Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soon Enough

The Wind of Change...

I'm finally close to closing escrow on my new home. It has been a long process in some ways, and not so long in others. It didn't take very long for my wonderful realtor to find this home for me, but I have had to be patient during this whole escrow process.

I found that my initial excitement quickly turned into depression. I think it had a lot to do with the timing of finding the house around the time of my wedding anniversary. A past that I am still grieving converged with a future that looked so beautiful and promising. The end result was anxious anticipation, along with disappointment that I find myself here without Michael.

I am very fortunate to have a house that I absolutely love. It will give me so much to do in way of projects, such as decorating and gardening. Lots of gardening. I know that once I'm in the house that my spirit will once again be lifted from these dark clouds.

I think that change is difficult. Change during times of grief is even more difficult. The reality is that I wouldn't even be here if Michael had not died. Yet, this is what I have chosen given my reality. The challenge before me is to allow myself to be happy. Most people would not likely understand how hard it is to be happy. I find that it takes an enormous amount of effort for me to keep my spirits up during the day. Honestly, I crash each day on my drive home. Sometimes I wonder how I am able to drive given the amount of tears that blur my vision.

I hesitated to share this, as I really wanted to be doing better at this point. Yet, as has been my blog policy, I have to be real with each of you. You know, I never really believed that the second year would be this difficult. I had read other people describe how you then experience your loss without that numb feeling, but I just didn't get it. Now I do.

This will all change. Maybe not as quickly as I would like, but soon enough.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weathering the Winter

:: winter berries ::

Hey friends. I received a newsletter from the American Brain Tumor Association today, which had this great message about coping with the holidays. I thought I would share it with all of you. Here is an abridged version.

Weathering the Winter

Family celebrations, get-togethers with old friends, gift giving and receiving, and spiritual observances are all popular seasonal activities. However, if you recently lost a loved one, these traditions can challenge our time, spirits motivation, and even our health.

You may face an increased pressure to interact with relatives even though you’re not quite up to a visit. You may also feel burdened by the financial pressures of lavish gift-giving, and the need to convey a cheerful demeanor despite your private pain. Try paring down expectations for the perfect holiday.

Once you let go of the guilt of the “wished for” holiday and allow yourself to enjoy what blessings you do have, then you can truly appreciate what the season is all about.

Instead, mark this season as a time of personal growth. You can start by putting your emotional, physical and spiritual needs first, even if it means attending only events that will brighten your spirits. Remember that the true spirit of the season is the mental and emotional renewal gained through the gift of love.

The licensed social workers at the American Brain Tumor Association recommend asking yourself these three questions as you approach the holidays:

• Who and what in my life brings me a sense of thankfulness and gratitude?
• What nourishes my spirit?
• What non-material gifts can I give to others or to myself?

Your answers may surprise you and change the way you approach your holiday season.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This is what I need.

What Do You Need?

I thought I would return to my blog tonight. I realize I have been absent for some time, as I really did need a break from the discipline of writing. I wish I could say it was a welcome break, or that it created space for some fun and enjoyable times, but life doesn't seem to work that way just yet.

The first thing that I found as I didn't write was that I was quite lonely. I have become so used to sharing my every thought and action with so many of you, and I have benefited so much from each of your responses. They really give the acknowledgement that I need. I think it's acknowledgement that while I am making progress, you know that it's a daily struggle. When I realized how difficult it was to not have this, I actually made myself hold back from writing to better understand what it is that I seek, and figure out how I can start having that need fulfilled here at home as well.

I have been going through a pretty bad depression. I have been sinking deeper and deeper, and worrying about where I was headed. The big problem was that I wasn't sharing it with anyone. Fortunate for me, I have a bit of a guardian angel, known as my cousin Fred, who paid me a visit this past weekend. We were able to get out of the house to talk heart to heart. He really gave me a lot to think about. I need to not isolate myself, especially during this difficult period. I need to seek help, support, or just some kind of activity. I don't need to make any major strides, just keep making some kind of effort.

Tonight I went to a meeting/workshop that was supposed to be focused on dealing with your grief during the holiday season. It was held at the Lesbian and Gay Center. I thought I might meet other widowers, yet I didn't find exactly what I was looking for. It was a very small turn out, and the few that did show up seemed to have other compounded issues that needed to be addressed. The end result was that the meeting seemed quite of task, but helpful in the end. I came away realizing how fortunate I am, and how many tools I already have in my grief tool chest.

I recognized that I have maintained a great sense of optimism in spite of my loss. I still see the world as a good place. I still see kindness in people, and I find compassion when I am willing to open up. As I shared at tonight's meeting, I don't go out into the world expecting anyone to take my grief away. I don't want someone to put their arms around me while I cry. It's just not me. When I am in that state I want to be alone. It's when I am alone with my tears that I can feel Michael's love holding me close. What I want in others, is to be willing to hear about my experience, and be willing to share theirs with me. I want serious talk, and some laughter. That is what reminds me that I am still in the land of the living.

In looking ahead at the holidays, I know what I need, and what I don't need. I need to be around my kids, and my family. I need to see the smiles on their faces, and see them interact with joy. I don't need over the top celebrations. I don't like to be around too much laughter quite yet. It is still a bit too painful, and it makes me feel out of place. I don't want to bring people down, or cause them concern. I just want to enjoy every one's company, but in a quiet way.

Therefore, the task at hand for me is to explain to my family what my needs are. I need to give them permission to enjoy the holiday as they like, yet allow me to be myself. I need to ask that they not try to cheer me up. I need to remind them that Michael is still always on my mind, so sharing a memory of him is a welcome gift. I would like them to be gentle with me, and to put their arms around me even if I say I am alright. With this I will be able to slowly come out of my shell. I will feel safe, and I will feel cared for. Most of all, I will feel understood.

What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stick in the Mud

No Fun

Today I went to an all day training sponsored by the agency where I work. It was the usual, long, and tedious amount of sitting, and listening, but I got through it. During the break I went with a group of coworkers to have lunch. Everyone was in a good mood, joking around and sharing stories. Now, I have only known these people a short time, and they have a lot of history together, but I realized that I am such a stick in the mud.

I am far too serious. I don't seem capable of just letting loose, and having a good time. Well, maybe I am, but I seem to take forever to get warmed up. Perhaps it's just that I am out of practice, or that my life has been focused on serious matters for so long.

I think I need to give myself permission to just relax, and have some fun. Why must I always be so serious? I sometimes wonder if I am not allowing myself to have a good time. I thought I was past that. Yet, here I am, sitting at home most of the time, comfortable with the sorrow.

I need a swift kick in the pants.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Patience and Perseverance.

Perseverancia / Perseverance

I am struggling to balance gratitude with sorrow. I wish that I could report differently, but my mood suffers from this double edged blade that cuts through my existence, making progress possible. I have many things to be grateful for. A family that loves and respects me is at the top of my list. I also have friends who always share words of encouragement when we connect. I have a job, and income, and a new home on the horizon. What more could I ask for?

No, I'm not going to ask for something that I cannot have. That would be pointless, and only set me up for disappointment. I suppose I would be better served asking for perseverance.

I have been very excited about the prospect of moving into my new home. I have been planning what needs to be done, and making a list of priorities. I have been thinking about what I will need in the house, as I gave away so much of what I had before leaving San Francisco. Now that I will be moving back into a permanent home, I see that I was a bit over zealous.

This afternoon I took a trip to the local IKEA store. I decided that I would just walk throughout the store, and see what kind of things inspired me. Perhaps it would help me in identifying what my new home lacks, and what I can afford to purchase. I wanted to have some kind of a plan. As I walked through the store it was filled with so many people, all in good spirits, enjoying their outing, and discussing among themselves what would work in their homes. I found this outing to be quite challenging. It really made me acknowledge that I am on my own.

When you shop with others, there is always the playful differences of opinion. "Oh, that would be perfect in our living room." "Are you serious? What house were you thinking of?" When Michael and I combined our homes, we didn't necessarily have the same tastes, but we had fun finding compromise. When we did this we were able to share in the pride of what we created, and we could share in the laughter at the disasters. Doing all this on my own leaves me feeling a bit empty.

I didn't allow my mood to stop me from going through each department in the store, but it made it more work than pleasure. Perhaps that is how it will be for awhile. There will be the ongoing shift between working through my grief, and experiencing the pleasure that life can bring. Like everything else, it will be an up hill climb. I know that I won't always feel so sad, and I know that there will be lots of happy times ahead for me. I going to be patient, and hope that others can be patient with me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Resurrecting Frank

Yesterday I was talking with my new friend and office mate, Gaye. She has taken to reading my blog, and was checking in with me about some of my recently shared thoughts, and primarily about the idea of dating.

"Are you ready?"

Good question to ask. Of course I thought about this, right? If I'm going to put it out there to the universe, and to the guys of Match.com, I should be able to sufficiently answer this. So, when I turned back to Gaye, I had a clear and confident answer, correct? Wrong.

I'm not really sure.

As I was later driving home from work, I began my usual free association of thoughts and feelings. What came to mind was that it was the Day of the Dead. And, in my bizarre, lost in the realm of death, mindset, I asked myself this question. Can the dead be revived? No, I wasn't thinking about Michael. I was thinking about me.

In the last few years I have seen most of my hopes and dreams get killed off. One right after another. To this day, I most often feel like the walking dead. Yes, I am working hard to re-enter the land of the living, but it's not something I can just will myself into. How can I return to feeling that human connection to those not so closely affected by death? How do I enter into new relationships without bringing along a third wheel ghost?

It all has me thinking that I need to find myself a local Dr. Frankenstein to raise me from the dead. I need some new life brought into this dead body and soul of mine. A good place to start would be my damaged and broken heart. Some how my heart needs to be stitched back together so that it will be able to function when that next Mr. Right comes along. With my heart back in working order my blood will be able to start moving throughout my body a little better, and hopefully reanimate my sense of touch, which has gone dormant during this year long winter of grief. And, lets be frank, if the blood is not pumping, then neither will I when the opportunity presents itself. I know that I still have sexual desires, but for quite some time my desires have been more about self soothing than about sharing an experience with another person.

And, as Dr. Frankenstein found with his own creature, with new life there are always expectations, or hope. Hope for what can be. To be ready I need to embrace hope. this in itself is quite scary. Do I trust the universe once again with my heart? Trusting it the last time around brought me exactly what I wanted, yet just as quickly took it away.

I would have to say that right now, I have little hope. But, there is someone who had lots of hope for my future, who did envision me with a new love. Michael. He reminded me all the time that he wanted, and expected, me to find someone else to love. He spoke of my next relationship as a given, which in a small way opened the door for such hope.

Can I be raised from the dead?

Am I ready?

Frankly, I don't really know. Yet, I am willing to allow someone, perhaps me, to flip that switch, and to send forth that surge of energy that will get me started.

Franken me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day of the Dead

The photo accompanying this post is of a Day of the Dead shadow box that Michael and I purchased on our honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. I recognize that the idea of purchasing such an item on our honeymoon might seem a bit morbid, yet it was done in a spirit of joy. We were newly married, and enjoying all the rights and celebrations that any other newlywed couple might. Why wouldn't we appreciate a bit of morbid humor when it comes to souvenirs.

Traditionally, Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday, and celebration, associated with Mexican traditions. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died.

Last year, in remembrance of Michael, I began the alter of items that has since grown, and now surrounds his urn. Throughout the past year, it has come to include many small treasures that my son Remy found at our local swap meet when we lived in San Francisco. It has collected some dried flowers, art work and sweet treats brought over by my daughter Arianne for special anniversary dates associated with Michael or I. It also has a few other small items given to me during the past year by friends, in relation to my grieving process. And of significance, is that now sitting there with these things are our wedding rings, and the urn necklace that I recently removed from my neck. Throughout the year, almost on a daily basis, I have also had tea lights burning, casting a warm glow as I sit, read, or write.

This year I have chosen not to add anything further. I need to begin the process of separation. I want to rely less on inanimate objects, and feel held more by my memories. I had a stronger need to hold onto these small treasures during the last year, and now feel the need to gently push myself a bit further along in my "moving forward" journey. The small treasures will remain on the alter until our next move, yet will not be unpacked when settled into our new home. Some will go into the urn with Michael's ashes, and the others in a keepsake box. I will always cherish these treasures, but not rely on them.

In thinking about Michael on this day, I think it goes without saying that I love and treasure him immensely. He brought so much joy into my life, and provided me with several loving and passionate years. And while I have been in quite an emotional slump these past few days, I can see my way out of it enough to appreciate the gift that Michael was to my life. I have never been more happy than when I was with him. One thing that I want to say today is that I am very grateful to all the people that were part of Michael's life before me. I feel like each and every one of them contributed to the beautiful person he was. Michael was an excellent story teller, and he had so many stories that he loved to tell, and re-tell, about his various adventures in the past. He would start telling me a story, then turn to me and say, "did I already tell you about this?" Of course he had, yet I always smiled and listened to it for the 100th time. It was later such a joy when I would able to meet the people that encompassed the stories, live in person. I would then be able to get the other side of the story, even though Michael always swore that his telling of it was the "truthful version."

I love to now tell 'Michael Stories.' They warm my heart, and put a smile on a face that doesn't have one naturally any longer. I know that in time these stories, and memories, and all the joy they carry, will become more predominate in my life. I know that with each day sorrow will lessen, as it already has. I know that the power of love will prevail, and my love for him, and his love for me, will propel me forward.