Thursday, September 7, 2017

Triggers

Triggers - a device that releases a spring or a catch and sets a mechanism off, such as the trigger on the gun. In the land of grief you find that there are some triggers you are aware of and others that  catch you off guard. I wandered into a veritable minefield when I chose to make a temporary move back to my home state. I'm playing Russian roulette with my heart, not knowing when I'm going to set off a cascade of tears.

Maybe during that first year the very act of "being" in the home we shared was comfort and made the reality of my loss less "real." I don't know how many times I remarked to one of the girls that I often felt that he was just "out in the yard" doing his chores and would be in the house in a minute. So many times I lay in our bed and looked over at his dresser and envisioned him standing there, just fiddling with his plethora of odds and ends like he did so many times. His presence was so very strong that I believe that part of me felt allowed to believe he was indeed "there."

Now I am 336 miles away and he is not here. Memories of him are, however.  I've been down back roads that he and I drove down 30+ years ago. I've been places that he longed to go - without him. In the midst of doing something truly enjoyable, like hiking the Appalachian Trail, I have felt the icy grip of reality clutch at my heart. I'm no longer in our bed, with his dog beside me, feeling the old indent he made in the mattress. That song comes on the radio and I'm mere miles from where "it all started with a beer."  I'm in the place we found each other, found the Lord, escaped our old lives, built something real.  His absence here is profound. The loss of him is palatable.

It is only now that his death has become painful real; my heart has lost the shroud of pretense. The veil has lifted and my soul cries out, "You're gone! You're gone! Come back..."

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Missing my dogs...

When Pat died, Sasha and Charlie were my most stalwart companions. We grieved together. When I cried, they came to comfort me. When they were sad, I hugged and cheered them.  Why did I think that I could move 300 miles away and not miss them with every fiber of my being? Being away from them a week was hard but they survived with the boys to hug on them and love them. Now, so many changes are happening I know that they are on edge. They watched me move things out of my home. Charlie moped and cowered because he knew deep in his heart that something was not right.  Now that it has been 8 days away, instead of being easier, for me it has become harder and harder.  It is grief. I'm experiencing grief - but without the comfort that got me through Pat's death. With that grief, I'm having bad dreams. I'm tense, I'm on edge. I keep thinking about their pain, their anguish. Wondering where I am, why I haven't returned. Their little world turned upside down. I think of Charlie creeping into the boys' bed after they fall asleep (they want him in earlier but pester him too much). Poor Sasha, doesn't want to be in the bed. She lays on the floor.  Her heart was shattered when Pat died. I must be killing her with my absence. Praying that I can have them with me soon. Desperately hoping something will work out so that they can be with me. We belong together.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Tookish spirit awakens and adventuring I go...

"Sorry! I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning!"  I just wanted to cling to as much of my old life as possible. To come home to my lonely house (and wish it wasn't so lonely), do the things I always did, and somehow to add the things I want into it. It would be perfectly okay for me  to work at the job I began after Pat's death - I loved my job even though I couldn't afford to live on the salary. Somehow, if life could go on that way, I would be worried about survival and yet strangely content.

And then, my Tookish spirit awoke. God moved and doors opened, connections were made, bringing with them a job in my field, in my home stomping grounds, near the man I love and my daughter/family.  My Tookish spirit cried, "Walk through those doors!" and as I crossed each threshold more and more of a new life was revealed to me.

No matter how promising it looks, it is hard for a hobbit at heart to come from the comfort of the home hearth and step out into the unknown. I had to slowly ease out of my comfort zone by doing things like driving 336 miles alone and back. That was something that had frightened me stopping at rest areas alone, oh my!) and now I've done it several times.  I also have been having to come to terms with the thought of leaving 3 of my daughters and 7 of my grandchildren behind. I plan on coming back on monthly visits and on all school breaks. (My head tells me that during the school year I've been so busy working two jobs that I didn't see them as often anyhow - my heart says, "Shut up!") Whatever the case, maybe the apron strings need to be cut and this will be healthier for us all. I can't live a shadow existence, working and waiting to be needed to babysit or needed for something.

So here I am - on the cusp of an adventure. There is no turning back. Once I set my face to the east, I'm committed for the whole school year. There is fear -- and there is excitement. There is hope and yes, some anxiety. Will this be good for me? What kind of changes might this make within me? Who will I be when all is said and done?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

In one word...



On a FB grief support community, someone posted this meme. The top words that people chose were: Unending. Unbearable. Life ending. Everlasting. Relentless. Surreal. Lonely. Difficult. Impossible. Shocking. Crushing. Empty. Lost. Hell. Change. Broken. One user even put "Can't."  One user put "hope" and another "heaven."  As for me, the word I chose was: REDEFINING.

How has grief redefined me?

My world was turned upside down. I had a hole in my heart the size of the Grand Canyon. Having been part of an "us" for 34 years, I was suddenly on my own. It was like falling of a boat into the middle of the ocean. During a storm. In the dark. My life became so utterly different than what it was and while the changes were being made, having to contend with crushing sadness and loss was at times nearly overwhelming.

I say "nearly overwhelming" because God won't let us be overwhelmed. His presence in the fire, in the flood, in the furnace, wherever we may be, keeps us from being consumed by it.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Busy-ness

It occurred to me that I have spent most of this past year since my husband died in a whirlwind of busy-ness. It is rare that I relax - often that means collapsing.

Before Pat passed, I had accepted a position that did not pay well because we had his income for our main support. This job was a mission and very worthy in terms of experience. We were both excited about it.  When he passed, I knew the salary wasn't going to cut it BUT there was no way on this green earth that I could handle interviews after his death. So I've been drawing from the life insurance I received to pay my big bills every month - this cannot go on forever.  I also would lose my health insurance because we were insured through Pat's job. My new job offered that but it took a huge chunk out of my paycheck each payroll. Therefore, I began teaching several exercise classes a week to supplement my income.

Each day involved getting up at 5:30, taking care of the dogs, leaving for school by 7, a 30-minute drive, starting my workday, dealing with a very unkind co-worker, heading home at 3:15 for a 45-minute drive since the traffic had picked up. Taking care of dogs, eating quickly, heading out the door to teach a class, coming home, grading papers, cleaning, laundry. For a couple of months there was a man I was seeing who showed up every night that I didn't work at the gym. This meant that I couldn't do the stuff that needed to be done because I was entertaining him or he was taking me out to eat. Sometimes we walked or went to the gym but I was determined to be in bed by 9:30 pm to get a good night's sleep. Therefore, there was more rush on the other days. On weekends I tried to see the grandkids, tried to accomplish bigger chores. Went to church every Sunday. Directed a children's church Christmas program from October through December.

All the while I was rushing hither and yon, working, breathing, juggling life, I was stricken with grief and striving to function around it somehow. My house was (and mostly is) positively overflowing with my husband's things. He liked his "stuff" and there has been quite a wild amount to deal with. (My goal was to get that done this summer, ha ha ha). I was able after a few months to give away and donate more than 15 giant bags of his clothing. When I say "more," I am talking 5 - 10 bags more. I lost count. There were 64 pairs of pants/jeans before I stopped counting. I'm still working on shoveling my way out of his belongings and there are less than three weeks left to summer break.

This summer break I had so much that I planned to tackle. However, Vacation Bible School was slated for two weeks after school ended. That first week meant decorating and organizing stuff. Any one who has done this know what kind of work this is. My dear friend and I had the teaching station so we had to plan/practice our lessons and then spend 3 hours each morning delivering them.  Meanwhile in the first two weeks after school ended, I taught 26 exercise classes.  The summer has been spent with me teaching 10 classes a week  - and sometimes a couple of more. I've babysat grandchildren whenever possible.

I also fell in love. After the first fuzzy relationship - more like friendship - with a widower ended, God put a man in my life that had been a friend of my husband's. He was seeking after God, reading my writings, and wanting to talk to me about the Lord. That turned into a long distance relationship and a prayer partnership. We read the Bible together daily and pray every morning before work and every evening before bed. We also have been seeing each other every month, sometimes twice a month. Each of those visits is jam-packed with a great deal of busy, busy frenzied activity. He has projects that he feels need to be done at my house (and I'm thankful). When I go there, he has things he wants to take me to do and I also need to see my daughter and her four children. It hasn't been restful.  The most restful time was when I had two snow days in a row and he was visiting while out of work due to an injury.

I've had very few days with the luxury of truly having nothing to do in a "good way." The days that there has been "nothing" were also populated with emotional turmoil. There has been quite a bit of that to contend with. The co-worker who was so much like Dolores Umbridge who seemed to make a business out of trying to tear me down. The grieving child lashing out at the easiest target. Suffice it to say that other relationships can be affected by grief, especially when it is shared. Being the "mom" it was very hard to function in full mom mode when I have also been a new widow trying to find my way in a completely new life.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One year has passed...

It seems like yesterday they were lowering Pat into the ground - and yet it seems like a thousand years ago, or at least a dozen.  On one hand I feel like I'll spy him out in the back yard, putzing around, doing what he love. On another, I feel like it has been infinity since I saw his face, kissed his lips, and felt his warmth.  Here I am, after one year has passed, gazing into the gaping hole left by the loss of my husband.

How can it be that my life somehow moves forward with such an intrinsic partner in it missing? We were an "us" not a "you" and an "I." This is something that he emphatically stated time and time again. We were a team, each with our own roles to play but clearly working together towards a common goal. I feel at times like I am standing out in a ballfield, facing my opponent, and yet somehow expected to cover all the bases by myself. On those days I'm torn between trying to do it all and wanting to call "forfeit" and run home to nurse my sorrows.

There are things I would tell him, and I hope he would understand. I'm an athlete, no good on the sidelines. Letting life pass me by doesn't come natural to me and no dishonor to the relationship is meant. "I'm in the tryouts or training season for a new team. Seven months now.  He is not you, but he is a good man in his own right."  This new team is going to have a completely different schema; its own strengths and weaknesses. It doesn't replace the team that Pat and I once made. In fact, it is an entirely different league. Once upon a time we were children who grew up into adults together, we built a life, had our own children, then grandchildren. This new team is made up of two people who are already all grown up and who do not want to stand alone in the ballfield hitting balls and running after them alone.

Sometimes I cry; most of the time I just keep muddling forward. I've made it through one year this way. One day I'll probably sit down to write and discover it has been ten years. I wonder where I will be then.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Do you deserve to be happy?

What do you deserve? Deserve means to be worthy of, to be entitled to, to have a right to.  There is a current song by Little Big Town that says "we all deserve to be happy while we're here." Why? Why are you entitled to happiness? Where is this written? The Founding Fathers seemed to understand happiness wasn't an entitlement. They said we had the right to *pursue* it, not that we deserved it.

Our culture programs us to equate happiness to the material pleasures, sexuality and other bodily gratification. Choose the right partner with the right actions to stroke your ego and you'll be happy. Do this activity and you will be happy. Buy these clothes, cars, gadgets, etc, and you will be happy. Marriages are destroyed and families are broken because we look for other people to make us happy and when they don't, we abandon ship and create ripples of unhappiness for others as that ship sinks. How many children are damaged by divorce and fighting because their happiness was secondary to the egos or material needs of their parents?  We teach them that other people are expendable if they don't gratify our selfish desires. We teach them that obtaining material things is crucial to finding joy. Pursuing money to gain material goods becomes more important than time rearing children, making memories with spouses, and even proper rest.  The idea that happiness comes from "entertainment" leads to time spent in emptiness and immorality, opening the door to more temptation and destruction of the values and people who are truly important  There is so much ugliness that tends to accompany the concept that we "deserve" to be happy. Throw in the concept of being entitled to it and a blind eye is turned to the negative until far too much damage is done.

The Bible tells us this, "Godliness with contentment is great gain." and Psalm 144:15b "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" Godliness is the key to happiness - and being content, not constantly looking for more and more, but being satisfied is profitable. One way I can see right off the bat that it is profitable is because you aren't striving, striving, striving to have things or a movie-perfect marriage.  When you are looking at and truly appreciating the things you have, you can build upon them. Try gratitude. Seek contentment.

Philippians 4:12 - 13  "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Luke 12:15 "Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”"

Psalm 37:3-4 3 "Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."