Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Empty Chairs

Almost Tristesse

I've been sitting here in my living room, with a fire going, trying to busy myself all evening on this computer. It is as quiet as ever. My son has been in his room playing games online, but even he has been quiet for quite some time. I figure he must have fallen asleep while playing, which is what tends to happen each evening.

I have been reworking my profile on the social networks, in hopes of creating some new friendships. I was even bold enough to send out a few emails these past couple of days to guys that seemed to have similar interests, but to no avail.

I keep wondering, what the hell am I doing here?

I don't even really know what I mean by this question. Am I wondering what I am doing here in San Diego? Was this a good move for me? Am I wondering why I sit here every night rather than get out of the house? Am I wondering how it is that I find myself in the state of mind, with these circumstances, with my husband dead, and me alone? Or am I wondering why I am still here on this earth?

Last week my cousin's young adult daughter went into the hospital to have her fourth baby. The doctors had told her to stop getting pregnant, as it was too much of a strain on her body. She was scheduled for a cesarean, and while in surgery, began to bleed out, and almost died. It was touch and go for most of the week, and everyone was preparing for the worst. I'm told that she had another surgery a couple of days ago, and it looks like she is going to make it.

Yesterday, one of my second cousins had a massive stroke. He is only 50 years old. I'm told that he was out having lunch with his son, and began to feel quite ill. He has been in a coma ever since. It's my understanding that his is experiencing intra-cranial bleeding, and may not pull through. Again, everyone is in shock.

I have been having ongoing telephone conversations with various family members, all trying to keep up with how each of our family members are doing. It's a crazy time. I've felt bad, as the cousin who's daughter is still struggling in the hospital, is one who I was very close to growing up. A couple of years ago, I left Michael at home with the kids, arranged for someone to check in on him, as he was still going through chemo, and flew down to So. California to be with my cousin when her father was dying. It was my father's only surviving brother, and I knew that he, and my cousin, could use some support. A week later, Michael, the kids, and I, drove back down to attend my uncle's funeral. I introduced Michael to my cousin, as she didn't attend our wedding. I never even got a response from her. Within the year, Michael was also dead, and once again, I never got any acknowledgement from my cousin. It hurt me so much. My parents keep trying to make sense of it. They keep thinking that of course she meant to contact me, after all, we have always been so close. And yet, nothing.

You know, I have many wonderful relatives, many of whom came to our wedding, or sent gifts and cards to us. I had many who sent lovely cards and messages, when Michael died. I also have many, like my cousin, who have never even acknowledged my loss. This is very painful to me. At this point, I choose not to participate in any type of gathering that might include family members that have chosen to look away from me, or to acknowledge that I had a love, or that I lost my love.

Sitting here, with the glass doors all around me, I can see the empty patio chairs that I have tastefully arranged on my back deck. There are six of them, all positioned into a square, all ready to be occupied by visitors. I start to wonder, who will fill those chairs? Will there be a time when I will have friends in the area, or family members willing to make the drive here, just to sit, and visit.

You know, I'm a private person, and yet, I'm also a social person. I don't like large loud groups, but I do like being surrounded by people that I love, and that love me in return. Lately, I tend to think that those that see themselves as close to me fail to see how empty my life continues to be. They fail to see that without Michael here beside me, I am empty.

There are chairs all around my house. Empty.

In my darker moments, I start to wonder why certain people have to be taken away so young. I think I am almost there with not questioning about Michael being taken so soon. He is gone, and I accept that. But if I am perfectly honest, I must say that I also sometimes wonder why I am not taken. Why is my cousin lying in a coma? Why is my niece still in the intensive care rather than home with her new baby? Why are these young people so close to death, when there is someone right here who wouldn't be too bent out of shape to get his exit papers?

Don't worry, I'm not suicidal or anything. It's just that in the past I was part of a couple, a fairly young, and new couple, who people looked at and said, why them? I was the one left standing, with people looking at me and saying, why him? I'm no longer part of something young and vibrant. I'm now someone who people would say, well, at least he is now with Michael again. Isn't that strange? Somehow, I think people would feel like it was okay, that maybe I would now be happy again.

I'm surviving. But I am empty.

Just thoughts that are occupying my head.


  1. you and i are having the same thoughts. i, too, am so empty. nothing brings me joy. very little brings a smile. i smile at work but it is performance art. i have to smile. the moment i step out of the store, the smile drops as if turned off by a switch.

    i, too, feel that the handful of people who know me now would say when i die, "well, she is with her Dragon now. it's where she wants to be."

    but then, my daughter needs me, or i need her. i need her to be alright. i cannot leave this earth before i know that she will be alright. i cannot die before my two little dogs. i do not want to leave them to this hostile world.

    it is all so heart-breaking. i wish you peace, Dan. peace and light.

  2. oh, and those who do not acknowledge the loss of Michael, your husband, and who do not see your pain, are deserving of only the cursory nod to Christian charity. beyond that, they do not deserve to be close to you. they only bring judgement and pain. as my grandmother used to say about people who lack empathy and compassion, "lock the door and speak only through a screened window."


  3. I have that same thought - if I died, people would say "at least she's with matt." What a strange turn of events.

  4. This is not advice. Just some thoughts on how I deal with some of the feelings that you've described. I don't have any answers as I'm still struggling with all of this myself, but I can say that I've tried to find ways to push those feelings aside.

    Although I'm an intensely private person, I try to let more people into my life. I'm trying to see these encounters as adventures. Last summer, it was the couchsurfer visit even though the house was so rustic that it seemed nutty. Recently, it was creating an art installation for an event here in this town. What I'm doing is trying to say "Yes" at those times when I would usually say, "No way!" I now seek out those situations where I might find people who click. I wasn't ready for this a year ago, but now, yes, I think so. For example,I'm contemplating joining the community arts group when I get to N.S. this spring. I may also join the "friends of" volunteer group associated with the botanical gardens in the nearest town. My reason for doing such things is not to be part of a group as that's not really my style, but in the past, I have met some really great people in "group" situations. For example, I gave a canoe workshop for a nature center a few years ago. There was a lone woman there who was new to the area and did not have a canoe. I invited her to go out canoeing with me -- sort of going out on a limb to ask -- but she came out with me a week or so later and we eventually became very close friends. Around the same time, I was a guest leader for a hiking club - to lead a nature hike - and met a neat woman who was into herbalism, etc.. so we made arrangements to start hiking together and spent the next couple of summers having some terrific hikes. I realize that many situations are difficult - when we ask others to join us for some activity, or to come over for dinner, or whatever, we are setting ourselves up for possible rejection. However, if we can remain very open and not take being turned down as a personal thing, and just ask another person, or move on -- I think we can make our lives more interesting without actually risking too much.

    Perhaps it would help to take stock of those things you truly love to do - take gardening as an example - and see if there is a group in your area that are into some aspect you find interesting - perhaps there is a group into cacti. There are groups for everything - rhododendrons, roses, cacti, you name it -- and just get out talking with people who share your passion for a thing. The way I feel about all of this is that it is never wasted effort. We learn something new from everyone. Each person we meet builds out personal network just a little more. Although workplace networks have their place, I can honestly say that I have almost never met a "friend" through any job I ever worked at. All of my friends were made through my interest or involvement in things having to do with nature, canoeing, hiking, and the many years that we had dairy goats. So many of those friends are still friends many years later. One of my "goat friends" is flying down to spend 10 days painting with me this month - but neither of us has had goats for a decade now. However, the friendship is still there even though we don't generally see each other for anything more than lunch about once a year.

    Anyhow, I don't know that there is anything useful in what I've written, but I think that what I mean to say is that, sometimes we have to go out on a branch to meet others. The safety net is that it's easier when we have a shared interest. It's just easier to talk to people who share an interest, and based on my own observations in life, certain interest sets go together and we usually click with the type of people who, say, are nuts over gardening, goats, nature, photography, geology, etc...

    Take care.

  5. Dan, it's Jimmy. Glad you're OK, well you know. You are where you are and so are the rest of us. If I could bring Don back I wouldn't. The pain was too much for him and for me. We'll be OK eventually. No promises. Be good to yourself. You are needed.