Friday, 28 December 2012

What to Say?

This is just to say
I want to write
but am stumped for words
I have countless posts
started, in progress
so much to say
Where do I start?

I toured as an actor
on a pantomime tour
for care homes.
There are stories of the residents
homes that brought tears to my eyes
and others I thought
'now this isn't so bad'
There were homes I wondered about
There were staff members I thought
should be praised to high heavens
and who surely were angels on earth.
And there are tales from the road
of cars breaking down, and all manner of problems
And then there were times, when it all
seemed worth it
A kind word from a resident, visitor, or staff member
a smile, a laugh, a group of elderly singing along to song
And the acting and singing itself?
Well it always feels good to perform

And then there was Christmas
It wasn't the same
The first I celebrated since losing P
The first time I wasn't with family
But it was nice, relaxed, and full of food and wine
and good company
And I was grateful
that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be

And now
as we approach 2013
I am not as scared as I was to welcome 2012
I know I can live a year without P
It's still not easy
It still doesn't feel right
The night itself will still hold a hole
just big enough for him to fill
But looking back on 2012
I can say I survived
I skydived
Learned to drive
Hiked up Snowdon
Traveled to Spain
Ran a half marathon
and started to act again

So much to say
where do I start?
When you're busy learning to live again
it's hard to find the time to write
And sometimes words
just can't do justice
to all that I'm experiencing
But I wanted to say
I want to write
To keep you abreast on my life
So I hope this helps
bridge the gap
until I can find my voice again.

Sunday, 23 December 2012


Sometimes I feel so low
I'm unable to cry
No energy
to shed a tear
to change the channel
take out the rubbish
or go to bed
I sit still
Where I've landed
and itch with an urge
to escape this feeling.
Thinking of all the things I could eat
to fill the void
but the thought of eating bores me
just like everything else
Put on my favourite tv show
a nostalgic activity
but my mind wanders
Sitting in silence
I find myself wishing
I could crawl out of my skin
My body, this existence
is too much
I'm so anxious, so bored I can taste it
it consumes me
This life is so tedious without him
Each day feels like an eternity
Each moment alone, endless
What am I meant to do
My to do list grows day by day
but motivation escapes me
I sit in my dressing gown
as the dishes pile high in the sink
And I watch my life pass me by
Just out of reach
I can see what I need to do
I can almost touch all my hopes and desires
but the grief monster has a hold on me
and I can't shake it
I'm weakening day by day
This winter is sapping my strength
What can I do?
What should I do?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

'Could you be pregnant?'

The number one question doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have to ask when diagnosing a female patient is....

'Could you be pregnant?'


Now I can not even begin to imagine how much this question cuts those who have been actively trying for years to no avail.  But I can say for me, the question hits me like a blow to the stomach every single time.  I was never the girl who dreamed of being a mother. I feared motherhood and how it would impede my independence and effect my career.  But with P, suddenly my biology began to yearn for a baby, his baby.  Still, I wasn't ready.  On our honeymoon P told me frankly that he wanted to be a dad before he turned forty or not at all.  He 'didn't want to be an old dad'.  Having a deadline (before thirty for me) was scary, and I dug my heels in further, stating adamantly that I got 'to decide when we started trying because it was my body and I would have to do the 2am feedings, be a stay at home mom for the first few years, and do most of the rearing during that time!'  (sorry guys, I know it's not this way for ALL couples but this was the argument for us then)

Moments after P was diagnosed I began secretly hoping that I might be pregnant.  Knowing it wasn't really possible, I started planning when we could proceed with IVF (our only remaining option after chemo began).  I even thought that between treatments I might want to broach the topic with him.  I was desperate for P to be a father, and equally, to be the mother of his child.  I didn't want him to leave this earth without having experienced that joy.  He didn't let others know how badly he yearned to be a dad.  But I knew.  I could read between the lines, and I could see it in his eyes.

So every time someone asks me that question I want to scream 'I should be!'  I should be a mother!  Last week I turned 28.  If P had got his way we would have started trying this year or next if it all hadn't gone so wrong.  And that's when I realised, each year will mark a time in our plans when we should've been doing this or that.  Each holiday I take that I know he'd enjoy or we'd planned on doing together, will hurt.  I was asked by a new friend during my rehearsals last week if I missed him every day.

Yes.  Every. Single. Day.

I could choose to bore you with all the tiny little things that remind me of him, but I'll just give you a few examples.  Driving his car.  Every time I sit in the seat I think, 'this was your seat.  You should be driving.'  Sometimes I lean on the hand brake like he used to and today as I moved to take off, I heard my coat make the noise his used to.  Poached eggs.  I can't make them half as well as he could and every time I attempt I wish he was here to make it for me.  Tea.  He made the best cup of tea.  The list could go on and on.  But right now, it's that question that makes me ache.   It makes me angry and sad, and leaves me feeling hollow.  It makes me want to reply 'don't you know my husband's dead? don't you know what I've been through this past year?'  But of course they don't know.  How could they?  Sometimes I wish I could wear a sign, or sport a tattoo just so I wouldn't have to explain.  

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

It Really Is 'A Wonderful Life' Afterall

The other day a few of my friends and I celebrated a belated Thanksgiving meal.  I hosted, and they acted as sous chefs, eagerly helping every step of the way.  It was a day of cooking, eating, drinking wine, and chatting.  And it was good.

Oddly, despite the somewhat chaotic nature of the day, I felt extremely relaxed.  I enjoyed having something to focus on.  The lead up to the day instilled motivation in me as I spent the preceding days shopping and prepping, joyfully playing my mum's role for a just little while.  I felt so grown up.  So organised.  By the end I felt tired and wired, to be sure, but it was such a huge accomplishment for me that the meal tasted a hundred times better than any Thanksgiving meal I've ever ate previously.

I'd cooked Thanksgiving meals in the past for friends.  It always tasted good but it was always very stressful, last minute, rushed, and on a thin budget.  This time, it was on my terms, in my kitchen, and I did it.  Despite my widow brain.  The thing is, people forget, that my brain is still scrambled.  I feel like it completely shut down when P died and it's been reprogramming and rebooting slowly ever since.  I know I'm a lot better now.  I no longer look, talk, and walk like a zombie, but I still struggle to remember things, whole conversations are often lost in my memory.  People take it personally, but seriously?  I can't even remember when I've taken something out of my bag and moved it to the next room sometimes.  It's like there are gaps in my mind, and I am constantly having mini blackouts.  So the fact that I was able to plan a whole Thanksgiving, complete with a stuffed turkey breast, homemade, from scratch cornbread stuffing, cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, green beans, and a pumpkin pie, feels like a small miracle.  Oh and we had nibbles to start as well.

And then we sat down to watch It's a Wonderful Life.  Another family tradition of mine I was happy to share with friends.  They had to leave before the film finished, so I had the chance to sit alone and really focus on the message of the film.  And it surprised me to find that I identify with George Bailey.  I, too, have always dreamt of seeing the world, of doing big things, and making something of myself....

"I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long... "

Sure I've seen more of the world than George Bailey ever did, but instead of thinking 'Why'd we have to have all these kids anyway?'  I find myself thinking the usual thought why'd I have to lose the love of my life at age 26?  Why was my life stolen from me?  P's from him?  

As cliche as it sounds, this past year has been a blur and often I've felt like it's been a wasted year.  Nearly 28 years old and I still don't know what I want to do with my life, or where I want to live.  In a very different way, I too feel stuck like George Bailey.  Stuck in a life I didn't choose.  But I guess the challenge now is to see that no matter where life has landed you, or the cards you've been dealt, It's a Wonderful Life if you choose to see it.  If P hadn't died, I never would have gone sky diving, ran a half marathon, or learnt to scuba dive.  I never would have met some of the most wonderful people that I am blessed to know now.  Certain friendships would never have blossomed or rekindled.  Out of the ashes comes new life, if you let it.  So as strange as it may sound, as hard as it may be to say aloud, there are so many things to be thankful for this holiday season, if you choose to see it.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Depression? What's that?

It's a taboo topic.
And I can kind of understand why.  It's hard to understand what it is and how it feels until you've experienced it.  And no, it's not just like 'being really sad'.
I honestly didn't get it.  I would say all the right things to friends who admitted they had dealt with or were currently battling with depression.  I'd advocate taking anti-depressants when needed.  I'd tell them not to be ashamed, that they weren't alone, that it was a chemical imbalance, and it wasn't them.  But I did not get it.  I had been REALLY sad in the past and thought it was like that.  I remember spending countless days sobbing with P told me he couldn't move to London as planned because he had to take care of his sick mother.  I struggled to eat, focusing on tasks was near impossible, and dragging myself up out of bed was difficult.  But once I was around people I was able to put it to one side and carry on.
This depression I'm experiencing now?  It's hard to hide.
I sit in the rehearsal room, barely able to crack a smile, fighting to make small talk as required, and resting my head and body every chance I get.  I want to crawl out of my skin.  I want to scream.  Time seems to drag and this aching sensation feels like it will never end.  Food is so boring.  Talking is boring.  TV is dull.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, makes the minutes tick over faster.  It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I feel like everything is an uphill battle.
I let the rubbish pile up this week until it was full to the rim.  The dishes mounted in the sink until I could fit no more.  Bits of dried cereal lay on the floor for days.  Changing the channel required too much energy so the TV stayed on one channel throughout the night.  I am late to most engagements because the only time I can get up and go is when I'm running late.  Some days that sense of urgency is the only motivation I can find.
This show has been one of the hardest challenges of this year.  It is so hard to act in a comedy when inside you're being consumed by a pit of darkness.
I was prescribed anti-depressants.  And even after good friends gently encouraged me to start taking them despite my fear, they are still sitting in my bedside table drawer, the box unopened.  Why?  It's not the taboo.  It's not a sense of 'pride'.  It's a fear of an outside force dictating my mood, controlling my emotions.  And yet, this depression feels just like that.  Like someone has taken over my mind and body.  This is not me.
This year I have been SAD.  I have been DISTRAUGHT.  I have been ripped up and torn apart.  But it was always ME.  Even when I felt out of control I knew where the emotions were coming from.  Now.... I feel like I'm only just in control.  It's a thin line and frankly its disturbing.

So next time someone talks about being depressed, please try to's not just that they're a bit sad and they need to 'buck up'.  Help them, practically.  Go round and eat with them.  Try to get them out of the house for a walk or a meal.  Realise that they might not want to talk.  Silent company is still helpful.  Encourage them to exercise by offering to do it with them.  Exercise really does help but it's so hard to find the motivation.  Send encouraging texts.  And most of all, remember that your help might not be appreciated or accepted now, but when the fog clears they will be grateful.
As for me?  Well I'm the resilient, stubborn type.  I'll see my doctor again, go back to my counsellor, and generally make the most of the good days and try to go easy on myself on the bad days.  I will get through this, I know that.  But until then, please put with my moaning about how much this sucks, and how badly I miss him.  

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Thank you Weeds

Weeds is a dark comedy about a single mother, Nancy, who decides to make ends meet and provide for her family by selling marijuana after her husband unexpectedly dies from a heart attack.  The show ran for 8 seasons.  I was a fan before, but needless to say, over the last few weeks I have been drawn into this dark twisting tale through a sense of empathy and curiosity towards the character of Nancy.  The show does not dwell on her grief.  Not at all.  She doesn't really deal with it.  She's too busy trying to make money, provide, and stay out of jail and alive to be worried about crying and moaning about the loss of her husband.  But in season 8 lines sneak into the episodes regarding her grief.  Andy, her brother in law, says at one point 'Just so you know, I don't think she's ever really loved anyone since Judah.'  When she finds out that her new boyfriend is also a widower and that's only been 15 months, she is reluctant to be his first foray into the dating pool and she tells him he's not ready.  That she has no idea how long it took her to get to the point she's at now.  I like that over the series you see glimpses of the pain behind her eyes.  You see her go off the rails, and if you are like me, you know why.  You see that she's trying to escape the emotional pain, to distract herself.  Although it's a far fetched tv show, I think the writers and Mary-Louise Parker (who plays Nancy) did an incredible job.  She has these crazy, vacant eyes for much of the series until season 8, when she finally seems to come to terms with the loss of Judah.  When she finally lets herself revisit the place where he died.  She is calmer, balanced.  But then, of course, in the final episode, we find her dealing with the loss of her latest husband (she gets married multiple times for complicated reasons, but this one she loved) and this conversation happens.  And it's like Andy was speaking directly to me:

Andy:  You're going to be fine.  Things happen.  Things change.  We can't control it but the one thing you can control is how you think about it.  So look at it this way.  You're free.  You did your job, now it's done.  No one there to answer to.

Nancy:  No one to come home to.

Andy:  No one to hold you back from becoming the person you always wanted to be.  Doing only what you want to do.

Nancy:  Who is that? What is that?

Andy:  Time for you to figure it out....You're going to be fine.  You're so strong.  Time for you to face yourself.

It never ceases to amaze me - the power of film, television, and music.  The ability to put words to an experience or an emotion that so many people feel.  The opportunity to make people see life differently, to view their own experiences from another perspective.  Television is such a powerful medium.  TV shows become our solace.  These past few weeks I desperately needed a distraction, something to focus on, and yet, something that spoke to me in some small way.  Weeds provided me with an escape and got me through the final first anniversary (the anniversary of the funeral).  The writers and actors left me with advice that I will carry forward with me.  Facing yourself is the scariest and hardest thing of all to do, if you ask me.  Discovering who you want to be is difficult.  But I know that P would be saying this to me if he could:  'You're free....time for you to figure out who you are and what you want to do'.....

So thank you to the creators and actors of Weeds.  Well done.

And to all those out there on this journey - good luck.  I hope to see you on the other side.  Calmer, balanced, and self aware.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

'I may look your age, but inside I'm about 100 years older'

I may look your age but inside I'm about a hundred years older. - Private Practice

I love it when a tv show gives you a quote that nails it right on the head.  I have been addicted to Private Practice (the spin off of Grey's Anatomy) since last year when I discovered one of the lead characters was a widower.  I immediately began watching every episode with a fine toothed comb - watching closely to see how they portrayed this difficult journey, hoping to gain some insight of what the future might hold.  This year is the final season, season 8 and in the first episode, Pete, the widower, passes away suddenly from a heart attack.  Thus far, in the episodes that followed, the writers have dealt with the different character's grief in each episode and I'm so grateful that they haven't just 'done the funeral and moved on' like they do in so many tv series when a character dies.  They are really investing in portraying how the grieving process is different for everyone involved, how a loss affects every relationship in different ways.  And although it makes me cry uncontrollably from time to time, I am relishing watching this season.  It's cathartic.  And sometimes I find quotes like the one above that just get me.

Initially I found it so hard to socialise with friends my age.  I even felt decades older than friends 15 years my senior.  In some ways, over the course of the last year, I feel like part of me reached old age, and died.  This may sound crazy, but go with me on this one....

A friend said to me in the early days 'some people live multiple lives in one lifetime'.  That stuck with me.  And so I've not only mourned the loss of P, but the loss of that life.  Our life.  Our future.  The girl I once was - wide eyed, optimistic, passionately in love.  That life was brought to a crushing halt when P died and it's been dying a slow death ever since.  I have finally begun to accept the loss of that life, and the loss of that self.  I look back at the girl I was one year ago and I feel so sorry for her, it breaks my heart, that she had to go through such a hideous experience at the age of 26.  That might make me sound like a lunatic, but honestly, I feel like a different woman now, in a different life.

At times I still feel about 100 years older than I look.  Friends moan about financial stress, job worries, break ups, and living circumstances.  They hold grudges, and end friendships.  And I stand back, listen, and watch, like an elderly grandparent I smile knowingly and try to offer advice.  But inside, I know.  Life is too short for these mundane worries.  And I pray they never know the emotions I feel.  That they never experience all that I have.  And if they do, that they are as old on the outside as I now feel.

I can not lose the wisdom I've gained, and nor would I want to in some ways.  I am who I am because of what I've been through, but it makes it hard to operate as a 'normal' 27 year old.  My desires are not the same, my view of life is drastically different, and I have an urgency inside that is difficult to explain.    I'm so acutely aware of the fragility of life that I am eager to tick off my bucket list items as quickly as possible and I'm desperately afraid of passing up any opportunity at acquiring a semblance of happiness again.  I want to be impulsive but I've been there and done that.  I'm wary of making the same mistakes twice, of putting all my eggs in one basket yet again.  Sometimes I think - the more you know, the harder this life is.  If only we could start over at the beginning.  If only we could live like wide eyed children, appreciating each and every moment without bitterness or pessimism.  Wouldn't that be great?

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Ooops I Think I've Gone Crazy

I was chatting with one of the Aussies the other night and all of a sudden a rant spluttered out of my mouth and all the things I'd been suppressing and hiding from boiled to the surface and spilt out of me like word vomit.  It was truly enlightening - 'I've gone crazy! I'm crazy! that's what is it! Yep, I'm crazy'.  Is pretty much how the rant ended.

I'd been explaining this utter confused state I've been embodying for the past month or so.  I never realised it was possible to feel sick with grief, to have to mentally block out the memories and the emotions because you just can't handle it anymore, and yet, to begin to find happiness at the same time.  I mean, did you ever think that happiness and extreme emotional turmoil could exist simultaneously?  I sure didn't.

Let me first say that it is not without hesitation that I have decided to publish this post.  It has sat, written, ready to be read for nearly a week.  Because, part of this newfound happiness is the result of realising that I might be able to feel something for another man after losing the love of my life, and well, it's a big deal, and an issue that has caused a great deal of pain in the widowed community.  It is hard to hear about 'one of us' moving forward.  I remember reading about young widows in the early days who had remarried and I thought 'well it's alright for you now!'  And then there's P's friends.....I don't want to hurt them.  But hopefully this will help explain that it is not clear cut.  So let's just agree that this is a tough subject, but an important one.

Now, where was I?
Oh right.

That good friend from the past that's back in my life?  Well....let's call him Mr Wrong Place, Wrong Time.  Through Skype talks and text messages, Mr Wrong Place, Wrong Time has made me so happy this past month or so....he's reminded me where I came from and what I left behind.  He's brought out the old me, the strong one, the one who saw the dark humour in life.  He makes me laugh and forget about the pain of this past year, and yet, he also listens when I want to talk about it.  He's everything I asked P for in the early days.  When I went for long walks and called out in teary wails 'send me someone to take this pain away! send me someone who will look after me!  Handpick my next man, because only you know what/who I need!'  In the early days I heard P's voice. God I miss that.  And at that time, I heard him say, with a cheeky grin on his face, and a glint in his eye 'Ok, I'll make sure this one is romantic'.  And I laughed out loud.  It had always been my gripe with him.  He knew I needed more compliments, more outpours of love with words, and he always felt he let me down on that front.  I wish I could have seen the love in his eyes and been satisfied.  I know now though.  I remember what I couldn't see at the time.

But.....I digress....

I am so enamoured at the moment I have found myself thinking crazy thoughts...'maybe it's time to move back to the US...I'm not doing anything here.  My career is not going anywhere here.  I feel like my life is on pause here.'  And this is how the rant started.....'I have spent 1 year with my life on pause and here I am, 12 months later, and I'm still stagnant.  I still have not moved forward! I know have emotionally, I've moved mountains, but my life is still at a stand still!  I can see's only 2 years away and I do not want to enter my 30's in this state.  I want to have a life.  I want to LIVE my life.  I want a career that I am proud of.  I want to know where I'm going to live and what I'm going to do with my life.  I'm tired of not knowing.  I am TIRED.  I'm tired of being patient, and trusting that it will come to me.  I'm tired of living in a state of limbo!  I have existed in this state for FAR too long. Maybe it's time to throw the towel in and move back.  Or move somewhere else.  I don't know!  I just want to take off.  I want to do something crazy.  I can't be here anymore! I just can't do this anymore!'

The reality much has changed.  P wouldn't recognise the new me, or my current life.  And yet, not much has changed at all.  I still don't know which way to turn.  My memory still functions as a sieve making mundane tasks take twice as long as necessary because I forget what I'm doing half way through a task and I make silly mistakes that mean starting over, or going back to the store a million times.  I still hate looking at my diary (that's a calendar for you American folks) because I don't want to see the anniversary dates each month or think about this time last year.  I still struggle to eat properly and sleep properly.  I'm still tired.  All. the. time.  I have little patience for stupid, meaningless complaints.  I hate when people moan about break ups.  I get angry, REALLY angry over stupid things (and I know it's not over the thing I'm getting angry about...duh!)  And songs catch me off guard, every time.

And all these things?  Well, they're making me CRAZY!  I just want to run away! I want to run into the arms of Mr Wrong Place, Wrong Time and let him take all my pain away.  I want to start over, start completely 100% over.  I want to fast forward through year two and on to whatever year it is when I'm ok and normal, when I'm functional and ambitious again, when I love autumn and Christmas again, when I've formed new memories so the old don't hurt as bad.  And yet....

I know....this is not healthy.  That Mr Wrong Place, Wrong Time can't not take away the pain, cannot fix my life for me.  I loved that P was older and wiser than me.  He'd been there, done that, and always reassured me that I would be successful, that I would get there, just as he did.  But looking back, I realise that I always kind of expected him to do it for me.  Well, not really, that's not really possible.  But you know what I mean.  I guess, as long as I had him, I wasn't that bothered about 'making it'.  And I don't want to make that same mistake twice.  Because now I know that people aren't here forever.  We have to learn how to make ourselves happy.  We have to find our passion, and devote ourselves to developing a fulfilled life.

So here it is:  Feeling for someone new?  If you didn't get it already, is oh so complicated.  It's ok to feel again for someone new.  It's ok to be happy again, because it doesn't erase the sad.  The happy and the sad can coexist, and isn't that great?  But it still feels strange.  Like a shoe that doesn't quite fit, but looks SOO good, and feels just right for short bursts of time, but if you wear it too long gives you a blister that covers the length of your foot.  So you got to break it in, slowly, regularly.  You have to give yourself time.  You have to be patient with yourself.  Sigh....I have to be patient with myself.  And maybe, just maybe when the crazy's settled, Mr Wrong Place, Wrong Time will become Mr Right Place, Right Time.  

Monday, 22 October 2012

One Year On and....

One year on and I've come so far.
Every time  I imagined writing this entry, I saw it like an Oscar speech.  I felt I had so many people to thank for getting me to where I am now.  And I do.  But I have me to thank as well.  Let me start, though, by saying that one year on.....and I still hurt.  I still miss him so much it makes me shake on the inside, it robs me of my appetite, overwhelms me beyond words, and steals my sleep away.  But when I think back to this day one year ago, I have to admit, I've come so far.

Let me begin at the beginning.  The moment I uttered the words 'it's Leukemia' my mum was on a plane on her way to stand by my side through the hardest time of our lives.  And P was so glad to know that I had her support.  Whilst in hospital, his friends rallied around me, and helped me in the most practical ways.  Helping us find a recovery home, that we never got to move into, organising the contract and cancelling it when it all went to pieces.  Helping me move our things from place to place, storing our belongings with care, finding my mum and I a short term rental in town, and helping me attend to business.  One couple even opened their home to me in those early months, a place where I felt safe and cared for, where I had room to grieve, but was not left alone for too long at a time.  RunnerK and RunnerP met with me regularly for fresh air and exercise, and reminded me that it was possible to still feel alive from time to time.  NFL lass made dvds filled with funny tv shows, and sad songs for times when I needed to escape, and others when I needed to cry.  My companions in grief from a long way down the line and newly joining the journey held my hand, assured me that all I felt was normal and natural, offered hope and encouragement, and provided invaluable insight.  My friends, new and old, made sure I went out, they provided a sense of normality, they plied me with drinks, and let me talk until I was blue in the face.  They listened, and tried to understand.  My Aussies reminded me who I was before and assured me that I had not died as well.  They talked of P, what he'd want for me.

Meeting my neighbours was one turning point for me.  These new friends cared.  They provided me with endless cups of tea, were always on hand to help solve a problem and I still rely on his handyman help and her loving hugs from time to time.

There are others who have become my support hotlines.  They are always at the other end of the phone,  there to talk me down from the ledge, and to make me laugh through the tears.

Most recently, an old friend has come back into my life.  He desperately wants to take my pain away, to make it all better.  And he does.  For short bursts of time.  He distracts me and makes me laugh and I am grateful to him beyond words.

And then there are those who spent this weekend with me.  Who let me share countless memories with them and held me in hugs and promised to always be there for me.

Finally, I want to thank the universe for providing me with past experiences that taught me that if I didn't deal with my grief FULL time, it would drag itself out forevermore.  I am still enrolled on the grief course as a full time student, but I've decreased my workload.  Someone shared recently that it's similar to learning to walk and talk as a baby.  This new life, without our love, has made me have to start over.  I've had to learn who I am again, what I want, and how to live this life without P.  You've all played such a huge role in helping me through this first year of survival.  If I haven't mentioned you directly, do not think I've forgotten your contribution, there's simply too many stories to tell, too many thank you's to express.

I've worked hard this year.  But the realisation that the work is not over just because the one year anniversary and come, and gone is a tough one.  I always knew that this would not mark the end of this battle, that really, it was just the beginning, but somehow I thought I'd feel differently today.  I'd wake up with a new sense that I CAN do this.  Instead, I feel tired by the long path that stretches before me.  But with your help, I'll keep plodding along through year 2.  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

21st of October

21st of October
What can I do to stop that day from dawning?
How do I stop the clock from running?
365 days without you
52 weeks alone
That one year mark is so near
So how I stop the world from turning?

If I don't flip the page of the calendar
can we skip from September to November?
Gloss over that autumnal month
Ignore Halloween and the changing of the seasons
If I hide my diary away
will I forget?
If I ignore the day 
and wish it away
sleep through it
and never utter a word about it
Will that day never come?

Year two 
I'm not ready for you
One year has gone by so fast
and yet, it's been a lifetime
since I heard your voice
saw you smile
or held your hand

One year of grieving so hard
of working through the never-ending
dark, dark days of winter
Through the frost that seemed to last 10 months
and then, suddenly
I can feel the spring coming
New life is on it's way
Hope is blossoming
But oh how I fear 
That Day
Will the pull of the anniversary
drag me down?
Down to the depths 
of the deep dark pit
of the early days?
Will winter begin again
without the warmth of summer?
Will I have to start over?

They say
year two is harder still
Oh year two
I'm not ready for you
So somebody stop time 
push pause on this thing called life
hold the world still on this week or next
Because 366 days without you is too many

I survived this year
Was that the test?
Can you come back now
I've passed?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Make Me a Memory Box

In the corner of my room
sits a box
full of your shoes
On the shelf rests another
full of your cards
From me to you
and you to me
Mixed with those other ones
From that day when you went away
I keep t-shirts, films, and photos
A blanket, sheets, and trinkets 
All hold meaning
These things elicit memories
Memories I'm terrified of losing
I know how memory fades
No matter how hard we cling to it
Time marches on
Life sweeps us up
and I get stuck in the day to day
Those memories that used to play on my mind
like a film on repeat
They're further away now
I have to stretch further to reach them
so keep these things
But oh,
If you could make me a memory box
full of all the places we visited
crammed tight with all the sites of special memories
packed to the rim with bars, cafes, restaurants
that corner, round from the tube 
where we kissed like teenagers
The room where you said 'I love you' for the first time
The bar where we met
The table we sat at, where you told me
your friends were already planning the stag do
when we'd only been together a short while
The phone that held the text that said 
'tonight we were talking about fate
and I thought of you' 
If only a camera could access my mind
extract my memories and make me a memory box
filled with the film of all the flashes of you
that pass through my mind
like lightening
Make me a memory box
to catch all the thoughts of you
that sieve through my fingers
so fast I can't keep hold
You're drifting away from me
like a balloon in the sky
Is this really it?
Is this all I get?
A box of your things

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Facebook Obsession

Do you ever wonder about the people who are CONSTANTLY posting every single detail of their lives?  Admit it, you've probably thought once or twice 'why does he/she honestly think we care to know that they're going to work, or eating dinner, or going for a wee?! Too much BORING info!'

Ok, I'll admit it.  I've thought it.  And while we're at it, I HATE bump photos.  Sorry ladies, but I just do not care.  Whew, needed to get that off my chest.  BUT I will also admit that I am one of those who shares virtually every detail of her life.  Hell, I'm doin' it right now!  But...did you ever stop to ask yourself WHY these people share mundane details?  While he/she is seemingly always 'liking' a post, commenting on a status, or updating his/her friends via their status?

I've always been a bit addicted to Facebook.  Especially since moving across the pond - it just seemed like an easier way of keeping people updated on my life and therefore, vaguely 'staying in touch' with people without the real effort.  Not proud of this, by the way, just my lazy approach to life, I guess.

But after losing P, I suddenly found myself looking at my phone a lot with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I had become sooooo attached, so accustomed to texting him my every thought that I suddenly did not know who to share my daily experiences with.  We are built as a communicative species.  We naturally are always looking to bond with other like-minded individuals and we primarily do that through talking (or texting nowadays) - basically through sharing the details of our day-to-day lives.  So when you lose your soundboard, the one who listened to you drivel on about meaningless moments, who do you turn to?  Somehow, in this technological age, life doesn't feel real until you share it via text with someone else.  OR in my case, share it via Facebook, or Instagram, or....(dare I go there? dare I join?!)....Twitter.

During this past year, I also felt a distinct responsibility to let my many friends and family members, across the globe, know that I'm OK, I'm surviving, and I'm still alive.  So I did so, via Facebook.  I have become one of those who shares CONSTANTLY.  Maybe I always was?  But I'm much more conscious of it now.  But who cares!  I know I have numerous REAL friends.  And it keeps me sane.  I used to spend my time speaking with P, texting him, dreaming of our future together.  And now?  Now, I share with you - my lovely readers and I bombard my Facebook friends with mundane tales.  And I'm OK with that.  For now.  Until I join Twitter that is ;)

Monday, 1 October 2012

Run Fat Me Run!

Yesterday was the day I'd trained for for months.  The day of the Robin Hood Half Marathon had arrived.  My Aussie friends had arrived the day before to pump me up, and cheer me on during the race.  We carb-loaded the night before, and watched 'Murderball' to psych me up while I organised my music for the run.  We arrived early, I got my leg taped to avoid shin splints, and pulled on a plastic rubbish bag to keep warm.  The atmosphere was buzzing, everyone was making sure they had their gels ready for when a sugar boost was needed, kits checked, and after a last minute toilet stop, it was time to head to the starting line.  I was ready.  I was confident.  I was going to follow the 2 hour 15 minute pace maker and then try to overtake him in the end.  I knew my plan.  Without my usual pack for water, gel, and my phone I felt light and the first couple miles were a breeze.  I kept up with the 2 hour pace maker for the first 2 miles, and then dropped back a bit.  It was a struggle but a good one.  I felt like I was pushing myself just enough.  And then at mile 4 everything started to go wrong.  My right knee, the knee that had gone out in training years ago and forced me into physiotherapy, was starting to twinge.  And sure enough, by mile 6 I was starting to resemble Simon Pegg's character in 'Run Fat Boy Run'.  I trotted up to the first aid attendants and enquired about tape for my knee.  The response was 'it's really not advisable to continue'.  I said 'ok!' and hobbled away.

I spent the next couple miles feeling sorry for myself and berating myself for allowing this to happen! I should have warmed up better! I shouldn't have started so fast!  I should have been focusing on my technique rather than the other runners and the passing scenery!  I forgot to take my Forever Freedom Aloe gel in the morning! ARGH!  I felt like crying.  
At mile 8, I stopped again at an ambulance.  The paramedic examined my knees and told me my right knee was swollen.  He looked at me with that 'mom look' and I could hear him thinking 'you really should stop' but he also knew there was NO way that was happening.  So he handed me the tape and said tape what you think will help.  I had no idea and it didn't help at all but it made me feel better in the moment.  
From mile 6 to the end it was a matter of running as much and as long as I could until it hurt TOO much, then walking as fast I could until I felt able to try running again.  This cycle left me in the company of the other injured runners, and the unfit.  I was pissed.
Then at mile 10 I saw my Aussies.  I'd been looking for them for the last 4 miles, imagining a dramatic scene in which I threw myself into their arms in a weepy mess, crying out 'I've been injured! I can't carry on!'  But when I saw them I was in hobbling, jogging mode and they were running alongside me on the side lines.  I shouted 'I hurt my knee in mile 6! I'm hurting sooo bad!'  and before I knew it they had made their way onto the race course and were running on either side of me, telling me I could do it, making me laugh, and cheering me up.  After 600m they were off to find the finish line and left me to carry on with renewed energy.  This was the single best moment of the whole race.  I will never forget that moment.  
The next 2 1/2 miles were painful and tedious.  When you're used to running under 10 minute miles comfortably, hobbling a 13 minute mile seems like an eternity!  And at mile 12 I started looking for P.  Crazy, right?  But in my delirious state, part of me thought, maybe these last 11 months has just been a nightmare, he'll be here, he wouldn't miss this!  In my hurt and struggling state I so wanted him to magically appear and rescue me.  But instead I took a deep breath and kept plodding on.
Mile 12.5 saw me reunited with the Aussies again and Runner Aussie joined me once again, getting me to the final stretch.  I was desperate to finish the last 400m strong, and I almost did.  I had to walk once but I powered through and finished in 2 hours 30 minutes.  
It was a bittersweet finish.  The race was not fun, to say the least, and I was 20 minutes off my desired finish time.  But I found my old competitor spirit and I did not let an little thing like an injury stop me from finishing.  Can't wait to try again.

What Worked for Me: Part Two (the Deeper Stuff)

So I had a look at my last entry and boy did I leave A LOT out!!  Specifically, the most helpful, most personal stuff.  And well, this blog is meant to be honest, so it's time to get real people.  Even if ya all think I'm crazy, I'm gonna share anyways.  It's time to look at one of those deeper, nittier-grittier aspects of my recovery.

I've mentioned before how much 'Widowed Too Soon' helped me in the early days.  Well....what it did was open me up to a new type of faith.  Born and raised Catholic, I had drifted from the religion in my university days and only continued to attend church on major holidays because 'that's what you do', but my heart wasn't in it.  I desperately wanted a belief system that resonated with my soul.  After losing P, the thought of Catholicism made me want to scream.  I hated God.  I didn't believe that this was 'God's plan', or that He 'knew what was best for me'.  Attending church only left me in fits of tears, as the songs inevitably spoke of life after death.  What should have comforted me, left me feeling more alone, more cold, and more hurt.

Laura Hirsch (the author of 'Widowed Too Soon') spoke of a similar upbringing and the same spiritual struggles after the loss of her husband.  When your whole life has been derailed, nothing can be the same thereafter.

The book is sectioned into seven parts but it was part five and six that made me press 'purchase' on Amazon:  Spiritual Transformation & After-Death Communication.  Laura was just like me.  I identified with her so much, I felt like I knew her.  She was skeptical about mediums, spirituality, and after-death communication, but she was in search of a solution to her religious dilemma.  So skeptical was she, that she read numerous books before going, she tested multiple mediums, and she taped sessions.  She explains what led her down this path much better than I can ever recall here (there's a reason it spans two parts of her book!) but what I can say is that she comes across as sincere, and down to earth, and understanding that many people may not subscribe to her (or my) belief systems.  Every religion has value in it.  My main point of this entry is that faith has helped me immensely, and I think developing a belief system (whatever that may be) is extremely helpful in surviving a loss.

Anyways....reading about her experiences with mediums made me believe that there IS life after death. There's a popular poem that speaks of death as only crossing into the next room - it goes something like this:

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect,
without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you,
for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just around the corner.
All is well.
by Henry Scott Holland (1847-1918)
Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral

And it is this faith that has carried me through.  P is not gone.  He is all around.  The one aspect of faith we both agreed on was that we are made of energy, energy never dies, so we must live on, some how, some way.  I trust he is watching me and I have had signs that make me believe he is reaching out from time to time to let me know he's ok and I will be too.  I'd love to share this special moments, and the messages I've had from mediums, but I am aware that these moments are too intimate, too personal to mean anything to anyone but me.

When people compliment me on how I've carried on I feel the praise is undeserved.  The praise should be laid on P, for his love for me has not died, and it is the love we shared that makes me strong, it is HE that raises me up, and gently pushes me forward.  I truly believe he has placed all the wonderful people in my life in my path at the exact moment I needed them most.  I know that the opportunities that come my way are his doing, and I trust that I will have a good life, because he would not have it any other way.  He always spoke of how he wanted me to pursue and achieve my dreams, and I can not let him down.

Monday, 24 September 2012

What Worked for Me

Friday marked 11 months.  In just a few days it will be one year since P entered the hospital, never to leave.
I'm feeling fragile, reverting back to activities that got me through the early days.  I've become immersed in seasons of tv shows, impatiently awaiting the time in the evening when I can sit down and watch countless episodes.  In the early days I remember feeling anxious when I couldn't watch my shows.  The characters had become my friends, watching episodes back to back was my routine, and the action unfolding on the screen took me away from the drama of my own life.  I'm eating sporadically.  Nibbling here and there, trying to make sure I have proper meals too when I can, and consuming copious amounts of chocolate and sweets.  I'm back on the wine.  In the early days I had to have 1-2 glasses of red wine every night just to sleep.  Many times 2 became 3....Now I'm finding myself drawn back to the wine aisle, back to the routine.  I'm shaky, at times.  When P was in hospital, the fear of losing him, and the stress of looking after him used to make me shiver uncontrollably.  I wasn't necessarily cold, but my whole body would shake, from the inside out.  I've learned recently this is a symptom of the adrenal system gone out of whack, the fight or flight instinct in overdrive.  I'm spacey too - well that's never quite gone away.  Grief robs you of your memory.  That's why so many people say 'it was all a blur' when referring to the early days.  And it takes a LONG time to get that back.  I still haven't recovered it fully but I'm getting there.

But things are also completely different than last year.
I've found ways of coping.  I've learned what this 'grief thing' is, what the symptoms are, and how to deal with them.  Or...I've just gotten REALLY good at ignoring the ugly grief monster.

Nevertheless, here's what's helped me through the past 11 months:

1.  Staying with friends immediately afterwards.  I was not ready to be on my own.  They gave me a home for a few months, where I had space to be alone, but people quietly there for me when I needed them.
2.  Getting my UK driving license.  Starting lessons in January gave me something to focus on.  Learning a new skill that was vitally important, and which held an end goal was instrumental in helping to me begin to put one foot in front of the other.
3.  Running - I started running with a friend only a few weeks afterwards.  It was the only time I didn't feel like crying and the only time when I felt alive.  Training for a 10k and then a half marathon meant that I couldn't stop because I 'didn't feel like it'.  And nothing beats exercise endorphins - they are natural anti-depressants.
4.  Working with caring individuals.  I was really fortunate to have joined a teaching assistant agency before P got ill.  When I told them what had happened, they were completely understanding and said that when I was ready they would find me work.  They found me something part time, working with kids who were going through a rough time too.  The staff there are naturally very caring and working provided me with some structure to my week.
5.  Blogging!! This has been a wonderful outlet for me.  Before beginning this, I journalled regularly, writing to P.  I wasn't ready to stop talking to him, so it helped me to stay connected to him.  I still do this occasionally when I need to.  I really encourage everyone who's going through something to write. It helps to get the emotion out and it is something to look back on.  I have been looking at some of my early entries and it helps me to realise how FAR I've come.
6.  NEW CHALLENGES!!!  I have become much more adventurous in these past 11 months.  Tandem sky dive, scuba diving, hiking up mountains, and next up - snowboarding!  When you're doing something new you have to focus on it 100% and it gives you a wonderful reprieve from the constant all-consuming grief thoughts.  And when you complete a new challenge, you feel alive and invigorated! and strong!
7.  Getting the right lodger.  Living with my new flatmate has meant that I no longer feel able to sit on the sofa feeling sorry for myself in the evenings.  And this is a good thing! at some point we have to drag our bums off the sofa, dust ourselves off and say 'well, that happened, now how am I going to handle this? what's next for me?'  Because even though I'd loved to have gone with him, I am still alive!      The best way of honouring P's memory is by living.
8.  Finding a way back to your passion - I have slowly been returning to my acting career.  It's different now.  It doesn't define me, or even mean that much to me.  But being involved in theatre is a part of who I was and I am reclaiming that part, bit by bit.
9.  Returning to the day job.  I used to work in promotions.  I never thought I'd be able to be smiley enough, outgoing enough, vibrant enough to work in promotions or sales again.  Recently I've been working as a rep in a retail store.  On my feedback forms I was described as 'smiley, and pleasant'!  The experience there has built my confidence back up tremendously.
10.  Being open to getting to know new friends and relishing the company of old friends.  I have been immensely fortunate to have been graced with angels (friends who have walked into (or back into) my life at the time when I needed them most).  I can not thank you enough.  I'm sure I devote a whole entry to each of you, but you know who you are.  You have kept me going when I thought I had nothing left in the tank and you continue to do so.
Thank you.  You have quite possibly saved my life.  Thank you.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyways!'

What are you afraid of?  
Success and it's responsibilities?
Not living up to your potential?
Losing a loved one?
Starting over?

and then there's the little fears....
Hurting yourself?
Hurting someone else?
Going too fast?

We're all afraid of something and most of us experience the first list of fears to some extent or another.  I've started reading a book called 'Feel the Fear and do it anyway' by Susan Jeffers (side note: my good friend wrote her thesis on this subject as well!).  I've been blown away by the simplicity of it all!  She doesn't make any life changing, revolutionary statements, but by extracting what we all know to be true and putting it into bold face font, she reminds us that all those successful people out there?  Yea, they're scared too!  They just don't let their fear stop them from doing anything!  They are mentally strong.  We spend so much time trying to become physically strong, we often forget to invest time in developing our mental and emotional strength!  This doesn't mean becoming an ice-y, unfeeling, calculating person; it's about becoming someone who can 'handle it!'  Whatever life throws at you.

After 10 months and 3 weeks, I can honestly say I am revelling in my new ability to 'handle it'.  Sure, there are times when I slip up, when I crumble at the thought that he's not here to help me solve a problem, when I'm lying in pain, desperately wishing he was there to hold my hand.  BUT I have become an adventurous person.  I was never that girl.  I was afraid of hurting myself, of failing, of making a fool of myself.  I worried about what others thought of me, what P thought of me, what I thought of me.  But now?  I want to do it all!  Jump out of a plane? Yes please! Learn to scuba dive?  Name the time and day!  Learn to snowboard?  Happening.  Hike up a mountain? Thrilling.  I have a new take on life and I am grateful for that.  P gave me this parting gift:  the realisation that life is short, so LIVE IT!  Screw fear!  LIFE is scary.  And the scariest thing of all is NOT living!  P was always saying 'I wanna, I'm gonna, I'd like to, I wish...I could do this or that'  Well, gonna, wanna, like to never happened.  He was the master at 'thinking about it'.  People have held him up as an adventurer and he was, in spirit, but he didn't get the chance to do half the things he wanted to.  I've been left with a very long bucket list, and I LOVE it, because taking on all these new adventures, learning all these new skills, losing P and surviving has made me realise that whatever life throws at me, I can handle it.  Facing those fears makes us stronger.  The fear will never go away, as long as we continue to learn and grow, so really, Fear is a pretty great thing.  So embrace it.  And stop letting fear stand in your way. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Secure Your Mask First

'Ladies and Gentleman....We are about to take off on a journey that will never quite end.  We are likely to experience turbulence from time to time, and in the event that you require an oxygen mask, one will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe deeply.  If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until you are 100% sure you no longer require it's use.  And if you require additional assistance, please notify someone immediately.'

How often have you attempted to assist someone else without first securing your own mask?  Sure, it may seem more humane, it may seem easier to help someone else and worry about yourself later, but it will certainly take longer to help that person when you're struggling to breath.  Selfishness has become a vulgar word in our society.  Yes, this world is plagued by selfish people, but it is not selfish to focus on yourself when your world has been flipped upside down.  It's OK to put yourself first!  How can you possibly help someone else when you aren't sure which way is up?

I know some widows and widowers have quickly jumped into another relationship and I am not here to judge.  We all deal with grief differently.  But for me, personally, the idea of a new relationship seems like a quick fix and a welcome distraction, and oh so tempting....but the reality is that nothing and no one can take this pain away.  I need to heal me first.  I NEED to be selfish.  I am rediscovering who I AM right now.  You can't be a good partner unless you invest in you first.  This past 10 1/2 months has taught me so much about myself and I have come a long way from the early days, when I walked the streets as a zombie, always in sunglasses with swollen eyes, unable to utter anything beyond the necessities.  And I can honestly say I am proud of myself.  And that's not bragging!  I have come a long way, but I still have a long way to go.

If I could bring P back, and erase the events of the last year, I would.  But I can't.  So instead, I am grateful for this opportunity to readjust my life, to rediscover who I am as a woman, and to find a new path in life.  So I'm sorry if it takes me some time to adjust my mask.  I have clumsy fingers, what can I say ;)  But I will get there, and then I hope I will be able to assist you.  

Monday, 10 September 2012

Life of an Expat

Once you start your life as an expat you realise 'you can never go home again'.  You're destined to permanently exist in a state of longing.  I moved across the ocean at the age of 22, thinking I would return a year or so after my course finished.  But 5 years later, and I'm still here.

Throughout my childhood and early adult years I always felt like I didn't quite fit in.  Raised by a first generation European, I heard tales of a land far away with a distinct culture, an exotic language and old world charm.  We had a chest that sat in a place of pride in our living room and acted as the coffee table.  From time to time, I would kneel down in front of it, take the books and tablecloth off the top, and gently lift the lid of the wooden box.  Once inside I would run my hand over the carved Norwegian flag, and tentatively remove each individual item, examining each prized piece of treasure.  Every item had it's own story, and told of a time when my father lived in Norway, and backpacked through Europe.  The chest had been my grandfather's, which he used when he moved to the US during World War II.  It had such a sense of history to it.  The act of discovering each relic soon began to provide me with such a strong link with a country I'd never known, and a culture I was not yet a part of.

I've yet to make it to Norway but I like to think that I live in the next best place, in a country just a stone's throw from it, where the language is my own.  The culture here in the UK suits my personality.  It is not as superficial or materialistic of a culture as it is in America.  Pubs are for having a drink and a chat with good friends.  Travel is so easy here in such a small country.  In just a few hours I can be in Wales or Scotland.  Hopping on a plane can land me in Africa in just 6 hours.  And London, well, it's frankly one of the best, if not THE best city in the world.

But it doesn't stop me missing my family and my friends; it doesn't stop me longing for those who know me inside out, who helped shape who I am today.  After losing P so many people assumed I would flee back to the US, assuming my attachment to the UK was only dependent on my relationship.  I am sure I disappointed many when I adamantly affirmed that I would be staying in the UK for the foreseeable future.  'My home is here' I thought.  But as time goes on, I'm not sure I really have a home.  That's the truth, for an expat.  Because even if I returned to the town I grew up in, it wouldn't be the same.  And I would long for the UK.  I realised this a long time ago and clung to the idea that 'home is where the heart is' but my heart is with P, so what am I to do?

I love living here, where my memories of P and I are interwoven into the fabric of this country, but part of me knows he would want me to go back to the US.  It was always our plan, after all.  But that would have been different - a perfect amalgamation of the UK and the US for me.  So would it really be easier there now? To start anew?  Is it ever really possible to start over?  Is it worse to never go home again? or to go home only to realise it's not as you left it and nothing is quite the same?

Once you've taken the leap into expat life, is there any going back?

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lost for Words

I've struggled to write as of late.  I wondered why and I've missed it.  But since my wedding anniversary I have been keenly aware of the BIG one looming in the distance.
It's as if I'm sat in a rollercoaster, slowly chugging up to the top of a very steep, very long, very high peak.  I'm now reaching the top and I know that at any moment I will be propelled down the hill at a rapid rate.  All I can do is adjust my grip, tighten my seatbelt, and try to keep breathing.  There are no words to describe my emotions these days.  It is a state of numbness, of readying myself.  I know I have come a long way, and I am confident that no matter how hard the Grief Monster may try to pull me back into that deep dark hole, he will not succeed.  I know now that I am a fighter, I am a survivor.

But I am tired.
Tired of the everyday little battles
of being alone
Tired of trying to start again
of figuring out what I want now
of getting to know this new me
I'm tired of seeing happy couples all around
of trying to be happy for others,
when secretly
I'm just plain jealous.
I'm tired of feeling guilty
for thinking bad thoughts
for not thinking of him
every second of every day
for not being the best friend
best daughter
best person I can be
I'm tired of thinking of what could have been
should have been
might have been
Of remembering the moments I'd rather forget
I'm tired of the boredom
so great
nothing can cure it
But most of all
I'm tired of missing him

I do not know what effect the Grief Monster will have on me over these next few months.  I must admit, I am afraid.  I don't know how much more strength and stamina I have left in me.  But for now, I'll just keep breathing, close my eyes, and hold on tight.  

Saturday, 18 August 2012

It's the Little Things

It's the little things
Wearing a particular dress
top or necklace
An annual tv show starting
a new season
It's a photo, song, or cup of tea
A new flatmate moving in
It's a film, a bath, a holiday destination
Learning new skills
Growing, adapting
It's the little things that make me miss you the most

Every little moment
takes me further away
from you
Little reminders take me back
one year to a time when you were here
Each high is followed by a low
so deep it hurts me physically
So many times I tried to find a word
to express how much you meaned to me
'Love' was too simple
A word I'd used for friends and family
Only 5 small letters that just did not do the trick
So deep were my feelings for you
that the word 'love' just would not do
So I said it over and over and over again
In hopes that you knew just HOW much I loved you.

Now I am searching for words
to replace missing, longing, yearning, aching
So desperate am I for you
That I can not simply say
I miss you
Too small a word, too simple a phrase
It's in the quiet moments, the tiny silences
in my mind
It's in the highs and the lows
That nothing feels quite right without you

I carry on
I live a life for both of us
I seem ok
most of the time
but when I stop
and think
When I remember that
it takes my breath away

Some may think me mad
some may call me crazy
that I keep your shoes in a box
I know you don't need them anymore
but just in case
just in case I wake up one day
and this was all a terrible nightmare
There they'll be.
Ready to slip on
so that you and I can walk
side by side once again.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Back to Baby Steps

With every ounce of strength, I focused on getting through the weekend of hell (two anniversaries back to back).  I knew the week leading up to those two dreadful days would be worse than the actual event, I prepared, I readied myself for the slide back into the deep dark pit.  But Saturday and Sunday passed, surrounded by friends, and I felt...ok!

And then I woke up Monday morning. And Reality Bit.

This is a constant theme of grief.  You focus on getting through the 'hard' days.  And then you do, you survive, and somehow it comes as a surprise.  YOU are still alive?!  And yet, your beloved has not returned.  You think 'I did it! see? I am strong! NOW surely you can return!! I've passed the test!'  But he or she does not walk through that door.  When you wake up, he's not there, lying beside you.

So here I am. Two days later.  9 months and 2 days into this journey and I'm back to baby steps.  And like a child, I'm screaming inside 'NOOO! I don't want to go back to this pit of darkness!! I was doing so well! I was starting to plan and dream again! I don't want to be this zombie again!'

But this is the nature of this journey. I keep thinking how similar grief is to running.  There are days when you hit your stride and feel as though you could run forever, the wind at your back, it's like you have wings - a force is gently pushing you from behind, lifting you off your feet and it's effortless.  Those days are joyful.  You find confidence in your abilities with every stride.  But inevitably there are those other days.  Days when your legs feel like lead.  Each step heavier than the one before.  The gentle hills seem like endless mountains, looming before you like Mt Everest.  So you cut these runs shorter.  You give yourself a break.

The runs that really catch you off guard are those good ones, when you unexpectedly encounter rough terrain from time to time.  You can be plodding along, quite happily enjoying the scenery, but when you look away for one moment, you suddenly find yourself stepping into a bog and your foot is sinking.  At these times it's important to move slowly, so as not to risk injury.

As runners, as athletes, we are so meticulous in caring for our bodies.  Why do we find it so hard to accept that we must care for our emotional selves as well?  I was chastising myself today for not being productive, for taking 10 steps back in my grief recovery, but as a runner, I would not think twice about stopping if something hurt.  Ok...I'd be disappointed, I'd find something else to do instead, but I would not berate myself!!  I guess it's hard to accept that this grief race is one that will never quite end.  My legs will get stronger, my stamina will increase, but I am bound to have days in which I encounter obstacles and difficult terrain, days when my body aches, and my lungs feel tight.  And on these days, I will have to slow my pace, take a breather, and carry on.

The Happiest Day of my Life

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary.
But you weren't here.

22 July 2011
You stayed at your best mate's house so that we wouldn't see eachother before the big day.  You let me and my maid of honour have the flat.  I picked her up from the bus station the night before and we sat with a glass of wine, excitedly discussing the future.  You were out with your mates, getting far too drunk.  You texted me to tell me the guys were singing that song to you.  It made me smile.  I was nervous.  You calmed me down.
The next morning my MoH made me breakfast and we set out for last minute supplies and had our makeup done in town. We rushed back and hurriedly pinned my hair up, dress zipped up, shoes on and out the door, late.  Two minutes away from the flat, I realised I'd forgotten the rings.
I called you in a panic 'we're running so late! and I've got to go back for the rings! Can anyone pick us up in a car??'
As usual, you calmly said it would take longer to drive, and I could tell you were smiling. You always found it funny when I got stressed out over the little things.  You said you'd tell the registrar and they would wait for us. 'It will be fine.'
'It wouldn't be a wedding if the bride wasn't running late' others joked.
As I arrived you shielded your eyes, so that you wouldn't see me beforehand.  I posed for photos with your family and waited nervously outside the room at the registry office.  As I walked in that room, a smile spread across my face that didn't leave all day.  I was so happy to be there, stood across from you, moments from becoming your wife.  As the registrar read the reading you'd selected, my heart beamed with pride.  There was no doubt in my mind that I would be there through good times and bad.  I knew I'd love you for as long as I shall live.  I didn't think for a moment that death would part us so soon.

As I watch the video back, it's like I'm watching a dream.  Was it real? Did I actually get to marry my best friend, my soulmate?  I kept my name that day, worried it would effect my career as an actress if I changed it.  You said it was ok, but regularly made comments about how it would 'show the world we're together'.  So as my parting gift to you, I changed my name.  I am proud to be your Mrs.  I am proud I was there through good times and bad with you, until the very end.  I wish I could remember our special day more vividly, but for me, it will always feel like a dream.  A perfect dream.

You've left a hole in my heart no one will ever fill, you took a piece of me when you went.  But that's ok.  Because I know, in some small way, we will always be together, in spirit.

2 months of excitement for the future
1 month of desperation
9 months of heartache
a life time of love

Monday, 16 July 2012

Come On Rise UP!

Last night was a night I will never forget. Watching the Boss - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform live was an experience I never realised was a bucket list kinda thing until I was there, doing bucket list now reads 'See Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band perform live, again'.  Since 21 October 2011 I've struggled to REALLY enjoy nights out, experiences, and life in general.  I've kept busy, but I remember saying a month ago that the only reprieve I had honestly felt since that day was when I was flying through the air at 120 mph.         

Why was this concert special?  Where do I start?
Perhaps where Bruce started - with 'My City of Ruins'
(This link is from the Apollo and like a true artist it's not like last night, but it's as close as I can get you)

Only 2 songs in, and he was playing my song.  
Here's the thing. I was not a BIG Bruce Springsteen fan until last night.  He was my Dad's favourite. I knew his voice because frankly, my Dad refused to allow me to cultivate my own musical taste at a young age.  I was forced to listen to the greats like the Boss, Bob Dylan, and Van Morrison.  I did NOT appreciate it at the time.  
But, when 9/11 happened, I was rocked to the core.  I didn't know anyone who was directly affected by the catastrophe, but living in New York was my dream, and at the time, I felt my dream destination's heart break acutely.  'My City of Ruins' was one of the anthems of that time.  So of course, it held a special place in my heart.  It had been years since I last belted out these words and I was not expecting his heartfelt, impromptu interlude....

In June 2011 Bruce’s long time saxophonist, Clarence Clemmons, passed away.  It was clear that playing in Hyde Park together was a memorable moment for Bruce and he chose this song to share that with us.  He bonded the audience together, saying ‘Are you missing someone?’ over and over in his sing-song voice….I turned around to my friend and said ‘Are you serious?’
And he played on…
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Now's there's tears on the pillow
Darlin' where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss
My soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again?
My city's in ruins

Yep, with my friend, his brother and his friends standing by, I lost it.  But then the chorus came in
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
And he said to us ‘The ones we’re missing?…they’re here.  Ya know how I know?  I hear them in your voices!’ and I knew….as the sun shone down on us, I felt P standing there, saying ‘it’s ok – enjoy tonight, I’m with you, enjoying it too’….

So come on, rise up! All those people you’re missing?  They’re with us.  Enjoying every moment, right by your side.  We are strong.  We just need to lean on our loved ones on the other side from time to time.  They are with us, in our hearts, in our voices, in our actions, and in our dreams.  

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Picking at the Wound

Ok, so, as my last post mentioned I was feeling TOO ok and not liking it.  Over the last 8 1/2 months I have had moments of reprieve from the intense sadness that I cloaked myself in since 21 October 2011.  Every time it felt like my wound had started to scab over and so I began to pick at it, poke and prod it....just to make sure it still bled.  Usually this will culminate in a session of uncontrollable bleeding, gushing forth like a fatal wound (metaphorically speaking of course).  So what did I do immediately after my last post?  I cracked open the book I read in the immediate weeks afterwards Widowed Too Soon.  And I noticed all the underlined sections.  Yes, even in my raw state, I was studying.  I needed words to describe what I was feeling.  I couldn't speak to anyone at the time because I couldn't form the words.  The author, Laura Hirsch, provided me with a voice during a time I felt vocally strangled.  As I retype some of these words to share with you I find the ball returning to my throat but we must remember where we've been and how far we've come.  Because although feeling 'ok' is scary and new and unsettling whilst on this grief journey, it is what we are striving for.  If not for ourselves, for the memory of our loved ones whom I'm sure are wishing us full and happy lives from beyond.

'In an instant, all my plans and dreams were gone.  The person who I thought I would share the rest of my life with, the person who knew me better and loved me more than anyone else in the world, the father of my future children, was gone forever.  The center of my universe had been yanked out of my life with no warning.  How could he just disappear? I couldn't bear the thought of never seeing him again....(he) had played so many roles in my life: husband, best friend, confidant, lover, advisor, protector, and provider.  I lost all these people at once.' (31)

'Detached from myself, I felt like I was watching this nightmare happen to someone else.  Life a broken record, I kept saying, "I can't believe this is happening." ' (49)  I still feel as though I'm living in a parallel universe.  That some how, some day, everything will all go back to normal.

'Even as harsh words spilled out of my mouth, I knew this wasn't the real me talking.  It was as if someone else had taken over my body. Then I would feel guilty...I know now that this is a symptom of post-traumatic stress.' (61)  I am sorry to anyone who bore the brunt of my word vomit.

I stopped underlining after awhile because everything felt relevant and personal and I'm pretty sure my pen would have run out of ink.  I'll be re-reading this book again and again throughout my journey because although it makes me feel sick to revisit those memories of the early days, I am conscious of how much stronger and wiser I am now.  P is still making me a better woman.  And just because a bit of scab is starting to show, does not mean the wound will ever disappear.  It may scar over, but it will always be a part of me, as will P.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Trying to Remember You're Still Here...Somewhere

And if I go...
And if I go, while you're still here...
know that I still live on.
Vibrating to a different measure
behind a thin veil you cannot see through.

You will not see me,
so you must have faith.
I wait the time when we can soar together again,
both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to the fullest,
and when you need me,
just whisper my name in your heart, 
...I will be there.

-Colleen Hitchcock in 'Widowed Too Soon'

I have had signs, I have had messages that have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind that P is still around, still with me, still protecting and guiding me.  And yet, life has stepped in, swept me up, and side tracked me.  The world with it's intense logic and realism has made me question and led me to forget.  I used to talk to P on a daily basis.  It kept me sane, and I felt like I was keeping in touch with him.  Lately, since re-entering the real world I have strived to compartmentalise my feelings, in order to function in everyday society.  But in doing so I feel like I've lost my man again.  While once getting through the day was the ever present challenge, now the struggle lies in the balancing act between managing my guilty 'ok' feelings with devoting time to remembering my man each day in a very real, very present way.  While once I used to pray to God, now I speak to my angel.