A Path Built on Love

BIG. LIFE. CHANGES.

I will be leaving NYC.

I will be leaving my apartment, my teaching job of 16 years (that one hurts), and the greatest city in the world – the only city I have known and called “home” for the past 26 years, since I was 18 years old and moved here from small-town Groton, Massachusetts.

I know this is the right decision for me at this time, and I know it is a decision and a choice that will bring better things to me and to my life – but that doesn’t make it any less sad or hard or heart-wrenching. What is keeping me sane and keeping me from crying my face off every second of the day in sorrow, is the knowledge that I have built a family here in NY – and that family will welcome me back, and NYC will welcome me back with open arms, whenever that might happen.

It has ALWAYS been a struggle living here. This city likes to make life impossible, and that “impossible” became excruciatingly harder when my husband died 5 years ago. It is SO much harder doing this alone, on one crappy income. The dreams that we had for our future, are much more realistically chased, when you have another person who can hold down the fort while you go on that audition – or who can work extra shifts and get you both through the summer, because you lost your summer job unexpectedly. So, I am not giving up on my dreams. NEVER. I am merely shifting them a bit in order to make them more reachable, for the life that I have today. I’m taking a slightly different route to get there. Let’s call it the scenic route. And it will be a terrifying, beautiful, and absolutely poetic adventure.

So where will I be going, you may ask?

I can finally announce and say with absolute confidence, that the book I have been off-and-on writing for the past 3 years, will be published and released, sometime in 2017. How do I know this? Because I have a plan. This will be my last semester teaching at Adelphi (again – still can’t talk about that without crying. Told my boss and friend of 26 years, Nick Petron, yesterday, and it was so emotional for both of us. Going to miss those kids/students like mad …) This year, when I go home to mom and dad’s for Christmas break, I’m not going to be returning to NY. Instead, somewhere around December 20th or so when the semester is over, I will be packing up a U-Haul one more time, with my 2 kitties and everything I own that I don’t choose to throw away – and driving it home to mom and dad’s house in Massachusetts. For the last 2 years, ever since I did the fund-raising campaign for the book, I have been super-stressed out about writing it and finishing it. When Im not working multiple jobs teaching, writing, directing shows, just to get by – Im STRESSING about NOT working, and trying to find work. I can’t write in a constant state of stress.

The portions of the book that still need to be written, is our love story. How we fell in love. Our dating life together. Our engagement. Our wedding. Our marriage. The highlighted beautiful moments that live in my heart. These parts must be written from a place of joy and happiness, and absolute hope. I can’t get to that place, emotionally, when the space around me is filled with stress. So I can’t write. And when I can’t write, I stress out about not being able to write, and I stress out that I OWE YOU PEOPLE A BOOK – all these beautiful people who donated and who believed in this book. All the beautiful people who continue to read and follow this blog page. I kept saying over and over these past couple years, that if only I could have a few months of sanctuary – where I could just write my book in peace and quiet – with NO worries of job or money or bills – then I could FINALLY get it done.

Enter my wonderful parents. My dad called me one night with an idea. Knowing that I have been feeling restless lately about NY, and about just wanting something different, and knowing that I want to finish the book desperately – he said: “Why don’t you come here and live with us – temporarily – for 3 or 4 months or however long it takes – with the specific intention and purpose and goal of FINISHING THE BOOK. You’d have your own room / home office to write in, your kitties can come with you and we will take them in, and no worries about bills or rent. Plus, you could see your niece and nephew more, and be home with family for awhile. You could treat it like your full time job. Get up 5 days a week, and just write, until its done. Once it’s done, then you decide what comes next, where you’ll end up, what you’ll do. Hopefully all of that will become more clear once your book is out there. It might open up new doors.”

As soon as my dad said these words, I could literally FEEL the stress slowly leaving my body, just at the mere thought of having the tranquil space and time and luxury of no job or bills hanging over my head – to write in peace. It made me feel so calm, and that is how I knew, it was the right decision. When something or someone gives you that feeling of peace and tranquility – that feeling of calm – it is my opinion that you should keep that thing or that person close to you, and bring that thing even closer.

So, I will be in NYC until late December, and then going home to complete the book. I’m guessing I will be there until March or April, but I’m not really going to worry about it. My goal is to finish it, and then continue down whatever path appears in front of me. There have been many signs pointing me toward Chicago lately, as a possible city for me to attempt life in for awhile – so that is a very big possibility. There also may be a specific gig / situation happening in Florida (another top secret thing I can’t talk about just yet – but if it happens – it would bring me to that state eventually), so I could end up in a number of places, and right now, I feel open to all of it. The future is in front of me, and the unknown path awaits.

I’m terrified. I’m anxious. I’m incredibly excited. And I’m ready.

I have no idea what’s going to happen next, but I’m following my intuition, my heart, and a path that’s been built on love. Isn’t that what life is all about???

Talking to the Echo

There is a space where my husband’s voice once lived,
a big empty hole that sits in the center of my hours,
my days,
my years.
It mocks me by following me wherever I go,
And it feeds off of it’s own nothingness,
Sipping on the hollow void,
A cruel silence where there used to be sound.

It follows me everywhere,
But it is most cruel whenever I try to be my creative self.
I can write something,
Perform something,
Shape something,
And in that creative process,
I still look into the air, thin as a wafer,
And ask my husband,
“How does this sound?”,
Or
“What do you think of this, Boo?”
There is a pause that lasts ten thousand years,
And then nothing.

Where he used to help me write,
And add his humor to my scripts,
There is nothing.

Where he used to sit in the crowd,
And clap loudly,
His big and wonderful laugh,
Being heard above all the others,
There is nothing.

Where he met me after the show,
Outside of the club or the theater,
Sometimes with flowers or cards in his hand,
Wearing his pride for me in the pupils of his eye,
Saying, “I’m so proud of you, Boo”,
Twirling and hugging and holding my hand,
There is nothing.

I can fight the nothing
With the opinions of other caring people
In my life.
My parents, my friends, my counselor.
Sometimes that helps.
But most times,
Try as they do,
They do not respond in the way that I am searching for,
In the way that I long for and need,
Or they arent always there,
At the ready,
Waiting to be the response
to words
that I speak.
That is what a partner does.
Partners are there,
And they say the thing that you long to hear,
And they make your ideas shine,
And they put the period on the sentence,
Or they suggest that maybe it needed a comma,
Instead.

The nothingness where my husband used to be,
Causes me to feel so much jealousy,
When I am forced in a room with couples,
With marriage or long-term partnerships,
And when I hear the literal words
Of a wife saying to her husband,
“Honey, what do you think of this?”
It is like a slow stab,
And it pierces my insides,
Silently,
While nobody notices.
And it hurts.
Oh boy, does it hurt,
To witness the simple thing,
Of somebody saying words,
And somebody saying words back.

The nothingness where my husband used to be,
Makes me needy,
Much more needy,
than I ever thought I would be,
than I ever wanted to be.
When I write blog posts,
like this one,
I need to hear and read the comments,
Or I feel worthless,
Like I am talking to that thin air,
Or talking to myself
Again and again,
And again.
My constant status updates,
On Facebook,
are a helpless and desperate plea,
to seek out connection,
and fill the gaping wound,
that cries,
in that space,
where my husband used to be.

It is almost like,
I need to fill that space,
With 200 comments,
A thousand voices,
To make up for that one voice,
I can never hear again.
And since none of those voices,
Are his voice,
And none of those people,
Are him,
It does not fulfill,
What I need fulfilled.
It helps.
It helps in the same way,
That throwing a raisin into a manhole
Would help to fill the space
Of that manhole.

But it hurts.
Oh boy, does it hurt,
Because nobody is him,
Nobody ever will be him,
Not ever again.

And I try to remind myself,
Or ask myself,
In those moments,
“What would Don say?”,
Or I will attempt
To hear him
And listen for his voice,
There to complete my sentence.
But there is no sound.
No feeling.
No hint of his essence.
And with each new moment of silence,
The memory of what he might say,
Becomes less certain,
And it drifts away in a rowboat,
Leaving me at the shore.

There is a space,
Where my husband’s voice
Once lived.
I cannot stare at it,
Or find it,
Because it is all around me,
But I feel it.
I feel the nothingness,
And this is why,
I am terrified of finishing things,
Of things ending.
Like when this book is finally written,
Printed,
Published,
And a box of them is sent to my door,
And I open the box,
And it is filled with my dreams.
Books that I can look at,
And touch,
And know that the words inside are mine,
And the stories inside are mine,
And I will look into that thin air,
And say out loud
To the nothing,
“Arent you proud of me, Boo?”

And yes,
I know he is proud,
But that is not the same,
As hearing him say it,
And instead,
Hearing the loud roar of silence,
That comes just seconds,
After my own shallow voice,
In a room filled with people,
Or alone,
Always alone,
Talking to the Echo.

F**k You, IKEA!

This past Monday, just two days ago, was exactly 22 months since Don’s sudden death. For most of this time, I have coped with my all-over-the-place emotions and often dark feelings by writing, writing, writing. Whatever I feel, I write. It’s a release. A grief purge. It helps. It hurts like hell to write sometimes, but it also helps. Except that recently, I havent been able to write. The last time I wrote in here was when I returned from Camp Widow. I felt so hopeful and filled with optimism. I felt so loved and understood, after spending a few glorious days surrounded by others who were exactly like me – where I never had to explain. The problem with Camp Widow, though, is that eventually, you have to come back home.

Lately, something strange has happened inside of me. A shift of sorts. All of the pain and all of the hurt and all of the grief and the loss and the heavy, weighted, intense emotion – has disappeared. Kind of the way that my husband disappeared from my life on that horrible, awful day. Except this is much different. My husband is never coming back. These feelings will be back. The sadness and emptyness and the fear will all be back, and I feel them right around the corner. Lurking. Scaring me. But for now – right now – they wait.

The only way I can think of to explain what is happening is that my heart is overwhelmed from too much hurt. 22 months of hurting is incredibly tiring, and, to put it quite bluntly, I just need a break from feeling all this pain. I’d like a month or two paid vacation from being a widow. Can somebody make that happen? About 6 months ago, one of my other widowed friends that I met in the small support group my grief counselor put together, told me that she tries not to think about her fiance – that she just keeps as busy as possible and doesnt like to talk about him or dwell on him too much or for too long. When I asked her why, she said “because it hurts too much.” At the time, I was shocked that anyone would feel that way. I couldn’t imagine not wanting to talk about my loss or my husband or our amazing, short life together. Not talking about him or honoring him felt like a betrayal, like I was pretending he never existed, like society seems to sometimes want for me to do.

 But now – now – I get it. Now, that same favorite wedding picture of us that I keep on my nightstand; the one where he is looking at me with such pride and love; the same picture that used to make me feel a sense of calm whenever I walked by it – now, I find myself ignoring it or flipping it over sometimes so I dont have to look at it. Sometimes I try and pretend that Im someone else, and that I never had a husband that I was so in love with, and that I lost forever. Sometimes it’s easier to act as if what I had never really happened. That maybe I imagined it all, and I can just put it away into a box and close the lid forever. Sometimes I cant look at our life together, because it did happen, and now it’s gone, and it will never happen again – and sometimes I need to shut down from having feelings about my wonderful husband, the love of my life – because it hurts too much to remember.

Mom and me at “The Sharing Network” Organ Donor Reception

So that is where I’m at right now, and when you are a writer by nature, like me, it is very foreign to not want to express everything that is inside of you by typing it out furiously for all to read. It feels so odd and so wrong that I no longer want to marinate inside of the hurt and sit with it. Im sick of sitting with it. I want it to go the fuck away. These past few weeks since returning from Camp, I would sit down to write, and nothing would come out. I never think about what Im going to write ahead of time. It just flows out of me, like water from a stream. But now, my mind and my heart and my brain are packed with too many things, and I have no focus. There is too much that has happened. Should I write about what it feels like to be told by your roommate, just 6 months after I moved in, that “we are not a good match”, and that I need to be out in 3 months? Write about how awkward it is to continue to exist in the same space as the person who basically said “you aren’t wanted here anymore” for 2.5 months? The sheer relief and exhaustion and fear of finding a new place and a new roommate and moving out of there with practically nothing of your own, no savings, no furniture, no security? The feelings of rejection and self-doubt that come from someone treating you like you’re not good enough? Maybe I should write about the “crash” feeling of living my reality after returning home from comfortable, safe camp. Or what it was like to attend a reception where Don was honored along with other organ and tissue donors for his gift of life. How my mom and I cried when we heard his name read or saw it printed along “The Wall of Life.” To know that a piece of him lives on, and his name will be there forever on that wall, yet I will never hold him again. There were too many things to write about, and whenever I get overwhelmed, my response is to do nothing. So I did nothing. I didnt write at all. Until now.

Wall of Life. His name is 4th from bottom.

My new roommate and I took a trip to IKEA last weekend so that we could begin the process of furnishing our new apartment. For me, specifically, I was in desperate need of a small computer desk, because up until now, I had been typing with my keyboard and monitor sitting on top of boxes and things. Now, my only memories of the hell that is IKEA, are from the apartment that my best friend Sarah and I shared together in Forest Hills about 14 years ago. I remember we bought, among other things, a tiny end table called “LACK”, and it lived up to it’s name in every sense of the word. We also purchased a small dresser for Sarah’s bedroom, which she was hoping to use to put her clothing and undergarments into. Well, since IKEA specializies in crushing people’s hopes and dreams, the dresser turned out to be about as large as a Weeble Tree House, and I think Sarah was able to fit her nailfile and one sock into the microscopic, horribly designed drawers.

For any of you who have not had the honor of shopping or buying from IKEA – you should know that almost everything you buy there has a sign that reads “some assembly required.” Anotherwords; what you are sent home with is a large cardboard box filled with endless screws, european pieces with names that you’ve never heard uttered or printed anywhere ever in your lifetime (it’s a Swedish company), instructions that have NO WORDS IN THEM but only pictures that involve lots of circles and big X marks drawn through things, stick figures of people with question marks above their heads, and endless arrows that lead to absolutely nowhere. It is a cardboard box filled with confusion and mind-games, that leaves you a baffled, frustrated, manic-depressive mess on your floor, screaming at the universe to please let lightning strike you now, so that you dont have to put this goddamn desk together. It taunts you and it laughs at you and it mocks you with it’s Swedish pieces with names like “divet”, that are supposed to somehow fit into other pieces that they never actually fit into at all.

An actual page from the IKEA “instructions”

So there I was – in my new bedroom – my new roommate away at work for the day – the pieces of my new, tiny corner desk and all it’s assembly parts scattered across my bed – trying to decifer and make sense of these directions. I think it was somewhere around the time that I saw the big square with the X through it, next to the other big circle with the square with an arrow through it, next to the smiling stick figure guy with a cartoonish-looking hammer in his puffy hand – that it really started to hit me. My husband, who was soooooo good at this kind of stuff, will never again be able to do this for me. He will never again take care of the stupid instructions that don’t make sense, or change the oil in my car, or check to see what that noise is in the other room, or find the mouse and get rid of it, or kill the cockroach without pause, or take out the smelly trash, or open the door for me, or hold his umbrella over me or give me his coat to wear when its cold, or make sure Im safe and lock all the doors at night, or send me a text to let me know he arrived at work safely, or hold my hair when Im puking and sick from a reaction to percacet. He would never do any of those things, and so many other things, ever again.

My IKEA desk, in pieces, waiting to be created. Cat not included. (although if he were, youd have to assemble him yourself.)

 Of course, I already knew this. I already knew that he wasnt ever coming back. But somehow – sitting there attempting to put together this stupid desk in this stupid new life that was forced upon me because of his stupid death – I really felt it. And suddenly, without warning, the emotional breakdown came. It wasnt the organ donation reception or the moving or the rejection from my ex-roommate or the sheer stress from the past few months of my life that brought me down. No. It was IKEA. It was those damn Swedes and their “do it yourself” furniture that finally did me in.

7 hours later, and with the help of a fellow widowed friend who very sweetly walked me through each step of the idiotic instructions on the phone, my task was complete. I now had a desk. And if anyone reads this and says some shit about how I should feel empowered because I did that all by myself and “Wow! Look at what you can accomplish all alone!” or any of that type of bullshit, please stop yourself right now. Because you just don’t get it. I was 28 when I met Don. I was 35 when I married him, and I was 39 when he died. For all of those years before meeting him, I did everything by myself. I moved out of my parents house when I was 18 years old, and came to NYC to become an actor/performer. So, I have had decades worth of “empowerment”, and by the time Don and I moved in together, I was so grateful and so ready to have this partner, this teammate in life, and to no longer have to do every goddamn thing by myself. Now I had help. Now there were two of us struggling through this mess called life instead of just one. Two of us to pay bills, get groceries, figure out the logistics. And then it was ripped away – just like that – and suddenly, I was back to doing every goddamn thing alone again. Im sorry, but when you have the right person, two is sooooo much better than one. It just is. There are just so many things in life that are so much harder to do alone, and so much easier to do with two of you.

 

The piece of crap desk that took 7 hours to put together and caused me to have a mental breakdown. Empowered my ass.

 

Parallel parking. Changing the litter in the litter box. Carrying a large box or other large items up the stairs. Having someone to shut the light off. Sit in the car when you have to double park it in a city or busy neighborhood. Brush the kitties teeth like the vet instructed. Clip their nails. Locate a foreign “thing” that appears on your body in a place where you cant see it. Scratch an itch on your back. Say your vows. Then repeat. It takes two people to look into each other’s eyes and feel love. Two people to make love. Two to dance a foxtrot at your wedding.

And it takes two people to figure out how the fuck to put together a crappy computer desk from IKEA. One to hold up the piece of wood, and one to screw in the weird-plastic-looking-screwy thing. One to decifer the picture instructions, and one to put them into action. One to light the match to set the whole damn thing ablaze when you finally lose your mind, and one to call the police and make it look like arson.

Congratulations IKEA. Because of your unbelievable incompetence and inability to create items or directions that humans with brains can follow, you have forced me to start feeling my feelings again. You have shoved the grief back into my life, much like you shove those divets into the holes that are way too small to fit them. Are you happy now, IKEA? Have you had your little fun with the widow? Good. Glad to hear it. You should know that your desk sucks and it’s a bit wobbly and thats not my fault. It’s your fault, cuz your furniture is questionable and shady on it’s best day. Fuck you. 

At least I finally have something to write about.