The selection of male species that I encounter that seems to show interest in me, does not exactly inspire one to feel the need to “fall in love again.” Or even date again.

I’m not afraid to fall in love again. I am not ready right now, but I am not afraid of it. I will tell you what I am  afraid of though. I am terrified that nobody will want me again. I am scared that I will put my heart out there, and get rejected. I am fearful of developing feelings for someone, maybe another widower or someone who “gets” this life, and and having them not return my affection. I don’t want to look for love again, because I am scared as hell that I will never find it. I met Don by accident. Meaning, I wasn’t looking. It just happened. A music chat room where two people ended up talking about music for 5 hours, deceloped a friendship, then a relationship, then love. Neither of us were looking. It simply happened.

If I ever were to meet someone in the future, I have a strong feeling that it would “just happen” in the same sort of way. I really cannot imagine ever actively going out to seek it, or “dating” again. I did that shit in my 20’s, and it took me so long to find my person. I’m too tired to go through that again. I don’t want to live the single life. I just want to live my life, and maybe somebody will come along and want to live it with me. Maybe not. I dont know. But I really wish everyone would leave me the hell alone about it in the meantime. I have accomplished so many things in the past 2 years, things that I am proud of. But because I am not “with someone”, I am not moving forward? This is how people make me feel when they badger me about the dating thing. It’s offensive. I would like to be in love again, but I don’t need that to make me whole. I am whole. I do not define moving forward as being in a new relationship. Moving forward means you are living your life. Your new, complicated, painful, wonderful, joyful, difficult, hellish, sad, beautiful, precious life.

When I got off of the subway the other day, the guy who kept asking me out, followed me into the station. He asked me one last time if I would please go out with him, and I told him one more time, the lie that feels like the truth: I’m married. 

And he said, with absolutely no irony: “Okay then. Good for you. You’re doing the right thing.”

And I am. At least for now. I’m doing the right thing.