Cowardly “Friends”

People on social media are always passing around these stories about very old, married couples, who die within days of one another, at the age of 92 or something, because they simply could not live without the other person for one more second. “Isn’t that so beautiful?”, they ooohhh and aaahhhh. “She died, and then he couldn’t bear to be without her for even 48 hours, so he died too. It’s so sweet!” And yes, it is sweet.

However, why do people go all wacky for these stories about people they don’t even know, yet whenever I express how difficult it is to live my life without my husband on this earth with me; or say that, yes, I still miss him and love him and always will, and that I will move forward but never move “on”, and I will carry him in my heart and find ways to honor him because he is a part of me forever – some people get all uncomfortable and creeped out. Really? So if you’re 90 years old and about to die, then it’s sweet and wonderful and amazing. But if the love of your life is taken from you by sudden death when you are 39 and in the beginning years of your marriage, somehow it is strange that you would still be in love with this person who you were planning on spending your life with??? No. I’m sorry. I don’t buy it.

I am getting really tired of being constantly judged by people who have absolutely no clue what it is to lose your partner – no idea of the road I travel. Earlier today, some coward posted an anonymous comment on my comedy You Tube channel, calling me “sad” and “pathetic” because I’m “in love with someone who isn’t even alive anymore” and “still haven’t moved on from this.” They wrote, among other things, that it is really “unfortunate” what happened to me, but that “we all have problems” and I am “making this the focal point” of my life. They also said that they found it “tacky” that I would “use my husband’s death” to write a book and to “get material for comedy sets.” Yeah. It’s a damn good thing he died. Now I finally have some good jokes! Is this idiot serious?

Here is the best part: this person, who wrote these vile and nasty and off-base comments, claimed to be “a friend” who is “just looking out for me and concerned, and posting anonymously so you won’t be upset with me.” Right. Because why on earth would I ever be upset that someone would accuse me of using my husband’s death for some sort of – I don’t even know – gain? Honestly, it hurts and stabs my heart just to type that thought. This person’s comments on my page left me a bit shaky, and completely speechless. I just don’t get it. I truly don’t. I don’t get how a person can be so judgmental of a path they have never walked. I don’t understand why someone would go out of their way to write this to me – to hurt me on purpose that way. Why? What is the point?

The thing that baffles me the most, though, is how anyone can find the idea of loving someone until forever, to be sad and pathetic. I will love my husband forever. And if there is such a thing as longer than forever, I will love him then too. I will also do my best to create a life for myself and to live that life – a life that has been severely altered and changed by his death. The fact that I will love my husband beyond the end of time – is not sad. It is goddamn beautiful. It is beautiful to take something as horrible and painful as a death, and with it, carve out pieces of comedy and joy and raw truth and life and hope. I mean – truly – what is more meaningful and beautiful than that?

Tell me; should I leave my husband and our love and the life we had on a dusty shelf somewhere, pretending it never existed, because that makes YOU more comfortable? No. That is not happening. I choose to take the love with me. The person has died, yes. Our love will not die. Not ever. I get to carry the love with me. All of it. It is mine and it lives forever, echoing in each breathe. And when I die too – even when I die – the love that I have for my husband and the love that he has for me – will live on, even then. With love, there is no death. Only more love.

Alone. With You.

Losing the person you intended to spend your life with transforms you and alters you in so many ways. Since losing my person on July 13 of 2011, I can say with 1000% certainty that I am not the same human that I was on July 12th, 2011. I am broken open. I am torn. I am changed. It’s not all bad. I don’t like to look at these changes as being positive or negative, because it’s not that black and white. Nothing is. It’s simply a fact that when you face the tragic, early death of your life partner – you cannot walk out of that as the same person who walked in. Sure, there are many elements of you that make you who you are, and those are all still there – but many other parts of you disappear, change form, or emerge as if brand new. These new pieces of yourself take time to recognize and acknowledge, and they are probably still happening and still evolving with time. It is a re-birth of sorts, and it can be challenging and strange and hard.

For myself, just a few of the new “pieces” I have noticed:

I am a much more compassionate person. It’s not like I was some uncaring asshole before my loss, but now, I am so much less judgmental of other people and their situations or why they might do things or behave in certain ways, and I have so much empathy and compassion for so many others, that I just didn’t really think about before.

My patience ratio has completely altered in this “after” life. I have little to no patience for stupidity, ignorance, or judgmental people. On the other hand, I have so much more patience for things like traffic, long lines, and unexpected delays or things going wrong in general. These types of things used to annoy me on a much bigger level, and now, I am normally very calm and rather unaffected by these same things. My new brain just automatically goes to thoughts of: Accident up ahead. 45 minutes of stopped traffic. Someone might be dead, and someone else might be finding out that their person is dead. There are way worse things in life than traffic.

I pretty much breathe the words “I love you” to the people that I love, all the time. At the end of a visit or a phone call or a conversation, I will tell my family member or my friends: “I love you!” The newer friends that I have made in the widowed community – they all say it right back, because they have been changed in the same way I have. In my old life, I never would have thought to tell a friend “I love you” every single time I see them, but now, anytime I see anyone, I am very aware that it could be the last time I see them – ever. Morbid? Maybe. But that is how my new brain functions – the same brain that did not get to say goodbye or good morning or anything at all to her husband, who left for work one day while she was sleeping, and never came back. Each time I tell someone that I love them, there is a tiny fragment of me that hopes he is somehow hearing that I love him, too – and that I will keep saying it forever.

There are so many other changes that I could go on to list here, but the one very big transformation that I have noticed about myself, is the way I feel about going out vs. staying home, and how I choose to spend my time. In the first year or so after my husband’s death, I was still living in the small-ish and run-down New Jersey apartment that Don and I had shared for 7 years together. I will never forget the feeling I had each day and each hour after his death, being there, surrounded by things and “stuff” that belonged to a person that no longer breathed, and a life that no longer existed. I felt trapped, like I was being suffocated by loss and grief and sadness, and like the walls of our life that was gone were closing in on me and attacking me at every corner. It was awful. Those first few months and year, I did anything and everything to get the hell out of there for as many hours as possible each week. If I wasn’t at work, I was accepting the dinner and lunch invitations from my amazing support system of friends, or traveling to my parents house in Massachusetts for another weekend, just to escape those cruel and depressing walls. There were so many days those first 14 months or so, where I honestly didn’t see how I would survive this, because I just felt so damn depressed.

Then I moved out, and moved into a different apartment back in NY, with a roommate. Even though it was one of the hardest things Ive ever done, it made me feel lighter and more comfortable with just “being home.” I was able to control what things I held onto and kept that made me feel safe or comfy or that reminded me of him in a lovely and beautiful way, and I was able to remove all the things that made me feel like I was choking on death and sorrow. Once I did that, everything changed. Now, when someone asks me to go out socially and do something, my response is usually well thought-out, and changes depending on my mood that day or that hour. A year ago, the answer was always “Hell yes!”, because I did not like the feeling of being with myself and sitting with my emotions and pain and hollow, empty hopelessness. But now? Now, this new me that has begun to create a new sanctuary of safeness in my new apartment, will often times say “No thanks” to friends who want me to hang out. Sometimes, I enjoy the solitude. I need to be isolated and alone, so that I can recharge my emotional batteries, and be able to go out again and tackle the world. It is exhausting to be in a world where most people simply don’t understand you, and have no idea what you’re going through. It’s tiring to be constantly faced with families and marriage and retirement stories and vacation tales and children and new babies and new homes and new parents – all the things you will never ever get to have, because they all died on that morning that he died.

So, the new me carefully picks and chooses whom to spend my time with, and when I am in the mood to go out, or stay home. I am finding that, these days, staying home is often the much more appealing option. Perhaps it is because I am currently teaching all day, then directing a show that puts me in rehearsals 6 nights per week for the next month, just so I can keep paying my rent and keep surviving. Maybe it’s because my commute is a huge pain in the ass to get everywhere, so when someone asks me to hang out in the city on a weekend, all I think is: Subway to bus to subway – 2 transfers and a really long walk late at night – is this really worth it on my one day off? Or maybe it is because I am finally totally comfortable with feeling my feelings, getting them out when they need to come out, and sitting inside of the sadness, and the joy.

I love my family and friends with all of my heart, but there is something to be said about just spending some time alone, and being 1000% okay with that. When Don and I were together, he was more of the “stay home” type, and I was always the one who wanted to go out. He would go with me, and he loved socializing with our friends or seeing a movie together or whatever else, but he was incredibly content to just sit home most weekends, with nothing except his guitars, our kitties, the Yankee game, and me. Nothing made him happier than simply “hanging out” and not ever leaving the apartment. And now I know why. Now I feel the same way about being home.

The funny thing is, when I was in our apartment after he died, I couldn’t feel him close to me. I didn’t feel his presence. All I felt was the loss and the overwhelming pain of what was no longer there. I had to leave our home, and move someplace new, to be able to really feel him again. Because in the same way that saying I love you to friends is also saying it to him, being alone in my apartment is also being with him in our apartment – even though he never even lived here.

I don’t pretend to understand it. I’m just in awe of it.

On the Shelf

So here is something for your soul to snack on …

Other than my dad and my brother and a few really close friends that feel like brothers, I have not been held by or hugged by a person of the male species in 32 months. I have not been kissed by a guy in 32 months. I haven’t been told I’m beautiful, or been made to feel beautiful, by a member of the opposite sex, in 32 very long months. There has been no intimacy. No sex. Not even any serious cuddling. Nothing. Do I miss all of those things? Hell, yes. Of course I do. Who wouldn’t? But other than the normal missing of those things from time to time, when I actually have time to sit around thinking about it, mostly I don’t notice it. Mostly.

Is that normal? Is it normal that, for the most part, it doesn’t really bother me that intimacy and physical love is no longer a part of my life? Is it normal that I still have zero desire to seek any of this stuff out, especially if it means I have to be in a relationship with someone? (ewww!) Is it normal that even now, after 32 months of life without my husband, I still feel like “if I can’t be intimate with my husband, than I don’t want to be intimate at all?” It feels like being hungry. Like that feeling, when you have gone maybe the entire day without eating, and you get so hungry, that by the time you get home from your long day, you are so hungry, that you can’t focus on anything and you don’t know what to eat and nothing sounds good or satisfying – so instead of eating, you end up going to bed – and you almost forget that you were so hungry in the first place. That is how I feel with the physical and the intimacy stuff. Sometimes I really feel like I might need that very, very soon. But then, there is really no way for me to get that, without either being in a relationship or compromising my morals in some way – so I end up putting it out of my mind until the next time.

It’s weird, because I know the reality. It is not like I am tricking myself into thinking he is coming back or something. No. I don’t live in a fantasy world. I know he is dead, and I know that dead means dead forever. But even knowing this, I am still in that place mentally where I would rather remain in love with him, dead, than even consider or think about loving someone else, alive. Why do I feel like this? Is it because our love was so great and so special, that I fear it impossible to ever find such a thing again? Yes. Is it because I am terrified that I will never fall in love again, in that all-encompassing way, like I was in love with him? Yes. Is it because I am scared that I will fall in love again, and then he will die too? Yes. Is it because I am afraid that I will go searching for love again, and finally decide to open my heart, only to never ever find it, and have nobody ever love me again for the rest of my life?

Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. That’s the big one. That is the ultimate fear – that I will put myself out there, and nobody will respond. I will be standing in the middle of the ocean, and all I will see for miles around me is empty, foggy sky. I will be in a large, glass case – on display for all the world to see – my heart and soul broken into fragments from the sheer loudness of hearing: “Nobody will ever love you again. You had your one great soul mate. It is over for you. Give up. You are fat. You are old. The only men that will ever show interest in you are 70 years old, or total creeps. Stop being selfish. You have already had your one great love. You will grow old and die alone – your greatest fear.”

Yup, these are the types of fun, happy-go-lucky thoughts that go through my head on a semi-regular basis. So, instead of thinking about this stuff, I mostly try and push it away. I keep busy. I have loads of friends. I have a full life. Great family. Creative jobs such as teaching, writing, and directing shows – things that keep my brain and my soul happy. I try not to focus on or think about the fact that I’d really, really love to be held or kissed or comforted in an intimate way. Because once I start thinking about it, I won’t be able to stop. So I just put it away on a shelf somewhere. Put it over there, far enough away from me that I don’t need to see it or look at it. If I don’t look at it, then it’s not there, and that is the reality I am comfortable with right now.

Anything else is simply too frightening.

A Slow Climb …

Ever since losing my husband to sudden and unexpected death, good and unexpected things seem to happen for me on Mondays. I have absolutely no idea why. It started when I chose Mondays as the day to go see my grief-counselor, and it seemed to spiral from there. If I get good news of some kind, or have a realization during one of our sessions, or something amazing and great that I didn’t see happening, happens – it is usually on a Monday. My husband died on a Wednesday. Maybe the universe is buttering me up with lovely things on Mondays, so that it will somehow lessen the blow of horrific death and trauma that Wednesday mornings can sometimes still bring me. Who the hell knows. I just know that I love Mondays.

Today is no exception. Over the weekend, I entered a Writing Contest created by the wonderful magazine Authors Publish, the publication whose mission is to help, encourage, and inspire writers who want to get published. It is a great magazine, and they were holding a contest on their Facebook page, for writers. In about 50 words, those entering were asked to post when or how they knew they wanted to be a writer. The post/comment that received the most number of “LIKES” would be the winner, which was announced this morning. The winner gets their blog promoted/featured both on Authors Publish Magazine Facebook page, (which has 49,000 followers) and their online magazine (35,000 subscribers). I saw this contest, and since it seemed easy enough to enter, I did so on a whim. I never win stuff like this, so I didnt think much of it. And then, all of my wonderful friends and online supporters came through for me, and “liked” my comment, and put me in the lead for “likes” on the thread. However, since I am such a cynical person, I still didnt believe I would ACTUALLY “win” anything. I figured there MUST be some sort of loophole or something, that would render the entire thing useless and pointless and I would end up feeling like a huge jackass for even trying. And then, today, I saw this on their Facebook page:

I WON!!!! My comment got the most LIKES, and I actually won something!!! So if you are here at my blog for the first time due to this win and because you decided to check it out – Thank You!!! And also – welcome to my blog, and welcome to my world. I truly hope that you decide to take off your jacket and stay awhile.

Here is what I wrote for the answer to the question of “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?”:

For me, writing has always felt more natural than breathing. Then, on July 13, 2011, my world collapsed when my 46 year old husband of 4 years, had a sudden heart-attack and died. That night, I ran to my computer and started typing furiously. What began as his Eulogy turned into a blog, which morphed into a book, which will be released and self-published this November. Writing my pain and saying the truth about death, has been the catalyst for me wanting to begin to live again.”

Writing and comedy have saved my life and my soul over these past two and a half years. I really do believe that. There have been so many days when I just didn’t see any point in getting out of bed, or where I couldn’t figure out one reason on earth why I should continue to bother. What was the point, when the person I loved most in this world, was gone and dead forever and ever? During those times, having those dark thoughts – I would start instinctively writing down exactly what I was feeling, with absolutely no filter or censorship. Just total, 100% brutal honesty. After awhile, people began writing back to me. People started telling me how much my writing meant to them, or thanking me for saying the things they wanted to say but couldn’t find the words. I began to see how powerful and how emotional and connecting words can be. I began writing weekly for the Soaring Spirits blog “Widow’s Voice”, http://widowsvoice-sslf.blogspot.com, and also as the Humor Columnist at “Modern Widows Club Magazine”. www.modernwidowsclub.com. What started out as me writing my emotions down so I wouldn’t lose my mind, turned into something so much bigger and so much more important. It turned into the reason I am here. I think that the book I am now writing about grief and about our love story, will not be the end, but just the beginning. The beginning of more things to come, and more reasons to keep working on this whole “life” thing.

Here’s looking at next Monday …