Monday, November 17, 2014

Where Do I Belong?

Recently I have been more active in reading other widow's blogs.  Active in a sense that I check in and read a couple times a weeks and will even go back to posts that I have missed during the course of that week.  Even more than that, I have even commented several times.  Since becoming a widow myself, I have browsed blogs in the past few years, but not like this.  Never consistently.  And I never commented.  I just knew they were out there and knew that if I ever felt like I needed to feel that connection with other widows, they were out there.

I began frequenting these blogs more often in the past couple of months.  I think what I was really looking for was someone who had moved on.  I was looking for someone to describe what it was like to find another love and to create a new life with him.  I wanted to hear about the promise and hope of a wonderful present and future, but also the struggles that it entailed in truly moving on.  I can't say that I really found that blog.  What I did find is "Widow's Voice:  Seven Widowed Voices Sharing Love, Loss, and Hope."  What I like about this blog is that there are 7 different writers.  They all are all widows and all have their own stories and unique journeys.  There is even a widow who lost her husband to suicide.  I often seek out her posts because we share that commonality (unfortunately) and there is a comfort in that.  However, because of the variety of stories and widows, I have to say that I have felt some connection with each of them.  And it's nice.  Being a widow is an experience like no other, and being in my 30's, even a rarer commonality to find with anyone my age.

I was very proud of myself for commenting, not only because I was opening up my thoughts and feelings at the moment on that topic, but I also opened up my blog.  I made comments signed into my own blog account which opened the door to anyone who happened to click onto my name.  After all of this time, my blog is still a rather hidden blog.  I do not advertise it to anyone, even friends.  It has always been just for me, and for anyone who happened to stumble across it.  But back to the point I wanted to make, it was when I began commenting that I actually began to feel a disconnect with these widows.

It is not just this blog alone, but I have not come across any blogs in which there was trouble in the relationship.  I remember reading another post from another blog in which this widow attended a widow camp.  Even in her post she commented on the many different people she met and the many different stories that they all had.  The one thing that they all had in common was that they lost their husbands and the wonderful life and marriage that they had with him.  She said there were but very few people that she met there that didn't.

I think that is part of what has opened me up more and more about the tumultuous aspects of my relationship with Dale.  I felt as if I were not being genuine in not sharing my whole truth.  To me.  That is part of my story too.  That is my truth.  It has taken me this long to finally feel comfortable enough to reveal this part.  I don't think it was ever about protecting myself.  It was about protecting him.  The truth is ugly and I never wanted to paint him that way.  I think after 3 years of blogging and nearly 400 posts, I did a good job in not doing that.  I was trying to stay focused on the positives.  I needed to.  And I wasn't ready until now to reveal any more.  I needed too.  This move, this new life that is now just days away... it has stirred things up for me emotionally.

I have grown so much since I first began this blog.  And while the posts that I have written in the past month are darkest that I have shared, it is not because I am in a bad place.  I am in such a good place that I know that I am strong enough, brave enough, and confident enough to confront them.  I need to release these thoughts that have resurfaced so that I can let them go.  It is when they get stuck and swim in your head that they become most dangerous.

So where do I belong?  Everywhere and nowhere...

I remember the summer of 2010.  My sister had just gone through a divorce.  I remember sitting in this very apartment looking at my son and my husband and wondering how I could ever start again.  I wondered how I could ever love someone like I loved Dale.  He was the first and only man that I had ever loved and the thought was incomprehensible to me.  It was not that at this point only months, literally months before he took his own life, our marriage was absolutely wonderful.  It wasn't.  It was unhealthy then.  Call it denial, call it ignorance... I'll call it consciously unaware of our reality.  However, what was real to me at that time was my love for him.  I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him.  So I do belong with those widows who grieve the loss of their loved one.

I also belong with those silent widows.  The ones who know true fear and horror.  The ones who have seen a different kind of hell.  The ones who can't help but to be thankful for their lives.  That is me too.

It is excruciatingly exhausting to be on both ends of the spectrum.  Like I posted yesterday, I have come to terms with my reality and 95% of the time,  I am in check.  I am balanced.  But when I lean more to one side, it doesn't matter which one, they both have negative consequences of guilt and self doubt.

Where do I belong?  Exactly where I am.

The Theory of... My Feelings

Last week I was at the height of my emotional roller coaster when I watched this trailer.  So when I unsurprisingly found myself crying within 30 seconds, I thought it was because of the beauty of this story.  It's sad and tragic, yet so hopeful and inspiring.  It's a love story.  A beautiful love story with all the glory and all the battles that life can throw at us.  That is something that I felt I could identify with and this short glance at this movie pulled at my heartstrings.  

It wasn't until and hour or so later that night when I began to question why I felt so affected by this movie.  And it was a hard truth.  

I do not know this story.  I never read the book.  I did not see the whole movie.  But what I took from this less than three minute preview is that this young couple had so much promise to have a wonderful life together and he a brilliant future career wise.  Then he was diagnosed with a horrible illness in ALS.  The awe and the inspiration that this short clip released was that despite the devastation and the struggle, they were still able to have that wonderful life and brilliant career... just in a different way.    

In another clip I had found, it focused more on his wife Jane and her strength.  She chose to stay with this man before she even knew what exactly it all would entail.  And she stood by him, until the very end.  Why I was so affected was because watching this drew out my feelings of guilt.  The insecurities and the questions that still exist on my role in what happened in my own life, in my marriage.  I questioned myself and my strength as Dale's wife.  And it was just another painful stab in what has already been a painful process in these past few weeks.  

It wasn't until the next day that I began to process all of my thoughts around what this movie conjured within me.  The thing is, is that I cannot compare my story to this one.  It is not the same and it is unfair to Dale and to myself for having done so.  Dale suffered and struggled with his mental illness for 25 years.   It was a tough and exhausting fight, but we had our moments of pure joy and happiness too.  He did not use all of the resources available to him, but he fought nonetheless and I stood by him for nearly 14 of those years. I never chose to walk away, it was a necessity that I was removed from the picture for the time being.  

I think that is where I get hung up.  There is a gap of 17 days from the last time I saw him to the day that he died.  Within that first week, the only form of communication was severed because even a phone call aroused the demons within him so much so that his mother thought it best that we don't talk for the time being.  It was a safety issue for my son and I just as much as it was for him.  But I was helpless.  There was nothing more that I could do, just hope. 

I think it is just that I still haven't fully comprehended and accepted what led us to that point.  It is hard to admit that.  To others.  To myself.  And one day, to my son.  He will have questions.  He will want answers.  Someday, he will deserve to know the truth.  

Ninety five percent of the time, I internally know and accept the truth.  I know that the decisions that I had made were done so with respect and with love.  I know that I gave everything that I had to my marriage.  And I have no regrets and no guilt.  But there are times, like when I saw this clip that the 5% comes out and I can't help but to wonder why things didn't take a different direction for us.  

It is not as if this story has the happiest of endings.  Perhaps its just because she was able to stand by him until the very end.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Up, Down, and All Around

In 12 days, I will be spending my first night in my new home.  For now, I am still here and I can pretty much guarantee that anything that I post in the next 12 days is going to be about moving.  It has been an emotional roller coaster for me and like I've written in my last couple of posts, it has started to take its toll.  Twelve days.  It's not a countdown as in I'm wishing or hoping those 12 days away, but it is a focal point for me.  It is something that I need to look forward to because when I am at home packing and watching my home deteriorate into a shell full of boxes and emptiness, its comforting to know that there is something absolutely amazing waiting for me when I open the door to my new home and a new chapter in my life.

But, for now, I am up, down and all around.

I actually took this picture myself, walking up the winding staircase to the top of the Arc de Triumphe.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Tough Go

I'd like to think that I am a person that handles stress well.  I feel like I am someone who most often sees the big picture and therefore doesn't sweat the small stuff.  I try my best to deal with things as they come, one by one, until they they pass and when they do I don't usually have a difficult time in letting them go.  However, when multiple stresses seem to be coming right after one another, it always seems like the least significant one is the one that bites me in the ass.  And when it does... I feel the weight of not only that, but of all the recently past stressors that I thought I rid myself of.

There has been lots going on in the past couple of months and I have been dealing with it and handling it rather well until the insignificant one decided to show up last week.  Since then, I feel the weight of everything that is going on and then some.  I have been both physically and emotionally drained this past week.  Even my immune system has weakened as I have found myself with an infection.  I've been quiet and withdrawn and I've had a hard time staying positive.

One thing that I have learned is how to appreciate the process.  When it became official that I was moving, I knew that it was going to be a challenge both physically and mentally.  But I was so happy and excited and ready that I began this process about a month ago full of optimism.  Now, I feel burdened.  I know that the end of my apartment and all that it represents is coming to an end, but it feels like such a slow death.  The packing, the selling, and the memories both the traumatic and even the good have all taken its toll.

This mental hurdle is taking front and center.  This is probably the hardest and most challenging thing that I have had to do since Dale's death.  Taking care of my son, budgeting, started to date again... all things that were challenging, but this is different.  I worked so hard to not get stuck and to move on, face to the sun.  It wasn't until now that I realized how stuck I was in this apartment.  That is why it is so difficult to leave.  I'm not just moving out, I'm moving in... with a man.  There will always be ties and connections, but what is about to happen is going to sever the ties that can be broken.  This is truly moving on.

As happy as I am... As right as this is... It's still... hard.  I don't know how else to describe it.  It's so incredibly difficult.  So much so that I am at the point where I almost wish that I could just take my son and a small suitcase and leave.  Because the constant reminders of what I am leaving whether its a good memory or a bad one, both sting.  And it hurts.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From 0-9

As my life approaches yet another new beginning, I cannot help but to reflect on my past.  Yesterday, thanks to an article posted on Facebook about the positives of moving, I couldn't help but to think of the many moves that I have made in my life.  As I did that, I fell into sort of a numbers "game."

2:  That is the number of states that I have lived in.

5:  That is the number of different cities I have lived in.

8:  That is the number of homes that I have lived in.

9:  At the end of this month, this will be the new number of homes that I have lived in.

Once I got started, I couldn't help but to think of the many other numbers that hold significance to me.   Dates and times, yes.  But even the single digit numbers hold so much as well.

7:  Seven years ago, I moved to NYC.

4:  Seven years ago, I moved here with a husband, two dogs, and I was nearly 12 weeks pregnant.

0:  Not of those 4 are still alive today.

Those are the tough numbers.  The numbers that have burned and scarred.  The numbers that remind me of how fragile life is and how quickly it can change.

But just as quickly, life can turn in the opposite direction.  And you can find yourself in new place and in a new time that you never imagined you would find yourself in, left with 3 last numbers.

1:  On November 25, I finally have a new and happy anniversary to celebrate.  1 year.  It will be one year since I first met John.

3:  And almost exactly to the very date of that one year anniversary, the three of us will move in together.  A new family will be created.

6:  I actually don't have anything for this number.  I'm sure I could rack my brain and think of something, but the point of this was that I didn't have to think about these numbers.  They are all connected around what is going on in my life right now, which is moving.  So, I don't know what this number holds, not yet.  It would be fitting if it made itself known rather soon.  And even more fitting that it lands itself on the positive side.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Coming Down

In those early months after Dale died, I felt in many ways as if I had put myself inside of a bubble.  A bubble in which I could see out of, but one that protected me from the outside world.  I was so raw and exposed, I needed some type of protection from the outside world so that I could focus solely on my own little world.  During this time was when I decided that all I wanted to let in was the positives.  My son who was only 20 months at that time was my greatest teacher in showing me how to truly appreciate and find beauty in the simplest of things.  I also began this blog during that time and my focus then as it still mainly is now, is to find the silver lining in whatever is going on in my life.  I also looked for other positives in movies, books, new found friendships, you name it and I was looking for that positive.  I needed it.  I didn't want to fall into the darkness because I was afraid of what would happen if I did.

Just weeks after Dale's death, I received a gift.  It came from a friend of my sister's, a woman I had never met before.  She knew of my story through my sister and out of concern and kindness, she sent this to me...

This quote started to mean more to me as time passed and I began to rebuild myself and my life.  As I began to heal, I also began to grow stronger and more confident in myself.  Eventually I found myself.  However, it wasn't a new, reinvented version of myself.  It was the person that I always was inside, just a stronger, wiser version of who I was always meant to be.

Before I found myself though, I found this...

When I saw this, I knew I wanted to have this to put on my wall to remind me of how I wanted to live my life.  And for the most part, I believe that I do.  I think what I have the most difficult time with is asking for what I need.  I still feel uncomfortable asking for help.  But it is something that I am getting better at and it is something that is going to be more prevalent in my day to day life now that John and I will be living together soon.  He wants to help.  He wants to take care of me.  And as wonderful as that sounds, it's also going to require me to embrace vulnerability more.  It's going to be an adjustment for me as I have wrapped myself up in a zone of doing it on my own.  It makes me feel in control of my life and I like that.  But John is wonderful and I trust him.  And I will need to let it go, that control.

For nearly 3 years, I would have considered this blog my way of releasing my creative spirit.  This summer, I decided that I really want to take up photography.  It makes sense.  It has been such an important part of my healing these past three years.  I also feel like I have the personality of a photographer.  I have not yet started this new passion.  I am oozing to, but I just need to get everything else settled in my life right now.  But I can't wait.  :)

Finally, but perhaps most important...

In the midst of all of the sadness, guilt, and confusion, I had this.

These quotes of hope and inspiration have been on my walls for over three years.  Today, I took them down.  In exactly three weeks from today, John and I will have the keys to our home.  So I took these down in preparation for the move.  I took them down and packed them up.  They will come with me to my new home and into my new life.  However, I do not plan on putting them up back onto my walls.  I no longer need these positive reminders.  They have helped lead me to happiness and that is a place I do not on intend on ever losing.