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 30...it'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 is....so 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.....one 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.