Friday, April 20, 2012

Whenever One Door Closes I Hope One More Opens. Promise Me That You'll Give Faith A Fighting Chance

      The title of this post was taken from the song I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack.

     Guilt is such a powerful emotion. It can drive you crazy and leave you feeling empty. Guilt is something that I feel a lot of. I feel guilty that there was nothing I could do to help Mike that day. I feel guilty that I'm not the perfect mother for my kids. I feel guilty when I complain about small things, of all people I know that things can be a lot worse so why complain. I think the worst guilt comes when I'm happy. I don't feel like I deserve to be happy when Mike isn't here. It's a totally irrational thought and I completely understand that, but that doesn't keep me from feeling this way. Mike wouldn't want me to feel this way. Mike would want me to be happy.            
     There's someone pretty special in my life, besides my three amazing angels and my amazing family. John, I've posted stuff by him on here before, allows me to grieve and be who I am right now, and then pushes me to find happy moments. He listens as I go on and on about Mike, and the crazy that is my life right now. It's fun to tell all my stories to someone who has never heard them, and nice to know I can repeat them if I need to find comfort in them. I'm learning how to move forward AND keep Mike's memory alive. Now, if I can keep this delicate balance in check I'll be doing good.
     I want to end this post with a poem that I've read many times over the last year. It really makes me think.

The Dash
By Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth
And now only those who love her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own,
The cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard;
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
And more often wear a smile…
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

You Know Me Well. Better Than Anyone Else.

The title of this post was taken from the song Everything That I Want by Matthew Puckett.

What do I say? What is there to say? Here we are one year later, technically I think he passed away between 8 and 9 am so it really hasn't been a year yet. Yes, I have gone through every agonizing moment up until now. Yesterday every time I looked at the clock I thought about where I was that time last year. One year ago today my alarm was set for 5:30 am. and I started getting the kids up at 6:30. At 7:30....well that's the last time I would see Mike alive, he was sleeping peacefully. His "I Love You" from the night before would be the last thing I would hear him say. 
      One year later here we are. I don't even know what to say. I don't know what else to say, but I found a beautifully written blog post by Kelleylynn, and I found it here. She sums up things so well, and does it with humor. 

When you wake up one morning and your husband is randomly dead, there is a long period of time where you feel as if you may have lost your mind. There is a “fog”, a cloud of vagueness and “what’s happening?” that covers you and protects you from the unbelievable reality that is your life now. This fog keeps you in a constant state of “Huh?”, and you tend to forget things over and over, repeat yourself, not recall entire conversations or even weeks of things you did or said, and just generally behave much like someone with memory loss or no brain cells. This must be how it feels for Kim Kardashian every single day. Empty.
Today is exactly 10 months since my husband died, and I am still in that fog. It has lifted a bit, and on some days, the sun peeks out for a few minutes or an hour, but the fog always returns. It is always there, lurking. This is one of the many huge misconceptions that most people have about grief and losing someone. People who haven’t been through this are starting to say things like “I hope things are easier for you now”, or “I hope you are finding some peace now that some time has passed”, or my favorite one that an older person said to me the other day: “So, are you better yet?” For most people who cannot grasp this life and cannot understand, there is an acceptable amount of time they will allow you to not be normal before they begin judging you or making assumptions based on nothing. What they assume is that because 10 months have gone by, I must be getting better, whatever the hell that means. What they don’t realize or will never understand is that when you lose your soulmate, your life, your love – in an instant – your heart and brain and mind and soul take a few months off. Your soul cannot deal with the shock, so it goes into the cloud for awhile. It hibernates. It usually starts to return and deal with the tremendous, unspeakable loss maybe 6 or 7 months later, just as most people are no longer asking you how you are anymore. Just as most people have stopped calling and texting and checking up on you. Just when you need people the most, the people start to scatter. Just when you finally begin to feel the real, frightening emotions of what this is, the world around you continues spnning. How dare it? There have been plenty of people in my life who have been nothing short of amazing and wonderful and caring over the past 10 months. But this piece isn’t about those people. It is about the other ones. And it is about trying to figure out who is crazier – me, or them?
The first few months, people are all around you with love, and they offer to do things for you like pick up groceries or do your laundry. You come home and you have 47 private Facebook messages, 24 texts, and multiple voicemails that you can’t possibly comprehend or sit through. Maybe you listen to them, perhaps you glance at one or two of the nice things people have written. Anything you do read goes right out of your head. Nothing sticks. You remember nothing. Your grief fog makes it difficult to accomplish much of anything. You are like a robot, just getting through each day on autopilot. You cry and you scream, but the real, raw, scary emotions don’t happen until much, much later. You keep yourself busy. Your friends keep you busy. People tell you that you are never really alone.
Fast-forward to today. 10 months later. I went through and finally read some of the lovely messages that various people left me days and weeks after Don’s death. People I barely know leaving me their phone numbers and saying “Call me anytime!” People telling stories of someone they lost, in an effort to relate or find common ground. People offering their help and letting me know that they will always be around for me. I haven’t heard from 90% of these people ever again. After that initial “reach-out”, that was it. Most of the phone numbers I’ve been given are people I would never in a million years call up at 4am sobbing uncontrollably. Can you imagine? “You said call anytime!!! I really need you right now, random Facebook friend! Wait – what was your name again?” A harsh reality of losing your husband is that everybody else moves on, but you don’t get to. They get to say “You have my number!”, feel heroic about their good deed, then climb into bed and say goodnight to their husband. They all get to go home to their families and the lives they have built together. I get to come home to our apartment filled with stuff that gives me anxiety, fear, and sorrow. I get to sit here in silence and wonder: What the hell do I do now?
When you lose your marriage and your love and it’s not through divorce, people treat you differently. All of your other relationships change. It’s not fair and it really sucks, but it’s what happens. Some people treat you as if you have a disease; as if you are death itself, and your loss is contagious. They no longer look you in the eye when you talk to them, or they avoid you completely. This has happened to me on several occasions when I went out to different parties or gatherings. If I didn’t mention Don’s name, people would look at me like I’m an alien and I have no heart. If I did mention his name, people start acting like THEY are an alien; moving their heads all around, coughing, clearing their throats. Some people get extremely awkward and uncomfortable when I talk about him. I don’t understand what that is. Am I supposed to act like he never existed? Is that what is expected of me? Sometimes I don’t know how people and their crazy-ass weirdness with death want me to act, so it’s just easier to stay the hell home.
I have had a handful of very close friends just disappear. Some pulled their disappearing act immediately after Don’s death – others waited until after the funeral and those first initial weeks before never speaking to me again. They have left my life because my husband died. What the hell is that anyway? I didn’t kill him. Why are you running away from me? Do you think that if you hang out with me, your loved one might die too? Believe me, I wish I had that kind of power. If I did, it wouldn’t be my husband who was dead right now.
I am trying like hell to integrate myself back into the world again; to not isolate myself from friends and people and life. But it’s extremely difficult. I no longer fit anywhere. I no longer have anything to add to most discussions. Do you know how many times I have found myself out with friends, in the middle of everyday conversations about habits of their partners or finances or children or dating or buying houses or starting a family or ANYTHING really, and I just have to sit there and shut down? How many times I have gone out with the intention of having a good time or at least escaping for an hour, only to come home early in tears or just numb? The act of simply existing is so damn hard and exhausting. It’s bad enough dealing with the harshness that my husband is gone. Now I also have to handle everyone else and their “CRAZY!” People are nuts. They are nuts, and they get really strange around the topic of death. Gee, I’m so sorry if my very presence makes you uncomfortable for ten minutes. I will try to conjur up some sympathy for your troubles on my trip back home to WIDOWHOOD!  Bottom line; If you want to know who your real friends are, or who can and cannot handle life at it’s darkest - having your husband die is the best way to find out.  
So who is crazier – me, or everyone else? That is still up for debate. That grief fog that I mentioned was starting to clear? Yeah, well, maybe not. In the first few months, when the fog was still very heavy, I was scatterbrained beyond belief. I would leave the house for work 5 times, forgetting something new each time. I would get out to the parking garage, and realize I didnt have my phone. Then I would realize I didnt have the remote for the garage. The third time I made my way across the street seconds later, it was because I had forgotten my phone AGAIN!!! I walked inside, grabbed my phone, and walked back outside. Realizing I didnt have the remote, I went back inside the apartment to get it. When I picked up the remote off our entertainment center, I put down my phone and walked out of the apartment without it. On a completely different day, my toothbrush somehow ended up in the freezer for an entire afternoon. There was another day where I thought I lost one of the cats, and was looking everywhere for him and sobbing, only to realize he was sitting on my bed in plain sight, looking at me like I had finally lost my mind. He was wrong. Yesterday – I finally lost my mind.
It was 6:45am, and I was just about ready to leave for work. The first class I teach is Stand-Up Comedy at 9am, and the morning commute traffic can be insane, so I leave myself at least 2 hours to drive out to Long Island. Before I left the apartment, I double-checked my hands and my shoulder bags to make sure I had everything. Purse, teacher bag filled with paperwork and worksheets, garage remote, cell phone, keys, water bottle, cats are fed, lights are off, TV/computer off …… okay. I think this time I’ve got everything. Time to go.
Please keep in mind while reading the rest of this story that I am someone who has just been through a sudden and traumatic loss, and I don’t sleep much anymore. I probably get an average of 2-4 hours of sleep per night, and most nights it’s closer to the 2. So, perhaps my brain is not functioning properly most of the time. This is important to remember as I continue …
I walk into the elevator, go down to the lobby, and walk outside. It is a really nice day. A bit cooler than usual, somewhat brisk. There is an older man who walks by me with his dog. He looks at me, then he stares at me strangely. I wait to cross the busy street. He looks back at me again as he walks away. I think nothing of it and mutter to myself: “asshole.”
When I cross the street to where the parking garage is, there are about 8 or 9 people standing and waiting at the bus stop there. Most are busy on their phones or not paying attention, but a couple of them start laughing. One woman points at me. I click the remote, walk into the garage, open my car door, and sit down in my car. It is at this point and only at this point that I finally realize why people are looking at me.
I’m not wearing any pants.
Let me repeat that, just in case you thought it was a misprint or some bizarre error. I’m not wearing any pants. No pants. Somehow, impossibly, I had left my apartment, went outside, crossed the damn street, and gotten into my car WITH NO PANTS ON! I had on a bra, a brown shirt, and some lovely cotton underwear that approximately 12 or so people just got a good look at. How exactly does one leave their place of residence without realizing they are not fully dressed, you ask? THAT, my friends, is the grief fog. Here I was, under the impression that I was improving. I thought the fog was starting to lift. And then I looked down and saw no pants. The worst part of this story (or the best part, depending on how sick your sense of humor is), is that I now had to take the same exact journey across that same street, back up that elevator, and into my apartment so that I could GET said pants and then put them on. I don’t think I have ever been so humiliated in my entire life. Actually, I know I haven’t. And as I take that shame walk back across the street, I take my chance at perhaps being run over by cars and buses. Suddenly I’m a marathon runner, a sprinter with no pants. I have never run so fast in my life. This is what they should do to help fat people like me lose weight. Make us stand outside almost naked and the only way we can get to clothing is to RUN and receive the attire. There’s my idea, NBC. Go with it.
After finally putting on my pants, and double and triple-checking myself to make sure nothing else was missing, I left the apartment once again, my head hanging down and defeated. When I got inside my car, I started leafing through the big shoulder bag that I had put a banana in for my breakfast. Most days, I try to put either a piece of fruit or a protein bar of some kind inside a large ziploc bag so I can eat it while driving or when I get to campus before class. So I reached inside the large shoulder bag, pulled out my ziploc, and opened it up. Inside the ziploc was not a banana, but my toothbrush. Later that afternoon, when I got home, I went into the bathroom, and sitting there on top of the bathroom sink … was one lonely, confused banana. Ladies and gentlemen, it is official. Like my husband used to always say to me: “Boo, I think you’ve finally lost it.”
Everyone Else: Crazy
Me: Certifiable

Kelley Lynn is a stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and recent widow. You can see more of her writing pieces about the loss of her husband Don at her blogpage:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Here I Am Once Again Feeling Lost, But Now And Then

     The title of this post was taken from the song Make it Shine by Victoria Justice.
Mandaly and I are taking the girls to see Victoria Justice in concert this August. We bought them VIP passes so they get to meet her. They are beyond excited!

     I'd take a picture to show you, but it might cause someone to want to clean my house while I'm away today ;). Sebastian is asleep on one couch, and Tyler on the other. Their glasses sit on the floor next to the them along with...wait?! Is that the TV remote that's been lost for a week?! Funny that it magically appears on the night I let them sleep on the couch to watch a movie. Hmmmm.....Anyway the floor also contains their DSis, Wii remotes, chargers for various electronics, and a half eaten chocolate Easter bunny. My coffee table has three cups on it, DO NOT tell my sister that they are NOT sitting on coasters. Now, before you think "Oh my goodness!" The house was relatively clean yesterday. All the floors were swept and mopped, dishes were done, kid's rooms were clean and most of the laundry was washed, dried, and put away. As I sit here I'm just not sure how it stays so messy. Sure I make my kids clean and put stuff away, it just never stays that way. My kiddos will clean, but it's often a struggle with the younger two, and I get some teenage attitude with the older one. I have to ask them to do everything. It just makes sense to me that if you get something out you put it away. Okay, okay so maybe I created this monster by not making them do it from the time they were young. I will admit that this last year I've been pretty relaxed on stuff like this because in the grand scheme of things does it matter that they left their cup out. I'd rather put it in the kitchen myself, and save that battle for when it matters. Maybe I'm enabling them to much. I also realize that beyond the fact I don't want to fight with them, I often do things because it's just easier if I do it myself. Allowing them to make their own mistakes takes patience, and I have very little of that left at the end of the day. I really need to get organized. I need to find some kind of balance that is going to work for us. This is not working, it was chaotic with two parents around, but it is pure insanity with just me here. I really need to make this a goal. I need to restructure and simplify my life. On that note I'm going to wake my sleepy monsters, and get them ready to go shopping for summer clothes. 

Please feel free to share any tips for organization and scheduling!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Seasons Are Changing, And Waves Are Crashing, And Stars Are Falling All For Us

     The title of this post was taken from the song Your Guardian Angel by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

      "It is strange to think, I haven't seen you in a year. I have seen the passing of all four seasons, but not you. I have seen sunsets and sunrises, but nothing of your beautiful face. The pieces of my broken heart are so small that they could be passed through the eye of a needle. I miss you like the sun misses the flower; like the sun misses the flower in the depths of winter. Instead of beauty to direct its light to, the heart hardens like the frozen world your absence has banished me to. Hope guides me, that is what gets me through the day and especially the night. The hope though you are gone from my sight, it will not be the last time that I look upon you." With minor details to fit more to my liking this was taken from the movie A Knights Tale. It sums up so much of what I'm feeling this week.
     Easter has come and will be over in a few hours. It didn't feel right to me, and I dare say that Easter will never feel right. Last year Easter was after Mike had passed. I don't like celebrating it before the 14th. I've also never played a very good Easter bunny so I dreaded, put off, and made ugly faces the entire time I was shopping for Easter stuff for the kids. I love the family get togethers, but the commercialization of this holiday bothers me. Now it's over, and I can move on with the dread of this last upcoming line of firsts, at least as far as dates and events go. I had originally planned on taking the kids out of town that weekend, but I've changed my mind. I'm taking off work Thursday and Friday as personal days. I'll get the kids off to school and then come home to an empty house. I think I will spend those two days in bed throwing a pity party for myself. Two days to cry it out as much as I want and not worry about anything else. While I've been told I shouldn't do this, and I should try to be more positive, I think this is what I need. I don't need to run away from it or try to pretend it's not happening. I need to meet the 14th head on. I think that Saturday I may go visit the cemetery for a bit. Time will tell. It will be a rough week all around for me. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Life Is Sad. Life Is A Bust. All Ya Can Do Is Do What You Must.

     The title of this post was taken from the song Buckets of Rain by Bob Dylan.

     I have written and erased four posts today. I sit here knowing I want to say something, but for the life of me nothing seems right. I bought the kids the movie We Bought A Zoo, and I thought I would allow some quotes from this movie to express how I'm feeling. The movie quotes are in red.

Benjamin Mee— “Whatever is the laziest word of this century.”
Oh, how I can relate to this. Every answer to every question seems to be whatever lately. 

Dylan Mee—“Dad, nobody’s gonna give an “F” to a kid whose mom died 6 months ago.”
Maybe Dylan is right, but I was told the other day that by now I should be getting over Mike's death. Yea, not so much. I've learned that the more time that passes the less understanding people are. They tend to have the same kind of mindset, time moves on and so should we. It's not that easy.

Benjamin Mee—“I thought if I came out here it would stop.  Back home, every place reminded me of her….  It got better for a while, but it turns out that she’s here too…. When you love somebody that much, that hard, that long, you can never get away from it.”
That one needs no explanation.

Benjamin Mee—“Sometimes you don’t know what it is till you see what it is.”

Benjamin Mee: Hey Rosie, am I doing anything right?

Rosie Mee: You're handsomer than the other dads. Lots of them don't have hair, so that's good.

Benjamin Mee: Awesome. I'm gonna take baldness off my list of things to worry about.

I don't have the courage to ask my kids if I'm doing anything right. I'm afraid of the answer. 

Benjamin: "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. 
Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I 
promise you, something great will come of it."
I feel like I'm on the verge of something, but I don't know what it is. Many times my heart races, almost like an adrenaline rush, except there is no reason for it. I just feel like there is something I am supposed to be doing that I'm not, something that I don't have the courage to do, but I don't know what it is. I just want to figure out my life.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A Tricky Thing Is Yesterday We Were Just Children

    The title of this post was taken from the song Eyes Open by Taylor Swift.

      I call for them, and they come running. Each drop the various things they are doing and come skidding to a halt in front of me. "Family prayer." I say. Mason runs to turn off the T.V. and we all kneel on the floor. We make a circle as we hold each others hands. Mason likes to say the prayer every night, but so does Tyler so we usually say several prayers. Mason begins by giving thanks for the things he is grateful for. Tonight that list includes "Not being dead (yes, that was the first thing he said), that zombies weren't real, for Sebastian and Tyler, and for his aunts, uncles, and cousins. He asked for blessings for those who are sick, and then he concluded his prayer. Tyler gave thanks as well, but didn't go into as much detail as Mason. When we finish I sit in the floor as they all give me hugs, and go off to bed. In that moment I feel like all is well with the world. I sit and think about the family prayers from my childhood and youth. I have so many memories of kneeling with my family around my parents bed, as we all held hands and prayed.  How simple life seemed back then. My children have lost the opportunity for the same kind of memories I hold dear. They will never have their dad there to kneel down with them in prayer.
     I can't sleep tonight. There are so many things on my mind. I've thought for a long time about going back to school. Like I need more student loans, but I've never been sure about what I want to do. Over the last six months or so I've felt very strongly about getting certified as a Montessori Teacher. I love this teaching philosophy so much, and my dear friend Deb, who was a Montessori teacher, showed me so many different ways of thinking about education. I'm scared to take the leap and just do it. Is it something I'm impulsively looking at? Am I trying to fill a void in my life? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that I need something more. I need something and I don't even know what it is. I just feel this emptiness inside, and this overwhelming need to do something about it. Deb would have said go for it, and not look back. She and I always told each other things would work out, even when they looked at their worst we couldn't help but to look at each other and smile, and one of us would say "It'll be alright." Ever the fighter and always the optimist she never let anything break her spirit. She wouldn't be very proud of me right now. I will never forget one day she came over after Mike passed and walked through the front door, she paused a minute and said "Wow, your house is neater than normal. Now get up and lets go out." she pushed me past my limits, and she is probably the only person I would have allowed to do that. I miss her so very much. Many people may not know, but we often talked of opening a recreation/tutoring center for the young people in our city. She so badly wanted to give back to the community. We did a lot of research, and while nothing ever came from it, I know it wasn't something she ever forgot about. I miss Mike and I miss Deb.