Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Perfect Master Bath


I'm addicted to HGTV, and all their home buying/designing television shows. What I like best is House Hunters, where the mostly happy couples go looking for their perfect home. Of utmost importance to many of them is the size of the master bedroom and bath. Without fail, they always get so excited when they see a double sink. "How perfect! Now we don't have to share. We each get our own sink!"

I never had much of a master bedroom at my old home. It was a small room created out of the basement, but we really loved the privacy it provided. We also had a very small bathroom, and we shared a very small vanity and cabinet. The idea of a large vanity with double sinks seemed only for those happy couples on t.v.

Well, alas, my new home has a huge master bedroom, and a huge beautiful bathroom. It has a big sunken tub, a nice sized shower for two, a private room for the toilet, and drum roll please....an extremely long vanity with double sinks.

I have so much space, I don't know what to do. I set up all my things in "my cabinet" and arranged my toiletries nicely on "my side of the vanity." What is painfully clear is that this bathroom was meant for two. Now, between you and me, if you open the unused side of the cabinet you will find a few of Michael's things. I couldn't resist. Outside it though, I tried to not create a 'Michael shrine.' The problem is, what do I do with the unused side of the vanity and sink?

When my parents were visiting, my mother wasted no time arranging all her make up and lady items all around the vacant vanity. It felt nice seeing the east side being used. I didn't feel so alone when using the bathroom. Now that my parents are back home, it is empty once again.

Here's where I need help. What do I do with the vacant side?

Should I rent it out? Maybe one of my neighbors really need the added space when it comes to bathroom time. Maybe one of the neighboring couples are always getting in each other's way and starting out each day in a fight. Renting it out to one of them might be just what they need to maintain a happy home. It would have the benefit of me not feeling so strikingly alone each morning and each night. It might also bring in a little added income.

I suppose I could always find me a rent boy, and he could use that side of the vanity.

What? That would not be very respectable? I might be setting a bad example for my kids? Well, maybe your right.

Okay, if you are going to get so high and mighty about how I make use of this empty space, then perhaps you should give me some good ideas.

Well. I'm waiting....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don't Take It Personally

Appetite

I'm not sure where to start, but this title was with me throughout the day.

I keep having this nagging feeling that I am disappointing people. I have definitely sort of dropped out. I haven't been to my yoga class in many weeks, haven't seen the gym in ages, haven't visited anyone, haven't called anyone, and haven't really left my house other than to go to work, or to pick up my folks for Christmas. I didn't call anyone to wish them a Merry Christmas, and completely flaked out about Chanukah.

There have been calls sent my way that never got returned. There have been cards received without a response. I'm sure many have wondered if I have been abducted by aliens. I think that is what I would like them to believe, then I would have no responsibility for my lack of action.

I'm sorry. Please don't take it personally.

I just don't feel like participating in life right now. I don't want to have fun. I don't want to make polite conversation. I don't want to wear a smile. I don't want to be challenged. I don't want to be cheered up. I don't want to be told what I need to be doing. I don't want to see that worried look. I don't want to hear the overt concern. I don't want advice. I don't want sympathy. I don't want human contact.

I'm sorry once again. And please, don't take it personally.

I'm not proud. I'm definitely not where I would like to be, but at the same time I don't really desire to be anywhere else right now.

Maybe I'm hibernating.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace

Luce Blu

"Well, the weather outside is frightful...."

Actually, it's not so bad at the moment. We here in Southern California have suffered through too much rain as of late, and after a couple of nice sunny days, it appears that the clouds are rolling back in.

Let's hope my grief doesn't follow suit.

I've tried my best to make this another generic Christmas. Last year I stayed at home, which was San Francisco at the time. This year I did the same, but went and collected my parents first. I decided it would be nice to have them here for the weekend, as they really wanted to see my new home, and I really wanted a distraction from my usual depressed self.

Success. Sort of.

Something I also did these past two Christmases without Michael, was to simplify my decorating, and put up only new decorations. It has helped me feel a bit festive, make the kids and my parents smile, and not remind me Christmases past when I was much happier with Michael beside me. It was going great until I left the house last night to pick up my daughter from work. She ended up working late, which kept me waiting in the parking lot for over an hour, then found that she was not ready, in my mind, to really participate in our Christmas Eve celebration. A lot of anger came out, as there have been a couple of unresolved issues that I needed to call her on. While on my way back to the house I called and asked my youngest son to please set the table for our formal dinner. I had spent a good part of the afternoon cooking a turkey, and all the trimmings. Well, my son took it upon himself to unpack some "fancy" wine glasses that he felt we needed to properly serve our chilled sparkling cider. When I walked in the door, my new dining table was set with Michael's more ornate wine glasses that I had purposefully not unpacked. Not only that, he had broken one while unpacking. He must have seen my reaction, and began to explain why he had chosen the glasses. I let him know it was fine, then quickly joined the group for dinner. Once I had finished forcing the food down, I excused myself to go finish wrapping presents, and to have a good cry.

It was a good release to cry. I then pulled myself together, and brought out the rest of the gifts, and set up the deserts for everyone to enjoy. The kids then happily opened their gifts early, and we had a good time. I had purchased some Victorian "Crackers", which were filled with jokes and trivia. My parents really enjoyed these, so we sat around popping the crackers, and cracking up with all the lame jokes.

This morning we all got up early, and went to Christmas Mass at the local Catholic church. It felt very strange, yet also very comforting. I have pulled away from attending a church, as my anger at God for taking Michael away, coupled with my anger with his followers taking away my right to marry, made for a less than spiritual experience. The kids had also been feeling the same way I had, yet also seemed to really get something out of attending today's mass. Who knows, maybe we will find our way back before next Christmas arrives.

Today has been good. I'm not feeling very joyous, but I'm also not feeling extremely sad. I'm just feeling quiet, and contemplative. I think this will be the week that I also make a return to my yoga class. I think it is time to resurface, and begin interacting with other adults once again. There is going to be a New Years Eve Yoga Flow Class. We will be ushering in the new year with our various poses and meditational states. Perhaps it's just what I need.

I hope each of you can find something that brings you peace, and something that helps you take that next step forward. You have each been a great source of support to me, and provide me with a reason to keep expressing myself.

Love to all.

Dan

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Greeting

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays. I'm having computer problems so my post is being done via my iPhone.

Short and brief. I love you all. Thanks for reading, and for being such an important part of my journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I Thought...I Wish.

Deep In Thought

***WHINE ALERT***WHINE ALERT***WHINE ALERT***

Another busy day at work. By the end of the day I was the only one left in the office. Most had left for the day, and many had left for time off for the holidays. Man, do I wish I could take time off right now. Being new, and with little to no vacation time earned, I will be working straight through the holidays. And judging by the stack of boxes that border each room in my new home, I haven't made much progress in the unpacking department.

I left the quiet office, and walked out into the cold night. Mine was one of the few cars still left in the lot. How symbolic for me. All alone in the dark cold night. As usual, I got into my car, took a deep breath, and let the tears flow. This time I cried more than usual. It's the holiday season, and most people are filled with joy. I wish I could be joyous. I sat there in the car, sobbing, and feeling angry and resentful once again. Why did I only get three and a half years with my husband? Why do others get what seems like an eternity? Why do I return home every night alone? Well, the kids are there, but you know what I mean.

I feel so cheated. I feel so let down by life. I feel so let down by God. I'm trying to psyche myself up for an early Christmas celebration with my extended family on Saturday. We will be gathering at my parents home that day since each of my brothers and their wives will spend Christmas in their own homes. They will experience the joy of waking up next to the person they love, and exchange gifts, and cuddle next to the fire. I on the other hand, will be sitting here desperately clutching my laptop, which is my only extension to what feels like real life.

What hurts the most is that it doesn't feel like my family understands how hard this still is for me. They love me, and are good to me, but I don't think they get how hard it is to hear so much laughter and joy. They don't see how it rips my heart apart just being around them, and seeing how happy they are. When I am with them the conversation often turns to issues of being a couple, and the jokes fly about things they say and do with their spouses. I'm a good brother, and I just smile, or try to discretely separate myself from the situation.

I know there is nothing anyone can do to change what life has dealt me. I get it. I know that I have to learn to move forward, and I am. It just hurts like hell, and in times like these, the holidays, I do find myself thinking about how different we thought life would be. Michael and I had it all planned out. We talked about the house we would buy together. We talked about working on that house together. We talked about growing old together. We pictured ourselves, two old men, sitting on the porch, resting with a cold beverage after working all afternoon in the yard. I thought about how lovely life would be, always sleeping next to that person who loves me, and who I love with all my heart.

I thought about becoming grandparents together. I thought about all the travel we would do. I thought about all the passionate nights of sex we would have, even through our "golden years." I thought about all the ornaments we would collect over the years, and how much fun we would have reminiscing while decorating the tree each year. I thought about all the traditions we would create together. I thought about how we would use our wedding china for every special dinner. I thought about how happy we would be.

As I may have mentioned in the past, I rarely dream. In fact, I have only seen Michael in my dreams on two occasions since he died, and both times were about his final days. I tell myself that I don't allow myself to dream so that it won't hold me back, yet I now find myself wishing I could. I wish I could have this fantasy life in my dream world. I wish I could be visited by Michael, or that I could go visit him where ever he may be. I wish I could feel his embrace, or to see his smile once again. When I can't sleep at night I talk to him. I ask him to come back to me, if only for a minute. I tell him I won't be afraid, and I won't even tell a soul that he was here. Yet, nothing.

It's no good, none of this is helping me. Even as I write this I am telling myself that these things are not good for me. I tell myself that if I really thought it would help me, that I would be dreaming about him. I hate that about myself. I know what's good for me, so I don't allow myself to be self indulgent. Well, maybe just a little.

If you are still reading, then bless you. I don't know if I could stick with this if these thoughts were not pouring out of my own head. I hate whining. But as my kids say, don't be a hater!

Okay, I feel better now. I just needed to get this all out.

I'll be fine.

Eventually.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Endurance.

No hope

I want to thank each of you who read, and each that leave me messages. I take each of your thoughts to heart, and use them as my mantra each day. I am trying to draw strength from the encouragement.

The emotional turbulence that is often my oldest son has settled down a bit. New psychiatrist, new medication, and perhaps just time, has brought back some stability. I was definitely at breaking point, and I pray that this reprieve will last awhile. It has become increasing difficult to have the same presence of mind, or surplus of patience, that I once had when things got this challenging.

I also find that there is little about daily life that lifts me from my depression. I get breaks from the new low during my work day. My office mate and I often have good conversations, and even have a good laugh here and there. My work with families is rewarding, and I take great pride in providing a service to the parents of young children who are exhibiting delays in their development. I really feel like I have much to offer, and they are always so eager for help and support. But it's those long pieces of time, in between these brief distractions, where I find myself consumed by my sadness.

I know people are concerned, and I know they wish I was further along in this process, but I don't have the will to be something I am not, happy. This is not to say I am closed off to happiness, just that it isn't present at this time.

I can endure. I can keep myself afloat, but I have to be who I am. I feel like something will soon happen that will be the catalyst for change in my heart. I'm not sure what it is, but it will happen.

I am not without hope, just lacking inspiration.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Missing in Action

Moon shadow - self portrait

That's me, missing in action.

I have been missing from this blog for some time now. It seemed that for the past year, this blog defined me. It provided me a much needed outlet, and it kept others connected to me.

I have also been missing in action from myself, and from my kids.

I have been really lost and overwhelmed. My life became suddenly very busy, closing escrow, packing up once again, and then moving this past weekend. On top of that I have been going through another extremely challenging time with my oldest son. I have contemplated placing him back into residential care, as our home life has begun to feel like a battleground.

With all of these challenges I have become increasingly aware that I no longer have what it takes. I am no longer capable of responding to life's difficulties the way I used to. This is no surprise, as we all know that I am a wounded soul. I guess many of you who read this might be saying the same about yourselves. And although I understand why I am this way, I don't like it. I feel like the quality of my life has been forever changed.

Funny, even through his crazy manic, rage filled days, Dante continues to complain that I am no longer the same person. He is angry that I am so depressed. He wants to see me out doing things, and to see happiness and optimism in my face. I think that for awhile, I was able to pull it off somewhat better. These days my efforts have been futile. There is nothing within my reserve, and I find myself feeling quite weary.

I fear that if I don't bounce back soon, the lives of my children will be seriously altered. Their daily lives are so complicated to begin with, that having a father who is less able to maintain the stability they seek, is only compromising whatever hopes they have of feeling secure. I wish I could just snap out of this, but being cognitively aware of my situation doesn't lend itself to any type of easy solution.

Perhaps life just gets too complicated. Perhaps God does give some of us too much to handle. Perhaps we can find ourselves lost in this sea of grief and stress. Perhaps we just go missing. For how long, I do not know.

I am lost. The old me is gone. The new me is less than.

I am missing in action.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soon Enough

The Wind of Change...

I'm finally close to closing escrow on my new home. It has been a long process in some ways, and not so long in others. It didn't take very long for my wonderful realtor to find this home for me, but I have had to be patient during this whole escrow process.

I found that my initial excitement quickly turned into depression. I think it had a lot to do with the timing of finding the house around the time of my wedding anniversary. A past that I am still grieving converged with a future that looked so beautiful and promising. The end result was anxious anticipation, along with disappointment that I find myself here without Michael.

I am very fortunate to have a house that I absolutely love. It will give me so much to do in way of projects, such as decorating and gardening. Lots of gardening. I know that once I'm in the house that my spirit will once again be lifted from these dark clouds.

I think that change is difficult. Change during times of grief is even more difficult. The reality is that I wouldn't even be here if Michael had not died. Yet, this is what I have chosen given my reality. The challenge before me is to allow myself to be happy. Most people would not likely understand how hard it is to be happy. I find that it takes an enormous amount of effort for me to keep my spirits up during the day. Honestly, I crash each day on my drive home. Sometimes I wonder how I am able to drive given the amount of tears that blur my vision.

I hesitated to share this, as I really wanted to be doing better at this point. Yet, as has been my blog policy, I have to be real with each of you. You know, I never really believed that the second year would be this difficult. I had read other people describe how you then experience your loss without that numb feeling, but I just didn't get it. Now I do.

This will all change. Maybe not as quickly as I would like, but soon enough.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weathering the Winter

:: winter berries ::

Hey friends. I received a newsletter from the American Brain Tumor Association today, which had this great message about coping with the holidays. I thought I would share it with all of you. Here is an abridged version.



Weathering the Winter

Family celebrations, get-togethers with old friends, gift giving and receiving, and spiritual observances are all popular seasonal activities. However, if you recently lost a loved one, these traditions can challenge our time, spirits motivation, and even our health.

You may face an increased pressure to interact with relatives even though you’re not quite up to a visit. You may also feel burdened by the financial pressures of lavish gift-giving, and the need to convey a cheerful demeanor despite your private pain. Try paring down expectations for the perfect holiday.

Once you let go of the guilt of the “wished for” holiday and allow yourself to enjoy what blessings you do have, then you can truly appreciate what the season is all about.

Instead, mark this season as a time of personal growth. You can start by putting your emotional, physical and spiritual needs first, even if it means attending only events that will brighten your spirits. Remember that the true spirit of the season is the mental and emotional renewal gained through the gift of love.

The licensed social workers at the American Brain Tumor Association recommend asking yourself these three questions as you approach the holidays:

• Who and what in my life brings me a sense of thankfulness and gratitude?
• What nourishes my spirit?
• What non-material gifts can I give to others or to myself?

Your answers may surprise you and change the way you approach your holiday season.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is what I need.

What Do You Need?

I thought I would return to my blog tonight. I realize I have been absent for some time, as I really did need a break from the discipline of writing. I wish I could say it was a welcome break, or that it created space for some fun and enjoyable times, but life doesn't seem to work that way just yet.

The first thing that I found as I didn't write was that I was quite lonely. I have become so used to sharing my every thought and action with so many of you, and I have benefited so much from each of your responses. They really give the acknowledgement that I need. I think it's acknowledgement that while I am making progress, you know that it's a daily struggle. When I realized how difficult it was to not have this, I actually made myself hold back from writing to better understand what it is that I seek, and figure out how I can start having that need fulfilled here at home as well.

I have been going through a pretty bad depression. I have been sinking deeper and deeper, and worrying about where I was headed. The big problem was that I wasn't sharing it with anyone. Fortunate for me, I have a bit of a guardian angel, known as my cousin Fred, who paid me a visit this past weekend. We were able to get out of the house to talk heart to heart. He really gave me a lot to think about. I need to not isolate myself, especially during this difficult period. I need to seek help, support, or just some kind of activity. I don't need to make any major strides, just keep making some kind of effort.

Tonight I went to a meeting/workshop that was supposed to be focused on dealing with your grief during the holiday season. It was held at the Lesbian and Gay Center. I thought I might meet other widowers, yet I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. It was a very small turn out, and the few that did show up seemed to have other compounded issues that needed to be addressed. The end result was that the meeting seemed quite of task, but helpful in the end. I came away realizing how fortunate I am, and how many tools I already have in my grief tool chest.

I recognized that I have maintained a great sense of optimism in spite of my loss. I still see the world as a good place. I still see kindness in people, and I find compassion when I am willing to open up. As I shared at tonight's meeting, I don't go out into the world expecting anyone to take my grief away. I don't want someone to put their arms around me while I cry. It's just not me. When I am in that state I want to be alone. It's when I am alone with my tears that I can feel Michael's love holding me close. What I want in others, is to be willing to hear about my experience, and be willing to share theirs with me. I want serious talk, and some laughter. That is what reminds me that I am still in the land of the living.

In looking ahead at the holidays, I know what I need, and what I don't need. I need to be around my kids, and my family. I need to see the smiles on their faces, and see them interact with joy. I don't need over the top celebrations. I don't like to be around too much laughter quite yet. It is still a bit too painful, and it makes me feel out of place. I don't want to bring people down, or cause them concern. I just want to enjoy every one's company, but in a quiet way.

Therefore, the task at hand for me is to explain to my family what my needs are. I need to give them permission to enjoy the holiday as they like, yet allow me to be myself. I need to ask that they not try to cheer me up. I need to remind them that Michael is still always on my mind, so sharing a memory of him is a welcome gift. I would like them to be gentle with me, and to put their arms around me even if I say I am alright. With this I will be able to slowly come out of my shell. I will feel safe, and I will feel cared for. Most of all, I will feel understood.

What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stick in the Mud

No Fun

Today I went to an all day training sponsored by the agency where I work. It was the usual, long, and tedious amount of sitting, and listening, but I got through it. During the break I went with a group of coworkers to have lunch. Everyone was in a good mood, joking around and sharing stories. Now, I have only known these people a short time, and they have a lot of history together, but I realized that I am such a stick in the mud.

I am far too serious. I don't seem capable of just letting loose, and having a good time. Well, maybe I am, but I seem to take forever to get warmed up. Perhaps it's just that I am out of practice, or that my life has been focused on serious matters for so long.

I think I need to give myself permission to just relax, and have some fun. Why must I always be so serious? I sometimes wonder if I am not allowing myself to have a good time. I thought I was past that. Yet, here I am, sitting at home most of the time, comfortable with the sorrow.

I need a swift kick in the pants.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Patience and Perseverance.

Perseverancia / Perseverance

I am struggling to balance gratitude with sorrow. I wish that I could report differently, but my mood suffers from this double edged blade that cuts through my existence, making progress possible. I have many things to be grateful for. A family that loves and respects me is at the top of my list. I also have friends who always share words of encouragement when we connect. I have a job, and income, and a new home on the horizon. What more could I ask for?

No, I'm not going to ask for something that I cannot have. That would be pointless, and only set me up for disappointment. I suppose I would be better served asking for perseverance.

I have been very excited about the prospect of moving into my new home. I have been planning what needs to be done, and making a list of priorities. I have been thinking about what I will need in the house, as I gave away so much of what I had before leaving San Francisco. Now that I will be moving back into a permanent home, I see that I was a bit over zealous.

This afternoon I took a trip to the local IKEA store. I decided that I would just walk throughout the store, and see what kind of things inspired me. Perhaps it would help me in identifying what my new home lacks, and what I can afford to purchase. I wanted to have some kind of a plan. As I walked through the store it was filled with so many people, all in good spirits, enjoying their outing, and discussing among themselves what would work in their homes. I found this outing to be quite challenging. It really made me acknowledge that I am on my own.

When you shop with others, there is always the playful differences of opinion. "Oh, that would be perfect in our living room." "Are you serious? What house were you thinking of?" When Michael and I combined our homes, we didn't necessarily have the same tastes, but we had fun finding compromise. When we did this we were able to share in the pride of what we created, and we could share in the laughter at the disasters. Doing all this on my own leaves me feeling a bit empty.

I didn't allow my mood to stop me from going through each department in the store, but it made it more work than pleasure. Perhaps that is how it will be for awhile. There will be the ongoing shift between working through my grief, and experiencing the pleasure that life can bring. Like everything else, it will be an up hill climb. I know that I won't always feel so sad, and I know that there will be lots of happy times ahead for me. I going to be patient, and hope that others can be patient with me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Resurrecting Frank























Yesterday I was talking with my new friend and office mate, Gaye. She has taken to reading my blog, and was checking in with me about some of my recently shared thoughts, and primarily about the idea of dating.

"Are you ready?"

Good question to ask. Of course I thought about this, right? If I'm going to put it out there to the universe, and to the guys of Match.com, I should be able to sufficiently answer this. So, when I turned back to Gaye, I had a clear and confident answer, correct? Wrong.

I'm not really sure.

As I was later driving home from work, I began my usual free association of thoughts and feelings. What came to mind was that it was the Day of the Dead. And, in my bizarre, lost in the realm of death, mindset, I asked myself this question. Can the dead be revived? No, I wasn't thinking about Michael. I was thinking about me.

In the last few years I have seen most of my hopes and dreams get killed off. One right after another. To this day, I most often feel like the walking dead. Yes, I am working hard to re-enter the land of the living, but it's not something I can just will myself into. How can I return to feeling that human connection to those not so closely affected by death? How do I enter into new relationships without bringing along a third wheel ghost?

It all has me thinking that I need to find myself a local Dr. Frankenstein to raise me from the dead. I need some new life brought into this dead body and soul of mine. A good place to start would be my damaged and broken heart. Some how my heart needs to be stitched back together so that it will be able to function when that next Mr. Right comes along. With my heart back in working order my blood will be able to start moving throughout my body a little better, and hopefully reanimate my sense of touch, which has gone dormant during this year long winter of grief. And, lets be frank, if the blood is not pumping, then neither will I when the opportunity presents itself. I know that I still have sexual desires, but for quite some time my desires have been more about self soothing than about sharing an experience with another person.

And, as Dr. Frankenstein found with his own creature, with new life there are always expectations, or hope. Hope for what can be. To be ready I need to embrace hope. this in itself is quite scary. Do I trust the universe once again with my heart? Trusting it the last time around brought me exactly what I wanted, yet just as quickly took it away.

I would have to say that right now, I have little hope. But, there is someone who had lots of hope for my future, who did envision me with a new love. Michael. He reminded me all the time that he wanted, and expected, me to find someone else to love. He spoke of my next relationship as a given, which in a small way opened the door for such hope.

Can I be raised from the dead?

Am I ready?

Frankly, I don't really know. Yet, I am willing to allow someone, perhaps me, to flip that switch, and to send forth that surge of energy that will get me started.

Franken me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day of the Dead










The photo accompanying this post is of a Day of the Dead shadow box that Michael and I purchased on our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. I recognize that the idea of purchasing such an item on our honeymoon might seem a bit morbid, yet it was done in a spirit of joy. We were newly married, and enjoying all the rights and celebrations that any other newlywed couple might. Why wouldn't we appreciate a bit of morbid humor when it comes to souvenirs.


Traditionally, Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday, and celebration, associated with Mexican traditions. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.


Last year, in remembrance of Michael, I began the alter of items that has since grown, and now surrounds his urn. Throughout the past year, it has come to include many small treasures that my son Remy found at our local swap meet when we lived in San Francisco. It has collected some dried flowers, art work and sweet treats brought over by my daughter Arianne for special anniversary dates associated with Michael or I. It also has a few other small items given to me during the past year by friends, in relation to my grieving process. And of significance, is that now sitting there with these things are our wedding rings, and the urn necklace that I recently removed from my neck. Throughout the year, almost on a daily basis, I have also had tea lights burning, casting a warm glow as I sit, read, or write.


This year I have chosen not to add anything further. I need to begin the process of separation. I want to rely less on inanimate objects, and feel held more by my memories. I had a stronger need to hold onto these small treasures during the last year, and now feel the need to gently push myself a bit further along in my "moving forward" journey. The small treasures will remain on the alter until our next move, yet will not be unpacked when settled into our new home. Some will go into the urn with Michael's ashes, and the others in a keepsake box. I will always cherish these treasures, but not rely on them.


In thinking about Michael on this day, I think it goes without saying that I love and treasure him immensely. He brought so much joy into my life, and provided me with several loving and passionate years. And while I have been in quite an emotional slump these past few days, I can see my way out of it enough to appreciate the gift that Michael was to my life. I have never been more happy than when I was with him. One thing that I want to say today is that I am very grateful to all the people that were part of Michael's life before me. I feel like each and every one of them contributed to the beautiful person he was. Michael was an excellent story teller, and he had so many stories that he loved to tell, and re-tell, about his various adventures in the past. He would start telling me a story, then turn to me and say, "did I already tell you about this?" Of course he had, yet I always smiled and listened to it for the 100th time. It was later such a joy when I would able to meet the people that encompassed the stories, live in person. I would then be able to get the other side of the story, even though Michael always swore that his telling of it was the "truthful version."


I love to now tell 'Michael Stories.' They warm my heart, and put a smile on a face that doesn't have one naturally any longer. I know that in time these stories, and memories, and all the joy they carry, will become more predominate in my life. I know that with each day sorrow will lessen, as it already has. I know that the power of love will prevail, and my love for him, and his love for me, will propel me forward.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Namaste


Okay, so I had to write tonight. I'm being my ol' obsessive self, and couldn't resist the need to make it to 365 days of non-stop posting.

I'm not sure what triggered the beginning of this "No Day Without A Post" thing. It was probably done without much thought. Yet, once I realized that I had begun writing every day, I decided to make a personal commitment to talking in "real time" every day for a year. I kind of knew that it would be a way of making a commitment to be somewhere, and to have others in turn expect to find me here each day.

There were so many times during the past year, especially in April, that I really didn't want to continue, with writing, or with life. There were definitely some very dark days, and having made this commitment gave me a purpose beyond just going completely under with my grief. I also wanted to create something. I wanted to have something for others who later follow me in grief, to look at, and perhaps find something that allows them to feel less alone.

When Michael died I was at a complete loss. I didn't know where to turn. I wanted so much to find others who were like me, and began searching. My initial searches were for other gay widowers. I looked for blogs, books, websites, anything really. I didn't find a hell of a lot. I feel proud of myself, in that I have now created a place where other gay or lesbian widowed can seek, and find, someone else out here who has been in their shoes.

What surprised me, is all that I have gained from this experience. I have gained so many wonderful and loving friends. I have gained an appreciation for my experience thus far. And I have learned that there are more people than I originally thought, that can relate to me as a widower, without getting tripped up about my being gay. Now I'm sure that there are many that have found my blog by chance, then quickly left once they read the sub-heading that says "One Gay Man's Journey Through Love, Life and Grief." This is true, as I have been able to use my site meter to see who enters my blog, and how quickly they leave. That's okay, I don't expect to be everybody's cup of tea.

What is important is that we are all here. Those of us that choose to share of our experience, offer a wide range of diversity from which other's may choose. We expose our hearts and souls, find healing, and enter into the exchange of support. It's an incredible medium, and we should all be proud, and grateful. And even though my writing will now be less frequent, know that I am still here day by day, plugging along, trying to make sense of my life.

I hope to one day have the strength of heart to read what I have written during this past year. I have never gone back to re-read any of my posts. Once I publish them, I let them go. It helps me to not dwell too much on the past, and to not get pulled down by taking myself back through some of the darker days.

Love to all of you.

God bless, and Namaste.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Recovery

head in a fog

Today I was thinking to myself about how damaged I feel. These past few years of going through so much trauma and loss, have really taken their toll on me. I feel like my daily reserve of clear thinking, motivation or empathy, are always working from a clear deficit. There just isn't much left in me.

I come home each day, and look at the ever growing mounds of mail that never get opened. Really. So you thought I grew past all of that? Not a chance. I'm not sure if I just don't care, or I don't have the energy anymore, but day to day tasks, such as opening and following through with mail, just rarely seem to rise to the top of my lists these days. These days? Actually, these years.

I wonder how I managed to do all that I used to do. I wonder how I managed to care about things like I used to care about. I know that the term I used above, damaged, is not a word people like to hear. Unfortunately, it is really how I feel. I'm not capable of all that I used to be. I still feel like I walk around in a fog most of the time. Yes, I do have some moments during the day when I am able to focus, or to lighten up and just laugh, but it's the immediate moments afterward that are concerning. It's as if a light goes immediately out. I suddenly realize that I am once again walking around in the dark.

I often hear other widowed people speak of "widow brain." I know that they often use this term in humor, but of course it is spoken about a true experience that many of us share. We are now so forgetful. We have less ability to multi-task. Actually, we can be a bit spacey at times. I know that I am. I'm starting to worry that I will never fully recover from this, which made me think about the various 12 step groups that have evolved over time. When one speaks from a place of addiction, they recognize that they will always be an addict, so for them, recovery is an ongoing life long process. Is that what grief is too?

I know that people who have gone through significant experiences, such as death, or a trauma, of someone close to them, often later experience post traumatic stress. I get it. I really get it. So it has me wondering how to best address this. What can I be doing to help myself in my ongoing recovery?

Well, how about this. First, I have to admit that I am powerless over my grief. I can't will it away, and I can't just "snap out of it." I also know that I need to rely on a higher power to get through the day. Now, for some this may be God, for others some non-deity. Whatever one chooses, and believe me, I have turned to just about everything lately, we need to speak it out loud. We need to talk, listen, and learn from each other. We need to walk side by side with others who are also struggling with this. We don't necessarily need cross talk, and we are not really looking for advice either. Just understanding.

Maybe 12 step meetings would be the way to go. Perhaps being able to drop into a meeting now and then, without having to tell your story, but to just be there, and to share what you are feeling on that day, and in that time, would be enough to keep us moving forward in our recovery. Will the end result be full recovery? Not that I can see. But, it can mean one less major relapse into our known darkness. I don't think ongoing bereavement groups are the answer for me either. I don't have the patience to sit with a group of people emoting all the time, or to feel that I need to take care of them. I have enough on my hands with my own life. What I need is a place to support myself by expressing myself, or listening, to others traveling the same road.

Hello, my name is Dan, and I am a griever.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

real time confession

Confession on Good Friday

I was driving home from work tonight and thinking this...

Life seems to be going my way right now. The kids are all doing well once again. The job is good. And, I am buying a house that I absolutely love.

I am getting much kudos for all the efforts I am making, and successful efforts at that, in keeping my life moving forward.

What's real?

I am still terribly sad. When alone, my affect goes back to being quite flat. I am good at knowing what needs to be done. I can identify what I need to be doing in order to achieve my goals. I can present to the world that I am very capable, and dealing with my various obstacles responsibly, if not successfully.

What is my reality?

I'm going through the motions. Since I can't seem to be happier, then I will set up my life to at least look happier. It's all a facade. Currently, there is nobody here in my life that would really see through this. There is also nobody here that I would turn to, to do discuss this. I have yet to find any one specific person that I can say will be a confidant. Those type of relationships don't just happen easily.

Dan, in real time?

Not quite as far along as I would like.

Not quite as far along as I present.

Is this real enough?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sign here

42-15535403

October 2009-mounds of paper work.

sign here.

sign here.

provide us with a copy of the death certificate.

provide us with a copy of your marriage license.

sign here.

sign here.

Finally gaining enough strength to pick up the phone, make the calls that begin the business of death. Life insurance policy. Pensions. Closing Accounts. Mounds of paper work.

the end of a life.

the end of a chapter.

what's the point?



October 2010-mounds of paper work.

sign here.

sign here.

provide us with copies of bank statements.

provide us with verification of income.

sign here.

sign here.

Finding the courage to move forward. Quit the job. Move the family. Sell the house. Buy a house.

starting over.

beginning a new chapter.

well worth it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Validation


Me, taking off my shirt to get ready for yoga class.

He, the new manager at the yoga studio: "Hey, what a great tattoo on your back. Does it mean something significant?"

Me, Yes, it was done in response to my husband dying a year ago. It's a Tree of Life, which symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. As you see, the is a bird taking flight.

He, "It's amazing. Now it will it is even more beautiful knowing it's significance."


Me, Thank you for asking. It means a lot to me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple Gestures

Conversación / Conversation

Tonight I feel blessed.

Tonight I was visited by two friends.

Two friends of Michael's.

Two friends of mine.

Michael was part of a wonderful group of people who ventured out in their younger years to Africa with the Peace Corp. In the time that Michael and I became a couple, I came to know, and love, each of these people. Tonight two friends that he loved so much came to share a meal with the boys and me. They brought the gift of food. They brought the gift of memories past. They brought a vested interest in where I find myself today. And, they brought with them a genuine optimism for my future.

I am often aware that in these type of occasions, there is the opportunity for friends, or family, to feel a sense of Michael being present through me. In some ways I have become their link to him. After this evening, I see that they too keep him present for me. Their goodness, their joy, and their kindness, are of the same kindred spirit that encompassed Michael. It's not so much that they bring some of Michael to me, rather, it's that Michael continues to provide these friendships for me. He laid the groundwork that allowed each of us that knew and loved him, to now feel the same for each other.

Later this evening, after the house was quiet, and I was sitting alone, I received a call. It was from a fairly new friend that I have made through this blog. He is also a gay widower, whose husband died from the same tumor that took Michael. We also have many other commonalities that allow for a real sense of connectedness. I really enjoyed talking, laughing, and sharing, how each of us are doing at this moment in time. Funny, he lives in the SF Bay Area, yet I didn't get to know him until I moved 500 miles away.

Paths will be crossed, connections and friendships will be made. Each brings me a sense of purity. Purity of the heart. Each helps soothe my aching heart by the simple gesture of extending friendship.

Yes folks, it's that simple.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Polygamy Anyone?

1-Mr-Selim-Matehiehe-2-Mr-K

I was just corresponding to another gay widower who came my way through my blog. In our shared email we were discussing the potential for future love, and how we both feel that any new person would need to have a place in their heart for our deceased spouses, as we truly became one through our relationship and marriage.

To love me today, it to love Michael as well. I am not the same person that I was when I first met Michael. Through the course of our relationship I needed to bend and reshape myself in light of who he was, and what we were experiencing. He had to do the same. It was inevitable, as to remain strictly the people who we presented to eachother that night of meeting at the bar, would mean we didn't grow with eachother. And, how can you get through the trials and tribulations of a marriage, expecially one where you are facing issues of mortality, without such change.

Now, you factor in not only the life changes that occurred when Michael was alive, but also the cost of dealing with his death, and thus, I am transformed. Yes, changed. It would not serve me well to try to introduce myself to someone new as the person I used to be, or thought I used to be. Rather, I would want him to love all aspects of me, and to be willing to be present to the depths of my grief as well.

So, in my humorous way, this all got me thinking about polygamy. When people ask if I am married, I usually say yes, but my husband died. He never stopped being my husband, and I will always think of him in those terms. I also have his ashes sitting in my bedroom, and it is my plan that when I die, that I be cremated, and our ashes be combined. What my kids do with them is not so important to me. Michael and I can sit and gather more dust on a shelf, we can take up residence in a local mausoleum, or be scattered wherever they wish. The point here is that we will forever be joined, as that is how we were through our marriage.

Enter stage left, a potential new boyfriend or husband. He would need to understand, and be comfortable, with this. As far as I'm concerned, we could easily become a threesome, and spend our eternity as one big mound of ash. Why not? The more the merrier. Michael was always intrigued with the idea of a three-way anyway. This way he would finally have his fantasy come true! Okay, maybe my fantasy.

Hi. My name is Dan, and I'm a potential polygamist.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Transformation

23. September 2010 - Fullmoon - Beginning of Autumn

I got up today feeling like I need to start making concrete changes to how I am approaching life. I need to signal a change for myself, and to others. As I looked into the mirror, I focused on the cremation urn locket that hangs around my neck.

Yes, I wear Michael's ashes all the time. I stood there looking at my reflection, and thought, does this tell others that I am ready to move forward? If I meet a nice guy, an eligible guy, and he asks about my jewelry, what does my response tell him? Am I emotionally available to someone new? Is there a barrier to someone new if I am wearing my dead husband's ashes around my neck?

Then, glancing down at my left arm, I admired the now completed half-sleeve tattoo. It is beautiful, and I love it very much. For anyone local, it was completed by Keith Nichols of Adapt Studio in Hillcrest. He's a great guy, and we had some great conversations during the multiple appointments, and many hours it took to complete this piece. My arm, as many parts of my body, is filled with inked images of where I have been, and where I find myself today. Much of the imagery involves the journey I was on with Michael, and my continued journey on my own. It speaks to the significance of my past without belaboring it. It made me realize that I no longer need to be wearing Michael's ashes, or sporting a wedding ring, as that part of my life is quite integrated into who I am today. I took off the necklace, and temporarily placed in with our wedding rings next to the urn. I decided that when I make this next move to a permanent home I will not set up the alter that I have here, or had in San Francisco. Michael's urn will be one piece in a number of art pieces that I will display, sparsely in the new space.

It is time to take a large step forward, and trust that I am ready to move forward without these things that held me together during this past year. I also plan on replacing all of my furniture once I move into a new home. I want a very clear beginning. I want to signal to everyone that visits, that my life is now different. There is a definite difference in who I am, and how I experience life these days. I want that reflected in how I live, which is why I am really focusing on buying a home that speaks to the newer, more modern aesthetics that I am attracted to. I don't want anything to look, or feel, like my home in San Francisco. I loved that home, but that home, and that life, is over.

As you can see, when I make a change, I really make a change. Not everyone is comfortable with my changes, which is understandable, as they haven't gone through some of the challenges that I have been forced to experience. Yet, I hope that in time they will come to see me for who I am today. Yes, I'm still me, with my same outlook and values, but definitely expressed differently.

I like who I am becoming. I like the life I am creating, and I like what appears to be on the horizon for me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

It Wasn't Meant To Be

Keep on Moving

Today I learned that I didn't get the house I had submitted a bid for. It was a disappointment, as the kids and I had come to an quick, and easy, agreement that it was the right house for us. But apparently, it wasn't.

It wasn't meant to be.

Don't you just hate those words? How many times have we been placated by such words? You didn't get something you wanted? Oh, well, it wasn't meant to be.

Your husband didn't survive his cancer? It wasn't meant to be.

You didn't get happily ever after? It wasn't meant to be.

Well, when I received the disappointing news today, that is exactly what I told myself. It wasn't meant to be. Well, unless the current buyer drops out, then I suppose it was meant to be. It just wasn't mean to be today, or this time.

I tend to be the type that can fairly easily accept what fate has brought me, let go, and move on. Of course fate brought me a far bigger disappointment last year, and those words failed me. I couldn't just easily accept that this was his, our, and my fate. Yet, at this point, one year later, I am in the position of saying, okay, it happened, what can I do other than move on. I know those words sound horrible, but yes, I have to move on. I can't, or choose not to, get stuck in the position of digging in my heels and stopping the process of life just because I didn't get what I had hoped for. Like always, I need to let go of what I can't control, and move on to what I can.

I can keep moving.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where the Hell Am I?

I don't know where am I..

Okay, so I haven't completely lost my mind. I know where I am. I'm in San Diego. Right?

What I'm trying to figure out is, where am I in my grieving process, and where am I in my blogging process. Last year I made a self-commitment to chronicle my grief on a daily basis. This was much more difficult, and time consuming than I ever really anticipated, but well worth the effort. I officially started by blog on our first wedding anniversary, October 19, 2009, but didn't start writing daily until a couple of weeks later on October 31, 2009. And though I haven't yet reached that one year of posting date, I have counted 394 posts thus far. 395 counting today.

I have had this plan in the back of my mind that I would start easing off on my posting efforts, as they do tend to drive my day. And even though I considered breaking my non-stop posting streak tonight, after careful thought, I have chosen to stick it out until October 31st. People have sometimes asked me who I am writing for. Me? Them? You? Us? All I know is that it has given me a sense of purpose, and has kept me going when I felt like giving up. But I do feel that it is time to change how I am expending my energies.

I believe I need to start spending more time and energy living, trying new things out, and less time focused on my grief. Now the reality is that they will always be intertwined, but I need to start giving myself some breathing room. I need to start reading trashy novels again. I need to start going out at night without the worry that I need to make it back in time to write. And, I need to return to some of my other writing projects that have been put to the side.

Where am I? I'm in a better place, that's where I am. Isn't that an odd thing to say? "In a better place?" Don't you just hate it when someone says to you, "I'm sorry for your loss, but at least he's in a better place?" I usually smile, forgive their misguided words, and think to myself, the fuck he is.

I don't know if I will always feel like I am in a better place, and of course it would only be in reference to where I have been during this past year of grieving, but today, I am in a better place. The deep pain comes, and yet it goes. The pain is familiar, and all daily emotions are quite familiar. I kind of know what to expect at this point. And yes, I can still be thrown off by unanticipated levels of grief, but for the most part I do know where I am.

What I am curious about though, is where I am going. I would like to think that I am headed for better things, but so far life hasn't gone that way for me. I'm trying to maintain my optimism, if I ever really had it, and make room for the possibility of...whatever.

So, for me, step one is this; to make room. I need to clear my schedule, and begin doing other things. I need to make room for something different. So if I don't stick with my goal of daily posting for another couple of weeks, then you can assume I have moved on to step one already. Oh, I'll never be gone too long, or off too far, just far enough so that I begin to collect answers to my question.

Where the hell am I?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Without You I Am Nothing























Sadness looms, but I'll be okay.

I hesitate to write tonight, because I wanted to feel better, and to have something positive to say. Yet, to be real with you all, I am still in a very sad place. I will come out of it, but it is what it is today.

Yesterday I received an amazing outpouring of support from all of you, from my kids, and from many of my friends and family. And while I wasn't really in a space to talk to anyone, I did benefit from the messages, texts and Facebook postings. Throughout most of the day I found myself trying to just breathe, but to keep it together.

Male machismo at it's best.

Yet there were two interactions that just broke down my guarded exterior, and that was a brief visit by my daughter, and a telephone call by my parents. These were the two interactions that allowed me to cry, to sob, and in the case of my daughter, to be held. I am starting to see the benefits that come along when your children become adults, and begin taking advantage of opportunities to give back. Yesterday my daughter came through for me, and I love her very much for that. With my parents, I become that little boy that needs their reassurance. The moment I answered the telephone, and heard their voices tell me they were thinking about what a perfect day it was two years ago at our wedding, well, I could feel their loving arms around me. It was also difficult, as I know how much it hurts them to hear me hurt. They just kept reminding me that they think about Mike all the time, and continue to appreciate and love him for the love he gave to me.

Even writing this chokes me up.

Another realization is that today I have such an extensive group of friends that I have made by being widowed. Through this blog, and through other grief related interactions, I have had the pleasure to meet, and know, the most beautiful and caring people. And these people literally circle the globe. It has been an amazing journey when I think of this. And I can honestly say, I cannot imagine my life without all of you. I don't think I would be here today without having had these connections.

Without you, I am nothing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alternate Universe

MEDITATION / OKTAVDSAINT

Some where in an alternate universe, I woke up to an entirely different day altogether.

It was a Tuesday morning, and the weather was slightly cool out. I could tell this because my body was firmly pressed up against Michael for warm keeping. As I came into a more conscious state of awakening, I found that my arms and legs, were carefully intertwined with his. He was still sound asleep, as we had both chosen to take the day off. I just laid there, feeling the warmth of his body, and feeling the slow movement of his breathing, and took it all in. How lucky am I? I have the beautiful and loving man, right here in my bed, and in my arms. I didn't want to awaken him, so I gently kissed him on his left shoulder, as I had every other morning, and I quietly shifted my body away from him, and off our bed.

I turned off the alarm of my clock, put on my robe and slippers, then made the trek upstairs to get the kids out of bed. I may have the day off, but they will be going to school. I had major plans today, and those plans did not include a group of teenagers hanging around the house. The kids were their usual grumpy selves, but managed to get themselves moving along, and were each off to school at the designated time. Before leaving the house though, they each made sure that I remembered to tell Michael happy anniversary from them.

I put on a pot of coffee, knowing that we would definitely want a cup later in the morning. I fed the animals, and made sure they were each happy, and that they would not be coming down to our bedroom door to whine about needing something. I also turned up the heat on the furnace, as it is usually off at this point, since we are both usually at work during the day.

When I got back downstairs Michael was still fast asleep, only now his body was splayed out across my side of the bed. I stood there at the door and smiled. Whenever I was not in our bed, Michael always slept at an angle, so that his head could safely rest on my pillow. It was quite endearing, but the poor son of a bitch was going to have to move over and make some room for me. I quietly went into our bathroom to brush my teeth, and to make sure I looked picture perfect before climbing back into bed. I moved to my side of the bed, and gently rolled Michael back toward the center. I held his body with one arm, so he wouldn't just roll back when I climbed back onto my side. Once in bed I put my arm back around him, and felt his warmth all around me.

I could feel him gently starting to stir. As usual, Michael then inched his body back toward me, positioning himself into a comfy spoon position. My left arm swept across his hairy stomach and chest, then rested sort of midway. This caused Michael to stir a bit more, and press himself toward me even further. I lifted myself up by my right elbow to take a look at his face. Sure enough, he was smiling that devilish grin. I reached over, planted a kiss on the side of his face, "Happy Anniversary Honey." His head turned to the left, he reach up, and planted a firm kiss on my lips, "Happy Anniversary Dear." I then laid back down, and pulled him even closer. With that, my sleepy Michael began to awaken. I could feel his left arm begin searching, then reaching out for my leg. I looked up again, and his smile grew wider. "I'm trying to sleep dear," I said to him. "Oh, there is plenty of time for sleep later" said Michael.

Indeed there was. We made love, then fell back asleep, cozy in our bed. A couple of hours later I was awakened by the sound of Michael opening our bedroom door, and entering with two hot cups of coffee. He placed one cup at the side of my bed, then walked around to his side, and climbed back in. He propped up his pillows, got out his Sudoku book, and got to work. I turned toward him, and said out loud, "you are so fucking romantic." He laughed, then reached down to plant another kiss upon me.

The rest of the day is a fog, as it can get no better than this. Happiness, and celebrations, don't need very much to be appreciated. It is the simple things that mean the world. The simple acknowledgement that we are loved, and that we are appreciated. In turn, we convey our love with a worthy small gesture. No more, no less.

Tonight I meditate on a love shared, and a love that will endure. My day has been filled with sadness, and with more tears than expected, but that's okay. As I sit here in the emotional safety of my bedroom, I am filled with Michael's love. I can allow myself to experience this alternate universe where life did not end for us. I can remember many mornings just like this. They were real, as was our love.

This was no fantasy, just a day in the life that we once shared.

Accepting Loss



Yesterday evening as I returned home from visiting my parents, and ending a long full day, I ascended the stairs that lead to my bedroom. I was looking for a nice end to a nice day. What I discovered was that I was awash with further loss.

This home that I am renting has been problem after problem. Just a couple of weeks ago I woke up to a flood of water in my bathroom due to a leak from the roof. Last night I discovered another.

What I thought was a safe place, in the corner of the room, is where I stacked up some of my unpacked moving boxes that encased some things of importance to me. In these boxes were photo albums, legal documents, notes written by Michael, a family bible that belonged to Michael's deceased aunt, and the journal I kept during his last month of life. I found these items floating in water. It's as if the universe were playing a cruel joke on me. "Lets take his prized possessions, and set them to ruin. Let's see how he manages with further loss. Let's remind him, a year later, that there is still so much loss to endure."

Immediately my worries went to my wedding album, which I had carefully placed in a sturdy box prior to placing it in the storage box. I found the sturdy box, floating in water, completely soaked. I carefully opened the box, and lifted the wedding album with the care you would take with a newborn child. Fortunately for me, there was little damage to it. I carefully dried it off, and set it aside for further air drying. Unfortunate for me, the bible didn't fare so well, nor did all the folders that contained some of Michael's last writings. My hospice time journal appears to be drying fairly well. It is obviously warped, as are all the other items retrieved from the boxes, but not completely lost.

I didn't allow this to throw me off course. I did cry some tears for fear of losing our wedding album, then followed with tears of joy when I felt that it would be okay. Coming home tonight from work I went directly up to my room to see how these things were faring. Unfortunately some items will now need to be let go.

I guess you could say I am trying to be a "Big Boy" about all of this. I am trying my best to not get pulled under. I am telling myself that these items are not him, and they will have less meaning with time. Yet these small objects, obviously chosen by me to be kept after our move, are now teaching me another lesson in loss, and in letting go.

Today would have been our second wedding anniversary. Last year at this time I was a shattered, numb, and broken man. Michael had only been dead one month, and I was on the eve of having to celebrate our first wedding anniversary without him. The day was not completely sorrowful, as a few of Michael's friends brought dinner over, and we all enjoyed a piece of our wedding cake which had been placed on ice for a year. That night as I descended down to my bedroom I decided that if I was going to make it through this painful loss, then I was going to need to write about it. I needed to have an outlet where I could write my thoughts and feelings, without any filter. It had to be real.

On this day, October 19, 2010 I sit here, having lost another year. Yet what a year it has been. To be honest, I didn't think I would make it. There were those nights when I was painfully sick with grief. There were times when I was down on my knees, or flat on my back, crying out in anguish. There were those nights when reading the comments from others gave me the courage I needed to commit to another day. There were also some very dark times when I needed to make a choice as to the importance of my own life. Having been there, I now understand how someone can find themselves in a place where life doesn't seem worth living. I was there. I didn't want to live. I wanted to be dead.

Yes, this is harsh. Yet it is my truth. How do you spend your whole adult life wanting, and searching for that perfect person, only to have him taken away so soon? That was what life did to me. In response, I didn't think I wanted to be a part of life. I wanted out.

I'm sitting here, 500 miles away from San Francisco, the city and the home that I loved. Yet I am here because I could not create my future in that same place. I needed to break free, and to challenge myself to create something new. Perhaps that is why I was so stunned yesterday as I signed my life away. I was somewhere new. I had accepted loss and was making a choice to live, and to enjoy the life that I have. As the Kanji symbols on my arm say, Acceptance of Fate and Happy with that Fate. What does this mean?

I am choosing to accept the fate I was given. After all, this is my life, and although I ultimately can't control the outcome, I can certainly change the way I respond to it. In spite of my fate, I am choosing to seek happiness.

One Year...since starting this blog.

Two Years...since exchanging those vows.

Three Years...since knowing the direction life was taking me.

One day...at a time. I move forward, embracing change.

Accepting Loss

Monday, October 18, 2010

Signing On the Dotted Line



It has been some time since I have turned to my favorite online reference source, Wikipedia. For today's post I searched for the meaning of signature.

The traditional function of a signature is evidential: it is to give evidence of:

1. The provenance of the document (identity)
2. The intention (will) of an individual with regard to that document


After the marriage ceremony, both spouses and the officiant sign the marriage licence. The officiant or couple then files for a certified copy of the marriage licence and a marriage certificate with the appropriate authority.



Today was a significant day for me. One that took great emotional strength, trust in my decisions making, and a willingness to commit to change.

Two years ago I committed to love and honor my husband Michael for all the days of my life. It is a commitment I plan to keep. I will always love Michael, and he will always occupy his place in my heart, and in my daily life. If I look ahead, I know that I am capable of loving again, and if and when I do, it will not take from my commitment to love and honor Michael all the days of my life.

Sometimes in life we make carefully calculated moves, knowing that we are attempting to make a very important decision. And even if we planned, and carefully made our decision, the actual commitment to the change can still be overpowering.

This past spring I made the decision to move myself and the kids back to southern California, and to settle in San Diego. I trusted my inner stirrings about this. I meditated, I prayed, and I took the leap of faith that this was a good decision for me. In making this leap of faith I have no guarantees that things will go as planned, and indeed they didn't. That's not to say that things have gone wrong, on the contrary, I believe they have gone well. It just didn't go as smoothly as I expected, nor did it occur without some emotional growing pains.

Yesterday when visiting my parents, I was talking once with my father about all that I am attempting to accomplish with my new life here in San Diego. My parents tell me they sometimes feel cut off from what exactly is occurring in my daily life, as their health prevents them from visiting down here unless they are well, and someone can drive them. After bringing my father up to date with my retirement, my new job, my San Francisco house, and my prospective new San Diego house, he looked over to me with a sense of pride. He said to me: "Son, I am so proud of you. I want you to realize that you have accomplished so much in this move, and it seems that things are lining up nicely for you. Please don't take anything for granted, as you are quite fortunate in how all this has worked out."

My father is right, I am fortunate. I left a job with a clear plan in place that gave me options regarding an early retirement. I found a temporary home to live in, and enjoyed a summer free of work and free of financial worries. Although I never got the job I initially planned for, I did get the first job I applied to once settled here. I found a buyer for my San Francisco home, and I found a new home that I would like to purchase for the kids and I. Many great accomplishments, and many real blessings.

Some might think it odd that I am choosing to acknowledge blessings when I am on the eve of celebrating a second wedding anniversary without my husband Michael. Today at work my office mate asked me about my wedding and marriage to Michael. She seemed to be aware of our wedding anniversary, and asked how I was doing in general. It was very sweet of her to ask, and we had a nice thorough conversation about it. I told her that I was choosing to wear my wedding ring tomorrow, and in fact, it is already placed on my ring finger.

I must say, it feels so soothing to have my wedding ring on. It will only be for a day, as I don't want it to be a crutch for me.

As my day moved forward there appeared to be a convergence of life's transitions appearing before me. First off was a scheduled appointment with a notary to sign away my SF home to the new buyer. It is officially no longer my home. After the notary left my office, I sat there feeling a bit stunned. It was the end of my work day, and I needed to get across town in order to meet with my current realtor Jonathan. As I drove I began to feel the weight of everything around me. My wedding anniversary tomorrow, my signing away of the home that holds 17 years of memories, and the signing of a committed offer on a new home, which would cement me here in San Diego. I walked into his office, and my appearance must have betrayed my attempt to let go of these building emotions. Jonathan greeted me, and quickly asked if I was okay. Before I could respond I felt like the breath was being knocked out from within me. Yes, I'm okay. "Are you sure Dan? We can just sit and talk?" Thanks. I'm having a bit of a tough time, but I need to not focus on that right now.

We sat down, and I began signing away on the huge mountain of documents that would complete my official offer on the new home. It was a big step.

Am I really ready to commit to this change? Do I have a choice, really?

Change occurred last year when Michael died. It was a change I had anticipated, and it was one that I had committed to.

Until death do us part.

After leaving Jonathan's office, I felt good about this decision to buy the new house. It was what I want and need. It does provide me with the opportunity to begin anew, while also laying down permanent roots.

As I opened the front door to my current house, I reached into the mail box, and pulled out a large envelope from the San Francisco City & County Retirement Office. It was official. I was retired. Or, at lease it will be official as soon I begin signing on the dotted lines, and mail the forms back. I am committing to being in retirement, and to begin receiving my pension. There is no turning back.

It's kind of hard to deny the relevance of all these signing events, these transitions, converging on this single day. I am making a commitment. I am committing to this change.



This is the image I choose to carry with me tonight, and close to my heart tomorrow. This was a moment of commitment. This was a moment of unabashed love. This was a moment that will remain a part of me forever.

This is the man I fell in love with. This is the man I made a commitment to. This is the man that I ache for tonight. This is the man that will always be at my side, cheering me on, making sure I fulfill my commitment to keep on living.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Resounding Approval

Yes

Another good day for me and the kids. We started our day out early, as we were off to have a visit with my parents. The morning started out just like any other, with the boys doing absolutely nothing they were supposed to. Me being the most patient dad, okay, that's bullshit, me being the most impatient dad, got the troops moving in the right direction by channeling my inner drill sergeant.

We drove across town, and picked up my daughter, for this short road trip. What was supposed to be a quiet visit between us and my folks, became a loud and very active visit with each of my brothers, and a few of their kids. It was complete chaos, but it was family, and we all loved it. Let me tell you, one of the best reasons to be here in southern California is that we are now able to visit my family more often, and it is truly wonderful. On the drive back to San Diego my kids were commenting on how great it is to see their cousins so often. This tells me I made the right decision to uproot our family, and it tells me that we will do well in putting down new roots as well.

Part of today's excitement was that the kids and I were meeting our realtor, Jonathan Olow, at the prospective new house. Did I mention that I found one I liked? Well, it meets all of our requirements, and I wanted to get feedback from the kids before making a formal offer. It's not that they will make the decision, but I wanted them to feel that their interests are taken into consideration, and I wanted to feel a sense of ownership as well. As we arrived, Jonathan was great about engaging the kids, and encouraging them to look around and give us their impressions. And believe me, they had their opinions. I'm beginning to think I have allowed them to watch far too many HGTV shows, as it really felt like I was on an episode of House Hunters.

I tried to carefully observe each of the kids. I wanted to see through their excitement, and watch for the subtle messages they might feel uncomfortable discussing. I need to keep in mind that they have also suffered a big loss this past year. They lost their stepfather, who they loved dearly. They lost something in me as well. We can't pretend that I am the same person, or the same kind of parent. I'm just not. What I saw in them while in the house, and while walking around the neighborhood afterward, was that they so desperately want us to be happy. They were careful to include each other in the discussions, and were direct with each other about what thoughts came to mind. My youngest son, Remy, carefully chose his words when addressing a concern with Dante. He could hear the sound of kids in a nearby house, and told Dante that he would have to watch his behavior, meaning how loud and out of control he can get. He looked Dante in the eye and said, "you know that the way you talk is not appropriate for small kids to hear." Surprisingly, Dante seemed to understand this. I found this both touching, and refreshing.
The other part that I find interesting, is the voice of restraint and common sense that keeps emerging from my daughter, Arianne. When she hears me talking about changing this on the house, or adding that to the house, she stops me in my tracks, and says, "dad, do you really think you need to spend so much money on changing something that looks perfectly fine as it is?" The voice of reason. From my daughter?

In all, I must say that this is happening at a good time. It is keeping my mind busy with numbers, and with future plans. When I stop to slow down, I can feel the anguish that is surfacing about this Tuesday. If you take notice of the important dates that are listed on the right, you will see that it is our wedding anniversary. Honestly, I feel better saying it is the day that Michael and I got married. It somehow doesn't feel right calling it our anniversary when we never actually had one together.

I really don't mean to sound melodramatic. It's just me being honest, and speaking once again in real time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

House Hunting












Today was another milestone step in my moving forward plan. Now that my San Francisco house is closing escrow next week, I will have the cash in hand to purchase a home here in San Diego. I'm not waiting a moment to move forward with this. I really want to have some permanence here, and a big part of that is having our own home.


I have a realtor helping me out, which has been fantastic. He's really nice, and is very focused on helping me find the type of home that I have envisioned for us. This morning the realtor and I did some house hunting in a gated community that I am very interested in. The community is very nice, and offers quite a bit of luxury amenities. My boys are very excited about the prospect of living there, and eager for me to seal the deal.


Walking from house to house, and talking to the realtor about the feel I was getting for each individual home, was a bigger task emotionally than I thought it would be. It was the realization that I needed to project my future life into these homes. I had to anticipate where I would be, how I would live, and with whom I would live. And while I had definite ideas about each of these factors, part of me didn't want to focus too much on them. I just wanted to have a place that I can call home. Now. The later part, can be filled in later.


While out, I did find such a home. I got a good feel for it, and it seemed to meet all the particulars that I had identified. My realtor dropped me back off at my current home, and said that he would begin to do his magic, the wheeling and dealing phase I imagine. I called up my daughter, and went to pick her up from her home. She had the whole day free, and wanted to spend it here with us. I took her to the condo community where I plan to buy, as she had not seen it yet. She too was equally impressed as the boys. Although her take was that it was a bit too much like Wisteria Lane, of Desperate Housewives. We both had a good laugh about that. She then commented that this was exactly the type of place that Michael and I would have loved to live together. I was able to hear this with a smile. Yes, he would be quite pleased with my choice, and happy that I would be in a lovely, and safe, neighborhood.


I rounded out the rest of the day hanging out with my daughter, talking and watching a movie together. We then forced the boys out of the house, and all enjoyed a dinner out tonight. All in all, a beautiful day. Not beautiful in weather, as it was rather cloudy, but beautiful in the texture, mood, and feeling of life.


Perhaps you can call it a hopeful day.


Yes, that is what I will call it.


Hopeful.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Keep Going, Growing, Change.

Keep Moving Forward

Today I was receiving some supervision time with my current supervisor. We went over all my new cases, talked about how my training was going thus far, and discussed questions that I had about the job. When we were done talking shop she asked how things were going at home. Before I could come back with some quick response, doing my usual deflection of my reality, she told me she really wanted to know.

One thing that has really struck me with a few new relationship that are building at work is that people genuinely want to know who I am. They all understand that my being here in San Diego is a direct response the the loss I have suffered. I have felt quite respected for how I am living my life, and I have felt genuine care for how I am doing.

Today I used this opportunity to discuss the difficulties that I have been having with my 16 year old son during this past month. For the most part, well for all of the part, I have not had the chance to speak to anyone about how challenging life has been for us at home. I'm not sure if he is going through a manic cycle, or if he is just regressing from the strides he seemed to have made during the past 6 months, but life for all of us here has been less than pleasant.

I know that as a family we will get through this. The outcome may not be exactly how we would like it to be, but I have to trust that it will get easier, or a decision will be made in order to make life less complicated. My main point here is that I need to have an outlet. I need to find a way to make up for the lack of having a second parent around. This is definitely not a new revelation, merely a reminder that it doesn't have to be something I always carry alone. And while talking about these difficulties with a friend in no way compares to having Michael around, it is clearly better than going it completely alone.

One thing that came out of the talk with my supervisor was this. Clearly I am tired, and frustrated, with how my son is behaving, yet I need to see life from his perspective as well. He has had many challenges in life. He had to experience all that we went through as a family these past couple of years, and try to integrate it all into this experience of life as he understands it. His ability to understand is compromised in general, but more so during times like this. On top of all of this, the one person he relies on the most for his own stability has been less than stable himself.

I think about how many times Dante has called me out regarding my thinly veiled emotions. I think about how uncomfortable this always makes me feel. I think about how often he has told me that I am no longer the same person, that I have changed so much. I think about how unsettling this must all be for him. I think about how I can reach him in a different way. I think about how hard all of this is. I think about how much I have gone through during these past few years. I think about how I have landed on my feet. I think about finding new ways to help him do the same.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Starting From A Place of Sadness

distance.

I start out each day feeling good, well, maybe feeling rushed actually. Trying to get teenagers up and running on time is not an easy task. I find that once I hit the office my mood has reached a nice balance. Having this job to go to definitely aids in keeping my mind off things I have little control of. I really enjoy the office environment, and all the personalities that surround me.

What I keep finding is that by late morning this early layer of contentment begins to be challenged by the burning off of protective fog. What initially feels like a happy go lucky mood, then shifts to an increasing awareness of sadness.

Now keep in mind that I am doing fairly well right now. Well, I'm doing well by my standards. When I begin to feel my grief surface I can find myself feeling resentful. Why can't I just be happy? Yet, no matter how hard I try to deny it, or busy myself, eventually I have to give my grief it's due.

Perhaps after suffering so much loss we need to recognize that we are operating from a distinct deficit. What used to be our mood baseline, no longer is. We are now starting from a place of sadness. There is nothing wrong with this, really. We can't all start from the same place. Nor are we able to magically change this, as it can only change with time.

How we handle this realization is up to each individual. I know what works for me, or minimally, what works for me right now.

I have come to trust my emotions. I don't fear them as I might have in the past. I know that stepping inside them does not necessarily mean that it will be a long and labored visit. All I need to do is find the time and space to have this brief visit. Sometimes this can be done with a short walk around the block, or a short break sitting in the comfort of my car.

Tears. Yes, it takes tears.

Breathing. Yes, breathing is also essential.

It doesn't require too much of a commitment. maybe just a few minutes. and keep in mind that the moments are not necessarily heart wrenching moments. They are mainly moments of connection. A few tears, some deep breathing, some kind of acknowledgement, then I'm good to go.

Basically, these are survival tactics. They enable me to keep moving forward. And if you think about it, without these small moments of acknowledgment, how can we truly appreciate the progress we are making?

Starting from a place of sadness is not a bad thing. It's just where we currently find ourselves. From that place of sadness we will rise. And like finding ourselves in deep water, the less we struggle, the better able are we to find ourselves floating to the top.



And for those of you wondering, I can now check off another item from my Pitiful Me list.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What A Nice Spread





















Pitiful Me goal update.

Well, it's only been two days, but I am seriously trying to use these once humorous goals, and make them my new reality. Why not accomplish these goals? I can only come out a few steps ahead, even if they don't all pan out right. So time to make another update.

Day Two: another goal on the list accomplished! Which one is it? Believe it or not, I kind of had the opportunity to accomplish two of the listed goals today, but decided it was only Wednesday, why rush it. The week is still early, and I have the weekend coming up. It will be a perfect time to get out there and scratch off another goal or two off the list.


Today I received the news that my home loan application was completed. The loan officer sent me a spread sheet which indicated my buying power, and gave me various options to consider in buying either a Townhouse or a Single Family Residence. She sent it to me via email, and shared a side remark about how much she loves spread sheets.

This put a big smile on my face. No one could possibly love a good spread sheet more than Michael. He was a budget analyst for Marin County, and his mind worked in ways mine cannot even imagine, or always appreciate. Whenever we were planning some kind of project at home, there was Michael creating another spread sheet on Excel. He would love to explain every detail to me, and I would just smile, and pretend to understand it all.

I had not seen a spread sheet like this since Michael died. It's funny what it is that brings us a connection to our late spouses. Every once in awhile something like this spread sheet will come my way, and really touch part of my core that is so carefully guarded. When this happens, I never quite know which way my emotional response will be. What a nice surprise that it brought me joy.

I'm learning that part of my process of getting through this loss, is to be open to joy. I need to allow small things such as this bring back some of the lost, or forgotten, joy that used to be a part of my life. I need to welcome these opportunities openly. I think that each of these moments create another crack in this hard protective shell that I have developed during this past year.

And believe me, I'm a hard nut to crack. But a nut none the less.