Friday, April 30, 2010

One Foot In Front Of The Other


On Top and Decreasing in Degrees
Originally uploaded by
roodlyroo



Tomorrow I will be joining Michael's colleagues from his office, in the Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk. I'm really looking forward to this, yet I am already feeling the weight of my emotions.


In the years prior, Michael and I walked together with the kids, and last year with his mother, brother, nephew and nieces. I must say it feels quite odd to be doing this somewhat on my own. I have only met Michael's friends from work on a couple of occasions, so it's not like I know them well. But there will also be many people I have met at various conferences and support groups over the years. Yesterday I received a message from the nurse practitioner who treated Michael. She is such a fun and caring person. Her bright smile was always something we looked forward to at each appointment. She will be at the walk, along with many of the staff from the hospital. I hope to get caught up in every one's enthusiasm.


I find myself taking big deep breaths as I think about all of this. I don't know if I made the right decision when I agreed to participate. I do want to support the cause, and help raise money for those that are still in this fight. It just pains me to be doing this so soon after losing Michael.


It is probably best for me to not think about it too much. I'm going to take some time now to sit, and experience calm.


I'm going to just put one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interaction


Communication
Originally uploaded by
DailyPic



This morning I was giving a teenage client a ride to her court hearing. We were making small talk, sharing what we had each done during the recent spring break. She is a very sweet 17 year old, who always asks me about my family, and how my kids are doing. I have never mentioned to her a spouse, or lack of one. I just say things like "I took my kids to San Diego" or I need to get home to make dinner for the kids. It never dawned on me that she would think I was married. But then again, why wouldn't she?


I am a very 'out' person. And though I don't wear any kind of gay identification tag, I usually assume people figure out that I am gay. As we were driving through town this young lady started pointing to various stores and saying that perhaps I should take my wife shopping here or there. She said that my wife would likely be very happy with me if I bought her something nice. As a rule, I would usually correct the person, and say "oh, well, I'm gay and ..." then continue with our discussion. For some reason the timing didn't seem right, and I didn't want to get into my loss with her. So I just smiled as she was carrying on about my wife and I getting new furniture for the house.


Later in the afternoon I went to visit an infant placed in a foster home. I had spoken to the foster parent many times on the telephone, but we hadn't actually met before today. As I sat in her living room the subject came up about the special needs this baby might have in the future. The foster parent has already adopted this baby's older brother, who is already exhibiting signs of ADHD. I decided it would be useful for me to share some of my own experiences with my children. It opened up into a very enjoyable discussion. I asked the foster parent if she was raising her children on her own, or with a partner. She said her sister lives with her, and is very involved with the kids, but that she was indeed parenting on her own. She then had a somewhat frightful look, and exclaimed. "are you raising your three kids as a single parent as well?" I smiled and said yes, then paused for a minute. "Actually, I'm a widower, so I haven't always been a single parent."


I found it refreshing to be in a situation where someone actually asked me, and that I felt comfortable with an honest, and straight forward, reply. What is interesting is that I am rarely asked these types of questions. There have been relatively few situations where I find myself in the position to identify myself as a widower. I'm not sure if people don't ask because I'm a man, or gay, or what? Maybe it's because everyone at work knows that Michael passed away. Maybe it's because I have no other life outside of work. I'm actually looking forward to moving, and to meeting new people. It will give me a new opportunity to share my story, and my experience, with people who are actually in my presence. I'm really looking forward to having these types of interactions.


I'm becoming more comfortable with my new identity, and feel a need to express it. Until I start doing this, I will feel like people won't have the needed information to truly understand who I am, and what I am about. I know that my being a widower can't be everything about me, but for now, it is the most central thing about me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...


Make a wish
Originally uploaded by
AdmireLifePhoto


Today I had this saying going through my head..."Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true."


Last night after giving thought to my idea of a move, I decided to do a quick online job search to see what might be available to me. I hate to even discuss this, because it is starting to feel like my proposed move to San Diego could possibly be easier than I initially thought. In my first, and only, job search I came up with a job that was just posted last week. It is for a family court counselor, and it is within the same salary range of my current job. I have worked within the family and child dependency court process for 21 years. It is the type of job that I would jump at the opportunity if it were posted here in San Francisco. So why am I suddenly very nervous?


Today I met with my primary medical provider. As I may have mentioned in the past, he is also a widower. It has been interesting to check in with each other over the past couple of years as each of our spouses were battling, then succumbing to, cancer. My purpose in meeting with him today was to discuss my concern about my recent level of depression. We discussed a plan to better address my depression through medication. Once we were through with the topic of my appointment, he asked if I had started dating yet. This was done in good humor, as during my last appointment I had mentioned to him how so many in my prior support group had mentioned dating much sooner than they originally expected. I said that at 7 months I was no where near ready to entertain the idea of dating. I told him it was the last thing on my mind these days. He asked what changes I had been considering, at which time I shared with him my thoughts about moving. I mentioned the job posting I had found, and that although it seemed ideal, it also seemed perhaps too soon. He reminded me that the kids will be out of school in about 6 weeks, and that just because I get offered a job, doesn't mean I have to take it.


I realized that he was so right. This whole idea of applying for a new job is so foreign to me. After all, I have been with my job for 21 years. (Now I feel very old.) I suddenly felt a sense of freedom in the idea that I could put out as many feelers as I wanted. Who knows if any job offers will be made, but what a great opportunity to test the waters.


Tonight I sat my kids down to discuss my decision to move forward on this. I explained that while this is all just in the exploration process, I felt that they should be aware of this step that I am taking. Initially you could hear, and feel, the sound of three jaws dropping to the floor. When I told them about the job I was going to apply for, they all began to panic. Suddenly this all seemed very real.


This all takes me back to the end of our spring break trip to San Diego. The kids had such a wonderful week. They loved visiting with all of our relatives, and kept talking about what it would be like to live near all of them. When we were at the resort I mentioned to them that Michael and I had been considering San Diego as a possible place to move to. At the time, the kids all jumped at the idea of such a move. They said they had never thought they would want to move to southern California, but suddenly liked the idea. Now I think they are thinking the same thing as myself, "Be careful what you wish for, because it might come true."


I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself. I'm just going to take the first step forward, and see what comes of it. One thing I can say is this, for the first time, in a long time, I'm feeling like there is something to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A New Direction


New Directions
Originally uploaded by
Mixed Media Mosaics



Today was a very busy, and emotionally exhaustive, day. Toward the end of the afternoon I went to my therapy, and just put everything out there. I decided that there was no reason to pretend that I am not at my lowest of lows. It's an odd place to find myself actually. My day to day, or hour to hour pain, is no where near that which I experienced in the early months. It is more of my outlook on life that has become so compromised.


I feel like I don't have much of a future to look forward to. All that I wanted out of life seems to have been taken away from me. It was taken away so soon after acquiring it. I find myself battling between anger and despair. This is not something that I came up with by myself. It was what my therapist pointed out to me today. I had a very powerful session, where I could speak from that place of anger, and also go to those feelings of despair.


I no longer have the energy to look at the bright side, or to even make an attempt at optimism. Last night I was feeling so bad, that I came down to my room and shut off any sign of life around me. Something happened to my garden lights, as they were completely out when I came down to my room last night. This meant I could not sit on my bed and look out at the garden or my little Buddha. That kind of sealed the deal for me. I closed the blinds to my windows so no moonlight could get in. I blew out the candles I had just lit. I turned off the electronic frame which displays to many photos of Michael and I in happy times. My room was completely dark. There was no sign of life. I sat there on my bed, feeling the complete absence of anything life giving. I cried, and cried. It was definitely a time for purging.


Try as I might, I just don't see happiness in my future. I don't see what could possibly be in store for me. I feel stuck. I question why I should keep on going. I wonder what the effort could possibly reward me with. I decided this afternoon that I needed to make an appointment to see my doctor. Perhaps it is time to change the medication I am on. I don't want to continue flirting with suicidal ideations. I realize that I need something different in my life. Perhaps something new.


I have decided to begin exploring a change of scenery. I never thought I would ever want to move back down to southern California, but I am now considering it. I have hundreds of relatives down there, and many friends. By moving out of San Francisco, and selling my house, I may be able to get into a fun fixer upper with a very small house payment. In two years my car will be paid off, which will mean less money needing to go out. This combined with a much smaller house payment could give me the opportunity to change my career. If I stay here I will never be able to afford to leave my job. It pays well, and supports the expensive cost of living in the Bay Area. But I am realizing that I no longer have what it takes to do my job. I want to do something different. I also would like to live in a home that needs my care and attention. I want a garden to work in that doesn't consist of a bunch of garden boxes. I want to work with the soil in the ground.


Although there are places where I would prefer to live, they are all out of state, and much further from all of my family. This would be too difficult on the children. The reality is that the kids would really enjoy living closer to all of our extended family. It would put me in the position of having access to more support. I have decided to begin my search in San Diego. There is a neighborhood in San Diego that I really love. It would give me access to places I truly enjoy, such has coffee houses and foreign film cinemas. We would be only a couple of hours away from all of our relatives. Close enough for regular visits, yet far enough to maintain my need for solitude.


It feels good to have a new plan.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Drowning in Reality


going under
Originally uploaded by
Diana K K (is beautifully disturbed)



Real time for Dan, has become too real. There is nothing left in me. I feel like an empty shell, that is somehow supposed to fit in all the unconditional love, resources, and everything that is supposed to make everyone else's life run smoothly.


I simply fail to see what the purpose is anymore. In every direction I look, there doesn't appear to be something in it for me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Productive Me


Plumber lad
Originally uploaded by
Spondicious



I had what I would consider a very productive day. For some odd reason, I kept waking up very early this morning. I first awoke at 4am, sat up, looked around, and then told myself to return to sleep. This occurred again at 5:30am, and again at 8am. Something was telling me to get out of bed, and to start my day. It was a beautifully sunny day, one that should have been spent gardening, or pulling the weeds that have over taken the planter out front. But I ended up spending most of my morning reading.


I soon realized that we were low on some groceries, so I ran out to the store. When I returned I made sure everyone had something to eat, then decided to get started on today's project, which was installing a new garbage disposal. It was one of those man moments, when realizing we had lived with the disposal being broken for so long, that if I didn't get it done myself, it would never happen. By this of course, I meant that I hadn't got around to calling a plumber to get the job done. While I was under the sink I decided to take everything apart, and make some additional repairs. The faucet had come loose over time, and things had gotten wet and mildewy under the sink.


I took one look at the instructions that came with the disposal, and decided that we men ignore such things for a reason, it would take half a day to read, and understand all the instructions. I have always found it quicker to just take a quick look at the basic diagrams, then figure it out for myself. I was feeling so good, and everything was going great. Once everything was fastened, and put together, I tested things out by turning on the water. Out came a very strong leak. Now we have had a leak for some time, but I always assumed it was because of the broken down disposal. No such luck. It was the main J pipe that extends from under the sink. It had an obvious crack in it. So I was quickly off to the hardware store for a replacement. When I returned I was able to put in the new pipe, re-attach everything to the disposal, and it was all done.


My father would be very proud. I am very proud. I was also able to get 4 loads of laundry washed, dried and folded throughout the afternoon. I enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by my daughter, then sat down for a great episode of "Hoarders," which always makes me feel so good about my housekeeping skills. And like clockwork, both of my sons turned to me to say thanks for making them clean their rooms everyday. I need to watch this more often.


Earlier while I was working under the sink, my daughter came running into the kitchen to say, "Dad, I just read last night's post in your blog. Your not wearing your wedding ring! Are you okay?" Yes, daughter, I'm fine. It doesn't need to be a big deal. You may find it back on my finger within a few days. Perhaps I need to think twice about what I write here. I don't want to get the whole clan upset. Actually, I have asked the boys not to read my blog. I prefer to just keep it at my daughter, as she is older, and has a better understanding of how my thoughts and mood might fluctuate along this journey.


Now, when I sat down to write tonight's post, I didn't think I would be writing about plumbing and laundry. Yet, it is these day to day, mundane kind of things, that fill my days with normality. They also simply fill my day. I realize that after getting all these things done today, and spending my evening reflecting on them, that I have had a bit of a reprieve from the sadness of late. It also allows me to feel productive, as most days I feel as though I have failed miserably. There is always so much to get done. And most of the time, I lack the fortitude to deal with much of anything except my grief. I think another way of looking at this is that I have been feeling lost in my grief. So much of my day usually gets right by me, and I am left feeling disconnected and unproductive. Today I feel like the real me came through. I knew what needed to be done, and I took care of it. That's the type of person I have always been. I don't know who this other guy is. You know, the one who tells the kids for the last month not to empty anything in the kitchen sink until he can get it fixed. Or the guy to tells the boys that the jeans sitting in their laundry basket can't be that dirty, and surely the can get one more wear out of them. Or the guy that shouts out in the late afternoon, "who wants to call and order dinner?"


Before I get into bed tonight I plan to go stand in front of my bathroom mirror, and take a good look at my reflection. I plan to re-introduce myself to the image before me. Hi, I'm Dan before grief. Hi, I'm Dan during grief. Lets begin looking for Dan beyond grief.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One Step Forward


one step forward, two steps back
Originally uploaded by
Jayna



On April 13th, 7 months to the day, my wedding ring travelled seven fingers to the right, and landed on the equivalent finger on my right hand. On April 21st, the anniversary of our meeting, my wedding ring travelled seven fingers back to my left. Tonight it sits here next to my laptop, trying to find it's place.


I have never been one to wear any jewelry. I don't own a watch, and other than my wedding ring, prior to getting married, I never wore a ring. So why have I continued to wear it? I know that I was very proud to wear the right when we got married. It came to symbolize so much, as wedding rings usually do. Aside from the usual meaning, it reminded me of an enjoyable trip Michael and I had in Provincetown, a couple of years ago. I had to travel to Maine on business, so we decided to make a vacation out of the trip. I left on my business itinerary, and Michael and our son, Remy, met me at the Boston Airport. The three of us had a great time together, the highlight of which was to shop for our wedding bands.


Michael's wedding ring sits among the small treasures that makes up the alter like display in front of his urn. For a short time I wore both rings, but soon decided it was overly burdensome. With my recent choice to try moving my ring off of my ring finger, I came to realize that perhaps, in a small way, I am trying to hold onto something that no longer exists. What exactly would that be? I think maybe it was my attempt to still feel married. A nice secure thought, but likely motivated out of insecurity.


The fact of the matter is, that I am no longer married. I am either single, or widowed, but definitely not married. So why do I continue with this dance of the traveling wedding ring? I think it is time to return to me, and what I am most comfortable with. No ring. Besides, it will likely give me more comfort to see my ring along side Michael's on the bookshelf. They symbolize our union, so let them be joined amongst the small treasures.


This doesn't need to be seen as a big step, or a monumental decision. It's just where I am today. Today I want to feel like I am, once again, moving forward. Lately I have been caught in the two steps back mode, so one step forward is refreshing.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Typically me


Meeting Who is What?
Originally uploaded by
Meeting Neil Is Easy



I am not typically what others would consider a negative person, but then I am not going through a very typical time in my life.


What is it that people say? Love brings out the best in us? Well, what does death bring out?


I wish I knew what a typical response would be for someone in my position. Then again, I would first have to define what typical is in this case. I have surely known other's who have gone through a loss, but do I necessarily identify with them? I suppose that in order to clearly identify with how they experience the death of their spouse, I would have had to identify with them prior to their loss. And here lies the crux of this matter.


The people that I have known in my life, who have gone through such a loss, have mostly been my aunts, uncles, or grandparents. I don't have any family members within my age group that have experienced this type of loss. And, if I did, would I then need to see further similarities in order to clearly feel a sense of camaraderie?


I suppose the best way to find others that I can say are most similar to me, would be to look at the friends I have chosen to surround myself with. With family members, we might sort through them, and choose to associate with those with similar interests or experiences. But this is more thoroughly done with the friends that we make. I can honestly say that the friends I have chosen probably share more of my world view, lifestyle and day to day experiences. For this reason, I continue to have the challenge of feeling suddenly like the odd man out.


I look to my peers on a daily basis, and feel so alone. Why is this? Clearly, it is because those that I most identify with are now those that so harshly remind me of what I no longer have. Without a doubt this is why I have been isolating myself from the people that mean the most to me. How can the people I care about be there for me if I am no where to be found? Now, the reality of this is, of course, that I can easily be found. I am always at home. But unless I pick up the phone, return calls, or make some effort to come up to the surface, I am as good as missing.


Easily said, right? One step at a time. I know that I need to shift gears about now. I'm sinking. Obviously yesterday's post was quite telling. Those feelings that I expressed are still present, so effecting a change is not going to happen solely by this self realization. It is going to take considerable effort.


I'm typically a one day at a time kind of guy. Tomorrow is a new day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Doom & Gloom


gloom n doom
Originally uploaded by
sporadicity



I sometimes check myself as I sit to write, not wanting to get too caught up in the doom and gloom of widow(er)hood. But in all honesty, it certainly does happen.


Today was a very difficult day to get through. I find it the case, that when I have a significant anniversary of...anything related to Michael, I can get through the actual day fairly well. It's the day after that finds me with my guard down, fully exposed to the pain.


I tried my best to focus on my work today at the office. I had so much that needed to get done, and thought it would actually help me through this emotional tidal wave. And on the scale that my grief can take me, I do think I fared better than how things could have gone. That said, it was still a very tough day to survive.


By lunch time I found that the dam I had built up as a way to keep the water works to a minimum, was about to give way to all the pressure. I recognized that I needed time to just cry, and to breathe some fresh air. I decided I would take a walk to get something to eat, and the sun had actually broken through what had started as a cool and wet morning. As I started my climb up the street, I realized that I was feeling so alone. At first I wasn't sure if what I was feeling was the lack of Michael's presence, or the lack of any one's presence. It's quite the challenge to get through each day, especially knowing that the day always ends with me alone in our bedroom. When I wind things down at night, and the kids are all settled into their rooms, I experience the raw reality that Michael is really gone. There is no escape from this.


I get that today would be quite the challenge, as yesterday was our anniversary. But it is because of what I was feeling, and the reality that I was walking around by myself once again, that I began to understand how completely alone I am. During these past two years of Michael's illness, and especially this last year, we were surrounded by so many people. During his last few months there was always someone wanting to come by for a visit. These days, aside from the kids, I don't see anyone outside of the work environment. I am completely alone. Today, this hit me like a ton of bricks.


In my weekly therapy I have been talking about feeling stuck, and feeling so lonely. At the same time, I don't seem to have the inner resources to reach out to anyone. I also don't quite know where exactly to reach out to. Somehow, I have completely isolated myself. Today as I was walking, the tears just kept pouring out. I began to wish it would all come to an end. What do I mean by this? I'm not proud to admit this, but I was really feeling like death would be a better option. At least in death I could be with Michael. In death I wouldn't have to feel these intense, and painful, feelings. In death I wouldn't have to go about each day, fulfilling all the responsibilities that now seem so trivial.


Now about now I'm sure all of my readers are waiting for me to say that I wasn't seriously contemplating suicide. I am also having to fight off the urge to quickly write a disclaimer, or to just hit the delete key. The reality is, that today's feelings are by far not the first time I have felt this way. During these past 7 months I have at times felt that all this suffering is just not worth it. Life just seems to have stacked up the cards against me. I look around me, and I fail to see anyone who is having to live through this same reality. None of my friends, or colleagues, are having to live through this type of pain. All of them go home to their spouses everyday. All of them are living the life that we all expected to have. I know that their lives are not perfect, and that they have their challenges, but really, do their challenges even come close to mine?


So now I will shift gears, and start peddling back to safety. Would I ever do anything to really hurt myself? I don't think so. Would I give a shit if a piano should fall from above and land on my head? Probably not. But I wouldn't be truly speaking in real time if I didn't come clean about these feelings. You know, I'm one of those people who presents very well. People often look at me and say, "you look so good," or "you seem to be handling this very well." The reality is, I am not. I am not fully myself. I am barely getting through each day. If you ask me how I am doing, I am likely to say I am doing fine. I'm starting to not see the value in speaking the truth. What happens if I tell you the truth? Is there anything you can do? Is there anything you would want to do? I'm nobodies responsibility. I was somebodies, but he's gone.


I know that by tomorrow morning I will be thinking, what the hell was I thinking posting such thoughts. I will regret that I put this out there. I am already beginning to worry, but I'm not sure what I am worried about. Am I worried about what people will think? Or, am I worried that it will not even matter. Who knows. Not me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Message to Michael


cupid stencil
Originally uploaded by
T*3



Dearest Michael,


Happy Anniversary.


This greeting might confuse some, as I began my blog on our first wedding anniversary, October 19, 2009. Yet, as you know, we never celebrated a wedding anniversary together. We were blessed with almost 11 months of marriage before you died. Oh how I wanted to you to make it to our first wedding anniversary. I remember this time last year, April 21, 2009, wondering if I should take out the top tier of our wedding cake that was tucked away in the freezer. I spent so many nights wondering what was the right thing to do. From my conversations with your doctor I knew that you were doing better than ever expected, but that your tumor had continued to grow. He had privately told me that time was not on our side. Yet, I was worried about what kind of message I would be giving you if I took our cake out 6 months early. I didn't want you to take that as an indication that you wouldn't be around for our first wedding anniversary.


Last year on this day you and I went out for a casual dinner at Nirvana. We had our favorite noodle dishes, and toasted each other with our juice drinks. We had just returned a few days prior from Sedona, Arizona. We had such a wonderful, and extravagant, time there, that we decided to have a quieter, more humble anniversary dinner. Nirvana was our favorite place to eat out on our own. Every time I walk past it I pause, look in, and smile. I can picture us sitting in the back garden area, enjoying our meal. I can't bring myself to go into the restaurant yet, but I know that one day I will.


Two years ago on this day you were in Santiago, Chile. Everyone around here looked at me like I was mad when I informed them that I had dropped you off at the airport for a two week visit with Craig. They were all rightly concerned, as you had been having some side effects from the chemo, and there were still the occasional small seizures. But I told them, as I told you, that it was important that you go out there and do the things that make you happy. I knew that Craig would take good care of you should anything come up, and we scheduled your trip in between your treatments. I could see that you were very excited about this trip, if not a little worried. I packed away a couple of surprises for you in your suitcase to be opened once in Chile. I remember you saying that you went through your bag while at the airport, found the surprises, and opened them on the airplane. You were able to read my words while in flight, which you said gave you some needed assurance that everything would be alright. When you came home you brought me the heart carved out of marble which you have engraved "Con Amor de Chile. -Miguel." It is sitting next to the candle on our bookshelf right now, reflecting the warm glow of the flame.


Three years ago on this day you and I went out to celebrate our first anniversary. You had noticed a small little French restaurant that looked very quaint. You were so excited about the restaurant that I didn't have the heart to say that I hated french cooking. Our waitress was very French, which added to the authenticity of the evening. I was so proud to hear you speaking in French to the staff while at the restaurant. We opted for the 7 course meal, with the wine pairing. Again, you were in heaven. Every dish that was brought to our table was described by the waitress in a way that was divine poetry. Each glass of wine was sampled by you with such an educated appreciation for it's region and flavor. Your pallet was in total bliss. Mine, on the other hand, was wanting to run for the French Alps. You tried to explain to the waitress that I didn't eat red meat or dairy, which I really appreciated. But, in the end, I chose to set aside any moral convictions, except when the veal showed up, and sample each dish. And while I don't have quite the educated appreciation of the various wines like you did, each glass was very helpful in getting down some of the dishes that I found to be swallow-challenging. By the end of the meal we were enjoying our dessert, and feeling no pain. I think we had a very sexy and romantic romp at home, or maybe just passed out. It's all a blur to me now.


(Now would be the time to cue the music player on the right to song #1)


Post-Habeas celebration
Originally uploaded by
rayeverettchurch



Four years ago on this night, I getting the kids all settled in for the evening. I ordered them a pizza, and made sure there was a mutual agreement on what movie to watch that evening. I then began grooming myself for a night out on the town. For the past six months I had been casually dating someone who was too closeted for my taste. He was a nice guy, but it was clear to me that it wasn't leading to anything serious. Since he had chosen to go out of town, and I had just returned myself from visiting my folks, I decided I should go out and have a belated birthday celebration on my own. I went to my usual spot, if I even had one, Badlands, to listen to music, and hopefully get in some dancing. I must have been deep into thought when some strange guy came up to me with an odd little comment. "Hey, people might accuse you of being straight unless you start shaking those hips a bit." Hmmm. I laughed at the weak attempt at humor, then went back to my thoughts. It took me a few minutes before I realized that you had just come on to me. A Casanova you are not. I looked across the bar, only to find you standing next to the dance floor by yourself. I saw your eyes, and I smiled. I walked up to you and asked why someone with such a commentary was not dancing himself. You shyly explained that nobody had asked you. I smiled for the third time. We moved into the middle of the dance floor, and danced together for about an hour. By the end of all of this dancing, the heat was beginning to rise. It was clear that Cupid's arrow had pierced my heart, and I never saw it coming.


Happy Anniversary Michael. I love you. I bless this day, my favorite day of the year.


Dan


"LOOK ON THE FLOOR" -Bananarama

It's close to midnight and I'm leaving now
I'm getting in my car and heading out
And can't slow down
Cuz I don't know how

You got my number so we'll be fine
So go and use it just don't waste my time
Cuz you're on my mind
And you know I'm right

You take me over
Stay with me
And we'll fade away

(chorus):

Look on the floor
And all is spinning round
Someone told me this was just a dance
And take a chance
And I'll give you more
Do you really think we have a chance

Devil's in your eyes and he's looking at me
I got what you want and you know what I need
Come on show me how
How do you get down

You take me over
Stay with me
And we'll fade away

(repeat chorus twice)

Do you really think we have a chance

Do you really think we have a chance

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Words & Phrases for 100 Alex


Jeopardy Set at CES
Originally uploaded by
Sony Electronics




Honestly, I am beside myself.

What the hell does "beside myself" mean?

Speechless with bewilderment. Dumbfounded with a tad bit of shock.


"Honestly?"

To be honest : to tell the truth.


what is... "A pointless exercise in futility"

1. An action that achieves no end or goal.
2. An action to achieve a goal that is unachievable.
3. An action that achieves an end or goal that is in itself pointless.

Trying to effect change in your child often feels like a pointless exercise in futility.


what is..."Exasperation"

1 : the state of being exasperated
2 : the act or an instance of exasperating


what is..."Exasperate"

1 a : to excite the anger of : enrage b : to cause irritation or annoyance to
2 obsolete : to make more grievous : aggravate


what is..."Regret"

An intelligent or emotional dislike for personal past acts and behaviors.


what is..."Grief"

1. intense sorrow: great sadness, especially as a result of a death
2. cause of intense sorrow: the cause of intense, deep, and profound sorrow, especially a specific event or situation
3. trouble: annoyance or trouble ( informal ) His parents gave him grief for coming home so late.I got grief for missing the appointment.


come to grief to suffer misfortune or ruin
good grief used to express surprise, exasperation, or dismay


"Words"

Word may refer to a spoken word or a written word, or sometimes, the abstract concept behind either.



Honestly, I am beside myself.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Untethered


untethered
Originally uploaded by
alison d'bird



I am coming to the end of my day off. I did work this morning, but was free the rest of the afternoon, and had quite a mellow time at home tonight.


Today I was reminded of how so many people are experiencing difficult times. Not in the financial way, which we are all aware of, but emotionally. More and more I am able to recognize the pain and sorrow in a person's face, or in their physical presence. I'm not always in the know as to what their particular burden is, but I can see their pain. When I come across someone like this, I am so moved to reach out, especially if it is someone that I know. Yet, I don't always know if the person wants to be approached, or asked if they need to talk.


I know that for me, I often walk around with my armor up. It is what gets me through the day, but it is not always effective. Sometimes our vulnerability permeates all of our efforts to be strong, and quickly comes to the surface. I know that for many people, this can be very scary. It can cause us to feel out of control. Today I saw a glimpse of this in someone I know, and it now has me concerned. Up till now I haven't felt like I was emotionally well enough to reach out to help someone, as far as being a support, but I'm thinking that I should. Perhaps this person recognizes something in my loss that would enable him to open up. I suppose that one of the benefits to having gone through such a public loss, like the death of a spouse, is that others begin to watch you to see how you manage getting through each day. Perhaps my silver lining will be that someone will feel safe approaching me, knowing that I might feel sympathetic to their situation.


I think this is something for me to meditate about.


My other thought tonight has been about having little interest in life right now. Today while I was at home, doing pretty much nothing, I thought about how much time I waste. I still, after 7 months, sit around, staring straight in front of me, feeling numb and disinterested. I tried to get interested in some reading, but it didn't hold my attention. I tried watching a couple of movies on the television, but they both seemed so pointless. Then I did my usual surfing of the net, spending hours looking at nothing, or what I would consider junk.


Most of the time I tell myself, hey it's okay to do nothing. But the problem is, I do nothing quite a bit of the time. And it's not that I don't have options. I just don't see the benefit in putting out much effort these days. What I am trying to describe here is not about not getting enough done in the day. I am keeping up with most of my at home responsibilities. But there are a lot of small detail things that are really piling up. Things like mail to be opened, bills to be paid, phone calls to return, that I never get to. Everything seems sort of pointless.


I don't feel like I am being the best parent right now. I don't feel like I am being a very good son, friend, or brother. I'm kind of lost. Or maybe I'm not so much lost, more like I have lost a significant part of me. I don't really like who I am today. I am indifferent. I am withdrawn. I am lazy. I am sad. I am depressed. I don't really have anything to talk about. There is nothing new in my life, and I don't even want anything new to talk about.


I sometimes feel like I would like to fast forward my life, and to just get it over with. I know this sounds terrible, and I don't mean to sound so negative, or fatalistic. I just don't expect to be all that happy in the future, so I'm not too interested in what lies ahead for me.


In some ways, I feel like an emotional drifter. Someone who is an emotional vagabond, an itinerant person. A person who moves aimlessly from place to place, someone who leads a wandering unsettled life. Only, I'm not going anywhere. I just feel untethered.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Feeling A Wee Bit Ornery


If You Are...[CP]
Originally uploaded by
http://www.flickr.com/people/dan-lem2001/



I'm in desperate need of some inspiration. I am tired. I have a cold. And, I have to work on my day off tomorrow. Well, maybe not the whole day, but I haven't had a whole day to myself in a long time. I'm not actually sure what I would do with a whole day to myself.


Today was one of those days that seem to just go by without anything of significance happening, or getting done. I had hoped to get to church this week, as I have become one of those holiday Catholics, something I never thought would happen. This is probably a subject best saved for later writing, as faith has become a sensitive subject for me these days.


Earlier today the kids and I started watching the movie "Signs." It is one that I had seen many years ago. Normally I don't watch anything with the god-awful Mel Gibson, but I decided to put my politics, and personal values, aside and watch the movie. It is one of those movies that takes on new meaning now that I am a widower. It's kind of an ongoing odd awareness when I find myself watching a film that deals with the loss of a spouse. Even after 7 months I find myself caught off guard with the fact that this is my reality. In today's film Mel's character is a minister who loses his wife, which causes him to experience a loss of faith.


Now, wait a minute. Didn't I just say that I should save this subject for a later time? Well, maybe I will just skim the surface tonight.


Mel's character feels so betrayed by God. He struggles with the question of whether life is just arbitrary, where everything happens by chance. If this is not the case, then everything must happen for a reason.


This is exactly the question I ask myself all the time. Why did Michael have to die? The easy answer, of course, is that we all have to die. But, why him, now? Was it just arbitrary? Was Michael's name pulled out of some heavenly hat? If so, I would like to kick the angel's ass who did the picking. And if, as some say, everything happens for a reason, then what reason could it possibly be? In today's movie, the wife's death, and last words, provided clues to save the life of her son, and possibly her whole family. Short of our own alien attack, I just don't see that any reason will be forthcoming.


I look at the loss of Michael at such an early age, and I don't see the value. What could possibly be gained, or learned, by this? He had so much still to do, and had just found someone to do it with. I just don't understand. I guess that for my own peace of mind, today at least, I would have to say that Michael's death is arbitrary. Why did God call him home, as some would say? I suppose it is not for me to understand. Only for me to react to, or be affected by.


I think the only honest response that I have right now is that I am still at odds with God. Okay, that's putting it nicely. I am still quite angry with God. I have been angry with God for over two years now. At times I have felt blessed, by having Michael in my life, and by having him for two years post diagnosis. Yet, a lot of the time I am still angry, wondering why I have to be in the position to count my blessings, or to be the one who should be grateful for the time we had...blah, blah, blah blah blah.


Perhaps this is not a good night to get into this type of discussion. I think I am just feeling a wee bit ornery.

Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk:

Bay Area Brain Tumor Walk:

I have decided to join Michael's friends and colleagues in the fundraising efforts of the National Brain Tumor Society. Anyone interested in donating can do so at my home fundraising home page. As you can see, this is a last minute decision on my part. I previously didn't feel ready to return for my third year of this event, as it will be my first since Michael died, but I decided to give myself a bit of a nudge.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inked

There are many rites of passage. Today, was a new one for my daughter. I had gone yesterday to get a couple of new tattoos. On the inside of my upper left arm I had this Buddhist quote placed there, "Peace Comes From Within. Do Not Seek It Without." I also had a mandala placed midway down my arm. The mandala reminds me that I am but a small part of the larger picture. It represents the journey from the outer cosmos, to the inner, deeper unconscious self. It will also serve as an aid to my meditation, leading me toward being centered.

My daughter has always wanted a tattoo, and I had taken her to get one almost two years ago, but we found that she was not old enough. She was 17, and was told that she needed to wait until turning 18. She opted for a new piercing at the time. In talking today, I remembered that she had wanted for the two of us to someday get matching tattoos. I suggested that we make an appointment, and each get a lotus flower.

The lotus produces a beautiful flower even with its roots in the dirtiest water. The symbolism is that a person can rise above being rooted in the ugliness and suffering of this world, and should try to be pure and help others with the beauty of the spirit.

Lotus flower tattoos are popular among people who have gone through a hard time and are now coming out of it. Like the flower they have been at the bottom in the muddy, dirty bottom of the pond but have risen above this to display an object of beauty or a life of beauty. Thus a lotus flower tattoo can also represent a hard time in life that has been overcome.

Above my daughter's lotus flower is the symbol for Om. In Hinduism it represents both the unmanifest (nirguna) and manifest (saguna) aspects of God. Om is often used to begin mediation, as it means "to shout, sound, praise." I also have an Om centered in my mandala.

Okay, so enough of the history lesson. The point of all this is that we have both been on quite a journey. We continue to be on a journey. I don't want to assign too much meaning to the symbolism for my daughter, but as her father, I would say that her journey is significant. She has definitely had her struggles, and together we will continue to face them.

As for me, my body art serves as a testament to where I have been, what feeds me today, and what will guide me in the days ahead.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Good Things


good things will happen note card
Originally uploaded by
you can count on me



Another good day. A guy to get used to this.


It's funny how a small, and simple, gesture of kindness can touch you in such a profound way. Today at work I was having another busy day, meeting with clients, and writing reports. I realized it was time for lunch, so I called the local Vietnamese restaurant and ordered one of my favorite dishes. I told them I would pick it up in about 30 minutes.


Recently I have been talking to my therapist about my feeling of being an outsider. As I have written here before, I have spent most of my adult life single. I dated a lot, and had more than my share of one night stands. Yes, something I'm very proud of. But for the most part, I felt like life had passed me by. For some reason, I felt like good things were not meant to come my way. Then four years ago I met a wonderful man, and he grew to love me as much as I loved him. Good things came our way. We went on wonderful trips, had many romantic nights, and moved in together. Life began to feel like it was going my way.


Well, we all know how this story ended. Michael and I had a really nice ride. We experienced so much. And while on most days I still feel angry, today I feel blessed.


Anyway, in spite of my good mood tonight, my pervasive feeling is that good things are not meant for me. This is how I was feeling earlier today. The sadness that is my life, was weighing a little heavy on my mind. When it came time to pick up my lunch, I was looking forward to a nice walk, and to breathe in some fresh air. It was a very sunny, and beautiful day, yet I couldn't help thinking that the sun was not out for me. It was out for all those that get the good things in life.


I walked out of the concrete building in which I work. I repeated the daily routine of walking by the catering truck that parks along the curb in front of the building. The owner of the truck, a nice man named Dan, called out to me, "Hi Dan." I turned to him as I walked by, "Hi Dan," in return. We greet each other daily, and I often wonder if he knows what my life is like. I met his wife in the past, and they both seem very happy. I continued up the street, then crossed at the light. It's a very busy intersection, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sound and movement of the traffic. It was one of those moments when I felt a sense of trauma, as if life around me is too much to bear. I prefer the quiet of my cubicle, or the silence of my bedroom at home. At least then I don't have to be accosted by the reality that others have a better life than me. I turned the corner, walked half a block, then entered the restaurant to my left. The hostess, who always recognizes my voice when I call in my order, said my fried rice was ready. I walked up to the register, and reached into my pocket to pull out some money when she stopped me. "No Dan, your lunch has been paid for." I looked up at her quite confused. "Your friend Trish called in and paid for your lunch."


Trish sits in the cubicle that is caddy corner to mine. She must have heard me ordering my lunch. I thanked the hostess, and slowly walked out of the restaurant. I began to cry. Something good happened to me. But, I'm the person that good things are not supposed to happen to. I continued to walk back toward my building. I crossed the street back to where the catering truck sits. Dan saw me walking up with my food. He reached into the pile of ice, pulling out a bottle of Diet Pepsi for me. I handed him my money, and thanked him just as I do each day. Dan always anticipates my return with my lunch, and makes this simple little gesture to see that I have my favorite drink. I entered the building, and walked back toward my cubicle, but first went to see Trish. "Thank you Trish. You moved me to tears." She was on her phone, and just smiled, as whispered, "I'm glad it worked out."


I walked into my cubicle, sat at my desk, and looked into the small mirror that sits next to my computer monitor. Tears were still in my eyes. I smiled and thought, good things do happen to me. I was proven wrong.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Love and Satisfaction


A diamond inside of LOVE ...
Originally uploaded by
Dragan Fly



Tonight I am feeling the love.


Having Michael in my life was truly a blessing. At a time when I was least expecting someone, there he was. Knowing Michael after all we have been through, I know that he went out on a limb when he approached my the night we met. Michael is a bit of a shy guy, yet he took a chance on me. I'm not quite sure why. I'm not sure what he saw when he fixed his gaze on me in the bar that night. But, I'm sure glad he did.


What we experienced together was significant. We went through so much as a couple, and so much as parents. He learned pretty quickly the ins and outs of parenthood, and gave me so much support when I really needed it. I feel so honored to have been chosen to spend the rest of his life with him.


When I look back on our relationship, I feel as though we were together much longer than the years would suggest. Perhaps it is because we went through so much during that time. We moved through our courtship, to our commitment, to sickness, to marriage, and then followed his journey to death. In thinking about all that we experienced, it makes me realize that we had a very condensed relationship, meaning that we went through all the phases of a long term relationship, but in a short period of time.


When I look back at the past few years, I feel so proud that we made it through, and maintained our love and happiness. It's a very unique experience to be given a death sentence very early into a relationship. It causes you to immediately pause, and take a good look at what you have, and what you want to accomplish. I am grateful that the doctors were very candid with us about Michael's prognosis. While it was very difficult to accept, it allowed us to make a choice to fully embrace the love we shared, and to make each day count.


In looking back on the final months of Michael's life, I can't help but feel an immense sense of love, and satisfaction. I was very careful to keep a sense of joy between us, and to take each step of his deterioration as an opportunity to show him how much I loved him. When I think about how difficult, and painful, it has been in the months following his death, I realize that it is so because I was careful to not grieve losing him until he was gone. I wanted him to experience our love in each moment. He didn't need to see me grieve. He needed to see my unconditional love, and to feel safe and secure.


What Michael gave me in his last days was his complete trust, and I was so honored to be the one to care for him. As I sit here in our bedroom, I feel so blessed to have said goodbye to him right here. This is where we shared our intimate moments. This is where we laid so lovingly next to each other night after night. This is where we exchanged our words of love. And, this is where I will always feel a sense of peace.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Beat of his Heart


pocket watch/ 400D
Originally uploaded by
Be...n



First, I must say that it was a lovely and peaceful day. It was a very busy day at work, but I took the time to pace myself, so that I would not end the day in complete stress. It was also one of those late evening getting home days, so I found myself needing to make a quick decision about dinner. I spent the late afternoon observing my son Dante at his Jiu Jitsu class. He has needed extra firm encouragement to get to his classes lately, so I was proud to see how well he was doing. On the way home he kept throwing out ideas for dinner, all of which included driving through a fast food establishment. In the end I gave in. So what if it was my birthday dinner, the kids were happy. When I arrived home my daughter had made the most beautiful cake. I think she has baking in her future. All of the kids and I watched a little television while we were enjoying the delicious cake. Soon it was time to get my youngest off to bed, then return downstairs where my older kids were still lingering. As I entered the room my breathing became a bit labored.


Before I get too far into this, let me say that I so appreciate all the birthday wishes from friends and family today. This year those messages took on a greater meaning. Thank you all.


As I returned to join my older two, my daughter noticed that something was wrong, and asked if I was okay. I said that I could feel an asthma episode coming on, so I excused myself to go find my inhaler. But as I started to descend the stairs to my bedroom I knew that this was not simply an asthma attack. I was being overtaken by my grief. I quickly stepped into the shower and just unleashed my tears. It felt quite painful, but I was okay with it. It's not a surprise. How could this day pass without missing Michael?


A year ago today Michael and I were in Sedona, Arizona. He had taken me to the Enchantment Resort for the week. We had a wonderful time. A year ago tonight as we were preparing to leave our cottage for dinner, he gave me a gift. It was a beautiful pocket watch. I have never worn a watch, just one of my quirks, so it the perfect gift. On the back of the pocket watch he had it engraved with the message, "Dan, Love you always, Michael." Inside the watch was a picture of the two of us from our wedding. The accompanying card was of a cliff diver. In it Michael had written a message stating that he supposed cliff diving would not phase me too much at that point. He said that I had taken so many great leaps of faith, like marrying him, already. He also wrote that he hoped that I liked the watch, and that whenever I hear it ticking, I should think of his beating heart with mine.


For many nights after Michael died, I kept my pocket watch right next to my ear as I slept. These days it usually sits on our book shelf, among the many little collectibles that I have keeping vigil over Michael's ashes. Tonight the pocket watch will return to my pillow. It will give me strength, and comfort, as I allow my tears to return.


Each day at the Enchantment Resort, the staff would leave cards in the room with words of wisdom from various Native Americans. I kept a few of the cards to remember the peacefulness I experienced on that trip. Here are some of those words.




"The earth is a living thing, the mountains speak. The trees sing. Lakes can think, pebbles have a soul, rocks have power." -John "Fire" Lame Deer, Lakota 1903-1976



"Everything on the earth has a purpose. Every disease, an herb to cure it, every person, a mission. This is the Indian theory of existence." -Mourning Dove, Salish 1888-1936



"It does not require many words to speak the truth." -Chief Joseph, Nez Perce 1840-1904

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

7 months


number 7
Originally uploaded by
Leo Reynolds



...but who's counting?


My thoughts tonight are focused on time, time without Michael, time on my own.


7 / 2 = 3.5 Time I had with Michael.


7 x 2 = 14 My birthday, tomorrow.


7 x 3 = 21 Anniversary date of my meeting Michael, one week away.


70 x 7= How many times you must forgive.


Get an idea of how disturbed my mind is? I find myself playing these number games all the time, as if there is deeper meaning in a number. I also think that numbers allow me to look at something tangible, rather than vaguely trying to measure my progress in this journey of grief.


I sometimes worry that I put too much weight on these numbers. Was my experience of losing Michael different at 5 months? At 6 months? And now, at 7 months? I suppose I would have to say yes. I am experiencing my grief differently today than in past months. I can honestly say that I am making progress in finding acceptance with all of this.


As everyone who has experienced loss, and grief, knows, the healing process in not linear. It is more cyclical. I have learned to accept this, and to anticipate that the pain of my loss will hit me at different points along the way. Then why do I keep trying to track my grief in months, in a linear way?


I can only speak for myself. I think it is partially because of the notion that we spend a year in mourning. I also think it is because we experience our year of firsts. First anniversaries of important dates acknowledged without our loved ones. The day that I started this blog was the first significant anniversary in my year of firsts. It was October 19th, our wedding anniversary. It was not only the first time celebrating our wedding anniversary without Michael, it was actually our first wedding anniversary. In this way, it became a very odd experience, because Michael and I never shared a wedding anniversary. For this reason, my default anniversary goes back to the one that we did celebrate, which is April 21st, the day that we met. We had 3 relationship anniversary celebrations in the years that followed that first date, April 21, 2006.


What does all this mean? Why am I so caught up in this discussion?


I know that I am now beyond the half way mark in my year of firsts. I know that I am coming around the home stretch in approaching the first year anniversary of Michael's death. And with each day, I feel like I am measuring distance from that life ending, and life changing, date. It scares me, as I don't want to feel that it is measuring distance from Michael, but in some way it does feel that way.


When we hear that time heals, does that mean that time will create distance? And, is that something that I want? I know that I want to feel less pain. I know that I want to feel more happiness. I know that I want to feel more connected to life. But, at what cost?


Today I have fiddling with my wedding ring all day. I kept wondering if I should move it to my right hand. I know that it is probably too soon for that, but I sometimes feel like wearing my wedding ring is not reflective of my reality. Am I still married? I suppose not. I am widowed. I also think this has been on my mind because I don't want to put too much on the one year anniversary of his death. I'm thinking that it might be best for me to portion out some of the changes.


As an experiment, I just moved my wedding ring from my left hand to my right. My left ring finger has an obvious band shaped tan line. In one way it feels kind of odd not having my ring on my left hand. Yet, at the same time, my ring feels very much at home on my right hand.


Now here is an odd realization. If I count the fingers that my wedding ring just traveled from my left hand to my right hand it is...7. Maybe this is a good time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kabuki


Kabuki Entrance
Originally uploaded by
Dimmerswitch


Although Mondays are technically one of my days off work, I have needed to go into the office, and go visit clients on most Mondays for the past month. There is simply too much to get done, and so much of my work week is cut short by taking the kids to therapy, or staying home with my youngest son, who is often out of school.

Today was another typical Monday. I sent the kids off to school, went into the office for about four hours, visited a client, then realized that I had two hours where I didn't need to be anywhere. It was an amazing revelation.

In the years past, Mondays were sacred. They were for me. Having a day to myself was the chief way that I stayed centered, sane, and re-energized. The kids and Michael all knew the routine. I would get everyone off to work and school. I would make a pot of coffee, do some light cleaning up around the house, then work in my small garden. By late morning I was off to the Kabuki Hot Springs, for some relaxation and pampering, then grab some lunch and head to one of the local movie theatres.

My Mondays rarely varied from this plan. It was what worked for me. It was what I could count on, and look forward to. When my husband Michael got sick with brain cancer, it became difficult for him to work, so in time he was home more and more. Michael would still encourage me to go about my day as usual. He knew how much I needed these days. Every once in awhile he would join me. In time my days off blended into all the other days that I didn't work, and time to myself kind of disappeared.

These days having a day to myself are completely gone. As my son has had so many problems at school, I am often at home with him, or responding to phone calls for my assistance. And just like today, I have needed to use any free time, meaning time away from my son, to get caught up with my work. Hence the feeling like the sun breaking through the clouds, when I realized I had a nice little chunk of time to myself.

There have been a few prior occasions that I have thought of going to the Kabuki, which is a Japanese communal bath and spa, but for some reason I have chosen not to. One day I actually drove across town to the Kabuki, only to turn around and drive right back home. The problem has been that it is a place of contemplation, quiet, and relaxation. It is a place to be at one with your thoughts. My thoughts for the past 7 months has been on losing Michael, so the thought of grieving while sweating in the sauna, or bathing in the communal pools, left me feeling a bit anxious. I worried that too much of this atmosphere, and I will sink into the depths of my depression. Having been an frequent visitor to the Kabuki over the years, has allowed me to quickly get into the mindset for quiet meditation. I have spent hours there sorting out concerns, sweating out stress, and being nurtured with wonderful massages on occasion. In the recent months, the thought of being in such a public contemplative place made me feel far too vulnerable.

I think I found myself there today because I feel like I have made some progress in moving through my grief. I no longer feel too vulnerable to be in public, for fear that I will fall apart at a moments notice. I now feel like I am more on an even keel. I now feel like I can predict how my day will go, and know what will be of help, and what will make me feel too vulnerable.

A couple of weeks before Michael died, he was expecting a visit from a friend who lives in southern California. He was planning a day for all of us to spend some time relaxing. He decided that we should book massages at the Kabuki, and spend an hour or two at the spa. This was news to me, because he had asked his best friend to make our reservations. As the day drew nearer, Michael's friend told me that Michael asked him to confirm our reservation. His best friend didn't know what to say to Michael. You see, at that point Michael could barely walk. He was also having a difficult time with memory and communication. Yet, Michael didn't realize that he had become so disabled by his tumor. His neuro-oncologist explained that Michael's brain would have times where he would be completely unaware of that he was having such difficulties. With this, I needed to intervene, and let Michael know that we had a change of plans, and that a visit to the Kabuki was not going to work out. Ironically, by the time the day arrived for the friend's visit, Michael had deteriorated severely, and had no recollection of any of these plans.

So you see, the Kabuki, while a sanctuary for me, became a trigger that reminded me of Michael's quick decline, and eventual death. For this reason, I needed to wait for my return to be at a time when I felt strong enough to get past any possible triggers and memories.

Just now as I was writing this, I got a call from the staff of the Kabuki. Apparently I forgot to pick up my drivers license when I checked out this afternoon. So I will be making a return to the Kabuki Hot Springs tomorrow. But this time my approach will be without anxiety, as my afternoon visit proved to be just what I needed. I came away feeling calm, relaxed, and at peace. I have learned that it is a place that I can reclaim for myself. And, that's okay.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Head in the Clouds


Head in the Clouds (153/365)
Originally uploaded by WeeRobbie


Today I have been focused on my inability to get things done. I have become the biggest procrastinator. I now have a very difficult time maintaining my focus.

It is odd to be in this position, as I have always been one who stays on top of everything. I have always been a very thorough worker, excellent house keeper, and very well disciplined. During the past two years I was able to maintain all of my responsibilities, plus take care of everything that was required in having a spouse with cancer. Now that he is gone, and my day to day responsibilities have lessened, you would think that I would be able to get back on track, or minimally, maintain my level of self discipline. But that is not the case.

I continue to feel like I am in shock. My head feels cloudy all the time. I know what I should be doing, or what needs to get done, but I can't motivate myself to do most of it. It's as if there is a list in my head of what I need to accomplish, but I can't seem to prioritize, or get started. I still spend so much of my time lost in thought. Hours can go by, and I can't account for them. This is not to say that I am not taking care of my home, or kids, but I am certainly not doing it as well as I used to.

Perhaps this is part of my depression. I am on medication for this, and I wonder what life would be like without it. When I have described how I am feeling to others, they often will ask if I am on any medication. I think they are surprised to learn that I already am.

There are definitely parts of my grief that are becoming easier, or more familiar. Yet, there are significant aspects of my life that feel forever changed. I often wonder if I will ever return to who I was, or how I was.

Lately I have been thinking more and more about needing time away from my job. I can't seem to function well enough to feel good about what I am doing. Our caseloads have gone up significantly, and I always feel like I am drowning. I'm a social worker, and my clients depend on my management skills to keep them on track. Right now, I don't know if I am being very effective.

At home, with three kids, there is always so much to get done. Just the laundry alone can take up most of my day. When Michael got sick we decided to hire a house keeper who could come in twice a month for the major cleaning, as Michael wasn't able to help as much. I don't know how I would be able to maintain a clean home without the help. Now that we are depending on only my salary, and we are facing cuts at work, I'm starting to feel like I can no longer afford this type of help. On the other hand, I worry what life will be like without the help.

All of this is very frustrating to me. I wish I could will myself into being more effective, and regain the focus needed to accomplish what needs to be done. But most of the time, I sit and wonder, what is the point of trying?

I don't have any answers here. This is the problem. I don't even have the interest, or energy, to try to figure this out.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Presence/Rembrance


Roses in vase
Originally uploaded by
Howitzer23



Today has been another relatively good day. I was visited by Michael's mother and two nieces. It was such a familiar occurrence. As I was expecting them around lunch time, I ran out to buy some things to have lunch ready for them when they arrived. This is something I have been doing for the past four years. Of course in the past Michael was a part of this.


I noticed during today's visit, Michael's mother and I were becoming more familiar with spending time together without Michael. During the past six months our time together often brought up a lot of emotions, as would be expected. We are the two people closest to Michael, and we are a constant reminder of him.

When his mother arrived today she brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers as an early birthday gift. I thought it was very nice of her to remember my birthday, and to take the time to do this for me. Something she did though, was just like Michael. Whenever he bought me a ready made bouquet of flowers he would buy extra roses to add to the bouquet. He always said the ones in the store didn't have the right amount of red roses. Today, his mother arrived with a mixed bouquet, and another bouquet of red roses to add the the mixed flowers.


It is small similarities like this, that make me appreciate his mother so much. It is so clear how similar he and his mother were. That in itself is a odd thing to say, because neither one of them would have thought so. It made me think about my thoughts this week about having a bit of Michael within me. Each time I see his mother I notice a bit more of Michael. Now, we often say kids are like their parents, but I also think our kids teach us many things. Michael not only learned so much about life from his mother, but she learned a lot from him. And as I sat there catching up with her, I could feel Michael sitting there at the table with us.


These types of insights are becoming more and more comforting to me. I am learning that there are ways in which I can remember Michael, and many ways to continue to experience his presence. If I allow them, they will occur. This is part of my journey toward healing. As time continues to move forward, I am forced to accept, and adjust to, his death.


He is no longer here. I accept this. Is there any moving on? No. I will keep trying to move forward, but not away. My heart still aches for him. My body still yearns for him. My thoughts are still with him.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Visceral Calmness


Nature . 自然 . Sea . Solitude (Les Eaux Noires)
Originally uploaded by
Tiquetonne2067



It's 3:31 on a beautifully sunny Friday afternoon. I should be at work, but instead have been home most of the week with my youngest son, whose emotional challenges have gone beyond the limits of what his school can handle right now. A little medication fine tuning, a new IEP (individualized educational plan) that adds a higher level of behavioral support at school, and an offering to the gods, and hopefully he will be back in school next week.


Throughout the week everyone that I come across has asked how I am managing. I mean everywhere I go. Am I missing something? I have felt okay most of the week. Am I in denial, or out of touch with my reality?


It would seem that given the ongoing demands of parenting children with special needs, and now being an adult with special needs (today's description of a lonely widower) I am doing fairly well. I haven't been feeling overwhelmed. I haven't been falling into the depths of my grief, and my mood has for the most part been calm and steady.


For a good part of this afternoon, I have been sitting quietly. I have been aware of my surroundings, which is my home, with various entrances, and exits on the part of the kids. Each of the kids have required my focus, and each has needed some guidance to meet their day's goals, and my level of mood has needed to fluctuate throughout the day. (read sometimes a quiet reminder, other times a stronger direct critique of their behavior) Yet with each of these distractions I have made a concerted effort to return to my calm.


It has all been a good exercise in my ability to recognize the calm within. It is a good place to be in. It is neither good nor bad. It is neither happy or sad. What it is for me I suppose, is a place where I can experience my day, and all my thoughts, with a deeper, gentle spirit. It is allowing me to think of what I have enjoyed about my week, and what has been challenging.


Because this has been a calm week for me, I have been able to experience my loss in a different way as well. It has provided me with a safe place to explore my visceral memories of Michael. How I felt when he looked at me. What my reactions were to his gaze, or his smile. As I look at pictures of him, I am focused on the ones that I took of him. I am studying his face, and his body language, as he stands there before me.


I am recognizing Michael's look of desire. I am remembering Michael's look of heart felt love. I see his look of concern. I can feel the warmth that emanates from his presence back to me. At times during the past 6 months, I was in too much pain to even attempt to explore these thoughts. Today especially, I have been focused on my memories of his touch. Of how his breath felt against my neck and face at night. About what his scent was like, and how it could feed me.


These simple details are now part of my being. They are memories I have stored within my body. I have only to seek calmness to access them. It is a very comforting realization.


I am beginning to answer my own question.


When Michael died, I sat for many days asking out loud, "where did you go?" I needed some logic to explain what I was experiencing, which was a lack of his presence. I am finding that rather than look beyond me, and beyond the world that I am part of, I should be looking within.


I have Michael here within me. I can access my visceral memories of him whenever I need them. Or, at least I can attempt to access them. I'm sure it will not always be as easily accessible as today. Yet, if I strive for a visceral calmness, then I will have my experiences of Michael within my reach.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Equanimity


serenity
Originally uploaded by
susodediego 



Equanimity is the unattached awareness of one's experience as a result of perceiving the impermanence of momentary reality. It is a peace of mind and abiding calmness that cannot be shaken by any grade of either fortunate or unfortunate circumstance.

In Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four immeasurables and is considered:

Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality's transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as "abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will."



I am currently trying to get back to my practice of Mindful Meditation. In my self directed study of mindfulness, I have come across this concept of equanimity. What I learned today is that when we are in a state of mindfulness, and we feel unavoidable distress, we accept it, and when we feel pleasure, we accept it as well. This emotional acceptance is done without judgement. In Buddhism, we are taught to accept life's hardships in order to train our mind to appreciate what simply is, instead of allowing it to seek comfort and ease.


Often in life we are tempted to turn away from discomfort, and try to numb ourselves with substances, or through denial. In Buddhism it is thought that this type of practice will only weaken our capacity to feel. What is to be learned through practicing equanimity is that pleasure and pain have a lot in common. They are the complimentary sides of our ability to feel. If we deny ourselves the ability to feel our grief, or avoid our emotions when in grief, we will only be eroding the essence of our human capacity for deep love.


On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to wallow in our misery, then our identity becomes our suffering, and we weaken our capacity to move from our grief to a place of healing. If our suffering and ourselves become one, then we may lose our capacity to feel good.


What I see in this lesson is that if I try to hide from my suffering, or if I hold onto it too tightly, I will become emotionally blocked. I won't recognize when change, or healing, occurs. With mindful grieving I am able to carefully observe this tendency, and simply just feel what I am feeling.


This is more challenging than what it would seem. I have recognized in myself, a sense of worry, or self-judgement when the pain of my grief begins to subside. Rather than accept the reprieve, or accept that healing is taking place, I tell myself that it is not okay to feel anything other than my sorrow. I begin to put judgements on my emotions, telling myself that I am somehow betraying Michael by accepting the positive changes. If I continue to do this, I will never be able to adequately move forward with my life.


I am discussing this as a way of providing some understanding to those who read my blog. There may be entries that capture me when I am mindful of the pain of grief, and there may be posts when I capture my awareness of healing. I am trying to write from that place of mindfulness, so that I can clearly identify where I am in that moment. I find this challenging, as I worry that others will make assumptions that what I write in the moment, is where I am at in the larger picture.


In this way I will be writing in real time.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chicken Soup


11/2/07 Day 90: chicken soup for fever fog
Originally uploaded by
Heptageniid




Today I'm looking for a bit of a breather. A break of sorts.


It was one of those days when I feel like I accomplished a fair amount with the short amount of time. My day at work was cut short, as my 11 year old continues to struggle emotionally, at home and at school. Monday he was asked to return home, as his behavior was beyond the school's control. Today didn't go much better, and right as I was beginning to eat my late lunch that dreaded phone call came through. Oh well. We were able to have a quick check in with his psychiatrist, changed his medication, then were on our way to complete the day's errands.


By the time I arrived home, my poor daughter, who has been terribly sick since returning from vacation, (too much fun in the sun?) mentioned that I appeared to be in a really good mood. "Is there a reason you're in a good mood?" Well, by all accounts I shouldn't be. Maybe I'm in shock?


Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I decided to accept this good mood, and give the universe a big Thank You.


So what does one do when they are in a good mood? Well, for me, I make chicken soup. No, I don't always make chicken soup, just when one of the kids are sick. As knowledge of the soup began to spread among the locals, I got a big thumbs up from the ever gracious daughter, and a big disgusted frown from the youngster. The final vote goes to the poor middle child who is currently at his jiu jitsu class. But knowing the apple doesn't fall far from the other branches, I fully expect a moaning 16 year old to say... "Do we have to have soup?"


Thank you, thank you, my ever so appreciative boys. Now eat your damn soup and get out of my kitchen!


Where was I? Oh yeah, my good mood, and taking a breather. Fortunately for me, I was taught long ago that you can't make everyone happy, so don't even try. Now I can't honestly say that I always follow such sage advice, but today I am a happy camper. If you have a complaint, take it somewhere else. I'm feeling too good to care.


Now, what about me? This house is not quite a democracy. Like any other good politician, I do hold town meetings, and truly want to hear what the community is thinking. But, when it comes down to a decision, or the final comment, I run more true to a monarchy. It is my right as the head of state, er, father. I say, let them eat soup. In fact, let them eat chicken soup.


Okay, so I suppose I need more than a pot of soup to take a breather. I know that chicken soup has many healing properties, so I do plan to eat plenty. But, what I am needing is some entertainment, and some chocolate. I think I will find us a nice movie to watch on pay per view. Maybe "The Blind Side." I know poor Sandra is going through some tough times, so I'll do my part by watching her Oscar winning performance. And while I enjoy the movie, I will be devouring the last piece of my Dove dark chocolate Easter bunny. Maybe I'll wash it down with a diet Pepsi.


How sad is this scenario? I am a healthy 50 year old man. Still young and vital by some standards. I should be out there, living the good life. The problem is, I don't know where 'out there' is, and the good life is not something that I'm all that familiar with.


I can hear the crowd now. "Of course you have had the good life, Dan. Remember when you were happy? Remember that hunk of a nerdy man named Michael? Boy oh boy did you two have some wild nights. Do you not remember those wildly delicious times when he would... sit in his Darth Vader pajamas, blue plaid bathrobe, and big floppy slippers, and with that naughty little grin run his fingers across...his Sudoku book?"


Yes, folks, we had some wild times here at our home. But let me tell you, when your man's brain is being overtaken by a horrible tumor, you cherish every little moment that he uses his God given gift. And let me tell you, every once in awhile, when he would be concentrating very hard on his next numeric move, he would begin to notice the intense pride that was being beamed from the lucky fellow to his left. He would ever so slyly turn his head, grinning that big gorgeous grin of his, and move in for the kill. A kiss.


Yes, yes. You may all applaud now. A happy moment.



Chicken Soup
Originally uploaded by
nyxxie23



How do you make chicken soup? You throw everything that's good into the pot, and slowly simmer. You then sit back, and know that you indeed, had/have something good.