Friday, July 2, 2010

Good Fortune

100 Good Fortune - White Lotuses
Originally uploaded by

This morning an announcement went out at the office about my impending departure. Some friends already knew about it, but I have been otherwise rather quiet about it. I tend to be kind of unassuming at work. I am friendly, and try to help out my peers, but for the most part would be considered private. So I found myself being asked the same questions over and over again. "Why are you leaving?" Of course some know that I lost my husband this past year, but there are also many more who don't know. To them this probably doesn't make sense. Why would someone who is heading down the homestretch decide to jump ship.

With all the attention, and excitement that filled my day, I had one of those moments where I completely disconnected from the reality that Michael is gone. I had gone to the men's room to wash my hands before lunch, and looked up at myself in the mirror and thought, I can't wait to get home to tell Michael about my day. It was all of just a few seconds, but it cut me like a knife. Rather than continue out to go pick up my lunch, I found my way back to my cubicle, and laid my head on my desk.

Reality sucks.

On another note, I am making two people very happy tomorrow. In my basement are my prized gym equipment, and an antique stove, I have had for many years. I decided today that rather than sell them, I would feel better about giving them to someone who really wanted them. I know this make little sense to others around me, but it is something I can feel good about. Both of these things meant so much to me over the years, that having to bargain them down with someone felt disgraceful. I'm feeling that way about so many other things around here. I have a whole room full of Michael's clothing. I don't know why I continue to hold onto them when someone could be getting some good use out of them. Having them hanging in my closet, or in every drawer doesn't make Michael more alive for me. I do have a few things that I will keep, and I still wear his pajamas and big t-shirts around the house. In that way I feel comfort, but I can still have that, and give the rest to charity. I know there are many men out there looking for jobs, and many of them would have more confidence if they were wearing some of Michael's nice suits, shirts and ties.

I guess you could say I am in a giving mood. A strange place to be, given that so much was taken from me. But I have to remember not to wallow too much in my pain, as there are those who still have much need. And there is still so much I can do to help. It doesn't take much to make someone else feel good. Sometimes good fortune just falls onto you. Maybe one day, I will be the recipient of someone else's generosity. Maybe good fortune is headed my way.


  1. Those "I can't wait to get home to tell him!" moments are strange, aren't they? I hadn't had one in a very long time, but had one a bit over a week ago. It's a bit unsettling. Why would I think that after almost 2 years? Unfortunately, for the past couple of weeks, I've been having a lot of "hospital flashback" episodes. I think those may be related to watching my good friends going through some of the same things Don and I went through when he was first diagnosed. I'm coming to realize that the part of me that went through all of that medical stuff is still very fragile and it doesn't take much for me to begin revisiting that period of our lives.

    Applause for giving certain belongings away rather than selling them! I agree that is can be less hassle and you have more control over where things end up. The other thing is that you know that these things will be going to someone who can and will use them.

    When I put the farm for sale, the quantity of farm equipment was sort of staggering to deal with. I thought of having a farm auction just to get rid of everything, but the thought of having people all over the place for a day or two was too upsetting. Instead, I started putting a few things out at the road in front of my place with a "Free" sign stuck in the ground there. When one bunch of stuff was gone, I stuck out a new bunch. I called this my "Great Matter Transporter" as it moved my belongings from my space into someone else's space. It worked so well that it was incredible -- and also rather amusing. I would put something out and try to guess how long it would take for someone to stop and carry it off. Sometimes, I'd hear someone stopping before I even got back to the front door of my house.

    One day, while out doing some yard work, I heard someone stop on the road by my Free Stuff which was on the other side of a dense hedge. I'd put out some particularly nice things that morning - a couple of home milk pasteurizer machines and some other dairy goat equipment. The car stopped and a couple got out. I could hear them talking for few seconds and then suddenly the guy let's out a big "Yeehaw" whoop. Made me laugh to hear them all excited about the milk pasteurizers. I'm sure they have been put to good use somewhere else. I gave all of my horse saddles and other horse stuff to the horseback riding therapy organization near my place, and a couple of hard shell dog crates to the Guide Dogs for the Blind which has its headquarters in the town near my old farm. A lot of books went to the used book store run by the local historic mill preservation group. And the final clean-up of the metal around the buildings went to a guy who does scrap metal salvage. I gave him a big cordwood saw in exchange for doing a good job with the clean-up and he was just so thrilled. The cutest thing was that there was a leaky old aluminum canoe that I was just going to take to the dump. He said he would like it. I said I'd try to find the special oars that you can use with it in place of paddles and drop them off at his house. The day I left my farm for the last time, I stopped to leave the oars. He wasn't home, but his wife came out to get them. She was such a nice person - these are very hard-working people without too much, btw. She pointed to the canoe which was on their pick-up truck and said it was already patched and they had been out paddling along the creek with some small paddles but would love having the proper oars for rowing. It felt so nice to know that the old canoe had been patched up and that this couple would have some fun with it.

    Yes, we can hang onto stuff we don't use too much anymore, but what's the point. Instead, it can get some more use and make someone else's life a little better, more fun, or whatever. We just have to get used to letting go -- and boy, aren't we getting to be the experts when it comes to that, eh?

  2. Great post, Dan. I'm going to be off line for a while but I hope your move goes well and I look forward to meeting you in San Diego at Camp Widow(er)!


  3. I woke up one day last week, and my first thought was not of matt, or this, any of this, and I instantly felt horrible - how could I forget, even for an instant? but then I realized - I sometimes forget he is gone, but I never forget he was Here.

    Coming up on one week to the year date, I still get in the car after my day and check the phone to see if he's called. I wonder what part of the mind or the heart that is, untouched by physical reality. And can I move there.

    It always bugged Matt that one of the family members kept her father's woodworking tools exactly where he left them, letting no one use them. (which I kind of get, at the moment). He would say "he was an artist. He would want his tools used by someone who felt the same way about building. He would not want a museum."
    I felt the same way, before - it's stuff - but things became important to me after he drowned.
    Over the winter, I gave Matt's winter boots to a young man from mexico here on a farm visa. A little too big for him, but it was good to let them go somewhere needed. I gifted some books, a couple pieces of furniture. Most other stuff went to his son, though I have our books and kitchen things. I am way more attached to things than I ever thought I would be. I think because it was a shock, completely unexpected, so sudden and final, the evidence of our life has more weight right now. I need it, in ways I would never have imagined.

    bev - "that part of me that went through all that... is still fragile." Thank you - needed that today. Dreading the anniversary, imagining all sorts of bad family behaviors, remembering horrid things that happened last year, bracing for them again, bracing for new ones. Still quite fragile when it comes to people and their insanities, their ways of dealing with grief that attacked and injured me, the traumatic experiences after the actual trauma. Yeah. The part of me that withstood all of that with as much kindness as I could muster is still extremely fragile, and very very sensitive. A good way of framing it when I am imagining all sorts of painful things happening again: I am fragile around this, and need my own care and gentleness. Thank you.

    And Dan, was thinking that this morning - how much information to share with people who are acquaintances, trying not to appear rude, but also being protective of what is very intimate and personal. I saw a former student of mine out walking her dog this morning, and just hoped she didn't recognize me so I wouldn't have to answer "what have you been up to?" questions. There is no answer to any potential small talk question that does not include "my husband recently died." And the follow up requests for details are just uncomfortable. In my head, I am saying "my life is not a tabloid. You don't know or care about me. Stop being nosy and get away from me." Fortunately, I do not say this out loud.

    When people I don't see often ask me how I'm doing - how does one respond to that in a sound bite? If I am in a good space, I can usually say, "I don't have an answer to that question." These days, I tend to involuntarily grunt, tear up, and turn away. Graceful, really.

  4. This young, and handsome, guy from San Jose was the lucky recipient of all my workout equipment. He drove about an hour to get here, and borrowed his uncle's van. We worked together taking it a part, so this gave us time to talk a bit. He is working, not making too much money, and lives with a room-mate. He was so excited. And when I told him I was also giving him the whole weight set, he just smiled and said "Sweet!" Before driving off, he turned and said "you made my weekend."

    Now I'm waiting for someone else who is on his way to pick up the stove. This feels great.

  5. This feels great.

    It sure does! In fact, it can get addictive! You'll start wishing you had more stuff to give away! (-: