Saturday, October 30, 2010

Namaste


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to all of you.

God bless, and Namaste.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Recovery

head in a fog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 28, 2010

real time confession

Confession on Good Friday

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

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

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

What's real?

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

What is my reality?

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

Dan, in real time?

Not quite as far along as I would like.

Not quite as far along as I present.

Is this real enough?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

sign here

42-15535403

October 2009-mounds of paper work.

sign here.

sign here.

provide us with a copy of the death certificate.

provide us with a copy of your marriage license.

sign here.

sign here.

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

the end of a life.

the end of a chapter.

what's the point?



October 2010-mounds of paper work.

sign here.

sign here.

provide us with copies of bank statements.

provide us with verification of income.

sign here.

sign here.

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

starting over.

beginning a new chapter.

well worth it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Validation


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

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

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

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


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

Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple Gestures

Conversación / Conversation

Tonight I feel blessed.

Tonight I was visited by two friends.

Two friends of Michael's.

Two friends of mine.

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

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

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

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

Yes folks, it's that simple.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Polygamy Anyone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Transformation

23. September 2010 - Fullmoon - Beginning of Autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

It Wasn't Meant To Be

Keep on Moving

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

It wasn't meant to be.

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

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

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

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

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

I can keep moving.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Where the Hell Am I?

I don't know where am I..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where the hell am I?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Without You I Am Nothing























Sadness looms, but I'll be okay.

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

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

Male machismo at it's best.

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

Even writing this chokes me up.

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

Without you, I am nothing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Alternate Universe

MEDITATION / OKTAVDSAINT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accepting Loss



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Year...since starting this blog.

Two Years...since exchanging those vows.

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

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

Accepting Loss

Monday, October 18, 2010

Signing On the Dotted Line



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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until death do us part.

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

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

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



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

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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Resounding Approval

Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

House Hunting












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


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


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


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


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


Perhaps you can call it a hopeful day.


Yes, that is what I will call it.


Hopeful.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Keep Going, Growing, Change.

Keep Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Starting From A Place of Sadness

distance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tears. Yes, it takes tears.

Breathing. Yes, breathing is also essential.

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

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

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



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

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What A Nice Spread





















Pitiful Me goal update.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Asked someone out.




















Well, not to disappoint anyone, but no, I didn't make any progress on my big pitiful to do list. But don't you worry, I am still working on it.


Today something else happened...I asked someone out on a date!


Okay, don't get too excited, as I am stretching the truth here. Part of my training on the new job, is to have another senior worker go out with me on any of my new cases. One of the women in the office has been assigned the primary responsibility of training me during this initial phase. I asked her into my office early in the day, and wanted to discuss one of the new cases I was assigned. After getting her advice on a couple of things I asked her if she was free on Monday, as I needed someone to accompany me on this home visit. She said she had another appointment scheduled during that time, but may be able to move some things around. Just about that time,my supervisor walked into my office. She asked how things were going, and I told her about my new case. She then said, "now don't be shy, remember to ask people out!"


At this I started laughing. I said to her, well, I just asked Kendra out, but she turned me down. They both saw the humor in this and started laughing. I then told them that this was excellent practice for me. Not only will this help with my job training, it will help me to practice my long lost dating skills. More laughter. I then went on to say that I am actually failing really, as my first proposed date was with a married heterosexual woman, and she turned me down! More laughter. My last words were, well it's a start.


Really, it is a start. I find that it is quite difficult to ask for help. I find it even more difficult to ask for friendship. I will be absolutely pitiful when it comes to asking someone out on a date. So in this way, every opportunity to stretch my wings, and try to fly instead of tanking, is good.


Later in the day I was able to further practice these skills. In my new job I have the unique experience of having another male in my unit. Being a social worker has meant that I am constantly surrounded by very loving, and caring women. There are men in the field, but they are a rare exception. Since I started at the office I have been out on home visits with most of the women at the office. I have also been out to lunch with most of them as well. I have done neither of these with the other guy. I thought about it today, and realized that he is likely just as shy as I am.


Now, I know that in baseball there are three strikes and your out. I'm not a baseball fan, but I know that the odds of hitting a home run are slim to none. But I thought I should try. I wondered why it was so difficult for me just to extend my hand in friendship to others, especially men. I have always had a very large group of female friends. Hell, I'm friends with most of the women in Canada at this point! I'm not going to try to analyze why I don't have many male friends, as that will be something to explore with more time and detail later, but I know that I need to have male friends.


I told myself to 'start being the change I desired.' Yes, very wise words. I walked over to the guy's office, and started a friendly conversation. I then asked if he would be interested in having lunch together this, or next, week. I told him that I would like to get to know him, and wonder if this was something he was open to. He responded quite nicely, and we agreed to try to fit in a lunch this week.


Hey, maybe this isn't has hard as I initially thought. Maybe all I have to do is ask.


Talk about big progress. All in one work day! Who knows, I could have multiple men lined up by weeks end. With just a little success, I could be engaged by the end of the month. Who knows, I may be inviting all of your to a wedding by the end of the year!


Okay, back to reality. One day at a time. One friendship at a time. Hey, did I just accomplish goal number 3?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Poor Poor Pitiful Me.

givuf the light, and i shall cast dark judgment and self pity aside (self portrait)

It's official. I have the most pitiful life.

Ever.

This is not one of those posts where I go on and on about just sitting, and not getting anything done. I actually accomplished quite a bit today. It was my day off, as we were supposed to be celebrating Columbus Day, what a joke. I don't mean to offend anyone, but really, if I show up at your home and take it over, will you name a holiday after me as well? Discovery, my ass.

No, my pitifulness is nothing earth shaking, and not even a new revelation. It's just that I am getting pretty darn tired of seeing myself mope around here in my home, or in this world for that matter.

My god, I waste so much time staring into this computer. It's really sad. It's like I have suspended time, and just sit here observing the real world from a short distance. I don't feel like I am participating much. I have really kind of lost my connection to my immediate world. I haven't been to yoga in a week. Now I have some really good excuses, namely that my older son was having so many problems lately that I couldn't really leave the house, or my younger son, unattended. That said, there was no excuse for not getting my tired, and increasingly sagging, ass to the gym.

I tell you what, there is always the flip side of things. You know, that silver lining crap. Well, the ones enjoying this current lining are my animals. They are just in hog heaven having me around to boss around, and to receive endless amounts of affection. It is so pitiful, I have slept the past few nights with all three of them, Ranger, Fido and Carelli, all on top of my bed. There is barely room for me!

Let me tell you, not to long ago I was the last person you would expect to see around any animals. I'm not really that nature, cuddly, kind of guy. It wasn't until Michael got sick, and his aunt Nancy died, that I brought home this big fat cat, Carelli, to join our happy household. And I'm allergic to cats. See how out of sync I am? Once Carelli arrived, I decided we needed to allow for the dog my daughter had wanted, so there we were, a happy couple, well, happy with cancer in our lives, three kids and two animals. Whew, what a change of lifestyle.

You all know the story of Fido, how he conned me into bringing him into this house, and into my damn heart. What the hell is wrong with me. I should be bringing a man into my bed, not another dog! Have I become a cat lady? Is there an equivalent, being a guy, and having dogs and cats? It's really scary. Next thing you know I will be buying all kinds of cutesy, kitsch shit with animals on them, and place them all around the house. Maybe I'll also become a hoarder, and just disappear into the house all together.

As I was driving around today, getting all this home loan shit done, I was thinking this, I have no life! I'm not even motivated to really care much. Did you know that I have two flat screen televisions with DVR's, fully loaded with all cable channels, and they rarely get turned on? Hell, I rarely get turned on these days.

Somethings got to give. I can't keep going on like this. It's definitely time to make a commitment to start partaking in life again. Maybe somebody who is reading this will run into me somewhere, grab a hold of me, shake me, and shout, "get on with your life!" I am seriously worried that this grief thing has so weighed me down, that I don't even realize that I haven't been up for air in some time.

Maybe drastic times call for drastic measures. I think I should set some new goals this week.

1. Go out and get drunk.
2. Get laid for gosh sake!
3. Can you at least make one damn friend?
4. Hit the gym.
5. See if you can find your way back to the yoga studio.

Well, it's a start. If you have been observing my pitiful life, and have found yourself thinking that it's time for me to make a move, then let me have it. This is your chance. Don't hold back. Throw out ideas. Shout out the epitaphs you were preparing in the event of my demise. I can take it. The time is now. Strike while the iron is hot.

Yeah, all of that!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Padmasana






Tonight's time and energy were put forth in seeking a new image for my blog. When I first created this blog, almost one year ago, the background was in black, and the image was somewhat stoic. That was where I was at the time.

About six months ago I redesigned the look with a grey background, and with the image of opening doors. The image was one that I really connected with. It was a passage way, with a bright light glowing beyond the long dark hall, and through the opening doors. It spoke, again, of where I was at. I was on a journey, and had a better sense of where I was headed.

In anticipation of this next phase of my writing, coming to the one year mark of this blogs beginning, I wanted to push myself further. I am a very visual person. There has been one thing that was constant in my life, and that is the image on my blog. I return to it each night to begin my daily post. It comforts me in being so familiar. It keeps me centered, and reminds me that I continue on the same journey each day.

It is now time to shift once again. It is time to push myself toward a vision of life that has a better sense of renewal. I know that I won't always feel so renewed, yet it is part of my daily mantra. If I seek renewal, then I will find it. When I cannot imagine renewal, I will look to the images, and words, here to remind myself of this ongoing journey.

On my left arm are these words: Peace Comes From Within, Do Not Seek It Without.

These words are with me always. They float through my consciousness each day, especially as I begin and end my yoga.














Lotus Position: Padmasana, or Lotus Pose, named so because the position puts the souls of the feet up, reminiscent of a lotus flower. The prime position for meditation, it is the most renowned of all Hatha Yoga postures.

The lotus flower is a symbol of purity, and the Lotus Pose is a frequent pose for meditation and pranayama, or breathing exercises. Breath is the purifying power in the human body; deep, slow breathing purifies and energizes our bodies. This spiritual meaning of the lotus flower is transferred into yoga asana practice in the form of the seated meditation posture.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beauty Shop

Mission Beauty Shop

Today I was thinking about all the times I would accompany my mother to her Saturday morning hairdo appointments. This was of course when I was a young boy, maybe around 9 or 10. I consider these years my formative years. They definitely contributed to my well appreciated 'queer eye' for things, but more importantly, they were the beginning of my appreciation for how women turn to each other for support.

The first thing I noticed about the beauty shop was that nothing was sacred. You could talk about anyone, and anything, and I believed that for the most part, it stayed there. You could talk about your lovely husband, and how he surprised you with a special gift or dinner, or you could talk about what a piece of shit he was for not taking out the trash. You could talk about your son's standing on his sports team, and you could talk about your daughter's new boyfriend.

Sometimes the discussions were light, and there was lots of laughter, and sometimes more serious, and you might get a hug, and some supportive advice.

Mesh rollers under the dryer

I loved walking into the shop and listening to the many women. I think there was something magical happening. They were there to have their hair done. They were wanting to walk out changed. There was a process going on in which the aesthetics of being themselves was being transformed, if only for that week. It gave them the sense of rediscovering their beauty. It provided them with strength, and given the amount of hairspray used in those days, it gave them their armor as well.


















Today I had my day at the shop. I went in also wanting some kind of aesthetically pleasing change. I wanted to walk out wearing something beautiful. I also sought this change as a way of giving me inner strength to return to my world, and I wanted to wear this change as my armor.

Getting Ink

I'm sure all of you know where I was today. No, not the beauty shop, but yes, the tattoo shop. I couldn't drag either of my boys with me, which is surprising, as you would think they would jump at the chance to watch their dad get tortured for hours. But my experience at the shop was really no different than my mother's some 40 years ago. My mother always had her usual 'girl' who did her hair. I had my usual 'girl' in San Francisco, and now have my usual 'guy' here in San Diego. Granted my appointments cost a hell of a lot more money than my mother's did back in the 60's, but I imagine with inflation, her hair appointments would likely cost close to what I pay for my ink work.

Beard Tattoo - 4th Sep 10 No3

My appointment was not just a time to get more ink done, but it was another opportunity to spend the afternoon talking with my 'guy' Keith. We talked about general things, like the weather, what was in the news, and our addiction to Starbucks. We then quickly moved to more important subjects, such as our kids and families. During my visit I received a text from my brother in law. It was one of those chain texts where you need to forward them to 10 people in order to receive some type of benefit. Today's text was about "I Love You Day." When I got the text I laughed, which quickly got Keith wondering what it said. I shared with him how far Michael's brother had come with sharing his feelings, and especially accepting, and celebrating his brother's gay marriage. I shared about how much my brother in law values the relationship I had with Michael, and how much love I shared with the whole family.

This naturally led to a deeper conversation about death. Keith carefully chose his words, and let me know that he did not know what it must be like to go through what I am going through. He talked about how different it must be to lose your spouse, as oppose to another type of loss. He often wondered how he would survive without his wife should he lose her. It was once again, one of those rare opportunities for me to talk about my experience, and to have a very active and interested listener. I have now spent close to 10 hours spread over three appointments, talking to Keith, and allowing him to understand the connection I seek between my tattoos and my loss of Michael. This is similar to the experience I had with my 'girl' Kelly back in San Francisco.

It makes me appreciate the type of person who chooses to enter the field of aesthetics. They offer us the chance to sit, and to enjoy each other's company. They also provide us with the aesthetic beauty we seek in going to their shop.

We walk out with strength and confidence. We walk out with our armor reinforced.



On a funny note, we also walk out, or end the day, with a household product covering our renewed beauty. Once my mother returned home, she seemed to immediately wrap her new 'do' with toilet paper and a bobby pin. This was supposed to preserve her 'do' for as long as possible. I left the tattoo shop with my arm wrapped in saran wrap. We spend all that time and money creating beauty, only to cover ourselves with a cheap household item found on isle 3 of our local grocery store.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Want to Hold Your Hand

















Our hands.

Mine, holding his.




Lately my real time life keeps getting intersected with my blog writing. I don't know what it is, or why it is happening, but it seems that suddenly people are talking to me about my writing. Friends, family, and new acquaintances, are mentioning that they are reading my blog, then reach out, in words, to support me.

Comforting. Yes. Yet, I am also aware of this making me feel quite vulnerable. For the first time since beginning my writing, I am feeling quite exposed. People have asked me at times during the past year, if I felt too exposed. Many stated that they could never do what I do, as to much of what I write feels too private. This kind of conversation makes me come back to the reason why I am here.

Why am I here?

In about 10 days it will be my wedding anniversary, and it will also mark the one year anniversary of the beginning of this blog. It is making me stop to ask myself, why am I writing? I know why I began writing, but why do I write today? I have never gone back to read any of my past posts. It is something that I don't really want to revisit. I have a cognitive memory of the pain and devastation that I felt, and my heart it not ready to remember those days. Yet one thing is clear to me, I don't remember wondering what people thought. I don't remember feeling over exposed, and I don't remember giving it a second thought.

I'm now realizing that I was so very numb at the time. I was in shock, as my whole being had been traumatized. These days that layer of numbness is disappearing, and I am feeling things at a whole new level. I am feeling extremely vulnerable, and I find myself in deep tears at the most inopportune times.

I will say that it has been lovely to hear people speak to me of my writing. On each occasion there has been the immediate offer of sympathy, which has always been hard for me to accept. I have heard myself say it many times to others, Gosh, I am so sorry for your loss. I don't know if others are saying it differently recently, but I do know that I am accepting it differently.

You know, I hesitate to speak so openly lately. There are so many ways in which I have moved forward with my life. There are so many day to day challenges that require me to be strong, and to keep myself, and my family, moving forward. Yet, and I do realize I am saying yet an awful lot, I am hurting on a whole new level. The pain does not last as long, but cuts deeper than before. Today at the gym, I was meeting with a trainer. She asked what happened to change my work out habits during the past couple of years. I looked up at her and said, my husband got sick, and died. I must have looked pathetic, but she responded so sweetly. Right there in that moment, I wanted to just fall apart.

What harsh words.

What a harsh reality.

Tonight I was watching a taped episode of Glee. The storyline dealt with issues of faith and religious tolerance. The subtext for the episode was that Kurt's father had suffered a heart attack, and was in critical condition. He didn't know whether or not he would lose his father forever. He sang this song, "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It hit me like a ton of bricks. I so need to touch Michael's hand. I so need to feel him here with me. And, I so know that it will never be.

I don't want to be a person that dwells on the past. I don't want to bore people with always whining about losing my husband. I don't want to waste my time, and possibilities, by yearning for something that just can't be. But right now, I don't really know what else to do. This is where I am at.

Part of me really wants to meet someone new. Part of me really wants to lay in bed holding onto someone, or having him hold on to me. Yet, here it is again, I worry about the flood of held back tears that might fall when that first happens. I worry that I will completely overwhelm him with my response.

I have had people reach out to hold my hand. I have had plenty of hugs along the way. I know that when it happens, that someone reaches out for me in a romantic way, that I will feel, and receive, this touch in a very different way. I don't think I will be that strong person anymore. I think I will crumble to the floor.

I know that this will be the case, yet it is still something that I will seek.

I want to hold his hand.




Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sleep


So here is my son Remy, laid out on the living room sofa, fast asleep while I talk on the phone with my daughter. In the next room is Dante, sprawled out across his bed, which lately looks two sizes too small for him.

Let's not forget Ranger, who is currently sleeping in Dante's laundry basket. I'm not exactly sure how he came to sleep inside the basket, but he looks quite cozy. Fido has been quietly curled up on the large pet bed across from me, and Carelli seems to move back and forth from sleeping on top of Remy, and over to the love couch across the room I had a wonderful talk with my daughter, mostly listening to her describe a difficult period she is going through, but hearing her express it in a calm and thought out manner. Evidence of growth.

It all seems so simple. One would look at this picture, and when doing the math, would see that it adds up to a pretty peaceful place to be. Then why did I sit at work resisting the realization that it was time to go home.

You know, it's horrible when your spouse dies, leaving you alone to cope with life. It's absolutely cruel if they do it when the kids are all going through adolescence.

I did not sit down to whine in front of all of you. No, really, I didn't. I just feel so damn tired of all the strife that is common here in my home. I'm am tired of facing problems that are so beyond simple explanation or solution. It's not that I didn't have to deal with these same complex challenges before hand. And it's not as if Michael was always able to contribute to the problem solving that these challenges present. It's that I am alone with it all.

I'm feeling like the pace of life that I was enjoying this summer, has become completely annihilated. I enjoy where I am working, but it's just that by the fact that I am back to working that I find myself feeling just as overwhelmed, an exhausted. So much of what I accomplished for myself this summer, is already vanishing. I know I need to bring it all back, but since I am dealing with so much again, I find it too easy to just withdrawal.

I guess that what I am trying to say, but having a difficult time doing so, is that I wish for a more carefree kind of existence. How can I get it? How do I sustain it? And, is it even possible.

I envy each of these sleeping creatures that surround me right now. I know that none of them are sleeping with out a worry in their little heads. Oh, contrar. I know that they each have their demons, and that when push comes to shove they do work toward through that day's worries.

I suppose that what I most need right this minute, is to sleep. I need to take notice of how my family is dealing with life as we speak. Tonight's agenda, of which I was not given notice, is to just shrug it all off, and zone out. Not such a bad idea.

There you have it, a less than thought out post. But one that has caused me to reflect on what can be done to replenish my soul.

Sleep.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food for Thought

Reflecting

I just got off the phone with one of my brothers. He and I have a lot in common, as
we are both raising special needs kids that we adopted. He and his wife lovingly chose to open their hearts and home for their kids, and now are living a life that most cannot imagine. Unfortunately for me, I can.

My brother is experiencing what many would say is a very difficult time with his kids, mainly his 7 year old son. His kids are fraternal twins, a boy and a girl. They are both cute as can be, and full of love and life. Yet they, like my kids, suffered from a very traumatic entry into this world.

When my brother first called me tonight, he asked how I was.

I'm doing okay.

It was a flat out lie. I knew it, and he knew it. We quickly went into the topic at hand. He is struggling with the day to day challenges, and trauma, that goes along with raising children like ours. I give him a lot of credit. He is hanging in there. I also give my sister in law a lot of credit, as she is hanging in there as well. And as my brother said to me tonight, other people can admire, and respect, the choices we made to adopt and raise these kids, the reality is that they have no fucking clue what our daily life is all about.

At one point in the conversation my brother began sharing with me how the daily challenges affect their marriage, and how difficult it is to make time to deal with the relationship issues when there are already so many fires to put out. At one point I was trying to stress to him how important it is to give the relationship priority, even when it seems that the kids should come first. At one point he said he understood what I was talking about. At that point I stopped him, and sternly told him that he has no clue what I am talking about.

My tone through my brother for a loop. He didn't see it coming. But he immediately understood why I said it. I told him that although he has always been very supportive of me, and has always given me love and respect, he has no clue what my life is like anymore. I told him that all the people who love me think they know, but fortunately for them, they are clueless.

I then told my brother this. When you asked how I was doing, and I said I was okay, I was lying to you. When you asked how the kids were doing, and I said they were doing fine. I lied to you. When you hear strength in my voice, and you tell yourself that I seem to be doing well, you are lying to yourself.

I then found myself fighting back tears as I explained how important it is to work on your relationship. He could tell that my voice was quivering, but he seemed a bit uncomfortable with this. He then told me that even though he and his wife have had a much more difficult time parenting than they ever imagined, or that they have challenges within their relationship, he knows that he would not be the person he is today without his wife. He told me that it is because of her that he went on to college, and began his career. It is because of his wife that he has the self esteem that is present each day in his work. I stopped him, and asked him to please stop talking for a minute. I then said that there is one thing that he can do today, that can bring such new life into his relationship today, and that is to tell his wife of this revelation, not me.

Tears rolled down my face as I reminded him not to take life for granted. I explained that no matter how difficult his life is today, it will be difficult beyond his imagination, or beyond his worse fears, should he lose his wife. I explained that I didn't want that for him, and to please take my words to heart.

In the end my brother thanked me for giving him of my time, and for sharing what I did. Before hanging up he said, well, it is all food for thought.

My response was, then, feed yourself.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Caprica-A Cure for Human Grief


A cure for human grief.

Would you take it?

Life after death?

Virtual Heaven.



Michael was a big science fiction guy. He introduced me to his favorite show, Battlestar Galactica, which quickly became one of my favorite shows. We taped the shows on the DVR and watched them over and over. We were so disappointed when the creators chose to end the series, as nothing else on television seemed to capture our minds in the same way.

When Michael's memory started failing him I loved watching how comforted he felt in watching these shows. Then late that last Spring, it was announced that there would be a prequel to the series, Caprica. We were both so excited. While out shopping one day I saw that there was an early release of a two hour series premiere that was being sold prior show to being aired. I snatched the DVD up so quickly, and couldn't wait to present it to Michael. We both watched the DVD with delight, and then he said he couldn't wait until this new series began.

Since Michael was becoming more and more house bound, I wanted this show to begin as soon as possible, yet I could not find out when it would begin. As the summer of 2009 began to pass, I could see that Michael's days were numbered, and that the series was not yet on the schedule. Before his brain took it's final exit, we found out that the series would finally air in January 2010. This was a crushing blow for me. I felt so angry that this, as other things, would be occurring after Michael's death. It broke my heart whenever he would ask about the start of the new series.

Last January the series finally did premiere. At first I decided not to watch it, as I didn't want to find joy in this now that Michael was gone. But as the days drew nearer I decided that because he was so looking forward to it I needed to watch it for both of us. I watched it through tears.

Now that the second half of the first series begins again tonight, I find myself contemplating the premise of the new story line.

A cure for human grief.

Would you take it?

Life after death?

Virtual Heaven.



Creating an avatar of your loved one would mean the ability to maintain contact with them in a virtual world. All those unspoken thoughts could be spoken, all those unlived dreams could be realized. No more grieving. Just plug in, and your are back with the one you lost.


A cure for human grief.

Would you take it?

Life after death?

Virtual Heaven.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Nude



In looking for a photo to capture the essence of yesterday's post, I did a search using the word vulnerable. I had a vague idea of what I wanted in a photo, but nothing as clear as I usually search for. What most might not expect, is that I spend the same amount of time searching for the right photo as I do writing each post. Maybe it's because I always have a feeling for what it is I am searching for, but not necessarily something concrete.

I have a great amount of respect for the various photographers that provide their photos for use. I use my account with Flickr, as I never want to use someones work without the photo being linked right back to them.

Yesterday's photo really struck me in a very visceral way. I have found myself going back to my blog throughout the day, and really taking in my response to the photo. I have tried to understand why it is that I am so drawn to the photo. In looking at it again tonight, I see it clearly, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out.

I love the complete vulnerability that comes with nudity. I'm not talking about right in your face pornography, but subtle, and sensual nudity.

I love the human body. And let's speak the obvious, I love the male human body. I am a very visual person, so a picture like this pulls at my deep emotional core. In my life, my sexuality, and my sensuality, are quite entwined. This is not to say that I don't sometimes find myself separating the two, as at times I feel more sensual, and at times I feel more sexual. But for the most part, I enjoy the fact that these two can play off of each other, and that it feels very natural for me.

I truly appreciate how vulnerable it feels to be nude in another person's presence. I enjoy the experience of relating to other people without hiding, or guarding myself with clothing. Being in a relationship provides for this experience, and takes it to a higher plain for me. Being nude with another person allows me to feel fully alive, and fully present. It allows me to expose not just my body, but my vulnerabilities as well.

I sit here remembering the comfort, the love, the intimacy, the vulnerability, the passion, and the humor, that being nude with Michael gave me. There was nothing like it. I miss it greatly. Yes, I miss him, but I must say that I also miss his beautiful body. I miss sharing my body with him. I miss the joy that being nude with him brought into my life.

I yearn for that level of intimacy with someone again. I want so badly to tap into the distinct connection that happens when you are laying there side by side. I miss reaching out to feel his nude body, and to find something so familiar, yet so exhilarating at the same time.

That part of my life cannot be over. That part of being human is central to my experience of life.

I need it. I want it. I seek it.

Nude.