Thursday, December 31, 2009

Migraine


8-13-08: Migraines Suck.
Originally uploaded by DM Rosner



Tonight there will be no great revelation.

There is nothing different about today, or my current state of mind.

I sit, and wait for the day to pass.

A migraine has taken hold of me.

Tomorrow will also be just another day. My reality will not have changed.



migraine
Originally uploaded by mareck

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Male Vulverability...An Oxymoron?


_DSC4570 - Sorrow has become my soulmate
Originally uploaded by Alan Ranger



A dull ache is good. Or, maybe, it's a sharper ache than I want to admit. I'm just going to say this week has been a difficult one. There's no way around it. I want to be doing better, but I think it's just not in the cards right now. So, I've said it, now I want to think about something else.

I'm going to walk away from my computer for a brief moment, then see what comes to mind.

Okay, so here's something that has risen to the level of my awareness each day. It is something that is brought to my mind every time I search for a photograph to accompany my daily post. As you may have noticed, I use Flickr as the source for most of the art work/photography used in my blog. I spend almost as much time searching for the right picture, as I do writing the day's thoughts. I see the accompanied artwork as a significant part of my daily post, as it communicates immediately the tone I wish to set.

Being that the nature of my blog tends to be of intense emotions, namely grief, most of my searches are done with a particular word in mind. I tend to look for images that reflect not only the emotion, or experience, I am trying to convey, but from my individual perspective. With that in mind, I often want the image to be reflective of the fact that I am a 50 year old gay man. Now, of course there is much more to me, but I have chosen to frame my blog's perspective from this; 50, gay, male. I know, I know, do I have a point here? Yes, I'm getting to it.

To your love through the light of sorrow
Originally uploaded by Tatiana Kurnosova


Invariably, whenever I search under a given description, let's say "sorrow" as an example, I tend to find very few images of, dare I say, middle aged men. There are plenty of images of women. Lots of images of beautiful women. There are images of men, but most tend to be either very young (read 'hot') or very old (read 'well beyond my years'). I've noticed, and this probably won't surprise you, that in general, we seem to be more comfortable with images of women emoting. We also seem to be more comfortable with elderly people emoting. But for some reason, an image of a middle aged man showing these depths of emotion is not okay.

In order to understand this I only have to look at myself. Prior to losing Michael, you probably would have been hard pressed to catch me in tears. I was your typical male, always in control of my emotions. Well, at least that is how I saw myself. I think if you asked my children, they would probably say the same. Over the years they have definitely seen me expressing anger, in more ways that I'm proud to admit. But then again, anger seems to be one of those emotions that we are comfortable seeing men express. Anger works for us. Anger has often worked for me.

Expressing anger has never made me, or my children, worry that I am less able to take care of my responsibilities as the 'dad.' Anger doesn't make me look weak, and it doesn't necessarily make me feel weak. It can often empower me to get through a difficult situation. On the other hand, more vulnerable emotions, which more likely are accompanied by tears, do make me feel, or maybe appear, less in control, or capable. I can clearly see the worry in my children's eyes when they see me cry. And while I try not to shield them completely from my grief, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I more often try to not cry in front of others.

I wonder if this is because of my role as the "bread winner." I don't have the luxury of falling apart. Too many people rely on me. Keep in mind that this is solely from my perspective, the only one I can truly speak from. I think there are so many wrong messages that we men have received growing up. And even though I should be a bit more enlightened, I tend to find that historically I have remained true to these societal, or self-imposed, limitations.

So, perhaps this is why it is not surprising that when I go looking for images that reflect my current reality, that of a 50 year old, gay man, who is in mourning, I don't find too much. Actually, it's not just in my searches for images. It is also in my searches for widower blogs, bereavement support groups, books on being widowed, web sites dealing with loss, and so on. They tend to be mostly for women, and by women. When are we men going to catch up? When are we men going to break from these rules we have bought into? When are we men going to, first allow ourselves to be vulnerable, then allow ourselves to admit to being vulnerable?

Well, this is why I am here. I was tired of being in control, and tired of always having to appear strong. When I lost Michael I realized that it was time to loosen the shackles of control. I needed to be more willing to express my vulnerability. With the creation of this blog, I chose to document my vulnerability, and to change not only how I present myself, but how I experience myself.

Hi. My name is Dan. I am a 50 year old gay man. I am in pain. I lost the love of my life. I am lost. I cry on a daily basis. This is me being real.

This is Dan, in real time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Woe


Cave of Woe
Originally uploaded by Mike Thue


Raw pain.

Tortured mind.

Empty soul.


what does it all mean?


Apathetic.

Lost.

Resentful.


how do I begin to care?


Heavy chains.

Open wounds.

Wracking nerves.


why me?


Tears.

Anguish.

Anger.


when does it end?


Raw pain. Tortured mind. Empty soul.
Apathetic. Lost. Resentful.
Heavy chains. Open wounds. Wracking nerves.
Tears. Anguish. Anger.

Raw pain. Tortured mind. Empty soul.
Apathetic. Lost. Resentful.
Heavy chains. Open wounds. Wracking nerves.
Tears. Anguish. Anger.

Raw pain. Tortured mind. Empty soul.
Apathetic. Lost. Resentful.
Heavy chains. Open wounds. Wracking nerves.
Tears. Anguish. Anger.

what? how? why? when? what? how? why? when? what? how? why? when? what? how? why? when? what? how? why? when? what? how? why? when?


Repeat.

Is it a choice?....Change, that is.


changing
Originally uploaded by xarma


This afternoon I stopped on my way home to do some grocery shopping. Now I've posted in the past about my emotional response to being in the grocery store. At that time I shared with you how depressed I would get in the grocery store due to all the couples shopping at the end of the day, deciding what they would cook together for dinner. Today's experience was a bit different.

Today while I was in the grocery store I had a purpose in mind, begin cooking healthier meals once again. I decided that I need to push myself to cook more, and stop depending so much on fast-food and less healthy meals. As I walked through the store I was trying to think of what to buy, and what I might cook during the week. As I went through my limited menu of items I used to cook, or enjoy eating, I realized that much of it no longer appealed to me.

I don't quite know if I have a general loss of appetite, which is less than it used to be, or my tastes have changed. Keeping in mind my description of feeling less alive, think "Fido," it is not too surprising that the foods I used to enjoy, or crave, might have changed. If there is so much about myself that has changed, then perhaps my taste buds have changed along with everything else.

Today is not the first time that I have realized this. It kind of goes hand in hand with everything else that I have set aside since Michael died. I know enough about the human psyche to know that the pendulum swings both ways. In time I will begin to enjoy life again, and along with the general sense of equilibrium, I will renew some of my interests, or food cravings. I just don't know which parts of me are so intrinsically tied to Michael that I will choose to let go of them. Yes, there will be things that I will want to do to remember him, yet there will be parts of me that I permanently set aside.

I'm curious how I will be making these choices, or if they are choices at all. For now I am emerging as a mindful observer of life, mostly my life. If I look at this in a positive light, I will perhaps be emerging with some new interests, or new desires. Okay, I'm not going to suddenly become heterosexual, a sports fan, or decide to rebuild the engine on my daughter's car, but there can be subtle changes.

Wait a minute, rewind. Did I just stereotype gay men? I did. I just set back our movement a few years. Oh well, I'm a man in mourning. I can't be held responsible for everything I say or do right now. There's always room for change.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Zombie


I´m feeling numb
Originally uploaded by mypurplesky


This afternoon I went to meet with a friend who was in town for a few days. Like myself, she too lost her husband to cancer earlier this year.

My friend was staying at a hotel downtown, so rather than drive across the city, I decided to take the train. It is actually much faster and more convenient than taking my car. As I climbed the stairs out of the underground station, I found myself smack in the middle of hundreds of shoppers and tourists. Going through this part of the city is always a bit intimidating, as it is the epicenter for tourist who are catching the various modes of transportation available her in San Francisco. Going through this mob today was even more daunting than usual.

It's not very often that I venture out of my home these days, other than for work. I find that my preference is to stay in as much as possible. I make it sound as if I am home a lot. The reality is that I am running around, driving about, in many directions during the week. Besides work, there is family therapy, electric guitar lessons for my 11 year old, my therapy, my son's therapy, our grief support group, and my Friday evening drive to pick up my 16 year old from his residential school 45 miles north. Okay, so maybe I'm not at home much at all.

My point is this, although I am a very busy single father once again, it is not that often that I find myself in the midst of such large concentrated groups of people. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I will go out of my way to avoid groups of people, large or small. I'm not exactly sure why this is. It's just part of the phenomena known as my reaction to grief.

Now I guess you could say that I'm not the most social person anyway, but this hasn't always been the case. I think that being so busy with my kids over the years, then often being more home bound because of Michael's medical needs, has led me to socializing or being out of the house less and less. It never seemed to worry me too much, but lately it seems to have taken on a very different feel.

Coming out of the underground, and entering the sea of people brought about an increased awareness of how I see myself as intrinsically different than other people these days. I know it's a theme I've discuss again and again, but just don't feel like I am part of the land of the living. I fear that this is partly from my need for isolation. I don't want to see happy couples together. I don't want to see all the smiling faces. I don't want to be reminded of what it felt like before losing Michael. Right now I don't care to be happy. I don't care to even pretend to be slightly amused. It all just takes too much effort.

I suppose I'm a bit of a zombie, although I'm not much of a meat eater. On each given day I feel either more dead, or more alive. Is my cup half empty, or half full? I haven't lost all of my humanity, I am a very sensitive chap, but I have lost my desire to interact with most of humanity. I do enjoy my time with my kids, but some might argue that they can be less than human at times. It just takes so much energy to be social, unless the social context is framed around my current reality of grief. I think most people understand this, they probably just don't realize how strong of an issue this is.

It's funny, but there was a period of time that Michael and I seemed to watch one zombie movie after another. There was the classic 'Dawn of the Dead,' the hilarious 'Shaun of the Dead,' and the last one we enjoyed together, 'Fido,' a campy throwback to 50's era films about a boy and his pet zombie.

I never said that Michael and I were the intellectual types.

Where was I...?

Oh yes, a social zombie. Half living, half dead. Forgive me, my mind feels useless tonight. My point is this...when I am sitting talking to another widow or widower, I don't need to explain myself. I don't need to look happy. I don't need to seem like I am doing better than I am. In so called "normal interaction," I can't sit and talk about Michael for hours, or talk about my internal pain for hours. Okay, maybe I could, but eager listeners are not exactly lined up at my door. And if they were, I would bore the hell out of them, very quickly. Those of us who mourn probably sound like a bunch of broken records. We need to tell, and retell, our stories. We live in a state of grief for quite some time. We are numb at best, and in misery at worst. Moments beyond this state of being are rare, at least for me, or superficial at best.

Am I feeling better than I was three months ago? In all honesty, I would have to say yes. Do I feel any more alive than I did then? Not really.

I am numb. Numb is the state of my being. It is where I'll likely be for some time.

No, we are not having fun yet.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Despair


Despair
Originally uploaded by mrhansen9


Despair - (verb) to abandon hope; give up hope; lose heart;

At what point does life turn around? At what point does our sense of despondence change?

What is the goal here? Am I a victim of circumstance? Was there a divine plan here?

What do I do with all my love for my spouse, my partner, now that he is gone?

How do I get through the night without his warm body next to mine?

Will I ever experience a day without tears?

What is it I'm supposed to look forward to?

Does he know my pain? Does he hear my cries?

If I reach out in my sleep, is he there?

Am I doing this right? Is honesty really the best policy? Should I just lie to myself and others about my pain?

Will I one day awake without this emptiness within me, around me, before me?

How will I know when I have moved on, found understanding, become at peace with, accepted, learned to live with, learned to live without...?

Will my sense of self be different? When I look in the mirror will I recognize myself? Will I have age quickly? Will my hair turn completely white?

Will I ever look at life the same? Will I ever allow myself to be optimistic?

Will I even care?

Will I want love again? Will I trust it? Will it feel like a betrayal?

Does the heart truly mend?

Will I ever not be in despair?

The Next Place by Warren Hanson


The next place that I go...
Originally uploaded by kateepatsch


The next place that I go will be as peaceful and familiar
as a sleepy summer Sunday and a sweet, untroubled mind.

And yet….it won’t be anything like any place I’ve ever been…
or seen…or dreamed of in the place I leave behind.

I won’t know where I’m going, and I won’t know where I’ve been
as I tumble through the always and look back toward the when.

I’ll glide beyond the rainbows. I’ll drift above the sky.
I’ll fly into the wonder, without ever wondering why.

I won’t remember getting there. Somehow I’ll just arrive.
But I’ll know that I belong there and will feel much more alive
than I have ever felt before.
I will be absolutely free of the things that I held onto that were holding onto me.

The next place that I go will be so quiet and so still
that the whispered song of sweet belonging will rise up to fill
the listening sky with joyful silence, and with unheard harmonies
of music made by no one playing, like a hush upon a breeze.

There will be no room for darkness in that place of living light.
Where an ever-dawning morning pushes back the dying night.
The very air will fill with brilliance, as the brightly shining sun
and the moon and half a million stars are married into one.

The next place that I go won’t really be a place at all.
There won’t be any seasons—winter, summer, spring or fall—
Nor a Monday, Nor a Friday, Nor December, Nor July.

And the seconds will be standing still…while the hours hurry by.
I will not be a boy or girl, a woman or a man.
I’ll simply be just, simply me. No worse or better than.

My skin will not be dark or light. I won’t be fat or tall.
The body I once lived in won’t be part of me at all.
I will finally be perfect. I will be without a flaw.
I will never make one more mistake, or break the smallest law.

And the me that was impatient, or was angry or unkind,
will simply be a memory. The me I left behind.
I will travel empty-handed. There is not one single thing
I have collected in my life that I would ever want to bring
except….

The love of those who loved me, and the warmth of those who cared.
The happiness and memories and magic that we shared.

Though I will know the joy of solitude…I’ll never be alone.
I’ll be embraced by all the family and friends I’ve ever known.

Although I might not see their faces, all our hearts will beat as one,
and the circle of our spirits will shine brighter than the sun.

I will cherish all the friendship I was fortunate to find, all the love and all the laughter in the place I leave behind.

All these good things will go with me. They will make my spirit glow. And the light will shine forever in the next place I will go.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Remember to Breathe"


Perfect Calm
Originally uploaded by Morland Smith

Yesterday my daughter told her brothers that she wanted to take them shopping today to get them something for Christmas. I thought it was such a great gesture, which allowed the three of them to spend time together outside the house, and without Dad in tow. Of course both boys were excited to have her attention, and I was looking forward to a few hours to spend however I pleased. As the day progressed toward their planned outing I began to see the makings of their plan's demise. They each had different ideas of where to go, the sky was getting darker with rain clouds, and my 16 year old didn't like the idea that they were traveling by city bus. I had to make a quick decision, one that I wasn't quite sure was a wise one. Okay, you may take Michael's car.

My car, the family car, is off limits to my daughter, as my insurance agent says it is too expensive to have her on the policy. Her car, an older model economy car, has been parked in the driveway for months, with a blown transmission. Michael's car, a silver convertible, described by his nephew as "a chick magnet," is not exactly what I want the three of them riding around in. But, if I want some time unencumbered, then tough choices must be made.

Long story short, I remembered that I had previously paid for a number of massages, which I discussed in a prior post. I called up the day spa and they indeed had an available appointment. I got there with plenty of time to spare, so I was able to feel relaxed, calm and ready to be pampered. The masseur showed me the way to the room, and after I was laying on the table, he came in ready to begin. He was friendly, in a unassuming way, and thought to ask how my Christmas had gone. I replied that it was "nice, thank you."

"How did you spend your holiday?"

"Oh, well, I spent it quietly at home with my kids."

"Did you do anything special?"

"No, uh, not really, it was just a calm and quiet day, just like I'd hoped it would be."

"What? No feast? No merriment?"

So, here is one of those moments. What to say? What to do? When is it appropriate to mention in casual conversation, that my life is not what it would seem? When is it worth mentioning my truth, which may create a awkward situation for the other person, or which may open up my wounds and create a vulnerable situation for me?

Most of what I think of as my public time, time in which I am forced to interact with those who do not know my reality, I just walk around feeling like a ghost. I feel invisible to the outside world. I feel less human, because I feel hollow. My life no longer has the same meaning. I was once part of the living. I shared my joy with those that passed my way. I had a role that many understood. I was a husband, a partner, a lover. I had good days. I had bad days. I had great days, and I had days that were complete disasters. Now I am mostly numb. One day feels no different from the next. Some nights are worse than others, but those don't often get exposed in my public time.

I'm not sure which is more difficult. Being around people who know why 'calm and quiet' is a good day for me, yet finding they don't know what to say. Or, being around people who don't know why 'calm and quiet' is something to behold, and wondering whether it is worth sharing my truth. I suppose I won't know unless I take a chance now and then.

"Well, to be honest, I'm in mourning. My husband passed away a few months ago."

Hand to shoulder, pause,

"I am so sorry."

Gentle squeeze.

"Thank you."

From that point forward, I felt able to truly relax. For the next 90 minutes I was able to be myself. I was able to be 'Dan, in real time.' I was a gay man, laying on a table, vulnerable, in the capable hands of another presumably gay man. I was a widower, who had survived the emotional toll of my first Christmas without my husband, and I was asking for caring, and careful, attention.

"Remember to breathe."

Those were the best words I had heard all day.

Wail Watching



Originally uploaded by Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania



Another night of sitting vigil. To what? I don't really know. I tell myself to rest, to sleep, yet here I am. I wish I could detach from these feelings, then perhaps I could truly find peace.

I tell myself, be real Dan. It's only been three months, how can your body not expect Michael to be here next to you? How can your heart stop aching when he can't be found? I want to believe my own words of strength. I want my own optimism to last longer than a few hours. I want to will myself into doing better than I am. I can't.

I know that at some point tonight I will be able to let go, and to lay down and sleep. Although I am never able to do this on my own. I haven't slept without the aid of a little pill for over two years. Insomnia is what I have known my whole life. It used to be a companion about once a week, then Michael got sick, and insomnia took hold of me every night. I've stopped trying to sleep without the aid of my little friends, it does me no good. At the same time, I know that on a night like this even a sleeping pill is of no use.

What am I doing? Where is the logic? How did this happen to Michael and I? Life played such a cruel joke on me. Want the man of your dreams? Go out and find him. Oh, you found him? Well, not so fast sucker, time for him to go.

Do I sound angry? Oh, maybe a bit. Resentment? I've got plenty of that. I wish there was an island for us widows and widowers. We could just walk in circles on this island, pass each other in the night without question. We would reach out to each other, take the hand of each passer by, give them a knowing and caring look. We would see each other's lights on at night, and just walk in to offer comfort. Maybe we would have communal wailing. Maybe there would be nightly "wail watching tours." Okay, now I'm really losing it.

This is the madness that sets in when logic is not part of your life. This is the madness that takes hold of your mind when you have been deprived of sleep. This is the madness that permeates your soul due to lack of physical affection.

I don't think I want to be sane, or at least not all the time. To be sane would mean that there was never any reprieve from my pain and sorrow. I would just wail all the time.

Alright, time to sign off.

Having a wail of a good time in San Francisco.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Reflection


Silent Night
Originally uploaded by moo.ny

Last night I allowed my boys to open their gifts after we returned from church. They were so happy, and excited. After I cleaned up the kitchen I said my good nights and headed down to my bedroom. I didn't end up going to sleep at midnight as planned, my mind required a couple of hours before that could happen.

Christmas morning became a series of visits, and interruptions of sleep, by my sons. I had told them I wanted to sleep in, which they thought was great for me, yet somehow they didn't quite get the concept. All morning I could hear them running across the kitchen, then down the stairs to knock on my door. Eventually, around noon, my 16 year old came down again and asked if I realized how late it was. "Yes, I do! Alright, I'll get up."

A couple of hours later I found myself putting a turkey in the oven, and beginning the long process of making a Christmas feast. This is something Michael liked to do, so I sort of did this in his honor. My daughter eventually arrived in the late afternoon, talked, opened gifts, then we all sat down for the meal. Some how today's meal was much easier to get through. Last night's meal was a bit salty due to all my tears. During dinner we played Michael's Christmas Mix, which my daughter immediately recognized. We all smiled, and thanked God for the gift Michael was.

As soon as I finish tonight's post I will be taking down Michael's memory stocking, and we will be reading through the notes collected these past couple of weeks. I have been kind of avoiding this process, not because of the sentiments, but because it will bring back the harsher part of reality, he's not here.

I'm going to try to find a movie to watch tonight. I desperately need some time to relax and unwind, while I supervise four kids, a dog and a cat.

Good night to all. I hope your Christmas has gone well, or that unexpected blessings are headed your way.

Before I sign off, I do want to say that I feel blessed today. I am surrounded by people I love, and that love me in return. I was blessed to have several wonderful years with Michael, and he made me incredibly happy while we were together. In spite of, or because of, the difficult year that this has been, I find myself lost in thought and feeling often. Too many times this process has been very painful, and I have wished life to be over. Tonight I wish life to begin anew. I want to let the hope of 'Christmas Future' guide me through this process. I want to embrace the love Michael continues to give me, and allow that love to assist me in creating a life that offers new possibilities. It is what he would want, so it is what I shall seek.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas arrives in San Francisco


Holidays in San Francisco,
originally uploaded by Della Huff Photography.
The hour is now late, and I feel the need to be alone at midnight. Throughout the evening I've been aware of my fellow bloggers sharing their experience of welcoming in Christmas alone, without their spouses. They have each signed off now, and me being on the west coast, I will be the last.

To each of you that may read this in the morning, know that I am thinking of each of you as the lights dim here in San Francisco. If some of you reading today's posts are new visitors, welcome to my blog. It is always a humble experience to know that so many take the time to read what I express each day. Always feel free to leave a comment, and share what you are searching for.

If I can be of support, then I am so happy to do so. Know that your presence is a source to comfort to me.

Merry Christmas Michael.

Tonight the song that I'm feeling is Faith Hill's "Where Are You Christmas?"

Christmas Eve


I'm getting ready to head out for an evening church service with my boys. I decided it would be good for us, and fill in some of the time tonight. We just finished our dinner, and the boys are anxious to open their gifts. I told them they could open them tonight, this way I can possibly sleep in tomorrow.

The day has been very busy, much busier than I expected for some reason. I was fine until I set the table and started to serve dinner. At that point I just lost control and began sobbing. The boys were very supportive and loving. We said a prayer of thanks for having had Michael in our lives.

I'm hoping my daughter will come by, as she has been absent for a while. Our relationship is very strained right now because of dynamics which relate to some issues she needs to work out. In all, I would say my life is very complicated right now. But tonight is about the blessings.

Later when we have returned from church, and the boys are done with their gifts, I will have time to catch my breath. My plan at that point is to watch the original animated version of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It was Michael's favorite Christmas feature. It always moved him to tears for some reason. I'm sure I will also be crying along with him tonight.

Here is the Who's Welcome Christmas.

Tree of Hands


tree of hands,
originally uploaded by UnklStuart.

This is how I see today. This is what will get me through the day. This is how I propose you get through the day. Join me in reaching out to each other today. Yes, we will have our loved ones in our hearts, we may find some part of our tradition that includes them in our celebration. But our reality is, they are gone, and we hurt. And yes, we may need more. I see this tree as symbolic of each of us bloggers, reaching out to each other each day as we do. During the holidays, let us make conscious choices about being there for each other.

I am looking at this tree of hands, and have chosen the one I will use to symbolize by contribution to your support. Which hand will be yours? Each of us will get a feeling about which color speaks to us. Each of us will decide what part of the tree we can become. Are we feeling strong, and are willing to take a place at the base of the tree, holding up those that may need extra help today. Are we in need, and willing to place our self on top, so as to feel the strength of the many bloggers who know our pain. Yes, it is not easy to ask for this help, but here it is.

At this very moment I'm am feeling secure, and offer my strength for you. Know that I will be one of the hands reaching out to you should you that need my support.

I am the red hand at the base of the tree, just to the right. The color is meant to bring you some cheer, the position is to help provide balance. Who knows, later today I may become a different hand, with different needs. Maybe you will move about the tree today as well. Maybe we will occupy the same hand, maybe we are placed in polar opposite places, yet provide balance for each other.

Where are you?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Survival Plan


Christmas is upon us. Never before have I needed to have a survival plan to get through it. Sure, the holiday has for many years been a stressful time. There is always the stress of shopping, and trying to create the right balance of what the holiday is supposed to mean, rather that what it has become. In my own experience the busy part of the holiday preparation usually ended today. By tomorrow, on Christmas Eve, I have always been able to stop the madness, and slow my family down so as to truly enjoy each other's company. In the past I have pulled out all the stops. There was the wonderful feast of a meal, fresh baked cookies that we had decorated, hot cider warming of the stove, and delightful music in the background.

So it is with this year, our year of sorrow, that I brace for the heaviness of thought and feeling. In years past I would light our "fireplace," which in reality is just a collection of candles that provide the soft glow that helps me set the right mood in our home. This year the candles have become votives, which I light each night next to the urn which holds my beloved Michael's ashes. The glow of the candles hold my ever vigil, which is to remind me of the light that Michael's love provides me during this time of darkness. The warmth of the light sets my heart as ease as it gently caresses his urn.

Tonight I gaze upon all of this with love in my heart. My game plan has changed as of late. Listening to my heart I have heard Michael speaking clearly. This is his time to take care of me. I have been taking care of Michael for the past two years. It was a joy to be his caregiver, and an honor to help him prepare for his departure from this world. Now is his time to take care of me. The most difficult part of living through this grief has been that the person I needed to help me through this is the person I grieve for. Why else would I grieve so, and who else would I turn to? Well, in time I am coming to understand that I need to give him a chance to take care of me. And with Michael's quiet way, I need to slow down, and listen for his voice.

Michael loves me. He chose to spend the rest of his life with me. I'm just now understanding that. I know there are many painful days ahead, but there are also many opportunities to let him do the caregiving. Tonight he has brought me peace. Tonight I feel his love more than ever. I am blessed by his love.



Look what I just found.
I love him so much.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bubble Wrap


Today at work as I was winding my way through the maze of cubicles, I suddenly heard a very familiar sound. It is a sound that I haven't heard in months. It is a sound that I previously had sworn I could absolutely do without. It is a sound that always worked my last nerve. It is a sound so aggravating that when I would hear it in my home I would immediately go looking for it's source. It is a sound that usually led to Michael. It is the sound of BUBBLE WRAP!

Bubble Wrap was created by two engineers, Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, in 1957. They were trying to invent a plastic wallpaper with a paper backing. Their idea failed, but along the way they realize their invention could be used for packing material. Thus, giving birth to what is now known around the world as Bubble Wrap.

Just before writing this post I looked up "bubble wrap" on Wikipedia. It says that because bubble wrap makes a recognizable "popping" sound when compressed and punctured, it can be used as a source of amusement and to alleviate stress. This certainly was the draw for Michael. He had several little nervous traits such as nail biting, finger tapping and making a popping sound with his lips. Aside from the nail biting, I found these to be quite endearing. Playing with bubble wrap was something he initially found funny to do, especially when he knew that it bugged me. As he quickly learned, it was a sure fire way of getting my attention. Often I would hear the annoying sound, follow it's lead, and find Michael waiting for me with a devilish grin. The popping of bubble wrap was also something that helped him alleviate stress. One of the side effects of the steroids he had to take was a feeling of agitation. When this would come on he needed something in his hands that he could manipulate, and bubble wrap was definitely one thing that did the trick.

So as you may guess, Michael loved bubble wrap. Anytime we received a package he couldn't wait to see what the item was packed in. When we got married many of the gifts were mailed to us with lots of bubble wrap, especially our fine china. In further reading about "bubble wrap" on Wikipedia, it says that 'the bubbles provide the cushioning for fragile or sensitive objects.'

If you were to ask friends of Michael to describe him, a word many would use is "sensitive." The slightest gesture of kindness could evoke a wonderful loving look from him. When something was troubling him he could get very quiet. When he was like this I would put my arms around him, hold him tight, and feel his tensed body quickly relax.

When I first met Michael I would have never thought to describe him as fragile. It's frightening how quickly things can change. The day he received the news that there was a mass in his brain, I received a phone message from him stating that he needed me. His voice was breaking up, and there was a fragility that I had never heard before. In the days that followed we found ourselves in a hospital instead of the cruise to Mexico we were scheduled to be on. My strong guy was suddenly fearing for his life, and I was charged with keeping him together. In the last two years we learned the true meaning of the word "fragile." And in his final days this was defined even further.

It's funny that in reflecting on all of this, one might think that this familiar sound would evoke feelings of sorrow. Yet quite the contrary. As I walked through the office, and was surprised by the very familiar sound, a warmth came over me. It stopped me in my tracks, and I heard myself laugh out loud.

Pure joy.

******


If you look to the right of my page you will find a bubble wrap widget that allows you to pop some bubbles. I will leave it there for a brief period in honor of Michael.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Michael's Christmas Music Mix


Christmas Music,
originally uploaded by elycefeliz.

Years ago Michael put together a music mix of his favorite Christmas songs, burned them to a CD, and sent them out to friends as a gift. He had made so many copies that we seemed to come upon them whenever going through the house looking for something or another. It kind of became a bit of a joke between him and I.

Although Michael and I only had a few Christmases together, this music mix became the highlight of the season. Whenever we had friends over he would be sure to get one of his CD's out to put on the stereo. Whenever somebody would mention music around the holidays, Michael's face would light up, and I knew what was coming.

Ever since the Thanksgiving holiday was over I began thinking about Michael's Christmas mix. As Christmas has drawn closer and closer I have tried my best to stay far away from any kind of holiday music, as it has been just too painful to feel any joy with much of the light hearted tunes.

This afternoon the boys and I met with our family therapist to talk about the difficulties we have faced as a family. During the session my boys both talked about their wish that I wasn't so sad all the time, and how they were wanting to find a way for me to be happier about Christmas. Hearing their concerns immediately brought me to tears. I realized how difficult this has been for them, and that I need to put more effort into allowing for some joy this week. Yes, it is going to be difficult, it already is, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Getting back to Michael's music mix, I came to realize tonight that I didn't want to let the holiday season pass without including Michael's music. So as I have been sitting here writing this post, Michael's Christmas music mix has been playing in the background. I'm so glad that the boys were able to reach me with their concerns, as it has enabled me to connect with Michael in this way. With each song I can picture Michael singing along. With each song I can feel the joy of the Christmases we shared together. And, with each song I feel his love. Will I end up in tears once the music ends? Most likely. Yet tonight the tears will be a mix of sorrow and appreciation.

My favorite song on the CD is Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you." Listening to this song fills me with Michael's joy. I see him clearly, singing along, looking straight into my eyes, dancing around the room, and moving closer and closer to me.

All I want for Christmas is him. I no longer have him here in person, but I know that I will always have him, and he will always have me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Message to Michael


tears #1,
originally uploaded by rawlay.
Oh my love. I am having such a difficult day. I can always tell when my night will end up full of tears and sorrow. In the morning I wake up far too early. I didn't need to be anywhere, and I didn't have anything that had to get done. A perfect opportunity on a cold morning to just stay in bed, and sleep in late. Yet, my body does not allow for that. It wakes up early, looking for you. It has a restlessness that says that something is missing. It can't find comfort in our own bed.

I moved into the living room early this morning, had a bowl of fruit and a hot cup of coffee. I sat there for a very long time, then sat a while longer. I turned on the television to see what might occupy some of the quiet, but nothing felt right. The boys were around, which did help. I later moved back down into our bedroom, got out this computer, and tried to occupy my mind once again. It didn't work for me.

You know Michael, some days just seem to move so slowly. I wish they would fly by, but they don't. I feel like I am empty, that things that used to bring me joy no longer do. I try desperately to engage in activities that used to fill my days, that perhaps we enjoyed together, yet I don't seem to remember what they were. It's as if I am a different person, or just an observer of time. It is remarkable how I can sit doing absolutely nothing, and can do this for extended periods of time. Sitting here now, it is completely quiet. If I concentrate I can hear the ticking of the clock, and I can sense the glow of the candles I have burning.

I miss you so much, and as the evening draws later I find myself awash in tears. My body aches for you, it yearns for comfort. My chest is sore, my lungs lack adequate air, and my head is throbbing with pain.

Where are you?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love Actually


Love actually...is all around us.


This afternoon I indulged in my annual guilty pleasure of viewing the film "Love Actually." The film is a favorite of mine, and a favorite of Widow in the Middle. It is one of those romantic comedies that tug at the heart, has a great soundtrack, and includes something for everyone to identify with. It is also the kind of film that Michael just didn't always appreciate.

Michael had a bit of a snide attitude about romantic comedies, as he felt they made life look better than it was. He often commented that films that depicted families gathering for the holidays were so over the top happy, and nobody's family acted that way. I would just look over at him and say, "honey, that's what it felt like to me growing up, not necessarily how it actually was." I think for Michael life had been a bit more difficult, or perhaps disappointing. He felt like there was no truth to the fairy tales, or to the modern day romantic comedies. Yet, in time, I believe he came around to my way of thinking.

"Love Actually" came out in theatres in 2003, which was a few years before Michael and I met. For those who may not be familiar with the story line, the film is about love, both romantic and platonic, at various stages in life. There are many inter-connected characters from which each story is told. In 2003 I was been a single parent, and had been for many years. For much of that time I longed to be in a relationship, but felt that it would never truly happen for me. My day to day life was quite complicated due to the special needs of my children. I often thought that even if I did find someone, how would I incorporate him into the less than storybook life that my children and I lived.

In the film there is a very tragic character, Sarah, played by Laura Linney. Sarah has been "secretly" in love with a coworker, Karl, for over two years. On this one afternoon Sarah's boss calls her into his office to ask her when she is going to do something about her feelings for Karl. To Sarah's horror her boss confirms that not only is everyone in the office aware of her feelings, so is the equally shy Karl. What we soon learn about Sarah is that her life is complicated by the needs of her mentally ill brother. It is truly heartbreaking when Sarah and Karl find themselves in the throws of their long awaited passion, only to be disrupted by her brother's never ending phone calls. We see how difficult it is for Sarah to put her own needs before those of her brother.

Suffice to say, I deeply identified with the character of Sarah. My 16 year old son has suffered from mental illness from a very young age. From early one, my life became ruled by the need to constantly respond to one crisis after another. When I saw this film, and saw the depiction of the character of Sarah, I became quite bothered. It frustrated me that Sarah appeared victimized by her inability to set limits. I wanted so badly for her storyline to end differently, yet I only had to look in the mirror to know her truth, my truth.

Imagine my surprise a few years later, when I met a wonderful man who wasn't scared off by my having three children. For some reason, Michael was able to see me, to fall in love with me. He was also able to embrace the kids and I as a family, and choose to become part of it. Love actually did happen.

Today's viewing put me in the position to identify with a different character, the character of Daniel. Daniel, played by Liam Neeson, is a very recent widower. In fact, his character is introduced at the funeral of his wife. The irony is of course that Liam Neeson is also now a recent widower. Tragic how life can turn on a dime. Last year when I sat through my annual viewing of the DVD, I wondered if I would be a widower by the next year. By this time last year I already knew that Michael's tumor had returned, and that his chances for survival was decreasing. It was a reality, and yet it wasn't. There is a difference between actually knowing, and actually feeling.

There is a scene in the film where Daniel is in the kitchen of a friend, talking about his deceased wife, when he is hit with an unexpected wave of grief. Daniel is suddenly engulfed in tears. I'm sure that when Liam Neeson shot that scene he never imagined that he would actually one day be living it. None of us do. Even when we have a forewarning about what is to come, we can't fully know what it will feel like.

For Michael and I, we knew what the future likely held, but we tried our best not to get caught up in feeling it. When I think back over our time together as a couple, and as a family, I can see that the reality was not like it is in the movies. It was far more complicated, far more difficult. Cancer is neither romantic, nor comic. Yet what we had felt like a romantic comedy. In spite of the reality, we chose to experience each day with laughter, love and plenty of romance.

Love Actually...was all around us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Behind the Veil


Behind the Veil,
originally uploaded by Next Chapter Photography.

Today has been a day for me to bear witness to the collective pain and sorrow being experienced around this world by those who grieve. There was once a time when all of us were separated by mountains and oceans. When we grieved privately in our homes, and we came to know isolation better than our closest neighbors.

These days we are all connected in ways our ancestors couldn't even imagine. We can have immediate connections with someone across the world. We can write about our pain and sorrow, and send it floating into cyber-space like a note in a bottle. Eventually, and sooner than we thought, our words will find a home on the screen of a willing companion. If we are patient, empathy will begin traveling our way.

So why is it so hard for people in close proximity to sit with our pain? Why is it that those near us want us to be better sooner? Why is it that we feel the need to wear a smile in order to attract a willing visitor?

I ask these questions not just for myself, but for people who I know are really hurting today. The winter holidays are here, and it is an unbearable reminder that, for some of us, it is not a time of comfort and joy. I make no attempt to hide the truth here, people I have come to care about are feeling very isolated, alone.

For those that have an extra burden beyond the emotional darkness I have come to know, I offer myself up as proof that we need some gentle kindness. I am willing to stand before you and lift the veil that shields the face of one who mourns.


originally uploaded by schramcrackers.


I may have the look of someone who is functioning well, but it is all a charade. I get up each morning and polish myself to a shine. What you don't see is that I have the benefit of having two wardrobes to choose from. I haven't done my laundry in weeks, so I have been digging into Michael's things rather than muster the energy needed to do my own. On the chair beside my bed is a pile of clean clothing, and soiled clothing, it's all the same to me. My house is clean, but not because I have kept it that way. I am fortunate enough to have a house keeper who comes in every couple of weeks. In between her visits, nothing is getting done. I haven't cooked a meal in a few weeks either. It's been take out, drive through, or microwave. My garden has gone uncared for, and is mostly dying off. The fountain that I once cherished is completely dry, and the motor still running, I suppose. I haven't bothered to check. I have many neat piles of mail gathering around the house. I gather the mail each day, but never open any of it. This is a new development. I'm not quite sure why I don't, I just don't. My bills haven't been paid this month, not for the lack of funds, solely for lack of motivation.

Now to the casual observer, this may just seem like ordinary living. But to those that know me well, those who know the person that was previously known as Dan, I no longer seize to exist. I am one of the most type A, compulsively neat and orderly people you will find. I pride myself on always having it together. For the past three months, I could really care less. What is the point of it all? It's all meaningless to me.

My lover is gone. I am left with an enormous hole in my heart. Everything around me feels like it is falling apart. The lives of my children have become reflective of their suffering as well. We are all trying to stay afloat, but sinking more than swimming. I have lost my perspective. I am tired of caring, tired of trying, just plain tired. Where is our comfort? Where is our joy? I no longer feel equipped to fully keep my family properly nourished in body or soul.

So here I am for your observation. This is someone in grief. This is someone who has lost their source of joy. This is someone who is unfortunately not unique. If you know someone who is grieving, reach out to them. If they are not very festive, cut them some slack. And know this, they appreciate the simplest of gestures.

Give them comfort until they are once again able to know joy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Pleasure Principle


originally uploaded by Massage Austell.

Today I followed Boo's advice and went for a massage after work. I actually tried to do this yesterday, but the place I had used in the past apparently went out of business. In the past I would have taken this as an omen, and told myself to nix the idea of trying to take care of myself. These days, I see that if I don't start taking care of myself, I'm just going to fall apart.

It's funny that we often put a price limit on what we are willing to pay for something for ourselves. For some reason I tell myself that it is okay to pay for tangible things that I, or my family, needs, but somehow I shouldn't spend too much money on services such as massages. I seem to suffer from short term memory problems because after a wonderful massage, like today's, I tell myself that it is money well spent. Yet, in a week's time I tell myself that it's a luxury I can't afford.

So once again, here I am, writing to remind myself.

For 90 minutes today, I allowed myself to feel nurtured and cared for. I put myself into the capable hands of a well trained professional, who worked out all the knots and kinks that my body was storing. I laid there on the table, with the lights dim, a clean and calming fragrance in the air, and the sound of gentle and soothing music.

Relax...breathe...deep breath in...slow and steady release...

This is my mantra. I consciously tell myself these words as a way to give in to the pleasure. Relaxation is not always easy for me. It often takes work to let go of all that I carry. I have to remind myself that it is okay to let go, even if it is only for a short time.

Relax...breathe...deep breath in...slow and steady release...

Soon I find that I don't need to need to think, I can just be. I can be in the moment, allow myself to feel the sensation of connectedness with my body. I can allow my worries melt away. I can even put my grief aside, and trust that my world will be just fine. It will all still be there when I get up and head for home.

Of course I would be lying if I said that Michael was not drifting in and out of my mind. One of our favorite things to do was go for massages. Whenever we traveled we made sure to include a stay at a spa. I loved this about our relationship. We tried our best to make our time together peaceful and relaxing. Thinking about this makes me very aware of why I have avoided doing this since he has been gone. I think I feel guilty about enjoying such luxuries, enjoying such pleasures. Getting a massage is not the only thing that brings up these feelings. I find myself avoiding anything that Michael and I used to enjoy together.

I suppose it is yet another example of survivor's guilt. Who am I to enjoy life's pleasures when Michael is not able to? This is crazy talk, I know. I don't truly imagine that where ever Michael is, he is worrying about the earthly pleasures he left behind. I also know that he would want me to find pleasure in life, especially in the things we valued together. I know that this will all take time. Eventually I will start watching the television shows we enjoyed together. Eventually I will enjoy our favorite ice cream, meals, music, flowers, friends...the list just goes on and on.

For now it does take work. It takes work to experience pleasure. It is something I have to consciously choose to do. It's almost like going through pleasure rehabilitation. I am re-learning how to enjoy life. It is no longer something that comes naturally. It takes practice, it takes work.

Relax...breathe...deep breath in...slow and steady release...

When the massage ended I thanked the masseur for being so careful with my body. Of course he didn't know why my being touched, being nurtured, was so significant. Yet I wanted him to know that it was something of great value to me. It is part of my healing process. After getting dressed, and gathering up my belongings, I went over to the receptionist to pay for the service. As I got out my wallet she asked if I had been told about their winter special. If I pre-pay for five massages, they will give me three additional massages free. I took this as an omen, a message from Michael.

Say yes, it will be money well spent.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

From Joy to Pleasure


Struggle for Pleasure,
originally uploaded by Mariangela ♠ Neve.

I think it is time to redefine my perception of 'joy.' It is something that is notably absent in my life. And until a time arrives that I recognize joy as I once did, it will remain absent in my life. I don't know what else to do. The here and now is all I have. I don't have a crystal ball to look into. Even if I did, I don't know that I would want to see if, and when, joy would re-enter my life.

To understand what I feel missing from my life I first needed to truly understand it's meaning. As a kid my brother's and I would often ask our Dad, "what does....mean?" His response would often be the same, "go look it up in the dictionary." And the apple does not fall far from the tree. Whenever my kids ask me, "what does ....mean?" My response typically is, "go Google it."

So here is the result of my Google search.

Joy –noun
1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation: She felt the joy of seeing her son's success.
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated: Her prose style is a pure joy.
3. the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.
4. a state of happiness or felicity.

Well, in my state of grief, each of these are greatly foreshadowed by my loss. You would think I'd have a leg up on #3, but these days I am probably the least festive gay in the village.

I want joy in my life again. I want to experience it. I know that it will be awhile before I can recognize joy, and hold onto it for more than a few seconds. I also know that it will difficult for me to be open to the thought of joy that doesn't include Michael. And, the joy that I need in life cannot be based solely on the past.

Perhaps I need to begin with an stepped down way of looking at life. Maybe joy is too much to expect given my current experience. Maybe I am aiming far too high. What I need to is change my expectations. I need to seek something that may be more attainable, something like 'pleasure.'

Pleasure-noun
1. the state or feeling of being pleased.
2. enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one's liking; gratification; delight.
3. worldly or frivolous enjoyment: the pursuit of pleasure.
4. recreation or amusement; diversion; enjoyment: Are you traveling on business or for pleasure?
5. sensual gratification.
6. a cause or source of enjoyment or delight: It was a pleasure to see you.
7. pleasurable quality: the pleasure of his company.
8. one's will, desire, or choice: to make known one's pleasure.

This sounds good to me. I think I can do 'pleasure.' Life is about compromise, and that is okay with me. I'm not saying that I will never know joy again, I would love to be surprised by it one day. I just know that it's not in the cards for me right now. And rather than walk around my world feeling disappointed, I can learn to let go of the expectation. I can learn to find, experience, and appreciate pleasure in my life.

I thank you for checking in with me today.

It has been a pleasure.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Unapologetic Warrior Widower



Grieve the Warrior,
originally uploaded by habaneros.

Today I have been reflecting on my recent posts. I feel that I am making significant progress in navigating through my grief. For too long I felt that I needed be doing better than I was. I have been going through some significant depression and anxiety with my grief, which has only been compounded with some of my kids' issues. People often mean well, but the message I often come away with is that they need for me do be doing better, and not be looking so sad. Of course there is yet the other response, which is to never mention my grief at all, as it can be awkward for them. And lastly, there is the response that begs me to 'look on the bright side'...you had several really happy years together, you two were able to do so much together, you loved each other so much, he is in a better place, he is no longer in pain, you were able to experience real love, you were exactly what he needed...blah blah blah. Now, these are all sincere sentiments, and when I hear them I smile, or just say thank you. But there is an alternative way for me to respond.

What I really want to say in response to Michael's death is that I really hate what life has given me, I am not wanting to be happy that he has moved on, he would be happier with me, we had only just begun our time together, I don't care that we all must go at some time. I am angry!

After writing about the theme of the film in The Single Man, I felt so empowered by my co-mourners. I felt completely acknowledged and understood. It feels so empowering to not have to have to feel grateful for what I had, and to not have to act like I am doing better than I am. He was my husband, and he died. No! I'm not feeling better yet! No! I'm not going to get through this anytime soon! No! There is no silver lining! Yes! You should worry about me! Yes I have wished for death. This hurts like hell!

It amazes me that people, myself included, do not, or did not, have a clue what it is like to lose your partner/spouse. I constantly look at people who are with their spouses, or reflect on the love and security they have with them, and think they really have no clue. You can try to empathize, you can try equate it with the heartbreaking end of a relationship, but I'm sorry to be the one to break the news to you, you have no idea how much this hurts. You have no idea how lost you will feel. You have no idea how disabling this can be.

I am the Warrior Widower. I am here to fight off any attempts to smooth the edges around the appearance of grief. I am here to expose the raw truth, and to walk you through the dark and lonely path many of us are on.

I am the Warrior Widower. I am putting myself out on the line, right out in front, to show other widows and widowers that what we are going through is the biggest battle we will ever have to plow through. If you are experiencing injury after injury, often without time to heal in between, then you are authentically experiencing your grief.

I am the Warrior Widower, I am empowering myself to say this is real, this is torture, this is not pretty, this is what it takes to fight my way through this. War is not pretty. Grief is not pretty. As widows and widowers we walk among the living as testament to the dead. If you mistake us for single people, you cannot be more wrong. We walk hand in hand with the one we lost. We wear a cloak of darkness and death. We may not be dressed in black, but others see us coming. I recognize it all the time. Someone is approaching me, they are having just another day, they look up to see who is coming along the path, it is the widower. The other person immediately thinks of death. It can be a fleeting thought, or it can be a connecting moment, yet it is always there. In time it will change, and at some point it will be less distinguishable.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will not be afraid to share with you who I am.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will show my courage in facing each day.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will continue to battle my pain and loss.

I am the Warrior Widower, I will strive to greet the light of the new day with optimism.

I am the Warrior Widower. I will cry each day.

No apology.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Male Form


Neoclassical Male,
originally uploaded by Just A Slice .


After the intense topic yesterday, I decided to go a different direction today. In fact, I plan to approach my post in a different order. Typically I sit at my computer and just let my thoughts flow. Eventually a thought comes into focus, and I begin the editing process. When I have finished writing my post then I go about selecting the right art work to further convey to my thoughts with a image.

Tonight I have selected an image, the Neoclassical Male, and will allow that image to inspire my thought process.

I have become aware that all who are actively participating in my blog entries have lost a male lover, husband, boyfriend, companion. Now, as a man, I don't pretend to think that the men we lost are like the flawless images captured in neoclassical sculpture. In fact, I often wonder if men ever really looked the way they were depicted in stone.

As many of you may have noticed I have a great appreciation for the stone image. I have often used photographs of various statues to convey subtle meaning in my posts. I find that people feel less threatened by observing the nude male or female form when looked upon in marble or stone. It also allows us to see beyond an individuals beauty, or natural flaws, and to make room for interpretation. Women in sculpture tend to be more voluptuous, men in sculpture tend to be muscular yet at the same time soft.

What I do find in observing sculpture, is the way I saw Michael's beauty. I loved the lines and curves of his body. I loved the natural masculinity that he exuded. He had pale smooth skin, which under closer inspection was found to be covered in many small freckles. He was never into body building, yet had a large frame, with thick flesh and a natural toned look about him. In the time we were together his abdomen certainly increased in size, which gave him the look of a well satisfied man. Michael stood just under 6 feet tall, and kept his perfectly round head shaved very close. As a boy, and a young man, he had silky blond hair, fair skin and piercing hazel eyes. People would comment to him that he was too pretty to be a boy.

I remember Michael telling me how transitioning through manhood in his early forties became somewhat deflating. He hated that his hair was thinning, and that his lithe swimmers-like body was thickening. We men can be so vain..."we probably think this song is about us..." Michael shared with me that a few months before meeting me he had decided it was time to shave his head. He could no longer get away with the infamous comb over. So he found himself in front of the bathroom mirror, and with clippers in hand, saw the last of his locks fall to the floor. He looked up at himself, and cried. Michael said it was a jarring experience to see his reflection staring back at him. What he saw was a man who was aging. He worried that he was now less attractive, and whose eye would he catch?

I'll tell you whose eye he caught. Another man, several inches shorter than he. A Latino man, unbeknownst to Michael, who was a few years older. A man who had gone prematurely gray several years earlier, but with the ease of a wash in color, and a lot of smoke and mirrors, appeared much younger than his age should convey. The night I met Michael I was completely smitten. I found him to be a bit of a geek, but quite adorable. With more careful inspection, and with several drinks under my belt, I also found him terribly sexy. Okay, not fair. I found Michael to be not what I had been looking for, but exactly what I wanted and needed.

Both Michael and I found each other irresistible. In comparing our dating stories, we learned that neither of us were what each thought of as our type. Yet, we both sensed a common dry and sarcastic sense of humor. Both of us found in each other a sincere compassion for other people and public service. Both of us had three children who were central figures in our lives, my three kids, his two nieces and nephew. We found joy, passion, humor, sexual fulfillment, and most of all we found undeniable love.

I have been single most of my adult years. I have had periods where I dated less, and some where I dated more. In general I had given up on finding my soul mate. I had just figured that the type of loving relationship that I yearned for was just not going to happen for me.

Well, when I stopped looking for the man of my dreams, I found the man of my reality. He was perfect for me, he was opposite from me He was beautiful to me, he needed to cut back in his ice cream intake. He was cautious, I was anything but. We became a solid mass of combined forces that I now know of as true love.



This is the male form. His name is Michael. He is the love of my life. I am beginning to feel him all around me. I miss him more than life itself, and I know that I will be with him again some day.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Single Man












Today's outing was to see the new film, A Single Man. The film is an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's story about a gay professor, George, grieving the loss of his partner due to a car accident. The film takes a very deliberate pace, which allows the viewers to experience the intense level of pain that George feels in his grief. In the story George has decided that life is not worth living without his partner, and plans to commit suicide. From that point on, we are taken along with George, as he moves about a single day, getting his affairs in order. In the end, after a series of subtle events, George must come to his own conclusion about the value of life without Jim.

I went to see this film with my cousin, who lost a boyfriend many years ago. We both knew this film would be a difficult watch, due to his past loss, and my recent loss of Michael. What we experienced was a knowing identification with the character of George. We saw that there are so many universal feelings, and responses, to the loss of a lover. There is that initial hit of reality which cuts you right at the knees. Like a heavy blow to the body, it elicits a primal scream that seems almost inhuman.

The idea that George would seriously consider ending his life is going to be unsettling for many people. The idea that I identify with this aspect of George's grief will be unsettling for many as well. Just moving about my day takes an enormous amount of energy. I have to consciously keep myself from being pulled down into the dark waters of grief. Most days I am able to manage well enough, yet there are days when grief can overtake me, and I fear that I will succumb to it's strength.

Just as the joy of love can feel bigger than life, so can grief. This blog is about being authentic, wearing no veils. I too have looked at myself in the mirror, and asked whether life is worth one more day. Am I willing to trust that the pain will lessen, and that life will be worth living? I liken this experience to being pulled down in the undertow of the ocean's waves. You can either struggle, and be thrown about, or you can trust and let go. In that moment of letting go you realize that fighting the powerful undertow can be futile. Allowing yourself to be pulled under does not necessarily mean giving up. I think there is a temptation to feel that it is too much to bear, and in those moments I have cried out, please take me. Yet by carefully allowing myself to experience the depths of my pain, I am able to feel myself gradually rise.

Sometimes when we are caught up in the trauma of our grief, each moment can feel like an eternity. In time we need to trust in our process, and remember that we have been here before. By the fact that there is a familiarity to these moments we are able to bear witness to our own survival. We are able to reassure ourselves that we will get through this.

I have reminded myself on many occasions, that I will get through this. I have reminded myself that life is worth living.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boredom, the in-between stage of grief


Is life boring??,
originally uploaded by hawk's_eye 2 oldschool.


Utter boredom. That has been my whole day. Nothing is capturing my interest. I have turned the television on, nothing worth my time. I have been surfing the net, can't remember where my interests used to lie. I sit here on my bed, books on both night stands, none of them being cracked open today. I think I have read half way through each of the books during the past few months, and now I have no interest in finishing them.

This house is dirty, the laundry is half done, I could use a trip to the grocery store, but it's too cold and wet out. Eventually the kids will start wondering what is for dinner, but for now they don't seem too concerned.

It's a sad situation. I don't even care that I have accomplished little today. I don't even care that nothing has captured my interest. Night has set in, and I'll probably sit here, awake, all night long. Even the thought of sleeping has no appeal. Maybe I should take up drinking, at least I could alter my state of consciousness with unconsciousness.

I suppose this is better than spending a day in tears and torment. Even my dog and cat have left my room. They have spent most of the days sleeping at my side. Now that they are alert, and ready to play, I appear to have bore them as well.

Okay, let's try to analyze this. Let's take a step back and look upon this scenario with deeper understanding. What we see is a man well aware that it is day 90, meaning he has been a widower for exactly 90 days. He has lost the love of his life, and that life appears somewhat empty right now. He is going through a 'glass half empty' period.

I, this man, could greatly use a hobby. No, this man has far too much to do. He is just failing to follow through with any type of responsibility today. By Monday he will regret wasting all this time. He will think back on the chores he didn't do, the letters he didn't write, the calls he didn't return, the food he didn't cook, the gifts he didn't wrap....his list can go on and on.

This man in grief has entered a new stage. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave us the framework for the stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, which are commonly referred to as the "grief cycle." It is well accepted that these stages are not necessarily sequential. We can move about them in various directions, sometimes experience more than one stage at a given time.

What appears to be missing from the five stages, is the stage, or state of being numb. My process thus far has been to move from anger, to depression, and to acceptance. I don't have a sense of being in denial or trying to bargain my way out of this. And, the transitions between anger, depression and acceptance have not been very smooth, more like being thrown about by violent waves in the ocean. This is why I sit here a bit confused, what stage am I in today? What am I feeling?

Unfortunately for me, I know myself all too well. I know that this sense of boredom will be washed away very soon, and I will be back to my usual angry and depressed attempt to come to acceptance. What a horrible goal. Who wants to work through these stages when the goal is to accept that the person they love is gone for good?

Oh, I hate this life! Okay, I don't hate this life, I just needed to interject a bit of drama into this boring day. Alright, alright. I will accept this current state of being, appreciate the break from my emotions, and move on with my night. I am going to find the most melodramatic movie on the t.v. and lose myself in it!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Physical Being



originally uploaded by BjørnS.

Tonight as I headed out of work, and onto the road to pick up my son, a familiar feeling began sweeping over me.

I realized that the end of each work week is very difficult for me. I find myself in tears as I get onto the road to start my weekend. It may be due to being tired from the emotional work that I do, or it may be from a cumulative lack of sleep throughout the week. Or it could be a combination of both.

There is also the fact that we have entered the winter season, which is cold, wet, and very dark, very early. It used to be that my long week at work was rewarded with having a cozy time at home with Michael and the kids. By this time of the evening I would have been curled up on the couch with Michael at my side. These days my work week is rewarded with the reminder that I am alone. I know that I am not completely alone, the kids are still around, but I am alone in the sense that my soul mate is not at home waiting for me when I return.

I can't help but wonder when my body will start getting use to the lack of Michael's sensual comfort . My mind knows that Michael is gone, it's day 89. My heart still lacks understanding, and together my heart and mind are trying to make sense of it all. I know I need to start taking better care of this quickly aging body of mine. I'm not feeding it as well as I used to. I'm not giving my body nearly enough sleep to properly function. And I rarely take this body out for a walk around the neighborhood, or get it into the gym. In general, my poor body is being mistreated compared to the special care it once received.

Somehow I need to strike a balance between healing my mind and heart, with helping my body feel nurtured and cared for. I'm realizing that this is part of grief's cruel reality. We widows and widowers can go for long periods of time without physical touch or intimate discussion. Again, I do have my children, who give me great hugs, yet we all know the difference.

Tonight's thoughts are not spoken with tears, or with a whiny tone. If that is how you interpreted my words, go back to the beginning and re-read this post with a bit more emotional distance. It was actually a moment of clarity when this all came together for me on the drive home. Understanding what triggers my longing for Michael, and the hurt and pain that accompanies it, must be part of the road I travel.

While I am mourning Michael I must also start rebuilding my life. I must learn new ways to take care of myself, because he's not here to physically comfort me or make me feel good. I need to find new ways of rewarding myself for all that I take on. If I don't find this I fear that I will just begin to feel detached from my body. I will just learn to go without pleasure, or end all of my weeks with a sense of emptiness and pain.

It is such a challenge to keep learning more about what I have lost, but learn I must. Each day feels like a new lesson. I can choose to turn away from these lessons, or I can choose to face them head on. I know which way I am choosing, and it's going to be a painful process.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bonus Time


Bonus time.,
originally uploaded by hfabulous.

All I could think about today was that it was day 88. Now I realize that I should never have counted the days, as it will be something I obsess about.

I was sharing at my bereavement group tonight about Michael having his "bonus Christmas" last year. The year he was diagnosed with his brain tumor we talked about all the components that would make up his ideal Christmas. Since childhood I can remember all the Christmas specials where everyone, and everything, just seemed magical. Michael wanted all that, so I did my best to make it happen. And even though he was weak from daily chemotherapy and radiation, our holiday was wonderful.

Last year Michael kept referring to Christmas as his "bonus Christmas," because he wasn't supposed to live that long. Well, at least that is how he thought of it. It was about this time last year when we knew that his tumor was becoming resistant to the treatment. We didn't immediately share it with everybody, as he needed a bit of time to accept this. I knew from my research that once the tumor returned it would be very difficult to fight off. From last Christmas forward, I too began to think in terms of bonus time with Michael. By the end of January 2009 I decided to take a leave of absence from my job. I wanted to be with Michael. I didn't want to wait until he was so sick that I had to leave work. I was able to stay at home with him for three months. We didn't do anything during that time that would be considered significantly different. We just lived our life together, at home, happy. It was bonus time.

I later went back to work for a couple of months, as I needed the money, and I had run out of sick leave. I also realized that after a while Michael began to worry that I was home because he was dying soon. My time back at work was short lived, as Michael's tumor progression lead to increasing memory issues and returned seizures. And although our bonus time became compromised by his declining health, I loved every minute of it.

Michael was a wonderfully smart and compassionate man. He intuitively knew how to frame this final period of his life. He was great about using his dry sense of humor to get through this difficult journey. Thinking in terms of bonus time was as much for his own survival as it was for mine. It's funny to describe this end time as survival, yet that is exactly what it was. He was successful in the way he lived out his final days. He was able to see his time as a gift. Michael confided in me that he didn't always appreciate what he had in life. When you are told that your time is limited, you are forced to take notice of life's value. Michael was blessed with a full year of being relatively symptom free. We were able to enjoy many wonderful times together, especially our wedding day. Everything beyond that first year was a bonus.

Thinking about all of this makes me love and appreciate Michael all the more. He gave me so much happiness during our time together. He gave me bonus time.

I know that this first year without Michael will continue to be difficult, but I don't want it to cast a dark cloud over the bonus that I was given. He continues to remind me that what we had was wonderful. My time with Michael was a gift. And even though I had him for such a short period of time, the love he gave me will last a lifetime, my lifetime. The tears will continue to fall, yet with each drop I will be forever grateful. He was my bonus.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Man in Waiting


A dream of you...,
originally uploaded by double.L.

It has been 87 days since Michael left this world. Michael Walter Lowrie, the man I love, my partner, my husband.

Michael suffered from a brain tumor. We knew that he was going to die, and we were able to have many conversations about this. Some of these conversations were very serious, some were what might be considered mundane.

Often his impending death would come up as we prepared for bed each night. He would look over at me while brushing his teeth, and say things like, "I'm going to miss doing this with you." Michael would be putting his clothes away, look across the room and say, "I'm going to miss seeing your smile." At first these comments were difficult to hear, and initially didn't make sense to me. I would ask him, "Isn't it the person left behind that is supposed to do all the missing?" He would just smile and reply, "Well, I know I am going to miss this anyway."

I know this type of conversation might seem odd, but it was our reality. We found it comforting to know we would always miss each other. It became an endearing part of our relationship.

Sometimes the next part of the conversation would lead to Michael asking if I wanted him to contact me after death, if he found this possible. Of course I would love it, but know it isn't possible. And while such ideas seem like they would help with the pain of loss, I know that they would likely just delay what I must go through. Perhaps this is why I haven't even found Michael in my dreams. Come to think of it, I don't think I have had any dreams since his death.

During these past 87 days I have had very little sleep. Most nights I am awake until 1 or 2 in the morning. Sometimes I am able to let go of my thoughts, and fall asleep earlier, and sometimes sleep doesn't arrive until much later into the morning. I'm sure this is why I am not dreaming, or at least not registering that I dream.

This may not be the case for all who grieve. It just happens to be part of my process. I know that eventually I will sleep. Eventually I will dream, and when I do I will be looking for Michael.

I am a man in waiting. I am waiting for some comforting visions of Michael. I am waiting for sweet remembrances. I am waiting to awake with a smile on my face.