Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Closing Chapters

When One Door Closes.....
Originally uploaded by

These past couple of days have involved the beginning process of closing some significant chapters in my life.

First, on Tuesday, I participate in my last court case at the San Francisco Superior Court. I have worked in San Francisco as a Child Protective Social worker for 21 years. I have been on the stand hundreds of times testifying as an expert witness, and have had the pleasure of serving with many wonderful dependency court judicial officers and attorneys. This part of my career has been very rewarding. Many years ago when I was the single father of one two year old child, my daughter, I had a choice to make. Switch careers, and go to law school, or buy a house. I had saved some money, and had enough to get started in school, or to put a down payment on a house. I chose the house. Financially, it was an excellent decision. To nurture my love of the judicial process, I worked for many years as a liaison between CPS and the Courts, then spent the majority of my career specializing in the juvenile dependency area. I have been very happy with my choice, and feel like I contributed quite a bit. I never imagined that I would walk away from it, but then I never imagined that I would have my life shattered by the early death of a spouse. Suddenly, my priorities changed, and I recognized a need to make a change.

The second chapter that I closed happened today. At times in the past, I have written about my Therapy Tuesday. Well, this week it had to be rescheduled to Wednesday due to my last court hearing, and today was my last session. I met my therapist about three years ago when Michael and I were trying to adjust to the changes in our relationship that were due to his being diagnosed with a fatal illness. I don't quite remember how I selected our therapist, but once we began meeting with him, I knew that we would benefit greatly benefit from his nurturing guidance. Very soon into our work as a couple I made up my mind that I would return to this therapist when Michael eventually died. You see, we were never really given any false hope that he would survive his brain tumor, only that we could try to get as much time together as possible. My decision to return to the place where Michael and I did our couples work was a good one. It allowed me to get through this early part of my grief work with the comfort of Michael still having his place on the couch next to me. Often when I was speaking, or crying, in a session, I would reach over the my right side, and rest my hand on Michael's imaginary thigh. My therapist always noticed this, and would help me to understand what I was needing by doing so.

Putting myself back into the same space that Michael and I occupied together was also a way to challenge myself. At times it became quite emotionally painful to sit there in a room where his presence was clearly missing. The only other place that holds that sense of presence is our bed. I have spent the last 9 months working through my grief, with a place for Michael to sit and observe. I have spent the last 9 months working through my grief, with no room for any denial that he is gone. It has been a wonderfully rewarding process, and I will always cherish the gift of guidance that my therapist afforded me during this time. As I walked out of the building, I felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. Yet, rather than allow it to pull me back, I took a deep breath, acknowledge the intensity of the moment, and kept walking forward.

Closing chapters in our lives can be scary. Sometimes they provide us with a sense of well being, especially if that chapter was a particularly difficult one. All I know, is that I want to close these chapters, and others in the next couple of weeks, with a feeling of integrity, strength, satisfaction and peace. This will allow me to begin this upcoming new chapter in my life with no regrets. On the contrary, I will begin this new chapter with an open heart and mind.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Check the Box

This morning I took my son, Dante, to a doctor's appointment. When I went to check him in at the front desk, the secretary handed my a clip board, and asked if I would please fill out the forms. She then added, "they are important in case we need to reach you or your partner." I found this kind of odd. I don't remember ever having Michael to go the medical appointments. Maybe his name was on prior forms, or it could be that she had an older copy of Dante's insurance card that listed both of our names. In any case I found it odd.

It's kind of funny. At first I wondered why she assumed I was gay. Was it the way I was dressed? Was it that I'm not as butch as I'd like to think? Maybe she is one of those rare straight people who have a well developed gaydar (gay radar). What ever the case may be, it kind of threw me for a minute. I was caught off guard, and then sat to think about how I miss being part of a couple. I also thought that Dante must miss having his second dad around. Being that Michael was the kids' step-father, it has likely been easier for them to deal with losing him than if it had been me, who they have known, and depended on all of their lives.

After regaining my focus I went to work on the forms. The first was a standard form about patient rights, so I just signed it on Dante's behalf, and moved on. The second asked for the parent, or guardian's, name. Just below this was a heading that said "Relationship Status." Below that was a selection of possible choices, and little boxes next to them in order to identify your situation. They were as follows:

  • Single
  • Married
  • Domestic
  • Divorced
  • Separated

Wait a minute! Where is my box? None of these adequately describe my current relationship status. Well, at second glance, I suppose I have identified, or can identify, with 4 out of the 5 choices. I guess many would say that I am once again single. I was married, but some may say that the marriage ended when Michael died. We were domestic partners for a year prior to being granted the right to marry. And, unfortunately, I do find myself separated from Michael, permanently.

What's a widow(er) to do? Fortunately for me, there was room in the margin to write in my own category.

  • Widowed

I thought that this situation was a shame. There I was, as valid a person as any other parent in the room, yet some how I didn't feel like they expected me. If there isn't a category for me, then how can they address concerns that my relationship status might have on my child? I did appreciate that there was a category for domestic partners, as I have gone most of my adult life without that having a place on such forms. I have to assume that they might ask this in case my child is having some problems, or concerns, that might be related to his parents' status. In any case, what it did was once again make me feel like the outsider.

Maybe I should have put a small asterisk, with a note saying,

* "Thanks for assuming I was a gay man, but didn't you notice the black veil that coordinates with my brief case, and hides my grief?"

Well, maybe not.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Anger Management

Originally uploaded by
Costel Mago

Or in my case, mismanagement.

Today I was just out of control. Everything, and everybody, was making me angry. First, let me say this, everyone actually did something, big or small, to elicit anger on my behalf. But, it was me that allowed myself to escalate quickly in each situation. It's like I had very little reserve left to buffer my response.

Does that sound like I am just making some lame excuse for my misbehavior? You would be right to say so. Of course, if you do say so you are likely going to be on the receiving end of an out of proportion angry response.

As we all know too well, I was likely just using each of these situations as a way to unleash the pent up anger that I desperately try to keep down these days. It is far too easy to lash out at those around me, then to lash out at some nonexistent responsible party that took Michael away from me.

It's days like today that make me wonder if all I am doing each day is pretending that I am coming to an acceptance of my reality. I have spent most of the past nine months being very angry at God, the universe, happy couples, and on and on. I had decided recently that it does me no good to hold on to so much anger, as it doesn't change anything. In fact, I think it only hold me back. I know that part of me will always be angry that Michael had to die, but a bigger part of me knows that I have to come to some sense of resolve.

Tomorrow I will have some mending to do. I will need to apologize for my over reactions. I will also need to begin rethinking my strategy for getting through these angry times, and about these angry feelings. I know that it is okay for me to feel angry about losing my husband so soon, but I also know that I need to find better ways to manage this anger. I can either control it, or it will control me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Packing Our Memories

Moving Boxes with Quito
Originally uploaded by
furbird designs

Today was quite a productive day. It started out a bit slow, which was nice. My cousin and I spent the morning watching the beginning of the televised San Francisco Gay Pride Parade. I suppose we were not very good gays, as we never left the couch, nor did we wave any flags. I did have some nice brief conversations with a couple of my lesbian neighbors. Does that count? I think the big gay in the sky will forgive me, as while I am Out, and proud, my mind is on other things this year. Actually last year was not much different, as Michael was not doing well enough to be out watching parades, or participating in any kind of celebrations.

My cousin left with Michael's car around noon, and I turned off the television and got to work. I did some paint touch up in the front of my home, then re stained a bench that sits out front by my front stairs. After that I was driving to Lowes, trying to find a replacement pump for my backyard fountain, but instead bought a bunch of flowers to do some re potting. It was a very windy day, so not exactly the best of weather to be planting flowers. I wanted to give my house a freshening up, some curb appeal. The Realtors are coming by tomorrow afternoon to go over the detailed plan for selling my home. I then moved back into the house, and began packing everything left on our bookshelves in the living room and dining room.

I know that I still have three weeks before I pack up the house, but I wanted to get used to what the house will look like when it is bare. I was boxing up many of our small treasures that we have collected in our time together. Some of them I had before meeting Michael, and some are from his past travels as well. I wrapped each piece carefully in paper, then kind of lovingly placed them into boxes. This gave me the opportunity to appreciate each item, and to think back to what each item meant to us. Rather than feel sad about our possessions being packed away, I feel good knowing that they are safely placed into these boxes for our move. I know where they are at, which is quite comforting. I then moved to the many pictures we have framed, and hanging on our walls. I took down all of our family photos, but left of some less personal framed photos. I wanted the Realtors to get a feel for the house sans our personal affects.

I took a break to get dinner for the boys, but then returned to my tasks at hand. By now the house looked quite dusty, so I did a thorough cleaning, removing all rugs from the floor, and taking out any nonessential pieces of furniture. I'm really going to sparse if you haven't noticed. The last thing I will work on will be our bedroom. While I have already placed our books in boxes, I don't want to change too much about our bedroom for a couple of weeks. For one, I'm not quite sure I am ready to place all of our memories into boxes. With out them in our bedroom, it would feel like I was placing Michael into a box. And although I guess he is essentially in a box, I want to believe that all the little mementos that surround his urn brings him comfort.

I then got brave, and called Michael's mother for a check in. We haven't spoken on the phone for a few weeks actually. She filled me in on the Lowrie side of the family. She went to a baby shower for Michael's cousin, and said that everyone wanted to know how I was doing. I liked hearing that. I shared with her where I am with all of my plans, which I'm sure made her a bit sad. I reminded her that I wanted her and the girls to come down for a visit very soon, and that I would certainly be coming up to visit with her whenever I could. We made tentative plans for her to visit me during one of the next couple of weekends.

My daughter called tonight to tell me about her day. She had a really good day, and got to visit the local grocery store where the boys and I will be living. I like knowing that she was moving about our new neighborhood. She sound very homesick, but I reminded her that I would be down there in just three weeks. I think she will be fine.

This afternoon one of my neighbors walked over to talk with me while I was potting my flowers. She said that she has enjoyed watching the kids help me load up the car for our many trips to the storage unit. It made her happy to know that I had created the family I had spoke of wanting when I first moved into the neighborhood 17 years ago. I thought this was a sweet thing for her to take the time to share that with me. Of course in my mind I was telling myself that, yes, I do have the family I always wanted, but it is now missing an important person. I'm trying not to dwell on that right now, as it makes me very sad.

Oh how I wish this was the move that Michael and I planned many years ago. Ironically, my youngest brother and I both bought our houses at the same time 17 years ago. He and his wife are currently buying a new house as well. He has shared with me the many plans they have together for making their new house their home. Here I am, selling my house with a plan to buy a new one as well. And just like the last time, I will be buying it alone. It just doesn't seem fair. But my own words come back to bite me in the ass. "Who said life was fair?"

I can't allow myself to sink below the surface right now. I need to put some of those more vulnerable feelings into one of the boxes for packing. I will have plenty of time later to open it back up and feel what it is I need to feel. For now, I need to hold on to my strength so I can get through this upcoming transition.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Originally uploaded by

Today has been a gift. My closest cousin flew up from Orange County for the day. He is doing me a big favor, and is driving Michael's car down to his home so I will have it closer to San Diego. So now I will have two prized possessions in San Diego. One precious daughter, and one sentimental car. Or is it one sentimental daughter, and one precious car?

My daughter has been calling and texting me throughout the day. Whenever she is not involved in a group activity, she is on her phone. "I miss you so much Daddy." "I'm so homesick Daddy."

"They eat only vegetarian food here Daddy." "You don't sound like you miss me Daddy!"

Yes daughter, I miss you terribly.

"Good, I'll call you first thing in the morning."

Oy vey.

Other than the food, my daughter sounds very happy to be there, and says she has a lot in common with her roommate. I'm pleased. Now, if only I could find happy places for the boys.

It is so comforting to spend the afternoon, and evening, visiting with my cousin. We get each other very well. He is unfortunately one with us, as he lost someone as well, many years ago. I feel so validated after talking with someone who truly understands what I am going through. It was such a gift to have this time with him. He is also someone that Michael loved and appreciated.

I think we all know that new experiences, challenging ones especially, are easier to adjust to when we find someone we can relate to. It is always gives us an opportunity to say anything, and everything that we feel. It is also a time when words don't need to used to fully express our self, as the other person understands just by recognizing a familiar look upon our face. And even for somewhat solitary people, like myself, it is a time when someone else can carry some of our heavy load, if only for a few hours, or a day.


Speaking of companionship. A very talkative 12 year old just crawled into my bed. So much for a night of peaceful sleeping.

Friday, June 25, 2010


43/365 – EXHAUSTED
Originally uploaded by

I'm feeling uninspired tonight. For one, it was a terribly long day at work, then came home and tried to put the house back together when the painters finished their work. Now that I have new carpeting installed upstairs, and new paint, all in an extremely light color, I have warned the boys to not even think of breathing near the walls, and to try to hydroplane, instead of walking, on the carpet. I know, I'm going to drive them crazy these next few weeks as I try to get the final packing done, and empty out the house so the realtors can do their thing.

The property management company for the house in San Diego emailed me a ton of forms that need to be signed. Silly, and naive, me. I thought they were sending me a single document with the lease terms spelled out. I thought it would be a simple matter of one signature, and off in the mail with a check. Obviously I have never leased a home before. You would think I was adopting a fourth child.

I got my daughter off to the airport this morning, sobbing all the way to the gate. No, not me. Her. I just gave her a long tight hug, covered her with kisses, and reminded her that once she arrived in San Diego she would remember how excited she was about this move. She later called me from Shakti Rising, saying she had just arrived, and that the house was beautiful. She sounded quite pleased, and relieved.

Also this evening I got a call from Michael's brother, saying his mother had a suitcase of Michael's, which was locked. They wanted to know if I knew the combination. I had no clue what the suitcase this was, or how it materialized. I gave him a few combinations of the typical numbers Michael tended to use for passwords, pins or other combination locks, all with no success. I found myself talking to Michael's picture, asking him what in the world was in the suitcase, and was it really worth all their work to try and open it. I have a feeling it will be simply filled with old clothing, as Michael didn't like to throw anything out, and sometimes stored his winter clothing in old suitcases.

Now I'm sitting here on my bed, thoroughly exhausted, and ready for sleep. I wish I had something profound, or clever, to write about tonight, but the old brain is fried, and I'm about to turn in.

Two weeks left of work. Three weeks left in San Francisco.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not While I'm Around

Originally uploaded by

At some point these late nights need to come to an end. I've been so busy each day, trying to keep up with all the demands that this major upheaval requires. This afternoon was spent dragging my daughter through the final steps in getting her bedroom all packed up. Then it was rushing across town for a farewell dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant. And back to the house, to pack up the majority of my oldest son's bedroom so that it can get painted tomorrow.

It's kind of sad. Every time one of the kids leave their bedroom, I'm in there dismantling it. I found myself a little emotional when I had to take apart Michael's computer and desk, which was set up in my son's bedroom. Knowing that Michael was the one who put it together, and that now I am taking it apart, because he is no longer here was making me sad. In the car I had another of these moments when my son Dante asked me to play the show tunes CD mix I keep in the car. It was filled with songs that I downloaded late one night last year when I couldn't sleep. Michael was fast asleep, and I was feeling sad and restless. I remember getting out of bed in the middle of the night, and downloading songs that I found soothing, or inspirational. I had Michael in mind when I selected each song. Later Michael and the kids loved the mix, and we often all sang along with it.

I'm sitting here thinking about my daughter, upstairs, crying on the phone. I have a feeling that will be me in the coming days, and I will have to begin the process of letting go. I won't be on the telephone, as I don't like to talk out my feelings while crying. My style is to be by myself, feel what I need to feel, then write about it.

You know, my mind keeps going back to the CD mix. The first song I have on there is from Sweeney Todd. The song is called "Not While I'm Around." I used to sing it to Michael, and it became a song that kind of exemplified my resolve to protect him from all things bad. In the end I had to face the fact that I was no match for cancer. But I also came to realize that once we knew that the battle for survival was lost, the new harm I was protecting him from was suffering and fear. I don't necessarily feel defeated at this point, more like resolved with the fact that I did the best I could for him. I just don't know what to do with that need in me to continue taking care of him. He's been gone nine months, but I was his caregiver for the two years of his illness. I remember the funeral director telling me to expect that it will take twice as long for me to stop feeling the need to take care of him.
I need to be patient, I know.

Look to the Playlist on the right to listen to the song choice.

"Not While I'm Around" - from Sweeney Todd

Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around.
Nothing's gonna harm you, no sir, not while I'm around.

Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays,
I'll send 'em howling,
I don't care, I got ways.

No one's gonna hurt you,
No one's gonna dare.
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I'll be there.

Demons'll charm you with a smile, for a while,
But in time...
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around...

Not to worry, not to worry
I may not be smart, but I'm not dumb.
I can do it. Put me to it. Show me somethin - I can overcome.
Not to worry, ma'am.

Being close and being clever
Ain't like being true
I don't need to,
I would never hide a thing from you,
Like some...

Nothin's gonna harm you. Not while I'm around.
Nothing's gonna harm you, darling
Not while I'm around.

Demons'll charm you with a smile, for a while,
But in time...
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Transformational Recovery

Tonight I would like to talk about something that I haven't shared with you all. My lovely daughter is moving to San Diego ahead of the rest of us. She is flying down this Friday morning, and will not be living with us, for the first time in her 19 years.

As I believe I had alluded to in the past, my daughter has had more than her share of challenges, substance abuse being one of them. I suppose this was unavoidable, as the kids do come from a family history of severe addiction problems. But what my daughter is moving toward is something a bit broader than substance abuse treatment. She is moving toward a program in Transformational Recovery.

A while back I was doing some of my "Moving to San Diego Research" and came upon a program called Shakti Rising. It is a program that is designed to to help transform the lives of young women, 15 to 30, with various issues in their lives. It works on a model that is developed specifically for women, and is run solely by women. They work to build up the self esteem of the young women, and help them reconnect with parts of themselves that may have fallen by the wayside while struggling with substances, body image, depression, what ever. They focus on getting the women involved in their community, and try to bring out the inner gifts and strengths of each individual young woman. Some of the things they do, are help the women find a job in the community, help them understand their addictions, teach them about gardening and healthy living, and help them find ways to contribute, and become agents of change, for their communities.

I had the pleasure of visiting this program on Monday when I was house hunting. The staff, and home, are beautiful. The place had such a good vibe. They practice yoga and meditation. I wish I was moving in. My daughter has been communicating with the director for the past month, and was invited to join them for a weekend retreat, which starts this Friday. After the weekend, any woman who wants to remain, can make that choice. My daughter has already made up her mind, so she has a one way ticket to San Diego for Friday morning. Her plan, right now, is to live in this program for the next two years. My daughter, Arianne, is really wanting to begin growing, and maturing. This program feels ideal for her. I'm really excited for her to be around so much positive female energy. Unfortunately for her, she has always lived in this hell hole of testosterone. Okay, maybe not a hell hole, but definitely not the energy conducive to a sensitive female soul.

Here is a link to a video about the program.

It is going to be a difficult adjustment not having my daughter around. After all, she is still my baby girl. During these past few months she has also become a significant support to me, sort of my right hand wo-man. The house where she will live is only a five minute drive from the house where the boys and I will live, so she won't be far. She will have her Daddy close at hand, but far enough so she can begin to spread her wings. I can't wait to see her fly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Oh how I envy you.

[132/365] Sun of Nothing
Originally uploaded by
Zack Kinion

Today was one of those momentous occasions at work. "Dan submitted his letter of resignation."

I'm usually a big fan of third party narratives, so I won't continue in that fashion, but this was the general tone of the office this afternoon. Many of my peers were wondering what developments had occurred on my trip to San Diego yesterday. There were many questions. "Did you find a house?" "Have you heard anything about the job yet?" "What are you going to do if you don't get the job?" "What are you doing Dan?"

Yes, there has been quite a buzz, for quite a while. People are clearly excited for me, as they know it has been a difficult year. I think for the most part, my friends want me to be happy, and whatever form that takes, they will be there to cheer me on. When I first announce last month that I was interviewing for a job in San Diego, I set off a collective gasp of surprise. Nobody every really considered that I would leave the agency. After all, I have been with my job for 21 years. I am also in the position of having top seniority at the office, and I am generally well respected in my field. I suppose I'm the kind of person you would expect to always be there, and to eventually make my exit at retirement.

The way I put it to others, life took a very different turn for me during these past couple of years, and I am no longer the same person prior to that. My focus changed dramatically when my then boyfriend was diagnosed with cancer. For one, he became my domestic partner, then later my husband. I worked desperately to balance caring for my children, while also helping my husband to battle his brain tumor. And in the end, I had to devote all of my waking time to helping my husband die at home, the way he wanted to.

So when I returned to work last November, people noticed that I was no longer the same. Yes I may have looked the same, well, perhaps a few shades grayer. My focus was no longer the same. My coping skills were no longer the same. And, my general well-being was no longer the same.

So back to the questions at hand. No, I haven't heard anything at this point about the job. In fact, I have chosen to let go of any worry about the job. If at some point I am offered a job, great. If not, I going to be moving forward without it. Did I hear about the house yet? Yes, the house is mine. The owner agreed to my terms, they will be sending me a lease agreement soon, and I take occupancy beginning July 7th. As for what am I going to do? Well, I submitted a letter of resignation today. After a 21 year career, I will be leaving the job officially on July 9th. And yes, jaws dropped.

From the moment that I hit the send key on my computer, and told my supervisor that my resignation was now in her in-box, a crowd began to gather around me. "Oh how I envy you." That was the phrase du jour today. It's not surprising with today's economy, and all the cutbacks and layoffs we have had to endure, that morale is at an all time low. News that one more of us is cutting his losses, and moving on, creates a collective sense of envy from the group. Everyone kept telling me how envious they were feeling, and how I was so brave to make such a decision. Everyone made mention of how they would do anything to be in my position. Oh really?

Lets have a collective reality check here. Envious? Of me? You would give anything to be in my position? I highly doubt that this is true. Everyone knows my sad story, and nobody would like to think of themselves as next in line for this type of life changing event. Yes, I am quite happy with my decision. But I would gladly stay another 21 years if I could have my husband back. All I could think of today, was that no, you don't want to be me. I have nothing to be envious about. I remember having a conversation with a friend the week before I returned to work after Michael died. We were trying to think of anyone else at the office that had lost a spouse, and we couldn't thing of anyone. So I returned to the office, the only widower, with no example to look for as to how to deal with this change while doing my job. I have spent each ensuing month struggling to stay afloat. In the end, I realized that if I didn't leave, that I was literally going to fall apart.

Let me step back two months, when I was at my lowest of lows. At that time, the trauma of losing Michael was nowhere near as intense as those first few months, but the depth of my depression was at it's worst. I had begun feeling suicidal, and was having a difficult time finding a reason to go on. It wasn't until I made the decision to cut myself loose from my life here in San Francisco, and begin anew in San Diego, that I began to have hope once more. So, envy? I don't think so. I'm definitely not one to envy. Inspiration, perhaps. What I would tell my peers is this. The life that you love, and cherish, can be taken from you without notice. When that happens you are left feeling like there is little to hold onto. And likewise, there is little that holds on to you. Cutting my losses, making a change, moving on with my life, those are just phrases to make everyone else feel better. The reality is that I am doing what I need to do to survive. I am doing what I need to do to begin searching for a new sense of joy. It won't be an easy process, and it will likely take a very long time.

I am not in a position to be envied. I am taking care of myself the best way I know. If you see something here that resonates with you, and inspires you to make changes that will enhance your life, then by all means take from my experience. As for envy, it has no place in my life. On the other hand, I appreciate your sharing in my optimism for the changes I am about to make.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Making the move.

I ♥ San Diego!
Originally uploaded by

One long day. One big step.

This morning I flew down to San Diego. No, I don't have the job. I haven't heard anything from them, so I have decided to just let go. If they call, great, if it doesn't happen right now, then I'm prepared to take the risk, and go anyway.

Friday afternoon I informed my supervisor at work that I would be flying to San Diego to go house shopping. I wish I was shopping to buy, but will have to lease a house for now. One house that I have had my eye on for some time now has been steadily dropping it's monthly rental fee every couple of weeks, and was still vacant. I have been keeping in touch with the rental management company, letting the agent know that I would be down there soon. I had an appointment for today at 1:30 pm. I told my supervisor that if I found a house, and was able to sign a lease agreement, then I would be returning to work on Tuesday, and officially giving my two week notice. Her jaw dropped. I think everyone knew that I am serious about this, but I don't think they let it really sink in.

I know it's a risk to be making this type of move with this kind of economy. There are not a lot of jobs available, and I happen to be at the top of the seniority list at my office. There have been many layoffs during the past year, and I have been quite secure in my job. This has been kind of strange, as I really wasn't at the job for most of last year. I was home enjoying my time with Michael, then home with him while he was dying. When I returned to work in November, many people were surprised to see me. I don't think they expected me to return so quickly, but I really didn't have a choice, as I had run out of sick leave or vacation time months before that. When I did return, I remember my supervisor saying that part of her thought I would choose to not return at all. At the time I confided in her that I didn't think my heart was in it anymore, and that I didn't feel that I had the stamina to stay with it.

I feel that I really made a solid effort to get back in the groove, but after 7 months at work, I now know that I have to leave. I will miss all of my friends at the office, as many of them are now like family. But going to a job where so many people rely on me to guide them during times of crisis, it just takes so much out of you. I have done this job for 21 years. For those that don't know, I am a social worker with child protective services. Returning to work after losing Michael has been like constantly walking up hill, and I just can't do it anymore. What I am choosing to do is probably not the most financially sound choice, but it is the right choice for my spirit. I find myself going to work each day, reminding myself that when I return home, he will not be there. These thoughts play out over and over in my head throughout the day. By the end of the day I am exhausted physically, and empty emotionally.

Moving around in this city that I love is no longer what it used to be. I feel like every corner is a reminder of happier times with Michael, yet also a reminder of what I can no longer have. Of course I could stay here, and try to work through these feelings, but at this point in life I don't feel like putting in that kind of effort. Early on in my grief I had the urge to walk out my front door, and keep on walking. I had this never ending need to move. Move away. I didn't do that, as I kept feeling like I would just be running away from my feelings. So I stayed, and spent some time really working through them, and trying to understand what I truly needed. At this point I can honestly say that I am now ready to move toward something new, something different. I can't say that I am moving to something better, as I am leaving the home that I have kept for the past 17 years. I am leaving the place where I met Michael, and where we lived our life together. Yet, Michael and I had made plans early on that we would relocate to a new place. When he was diagnosed with his brain tumor, those plans had to be scrapped. I was fine about putting those plans aside, as they were no longer as important. Now that the dust has settled, I realize that I want to do what we were planning on doing, which is move toward something new.

I met the rental management agent at the house today at 1:30 pm. I had seen this house online for the past couple of months, and really liked the style of the home. I knew that there had to be some less than desirable details about the house, otherwise it would have been rented, and the price wouldn't have been sliding downward. When I walked into the house I knew that it could be home. I love it. I walked from room to room, only vaguely hearing the agent describe the various rooms, and what the owners had done to it recently. But in my mind I kept hearing a voice telling me yes, this will be a good move. I knew that the owners wanted a year lease, as I had been told that a month ago when I initially inquired about the house. Knowing that they were becoming desperate I decided it was a good time to revisit this sticking point. I told the agent that if the owners were willing to agree to a 6 month lease, that I would sign a lease agreement today. She texted the owners, and they said yes. They were a little concerned about my having two pets, but I tried to convey how well behaved our four legged family members were. I wish I could report that I have signed the lease, but time kind of ran out today. The agent needed to run a credit check, which went fine of course. She then left a message for the owner that everything was clear if they were ready to sign the contract, but she didn't hear back from them by the time I needed to fly back to San Francisco. I hope to hear from her tomorrow, and hope to secure this property.

Like everything else about this move, today didn't go exactly as planned. In times past I might have been tempted to see these occurrences as an omen, and think twice about making this move, but that was the old Dan. The new Dan says "what the hell, let's do it anyway. Really, what do I have to lose?" When you have already lost the love of your life, everything else is a piece of cake. Chocolate, I hope.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Silent Sunday

Silence ...
Originally uploaded by

Tonight I need some time to sit quietly, and be mindful.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Daddy Mike

When Michael first joined our family, he wasn't quite sure what his role would be. While he often thought about becoming a parent, it usually involved a cuddly little baby. What he stepped into was a household with an 8 year old, and two teenagers. This of course made the transition a bit more challenging. At first the kids loved the idea that Dad had finally met someone, and they were falling in love. It was all such a fun and exciting time. After he moved in, they realized that this meant having to share more of Dad's time and attention than they had bargained for.

I suppose this is the classic scenario. Kids need to know where they fit in. They need to know that they can trust you, that they can count on you. During this time, the kids would often come to me with questions about how Michael felt about them. Michael would ask me what the kids felt about him. And I began feeling like I was constantly directing traffic. Eventually I began stepping away from their process. I would direct the kids to approach Michael with their concerns, and I would ask Michael to reach out to the kids. By doing this, they were all able to begin building their own relationships to each other.

As their relationships began to grow, I also needed to sort out my own feelings about this. At times I loved the idea of now having a second parent figure in the home. Michael learned to step right in when a need would arise. The kids began to realize that Michael was quite a softy, and he could be a great buffer between them and me, especially when they had done something wrong. With this dynamic building, I sometimes felt resentment, and wasn't always too happy to give up the reins of control. With the kids now having two dads, they quickly realized that they could play us off of each other. Michael was the good cop, and I was the bad cop. Initially I was not happy with this. I didn't like having to always be the one to hand out the consequences, and absorb the angry feelings of the kids.

As with any type of change, there was definitely some fine tuning that needed to be done. Michael and I began talking alone about this dynamic. I told him that I needed him to stand next to me when I was having to be the heavy. He told me he needed me to allow him to create a relationship with the kids that met their needs. In the end, I realized that we could have both. It benefited the kids to have Michael to go to when they knew I was upset or angry. They also knew that Michael would listen to them from his own perspective, and that he had so much to offer them. I like to think of our differences as more of being in harmony. Both of us had our own gifts to share with the kids, and together we were able to model how two people who loved each other can work out their differences.

Soon the kids began referring to us as their two dads. I was Dad, he was Daddy Mike. I came to really appreciate joy of being part of a two parent household. Being a single parent is very challenging, and at times lacks in rewards. One of the things I shared with Michael was that when you are a single parent there isn't that other parent around to help the kids think about things like Dad's birthday, Christmas gifts, or Father's Day presents. One of the unfortunate aspects of Father's Day is that it arrives when the kids are no longer in school. Every year my kids' class would be working on Mother's day gifts in May. My kids would usually share these gifts with one of the women in their lives. The problem was, the teachers never really considered the fact that Father's Day comes around, and there are no school projects or gifts for the kids to make. I caught on the this quite early, when my daughter was in grade school. I approached her teachers about this, and they were always shocked that they hadn't ever considered this. I took it upon myself to organize an art project toward the end of the year, so each child would begin their summer break with something for their dad.

Michael took this job on at our house when I shared this with him. He would make sure the kids had the opportunity, and guidance, to plan something for the holidays. Of course in time he became the recipient of our shared Father's Day gifts. My daughter has always been very good about this holiday, and has already made plans to make dinner for me tomorrow. My youngest son has always created something from the mound of things he has collected throughout the year. He usually arrives at my bedroom door with a note, or picture, and some of his little treasures wrapped in paper. Now my 16 year old is another story. He never thinks of anyone but himself. He's a good kid, and quite loving, but lacks in the being thoughtful department. He is often the one who is later apologizing for not doing something. Tonight I sat him down and had a small talk with him. I explained that he was old enough to begin changing this about himself. I reminded him that tomorrow was Father's Day. I reminded him that he thanked me earlier for folding his laundry, driving him to his Jiu Jitsu class, for buying him some Hummus from the store, and for handing him his weekly allowance. I told him that he needs to begin nurturing his relationships better. I told him that on days like tomorrow, he needs to find a way to let the person know how much he loves and appreciates them. I asked him to give some thought to this, and consider what he could do to show his appreciation for what I do for him. I gave him some ideas about what he could make, and things he could do to help me around the house. My biggest hint was that my car could really use a wash, but I'm not holding my breath.

As the evening has gone on I have been feeling kind of sad. I'm realizing that I am back to being the single father. Tomorrow is no longer a day for Michael and I to lay in bed while my youngest son creates a big mess in the kitchen, then arrive at our door with breakfast. All evening the kids have been asking me if I am alright. They see that my mind is somewhere else. I don't want this to be a sad occasion, but how can it not. It's another significant day in my year of firsts.

First Father's Day that I don't share with Daddy Mike.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Isaac Newton defined gravity as a force -- one that attracts all objects to all other objects.

Often when we think of gravity, we think of that which keeps us grounded.

For the last couple of nights I have been watching a series on the Starz Channel. The series is called "Gravity." It is what can be described as a quirky 'dramedy'. The story centers around a support group for people to have attempted suicide. The group brings together people who never would have likely met, but who have this one experience in common.

Right away I thought of the people I have met in my quest for support and understanding as a widower. While most of the people I have come to know have been by way of the Internet, I will soon have the opportunity to meet many of them when I attend Camp Widow in August.

What caught my initial interest with the series, apart from the good looks of the lead male character, was the back story for this character. He is a young doctor, who's wife died of ovarian cancer a few years prior. He has struggled with his attempts to move on with his life, and feels the pressure of those around him to see him move on. In the story he can no longer deal with his pain, so he attempts to drive off a cliff, so that he can at least be with his wife in death.

It wasn't that long ago that I found myself contemplating this very thing. I was feeling so miserably in pain with the loss of my spouse, Michael, that I didn't feel like there was enough of a reason to go on. I'm fairly certain that I am here writing this today, solely because I have my children, and didn't want to leave them without a parent. But in all honesty I have to admit that I played out various ways I could end my life. This is something that people don't usually want to admit, and certainly not something others usually want to hear about, but my purpose here is to be completely honest, be real.

I used to think that only those that lost their minds would seriously contemplate such a thing. Now I know that there are many reasons why someone would do take such action, and that it is never as simple as we want to make it. Some of us suffer from clinical depression, which can be brought on by many factors. Some of us take medication for this, some of us seek out support. However we come to experience these thoughts, or however we go about finding a way to get through them, I believe the best way to address this is honestly.

In the series, the cast of characters have to struggle to maintain a sense of feeling grounded. They learn to depend on each other, and to take responsibility for each other. If someone in the group is not present, or not doing well, the other's are asked to look out for that person, and make sure they know that person doesn't feel alone. Of course we can't always be found when we are at those deep moments of pain. Sometimes it comes along at unexpected times, and we have to draw strength from our own personal experiences to get through them.

As you read in yesterday's post, I had a good day, and was feeling quite at peace with the world. But something happened after watching a few of these episodes last night. I found myself very intrigued by the lead widowed character. I was watching his every move, and trying to find familiarity in the way he spoke and moved through his world. I wanted to see what his face looked like when he was once again feeling the pain of his loss. I think this was because while I write, and read about being widowed everyday, and interact with other widow(er)s online, I rarely have the opportunity to see another widower's expressions, or how they carry themselves. That in-person reflection is missing from my life right now. I often wonder how I appear as I move through my grief.

At the end of the night, I turned off the television, and headed down to my bedroom. I was feeling good. I had just spent a nice relaxing evening watching television, and was going to get to bed relatively early for a change. As I climbed into my bed the wave of grief hit me with such a strong force, that it took me by surprise. Almost immediately I began bawling my eyes out. I mean the deep heaving kind of crying. I was doubled over in pain, in a way that I haven't experienced for some time now. This went on for quite some time. Occasionally I tried to stop it, and would sit up, and take some very deep breaths. As soon as I thought I was better it would hit me all over again. It was like being caught in an extremely volatile storm.

Eventually I felt a calm rise up from within me. I got up to wash my face, then laid back in bed. I laid there just listening to my own breathing, and tried to bring back a sense of peace within. After a few minutes I had returned to that calm and peaceful place. I closed my eyes, and slept.

Once again, I felt grounded.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Passing the time away.

Relax... (explored)
Originally uploaded by

I'm sitting here in the early evening, just having got home from work and an appointment for my youngest son. Rather than wait to write later tonight, like my recent pattern, I thought I would get to it early for a change. I haven't been giving myself enough time to sleep at night, and am starting to feel the consequences of my actions.

I'm feeling a bit stuck, in regard to the planned move. I haven't given notice at my job, as I haven't heard anything about the job I interviewed for. I know they said it would be some time before I heard anything, but I'm beginning to feel less optimistic as time goes on. The part of me that is more cautious it telling me that I should carefully consider the costs of moving to southern California without a job. Our medical insurance alone will be a significant portion of my monthly expenditures should a job not come through soon. I also worry about the poor job market, and although I have plenty of job skills, I am beginning to worry that I might be seen as the 'old dog,' that needs to learn some new tricks. I don't necessarily think of myself as old, but I am well aware that anyone wanting someone to hire a new employee may not want someone who is on the back slide of the employment to retirement slope.

Monday I fly down to San Diego to look for a house. If I find a good deal, I will likely go ahead and take it. That will probably be the catalyst for me taking the final plunge at work. I am trying to aim for a mid July move, which means within the next four weeks. I continue to feel like this is the right move for me, and the idea is helping me to sustain this positive outlook that has been gracing my vision.

I know that this post doesn't exactly address direct issues of grief, but isn't that a nice change? I almost feel a bit bored with myself, and feeling a need to spice things up a bit. I suppose another way to describe this current state of being is that I am doing well. I can feel it in everything I do.

So, for those of you that are not feeling as fortunate as I feel today, trust me when I say, that there will be some easier days ahead. They are not necessarily very happy days, but those will come in time. Sometimes it's nice to just not have a difficult day.

On days like this, it's nice to just pass the time away.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laughing through the pain.

Well, my writing ability is a bit compromised tonight. Not because of any type of emotional, or cognitive problem, just due to the simple fact that my left arm is quite swollen. After having Monday's tattoo work done on my arm, which covers the length of my left fore arm, it is now very sore. Any time I lower my arm too far, and the blood rushes downward, the pain then increases. I actually find it a bit humorous, because I can see the "I told you so" looks that Michael would be throwing my way about now. And after that I would likely pout for a bit, so he would, without thinking, put his arms around me, and crush that same swollen and sore arm. That was his style. So keeping him present in my life, I have to smile, laugh a little, and well up.

What is also funny, is that while eating my lunch at my desk today, I was reading a story about a guy who tried to cut off his own arm off when it got caught in a furnace he was trying to fix. When nobody came to help, after many hours mind you, he decided to cut himself free. As I was reading this I was feeling this intense pain in my arm. Now at the end of the day, I'm starting to see what might lead someone to do such a desperate act.

You know, the condition of my swollen and sore arm, and the fact that I can see humor in the pain, is very similar to how I am feeling about my grief these days. I can be sitting here in tears, thinking about Michael, then quickly find myself laughing at how he would be responding to me. I like this. This is how Michael and I were. There were so many serious things that we had to face each day for the past couple of years, but we always managed to make some snide remark about a situation that would have us both laughing. It's moments like that, memories like that, that put a big smile on my face, and his. I can certainly feel him smiling right now.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Balancing Act

Originally uploaded by
cupcake, lane collins?

I'm feeling like I have turned a corner of sorts. I am definitely able to draw comparisons to a time when my grief felt extremely raw, and was out of my control. For some time now I have felt more in control, and with some perspective.

It was a regular therapy Tuesday, and I spent most of my session talking about the positive changes that I am becoming aware of. The pain of losing Michael is something that I now feel more comfortable with. It doesn't seem to take me by surprise very much. I can sense when I going to have a evening of tears, and often times of late, I can give myself over to these feelings, knowing that they will be less intense if I only allow them to be present for a while.

I'm also feeling a better sense of balance in my life. Not that everything is sorted out, but I keep striving to come to some peaceful resolutions to things that are not in my control. I cannot stop loving Michael, it is now part of who and what I am. I cannot change the circumstances of time, meaning that he is gone, and there is nothing I can do that will change that. What I can do is try to be at peace with both. For too long I think I was trying to keep these two things separate. I wanted so much for the reality to not be true. For so long I wanted to stay with my anger, and cast some kind of blame on God, or the universe at large.

For some time I have expressed to my therapist that I felt like life was out to get me. That I was not meant to have happiness, or that as soon as I find happiness, life, or God, would take it away. I really don't want to continue in this line of thinking. I know that happiness is meant for me, because I had it with Michael. I enjoyed our relationship in so many ways. I enjoyed the challenge, the affection, the companionship, the intellectual stimulation, the physical stimulation, I loved it all. Rather than see what I had with Michael as something that was taken away, I want to focus more on it being something that was a gift. I'm feeling like we were meant to be together, and maybe we were meant to be together for this short time.

When I was out there looking for someone to love, I didn't put any disclaimers out that said only the immortal need apply. If Michael's life was meant to be a short one on this earth, then I am pleased that we were brought together. He gave me so much love, and really enhanced my life. I feel like I did the same for him. Am I saying that I am suddenly fine with the fact that he was taken from me so soon into our relationship? Definitely not. But I want to focus less on the time that we didn't have, and more on the time that we did. In time I want to focus less on the pain of losing him, and more on the joy of having him.

In a way, this line of thinking leads me to see all of this in a sort of Yin Yang philosophy. One needs to balance with the other. Having Michael in my life will always be experienced with losing him from my life. There really is no way to separate the two. I think that if I can continue to see all of these things as now connected, I can get more comfortable with what seems like opposing forces within me.

I love Michael with all of my heart. I miss Michael with all of my soul. The two are inseparable.

The extreme joy of our wedding day is the polar opposite of the extreme sorrow of his memorial service. They are both significant markers in my life.

Choosing to create a life together is now intrinsically connected to our choosing to prepare for his death.

In creating a balance, life sometimes seems to weigh heavier on one side for awhile, then shifts, and weighs heavier on the other. If I know this, and trust this, then I know that in time the potential for balance will always be there. This is not a simple process of course, but it is one that I can continue to strive for. What seems to work for me, is to keep trying to accept what is. Acknowledge what it is I want, or wanted, but not spend too much time getting stuck in a pattern of fighting what has already occurred. That will get me nowhere.

So this is my frame of mind right now. I hope it will have some staying power, because I know it is what will help me to keep moving forward, while holding close to my heart, that which is precious to me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Day In The Chair

I spent most of the afternoon in the chair. No, I wasn't strapped down, and there were no last minute calls to the governor asking for clemency. I was there of my own free will. If there was torture to ensue, then I would take it like a man. Actually, I would take it laying down.

The process of being in the chair is probably similar in many circumstances. I was asked to sit in a reclining position. I was relaxed, and turned slightly away from having direct eye to eye contact. Throughout the afternoon I was indulged in an exercise in free association. At times subject were brought up by the other, at times direct questions were asked. There were check-in's about my family, and how I was doing with my grief. There were shared memories, and why they are important to me. I was asked if I still miss Michael each day, and what that is like. We talked of depression and various ways of treating it. We spoke of daily meditation, and ways to self soothe our soul. I spoke of my writing, and how therapeutic it has become.

I was given feedback as to how I appear today, in relation to last month, in relation to six months ago. It was pointed out to me how fortunate I am to have my children, and how they can offer me love, and the occasional distraction from my pain. The depth of my loss was acknowledged. My ways of expressing myself was reinforced as positive. I was told that I am doing well if I choose to continue facing this difficult period head on. I was asked about my plans of relocating, and what I was expecting from it.

This session lasted over three hours. In the end I was asked to stand before a mirror and look at my reflection. I was asked to give my own feedback as to how I see myself as different from when I first arrived. I was asked what my level of pain was. It was pointed out to me that I do not seem to be bothered by pain. I seem to accept it, rather than fight it, or feel overwhelmed by it.

I was asked to return in a week or to for a check in. I was given constructive feedback about the work done. I paid my fee, and then in a move less professional, and more personal, I received an open embrace.

This was my day at the tattoo parlor. My tattoo artist has been on this journey with me for the past couple of years. She was there to put Michael's initials, along with a lotus flower and Kanji symbol for hope two years ago. It was a Valentine's Day surprise for Michael. She was there in the weeks after Michael died, permanently drawing the Tree of Life on my back, which symbolized my experience of Michael's death, and adding a small sparrow which took flight away from the tree. She was there last month when I needed a Mandala to help me keep centered, and to remind me to meditate. She was there when my daughter and I received our matching lotus flowers, which symbolized each of our personal journeys of growth. And she was there today, when I received my Koi, which will symbolize my courageous efforts to continue swimming upstream through the 'ocean of suffering.'

And similar to my Therapy Tuesday, with my EMDR. I was able to find new insights into my journey while exploring these themes, as my body also experienced the ongoing vibrational pain of the needles. For some this may seem a bit extreme. For some it may seem to leave a permanent mark which might later be in question. For me, it is important to mark each phase of my development, and then stand back and appreciate its beauty.

A day in the chair.

A day well spent.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Message to Michael

Originally uploaded by

My Dearest Michael,

I sit here wondering where you are. Some may think this is an odd thought. "Why of course he's in heaven." Is he? Then where? I don't know what to think anymore. I don't know what I believe anymore. I don't even know what I need to believe. It would be so simple to just use a prior belief, and put my thoughts at rest. That wouldn't satisfy me though. I don't think I'm looking for simple answers anymore. Maybe I'm not really looking for answers at all.

I know that my writing here is likely just for my own benefit. There is nothing in my experience that tells me that you can see, hear or sense what I am going through. I often think that these types of worries are not for the dead. They are only for us who remain.

You often questioned life, and afterlife. Is there a god? Does life just cease to exist when the person dies? I remember clearly the moment that you died. I held your face in my hands. I kissed your mouth, and took in your last breath. Then you were gone. What remained was lacking your spirit. What remained was something tangible, something I could hold onto, if only for a short time. What remained has now changed form. What remains of your body now sits in an urn upon my shelf, our shelf. Some of what remains hangs around my neck. Some of what remains sits with you mother. Some of what remains sits with Craig. Some of what remains is scattered throughout Big Sur. Some of what remains has been rubbed into my hands.

I wonder what you believe now. I wonder if there is a you somewhere else. Just because I've been taught to believe certain things about life and death, doesn't mean that I hold onto that for comfort. I don't allow myself that type of peace of mind comfort.

Tomorrow I am getting another tattoo. I know, you would rather I stopped with all this. You are so funny. You didn't really understand why I did this to my body, and you sometimes wished I would ask you before adding another. Yet you were also quite intrigued by the whole thing. I remember that night when I had taken my sleeping pill, but decided I didn't want to go to sleep. When I say I remember, I have to remind myself that part of that memory was due to you replaying my behavior for me the following day. I started talking to you about getting a tattoo, and got out my pen to draw one on you. You said I was acting very strange, and that I wouldn't take no for an answer. The next day, and for days after, we both had a good laugh about it all.

I have chosen to have a Koi put on my arm, swimming upstream. In Buddhism, the Koi Fish is said to represent courage. Humans ’swim’ through the ‘ocean of suffering’ without fear, just like a fish swims through water with full determination. The word Koi in Japanese also means romantic love. This is why I have chosen to wear this on my arm. It will symbolize my courage to keep swimming upstream, facing my obstacles without fear. I will do this knowing that I have your love. I will do this knowing that I will persevere, that I will get through this. You believed in me, and now I must believe in myself.

Michael, know that I love you, and that I miss you every minute of the day. I have become quite comfortable missing you. It is part of who I am now. I carry your love, and I carry my loss with me wherever I go. They go hand in hand. I am learning that there is no need to separate the two. I am coming into an awareness that I must accept what is. I don't want to try to change it, or even wish for a change. I need to accept it. Some days are harder than others, but you know Michael, more often than not, your love carries me through. I am learning to accept that it is there, even when my human weakness tells me to doubt.

I don't know where you are. I don't know if you have an awareness of what you left behind. I can only trust what you said to me night after night, that you would miss me. That is what I carry. I told you that the dead are not the one's who are supposed to do the missing, and you told me that you didn't care, that you were planning on missing me anyway. That is what I choose to believe. Everything else can be sorted out in time. I am in no hurry.

I will keep swimming upstream. When it becomes unbearably difficult, I will reflect on your love, and remind myself that I am already further along than I expected. I can do this. I can do this because you reminded me that I had already taken so many leaps of faith. I have faith in your words, and they will get me through all of this.

My heart is yours.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

9 months

New LIfe
Originally uploaded by
James Duckworth

Some nights words escape me.

Some nights my spirit is restless.

Nothing holds my interest,

nothing moves me.

My day was no different,

it is only behind me.

Two hundred channels,

nothing to watch.

I am tired, but don't want sleep.

I am needy, but don't want talk.

I am hungry, but not for food.

Some nights silence surrounds me.

Some nights the air is calm.

Nothing to disrupt me.

Nothing to engage me.

My heart listens quietly,

it is missing the sound of his voice.

Nine months,

moving slowly.

I am strong.

I am weak.

I am here.


Nine months.

39 weeks.

273 days.

6552 hours.

393,120 minutes.

23,587,200 seconds.

Who's counting?

9 months.

Time enough for new life.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Awash with his love.

Originally uploaded by

Well, it's another late night attempt to get my daily post in. I had a good day. Last nights sinking feeling has subsided for the most part. Today I'm feeling more peaceful.

Tonight I have thinking, or remembering, a lot about Michael's last week with me. He was no longer communicating throughout the day, but there were a couple of times that he somehow managed to communicate with me.

During that week I didn't really sleep. He was requiring a lot of medication, and comforting to feel safe. He had lost most of his ability to move his body, so I didn't want him waking up at night, opening his eyes, and thinking he was alone. So I either sat in a chair next to his hospital bed, or laid in the bed with him, holding his face in my hands. I would talk to him, mostly telling his how much I loved him, and that it was okay to leave me when he was ready.

Throughout the days he would stare into my eyes. If he tried to speak it usually didn't make any sense. So I would just try to comprehend what he might need to say, and respond with a similar frame of mind. I would carefully give him his medication, which wasn't easy, as he also couldn't really swallow correctly. And even though he was mostly silent, his eyes said it all.

What I saw in Michael's eyes was complete trust in me. He knew that I would take good care of him, and he seemed to track my every movement during the day. When I would get up to take care of something, his eyes would follow me. His eyes spoke his words of love. When I think about that time now, I see how beautiful it was. Yes, the moment he left, I felt like I was cut through the heart with an enormous sword. But up until that moment I focused only on loving him.

My choice to not sleep during that time wasn't just for Michael, it was for me. I knew he would be leaving me soon, and I didn't want to miss any single moment of our time together. On two occasions that week, late into the night, Michael opened his eyes, to find me sitting next to him on his bed. As if he had been perfectly well, he looked into my eyes, and said "I love you." It was the most precious gift he could have given me. It felt as though he had conserved all his energy for those single moments.

As I sit here thinking about this, I am filled with such peace in my heart. He gave me so much. Everyone who visited us during that week often commented on how much I was doing for Michael, but what they didn't see was how much he was continuing to do for me. He made those last days and hours a time of complete connection. I already knew that he loved me, and knew all that he would have wanted to say. As difficult as it was knowing that he was going to die, it gave us plenty of opportunity to say the things most people wish they have the opportunity to say. Our conversations about our love, about the people that he cared about, and what mattered most to him after he was gone, had all been completed prior to his losing his voice. I suppose this is something to be thankful for.

You know, it's been a while since I have felt comforted by my memories, but tonight I can say that I am. Maybe the word memories is not the best choice of word. What I feel when I think of Michael right now, is something that is in the present, yet tied to the past. Because he got to say all that he needed to say, and because I was able to do the same, I can hear those prior conversations in the present tense. I can play our conversations as if he were hear right now. This is something that I am connecting for the first time. Rather than feeling so lost tonight, this awareness is allowing me to experience his love in the present moment.

It is quite wonderful to experience this after feeling alone for so long. I feel like my whole being is awash with his love. Tonight I am feeling very fortunate. Michael was a very special person, with such a kind and loving soul. I was lucky to have him in my life, and I will carry him in my heart forever.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Broken Record

Broken Record
Originally uploaded by
Noella Choi

My head is spinning. I had a really good day at work, meaning I was busy as hell, but accomplished a lot. For some reason I seem to have many teenagers on my caseload right now. This week has been filled with placement changes, court hearings, and the ongoing emotional breakdowns that can come with adolescence. While it has felt good to be able to help all these young people, I have been coming home just emotionally exhausted. Fortunately for me, my own young people have done a great job getting along with each other, and allowing for some quiet time each evening. Those who have raised teens know that their tempers can flare so easily. And usually, with too much time on their hands, such as this initial week of summer vacation, they are usually jumping down each other's throats.

My daughter is off with some of her girlfriends tonight, having dinner together and hanging out. So I picked up the boys from their afternoon activities so that we could run some errands and grab a quick bite to eat. Once we got home they were both off to their separate bedrooms to play on their gaming systems, so I don't expect to see them until morning.

What I feel that I must report, is that while I felt so good about my day, and my early evening, I find myself getting more and more depressed as the night goes on. I have been busy doing my nightly search for rentals down in San Diego, and feeling quite discouraged, as I don't really know when we can make the move. I'm so needing to move on, but I'm still waiting for the decision about the job, and today I decided not to give notice to my employer for another week. I'm getting a bit worried about the cost of our medical insurance, so I thought I should wait it out a little longer.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but then that is what my life appears to be of late, as I'm sitting here tearing up on and off. If it were only as simple as people think it is. I can try to keep my chin up, and I can try to focus on the positives, which I do. But I cant always control my emotions, or, more like I can't always pretend that I'm feeling better than I really am. I'm thinking that I might be feeling the weight of my loss because on Sunday it will be nine months since Michael died. It will also be the rare anniversary that the date actually falls on a Sunday, which is the day of the week that he died. It was Sunday, September 13, 2009 at 6:05 am. I try not to put too much weight on these anniversaries, and usually I can get through them fairly well. To be honest, I usually get through them fairly well in public. When I close the door behind me I find that I am once again doubled over in pain.

It's this strong, and deep, pull within me that is starting to happen. I am quite familiar with the process at this point. I was hoping to bypass it this time, thinking that I would be in a different place, literally. I'm realizing that there is just no escaping it. I'm going to just keep telling myself that these feelings are okay. These feelings are normal, and what I would expect after losing Michael. Perhaps I need to find me a mantra to say during these next few days. Any suggestions?

So here's the broken record portion of my written broadcast:

I miss Michael so much.

I miss his touch, and I miss his breath.

I am still so much in love with Michael, and I don't know how to redirect my love.

Nothing seems very important now that he is gone.

I wonder if I will ever know happiness again.

I wonder if I even want happiness again.

I have to fight the urge to go through all of his things, touch them, smell them, get lost in them.
I need to hear his voice, see him laugh and smile. All I have is a video from our wedding, which will hurt more than ever.

Nobody need worry. I will get through this. It's not the first time. It won't be the last. This broken record is destined to play over, and over, and over again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Risky Business

Originally uploaded by

This has been a productive day. While I can't say that I got a lot done at work today, I did settle a case of mine that means movement in the right direction. I also met with the retirement office about my impending separation from my employment. I went into the meeting thinking that I would be taking an early retirement, and left with the decision to let my retirement funds sit for a bit, thinking that if this new job ever comes through, I will go with a retirement reciprocity agreement instead. It will be better for me in the long run. Now I have to decide if I will wait until I hear about the desired job, or just quit, pack up the house, kids, one dog and one cat, and move on. The latter would likely not be the most responsible choice, given the high cost to maintain our medical insurance, but I feel like I am ready to break loose.

Risk taking is not typically my modus operandi, especially financial risks, but my ever growing gut is telling me to take the leap of faith. Is this foolish? Am I in a good position to be taking such risks with my livelihood? Sometimes I think, what's the worse that could happen? I could end up in sunny San Diego, getting the boys set up for school in the fall, getting them set up with Jiu Jitsu and electric guitar classes, unpacking all of our possession, spend some desired time writing, and eventually going into financial ruin. Well, perhaps I am being a bit dramatic. After all, I would be trying to sell my San Francisco house, and would have a sizable cash flow because of the sale. I could then blow through the house money, living the life of leisure for a couple of years, then en up broke, yet somewhat happy.

Okay, like I am ever going to allow myself to burn through all of my resources. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I am far too responsible, and level headed, to do such a thing. But, (there always is one), I am also in the position to make an informed decision that meets my need to move on, while also making the best possible financial decisions for me and the kids. When did I become such an adult? Isn't it always the case that no matter how old you get, you always feel somewhat the same. Then suddenly, something comes along to really point out how grown up you actually are.

Tonight I am feeling all of my 51 years. At the same time I am feeling optimistic about what lies ahead for me. I want to take a risk, and just toss the dice. I would love more than anything to expect good things. Wouldn't that be nice? I wouldn't have to necessarily get all good things, but minimally, not get too many more bad things.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Therapy Tuesday-EMDR

Portada libro
Originally uploaded by
Victor Gally

Today was Therapy Tuesday. I have my usual weekly appointment so that I can check in about how I am doing. It has been a very good process for me. I started my individual therapy quite soon after Michael's death, maybe about a month afterward. The therapist that I see is the same therapist that worked with Michael and I a couple of years ago after he was first diagnosed with his brain tumor. When Michael died, I knew that I needed help, and it made the most sense for me to return to the therapist who knew us both.

I am so glad that I chose to do this. It has allowed me to work through my issues, while also keeping a very honest, and realistic, point of view about our relationship. I have shared here in the past, that when Michael was first diagnosed we went through some difficult adjustments in our relationship. We had only been a couple for a year and a half, and had only been living with each other for about 9 months. Suddenly I was his caretaker, as well as his partner. Suddenly I worried about how my needs were going to be met while also meeting Michael's needs. And while he was doing very well at the time, considering he had undergone brain surgery, we knew that in time he would experience deficits that would only increase my responsibility, and his reliance on me. And mostly, we knew that time wasn't on our side.

One of the new modes of therapy that my therapist has been using with me is EMDR. EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. In a nutshell it is an information processing therapy that uses dual stimulation such as eye movement, tapping or auditory tones. These dual sensations are occurring simultaneously while you are attending to, or focusing on, whatever traumatic experience, or negative belief, that you are wanting to work through. By focusing on this external stimulation while also focusing on the image, or thoughts, new insights begin to emerge. The therapist then acts as a guide, helping you work through the belief system you have put into place, and guide you to a place where the negative beliefs can be reprocessed in a way that are less problematic.

If any of that description peaks your interest, please follow the link provided, as I don't feel that I am appropriately describing the process. My purpose here is not to educate on this particular mode of therapy, more to show the various ways that I am attempting to work through my grief.

One of my main concerns right now is my feeling stuck. I feel really stuck in my anger about Michael's death. As I said yesterday, death is final, and there is nothing I can do to change it. Yet at the same time I am so clear in my heart that I want, and need, Michael to be here with me. I am never going to get what I want, that I am very clear about. The problem then, is that I have clarity in my mind, but not in my heart.

One of the concepts that I have for myself, is that my experience with grief is going to be greatly influence on my past experiences, and by my personal beliefs. Now I am not talking about religious beliefs, I am talking about the messages that I give myself today, and the messages I have given myself for years.

One of the key beliefs that I have is that I am not meant to be happy. That happiness is for other people. I dare to go as far as to say that sustained happiness is meant for most people, but not for me. I feel like I must have really pissed someone off, perhaps the big guy in the sky, for him to keep fucking with me. I honestly feel that in every choice that I have made as an adult, nothing goes smoothly. Every time I attempt to make my life, and my kids' life better, something always comes around to screw it up. I feel like I am a nice guy, and that I have done many good things in life, yet good things don't seem to go my way, or that don't seem to last.

When I met Michael everyone who knows me was so elated. Everyone said that nobody deserved more to be happy in love than me. I am just one of those nice guys that should meet another nice guy, and have a good life together. If that's as simple as it is, then why the hell didn't it happen until I was in my late 40's? And if I had to wait so long, and then finally met the man of my dreams, and guess what , I fit perfectly into his dreams, then why the hell did he have to die? I hate to say it, but couldn't someone else in this world have died that day except Michael? Am I horrible to think that?

In my negative belief system, of course Michael had to die. In this universe that fills the space around me, I had far too much happiness than I was supposed to get, so he had to go. So now, given my experience, every time I see what appears to be a happy couple, or even a miserable couple, I become filled with rage. It angers me so to have the world of happy or content couple parading around to remind me of what I no longer have. Is it all just a huge hurtful joke being played on me?

Okay, so this is what I am working on, and this is where I have identified that I feel stuck. I don't want to be stuck here, as it only serves to make me into a bitter old man before my time. Maybe I was already bitter, but just had a brief reprieve when Michael came into my life. The problem was that like a typical man, I didn't read the fine print. If I had, I would have clearly seen that this relationship had an early expiration date. How terribly stupid, and ignorant, of me, to believe that life was handing me something good, something that I could count on.

Today's EMDR session was to help me work through this negative belief that I have about life's happiness, and how it gets triggered by images of happy couples. And I have to say, that through the process of today's therapy session, I did come away feeling less angry in my still held belief about all of this.

What I did come away with, today at least, is that what all those supposedly happy couples have, is no different than what the happy couple of Mike and Dan had. Some how I need to remember this, or believe this. I want there to be a time that when I think of these types of images, that I immediately have a comforting emotional response about the gift that Michael was to me. I want to immediately feel his love, and smile. I know that this type of thought will always be followed with a sense of sorrow because he was taken so soon, but I don't want the sorrow to be my go-to response when I think of him.

And for what it is worth, tonight I am feeling his love, and remembering that he wanted me to find happiness. I truly think he would be disappointed if I didn't try to work through all of this. I want him to be happy, and I want happiness for myself. When I think of his spirit today, I see him filled with joy. I don't see him focused on what he was taken from. I see him focused on what propelled him forward. I just love him, and loved him, so much. I feel so good about what I was able to experience with Michael in the time we had together.

It was magical.

It was real.

It was lovely.