The Champ

So let’s get right to it. For the first 3.5 years after my beautiful husband died, the very idea of dating or “someone else”, literally made me sick to my stomach. It made me feel physically ill, and I couldn’t even discuss it without having a slight panic attack. The idea of someone else talking to me, touching me, or being anywhere near me, made me want to vomit. That’s just the way it was, and I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I was in way too much grief to even come around to THINKING about how freakin’ lonely I was.

Then, around the beginning of year 4, there was a slight shift inside me, for no reason whatsoever, or because it was finally time for that shift to happen, that went from feeling physically ill – to feeling sort of “okay” with the idea, but still not willing to actively pursue anyone. Then, about 10 months ago, someone appeared out of the blue. This person was not pursuing me, and I was not pursuing them. But they appeared in such a way and at such a time that it felt like it was meant to happen. This person was not only a fellow widow(er), but also knew my husband. We started talking, and over time, building a budding and wonderful friendship. We met in person in March, and our connection felt more real, because now I could touch it. I could look into this person’s face, and in it, I saw not only kindness and a beautiful soul, but also being around this person face to face gave me this overwhelming feeling of protection and safety – like Don had specifically chosen this man to protect me, because he could no longer do it himself. The details of why I feel this way don’t matter here, because I want to protect this person’s privacy, but the time we spent together over those few days was meaningful, beautiful, and the perfect mix of familiar and brand new, all in the same moment.

When I returned home, I was very excited about this connection. Several people, even total strangers, told me over and over again that I was glowing, asking me point blank: “Have you met someone?” I thought the answer was yes, because when I left this person, we seemed to be on the same page as far as continuing things at a turtle’s pace – but as it turns out, this person is nowhere near ready for a relationship or commitment of any kind. This person is not in a place, emotionally, to move forward with me. He is very aware of how I feel, and he agrees that there is something between us, but now is not the right time. So, we continue to be wonderful friends, and I have chosen to trust in the outcome, and to have faith in the possibilities and potential of what we might become. I’m kind of a romantic like that. Plus, I really do feel this is coming from my husband Don, and he would never steer me wrong. He has sent me sign after sign after sign, that this is him who sent me this person. And I am listening.

Meanwhile, the act of spending time with this person and going out with them to dinner and breakfast and many other things and places – it gave me just a tiny taste of remembering what it’s like to have that special person in your life again. It reminded me what it’s like to spend time with someone who thinks you are special or pretty or who holds the door open for you or kisses your hand and forehead. (Seriously – who does that??? This amazing guy, that’s who.) When I got back home, I started to think to myself just how much I MISS all of that in my life. Having someone to do things with on weekends. Go to dinner with. See a movie with. Holding hands. All of it. So, in a conversation with my incredibly smart friend, she suggested that while this person that I very much care about can only be my friend right now and nothing more, that perhaps I would be a better friend to HIM, if I were getting my own needs met elsewhere; i.e; going out on a casual date now and then. Perhaps if I could have that back in my life again here and there, I would be more content, and therefore, not be pushing my friend to go places he isn’t ready to go right now. This seemed like the most insane idea in the world to me when she suggested it, but the next day, I got an email from a popular dating site, offering one month free membership. Next thing I knew, I was creating a profile and putting up my pictures. That was about 4 weeks ago.

And let me tell you, the past four weeks have been a complete shit-show. (one of my dead husband’s favorite terms, so I figured it was appropriate here.)

Here is what I have learned in four weeks:

Dating sucks. Dating on dating sites sucks even more. The last time I “dated” was decades ago. As in, the mid 1990’s. NOTHING is anywhere near close to the same anymore. First of all, nobody speaks to one another. Nobody knows how to have a conversation. People no longer talk on the telephone. They text. As in, right away. And if you ask them to speak on the phone, they type back in a little box that they “dont have time for all that.” Really? But you have time to sit here and type back and forth like robots? The way this particular site works is that it shows you pictures and profile info about a member, then you click YES or NO on if you’d like to chat with them further. If the feeling is mutual and you both want to talk, the chat box opens up and you can type back and forth. The purpose of this is to keep everything anonymous and safe at first, so you can chat within the confines of the site without giving out phone numbers or even names until you are more comfortable. (most members use a screenname instead of their actual name.)

At first, only seconds after I joined, I was feeling a bit cocky and good about myself, because I was getting a BOATLOAD of chat requests. “Well this isn’t so bad”, I naively thought to myself. Then I started clicking on them. This is when I quickly realized that this was going to be a train-wreck of epic proportions. Here is just a short sample of a few of my first day chat conversations. And no, I am NOT exagerrating or joking. These are 100% real. Names have been changed, obviously. Everything else, real:

John: Hey gorgeous

Me: Hi there, how are you doing today?

John: I’ll be better when you’re pressing those titties on my face.

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Greg: Hey Darlin … sup???

Me: Doing okay tonight, how about yourself?

Greg: I don’t have time to talk on here. Here’s my digits. Hit me up right now 714-6**-****. Ill be waiting.

END CHAT. (this was 90% of the chats. They DEMAND your number or demand to give you theirs IMMEDIATELY.)

Carlos: Hey baby, I love brunettes. You got nice curves too. Any chance you are kind of bossy and could boss me around and tell me what to do, insult me a little?

Me: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN, YOU LOSER!!??? I’M NOT BOSSY!!! NOW LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!!!

Carlos: Oh yeah, that’s so hot …..

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Tom: Hey Sweetie. Love your long hair. I hope you don’t have any of that going on below though. I like my women to be nice and clean , totally shaven. Hit me up (phone #)

DELETE AND BLOCK.

Yeah. WOW.

That is just a small sample of the moronic crap I’ve been dealing with the past few weeks. Most of these people, as you can see, just want something sexual, with someone they don’t even know at all. Then there is the category of men who chat with you, call you on the phone, have a number of nice conversations with you, and then completely disappear forever with zero explanation. This happened to me with 3 different people I was talking to.I am told by others that all of this is “normal”, and that you have to weed through all the crap in order to get to the good and decent guys that are supposedly on these things. It’s sort of like shopping at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. You gotta spend 3 hours rummaging through 18 racks of awful clothes to find one pretty good pair of jeans.

There are no manners in today’s dating world. No class. No sense of building a foundation of some kind. No courtship of any kind, which is disappointing, because I really do love romance and courtship. The person I met a couple months ago is such a true gentleman, and I absolutely love that. He doesn’t realize just how rare and special he is, but I do, especially now. Today’s dating world is thoughtless. Just mindless and pointless texting that leads to more nothingness. The whole thing is extremely depressing. And just when you think you MAY have found a decent one, you still haven’t. There was one guy who seemed normal, sweet, and we had a nice long chat online. He gave me his number and I called him, and we had a nice phone call too. Our phone call was not sexual in nature by any means, but after we hung up, he sent me a text telling me how sexy my phone voice is. I said thank you and left it alone. Then, two minutes later, he sent me a long-winded voicemail where he basically “got himself off” while describing all the things he would do to me. I WASN”T EVEN ON THE OTHER END OF THE PHONE!!! Later, he left another one. In this one, he referred to his penis, several times, as “The Champ.” As in, “The Champ is so ready and big for you right now. The Champ is monstrous. The Champ is standing at attention.” Finally, I texted him back and told him that “The Champ” would be getting a call from the police soon, if he didn’t stop leaving me these sick voicemails. He stopped. “The Champ” finally threw in the towel.

And then there was my first date. An actual human male that I met for drinks and dinner in person, a couple of weeks ago. We had talked in the mindless chat box, then on the phone twice, and he lives local-ish, so we agreed to meet up in the city at a Cuban restaurant. The evening was nice, but there was no spark between us. It had a friendship vibe, but we laughed and talked and had a seemingly nice time. I would give it around a B- if I had to rate it. At the end, we hugged each other goodbye, and I got back on the subway to come home. In that moment, all I could think about was how if this was my friend that I met in March, he would have been a gentleman and made sure he put me in a cab home, would have made damn sure I got home safely. This guy held the doors open for me at the restaurant, but it didn’t feel genuine. It felt like he was showing off. By the end of the night, once he realized in his own head that he wasn’t into me or that he wasn’t “getting any” or whatever, all the “gentleman-like” behavior stopped. By the end of the night, he was over it.

The next morning, I woke up, and I decided to leave him a message on the site just thanking him for the date and saying I had a nice time, and maybe we will do it again some time. You know, because that is what a polite person does. A few minutes later, I received this message response:

“I will not be seeing you again. I do not date fat girls. You do not look fat in your pictures on the site, but you are fat in person. And I don’t go out with fat girls. Bye.” When I tried to respond back, he had made his account so that I could no longer reach him. He had disappeared with no explanation, as these men seem to like to do.

I was crushed. Not because I give a shit what he thinks – I didn’t really even like him. I was crushed because this is what is out there for me. Crushed because some men are so shallow and mean. Crushed because I didn’t want to do this in the first place, and it was supposed to be fun, and I was supposed to have a lighthearted and fun time with it. Crushed because talking to these idiots and trying to navigate these stupid conversations and figure out what their agenda is and who is being honest and who is going to disappear after a really nice conversation – is really exhausting and not what I want to be doing with my time. Crushed because I’m 44 years old, and I am so tired of being alone. Crushed because NONE of this would be happening, if my husband wasn’t forever and always DEAD.

On my drive to work that morning, just an hour or so after this had happened, I spoke to my friend on the phone. I had to pull over to talk to him because I was sobbing and felt like I was having a panic-attack. I told him what had happened, and told him about why I’ve been doing the dating site thing, and how none of these clowns even come close to the true gentlemen and beautiful soul that he is – and he listened and he said all the right and supportive and lovely things that a good friend should say. And it was the most real and meaningful conversation I have had in weeks – just sitting there pulled over in the car, talking with my beautiful friend – which is right where I wanted to be in the first place.

Love after loss is not for the weak of heart, folks.

Strap yourselves in. It’s going to get extremely bumpy.

(YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME AND APPRECIATED.)

Slight update: Since that awful first date experience, I have talked with and met one really nice guy through this dating site stuff, and we had a really nice time together and will probably hang out again at some point. I have also been talking with a couple others that are very nice people, and it’s been interesting, to say the least. My friends and family keep saying how “proud” of me they are, for “getting out there again”, for trying this, for daring to open my heart again, and for not waiting around for someone who isn’t ready, and instead, putting myself first and getting this dating thing out of my system.

But the truth is, its extremely exhausting. The truth is, I’d rather be talking to my friend on the phone, than going out with most of these people, or spending time trying to navigate all of this. I’m not sure how much more energy or time I really want to devote to this little project. It was supposed to be fun – a way to just be part of the social dating world again for awhile and feel human again and loved again, because I’m finally ready for that and longing for that. And because the person that I want those things WITH isn’t in a place to be able to do that with me, so I’ve been trying to find pieces of that magic in other places. But the truth is, you can’t re-create magic. What I have with this person, is special between US, and will remain between us. I won’t find pieces of that by looking for it somewhere else. So I’ll just have to hold onto it and keep on keeping the faith that one day this person, who is most likely reading this right now, will realize that I AM FUCKING AWESOME, and he should just be with me already because life is really fucking short and why not help each other through it and have some joy within our pain. In the meantime, this dating stuff is starting to feel like work, and I’m not even getting paid for it. It really is like shopping at a flea market or yard sale, and I always hated yard sales. Too much junk.

All I wanted was to go out now and then on a Saturday night, and have a date and be treated nicely and have that feeling of slight euphoria when you come home, at the thought of something new. It doesn’t have to mean anything or go anywhere, except just two people who are hanging out together, because they are tired of sitting home alone with their cat. Is that really too much to ask for? Apparently, it just might be. I wanted this to be SIMPLE. But nothing about dating in today’s world is simple. It is cruel, dismissive, and thoughtless.

And people wonder why so many people drink. Or eat cake.

I’m gonna need a lot of cake to deal with these clowns.

Tribute to My Mom on Mother’s Day …

When you are a little girl, and if you are lucky enough to have the kind of mom that I have, your mom is your protector. You look to her for support and comfort and answers. You watch what she does and how she does it, and you want to be like her. If you have the kind of mom that I have, she encourages you to be like yourself, and to be who you are.

When you are a little older, in your teenage years, you suddenly find yourself pushing away from your mom. Something inside of that adolescent and rebellious body wants to yank that mom away, because you are striving to be independent, and you don’t want to feel like you need her. You watch what she does and how she does it, and you do the opposite. If you have the kind of mom that I have, she is hurt by this, but she understands that it is necessary in order for you to become who you truly are. So she steps back, and waits.

mom seventies

When you are old enough and you decide to leave your small town life and attend college for theatre and live in NYC, she is sad that you are leaving and that you will now live 4 hours away. But this is not what she focuses on. Instead, she takes you on a trip to NYC to look at colleges, and to make sure that this is really something you want and something you can handle. She comes to all of your plays and visits often. She encourages you to live your dreams, and tells you she is proud of who you have become.

When you are 35, and you have fallen in love and decide to marry the man that you plan on sharing the rest of your life with, your mom supports your choice to have the wedding in New York, and she co-officiates it, and finds a seamstress friend of hers to make your original “Christmas, silver-toned” wedding gown. She fixes your veil about 45 times in a row, when it keeps falling off in the wind, and she doesn’t mind at all when you finally say that you hate the veil and don’t want to wear it anymore. She takes in your husband like a second son, and makes him part of the family – the kind of family that he never got to have growing up. She makes him his favorite meals on his birthday, and wraps up gifts in a stocking for him on his first Christmas with you, and dances the “mother-son” dance with him on his wedding day, because his own mother is too dysfunctional to attend. She spends the next four and a half years loving you, as she always did – and loving your husband, as if she always had.

mom shower carmines

When you are 39, and you wake up one horrific morning to find that you are suddenly widowed, your mom is your rock. Your breath. Your sanity. She is the first phone call you make, when the nurses hand you the phone in that tiny, private room where your world changed forever. She is stunned into silence, and she is in her car immediately, driving the 4 hours to get to you, so that you don’t have to be alone for any longer than a person should be. She holds down the fort at your apartment, and handles the chaos and the fog of friends and people that fill the living room, not knowing what to say or do. She becomes the buffer that they talk to while you run into the bathroom, run the shower water, and sob. She stays with you in your apartment, so that you don’t have to face that first – or second – or third night, alone, with the knowledge that he is not coming home. She puts aside her own pain in order to let you feel yours. She is your protector. You don’t know how to walk or breathe or speak anymore, and so , just like when you were a little girl, she shows you. She allows you to become who you are, all over again.

veil

In the coming weeks and months and years after the death that rocked your universe, she helps you put the pieces of your life back together. She tells you over and over that you always have a home there in Massachusetts, with them. When you tell her that you NEED to stay in New York and pursue your dreams, now more than ever, she supports you and worries about you and tells you she is proud. She never tells you how to feel, and never tells you to “get over it” or that it’s “time to move on.” In fact, she often says: “I cannot imagine how you feel.” She reads everything that you write so that she can attempt to understand better how you might feel. She thanks the friends and family that have stuck by you, and comes to your defense against those that haven’t. She never judges you, or tries to change your mind or heart on how you need to process and feel. She doesn’t take it personally when you decide it is too painful to spend your first, or second, Christmas with the family – the way you had done for years. She is probably hurt by this, but she understands that this is necessary in order for you to become who you are now – and she comprehends that you will never be the same person that you were, before you lost “your person”, to death. She does whatever she can to help you, and she understands that sometimes, she simply cannot help you.

I am writing this today, not only to let you know how much I love you and how aware I am of what a beautiful mom I have, but also to show you how much you HAVE helped me. Thank you for being the kind of mom that promotes these kinds of words. Thank you for always supporting me in becoming the person that I needed to become, and then become again.

mom

COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME AND SO APPRECIATED.

Prince Died and I Can’t Tell You Because You are Dead Too

When the person you thought you would spend your whole life with is dead, there’s this weird thing that happens each and every time a person of fame or celebrity dies. It kind of goes something like this:

“Holy Shit! Prince died! I have to tell Don, he LOVED Prince! Oh, shit. I can’t tell Don that Prince is dead, because Don is dead too. Well, FUCK!!!!! ”

It is an odd feeling to crave and long to share the death of someone else, with your husband, but then realize over and over, that you can’t, because he is also dead. And then you start to wonder weird things, like, does he already know that Prince is dead? Maybe he knew way before I did. Maybe his Purple energy showed up somewhere nearby my husband’s energy and their energy hung out together. I don’t know if I believe all this stuff people say about them “playing guitars together in Heaven”, or anything like that – it just seems rather silly. But I do know that energy exists forever – it cannot be destroyed and it cannot end – so if we are made up of energy, and energy lives on and on, then Don is energy, and he is somewhere. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know that on some level, it helps me to keep going when I tell myself that.

So maybe Prince and his genius mind and musical talents have somehow met up with Don and his passion for all things guitar. Maybe their souls are chatting, if souls can do such things. Actually, I know souls can do such things, because Don’s soul has chatted with me many times. So who the hell knows what goes on after we die? I do not pretend to know such things. I just know that whenever someone dies here on earth, I always long to tell my husband. To share in the experience of processing their death, together. And each and every time it happens, it always feels weird to me that I can’t share it with him. There are so many weird things about loving someone who is dead. This is one of the weirdest.

Also, the way that we, as a people, treat a celebrity or icon’s death, is so very strangely different than the way we treat a civilian death. I always LOVE what immediately happens when an artist of some kind dies – people start collectively sharing every single thing that artist has ever done. They share it on social media, from their phones, their computers, posting links to all of the massive talent everywhere and anywhere, sharing it with the world. Eventually, people find long lost clips of this artist, and they share those too. Longtime fans of this person bask in the memories of their talent, while newer and younger people become fans for the very first time. This artist is remembered in the healthiest and most beautiful way possible – by sharing the legacy of what they left behind. It is in this way, that a true artist never dies. They live on for generations, through their albums, movies, videos, dance routines, songwriting, epic guitar shredding, and whatever else. This is a beautiful thing that people do. Sharing with the universe, and keeping these people alive forever.

So why on earth do people NOT allow us to do this same thing with people we love who have died, people who are literally a piece of our very soul? Why is it that it’s perfectly acceptable and normal and celebrated, to share the work of famous people who have died, and share their legacy – but when a widowed person shares a photo or a memory or anything at all about their spouse – they are told to “move on”, or made to feel as if they should put those pictures away. They are shamed into thinking that remembering and honoring the person who was their very heart, is somehow wrong and unhealthy, and that they must not be grieving properly if they can’t let them go by now. There have been so many times where I have shared a photo or a memory or even written a blog post about my dear husband, and some person who knows next to nothing about losing a spouse and knows nothing about my life, feels the need to condemn me or give their baseless opinion about how “unhealthy” it is to be sharing that stuff. Really? Is it unhealthy to love your person forever into eternity? Is it unhealthy to make damn sure they are never forgotten by the world at large? Is it unhealthy to live your own life in honor of theirs, and in honor of the love you will always and forever share? I don’t think so. I think it’s goddamn beautiful.

We, as a society, should be embarrassed at the ways in which we make people who are grieving feel. If you have shared video links of Prince or David Bowie or anyone else famous who touched your soul and recently died, yet you are uncomfortable or judgmental toward someone who shares pieces of the person they lost who died – you should be rethinking your behaviors. Everyone leaves behind a legacy. The ones who are famous just get seen on a larger level. But everyone is a legacy to someone. Just because a person isn’t known to the world, doesn’t mean that perhaps they were someone else’s world. And that person wants to share them with the universe, so that their soul stays alive forever. When the people we love die, that is all we have – our memories, and that eternal soul connection. Our relationship with that person continues on a soul level, and that literally means everything to us. Don’t ever take that away from someone.

Keep sharing the people you love who died.
Share them with the world, and NEVER be ashamed.

RIP Prince – legend of guitar, innovation, and beautiful lyrics.

“I feel like Im looking for my soul,
like a poor man looking for gold.”

“When the day turns into
the last day of all time,
I can say I hope you are
in these arms of mine.

And when the night falls
before that day,
I will cry.

I will cry tears of joy
cuz after you,
all one can do,
is die.”

“In this life,
Things are much harder than in the after world.
In this life,
You’re on your own.
And if the elevator tries to bring you down,
Go crazy, punch a higher floor.”

– PRINCE

(COMMENTS ARE SO WELCOME AND APPRECIATED)

Sit With It

Someone else.

For three years and a couple of months now, those words and that concept has been one that I simply cannot deal with or even picture. For 3 years, the very idea of someone else, someone other than my husband who I’m supposed to grow old with decades from now, sent me into instant panic. It still does. It still makes me shake and feel like maybe I’m coming down with something. In the beginning, and for maybe the first 2 years post-loss, whenever anyone even mentioned me possibly thinking about “dating” again or “getting back out there” or any of those other cliche and expected things put upon me, I would instantly feel sick to my stomach. The very concept of someone else literally made me sick.

Not too much has changed in 3 years. I no longer feel physically ill at the mere mention of a non-Don human coming my way, but now it is more of an extreme intense sadness. About a month ago, my grief-therapist innocently asked me in session: “So how are you doing with the whole relationships thing? Have you thought about it at all?” I started sobbing. Just instant sobs. Another time, more recently, she asked me if any “opportunities” had come my way, and how I felt about it if they had? Again, sobbing. She looked almost shocked, which is rare, and like she truly felt empathy for me and didn’t know how to help. She just said: “Wow, this topic is really loaded for you, isn’t it? I think it might be a very long time before you are ready to even be able to consider this as a possibility in your life. And that is totally okay. Don’t let anyone push you. You aren’t ready. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be one day. Just sit with it for now.”

Okay. Sit with it. She says that a lot. At first, it kind of annoyed me. Sit with it. What the hell does that even mean? But now I get it, and I actually sort of like it. It means I don’t need to be ready to move forward in this particular area right now, and that I will be ready whenever I’m ready. So don’t stress over it – just let it marinate inside your heart for awhile. Sit with it.

So that is what I have been doing. The problem is, when it comes to the concept of “someone else,” everyone else on earth seems to have an opinion and a judgment about it. Not only that, but people of the male variety have been approaching me a lot lately, asking for my number, talking and flirting with me out of nowhere, and generally making themselves known to me. This is very foreign to me. I was married for almost 5 years, and before that, I was with Don for an additional 8 years or so. So for about 13 years, I was with Don. And then he died. And now, it seems, the way that guys approach women has changed severely. Lots of times, I will be walking home from the subway, and a guy will just appear out of nowhere, and start having a conversation with me. “Hey what’s up? Are you single? Can I have your number? “, and that sort of thing. I really don’t understand this. Is it a NYC thing? Is it a modern-day thing? Or am I just running into lots of extremely aggressive men, over and over again? And the thing is, with 95% of these men that come up to me, they are not the kind of men that I would ever be interested in. Lots of them happen to be weird-ish or just too aggressive for my liking, or tilting on borderline creepy.

However …

One night, about 2 months ago or so, I was walking home from the subway in my very busy neighborhood in Queens, and I was about maybe 7 blocks from my apartment, when a man seemed to appear out of nowhere and started a conversation with me. “Hi”, he said. “Hi,” I said back, as if it was normal this person was talking to me so casually. He continued walking with me and having small-talk. His existence threw me off a bit, because he was, in many ways, very Don-like. He was wearing some kind of security uniform, which was blue, and looked a lot like my husband’s old EMS uniforms. He had dark hair like Don, and he was wearing a Mets hat, which I immediately mocked him about. “Mets? Really?” He playfully mocked me back about the Yankees jacket I was wearing, and before I knew it, we were only a block from my apartment. I made the decision in my head to tell him I was stopping at the Dunkin Donuts that is on that corner, because I did not want a total stranger knowing where I live. So we stopped, and he said: “Can I pleaase have your number?” I told him no, that I didn’t think so. He said: “Are you single? Cuz if you’re not single, I’ll leave you alone.” I said: “It’s complicated. ” He said, in a kind of funny way: “What’s complicated about it? You’re either single or you’re not single. Which is it?” I said: “My husband died 3 years ago, and I’m just not anywhere near ready for giving out my number and things like that.”

It just sort of came out – me telling him that. He was the first guy that had approached me that didn’t give me a creeper vibe. He said, very sincerely: “I’m really sorry. That is awful. I’m going to just write down MY number and give it to you, and this way if you feel like talking or just wanna get some coffee, you can call me.” So he gave me his name (Stephen), and his number. He said he lived right here in the neighborhood and works as Security in the local Mall, and I said some crap about how maybe we will run into each other again sometime. Non-commital. Vague. Weak.

We parted ways, and I walked around the corner and dissolved into hysterical sobs, right there in the open, autumn air. It affected me for days afterwards. I kept crying over and over. Crying because I’m not ready. Crying because I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. Crying because I don’t WANT to have conversations with strangers on the street and have to try and decide whether they are sane or not – I want my husband back. Crying because the fact that this person is talking to me and asking me out, means that I can’t just “sit with it” forever. I can’t just put “relationships” on a shelf somewhere and pretend that I no longer need that. I can’t just keep myself super busy with life and friends and work and creative things, and hope that I never notice that it’s been years since being intimate with someone or being someone’s priority. Crying because the world moves much faster than what I feel ready for. Crying because I miss my husband, and talking to a perfectly nice guy for 10 minutes, does nothing but put a huge exclamation point on that fact.

So two months went by. I didn’t think about it much. I did not call him or even think about calling him, honestly. Then last night, I was walking home again from the subway, after a super long day working and then some fun with friends in the city, and suddenly I hear from behind me: “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey Yankees! Yankees!!! Hey Yankees!” I turned around, and he is running after me, to catch up to me. I am a block from my apartment, on my street. I stop. He says: “Sorry to yell out Yankees like that. I don’t know if you even told me your name last time. Do you remember me?” “Hi Stephen”, I said. We did the small-talk thing again for a few minutes, and then he said: “So you gonna give me your number this time?” Again, I said no. As nice as this guy seems, I dont know him. What if he is some stalker who won’t stop calling me months from now when this all goes haywire? What if he sends me a “dick pic?” (that’s what people are doing these days, right?) What if he wants to start “sexting” from our cell phones? No. No, no, no, no, no. I just cannot live in that world. So again, he wrote his number down on another piece of paper, and we left it at that.

And now, I am not sure where to go from here. He seems like a nice person, and what could it hurt having a cup of coffee with someone? Then again, a guy who randomly approaches strangers on the street must have issues. The whole thing is just odd to me. And why me? Why did he pick me to approach? Both times he stopped me, I looked like absolute hell, so it can’t be that I was just so alluring and gorgeous that he HAD to talk to me. It doesn’t feel like it’s a match of any kind. I didn’t feel any “spark” or anything like that with him. He was simply a nice person. There is a small part of me that wonders if Im supposed to have coffee with this dude for some reason – because now it is TWICE that I have run into him this way. I don’t know. I am not ready for any of this. I really don’t want to be a widow anymore, and I really hate the reality that I am now “single.” I am not quite sure what to do with this place that I find myself in.

I suppose I will just have to sit with it.

Philip Seymour Hoffman – What a Waste

“How could he be so selfish? He had a wife and 3 kids. Didn’t he care at all about them? Why would he throw it all away to do drugs? Life gave him everything. He had money, opportunity, talent. He had it all, and he still chose to do heroin anyway. Why didn’t he just stop? What a waste.”

Pretty harsh, right? Yeah. Just writing it and then reading it back gave me shivers. I didn’t really feel how cold and judgmental and superior the above thoughts sounded, until I wrote them out and then sat back and read my own words. Yes. These are my words. My thoughts. Well, sort of. These are the thoughts of the “old me” – the one that existed before July 13, 2011 – the early, earth-shattering morning of my husband’s sudden death. If actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death had occurred back then instead of now, the words typed above would have been some of the very first thoughts that popped into my mind. Of course, the “old me” wouldn’t have been brave enough to share thoughts like that, so instead, I would have jumped on the much easier bandwagon of posting careless and borderline cruel jokes about the famous person’s shocking and untimely death. The comedian in me would have been pining away for that best tweet or that most shared Facebook status of the day, ending, of course, with a very sincere #RIP so-and-so. And although my joke of choice would not have been of the cruel type, (mean-spirited humor has never really been my thing) it still would have been my only immediate instinct – to post a silly pun about it, get a cheap laugh, and make it go away. After a day or two of posting my favorite clips online from some of Hoffman’s best acting roles, and saying to other friends in a concerned whisper: “Can you believe it? He was only 46 years old!”, I would have then, very quickly and without much confetti or fanfare, proceeded on with my otherwise self-involved, naive little life.

It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know anything at all about hurt or loss or death. I didn’t know that one second I could be ecstatic and in love and planning our life together, and the next second, riding in a taxi cab on my way to being told by the E.R. nurses and doctors at the hospital, that my very healthy, paramedic, 46 year old husband suffered a massive heart-attack an hour after arriving at work, and that he didn’t make it. I didn’t know that in one moment, the word future would be replaced with the phrase “What the hell just happened to my life?” I didn’t know that losing my spouse would transform every cell in my being, and that it would change every single thing, forever. I didn’t know the first thing about being a 39 year old widow. I didn’t know that there was a pain this deep, this all-consuming, this frightening. I didn’t know that my husband’s death would cause me to not want to be alive any longer, and I didn’t know that it would take so long to no longer feel that way. So please forgive me, universe, for my past behaviors. I didn’t know a damn thing.

Until, of course, I did.

The thing about knowing something that you didn’t know before, is that once you know it, you cannot unknow it. It is impossible. Instead, it sits inside of you and it alters the way that you see the world around you. For me personally, once the shock and fog of my own pain finally began to lift some, I could suddenly see and feel all of the pain that others held in their hearts. Where there used to be judgement, there is now compassion. Where there was assumption, there is now empathy. Where there was celebrity, there is now human being. In my “before” life, I saw the death of someone like Philip Seymour Hoffman as the death of a famous person. In my “after” life, he is just a person. He is a person struggling and crawling and wailing and guessing through life, like all of us. He is a person with addictions, and unless you are a person with addictions yourself, you cannot possibly comprehend the hell of that particular demon, and the control and the hold that it must have over you. This person, this extremely talented and flawed and real person- had been clean and sober from drugs for 23 years. And then, just like that – he wasn’t. I am not an expert on addicts, but to me, that says a lot about how fragile the world of an addict has to be. I would imagine it is something like living your life inside a house of cards, just always waiting for that one card to topple over and ruin all your hard work. A simple gust of wind, an unexpected emotion, or even something as ordinary as a doctor’s prescribed pain medication – could be that card that knocks your house down, and sends you once again running toward the familiar destruction that you unconsciously run toward.

In my new life as a widow, I have met many other widowed people, lots of them way too young to even be thinking about or using that awful “W” word. Many of my fellow widowed friends lost their partners to alcohol or drug addiction. Some of the deaths were suicides, some were overdoses, all were the result of someone being in a massive amount of pain. I am a 42 year old woman, and I know way too many people whose partners lives ended because of addiction. I have sat with widowed friends on the phone or in person, holding their hands and comforting them as they try and live with the torment and the guilt and the feeling of helplessness that addiction leaves in its wake. It is heartbreaking. It is terrifying. It is real. The demons are beyond powerful, and sometimes the demons win.

Every single one of us has demons. If you look inside of yourself – really look – you probably know what yours are. We all struggle with something, and some of us win that struggle. Others don’t. But the very fact that we all have a struggle makes us all the same. And in that way, you are only a few threads away from being Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s true. You are him. He is you. Or, he could be.

I am still a comedian, and so I will probably always make silly jokes when someone dies. Comedy is a huge part of how I cope with my own husband’s death. But now that I am a widow, posting a funny comment is no longer the first thing that pops into my head when a famous person dies. The first thing that came into my head when hearing about Hoffman’s sudden death was this silent conversation that I had with myself: “His wife. His poor wife. I wish there was some way I could connect with her and just tell her that I get it. I wonder where she was when she found out. Was she alone like I was? Did somebody tell her personally? Were there cameras on her and her children in that moment when they found out the absolute worst thing you could ever find out about your loved one? What will happen to them? How will they live inside of the pain?” The very next thing that came into my head was about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Not the brilliant actor part of him, but the man himself. The son. The father who had two daughters and a son. The partner to long-time girlfriend and costume designer Mimi O’Donnell. I thought about the fact that this man was sober for over 20 years. And then he relapsed on prescription pain medication. And he knew. He was an addict, so he knew the slippery-slope was eminent, and he checked himself into a rehab facility in May of 2013. I didn’t know the man, but I am guessing that he loved his children and his partner very much. And I do not think that he, or any addict, chooses their particular drug or addiction over their family or their life. But sometimes the addiction is just a little bit stronger. Sometimes the demons win.

Believe me when I tell you that I wish I didn’t possess this new knowledge. I wish like hell that I could go back to the days when a celebrity death was just a blip in my radar, and when I thought it had nothing at all to do with me. I wish that I could talk to my husband about what a great actor Hoffman was, and that we could watch his favorite Hoffman movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” together, and remember him with fondness. But I can’t. That life is gone now, and so is that naive person who was too quick to judge people and make assumptions.

I am different now. I know better than all that, and I know that I cannot unknow what I now know.
And now that you’ve read this, neither can you.

Resurrection

So, this new ABC show “Resurrection” has already caused me to have two seperate dreams, and has filled my mind with anxiety, and this is before even seeing the show itself. This is solely from accidentally catching a few seconds of a commercial for it. (I will not be watching one more second of this show. Obviously.)

The first dream I had about this show was great. In the dream, my husband, who was dressed in his E.M.T. uniform and had white light around him and was clearly a spirit/soul, kicked down the door and walked onto the set of “Resurrection”, (which, in case you don’t know, is a show about people that die and then ‘come back to life’ for good) in the middle of filming, and said angrily: “Enough already with this premise. What are you doing? I understand this is fiction and all, but you’re hurting REAL people with this shit. Real people, like my wife, with REAL loss. She was trying to get to sleep tonight after a long day in a long week, sat down to watch a bit of TV, and your ridiculous commercial made her cry for 20 minutes while clutching my photo. You are asking your audience in your ads to “imagine the impossible” – their deceased loved ones coming back to life. Well, guess what? It IS impossible, and it’s never going to happen for her or for anyone else that has lost their spouse or their child or anyone they love dearly, so why on earth would they ever want to IMAGINE it??? Don’t you think that my wife has had that fantasy millions of times? That I somehow come back? That it was all some horrible nightmare? But that isn’t ever going to happen, because in the real world, when people die, they actually DIE. So to ask people to “imagine the impossible”, that is just asking for heartache on top of heartache.”

In the dream, he continued his awesome rant on these people: “Film this shit at your own risk, it’s a free country, but just know you are hurting my wife, and millions of others, and I don’t like people who hurt my wife. She is hurt enough already. Good Day. (pause) I SAID, GOOD DAY!!!” Then he knocked over an expensive camera and kicked the door again on his way out, shouting as he left: “And how about casting her in something already? She is massively talented, unbelievably funny, and since I’m DEAD and all, she is really struggling. You asshats!”

Don has visited me in my dreams quite a few times, but this was the first time he came into my dream to communicate with someone other than me. And “asshat” was his very favorite insult term, as was the “I said GOOD DAY!” line from Willy Wonka. So although it was quite a silly dream, it made me feel protected by my husband, who could somehow see that just watching a commercial for this new TV show made me so upset and shaken up. Obviously the producers and directors and creative people involved with this show have every right to make such a show and air it, but I truly do not understand who their target audience would be. It would have to be people who have never experienced death – people who have never felt the trauma, devastation, and intensely horrific pain of losing someone very close to them. I just cannot imagine that anyone who has felt the earth-shattering quake of death, would have any interest in watching a show such as this. I truly cannot think of a premise or TV-idea that would be more painful than this to sit through.

Back to the two dreams. The second one happened last night, and it almost destroyed me emotionally. This time, I had a dream that my husband was alive, just like in the premise of this cruel new TV show. That this was somehow all a nightmare. That he never really died, and it couldn’t be explained how or why he was alive, but he was now alive, and back for good. In my real life, on the morning he died, after I was told by the nurses in a closed room what had happened after I rushed myself to the hospital in a car service, not even knowing WHY I was being summoned there – I sat in the hospital bathroom, after calling our immediate family and a couple friends – and I typed into my phone on Facebook: “This is the worst day of my life. My dear husband had a heart attack and died. I don’t know what to do next.”

In this dream, there was a knock at my door, I opened it, and it was Don. He said: “I’m here, Boo. It’s going to be okay.” I fell to the floor with shock and he picked me up, and we held each other for an eternity. Then I typed on Facebook: “This is the best day of my life. Don is back. He is ALIVE! I don’t know how, but its true. The past 2.5 years were all a big lie. I got my husband back!!!!”

Then I woke up. Shaking. In shock. Feeling sooooo confused. It was so, so, so real – that I actually thought he might be alive, and that he never died at all, and maybe THAT was all a nightmare, the thinking that he was dead. I sat in my bed just baffled and trying to figure out where I was. Those of you who are widowed and reading this will totally get what I’m about to say next – this morning, I went RIGHT back to those first few weeks and months after the death, where each morning you wake up confused and scared, and thinking “Wait, what happened? What is real? Are they really gone, or was that just some weird dream?”, and you have to get up and physically find something tangible that PROVES to you they are actually dead. So that is what I did. I searched for my box that is hidden away in my closet, the one containing the funeral cards and the Death Certificate, and the autopsy report. I was actually saying out loud to myself: “Please be empty. Please be empty, box. Please, please, please …..”

It wasn’t empty. Of course it wasn’t empty. Saw the certificate and collapsed into sobs. Dreaming that my husband was somehow alive, was probably the most painful of all the dreams I have had so far since his death. Because at two and a half years, I KNOW he is gone. I know he is dead. I know and live inside this reality every single day. But there are STILL flashes of moments in my life, seconds or minutes, where my heart and mind just doesn’t want to believe it. STILL. Ever. So all it takes is a silly premise from a new show to place my exhausted and stressed mind back into that place of “Well, just maaaaybe ….”

Since the next 6 months of my life are unbelievably stressful with overlapping jobs, gigs, writing projects, my book release, and too many things to name here – I’ve been having LOTS of horrible, awful nightmares lately. Caitlin, my counselor, tells me that is VERY normal and that because Im so stressed and busy, that is when the PTSD-related stuff from “that day” and other days will come back just like it was yesterday, because sleep-time is the only time that my brain has to process everything going on inside. I called her 2 weeks ago, frightened, because I had a VERY REAL nightmare where I was in a Christmas tunnel with Don, like a Disney ride with all Christmas-themed things, and then suddenly a dark cloud pushed us into this room, and he collapsed right in front of me and died. Then I was forced to WATCH as he was burned and cremated, and it was VERY violent and graphic. I couldn’t stop sobbing on the phone with her, and one of the things she told me was that, even though it feels incredibly awful and terrifying, it is actually a GOOD sign that I’m having these types of dreams now, because it means I’m processing things and working through them,and that my heart is now ready to work through them. So if we take each dream and break it down and talk about what feelings I’m processing with that one, I will be able to let go of some of the guilt and the fears that I have always had, surrounding the time around his sudden death.

The cremation dream was the most frightening dream I’ve ever had, but dreaming that he was still alive and that his death was all a big mistake – was so much worse. For a few minutes and hours today, I was living in complete torture, not knowing what was real, and yet not wanting to find out and realize, all over again, that my husband was actually gone. How many times must I be forced to realize, again, that he is actually, really, truly gone?

Lighthouse

I got an email today that made my heart do a little dance. It was from a fellow widow friend of mine, whom I’ve only met online, and who also happens to be a therapist. This was what her email said:

“I was on the phone with a client yesterday, and I asked her where she has found support online. She told me that most of the support sites were pretty useless, but then mentioned 2 sites that she liked, one of them being your blog. “Those are really the only two,”, she said. So, there you have it. Not only one of a woman’s Top 2. But one of her only 2. ”

Talk about powerful. Somebody out there, someone I have never even met, read my words on a page and found “support” in them. And someone else whom I’ve never met, decided to share that information with me, so that I would know it. And now I share it with you, so that you will know it too. Because if we don’t tell people that they have made a difference to us, affected us, shaped us – how on earth will they ever know? All it really takes for isolation to become connection is for someone to say the first word.

It got me to thinking, as my heart was doing pleas in the corner. I started thinking about all of the ways in which everyone is connected. Sometimes you can feel that connection, that bond, like a jolt of lightning that goes through your entire body. Other times, it’s more subtle, like someone reminding you of it in an email. Either way, it is there. That connection. It is always there.

We all inspire hope to someone. All of us. You might not even be aware of it, but it’s true. Right now, right this very minute, you might be striving to get to where someone else is on the path of life. Meanwhile, at the exact same moment, there is somebody else who wants to be exactly where you are right now. You are inspired by the ones who are a bit ahead of you, and others are inspired by you. If you look forward to the ones in front, you think: “I saw that person in total darkness, and now they are no longer in that darkness. If I just keep going, I can get to where they are too.” If you look behind you to the ones who are a bit in back, you think: “I remember what it was like to be there, where they are now. It was awful there. Maybe if I just keep going, they will be able to see my frame through the darkness, and they will know that they can get to where I am too.”

In the beginning, all you can see is pain. Nothing else can get in, because the pain is everywhere. In the beginning, most of us are not capable or do not have the energy or motivation or care to look outside of our pain and into someone else’s. Our own pain is much too overwhelming. Until it isn’t. Eventually, the pain begins to spread itself out, like the end of a morning fog, and it makes some room for more of the sky. In that sky, and in that fog, you can just barely make out the lighthouse that sits far away in the distance. The pain is still there – it is always there – but now you are able to shape it and mold it and turn it into something more than just pain. Like my friend Michele, who took her pain and with it, created a community for widowed people everywhere, by founding the Soaring Spirits Foundation, and Camp Widow. Or my friend Janine, who I met at Camp Widow last year, and have become close friends with ever since. She and her pain packed up their life in Texas, and started a new one in NYC, using her own courage as the building blocks to glue together her new world, after the sudden death of her husband Jim. And there are countless others, each of them a beacon of light, scratching and clawing and finding their way to the top of the lighthouse, always fully aware of the others behind them, still wandering through the fog.

It is the ones in front of us, who offer pieces of what our own future might look like, if we just keep going. It is the ones in back of us, who offer us perspective on how far we have come already, especially when we are feeling like giving up, or feeling judged or like nobody can see us.

Keep going. Keep walking. They see you, in the same way that you see them. They are looking at your every step in the hot, thick sand – and they are saying with their tired and hurt voices: “If he or she can get there, maybe I can too.” You are somebody’s lighthouse. And someone else is yours. And we are all silently helping each other, even when we don’t know it. Maybe, especially when we don’t know it.

Isn’t that cool?

Pictured: me w/ my friend Janine at Camp Widow. Lighthouse in Montauk, Long Island.

Crumb of Cake

Call me crazy, but I’m starting to feel like maybe I’m a little bit crazy.
Is that crazy?

Is it Nuts-ville Crazytown that I feel like I am more in love with my husband now, than ever before? That I would rather have one-way conversations with his spirit or soul, than put any real efforts into possibly finding a new partner who I could actually speak to, human to human? Is it insane that looking at his picture on my nightstand before going to sleep, and saying out loud, in a faint whisper: “Goodnight BooBear – I love you” seems to make more sense to me than saying nothing at all? Seriously – level with me, people – is it time for me to just go and get the straightjacket and try it on for size? Or is there a place that I can go to exist, where there isn’t all this pressure to “move on” or “get myself out there again”, and where having a continued relationship with my dead husband isn’t universally frowned upon?

I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But is it? Is it?

This is the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with. This one. Not another one that I have to go find all over again at age 42. Not someone new that I would have to date, get to know, figure out, play the stupid games, live the “single” life, read their mind, know their heart, and trust with everything. If I already trust everything with the person that I already chose, why should that have to change? How can it? How can I just not be deeply and powerfully in love with my person anymore? How do I train myself to fall out of love with him? How? And if the answer is that I don’t have to, and that I can still love him forever – then how do I go forward in my life having this all-encompassing love for a person who no longer walks the earth? My heart hurts with how much I love him, and with the reality that our time together here is gone. Four and a half years of marriage will just never be enough for me. Not ever.

Imagine being a baker, and spending 7 years of life creating the most delicious, incredible, perfect chocolate cake – that took you until you were 35 years old to get the recipe just right, and you were so proud of your cake and you just wanted to savor in it and taste it over and over and over until time ended – and one quarter of the way through your first, tiny bite of enjoying all your hard work and your creation, before your taste-buds could even react – a large and menacing hand snatches the cake away abruptly, and proceeds to smash it into tiny crumb bits, all over the floor. “But I only got one quarter of a bite!”, you scream in protest. It’s too late. Nobody cares. You only got a crumb of cake, and the rest was taken away for no reason at all. Time’s up. (Leave it to the fat widow to come up with a cake analogy.)


I don’t know how to do this. My heart is with my husband, and my husband is not here. And even though it is never fair or never enough, to have this new, other-wordly relationship with him – and it’s not even close to the same thing as actually having him here with me – this is what we have now. We have this. And there is a very large part of me, that would rather have this with my husband, than have something unknown with anybody else.

My whole life, nobody was ever in love with me. Nobody ever returned my feelings back. Nobody ever protected me or made me feel safe or truly, deeply loved. Nobody. Not until I met Don. Not in high school, not in college, not after college – nowhere. Nobody. I dated a lot of idiots over those young years. I had boyfriends. Some were nice, some were not. But none of them were deeply, madly in love with me. When I finally, FINALLY met my person – I was almost 29 years old. He was in Florida, I was in New Jersey. We bonded in a music chat room online, and became instant friends. And then more. He flew out to meet me, and then we were in love. I told him things about me that nobody else knew, or knows. I shared with him my soul and my fears and my heart. For 7 years, we dated long-distance, until he packed up his life and moved to New Jersey for me. Because he loved me deeply and madly. He supported me and cheered me on in my dreams. We were a team. Always a team.

Now he is gone. I know how to live without him. I’m learning, and it isn’t easy, but I know I can do it, and I know I will be okay. I know how to live without him. But how do I love without him?

If I’m being totally honest, and I always am in my writing, I will say that I am terrified. I am scared to death of growing old all alone, and dying all alone. Even more, I am frightened beyond words that he was my only person. That for the rest of my years, nobody will ever love me in that beautiful, amazing, trust-you-with-my-life sort of way, ever again. I live in terror that I will be granted a long, healthy life – never being allowed another bite of that cake.

I Forgot You Died

My husband’s sudden and unexpected death happened on a Wednesday.
July 13, 2011.
We had gone to sleep the night before, and I still don’t recall saying goodnight.
Or saying anything.
We simply fell asleep, in the exhaustion of having two jobs and being busy and life.

A few hours later, he had left for his volunteer job at the local Petsmart,
helping out with cat adoptions, and then stocking pet food.
But he never got around to any of that.
His manager found him collapsed on the cold, hard floor instead,
about 90 minutes after arriving to work.
(Just a side note; I don’t actually know for a fact that the floor was cold, but for some reason, whenever I describe it to anyone or write about it, I always describe it as a cold floor. I just picture it and see it as being cold. These are the kinds of things, big and small, that trauma puts into our heads.)

My very healthy and active husband,
who was a paramedic and saved other people’s lives daily,
suffered from a massive heart attack at only age 46.
No symptoms. No warnings. No goodbyes.
Here one second,
then
POOF!
Gone the next.
On that morning, I literally woke up to my new reality and the new life I didnt want, as my husband was gone from our apartment, and gone from Earth.

And since that catastrophic day,
I have been counting,
both consciously and subconsciously,
every month, week, hour, minute, and second,
since he died.
On the 13th of every month,
Every month,
my heart would automatically know it was the 13th.
On the rare occasion that I didnt know within minutes of waking up,
my body would remind me.
I would feel “off”,
or sick,
or really, really awful.
If it was the 13th of the month, and a Wednesday,
that was even worse.
I would re-live “that day”,
again and again
and Again.
Every 13th.
For over 2 years.

Until this week.
This week, someone innocently asked me,
“How long has it been since your husband died?”
And instead of blurting out, like a robot,
my completely normal response of:
“It has been 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 17 hours, and 3 minutes since my love died” –
something bizarre happened.
I forgot.
For a few seconds in time,
I could not recall the exact time that had gone by since his death.
I had to think about it.
It required math.
I had to use my fingers, and carry the one.
That had never happened before.
Not ever.

And then I remembered something else,
that I had forgotten.
The 13th.
Wednesday.
For the first time ever, since his death,
the 13th of a month, that happened to fall on a Wednesday,
creeped by,
without me even noticing.
The only reason I even thought about it,
was because this person had asked me,
“How long since he died?”
So I counted. Did the math. Remembered.

But here is the best part:
I didn’t feel any guilt.
No guilt.
I didn’t feel bad or guilty,
for momentarily forgetting the exact date in time
that my world exploded.
Because why should I?
It is insane to think,
that I could ever really forget.
That’s not possible.
His death is in the rhythms,
of everything I am.

No.
I felt something else.
JOY!
Relief.
A new way of breathing.
I was happy to forget,
even for a few moments,
because in my world,
this is progress.
Achievement.
Healing.
I was excited.
I almost felt like singing.

And after that day, this week, where I had forgotten what I had always remembered, I noticed other things happening too. Small things, but still things. I noticed that lately I have been sleeping in the range of 3-6 hours per night, instead of the 0-3 hours range that used to be my normal, for the first 18 months or so of this new life.

I noticed a couple walking down the street, holding hands and kissing, clearly in love – and for the first time in a long, long time – I didn’t want to simultaneously trip them and watch them fall into a manhole, never to be seen again. I mean, I didn’t want to throw them a goddamn party or anything, but I didn’t feel massive rage at them for having time together, when my time with Don was up. It’s a start.

I also noticed that this year, on the upcoming Thanksgiving, which will be my 3rd one without my love – that I’m not filled with anxiety and fear and dread, as the day approaches. I wouldn’t say I’m “excited”, because, well, let’s not get crazy – but it’s not looking like the black, dark hole it used to be.

The other day, I was in the car, driving to meet my best friend Sarah for dinner somewhere, and I had the car radio on. Now, that in itself, is something that is very recent for me, in my new “after” life. Music is still very hard. Music was my husband, and my husband was music – so it’s very, very hard. Only recently have I been able to even listen to music of any kind in the car, and still, lots of times, many songs will send me into random bursts of sobbing, and I become an emotional dishrag. But on this particular day, for whatever reason, it was different. Not only did they play music, they played Christmas music. “Let It Snow”.

I sat there. Driving. There was a slight pause in my tiny, ginormous world. Nothing happened. And then, something did happen. I turned it up. Loud. And for the first time, in a long, long time – I sang. It has hurt too much to sing since he died, because I’m not singing with him. I’m not singing while he strums his guitar. I’m not singing to chords that he learned, just for me, that would sound melodic, blended with my voice. Music was my husband, and my husband was music. And we, together, were music. Like a duet. When he died, the music stopped. There just didn’t seem to be a point anymore.

And then there was. In the car. When I sang “Let It Snow”, all alone, and with him.
For about 25 seconds in a row, I decided to let Christmas in again.
It hurt.
It hurt a lot.
I’m still not ready for all of Christmas.
But maybe just a verse.
So I sang.
And then I cried.
But first,
I sang.

In Between

JERRY: You rented ‘Home Alone?’

GEORGE: Yeah. Do you mind if I watch it here?

JERRY: What for?

GEORGE: Because if I watch it at my apartment, I feel like Im not DOING anything. If I watch it here, Im out of the house. Im DOING something.

– Seinfeld 

Today is a nothing day. Nothing important.
Well, today is Halloween.
And since my husband and I didn’t have kids, and we never really “did anything” on Halloween,
today is a nothing day.

All of the days surrounding today, however, are filled with emotion.
The days that have passed, and the days coming up.
Lots and lots of emotion.
This past Sunday, October 27th, was my wedding anniversary.
Would have been 7 years.
hate that I have to say “would have been.”
We didn’t even make it to 5.

I spent the day Sunday driving to the road where our venue was, and still is.
Sea Cliff, Long Island.
I sat by the water where we took our pictures.
Where his ashes are scattered.
I walked along the sand. I sat on a bench and stared.
I tossed a message in a bottle into the bay.
I sobbed. For 2 hours straight. I really did.
It just kept coming.
The tears.
They shot out of me like a flood or a tidal wave,
fighting and begging to be heard.
So I sat.
And I listened.
And I talked.
But mostly,
I listened.
To the silence.
To the low tide.
To the hope, that I could somehow hear or feel his love, somewhere deep inside.
I listened.

Tomorrow, just 7 years ago, we left for my parents beautiful time-share on Cape Cod, to spend our 10 day honeymoon. While there on the Cape, we celebrated his birthday, which happens to fall on November 6th, Election Day. After that, other emotional future days will also come up. Such as Thanksgiving. And the day he proposed to me underneath that Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in NYC, one week before Christmas. And then, of course, Christmas. My favorite day of the year, that I now dread with every fiber of my being. New Years Eve. And then we get to start the whole damn thing all over again ……..

SeaCliff, Long Island, Oct 27, 2013.

But today,
right now,
tonight,
in these moments of silence that I sit here and write,
while my roommate is out celebrating the holiday,
and while my new life often leaves me alone on nights,
exactly like this one,
Tonight,
is a nothing night.

And it is nights like tonight,
these nothing nights,
these days that fall in-between 
other relevant nights,
it is these evenings and these hours,
that I feel the loss most of all.

For tonight,
just 7 years ago,
on Halloween night,
we were not doing anything at all.
We were doing nothing.
Together.
and doing nothing, together
is so very delicious and incredible and sexy
and boring and wonderful and adventurous
when you are deeply in love.

We were watching “Its The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”,
and we were packing for our honeymoon,
and we had ordered some take-out Italian,
and we sat on our couch in our living room,
with our legs and our hearts intertwined,
loving our newly married life,
that was only 4 days old.

And we did nothing at all.
and nothing was everything.
But now,
nothing,
is just
Nothing.
And doing nothing,
All alone,
is not the same,
as doing nothing,
with your person.

And so these nights,
these nights of nothing that are
In-Between other nights,
they Hurt.
They remind and they bring back to the surface,
and they wound and they push in all the places,
that you don’t want pushed.

On these nights,
being left alone here,
with only my thoughts and my heart,
it is dangerous.
It is painful.
It is vulnerable.
I am naked,
sitting next to grief,
Inviting him,
Enticing him,
Enabling him,
to come out and play.
And when he does,
and he always does,
I will be ready,
and I will be silent,
and I will sit still,
and Listen.
Just listen,
for that small, tiny, important moment
right before the wave crashes
right after the wind blows
right before the grief starts howling,
and yelling,
and berating,
and overwhelming,
and controlling.

I will listen,
for your love,
Inside
of the In Between.