Thursday, September 30, 2010
My nights are becoming increasingly later and later. It is now 11:57 pm, and I am just sitting down to write today's post. Not good. Not good.
I'm not being hard on myself, as I do know that I am trying to accomplish plenty these days. I had a long day at work, which went very well. I am truly enjoying getting to know the various people in my temporary unit. Since I was hired on as a floater, I don't really know how long I will be working with these people It already makes me feel sad. For some reason it seemed that many of my coworkers came into my office today to chat, or to share a laugh. I sat at my desk enjoying each and every one of them. Last night I had gone out and bought these beautiful brightly colored banners from my favorite store, Eye of the Buddha. I hung them on my walls and also took in a new orchid to place on my desk. Everyone was admiring what I have done to create such a peaceful environment in my office. As I was laughing, and having a good time with everyone, it dawned on me that I could be yanked from this office at any time. As a floater I am sent where there is the most need. This will not necessarily come with much notice. When I realized this, I began to feel very sad. I began to become conscious about the fact that I was beginning to genuinely care about each of these people, and it will be quite difficult having to leave them, and to start all over again some where else.
Maybe being a floater at this time in my grieving process is not good for me. At this point I need to be building a new supportive group of friends, not losing them. I wish there was a way to convey this to those in charge, but I don't think I can get any type of accommodation due to being widowed. As far as I know, being widowed is not considered a disability.
After work I had to race home to check on the boys, then get back into my car to attend a Back to School Night at my son, Dante's, school. I got there a bit late, but found that there were very few parents that showed up. Actually, I may have been the only one. Once again, I had a really good experience getting to know the school staff.
Soon I was back at home for a quick change of clothing, then back on the road to participate in my yoga class. I loved the class, which was smaller than usual. Once we were done, and I was heading for my car, I experienced what has now become a consistent response to my yoga, tears. I'm not sure what it is, but I always leave my class in tears. If I am walking out with a group of the guys, I fight off the tears. Yet once I am secure into my car, the tears begin to flow quickly and easily.
I am doing very well in my grief recovery, but part of this process is experiencing each and every thought and emotion that comes along. Yoga is a very centering experience, and I am always leaving my class feeling good, but also quite vulnerable. It serves as a reminder that while I feel that I am doing well, and definitely moving in the right direction, that it all takes so much more focus and emotional containment than I often realize.
All right. I have finished coping
Posted by Dan at 11:57 PM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Today my office coworkers organized a lunch gathering to welcome myself, and another worker who will be joining us on Monday. They had ordered sandwiches, and we all rolled our desk chairs out into the common area for the lunch. It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet some of them. After we each settled into our chairs to eat, our supervisor suggested we go around the room, introduce ourselves, and say something about who we are.
As we sat there, with our chairs in a big circle, the gathering began to take on the look, and feel, of a 12 step meeting. Each person would say who they were, how long they had worked there, and something about their marital status, and children. I had the opportunity to talk with most of these people individually throughout the past week, so many already knew much about me. Yet when my turn came up I hesitated for a second. Should I mention the fact that I am a widower?
I decided that I would want everyone to know of my loss, as I would want to know about theirs. Those that have learned of my situation during these past few days, have been wonderful in their response to my sharing about Michael. I thought it was only fair that everyone heard it from me. My only hesitation was about how this might bring the mood down. Yet, I was able to to state this matter of factly, and segue into something lighter, probably about the kids and animals.
Anytime I am in the position to introduce myself to new people I have had to decided how to share the fact that I am gay. I am always aware that not everyone will have a positive response to this disclosure, but I must say that times have changed. And, how funny that at this point in my life, disclosing my sexuality comes second now to my disclosing about being a widower. It was actually a very nice way to put it all out there, saying "my name is Dan, I am a widower with three kids, and my husband, Michael, did a year ago." There you have it, all in one fell swoop.
Something that feels strange lately, is that when I disclose that I am a widower, I begin to feel very old. Let's face it, it's an old role. Yes, we all know that widows, and widowers, are made every day, and that many of them are young. Yet the word, "widowed," still has a very old sound to it. And as I sat there, looking rather hip in my Levi jeans and close fitting striped shirt, I felt like each person's impression of me aged considerably in that moment.
After lunch I made my way to the men's bathroom to wash my hands. Above the sinks are very large mirrors, which are brightly lit, and quite complimentary. I stood there and saw a rather young looking guy. His hair was cut and styled nicely. He was in good shape, and had a cool-sophisticated look about him. Yet when I stepped away from the mirror, the image I had of myself was a very tired, emotionally drained old man.
I kind of laughed at my observation, as I seemed to have come across a reverse Dorian Gray reflection. The guy in the mirror looks young, vibrant and put together. But close my eyes and I see the old widower.
Who do I have to make a pact with to merge these two individuals?
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Hi you all. I wish I had more time to keep in contact with everyone through their blogs, or directly through email and Facebook. Since starting the new job I no longer have time for much of anything. There is little time for the type of things that I would prefer to be doing.
I loved reading the responses to yesterday's post. It's interesting how each of us now look at ourselves, and how we try to understand what it is we need. As for me, I would like someone who can come over each night, help the boys get their chores and homework done, then clean up the kitchen. Oh, and he needs to walk the dogs as well. I then want all the creatures, be they human boys, or four legged hairier boys, to vanish by an early enough hour. Then 'said someone' would lay in bed with me while I do my writing. He would turn to me occasionally with a smile, or lean in with a kiss so as to say how cute I am when I am so focused. He would remain awake until I am finished, which is usually quite late. He might encourage me to take a late night shower so that I will feel refreshed and relaxed on these hot late nights. He would then curl up in bed with me, and get frisky enough to remind me that I still have some game left at 51 years.
I'll be honest and say that I laughed to myself when I read some of the responses. What some of you say here, and in the past, is that you would like someone who can do all of these things, such as keep you laughing, but not necessarily have the emotional, or sexual, demands typical of a male companion. Well, I would have to be politically incorrect in saying that what most of you are describing in a potential relationship does in fact exist. He would be your 'best gay', and you would be his 'fag hag.'
Even though I am a guy, and a gay one at that, I sometimes think I would enjoy being a fag hag. After all, having your best gay around can be lots of fun. Just when you think you are becoming crazy, and over the top in your drama, he will come flying through the door in such flaming style, instantly making you feel so normal.
Now there is the inherent problem that comes along with the best gay/fag hag relationship. Too many times Ms. Hag, changes her mind, and realizes that she does want more than just someone to do "platonic" things with. She begins to fantasize about love and romance, after all here is a guy, offering her all that was on her list. She then turns to her best gay and says, "Are you sure I can't turn you?"
Maybe you both even get a little drunk one night, and end up making complete fools of yourselves in your feeble attempts to cross the proverbial line. Let me tell you, it will only bring you sorrow. So if you do want to have all the benefits of having a man around, without his having his own list of demands, and you choose to go with a 'best gay' model, then steer clear of trying to make it become more than what it was originally supposed to be.
For this reason alone, I would make a terrible fag hag. I would always want more. I know myself well enough, that I cannot honestly say that I would be happy with a platonic relationship. No, I would be waking him up in the middle of the night wanting more than just my back scratched. I would also want flowers and dark chocolates. I would want surprise romantic dinners in quaint little outdoor cafes. And when we got home, I would want some hot passionate sex. Yes, that might includes whips and chains, honey and chocolate syrup, and tickling, and ...okay, I am not that adventurous. But I would want the opportunity to test drive some of this if I so desired.
What am I saying?
I want to love, and to be loved. I want to laugh, and to cry. I want to feel very connected, then have a knock out, drag out fight. I want to go on trips, and not be sitting in a restaurant alone with a book. I want to swim nude in the moon lit ocean. I want to fall asleep secure in someones arms, or with my arms securely wrapped around him.
I want it all.
Monday, September 27, 2010
I was speaking with my new supervisor this morning. It was pretty much a going over the basic rules of the office meeting, but then turned into your basic getting to know you session. I was assigned to her unit toward the end of last week, so she and I had not really had time to get to know each until today. She was telling me about a bereavement task force she heads up at our office. It is meant to serve our peers, and our clients, who might be affected by loss. Her motivation was due to the loss of a close friend. Her friend was lesbian, and the surviving partner now has a new partner, who most feel happened a bit fast.
I shared with her that I was a gay widower, and active in the grieving community. She shared with me concerns about her friend's children, who their group of friends felt needed a little more support around their grief. I let her know what type of support I found for my kids, and what helped, and what didn't help. She let me know that it was difficult to see her surviving friend with a new partner. I explained that friends should be careful to recognize their own discomfort, but to not allow their feelings become an issue for the widowed friend.
This is an interesting topic for me. Growing up, I often heard people talk about the "year in mourning." A couple of people have even lightly commented to me about waiting for that first year to be completed before dating anyone new. Now that I have completed that first year, I sometimes think about the idea that I am free and clear to start dating again.
I know that my kids have suggested that I start getting out there again. They think I need some fun time, and I think they would worry less about me if I was spending time with other gay men. I think most people would be fine with this as well, or at least say there were fine. I wonder though, what would people really think? Does it matter? Probably not. Yet, they would think something. Everybody does.
I don't ever worry about feeling guilty whenever I do start dating. Michael and I had plenty of time to talk about such things. I wasn't always comfortable talking about this with him, but he was comfortable talking about it with me. He wanted me to find someone new.
I think that I would enjoy dating again, and I most certainly would enjoy sex again. What I worry about though, is what I truly have to offer someone. I worry that my heart wouldn't be completely free and clear, and that I may find that I am not really ready to date someone on a regular basis. I worry that I would bring Michael up too much, and that anyone new would feel left out.
I remember when Michael and I first started dating. I was insanely jealous of Michael's ex. They had been together 7 years, and had lived a very comfortable life in Norway. When Michael was diagnosed cancer I realized that I would never have him as long as his ex did. I would get hurt, or angry, whenever Michael would talk about times with his ex still in the "we" mode. I was constantly reminding Michael that they were no longer a "we," and that people assumed he was referencing to me when he talk about things they, "we," did together. I told him it always made me feel the need to clarify that he was speaking about his past relationship, and not his current one. I wouldn't want to do this to someone else, but I don't know if I couldn't. Michael and I were a "we," and we had many wonderful times to speak of.
If I do choose to begin a new dating phase, it will take considerable focus to do so. I work in a women's environment, so the likelihood of meeting a guy at work is slim to none. I will have to put myself out there, which means I would have to actively pursue it. Part of me feels fine with the line of thinking that, well, "it just happened." It feels very different to suddenly be out there trying to make it happen.
What will I think of myself? Will I just say I am fine with it, but secretly be judging the hell out of myself?
I hope not.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Today I paid a nice visit to my parent's home. It is great to be so close, meaning a 2 hour drive from San Diego, rather than an 8 hour drive from San Francisco. I try to see them every couple of weeks. As soon as we arrived, we were all sitting in the kitchen eating, and listening to all the family updates. For my parent's peer group this means who got what illness, who went in or out of the hospital, or who died since our last visit. As we sat there my son Dante turned to me to ask if I was okay. For some reason this bothers me when he does this. I'm not sure if he is always misreading my facial expressions, or if he sees something others do not.
I probably responded less than nicely, as he and I have been at extreme odds lately. He then said, "well Dad, I thought maybe hearing all this bad news just makes you feel sad."
Do I look sad all the time? No, I don't think I do. I also spend a fair amount of time probably looking angry. Sad and angry. Probably not the best look for me. Yet, I have to be honest, and admit that I wasn't in the best of moods today. There was really no particular reason, just not one of my better days I suppose.
I'm trying to not read too much into days like this. I do want to control my anger better, as these boys get the better of me lately.
Why am I writing about this anyway? What the hell does any of this have to do with my big adventure through grief? Wish that it was a big adventure, as days such as this often feel like I am just walking in little circles. Maybe that is why I am feeling anxious and frustrated tonight. Even Fido senses it, as he has been staying clear from me all evening. Oh, he's happy to humor me with a walk around the block several times each night, but otherwise just looks at me as if I am something to be avoided if possible.
Tomorrow is another new day at work. I think it will break up this monotony that I am feeling. It's kind of difficult to walk in circles when you are walking through new beginnings.
Perhaps I should wear my shoes on the opposite feet tomorrow. That way I could not possibly walk in circles.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Last week I received a card from one of Michael's dear friends. It was a simple message acknowledging her thoughts of me, her thoughts of Michael, and just wanting to remind me that she is there. What's funny, is that after the card arrived I held onto to it for several days before opening it. I think that I had anticipated a loving message, and anticipated a tapping into my emotions, so I waited.
Each day I would pick up the unopened card, and carry it upstairs to my bedroom, thinking I would read it that night. The next morning I would carry it downstairs, planning to open it with my morning coffee. This quickly became a ritual of holding.
How do we hold on to our feelings? How do we hold on to our love? How do we hold on to the anticipation of something special?
I have quickly recognized that as a widower, these special little gifts, these special little acknowledgement don't come our way that often. So is it any wonder that opportunities, like receiving a card, need to be savored?
This morning I was online beginning my browsing for homes for sale. It looks like my house in San Francisco is about to be sold, so I will soon have some cash in hand to buy a home here in San Diego. While browsing I received a call from one of Michael's friends. She lives here in San Diego, and works not too far from where I am living. She asked if it would be okay to drop by for a quick visit, as she had something she wanted to give to the kids and I.
Is it okay for one of Michael's friends to visit? YES! Any connection to him is such a thrill, and such a blessing. And no, I didn't keep her waiting at the door hoping to savor the thought of her visit.
We sat in my living room, talking about my move to San Diego, bringing her up to date about the kids, and hearing what was new for her and her husband. Throughout all of our topics were references to Michael, which were wonderful. I loved hearing his name from another person. Isn't it amazing that such a simple thing can bring me such joy? She was sharing with me a conversation she had with another of Michael's close friends after his memorial. They were talking about how so many people had stood to talk about Michael at his memorial. What struck them was how each person spoke of the many years they had Michael in their lives. They felt that this must have been so difficult for me to hear, knowing that I was cheated out of the years we should have had together.
Her sharing this with me was another special gift. Thinking about this conversation brings me to tears. Lots of tears. For she was right. Those thoughts did cross my mind that day, and at our wedding, and at other occasions with all of Michael's friends. Because Michael's illness came very early into our relationship, I spent the next two years very aware that I would never have him as long as others. I would never have Michael as long as either of his exes.
Early into my loss of Michael I kept remembering the film "The Big Chill." I remember how Meg Tilly's character was in the very same situation. There she was, among all of her lover's friends, all of whom new him a whole lifetime compared to her few years. I remember watching the film, and wondering how she dealt with his friends talking about all the history with her lover that she was never a part of. That very dynamic occurred for me when his friends and I scattered some on his ashes in Big Sur last January.
Today, Michael's friend's message to me was this. Michael and I were certainly cheated out of so much that could have been. Yet what we had was beautiful to experience. We had so much love, and experienced so much of the life with both always dreamed of, all in that short time. It was a lifetime together no matter how many years we had, or didn't have.
In a way, I have been holding on to these thoughts all day long. Just like the card, I wanted to savor the words offered me to day, and savor the loving embrace that came with them.
This is a wordy post. My apologies.
For most of my day, about six hours, I was having the half-sleeve tattoo on my arm worked on. Combining all of the tattoos I have collected on my arm into one cohesive piece of art has been in the works for some time. Today's visit was the second session of maybe three or four. As I think I shared recently, the tattoo artist is a really nice guy. Because we spend so much time together during these sessions, we talk about our families, and experiences from the past. Michael is often part of what I am sharing.
Today, because he needed to work on the back side of my arm, he had me lay face down on a massage table, so that my left arm could rest flat while he worked. I had my face turned to the opposite side while he worked, and while we talked. At several times during this part of the session, the hand on my left arm would graze his arm, or would be shifted, and momentarily touch his jeans on his knee. It was simply from his needing to move my arm around to reach different areas of the tattoo. Yet this tiny movement brought a few brief tears, as it felt so intimate. I realized how long it has been since my hand has touched another man. I laid there thinking, this is how Michael's arm felt, this is how Michael's jeans felt. Now were talking about a momentary touch, that in reality was likely less than a minute. Occasionally he would reach out to move my arm by taking my hand, which also felt quite intimate. No, to anyone else it wouldn't have registered as intimate, but let's remember how long my hand has gone without touching another man, or how long it has been since my hand was held by another man.
Friday, September 24, 2010
It's late, so I'll make this short and sweet.
Tonight I took all three of my kids out to dinner. It's been so long since we have had a night like this, and it was like a nice boost of renewed energy. I wanted to take my daughter, Arianne, to a Mexican restaurant that the boys and I ate lunch at last month. We all love the food our first time there, so I have been wanting to make time for a return engagement. Right off the bat, the owner saw us walking to our table, and he stopped to say hello. After greeting me, he said he remembered my previous visit with just the boys. He was very excited that we chose to return.
It felt nice to know that this person saw me as a new part of his community. It also made the kids smile to realize that the owner remembered me. Funny how some outings can become so magical. Everyone was in a really good mood, and each of the kids had so much to share with each other about their week. Infused throughout the conversations, and laughter, were memories of Michael from each of the kids. We each gorged on so much food that we all had that look of being overly intoxicated by all the good food.
As I sat there, and carefully took in the mood of the table, I realized that this meal was feeding me in so many ways. I was laughing, and I was smiling with each story of Michael. I sat there with the kids, loving them all so much. I could even feel like Michael was there with us, just smiling and laughing at each of the kids' stories. Just thinking of this puts another smile on my face, and helps me find more peace.
These are the things that are important. That the week had many challenges is of no concern right now. Tonight each of the kids were a gift, and they are a gift that can keep on giving. This is the type of joy that I would like to embrace on a regular basis. When I have nice times, such as this, I often wonder if these lighter, and loving, feelings will begin infiltrate the rest of my life.
Maybe there were other opportunities like this that have definitely come my way. Perhaps I wasn't able to see, or appreciate them at the time.
I can feel that I am becoming more open to outward expressions of joy. I am allowing myself to lighten up, and just embrace these good times. Life can be brighter, and it has the power to heal me.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today I came to the realization that I have developed a major chip on my shoulder. I was sitting down with the Human Resource specialist for my new job. There were four of us new employees being walked through the final paperwork needed. Very quickly in each document we were being asked to designate whether we were married or not. I asked the specialist why we were being asked this. She didn't seem to have a complete answer, and just responded that it is what is requested. This response kind of put me off.
I sat there looking around the table, and at the other three employees. They were all young women. Two of these young women were sporting beautiful wedding rings. They both smiled, and responded that they were married. The third young woman quickly stated that she was single, and I just sat there feeling very angry.
I could tell that the group didn't quite understand why I was questioning this, so I just check the box that said unmarried, and handed the document over. We moved to the next document, and once again I was faced with the same issue. The two married women began talking about their husbands, and I was asked to please check the appropriate box. I felt more anger brewing.
By the next document I could feel that I was steaming. I am not merely an unmarried man. I was married, and do have a husband, or I mean, I did have a husband, and I would like to talk about him as well. Why is it that because at this moment in time, one year out, I am now unmarried, so there are no questions about my spouse?
Next we were asked to list who we wanted listed as beneficiaries of our benefits in the event of our death. We were told that if we were married, this person would automatically be our spouse. The specialist then looked at the two of us "unmarried" and asked us to select someone else. Steam was flowing out of my ears, and my posture began leaning toward the right. That chip on my shoulder was growing exponentially.
Next we were walked through the various benefits, such as vacation pay, sick pay, then bereavement leave. One woman asked how long we were given for bereavement, and the specialist responded with "three days," as if it were quite generous. It now took all my inner strength to keep myself from falling completely off my chair to my right side. That chip on my shoulder had now become a boulder.
I couldn't wait to get out of that room. Why does all this get me so worked up? Nobody was doing anything personally to attack me, or to try to make me feel excluded from anything. None of these people could possibly know that I was married, or that I am a widower who had a wonderful loving husband, or that I have a set of two beautiful wedding rings sitting next to a beautiful urn in my bedroom.
I just need to get over it. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself.
With that out of the way I was able to go to my assigned office to begin my work. One of my colleagues was assigned to take me out to visit with one of her clients, and to participate in a family meeting. She was very nice, and filled me in on who the various people were in our unit. While we were driving she told me who was married, who had kids, who was single, and who was widowed. At that point I decided this was the perfect, and natural, time to self disclose about my own status. I stated that I too was a widower.
My disclosure was met with such sweet acknowledgment of my loss. She immediately asked how I was doing with this, and let me know that she was a person who wanted to know of my loss and support me in anyway I needed. She later treated me to lunch, and gave me the opportunity to share about Michael. I couldn't have felt better.
Later in the day, I realized that most of my coworkers had left for the day. One of the women came into my office to see how I was doing. She invited me to her office to show me a picture of her son, and then went on to share a bit about herself. She explained that she had recently returned to the job after leaving for a short time. It was then that she picked up a framed picture and introduced me to her late husband. I turned to her and shared that I too was a widower. That look of complete understanding came across her face. She then asked how long ago my spouse had died, to which I shared that it was a year ago last week. Her response was not in words, but in a tight embrace. She held me in her arms for a good long time. She let me know how hard this must be for me, and acknowledged that one year was not very long at all. A second embrace was followed.
As we talked we found that we both chose to move away from where we were living at the time that our spouses had died. I saw that she had a lotus tattoo on her arm, and that the picture of her husband showed that he had a Koi tattooed on his arm. I pulled back the sleeve of my shirt to reveal the multiple tattoos on my arm. She then pointed out the Buddhist imagery that surrounded her desk. A third embrace.
I said goodbye, and headed for my car.
Wonderful, heartwarming tears.
The chip on my shoulder began to lighten up.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
For some odd reason the lyrics to this song are often playing in my head. It's a song from the musical Hair, and one that I have always love. It speaks to the dilemma we often face in life, what is this life all about, and which direction should we go?
I think that for me, I have always looked around me trying to find the right answer. Now I know that there is no one right answer. There is only what is right for me, in this given time, and in this given situation.
There are so many uncertainties in this life. For some of us this has been a hard lesson. During these past few years I have questioned God, and anyone that will listen, about why certain things were happening in my life. I wanted some kind of clear answer why my life had to take on so many difficult turns, and why things just never seemed to go in my direction. Well, at least not in the direction I wanted.
Life is a funny thing. There is always someone to look at and think, they have it so much easier. Likewise, there is always someone to look at and say, they have it so much worse.
I think at different times in our life we may feel enlightened. There are moments of clarity, or there are mere moments of acceptance. I know that for myself, I never really feel like I get the full answer. Some people like to pray to God for the answer. I used to. I don't any longer. If I pray at all it is for acceptance. I know that my human mind will never be completely satisfied. There is nothing that can be told to me that will completely satisfy that part of me that needs to know why.
I have looked into my young lover's eyes to see that I am loved. I have also looked into his eyes with the question of where do we go. I know that many people believe that Michael and I were meant to meet, and that I was meant to care for him. I'm not quite sure that I want to think of our relationship in that way. Yes, we met, we fell in love, and we committed to each other. He got sick, we grew strong, and we loved even more. In the end I was left alone, once again asking where do I go?
I think I want to believe that our loved just happened. I think I want to believe that he just got sick, and died. I don't want to see a bigger picture, with a bigger message. If there was a purpose to all of this, then we were somehow chosen for this. I would prefer to not think that someone, or something, wanted me to go through all of this. That would just make me feel victimized.
I would prefer to think that I was lucky in love. And as luck would have it, sometimes bad things just happen. This way, I can also entertain the idea that I could be lucky in love again someday.
Where do I go -Hair
Where do I go
Follow the river
Where do I go
Follow the gulls
Where is the something
Where is the someone
That tells me why I live and die
Where do I go
Follow the children
Where do I go
Follow their smiles
Is there an answer
In their sweet faces
That tells me why I live and die
Follow the wind song
Follow the thunder
Follow the neon in young lovers' eyes
Down to the gutter
Up to the glitter
Into the city
Where the truth lies
Where do I go
Follow my heartbeat
Where do I go
Follow my hand
Where will they lead me
And will I ever
Discover why I live and die
Why do I live (beads, flowers)
Why do I die (freedom, happiness)
Tell my why (beads, flowers)
Tell me where (freedom, happiness)
Tell my why (beads, flowers)
Tell me why (freedom!)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I finally made it back to my yoga class tonight. The minute I arrived, which was a little early, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness come over me. I quickly laid down my mat, and just kind of began centering myself. One of the guys walked by and mentioned how I must be eager to begin. I just smiled. Another of the guys came up behind me, and asked if he could take a closer look at the tattoos on my back. He comment about how beautiful they were. He then asked if I had any new ones, which I shared with him.
I think both of these small acts of interest made me feel kind of melancholy. Such small gestures can bring about such big emotions. This touched a part of me that was feeling quite vulnerable, and the rest of the class continued in that direction. It was another evening of looming sadness, followed by a deep wave of tears once I was securely in my car. At first I was trying to figure out why I was feeling so sad, but then reminded myself not to get caught up in trying to connect the dots. It is what it is.
One thing that I must remind myself is that for the first time in several years, I am dealing with all of my emotions without the aid of medication. A few months ago I began a decrease in all of my medications. I had so many at that point. Pills for my migraines, pills for anxiety and stress, and pills for depression. The last of these to go were the antidepressants. I had dropped the dose down during the last month, then finally got down to the last few pills, and chose not to refill my prescription. I now only take an allergy pill when needed. Oh, and to be honest here, I am back to taking a sleeping pill at night. Now that I have returned to work I need to get a full night's sleep, which I have never been able to do without medication. But I try not to count that one.
Given that I am now drug free, sounds funny, I can expect that I will be going through a period of time adjusting to feeling my grief in a new way. I'm going to just keep reminding myself that I will be fine, and keep moving forward. Just talking about this, or rather, writing about it, helps me to feel less sad. In a minute I'll climb up the stairs that reach to my bedroom, get into bed, and curl up with little Fido. I still can't believe he is here, and I still can't believe that I gave him such a generic name.
I think I can expect to be experiencing a clearer shade of blue for awhile. I think I'll be fine.
Monday, September 20, 2010
First day on the job, and I was scheduled to participate in three days of training. The first thing we are asked to do is go around the room, and introduce ourselves. As a getting to know you exercise we are to say three things about ourselves, two that are true, and one that is untrue. It was kind of fun. The group as a whole was a little slow to warm to the exercise, as was I, but my new direct supervisor says, "well, Dan, how about you?
Suddenly I had to think quick. Of course the first thing that came to mind was that I was a widower. I wish this wasn't the first thing always on my mind, but unfortunately that is where I am at. Rather than share too much information right off the bat, I decided to share that I was the father of three, recently retired, and a pilot. Which two did the group think was untrue? The first thing offered was that perhaps I don't really have three kids. The next was that I am not retired. Well, sorry folks, both of those are true. It's funny how we have perceptions of people just on the basis of first impressions.
So, now that we all know each other, let's start with today's topic. Any guesses?
Grief and loss.
First there was a panel of fellow employees, who discussed their family members who have a developmental disability. They spoke of the issues of how much having a child with a disability impacts your life. They talked about how you must deal with the loss of life's expectations, and how your life becomes impacted by your special needs child in many ongoing ways. We then segued to a video of a psychologist speaking to a group of parents who have children with various disabilities. The focus of the video was about the grieving process that goes on when you find out your child has disabilities. It talked about the various stages of grief, and how similar this experience is to someone who has suffered the loss of a family member to death.
Talk about a first day of work with topics hitting far too close for comfort. I must say, I sat there a bit stunned. The video was excellent, and hit on so many issues that I face each day with the death of Michael, and the loss of hopes and dreams for my children, who seem to be challenged more and more as they get older. I considered getting up in the middle of the video, which lasted an hour, and take a walk. I felt like I needed a breather, but instead I stuck it out.
Today simply served as a reminder that I need to always feel ready to face these issues of grief in loss in a very public way. Fortunately I feel strong enough to do that. And, fortunately I am in an environment where people have limited information about me. I can choose what to disclose each time I begin to feel vulnerable.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Earlier in the week the chain to my urn necklace broke. I tried to fix it, but the rope chain is far too intricate to repair. I had put it on the shelf next to Michael's urn, thinking that I would get around to replacing the chain.
Tonight when I came up to my room I realized that I was needing to prepare for my first day on the new job. I began looking through my clothing, making sure I had something to wear. Not knowing the atmosphere of the office, I decided I better play it kind of conservative, and wear a long sleeve dress shirt, covering my various tattoos. When I pictured myself getting ready for work I realized that I needed my urn necklace.
I started going through all of my things, desperately looking for an alternate chain to use. I still haven't unpacked many of our things, as I decided only to open the boxes that had essentials. When I couldn't find what I needed I made another last minute attempt to repair the chain. Logic told me this was impossible, but try to tell that to a crazy man, and it is of little help. After 30 minutes of frustrating attempts at repairing the chain I was back on my quest to find another chain. I knew that I had others, and I new the Michael had a couple that he wore. But where in the hell did I put them?
I began looking through some of the boxes that were easily accessible. I found all kinds of things, but not any chains. I began to panic. Really panic. I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate. Isn't this crazy? I stopped myself, and calmed down. Then I started my ridiculous search once again. This time I found myself in tears.
Now really Dan, is this behavior necessary?
I have never been one to need objects such as this to keep me grounded, or together. I know that I keep Michael close in my heart, so is it really necessary to keep him hanging around my neck? In the middle of this my daughter called to check in with me. Of course I lied, and said I was fine when she inquired about how I was doing. I told her that I was trying to find a replacement chain, and was having no luck, but completely washed over the emotional reaction I was having at the time. I think she sensed that my mind was focused on finding a chain, and she ended her call short.
I reopened another box, and began searching through all the small things that used to go into our bedside tables. This was a big mistake. More tears. Why the hell do I do this? I began looking at all the little things that made up our life together. So many of the things I found have not crossed my mind in such a long time. They are things that we used, needed, as a couple, that I don't need now that I am by myself. One in particular was a book light. I used to do a lot of reading. I used to stay up very late into the night reading while Michael slept. I no longer read much at all. I have given up this pleasure. If I do decide to read at night, there is nobody around to disturb. I no longer have need for a book light.
I feel so tormented by all of this. It's almost like my room has become a bit of an archaeological site. The more I dig, the more I find these artifacts from a past life. These artifacts were once useful tools that benefited a marriage. Today they have no use. They are no longer connected to the place where they are found. I won't throw them away, as they are reminders of a life once lived. They speak of how two individuals lived as a couple, moving about in cooperation. They serve as a reminder of how each person was sensitive to the needs of the other. They tell me that this couple loved each other, and that their life together had meaning.
In the end I put the broken urn necklace back on the book shelf. I will look for a replacement chain tomorrow. Maybe it's a time to re-examine the need to wear such a necklace. Is this just one more way that I am holding on too firmly to the past? For now, I needed something to soothe me. I went back to the bookshelf, picked up my wedding ring, and placed it back on my ring finger. I must admit, it feels lovely to have it back on. It feels at home there. I just don't know if it is the right way to meet new people tomorrow. I may just be setting myself up for assumptions about my life that I may not wish to have there later. Perhaps I will transfer it to my other hand in the morning, or perhaps it will find itself back on the bookshelf before I leave.
For now, I am feeling calmer.
Posted by Dan at 9:34 PM
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I'm sitting here in my room surrounded by four legged creatures. Me, who was never really an animal lover, has a cat, and two dogs, all laying about in my bedroom as I type this post. I initially had to wait until they had all settled into their spots of choice, as none of them wanted to let me begin typing. There was a lot of competition for my attention, which included pushing my computer out of the way, walking across my computer, jumping up at the sides of my chair, and trying to nestle under my hands. It was all very cute, but I truly prefer the calm state that they are each in at this moment.
This afternoon I finally managed to go grocery shopping, as that is one thing that I just couldn't get myself motivated to do this week. It is something that takes more strength of mind than it looks, and something that always depresses me, so in turn, I don't take the task on when ever I am feeling depressed. Coming back from the store, and putting all the groceries away, it was clear that our lives have changed. I didn't shop the way I used to shop a year or so ago. In the past I would be buying all kinds of fresh groceries to cook. Not that I did all the cooking, as Michael was a much better cook. But, since he was sick most of the last year, I did most of the cooking. Now I rarely cook anymore. At least I made some fairly healthy choices by buying some quick and easy meals from Trader Joes. When the boys realized that the house had been restocked they were both in heaven. All afternoon and evening they have been going back and forth to the freezer, asking if they can cook this, or cook that. I probably should have put more limits on this, to not have to return to the store too soon again, but today I just couldn't be bothered with any limits. "Sure, just make sure you eat what ever you cook."
It's funny, but I have gone most of this summer rarely watching anything on television. Then this week I watched three movies that were on, and all about widowers. This wasn't planned. It was just a matter of timing. I watched The Boys Are Back with Clive Owen, Love Happens with Aaron Eckhart, and Everybody's Fine with Robert De Niro. Each of these actors portrayed their characters well, giving this widower something to identify with.
One of the themes that I picked up in each of these movies was 'where do you go with your life after your spouse dies?' So much of who you saw yourself as, dies along with them. So many of the social situations that used to fill your time no longer exist for you. So many things get left unsaid, unfulfilled, and unresolved. There is anger, sadness and loneliness. There are all of our prior poor ways of dealing with life, that just get magnified with grief. And in the end, we end up feeling lost, isolated, and wondering what we now want out of life.
And this is what I find myself pondering tonight. What do I want out of life? I know what I had, and I know what I have, but what do I want now that the dust is beginning to settle?
When I was preparing for the next phase of tattoos to put on my arm, I wanted to find some Kanji that symbolized where I am, and where I am going, now that the first year has passed since Michael's death. The main theme of what I wanted was about acceptance.
I want to focus more of my energy on acceptance. I need to accept that Michael is gone. I have spent plenty of hours wishing that this wasn't so. Now that a year has passed, and he hasn't returned, I need to move away from that type of thinking. I know that it is tied to the illogical emotional desires of a man who lost the love of his life. Knowing ahead of time that Michael was going to die didn't really help me deal with the finality of it all. The moment that he died I was likely as devastated as any other widowed person.
Sitting here, at year later, and in a new place, I can't escape my reality. I am a widower, and my husband is gone for good. A year has passed, and I have done a lot of crying, a lot of grieving, a lot of therapy, and a lot of soul searching. Now I need to start doing a lot of growing. You see, life has given me many things. One of the best things that life gave me was Michael. Many people feel like it was fate that brought us together. I've never really understood what that meant, but I do have an idea of fate in the sense that this is what life has given me. Whether we were meant to meet, and that he was meant to die young, is not so important to me right now. What is important is to understand that this is what I have. This is what life has given me, my fate. My challenge is to accept this fate.
Acceptance of fate is a bit of an oxymoron in my way of thinking. What exactly is there to accept. If it is fate, then I had no choice in the matter. It is what it is. Perhaps this past year was about self preservation. The trauma of this type of loss makes it hard to accept the reality of it. We know that we can't change it, but our hearts hold out hope anyway. So here I am, a year later, ready to accept fate.
In Japanese symbolism, or Kanji, there are more than one type of acceptance. In researching the correct type for my tattoo, I looked into the various ways of looking at acceptance of fate. The one I chose may seem odd to others. It may even turn some people off.
My new Kanji tattooed to my arm says this: Acceptance of Fate/Happy with your Fate.
At surface level this would seem like I am happy with what fate has brought me, but that is not what this says at all. What it means is this, given that I have accepted that this is my fate, then I challenge myself to find happiness with what life has given me. Not an easy task at hand, is it? I can choose to be sad, angry, miserable, etc., for the rest of my life. Or, I can try to find happiness in spite of it. It would be far easier to accept misery, and wear it everyday. I'm not saying the misery is easy, as we all know it is not. But, it would be easier to stay here in misery, wouldn't it? It takes less energy to stay put, than to put ourselves in motion.
Optimism is at the root of this type of symbolism. How can I remain optimistic about life, or regain my optimism? In my studies of Buddhism, I have found much focus on the human condition of suffering. Life becomes about having the courage to face this suffering. By facing my loss, and suffering, I can then choose to not get totally lost in it. If I completely identify with my suffering then I would never recognize the movement toward healing. I have to believe that through my suffering, given what is my fate, I am moving toward something different.
I want to be optimistic about life. I want to believe that there is more out there for me, and that I will find happiness. I know what grief is. I know what suffering is. I want to start identifying my healing. I want to actively pursue happiness. Without looking for it, or identifying it, I might just miss out on it.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Today is turning out to be a good day. It started out slow, and took a turn downward as far as my emotions go, but since this afternoon has been going great.
For those that are not on Facebook, and haven't already heard, I named the dog today. It's Fido. These past few days my kids have been asking when we were going to stop calling the little guy "dog" and start calling him by a name. I hesitated to do this because I didn't want to get too attached to him in case his owners suddenly appeared. But it doesn't seem that anyone is going to come forward, and besides, the little doggy has fallen in love, with me.
I can't make a single move without this little guy following me. If I leave the house I can hear him crying at the door. Wherever I am sitting he is right there, and constantly pushing his little head under my hand to remind me to give him all of my attention. And I can stop buying napkins, as he is constantly licking my face. Now this alone would make Michael cringe. He hated to see anyone being licked by a dog. He was a bit of a germ freak, and always had something to say about how unsanitary this was. I can still see the look of disgust whenever our other dog, Ranger, was giving his wet kisses to any of us. I tried to stay away from receiving any of these canine kisses, because one lick and I was not going to receive any Michael kisses for the rest of the night.
I'm sure I have shared on here before, but Michael and I loved our zombie movies. I in particular, love satire, and this movie, "Fido," is definitely one of my favorites. It's a really sweet film about a boy and his flesh eating pet zombie, aptly named Fido.
All morning I was trying to come up with an appropriate name for the little dog. I needed to get our other pets new tags, as the old ones had our San Francisco phone number. I thought that since I was buying new ones for the other two, I should buy one for our new guest. Just in case he ran out of the house, I would at least want someone bringing him back. And, of course, if nobody comes looking for him, then he will need a tag, as I know I will not be able to part with him. Damn, just what I needed, another mouth to feed, and another of God's little creatures that depend on me.
Anyway, since he did arrive the day after the one year mark of Michael's death, and he did seem to arrive just in time to distract me from going down a potentially dark path, I wanted to name him something that tied him to Michael. After coming up with many tangentially related names, none of which felt right, it came to me. Fido.
From there my day began to shape up. My son Remy and I went out for a late lunch. My daughter Arianne came over to meet little Fido. Dante brought home a new friend from school. Then my best friend, Peggy, called. I had so much fun talking to her. Every time we talk we always laugh so much. Even when we talk about serious issues, we always find ways to see the humor in it. And since we have been friends since we were 12 years old, we know each other very well.
From there I got onto Facebook, and started posting pictures, and interacting with friends and family members. It felt so good to have so many people responding to the things I was posting. Many of the messages made me smile, and many had me laughing. Such good energy.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I'm feeling very disconnected today. It's like my mind and body are not in sync. Or is it my heart and soul?
Some things are coming together, like reining my older son back in, and feeling like were headed back on track. Like making significant progress in building trust and affection with the stray dog, who has now become my shadow. Like having the presence of mind to get my younger son focused on his homework for the week. Yet other things have me feeling completely different.
I went to my younger son's Back to School Night. It was more difficult emotionally than I had anticipated. I sat there in the auditorium feeling like I have no connection to anyone in the room. There were plenty of parents there who were alone, but I had a sense that their spouses were at home tending to the children. I looked around the room, and wondered if I would ever get to know any of these people. We then had to follow a very short schedule of each of our kids classes, listening to presentations by each teacher. It dawned on me that none of these teachers knew Remy's academic, or emotional, challenges. I started worrying about my inability to get them all informed, or to keep up with all that will be required of me to help my son along this school year. I came home and found that my son Dante had gone out on a run. I panicked because it was dark out, and I don't feel like I can trust his decision making ability right now. I kept telling myself to calm down, that Remy had said that Dante just left, and I knew that he never lasts too long while running. Yet this logic didn't do much to calm me.
While at the school this evening I found myself fighting back tears. It's not like Michael participated much in school events, it's just that I am feeling so alone without him, and worrying that I no longer have what it takes to be a good parent for my kids. I rarely cook anymore. The laundry has really piled up, and I haven't followed through with some fairly important correspondences that have been piling up on the table. Maybe my emotional response to the one year mark is starting to hit me again. After all, I had to quickly pull it together with the various teenage crises this week. And because of the problems this week, and the school event tonight, I haven't been to yoga in over a week.
Tomorrow's my last week day of "freedom," since I start work on Monday. I had previously been looking forward to this, but now I'm wondering how I am going to manage. To be honest, all day my mind has been drifting back to thoughts of what this life is all about. I started to ask myself if it is even worth the effort. Funny to say, as I haven't seemed to be putting much effort into my life lately anyway.
I feel bad that I haven't returned the few calls I have received in the past few days. I feel bad that I haven't responded to Facebook messages from concerned friends either. I also have to say that it has been difficult to accept that the anniversary of Michael's death has gone by seemingly unnoticed by those that knew him. I received so much support from all of the grieving community, and from a few friends that reached out to me, but I kept waiting to hear something from more family members, or old friends of Michael, and it didn't happen. I know that there is no reason that people should remember the date. While many definitely felt his loss last year, his death didn't change their everyday life. And even though I get this, it still hurts.
I sit here looking at the little stray, lying in the bed I provided for him. He is fast asleep, looking so comfortable and vulnerable at the same time. Each time he opens his eyes he immediately searches for me. He sees that I am near, and that I am focused on him, so he closes his eyes once again, and goes back to sleep. He and I are a lot alike, only when I open my eyes, no one is there.
I start to wonder when this will change. When will I feel like my life is worth living again? Oh, I know. I was doing so much better not that long ago. What happened? It would be so nice to have someone come by and say, okay Dan, lets get busy doing...whatever.
It's scary how quickly my mood, and outlook, can change. I'm not feeling like a whole person right now. I'm not feeling like a very good parent right now.
Maybe I just need to hurt some more. Maybe my one year anniversary mourning got side tracked, and now I'm actually back on course. My father left me a message last night asking how the anniversary went for me. I immediately realized that after this month, I have our wedding anniversary to get to. Last year I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary without Michael. I never really got to have a wedding anniversary because my husband was dead.
How fucked up is that? Now I look at all the wedding anniversary cards in the stores, and realize that I never got the chance to even receive one. I likely never will. I've been cheated.
What's the first year anniversary gift anyway? Paper? Well, I did get a death certificate. So maybe I should stop complaining.
Sorry, I'm being a bit dramatic now. Feel free to roll your eyes, and wonder why the hell you are reading this anyway. I sometimes wonder why the hell I am writing this. Okay, I'm going to shut up now. I don't think I am getting anywhere with this. I'm just acting like a bitchy old queen.
First off, I was never really an animal lover. Oh, I was never "a hater," as my kids would say, but certainly not one that goes weak at the knees for a four legged friend.
Last night after writing my post, I decided to get to bed early. I figured I could use the extra sleep, and I could tell the little doggy needed some attention. Well, little doggy decided I was his best friend, and he was all over me. Sound familiar ladies?
All I wanted to do was sleep. I had been busy all day long cleaning house, running errands, dealing with homework and messy room situations, and dealing with a very obstinate teenager. When my head hit the pillow it was for the purpose of turning over and going to sleep.
Well, this little guy had much more in mind. Every time I moved my hand away to settle into sleep, he would push his head under it, subtly telling me that he wanted to be pet. Okay, I understand that we guys have our needs, and I am willing to give him a little attention. But in typical guy form, give him a little, and he wants a whole lot more. Suddenly his ears needed rubbing, his back was a bit sore and it could use some attention as well.
Alright, here you go. Now go to sleep.
"Oh come on, just a little more around my big ears."
Okay, but then you need to let me sleep.
Little doggy lays on his back. "How about a bit of a rub here on my belly?"
Well, I don't really know you that well. Not to long ago you were growling every time I got near you, now suddenly you are flat on your back waiting for me to give you a nice rub?
"Please. Look, I'm licking your fingers just the way you like it. I'm now giving you the cute little puppy dog eyes look. Please, just this one time?"
Well, needless to say, there was a lot of petting going on last night. That was the most action my bed has seen in quite some time. But it must have been good for me, because I did fall asleep, and didn't wake up until early this morning.
I remember those times of late night passion that happens in a relationship. I remember how the worst day can lead to some really loving and tender moments with your spouse or lover. I remember what it is like to lay there, and cuddle with someone who really cares about you. And I remember what it is like to wake up the next morning with that smile still on your face.
Good morning doggy. How was your night?
"Growl! Who are you?"
What? What do you mean who am I? Don't you want to come back to bed for some more cuddle time?
"Grrrrrrr, where's my breakfast?"
"Can you at least say good morning, and come give me a little lick?
"Listen buddy, last night was fun and all, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. Yeah, you give a nice body rub, but don't be calling the preacher too soon. Got it?"
Well, have I got a lot to learn. And, I have a lot to prepare for. I do plan on dating again, and I do definitely plan on sharing my bed with someone again one day. What I need to keep in mind is that my expectations are definitely going to be colored by where I am in my grief. I may want to hang on to someone solely because he is a warm body to lie next to. I may want to push him away too quickly because I wake up and realize he's not Michael. I'm going to need to sort this out ahead of time, and feel comfortable talking about this if I do meet someone.
With grief, or without grief, dating, and new relationships, are difficult to navigate. We all come into each potential relationship with a history that the other is not aware of. Rather than playing a guessing game I prefer to just lay things out ahead of time, so that he, and I, both have some understanding about who the other is.
And, if this little doggy is going to be staying around awhile, he's going to need to learn that there is definitely some give and take that needs to addressed before the next night's needs get put out there again.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
As has always been the case, when ever I am dealing with something serious, as in Michael's illness, or significant, as in our wedding, or any type of anniversary, my son Dante has a very difficult time. This always plays out in a very emotionally trying way.
I'm feeling like I am at a crossroads with my son. He has spent most of his life living is residential care due to his emotional problems. These are very challenging problems, as he is the last person to truly understand his issues, or he is unwilling to face them. As he has become older his good days are remarkably much better, but his difficult days are worse.
I'm having to begin considering that I might not be able to handle having him at home. This reality is challenging me emotionally, as it isn't just that he has his problems, it is also that I don't feel capable of addressing them to the extent they require. I am hoping, and praying, that this rough period will change. I hope that once he is more secure in his new environment, and I am less focused on him, that we can find a rhythm that works better.
It's interesting that his issues, coupled with the found dog, have both converged on this time when I would have expected to be drowning. Yet due to both of their high needs, my focus, good and bad, is not on my grief. It is troubling, because this often happens. I know there will be plenty of time to finish feeling what needs to be felt during this week, but for now, I'll accept where things are.
As for an update with the little doggy, I followed Carolyn's advice, and did get him a remedy. I put it in his water, and although he hasn't drank too much of it, I think it will help. I also introduce him to our dog, Ranger, this afternoon. Most of the evening was spent supervising their getting to know each other session. They both did very well. After watching Ranger freely interact with me, little doggy is now allowing me to pet him, and desperately wants to sit on my lap, but gets too scared when ever he attempts this. I think once I stop typing he will be settled next to me for the night.
I put an ad on Craiglist regarding the found dog. I have had no responses so far. So, tomorrow we will spend day three together, and see where the day takes us.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
First off, let me apologize if I didn't get back to everyone that either wrote or called. I have been in a bit of a fog, and have allowed myself to get lost in the mist. Yesterday I just needed to get through the day alone. I didn't have it within me to return any calls, yesterday or today.
I am doing well, but needed time alone.
Yesterday I allowed myself to drift as planned. After writing my morning post at Peet's Coffee I headed out to the beach. I spent a lot of time just walking along the shore, sitting for awhile, then walking some more. I can't say that I had any conscious thoughts going through my head, mostly just feeling that which needed to be felt. I chose to scatter a bit of Michael's ashes into the ocean during my walk, which felt right. Michael so loved the ocean, and we spent many happy times along the coast.
After trying to dry the rolled up jeans that were not meant to get so wet, I decided to go see a movie. My choice was Eat Pray Love. I had heard a bit about the movie's theme, and thought it would be interesting given my spiritual journey through Buddhism since Michael's death. From there I headed off to one of my favorite shops, Eye of the Buddha. They have so many beautiful things to look at, but mostly I love walking slowly throughout the store, as they always have such peaceful music playing, the wonderful fragrance of incense burning, and it is nicely air conditioned. What more could a grieving widower ask for? From there I stopped at Jamba Juice for a refreshing smoothie, then headed home for some rest. My daughter and her friend made me a wonderful dinner, complete with dessert. I wasn't very good company though, keeping to myself up in my bedroom before and after the meal.
The day was basically what one would expect, difficult and draining.
Today I have been completely distracted by a little four legged visitor. Early in the morning I heard a noise by the front door. When I looked out I saw a small dog. He was very hyper, and wouldn't sit still long enough for me to get close. Actually, he wasn't going to let anyone get close to him. Throughout the day I, and about a dozen of my neighbors, tried to capture him, as he kept running into the street, nearly getting run over several times. We had never seen him before, and he had no identifying tags. Yet throughout the day he kept returning to my yard. Eventually a neighbor cornered him onto my outdoor deck, and we were able to feed him, give him fresh water, and allow him time to rest. Later when I checked on him I saw that he was off, running through the streets once again. But he did return, several times. I later lured him into my home with some food, then guided him up to my bedroom, away from my dog and cat.
This little guy was very nervous, scared, and completely covered with fleas. He's one of those little dogs that growls, and snaps, at everything. I could tell he was a biter, so I kept my distance. I decided to deal with the fleas before they scattered throughout my bedroom. I put on my thick gardening gloves, got him into the shower, and sort of washed him up with flea shampoo the best I could without actually touching him. He got a few good bites into my protected hands, but he is now clean, and relatively flea free. I have been sitting here in my chair all evening, giving him time to explore the room, and me, for several hours. At one point he did come up to sniff my hand, but has stayed close to me for no more than a few seconds at a time. I don't really have a plan for him, but for now, we are roommates.
I'm going to close this post now, as every little click make him jump. He doesn't seem to know what he wants. He looks very tired, and alternates from growling to a short cry. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Originally uploaded by Spyros_Tav
Sitting here at Peets Coffee among the living. I didn't want to spend my day lost in the sheets and blankets. They boys were both very sweet this morning, being gentle with me.
I'm sitting, reading the sweet messages, and feeling supported. I have so many blessings, and don't ever want to take that for granted.
On a beautiful sunny morning, this is where Michael would want to be. Drinking our morning coffee had become such a wonderful ritual, and it always started our day off well. It's funny how drinking coffee became something we did together. Although I would curse if I accidentally picked up his cup, which was loaded with unnecessary sugar!
My morning started before the sun arrived. Candles were lit around Michael's urn, his favorite music played, and my pillow encased in Michael's quilted clothing was safe in my arms.
I sat. I cried, then reread a poem sent to me last night.
I am but waiting for you,
for an interval.
Somewhere very near.
Just around the corner.
Once I found the calm within, my meditation began. At first there was complete silence, and the sky was dark. At times my eyes were closed, and at times tears rolled down. At times my eyes would open, and his urn would come into focus. I looked at it with fondness and love. I then heard the sound of birds, and realized the sun had come up. Looking out my window I saw that the world around me was waking up. Soon I would go down to awaken the boys for school. Soon this morning luxury would come to an end, as a parent doesn't get the day off. I reminded the boys of the day's importance, which of course they were both aware of. I received their hugs and kisses, then received the wet kisses from Ranger and Carelli. I will receive Arianne's when she arrives tonight to make dinner.
I am a fortunate man. I am loved, and I have the good fortune to have many people in my life that I can love in return.
I am still hurting, and holding it in as I write, as not to scare the morning customers at Peets. The day is completely my own at this point. I have no agenda. I have a pocket full of Michael's ashes, so where ever I go, so does he. The places we will go today are of no real significance, as the important part of our journey together has already played out.
I call your name in great sorrow.
I call your name in deep sorrow
I'll call your name till I die.
Today is for me, and I feel free to do, or not do, anything I want.
Time to keep moving.
I don't know what to do with myself. The deep sorrow has arrived, and I don't want to turn it away.
I sat here and read the medication journal that I kept during Michael's last two weeks. In the margin I made notes about what he was experiencing. Whether he was calm, or agitated. Whether he was sleeping, or groaning. Whether his breathing was steady, or if he had the death rattle.
I apologize, this may not be something that others want to read. I may choose to post this, or I may choose to delete it. I don't know. How am I supposed to know what to do all the time?
In reading my notes from last year I was wishing I had the presence of mind to write more about when he would awaken, or look for me, or reach out for me. Those things happened, but at what time?
I know this probably sounds so agonizing, and that I am just putting myself to needless pain. But that's not how I see this. I feel like I owe it to Michael to walk through this once again. I want to remember how his last days, and his last hours, went. I don't want to allow myself to forget those difficult details, as they were difficult realities that he had to endure. I see in my notes how I panicked at one point, and called the nurse. Michael was very agitated, and I needed someone to tell me how to relieve him of his pain. I needed to hear a voice tell me that everything, and anything, I do for him now is okay.
Although I am writing this just after midnight, I will be time stamping it for 6:05 am. On this night last year it was clear to me that Michael was leaving me. My son Remy wanted to sleep in the room with Michael and I, and I laid in the middle, trying to hold on to each of them. Around 3am Michael's breathing took a significant turn. This woke Remy up, and he realized he could not stay in the room. He was scared and began to cry. I sent him upstairs to sleep with my daughter. I then went to awaken Michael's mother, and let her know that he was beginning to leave us. She joined me in our bedroom, and laid beside her son. Each of us held on to one of his hands, and we didn't let go for three hours. I didn't allow myself to sleep. I sat there, looking into his face, kissing him, and speaking quietly to him.
At 6:05 am Michael took his last breath. I put my mouth to his to kiss him goodbye. When he let out his last breath, I took it in.
For just a few seconds, the world was completely silent. I didn't hear a thing. No sound came from me. Then suddenly, without missing a beat, two years of anguish came pouring out of my soul. My heart became brittle, and began to shatter. I found myself on the floor, with my kids arms all around me.
That was the beginning of my journey alone. And as I sit here preparing for my vigil, I know that I am not completely alone. There are many on this journey with me. It can be dark and lonely, but there is always a hand reaching out to me when ever I need it.
That is the blessing that I can take with me as this first year comes to an end.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Last week my son, Remy, and I were walking along University Avenue in Hillcrest. On one of the corners was a shop that always caught my eye when ever we drove by, but I had never taken the time to stop. It appeared to be a store filled with Statuary. I pointed the shop out, and Remy followed along. When we entered the store I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were some large statuary, but mostly there were fountains and smaller sculptures. I love fountains, as water has always been a source of healing for me, and the sound of running water is always so soothing.
Most of the fountains were huge outdoor fountains made of heavy stone. We both fell in love with this enormous sitting Buddha that would appear to be life size. Of course this, and most of the fountains were not something I could purchase at this time, as I am only renting my home, and don't know if I will have a place for a fountain once I later buy a house.
While we walked around we both came to this table that was filled with these small sculptures of a male figure in various vulnerable poses. I was immediately drawn to them, as was Remy. He looked up at me as he pointed out one particular piece. "Dad, this looks like the picture of you from your blog." And yes, it was a pose that I used in an early post with my Grief video.
We kept looking at the statue, and holding it in our hands. I would then put in carefully back on the table, and continue looking at fountains. Yet, I kept finding my way back to the table, and once again holding the small statue. Remy would walk back toward me and ask if I was going to buy it. I told him that, no, I shouldn't be spending money on things like this. But I think he could see how much it comforted me to hold this. I once again returned it to the table, and went to pick out a small fountain to place in our home. After the sales person finalized the sale of the fountain I had a few minutes while he got the fountain ready for transfer into my car. Remy had his eyes on me, and watched me move back toward the table. And once again, I was holding the statue carefully in my hands. I was stroking the formed muscles on it's back, and allowing my fingers to trace the curves of it's body. I found myself getting a bit emotional, and didn't initially hear Remy speaking. "Dad, you need to have it. Look, it is so much like you. Buy it Dad."
I brought it home, and placed it into the built in mantle above the fireplace. I keep a votive candle lit behind it. And I realize why it touched me so. I can nurture it, and hold it, just like I need to be nurtured and held. Throughout my day I walk over to it, and allow my hand to gently glide across it.
Is this how Michael sees me? Is he able to some how reach out to nurture and hold me as well? I'm not really good at letting people see me in a vulnerable state. And I'm worse at allowing someone to hold me. But all this has me thinking, when ever I find myself feeling cared for, and am filled more with love than with grief, is that due to Michael's hand gently gliding across me?
Whether it's Michael's hand, me allowing others in, or finding a way to self soothe, I am feeling cared for. Sorrow and pain are always with us, and likely will always be a part of my life, but they don't have to be the dominate force. I'm finding that giving myself that time to grieve, yet not be consumed by it, allows for more love to occupy my heart these days. It's not a big happy love, but a quiet, gentle love that washes over me.
Life is changing for me. I am becoming more and more aware of his presence in my heart, and allowing that sense of presence to carry me through the day. With it comes those loving memories that others said would later comfort me. At the time I didn't think it was possible, but I now understand why those words are often spoken. I do find myself smiling when remembering, and that's a far cry from where I was one year ago.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
This morning I volunteered at the San Diego Brain Tumor Walk. I volunteered to do this several weeks ago, but had not heard from them until just a few days ago. Believe it or not I was actually looking forward to this. I still feel a strong affinity to the National Brain Tumor Society, and all that they do. And even though their efforts couldn't keep Michael alive, their work does help fund the research that gave him almost two wonderful years post surgery.
During the two years of fighting Michael's cancer I became very involved in the NBTS, participating in a few of their conferences, and attending some of their support groups with Michael. The people in the West Coast office, located in San Francisco, became a part of our journey. They were always so welcoming when ever we saw them. After Michael died they sent me a lovely card with messages personally written to me that made it clear that they knew who we were as a couple. This meant a lot to me. I last saw them this past spring when I helped raise funds at their San Francisco Brain Tumor Walk. Back then they were excited to see me back, and a couple of them mentioned that they were reading my blog.
Today I was hoping to see a familiar face, as that doesn't happen much now that I am in a new city. Other than the few friends that I have in the area, none of the people that I see know of my loss, or of the connection I have to the brain tumor community.
I arrived at the designated park in the Mission Bay promptly at 7 am this morning. The first thing I saw was a group of tents and tables being constructed around the park. I started walking toward the National Brain Tumor Society's table, and sure enough, one of the wonderfully sweet women from their organization was standing there. Her smiling face, and look of surprise truly lifted my spirits. "Dan, what are you doing here?" Well, I moved here recently. "How are you? And, how are the kids?" And so the conversation went. This was a great way to start the day. Recognition, and connection. I felt validated for who I was, and what I have been through.
I then went to straight to work in the registration area. I was assigned to record all the funds coming in during the fundraiser. It was a very busy job, and the woman I was assigned to work with was very nice. Most of our morning was so busy we barely had time to introduce ourselves to each other. Finally there was a lull, which gave her the opportunity to ask how I came to find out about this event. Without skipping a beat I explained that my husband died from a brain tumor. I could see the shock that went across her face. She offered her condolence, and then I quickly shifted the question right back to her. Turns out she works at an oncology clinic.
This acknowledgement of Michael dying from a brain tumor went easier than in the past. I recognized that these acknowledgments don't have to incite deep emotions, or at least outward emotion. I am becoming better at integrating the past with the present. I am learning that I can do this, feel pain, take a breath, and keep moving forward. This is a significant development.
When I was done with my volunteer assignment I realized that I needed to leave. I had done as much as I could, and felt that staying for some of the victory speeches would not be good for me. I got into my car, and had a good cry. I tried to not get too caught up in crying, so I eventually pulled myself together and called Michael's mother. We had a really good conversation, which made me realize how much I have missed not seeing and talking to her. She doesn't understand how I can continue to raise money for the NBTS when "they failed Michael," but I just let her speak her truth. We all need to get through this in our own way.
I am back at home, and busy planning a meal for my parents' first visit to my home tomorrow. My older brother and sister in law are bringing my parents here. I'm planning on sharing some of the foods that Michael and I enjoyed. Nothing special, but it's a way for me to feel like we had our own family traditions, and way of living, that I can now share with my own extended family.
Michael is alive and well in my heart. Exactly where I will carry him the rest of my life.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Today was definitely a me day. I was up and out of the house fairly early, as I drive both boys to school in the morning. When I returned back to the house I decided that I wanted to finally finish unpacking and organizing the house. There wasn't much left to do, but the project I wanted to accomplish made a huge difference in the space we use as a study. My son Remy was quite impressed when he returned home from school. This made me feel really good.
At mid morning I had an appointment at a new spa that opened here in town. I had noticed an advertisement, and called to speak to the owner. She was thrilled to have what was likely her first customer. When I arrived she excitedly gave me a tour of the whole facility, and I could see that she really wanted some feedback and encouragement. It's wasn't hard to muster this, as she had done a really nice job with the place. Their treatments are very reasonably priced, and they had a promotion due to just opening the facility today. Everyone was being so attentive during the two hours that I was there. It was almost uncomfortable being pampered with so much attention, but once I gave into to it I was feeling good.
From there I went to meet with a tattoo artist in Hillcrest. His shop had a really nice write up online, and I got a good vibe from him. He did some preliminary sketching on my arm with some ideas that we spoke about. I am having a half sleeve completed on my left arm where most of my recent grieving tattoos are placed. I told the artist that I want to have all my ink come together to look complete. I also want to include some Kanji that symbolized acceptance of fate. He asked why I had my lotus flower done in black and gray, since it is usually such a vibrant and colorful flower. I explained what I had been going through at the time, and that it fit where I was in my journey. He suggested adding some color, as he like to have any piece that is something that should be alive, really pop out with color. I told him I liked his thinking, and wanted to whole thing to feel like I have come through a major part of my journey.
I think I am arriving at a place where I feel ready to start adding some vibrant color to my life. I
recognize that I need, and want, pleasure in my life. I want to be more comfortable receiving someones attention. I want to enjoy that which I already have, more fully. I want to find new things, and new people, to become part of the enjoyment of my life.
In researching the Kanji symbol that I want, I came across the symbol for Acceptance of Fate, and this is what I found. This word is hard to define. One dictionary defines this as, "acceptance of fate and happy about it". There is one rare English word equivalent which is sanguinity.You can also say that this means, "Be happy with whatever Heaven provides", or "Find happiness in whatever fate Heaven bestows upon you". This is kind of a way to suggest being an optimist in life.
I have decided that this is a symbol I can commit to. What it symbolizes is what I am aiming for. In spite of the many hardships I have gone through, I want to come out of this remaining optimistic. And why shouldn't I want that. If I am going to get through this then there needs to be something worth getting through it for. I may not always feel this way, and I may not always easily identify that which can bring me happiness, but here, today, I want to make this commitment.
Consider me a sanguine person. I accept that this is what life has brought me, and I'm going to find happiness in spite of it, and because of it.