Building a Better Boat…

Hello!

It’s been a bit, but I’m still out here and still moving forward. I just heard Build a Better Boat by Kenny Chesney and it prompted me to take a bit of a breather during these final, frenzied days in Boston and share my heart. I’m moving to Southwestern PA next weekend and while I’m looking forward to it for many reasons, I’m also very nervous. The song made me think about what’s been going on since I made the decision to move and gave me a moment to pause and reflect.

I don’t really want to build a better boat, I have to. Life has an uncanny way of pushing us along even when we absolutely refuse to step on to the platform of the ride. I’m not the type to hide in the corner, even when my flight instinct kicks in. I have, however, become the type to try and work my way through whatever roadblocks are thrown in front of me. I’ve learned that a lot of the roadblocks are of my own making and as I work through whatever the situation is, the situation becomes part of building that better boat. Sometimes I withdraw, and though others may not understand my withdrawal, I have to sort myself out first. I’m tender-hearted. I can’t (and don’t want to) change that. I’ve learned that being so makes me more misunderstood by others. I don’t know how to make someone understand that my silence and lack of interaction isn’t about them, it’s about me… and while that may sound selfish, it’s not. It’s self-care. And that’s a blog idea I’ve written about previously. Self-care is imperative for all of us. If we run on empty all the time, what do we have left to give anyone else? Life is full of moments where self-care can be, and will be, viewed as selfishness. It’s an unintended consequence that happens when I put the brakes on and face the roadblock head-on.

Building a better boat takes patience, something I never wanted to have to learn. The last 4 years of my life have been beyond erratic. Painful. Lonely. Confusing. I’ve been lost and found. I’ve been kicked and slapped by fate so hard, the sting will never fade. I’ve deliberately hurt those I love the most, not because I wanted to, but because I’ve had to. I’ve learned that some things, no matter how much they matter to me, matter to no one else. I can’t begin to let people know how sorry I am that my time frame for working my way through the hurts and grief and misunderstandings is so unpredictable. It takes as long, or as short, as it does. Patience is a virtue we all need more of and I’ll gladly be the first to admit that I lack it at times when it’s needed the most. Other times I possess so much of it, I don’t recognize myself. I left my husband in 2017, I managed to leave him without his knowing what was coming, and three days later, all I wanted to do was turn that car around and drive straight back into his arms. I broke him. I broke me. I broke our family. Three days after I drove out of our driveway, I wanted to go home. He was beyond hurt, and I am sorry. I know he knew that. He was enraged, and hurt, and beyond broken. So was I. He found the strength to say that we needed to see where the separation could take us and that I needed to be patient. He knew me better than anyone. He knew what an impossible task that would be for me. Patience didn’t come easy to me, it still doesn’t. 7 weeks after I left him, I went home. We worked hard to rebuild the marriage that I burned to the ground… The beauty that was painted from the ashes became something we never lost again. Patience played a huge roll in our reuniting, and because we practiced patience, we were able to build a better boat. Together.

Building a better boat is hard. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that it’s an impossible task to complete alone. There are moments I feel like I’m standing on the edge of an abyss so deep, and so dark, that if I lose my balance, I’ll simply disappear. Sometimes I think we may all want to disappear, and seeking a little personal time is okay. The boat I’m building is smaller than the boat that capsized when my beloved husband died. The new boat will have a minimal amount of stuff on board, but the deck, the berthing compartment and the galley will be absolutely full of memories. The memories of a life well lived, and a love so true, will be the wind in the sails. The storms will surely continue to roll in and toss the new boat from side to side, but the strength within the foundation of the new boat will prevail. I’ll proudly and humbly steer this new, smaller boat as steadily as possible, knowing that from time to time I may need a life saving ring tossed into the waves. I don’t have a choice about moving into the open waters on my own in many ways, but I do know that I have many life rafts waiting on shore should I need them.

Building this new boat has been challenging. I don’t necessarily think it’s better, it’s just different. My life is different now, not better. I miss my sailor (he was a US Navy sailor) and I miss the anchor he was in my life. I miss the hugs and the warmth and the adventure. I miss what could have been, and am trying hard to be comfortable in facing what is. The waves and storms and riptides will pull my new boat in a million different directions, but my heart will always be seeking the true north that my beloved was. No compass will ever point me in a direction where he doesn’t exist…

Generosity…

Hello world,

I’ve recently returned from a weekend conference in Columbus, Ohio…

How many people can say they practice generosity? I thought I did, and I do, but not on the scale of what I experienced this past weekend. Not even close. I probably shouldn’t even be writing about my weekend until I find a way to process, and put into words, how much this past weekend means to me and the impact it’s had on the life-long journey of healing that stretches out in front of me.

If you’ve been a follower of mine, you know this blog was born out of a pain so deep, and so dark, I was literally bleeding to death via my laptop. It began because our oldest daughter threw her family of origin away. She cast her parents and sister aside, and ripped apart so many relationships through her actions it seemed none of us would ever heal. The human spirit, however broken, always seems to find ways to begin the healing processes we all so desperately need throughout our lives. Flight, fight, fawn or freeze; these are the innate defensive responses that live in every single person. In the early stages of the estrangement, my first response was to fight, and I tried, it took me 10 months to just breathe…

Fast forward from May of 2018 to October of 2019. My husband and I sold a home in NC and bought a house in the Lowcountry of SC. Our “forever” home. It was small, on a small lot in a neighborhood that was mostly rural and had an older population. Perfect for us, as we were staring down the path of retirement. The estrangement was still a part of our lives, though by this time we had found ways to cope. and to let go. Life was quiet, simple and full of love. We were close to our youngest daughter and her family. Lot’s of grand baby love! We were back in an area we loved, had a community we appreciated, and I had a wonderful job with UPS. Roadblocks were in the rear-view mirror. Or so we thought…

The massive head-on collision barreling toward us was stealthy. Sneaky. Silent. My husband crashed into it in a preliminary way on October 20, 2019. It was like a side swipe, a tiny glimpse of the on-coming crash between an economy car and a massive freight train. The accident happened on October 30, 2019 and the aftermath will never not be felt. We all know what can happen when a freight train hits an economy car. The pictures are downright gruesome. Lives are shattered. Nothing, absolutely nothing, remains as it was.

This past weekend was like having an insurance adjuster visit the scene of the aforementioned train crash. And having that adjuster find fault with the train, not the car. The train represents the Grim Reaper in my head, and he was just waiting for my husband to approach the most dangerous intersection of his life. Just waiting. Well, the Grim Reaper has zero power over me now, though the carnage wreaked at that intersection can never physically be undone. My husband didn’t die in the crash, he didn’t die on the operating table and he didn’t die due to lack of care. It took 16 months after the collision for him to die, the after affects of the train crash too much for his vital organs to keep working properly. He fought, and he thrived, and then the Grim Reaper’s cousin, known as Covid-19, decided to visit him. That made it so no one else could. No one he loved, not just me. No visits from his daughters, his grandchildren, his brothers, etc… Sorry (not sorry) for the language, but fuck Covid. Those innate responses we all possess? Fight was my husband’s companion after the stroke, flight never had a place in his recovery. The stroke didn’t make him give up, the isolation of Covid did. Anyway, the weekend. Generosity. And such…

Generosity comes in many forms, from many directions and from many, many different people. TAPS.org is an amazing non-profit! The acronym stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Survivors of military personnel. Any survivor is welcome to join the TAPS family and I am ever grateful that I did. I’m a self-aware person, I believe in determination and I try to live with a constant sense of mindfulness. TAPS is there to help me, and so many others, every second of every day. It’s a peer support network for all military family members, and friends, left reeling from the loss of a loved one that served. The military person doesn’t have to be KIA (killed in action) for family to avail themselves of the services,educational benefits, and support of TAPS. There are groups for survivors of all manner of death. Suicide, accident, homicide, sudden death, long-term illness, etc… If your person wore the uniform of any of the Armed Services, you can seek help.

TAPS holds regional seminars around the country every year and a National Conference is held each year over the Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, D.C.. The organization started in 1994, born out of a deep rooted need when the wife of an Army officer lost her husband in a military plane crash. If you want to learn more about the founder, please research TAPS.org at your leisure, you’ll be amazed at how one woman, in what was a very dark time in her life, knew she needed “more” than what she was finding outside the community of the military. Her vision and drive created an organization that personifies generosity at every turn, and the need never seems to end. Freedom isn’t free, we Americans know this, and to have such a caring and safe place to manage the grief that never seems to end is simply a gift. People don’t “get it” if they’ve never served, and that’s okay. They don’t have to get it. The people that do get it, well, I met so many of them at this conference. I don’t know how to make anyone understand that the level of generosity was second only to the love and compassion shown to me, a stranger in a foreign, but also familiar, land…

Generosity doesn’t always have to be on such a grand scale… It can be something as simple as sharing a smile, lending a helping hand or simply praying for someone. We ALL, no matter who we are or what we do, have hurt and anguish in our lives. Simply saying hello on the street too a stranger can lighten the heaviest of burdens of the person to whom you say good morning. Being generous might mean you buy the coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru line, stop and let a car out of a side street during your morning commute, or even just giving a few minutes of your time to a neighbor in need. Generosity breeds kindness and kindness breeds generosity, and we can all acknowledge that those two attributes are most definitely something this world needs a whole lot more of! TAPS generosity is beyond amazing and made possible by some pretty fantastic supporters. To those supporters I say a humble thank-you. Thank you from the bottom of my broken and shattered heart. It’s because of the support of so many that I know I am going to be okay. I’ll never be the same, I’ll always hurt. I’ll always miss my husband. And, I’ll always miss what might have been. I can grow with TAPS, I can give back by volunteering when I’m able and I can spread the kindness and generosity I’m blessed to receive with others.

So, go out into your world, live your best life and be generous. You don’t need to be rich in money to share the gifts of generosity and kindness, you just have to be willing…

Be kind always, remember to breathe and, say thank-you to someone who has served…

Until next time…

(Image credit belongs to: Grief to Gratitude)

Sunday Thoughts…

Hi,

Yes, it’s been a bit, I’ve been living my life and trying to heal. I’m moving forward with the grief of my husband’s death still holding one hand, but in the other? The other hand has been multi-purpose. It’s been drying my tears, pushing me towards my new life in Pennsylvania, and steering the methods of whatever it takes to get me there.

I’m currently house-sitting for some dear friends while they’re on vacation and just like last year, I am thoroughly enjoying their deck. Their home is a ranch style, very comfortable and in a safe neighborhood about 30 miles southwest of Boston. I’ve been thinking that being here is like having “training wheels.” I’m almost ready to take the training wheels off and move out on my own. I haven’t lived on my own since June of 2020, and am beyond thankful for the support of my family and friends during these dark times in my life. This summer has been hard on me emotionally, I’ve withdrawn from people after being hurt by someone I trusted, and am finally able to see the sunshine again…

When someone hurts us, we can only control our reaction to what’s been done, not the actions done to us. I realized as soon as the words left this person’s mouth that I would never be the same again. Wanna know what else I’ve come to realize? I realize that because of one sentence, I’m okay with not being who I was. I am very different now, and I actually like me more than I did before. Sure, what was said was hurtful. The words piercing my heart and leaving me feeling like I didn’t matter. This event also showed me that I am not without boundaries, self-respect, and value. Maybe I don’t matter to the person who hurt me, that’s okay. I still matter. To me. To my children and grandchildren. To a few select friends that I still trust. I don’t need more than that. I’ve also learned to pull back on how much I share on social media, to stop and REALLY think about what I’m saying, and to listen to my gut more. To value my personal space and privacy. Silver linings for sure…

The heatwave that has gripped Northern New England broke overnight, and today is just freaking glorious!!! I’m doing what I love by writing, listening to music and making plans to spend time with people I love in the coming days. I’m still sad, overwhelmingly so, and am accepting that sadness is my constant companion these days. I’m also happy. Happy that the sun is shining. Happy that I am able to enjoy the gifts that Mother Nature has granted us today. Happy that I got to see 10 turkeys in the backyard and watch them wander off. It may seem silly to notice such simple things, but just think about all the things that demand our attention on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit on the deck, listen to your favorite music and take in the beauty of your small portion of this world. Appreciation is good for the spirit!

With the day being as lovely as it is, I’m thinking that I may not be leaving my little haven of paradise for the madness of the shopping center down the road. I have two shirts I need to return, and am thinking they can wait for another day. As I sit here and revel in the sunshine, I realize I don’t want to trade the peace and quiet of this deck for the chaos and madness of a big box store. I have everything I need to make it through the day without sacrificing my peace of mind. I’d rather stay here, quietly thinking about my husband and just enjoying the ability to be. We all need to treat ourselves from time to time, no matter what that looks like. I’m staying close to home today, not listening to or giving in to the voices in my head that say I need to “go and do.” I am doing by not going and doing, and that’s that!

It’s been a little more than 6 months since my husband died, though it feels like 60 years. I miss him. So much. I’ve come to realize just how much I miss the touch of another human being. The hugs I always gave and received? Gone. The simple touch of his hand on my lower back? Gone. I’d give almost anything to have him back, and while I know that’s an impossibility, the craving that lives within me for the touch of another is not gone. Nor is it impossible. It’s not the same when someone else hugs me, it can’t be. No one loved me like he did. No one knows me like he did. No one could ever take his place in my life, or in my heart. He was my person. I was his. We were an us. When you become a me after being an us for more than half of your life, the transition is fraught with emotion, growing pains and tears. Time is supposed to help, so whenever time decides to get on board and journey with this broken woman, I’m ready! Until then, I will hug my friends and family, wipe my own tears and move forward with as much purpose as I am able. Living a purpose driven life will give me opportunities to honor the memory of my beloved.

I’m hanging on, and am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share my journey with people through this blog. Life isn’t always harsh, though sometimes it feels that way. This summer has been painful for me, but also enlightening. I have to keep my eyes on the roads ahead, while looking back and figuring out which roads to avoid. The curves and bends can seem scary, especially when they come out of nowhere. Keep looking forward, keep unpacking the unnecessary baggage you carry, and stay the course. Life is to be lived. And savored. Take the bitter and at least try to make it into something sweet, you may be surprised at what happens. Embrace the suck as the Navy Seals say, and turn the suck into success!

Until next time remember to be kind always, smile and believe in yourself!

Self Care, Grief and Judgement…

HI All,

I’m writing this blog while sitting at the kitchen table, 2 days after my first surgery for Cataracts. The results after just 48 hours are beyond amazing! This surgery was my first big step towards caring for myself in a world that feels so very empty. It’s been almost 5 months since my husband died, and 21 months since his catastrophic stroke. 

Before the stroke, my husband spent a month away from home (we lived in SC at the time) visiting his next oldest brother who had had toes amputated because of diabetes. I pushed my husband to drive from SC to New England, not knowing that the last time we would hug each other and casually say goodbye would be the last time. I stayed behind because I had only been working four months at my new job with UPS. A decision I will never regret as the brother he went to visit died 350 days before my husband. My mother-in-love had 6 children and 3 are now gone, all three dying in February. 2018, 2020 and 2021. The pain she must feel when she remembers has to be unimaginable. Her oldest child, and only girl, was the first, she died at the age 67. Next was the 5th born, he was 60. Then my beloved, the youngest, he was 59.

I provide a bit of context just so whoever is reading this knows that the weight and minefields of death are not new to me. I wish I weren’t well versed in grief, no one wants to be. What am I learning to be well versed in? Self-care. It’s so hard to do, and though I’m not afraid to work hard, I don’t want to. I want my husband back. I want our grandchildren to have their Poppy back and our daughters to know that their Daddy is just a phone call away. I want to reach out in the night and feel the warmth of the man who no longer exists, not the weighted blanket that’s folded in thirds and laid out where he should be. I want to hear his voice in my ears, not just in my head. I want to feel HIS arms around me, not just air. I’m sure you get the picture.

Self care has to happen if we are to continue on our healing journey. Self care looks different for each of us, just like grief does. I walked out 16 months advocating for my husband to receive the best possible care after his stroke, sold our home, and moved 3 times to be with him. Covid came. Isolation happened and for 6 months of the 16 months we journeyed, we couldn’t see each other. He never understood why. All he felt was that he was being punished for being alive. The stroke took away his reasoning abilities and he never recovered cognitively. I, on the other hand, would try and soothe his pain through Zoom calls. Or phone calls. He would cry without ceasing, and beg me to come see him. So much angst. I look back over that time and realize I was practicing self-care then, just in a less obvious way. I would walk along the James or Appomattox Rivers when we were in Richmond, VA. I would write. I would talk to the Chaplain from the Richmond VA Hospital. I continue to talk to him from time to time. I even drove to Norfolk to walk on the beach with our dog on the days when loneliness would consume me. I guess I knew somewhere inside of me that if I didn’t fill myself up, I would have nothing left to give my husband. 

Self care looks like selfishness to those that either refuse to see it, or can’t see the value of it. We wake up and shower, we brush our teeth, dress for the day and make many other decisions that seem meaningless. They’re not! To get out of bed after the loss of a beloved child, spouse, friend, parent and anyone that has been loved by you is self care! I truly believe in the “fight” and “flight” aspects of grief, as well as life in general. My “fight” left me when my husband died. I was messy. And broken. I wanted to be invisible. I was also grateful that he didn’t suffer anymore. I battled within my own head as I took my first steps as a widow, toward a life without the physical presence of my mate. I had to. He would want me to. He was my biggest encouragement, he still is in many ways. 

When people learn that I’m grieving, they’re usually sincere in offering condolences. We were married just shy of 39 years when my beloved died. We were as in love the day he died as we were when we said “I do.” I miss him. I always will. In the midst of missing him, I’m learning to grow again. I’m learning that my growth, determination and grief can all co-exist. I’ve also learned that some of the people I know think I’m selfish for not fading into the background of life. That’s not how I’ve lived my life, and I won’t live like that now. My eye surgery feels like I threw open the door that was slammed shut back in February! I threw it open with such force that it came unhinged! I walked right through the opening and am still walking. How does someone see self care as selfishness? Why do others think they are entitled to have an opinion on how I live MY life? Judgement comes in many forms, and I find a lot of judgement to be a waste of time. I have no right to tell anyone what their journey through grief should look like. My place in someone else’s grief is not my place. I have empathy for all of us that have lost someone we loved so much. I recognize the gaping holes left in our hearts. I hear the sobs and moans and cries as we navigate our way without our beloved person beside us. What I don’t do? I don’t carry the weight of someone else’s grief, I share in carrying the weight. I’ll hold someone’s hand and pray for them. I’ll help them. I won’t judge them!

As we walk along the highway called grief, may we all come to know that we can practice self care, that self care is not selfish, and when others judge us, that judgement is without merit. It’s become my purpose to help educate others who are on the outside looking in. People tend to judge that which they don’t understand, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Helping someone understand the depth, breadth, and width of grief gives me purpose. It also gives me hope. My world, just like all of yours, came crashing down with such force that I thought I’d never be the same again. I won’t be. Neither will you. What can we become? We can become a voice and a hand in the dark for one another. We can provide a safe place for someone just starting their grief journey to fall. We can listen. We can pray. We can encourage one another. And we can share. No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you know that you are not alone. I know I’m not alone, and for that I say thank you!

365 (Plus One)

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a bit, and I’m still hanging in, missing my husband. Nothing new there.

365 plus one? 365 days ago, plus one, my beloved husband was discharged from the Polytrauma Unit of the Richmond, Virginia Veteran’s Hospital. I would sell my soul to the devil himself if it meant I could erase the last 365 days. Erase and start over. As we all know, time is the one thing that we can’t replace. We can’t save it. It doesn’t earn interest, and sadly, it hasn’t yielded a profit.

I’ve begun to look ahead, finally, in a healthy, though sad, way. I’m beginning to make plans for a future that will not include my husband in the physical sense, but it will bring much honor to his memory. I have been seeking and researching resources that will help me navigate my way as a widow and I’ve found a non-profit organization that I seem to fit with. I am hoping to connect with others who have lost someone that served, maybe even become a mentor some where down the road. I am taking it one step at a time, but have a good feeling in my gut that I have finally found a new, but familiar village. I have been so supported by my family and friends and I know they all will continue to hold my hand. The organization I found will give me purpose again, something I haven’t felt since my beloved died. He was my purpose for so long, and now I have to make me, and honoring his memory, my purpose.

365 days ago, plus 2, is when I came back to Boston. The day before my husband. 365 days ago, plus one, I was denied the opportunity to meet my husband at the rehab facility he was admitted to and I’ve been upset by that ever since. 365 days ago, Covid-19 was a blanket excuse for everything, including NOT being allowed to even greet my husband in the parking lot of said facility. I’ve tried for over a year now to be heard by someone that actually gives a crap about the lack of compassionate care shown to my husband, but to no avail. All the countless hours writing to State and Federal officials, the media, the corporation that owns that horror house my husband was in has been for naught. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and more than a hundred hours making noise, but all I’ve been met with is silence. I had promised myself if the law firm I contacted wouldn’t help me, I would stop. I’ve stopped making noise. To say I am beyond disappointed in my local and federal representatives is an understatement. I am not rich. I am not even close to being so. I vote, but why? Because of the lack of communication, I no longer care about those I’ve voted for. I have approximately 340 days left to find peace. I can’t afford the costs of maintaining my anger and hurt, I have to let go. For me. I fought as hard as I could, I begged. I pleaded. I humiliated myself. I filed a formal complaint with the MA Dept. of Public Health. I’ve followed up on my follow ups to the point that I’ve had to say I’m done.

365 plus days ago I never thought I would become a widow at the age of 58. It’s been just shy of four months since I held my husband’s hand and watched him breathe his last breath. He was 59. 21,629 days. Add a few leap years in and maybe he was 21, 640 days old. Not nearly enough days on this earth. Not nearly enough years spent as a married couple. But… He certainly changed my entire world in those 21K+ days. He loved me. He was my safety net, my lover, my man and my heart. He is still all of those things, and more. He is my guardian angel, he is my Morgan’s (our dog that died in July 2020) constant companion now. He is still the Poppy our grandchildren will always miss, and he’s the Poppy I will help them remember. No one will ever take his place. No one will know me like he did, or kiss me like he did. No one will tease me (thank God!) like he did. No one will ever rage behind the wheel of my Mini like he could have. So many things that he was good at, so many things he made his own. Including me. Of those 21K+ days, he was in my life for about 16,430 of them. More than half his life, and mine. Days…

As I mentioned above, I’m finally beginning to feel like I am able to move forward. One baby step at a time. I’m not really stronger than I was last time I wrote, I think the fog is starting to lift. I see things from a clearer set of eyes. Well… not really. I have to have cataract surgery and will find out when on the 23rd of June. Anyway, I know that grief will never not be a part of my life again, but I also know that how I continue to walk it out and learn from it is key to my survival. I WANT to be happy. I WANT to smile more. I WANT to laugh more. Every time I think I can’t get up, I do. I cry and rage and hide, but I also turn my face to the sun and pray for self peace. I can see a pin-prick of light shining through the darkness.

When I started this blog, I had no idea that it would shift from being an erased grandparent and parent to becoming a widow. I had no idea that any one would care to read the ramblings of a woman the world doesn’t know. I am blessed beyond measure to have the opportunity to keep writing and I thank all of you that take the time to read my prose. Writing frees my heart, it gives me an outlet for my pain, and I hope it helps someone else realize that they are not alone. We all have trials. We all bleed red. We all hurt. I know, because of all of you, I don’t have to hurt alone. Thank you all. I’ve pasted a link to a song that has been helping me lately, I hope it helps you as well. Be kind, always, and know that in Boston is a woman who appreciates you so much!

A Bit of Light…

Hi all,

I hope this post finds you all well and safe. I’m having a decent day emotionally, at least right now, and thought I would take a few minutes to say hello. I struggle most days to find positive and happy inducing moments. I think I’ve been struggling for so long that the idea of NOT struggling is finding difficulty in taking root within me. I’ve been so focused for so long on the struggle that I almost fear a life without it. The key word there being almost…

A bit of light shone on me just a little while ago when I was out walking. I met a bouncy, bubbly and oh, so happy Boston Terrier Pup that was just soooo happy to see me, too! I miss my dog like crazy, but this little bundle of black and white sass helped ease that missing just a bit. Boston’s are bred for companionship and this one was so friendly. The breed has a tendency to use their bodies as their tail and this one was no different. He wagged all over and sprinkled on my shoes just a wee bit. So endearing. When he saw his person coming towards him he was overjoyed. It melted my heart to see the connection between the dog and his person. It also made me think of my beloved grandson and his BT, Moe. Moe is definitely the cat’s meow of Boston Terriers in my mind. Small, cute and so in love with his boy! As am I…

It’s warming up in Boston, finally, and I for one am very happy about this. I miss the southern heat and humidity, so getting to experience a little heat here in the Northeast is a welcome event. Lots of people were out walking and enjoying the weather, myself included. Sometimes we really do just have to stop and unwind. Life is so much more than just making money and being stressed out because of it. I work to live, I don’t live to work. Finding moments to enjoy your life away from work matter. Meet up with an old friend. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Sit in the sun for a little while. Whatever it is you like to do when the weather is nice, I hope you find the opportunity and the time to do so. Be selfish and spend your time the way you want, not the way others think you should. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

I’m beginning to believe that I will see a bit of light in my future at some point, though I’m not quite there yet. I’m working again, and the longer I work at the ice cream shop, the more I like it. It’s busy, it helps pass the time and I get to make people happy when I serve them. Ice cream makes most people happy and happiness is definitely on my menu of choices these days. My husband loved ice cream and I wish I could bring some home to him. I smile at work when I think about him enjoying ice cream with our grands, he loved them all so damned much. He loved me, too. He will always be my favorite ice cream date. Always.

Today is a good day, and I hope to keep feeling a bit of light shining through when the clouds in my head get dark and heavy. I’m trying to turn my face towards the sun and let it warm my skin. In doing so, I try to remember to give thanks that my beloved is no longer suffering. I am trying to be okay with moving forward in what is now just my life, not ours. I am a me. The us we were will always be, and I know, somewhere down the path of my life, the light will shine brighter.

Be well, stay safe and always remember to be kind…

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Sometimes…

Hi all,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written, and while I wish I could come up with an amazing reason why, I’ll just tell the truth. Life has been happening and I’ve been going along for the ride. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not. Life has a way of making us stay on the train, even when it runs off the tracks.

Sometimes I wish that I could be exactly what everyone wants me to be, and sometimes I wish I were brave enough to tell the people with those unreasonable wants to just F off. As time continues to pass and my beloved suffers, I find that I care less and less about what people want me to be. Or what they want from me. I lie awake at night and sometimes let my mind just go where it will. Sometimes I take a specific train of thought to its destination and drop it off. To the people that try and steer me in a different direction? Just don’t. I’m making my own way the best way I know how and I’m the only one responsible for the consequences of whatever decision(s) I make. How about this? Sometimes, just sometimes, try steering your own train, on its own track, to its specific destination and stay out of the way of mine. Got it? Thanks! If who I am now, who I have been and who I am becoming is not who you think I should be, it’s okay. I’m learning to be okay with the me I am becoming and I am definitely okay with the me I have been, even when that me was sad and broken. I’m still sad and still broken, but the sunlight that reflects off my broken pieces is warm and beautiful and wholly welcome.

Sometimes you have a day where, when it’s over, you look back and are amazed by what you see. As a person with a deep, planning nature, I sometimes miss the wonderful gifts that spontaneity brings. Not today. Yesterday was an amazingly wonderful day and I went with my gut on decisions being made about my future as a widow. While I am not a widow yet, I know it’s coming. I know I’ll need to be prepared, or at least as prepared as I think I can be. I set out yesterday to have a recall done on my car, had it completed and drove away. The recall was one of the things I had planned on doing to get this car ready to sell. I had planned on selling it in March of this year, but instead let the spontaneous nature of an unexpected phone call guide my decision. The phone call was from the dealership where I’d had the recall done; they were interested in buying my car! Um, OK. I drove back to the dealership and ended up selling them my car. It was easy, the offer sound, and since I can only drive one car at a time, I knew I’d be okay. I bought my dream car last spring, had been renting a parking space for it and using it infrequently. Now I am saving more than 1K a year on insurance, 1200 bucks a year for parking and will spend less on gas, since my 2nd car is small. I’ve been striving to adopt a minimalist life style, and letting go of that car fits in with my quest. It was the last car my husband and I bought together, but it’s a car. My memories of trips taken, of driving it for work, of driving home to him after work don’t disappear because the car is gone. It’s just a car after all. I am at peace with letting it go…

Sometimes I wish I could see into the future, but I fully admit that I believe that there are many reasons why we can’t see what’s ahead in our lives. How many of us would have married our spouses if we knew ahead of time how hard marriage could be at times? How many of us would have taken chances in situations where the outcome had been less than desirable? How many people would decide not to believe in themselves if they could have seen that a decision made could end up crushing the spirit of adventure that lives deep within all of us? There are so many lessons to be learned by accepting what is, and those lessons help us keep striving to move forward. I’ve made decisions since my husband’s stroke that have resulted in second-guessing, regret and self-turmoil, but those same decisions have also made me stronger, more determined and more self-aware. I believe that the lessons we learn the hardest are the ones we learn the best. Has someone hurt you so badly that you were continually blinded by the pain? This has happened to me more than once. More then twice. It’s happened over and over and over again, and the pain is so hot and so shattering that I’ve thought I couldn’t survive. Guess what? I did, and am surviving. I’m doing more than that in many ways. In many ways I am thriving! It takes a lot of self work, self discovery and self determination to pick yourself back up after you’ve been crushed, but you can. I haven’t always been able to pick myself back up without help, and letting someone help isn’t weakness. It takes a great deal of strength to show someone else all your brokenness, to cry out for help, and to actually accept that help. The future still holds many secrets from me. It holds many challenges. I do know that when my husband passes I will need help getting back on my feet emotionally, and I will seek it. I am not afraid of what’s coming, but I am sad. And, as weird as this sounds, I’m ready. I’ve been witness to his recoveries. His declines. What he’s going through now is not living. Pain, endless physical pain. Loneliness that never seems to abate. He can’t walk, he can’t see well, and he can’t even pee on his own anymore. I am ready for his healing to occur, knowing full well that it won’t be in life, but in death. He’s ready, too. Not knowing when in the future this is coming is incredibly hard to face, but none of us knows our last breath will be taken.

Sometimes I could keep on writing, but not today. I’m going to end here for now and will come back soon. I appreciate you reading this and hope that it encourages you in some small way to keep moving forward. We are all part of a world that is noisy, chaotic and seemingly at times, out of control. We are also part of a world that is beautiful, full of adventure and exciting. Remember to be kind, stay safe and love freely…

Almost Done…

Hi All,

Do the words in the title of tonight’s blog make you feel anything? Maybe anxious? Or excited? How about sad? These two words bring a lot of feeling to the forefront of my mind, and right now, the most obvious feeling is scared. I am scared. My husband is hanging on, but I know his life is almost done. At least here on this earth. My husband is a believer, as am I, but we don’t believe the same way all the time. It’s okay. We both believe that his healing will happen in the afterlife. We both believe that the journey towards the afterlife will be worth all the suffering. He believes, and so do I, that once he passes away, his spirit will never leave mine. His body is a vessel, as is mine, but the spiritual connection is something beyond the physical. I am scared to have to say goodbye for good to the physical presence of my beloved, but I know I don’t have to say goodbye to the spirit of the man I have loved all my life.

Almost done… with my seasonal job at UPS as a PVD (private vehicle driver) and I think I’ll miss it more than I care to admit. I’ve met some cool people, gotten to know a few neighborhoods outside the city and proven to myself that this almost 60 year old can keep up! The job has helped me get through the holiday season without my husband. It’s been 56 days today since I’ve been allowed to see him. The pay is healthy for a temp job, and I’ve managed to save quite a bit. I am saving for the future, I have to. Soon I will be completely alone, carrying the burden of finances on my own. I’m ready. I want to look forward without fear, and look back with gratitude. I don’t know where I’ll end up, or when, but I’ll keep making sure I am as ready as possible.

Almost done… I’m trying to figure out a time frame for selling my Ford Escape. It’s time to let it go and put that money towards the future as well. I plan on selling it in February or March, and I’ll be ready to lessen my auto insurance as well. Living in one of the highest cost cities for car insurance is so not a bonus when it comes to cost, but taking that car off my bill will certainly ease the pain in my wallet. I’m looking forward to being almost done in this specific regard! Boston is very expensive, people drive like maniacs, and more times than not, you can tell drivers have a hurry up and get in front of someone attitude. I let them. It’s not worth the crash. Or cash.

I’m wishing I could find a way to be almost done with the amount of times I put my heart at risk by trusting people with it. I’m learning, but damn, at 58 you’d think I’d have a little more sense as to who is and isn’t trustworthy. I’ve always said that the lessons that we learn the hardest are the ones we learn the best, but for some reason, this is a lesson I just can’t seem to learn fully. I’m raw, and broken, and hurting for others, but in that hurt, I opened the door to being hurt without realizing it. Again. Please, let me be almost done with putting myself out there to be stomped on, ridiculed and treated like I am less than. Enough. I am also strong willed, determined and sassy. Time to let those traits shine for a while.

We had been without internet here at the house since Saturday past, and just got it back today. It’s been kind of nice, in a way, but also not so nice. I depend on my Chromebook and it’s connection to the internet to write my blog, and not being able to when I wanted was annoying. It’s back up now, Alexa is responsive once again, and I can write, listen to music, play games, pay bills (ick) and do whatever else we humans do with the internet. I have been trying to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle for a few months, and following a page on Facebook called Becoming Minimalist. I found during our internet loss I really missed it. I don’t have a lot of material things, everything my husband and I own fits in my room at home and a small storage unit. Being minimal appeals to my planning nature, and it sure makes cleaning and organizing easier. Whenever I finally get to move the things out of storage, I may have to purge again. One of my favorite things to do…

In closing, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this entry. The world may crashing all around us, but we can try and find a little light at the end of each day. I am concerned that the country I love may be almost done, and I pray for peace. The human race is the only thing that can save the human race, but we’re not doing a very good job of saving ourselves right now. Love should always win. I’m not almost done with hatred, I AM DONE with hatred. Hating your neighbors because of their politics, or skin color, or even their sexual orientation is exhausting. Pick up and put on the mantle of peace. Walk away from the frenzy and take the time to feel the sun on your face. Help your elderly neighbor with whatever they need. Pay it forward. Smile. And, as always, remember to be kind to one another. Kindness is free, and will do your heart good.

Until next time…

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A Love Letter to 1988…

Dear daughter,

February 12, 1988, was a chilly Friday morning in Hampton, VA. Your maternal grandmother was at our apartment helping your soon to be “big sister” ready for school and the dentist. Daddy and I were going to Hampton AFB Hospital to welcome you into our arms and introduce you to the world. You were so loved and we were ready to grow our family for the final time.

You were born after 11 hours and 56 minutes of labor, though not all hard labor. You were very small for a full term baby, sort of blue, and screaming once the doctor got the cord from around your neck. You rapidly turned pink and had a set of lungs that would continue to give you issues throughout your youth. You were jaundiced, laid under the lights in the hospital and then in the sunlight streaming through our patio window once you came home. We loved you so. We still do…

You were an easy child to raise but a difficult babe to carry. I was very sick the entire length of my pregnancy with you. I’ve often said had you been born first I never would have had another child, but I would have. Especially if that child was like you. I remember being so sick your Daddy would cry from not knowing how to help me. Every single day of sickness was worth it because we have you and we love you. So much…

I don’t know how to tell you how much your love has meant to both Daddy and me. How do you tell someone that they’ve been your guiding light? How do you express a love so deep that to think about it brings tears of joy and pain at the same time? Joy because you are a wonderful person. Pain because we miss you so much. You had so many physical challenges to overcome as a young child, and you did. We loved you through all of it, we still do…

You were young when you said to us that you would never hurt us like your older sister did. You never have. I know you miss her, we do, too. Your determination to stay out of trouble and do well in school has led you to a wonderful life full of love, learning and stability. You set the kind of example for your children that shines brightly and they have the most amazing mom. Ever!

There are so many things I would change for you if I could. Your Daddy wouldn’t be sick. We would still be in SC being hands-on grandparents and enjoying being so close to you and your beautiful family. I wish I could give your son back his Poppa. I wish I could hold your daughter’s hand and see her new Hatchimals in person. I miss you and love you, so much. We both do…

When people tell me that they’re amazed at how strong I am, I tell them that I don’t have a choice. I’ve had to be strong. With you I can fall apart and cry and rage and hide… and I appreciate that more than you will ever know. I’ll be honest and tell you that I am weaker than ever, but in that weakness is beauty and resilience. With each day that passes and we cannot be together, I want you to know that I pray for you and your family. I pray that you all know how much your Daddy and me love you all. I pray for your safety. I pray that your children know how much they are loved by their grandparents. I give thanks to God and the universe for the gift of you. As a mother that has known the pain of losing a child, I can tell you that the joy of loving you has been a healing and soothing balm to my broken heart. Thank you for loving me, for loving Daddy and for being the daughter that you are. You are my heart. Always…

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The Man Without Us…

Hi all, I hope this entry finds you all well and staying safe…

I write a lot about how I feel because it makes sense to me to write what I know. I know how “I” feel. I woke up this morning feeling like I usually do. I wake with the light and since the light comes early on the East Coast, I wake early. Not a big deal. This morning I woke and my first thoughts were of my husband as they always are now. This morning I woke thinking how each day passes and how alone he must feel without us. How alone he must feel without his brothers, his mom, his daughter, his sons-in-love and his grandchildren. How alone he must feel without all of the people that love him being allowed to see him everyday.

The man without us is a man of broad shoulder, barrel chested, sports a military buzz cut, and has blue eyes that shine. My husband stood at 5’11” and carried himself with the discipline and pride instilled deep within by the many years of service to our nation. He was a larger man, with a solidness that made his hugs the best ever. A Teddy Bear in private; a fiercely loyal and protective man all around. He served 24.5 years in the military and it was an honor to serve beside him. It wasn’t easy then and it’s not easy now, but we made it through all those years, surprisingly intact, and I am grateful for the opportunity we had to make a life together.

As I sit in the kitchen of my oldest brother-in-law’s kitchen, I find myself feeling way too much to be able to share everything in my head about this subject in one blog post. Can you imagine what any patient in a skilled care facility must feel on a daily basis because of the restrictions of visitation due to Covid-19? Granted, the restrictions are in place to protect the health of patients and employees, but when you’re dealing with compromised patients, they aren’t always able to process rules and regulations. They see limitations as cruel, and hurtful, and beyond their comprehension. My husband was a smart, logical man before his TBI, but now he’s like a little boy that just “doesn’t get it.” He cries, he rages and he aches for the loving touch of a hug, a hand held, and a kiss on the cheek. He deserves that. We all do. Imagine having that taken away from yourself with no warning, no comprehension, and no end in sight? This is the plight of hundreds of thousands of people across the country. We are being told that we can visit our loved ones by appointment only, but that we can’t touch them, we can’t approach them, and we can’t hug them. It’s torturous from no matter how we look at it. People mean well when they say things like “you should be grateful that you can see him.” They tell me to be patient, that “this too shall pass.” Or, “You should…” You need to…” “I want you to…”

The man without us doesn’t care that other people “think” those of us that love him “should.” He doesn’t care that the reasons for the limitations on visiting are in place to try to protect the most vulnerable among us against a silent virus that spreads like wildfire. He cares that he’s lonely, that he feels abandoned and that he thinks no one cares. I love my husband beyond my own life, I would take the TBI onto myself and set him free of all the pain and loss and loneliness. I can’t. What I can do? I can carry my share of his heaviness and do it with as much grace, fortitude and determination as I can muster on a daily basis. Some days it’s easy, some not, and then there are the in-between days. The days that start with tears, but end with smiles. The days that rain without ceasing and you swear that you’ll never see the sun again. The days where the weather is the stuff of dreams… I know the man I married all those years ago is gone, but he’s not at the same time. Until you experience the challenges of an event like the one that changed our lives, and the lives of so many around us, you’ll never quite understand the struggle. I pray you never have to understand the struggle.

The man without us is safe, he’s being well cared for and he is loved. At my darkest times I cry out to God for the strength to make it through another day. I cry out in my pain and beg the universe for peace, and sometimes I find it. I think back on the happiest times we had as a couple and relish the feel of my husband’s arms around me. I can hear his voice saying “baby, take your glasses off, you’ve fallen asleep reading.” I can picture him playing Matchbox cars with our two youngest grandchildren. Or fishing with our oldest grandson. I can see him encouraging our oldest granddaughter to hit the softball. The man without us is not without us, he is always with us. In our hearts, in our minds, in our every day lives.

The man without us would want those of us that love him to continue pressing onward toward that which brings us joy. He wants us to live, and love ,and never forget that he loves us. He is a Poppy, Opa, Daddy and Dad to so many. An uncle, brother, brother-in-love, and friend. He is strong even in his weakness and he is loved beyond measure. He is my person and I am not without him, no matter what happens. I hope that his life and the trials we face together and separately help others know that life after a TBI is possible. It’s very different, but it’s possible. The love shown to me by the man I married in 1982 is pure of heart and simple in nature. That everyone would know that such love exists is possible, and seeking it is worth the effort. When you wake up each day, I pray that you find joy in greeting the new day, even if the struggles you know you will face seem unbearable. If you cry each day, don’t despair. Learn what you can from your pain and sorrow, and give the gift of yourself to someone else.

The man without us is not alone in spirit and for this I am beyond thankful. He prays, he sings and he talks to his Lord in his own way. I am comforted by this. I believe differently than he does, and that’s okay. Knowing that we’re not alone is sometimes all we get, and learning how to be grateful in the small moments makes the larger ones less scary. I miss the man that was, I love the man that is, and I pray for continued safety for us all.

Until next time…

Stay safe, be well, and remember to always be kind…

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