Tuesday, June 30, 2009


When my husband was dying, I cried all day for a month straight! I would arrive at the hospital around 9:00 a.m. and the tears would begin streaming soundlessly down my face when I hit the lobby area. They would continue to fall as I spoke with doctors and nurses (no one ever said a word about them). Then, when it was time for me to leave the hospital at 5:00 p.m. to pick the boys up from their after school program, the tears would magically stop as soon as I went down the elevator and reached the main floor lobby again.

I remember being amazed that I could cry so much - that my body could contain so many tears! I couldn't stop or control them - they just flowed from my eyes. Yet during the funeral and memorial services, I didn't cry much.

I am crying a lot now as I mourn the loss of my home. The tears are again coming out of no where at unpredictable times. I again can't seem to control them although I do get through my work shifts without crying. Maybe tears will well up a bit in my eyes, but I'm able to restrain them.

Right now my emotions consist of shame, mourning and fear. I am ashamed to be in foreclosure. Even though the situation involves the death of my husband, current economic conditions and other matters, I still look at myself as a failure for somehow not being able to save the house. I am deeply upset to be losing my home which has been the one remaining symbol of security/stability in my life since my husband's death. And I am afraid of what the future holds - I don't know where we will be living. Sometimes when I am crying, I don't know the specific reason except that it is somehow tied into this new loss.

I am also aware that some of my tears also are from pity and sadness that I don't have someone to lean on through this. That it is an ordeal I have to face on my own while being strong and a parent to the boys. It is a hard burden to bear.

Today I am grateful:

1. For lush forest preserves.
2. For the four changing seasons.
3. For stormy weather which has a beauty of its own.
4. For orange tiger lily flowers.
5. For all the magnificent colors of nature - the blue of the sky, green of the grass, yellow of the sun, white of the clouds, red, orange, purple of the flowers, brown of the soil, black of the night, grey of the twilight.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Precious Possessions

I try to read an inspirational book every night before I go to bed. Currently I'm reading Alexandra Stoddard's "Time Alive, Celebrate Your Life Everyday." It is perfect reading for night because each chapter is a short essay reflecting on living a balanced, happy life. So even if I am tired I can manage to read a few pages and gain her wisdom/perspective. She is also the author of "Choosing Happiness," another gem.

In her chapter about our homes, Alexandra writes about some of her most sacred possessions. She lists her love letters, photographs of friends and family, gifts/objects from friends and family, scrapbooks, journals, unpublished manuscripts, her collection of well-read books and a gold pin that belonged to her best friend who died at age 44.

After I read this I decided to consider what my most sacred possessions are:

- photos/videos of family
- all art and schoolwork from when the boys were young
- gifts and cards my boys gave me
- craft projects the boys made that I display all over the house
- my decorative birdhouse collection
- old journals
- all my knitting books and patterns
- my mom's blue antique hobnail cup
- my vintage sampler collection

None of these things has any great monetary value but they are priceless to me. As I de-clutter out from years of accumulated "junk" in my home, I want to focus on all that is meaningful to me. Whether we remain living in this home or move elsewhere, I want to bring more of what is sacred into my life. As soon as I am able to have some free time to myself I will make it a priority to organize my photos into albums and put the boys' artwork and special school papers from when they were younger into scrapbooks. I will frame more of their artwork and put it on the walls; I will put the photo albums out where they can be looked at regularly.

I still have a lot on my plate right now to complete with the home (and then tackle the weeding/gardening outside). But I'll keep this goal in the back of my mind as incentive to keep plugging away with the hard part of the housework. It will be joyful to get to a point in my life where I can surround myself with what is most precious to me after having gotten rid of the stifling, less important stuff! I have read that to move forward, we need to sometimes get rid of all the clutter/stuff that is weighing us down. That getting rid of old items frees the space to let wonderful, new things in. What a posivie and hopeful concept!

Today I am grateful:

1. For the new day.
2. For the perspective I gain from others.
3. That we are all adjusting to my working and the boys are handling thisngs well with their summer schedules.
4. That we are healthy, knock on wood.
5. For my sacred possessions.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Celebrities Dying

I reflect on death a lot - thinking about death has just become a regular part of my days. I don't fear death as much as I used to because my husband and Mom have led the way for me. I also believe in an afterlife based on the paranormal events that occurred after my husband died. So my thinking so much about death is not really a downer for me - I just accept that it has become an influence on how I now choose to live.

When I heard about the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett today, it made me sad (which is how I feel whenever I hear of someone leaving this physical life). But I also felt that the deaths of these celebrities, will cause many others whose personal lives haven't been touched by grief/loss/death, to think about it today (and hopefully tomorrow too). I hope that the news coverage of these celebs will result in many people reflecting on their lives and their loved ones. I hope people will consider how easily it is to be here one day and not here the next so they will purchase more life insurance coverage, stop the feud going on with family members and tell their loved ones just how much they mean to them. They will consider living more fully in the moment and be more grateful for every second they are here breathing in and out!

I am always struck by the stories of those trapped in the Twin Towers and on the fated airplanes calling their loved ones to convey their love. I have never heard of any of these brave people calling anyone up to speak of hatred, money owed or unresolved arguments. The total focus in the last moments of life was on love and the desperate need to let the ones closest to them know of their love for them. Somehow I hope that the people reflecting on the lives of these two entertainers will be moved to become more loving right now before tragedy strikes or illness occurs.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the glorious clouds I saw floating magestically in the summer sky.
2. For the beautiful cresecent moon viewed in the summer night sky.
3. That I do not have any facial hair to deal with.
4. For being able to get through an 8-hour shift on my feet without getting as tired.
5. For having enough food to eat, clothes to wear, a running vehicle and books to read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Clean Sweep

A few years ago, I watched a British television series called "Clean Sweep" about organizing your home and de-cluttering. A team went into people's homes and pretty much cleared out the excess which was put into this machine called "the Crusher!" There was always a garage sale (in Britain they call them car boot sales) too. I really didn't like the show for a couple of reasons. I remember one episode where the team made a poor guy clear out his beloved childhood collection of Beatrix Potter figures. The guy was allowed to keep a few of his figures and was just crying. For Pete's sake, I thought, let him have his collection which was nicely displayed in a cabinet!

Then I remember an episode where an older middle-aged woman had lost her husband five years before. She had a boyfriend and they were living together or moving in together or something like that. The team just blasted this poor woman for not having cleaned up the clutter in her life (including all that remained from her deceased husband). I remember the woman gave the explanation that life had just moved on too quickly after her husband died and she hadn't been able to keep up. I think my husband had been dead a few years and I totally understood this woman's predicament. Too bad the Clean Sweep crew wasn't more sympathetic or understanding.

I feel very much this woman now as I go through the house and try to move on. It is going on six years since the death of my husband and so much happened that got in the way after his death as fate would have it (aging parents, a sick child, work, remarriage, divorce, my Mom dying, solo parenting...). Just as this woman in the Clean Sweep series, life kind of overtook me. For the longest while, one of the spare bedrooms downstairs couldn't be used because during my husband's three-year illness, whenever I didn't have a place for something I just threw it in there. That continued after his death too. I would stand at the door and throw whatever I didn't want to deal with in the room! I am totally serious about this, although I am laughing as I now write. Looking back it is so sad and funny - I am sure the Clean Sweep crew would have had a hey day about that one.

It is very hot and humid today and I've concentrated on getting rid of clothes in the spare closet so I can work upstairs in the air conditioning. It is hard for me to get rid of stuff in the first place and I struggle weeding out things now, especially anything that brings back a memory of my deceased husband. Today though I have the rule going on that I have to get rid of ANY clothing item with a drawstring waist. Why I even have a fair number of clothes with drawstring waist bands is troubling to me because they are not too flattering. But I guess they date back to the days of my husband's illness when I was so busy caring for him and the kids that I didn't have time to shop for myself and would just grab stuff off the racks without even trying them on. It strikes me as very appropriate and timely to pass those items on to the Goodwill donation center - they're from a painful part of my life and should be swept out!

Today I am grateful:

1. That hot weather naturally induces my desire to eat better and less, so I'm thinner in summer.
2. That the spare bedroom I talked about has been long cleared out and my oldest uses it as a music room for his drum set.
3. That even though it is hot and sticky at least it is not cold and snowing.
4. That I have a job and it has helped me get acclimated to the work force after time off.
5. For light body spray fragrances you can spritz on all day to cool off and freshen up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ready to Sell the House

Another close girlfriend left me a message that she has been super busy cleaning her home and just listed it. She was divorced in March. My guy friend was laid-off his retail management job 2 weeks ago. His ex-wife (he was divorced 15 months ago) has recently remarried and is moving out of state with their 11-year-old son in August. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with all of us.

Right now my focus is on finishing the cleanup in my home because I need to list my home as soon as possible as well. (I am a week behind in doing so because with my job and parenting the boys solo, the work on the house is not going as quickly as it needs to.) But it is on its way and I will try to sign my real estate contract no later than the start of next week. I'm not sure if it will sell but I need to take a shot at it.

It is time for me to move on. I am finding that concentrating on the house is helping with my depression/anxiety/fear. I drove by the apartment complexes in our town today and am not so distressed about having to move there anymore. They are neat, clean and all have pools, parks and ponds surrounding the grounds. There were many hanging plants from the patios. If we end up unable to renegotiate the mortgage and need to move there it will be okay (I hope).

Today I am grateful:

1. For the progress I have made on the house.
2. For summer fruits.
3. For some of the peace/resignation I am beginning to feel about our fate and future.
4. For scented reed diffusers (they are the neatest things!).
5. For scented candles (a cheap way to improve your mood and update the house).

Monday, June 22, 2009


My girlfriend and I went out Friday night to hear a band one of her friends plays in. While out, she told me that she thinks I am very strong handling all that is going on in my life right now. In fact, she said I am much stronger now than when I got remarried almost three years ago.

I told her that I do not consider myself that strong right now. I'm doing what I have to do - what other choice is there if I want to keep living? I need to be here for my boys so as hard as life is I can't zone out, or drink to deaden my pain or not work (because we need the extra money my job brings in for essentials). So I'm not sure that qualifies me for any great award here. If you're doing what you have to do because there is no other choice, that's what it is whether I'm strong or not.

Today I am grateful:

1. For iced tea.
2. That I have enough summer clothes and shoes so I don't need to buy anything new (although I could really use a new bra).
3. For bright summer nail polish colors.
4. For the church bells I hear chime from my open window.
5. For the train horns I also hear from my windows (I grew up hearing the train from my childhood home too and it is a comforting sound for me).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tattoos for their Dad

My boys want to get tattoos as a memorial for their Dad. The irony is that he hated tattoos and I do not care for them either. But in today's culture so many people (young and older) have them. At work, I am seeing grandmas with tattoos around their wrists, ankles and even nose rings! Many of the boys on the high school wrestling team also have tattoos.

The boys have created the design which is an angel and has the date their Dad was born and died. They have said they will have it placed on their back or shoulder blades. I have pretty much told them that I do not want them to get tattoos on their arms. They are both very clean cut in terms of how they dress (preppy and short hair). I know this would mean a great deal to them and am resigned to their eventually having it done in the future.

It is just another sign of the impact their Dad's death has had on them - it has utterly shaped and molded them in ways I still haven't seen. They already bear hidden scars deeply inside - maybe it is fitting that they have a sign of their loss displayed externally on their bodies for the world to see.

Today I am grateful:

1. That the three of us made it through this hectic weekend.
2. That everyone got safely to all the places we had to go.
3. That so far the Universe has been providing for us and we have shelter, food, clothing and each other.
4. For the natural beauty of the thunder storms we had on Friday.
5. For the honest day's work I put in today because it serves as proof (if just to me) that I am not a slacker and am doing what I can within the parameters of my current situation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


This is the best I can do today:

1. Make a fruit salad
2. Drive the boys to their baseball and volleyball events
3. Have food in the house for them to eat
4. Shower and look presentable
5. Go to work and then work
6. Take a vitamin
7. Focus on the moment

Today I am grateful:

1. That I am not an alcoholic.
2. That I am not a drug addict.
3. That I don't weigh 200 pounds.
4. That I am intelligent.
5. That there is food in the house.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Am continuing to feel pretty down and out. Although I have sad thoughts running through my head I am at least cleaning up the house in anticipation of putting it on the market next week. I went and rented a small storage locker today and moved a great deal of excess from the house and garage into it. I had been trying to go through all the clutter in the home but found it was taking too long. At least it is now out of the house. My plan is to go to the storage locker and bring one box or bag home at a time to go through in the future. To try and accomplish a house full of bags and boxes is too much for me. I already feel a great sense of relief to have some of it out - and more will be gone tomorrow. I need to keep my life as manageable as possible and this is a way that I think I can handle the cleanup without being overwhelmed.

Other thoughts that have surfaced are that it is hard enough being a widow, but a poor widow at that is even worse! I keep thinking about the comfortable life I would be living right now if I had moved to my ex-husband's town and we hadn't divorced. I am especially worried about possible what ifs - what if the van breaks down, how will I afford college for the boys in a few years, how much of a down payment will I need to rent an apartment, what if the house doesn't sell???? I am scared because I don't have someone to rely on if something really bad goes wrong.

This weekend I have to get my youngest to a baseball game on Sat. (he'll be able to walk to the other two he has to play in) and then my oldest is in a volleyball tournament. I will have to ask someone to drive him home on Sat. and both ways on Sunday. My youngest will need a ride home on Sat. There is just so much pressure, at least for me, to have to rely on others for transportation since I will be at work. I am overcome with sadness that my family has exhibited such little concern for us. My ex-husband has stopped communicating with me again without an explanation (his usual pattern).

All of these thoughts are tumbling around in my head and my heart is so heavy. I do want to give myself at least a little credit for working on the house and doing the best I can to move forward even though my grief is pretty strong right now. Tomorrow, if my down mood continues I am going to have to work on the strategy I wrote about in yesterday's blog - focusing on love to push through grief.

Today I am grateful:

1. For frozen mini pizzas on sale for $1.00 each - they are pretty tasty.
2. For 75 cent Banquet brand potpies - cheap and tasty.
3. That my boys are so handsome and tall.
4. That it has been raining and not snowing.
5. For the birds chirping in the morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Use Love to Burn Through Grief

I read about the concept of "using love as a deliberate strategy for dealing with the pain of an unacceptable loss" in Dr. Ira Byock's book, "The Four Things That Matter Most." He suggests that when you are grieving to "respond to anguish with love." To do this, "each time a wave of grief threatens to tear you apart, ask yourself, "What does love ask of me now?" How can you be more loving toward the person who is dying or has died, and to other important people in his or her life? How can you be more loving toward yourself?"

This way of thinking blew me away! I thought about how I could use it not only for the grieving times (of which there are many) in my life but for all the moments in my day. If I have to make a decision, I can strive to do so within the context of love. If I am dealing with a trying situation at work, I can call on this perspective for support. If I am having a tough time coping, I can ask myself to be gentler, all in the name of love.

"What does love ask of me now?" is a great way for me to keep focused, motivated and cognizant of the power of love which needs to be a greater part of all our lives. In closing his chapter on this topic, Dr. Byock adds, "Death makes us aware of the importance of the people we love and the sustaining force of love in our lives. When someone close to us is dying or has died, we can use love to burn through our grief and come to a place of gratitude for each other and being alive." Such powerful ideas and words. I really like the concept of having love burn though our grief. The mental image I see of this alone is awesome!

Today I am grateful:

1. To be alive.
2. To have shared the time I had with my late husband.
3. That I am still searching for answers and growing.
4. For Drumstick icecream cones.
5. That it is summer and not winter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Choosing to be positive

It has been a bit of a tough time the last couple of weeks with getting readjusted to the boys being out of school for the summer. I have also been fighting with feelings of general sadness and some hopelessness. Getting the house cleaned up and cleared out is a daunting task to handle on my own and it also depresses me. I'm doing the best I can - getting up and going to work when I'm scheduled to; feeding the boys; taking care of the little day-to-day duties.

I started clearing out the study yesterday and spent the day going through and recycling old paperwork. Toward the end of the day, I came across a crinkled piece of paper that I'd torn out of a woman's magazine. I was about to recycle it when some words caught my eye from an article about cultivating inner joy. One of the suggestions was to focus on the positive in all situations - not because life is always rosy posy. But by embracing life positively and cheerfully, we can make our lives better.

I reflected on this because I'd recently read some articles about choosing to be happy and that being positive and optimistic is a choice we can all make to improve our lives. I have to take some of this advice with a grain of salt. When someone is deeply grieving, such simplistic suggestions are not suitable. The prevalent upbeat spirit in the self-help books I have been recently reading is beginning to annoy me. There is a time and place for appropriate grieving, such as when a marriage has ended and you're in foreclosure. I think that I am entitled to feel sad at my losses right now. Yet according to these self-help gurus, by focusing on my grief (which puts forth low-level energy vibrations), I am actually attracting back negative things into my life!

Yet at the same time I understand the logic about choosing to see the good in a situation and putting your best foot forward and all that. I guess as in all things it is a balance. A balance between setting time aside for deeply grieving and then choosing to move forward with a more optimistic mindset.

Today I am grateful:

1. For having the strength to face what needs to be done with the house although it is dreary and hard work.
2. For the small surprises I find along the way in cleaning, such as a self-portrait my son drew of himself that made me laugh out loud it was so realistic!
3. That the weather has continued to be cool enough to not have to wear shorts because I haven't had time yet to organize my summer clothing!
4. For the great cheap dinner we had last night - fried bologna, coleslaw, potato salad and corn bread.
5. For the good advice I got from that torn out article which was when you're feeling envious, say to yourself, "Right now I have enough." Aren't those great words?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ghosts of the Past

My closest girlfriend and I went out to eat Friday night, her treat because her father had just sent her a check for $10,000.00! There was no reason he sent it - just because. My friend was divorced at the same time my husband was ill. Her dad also gave her a new van, and I also have another girlfriend, just divorced, whose dad gave her a car as well as some money. One of these friends is a teacher, the other a nurse - both work full-time and have ex-husbands in the picture (to share the carpooling with, childcare, etc.). Although I am truly happy for the good fortune of my friends, there is still a big part of me that struggles with the unfairness of it when I compare their family situations with mine.

My sister, two brothers and I are not close. My sister and one brother live in the area, the other brother lives in Hawaii. All are successful and have homes and children ALONG WITH SPOUSES! We do get together a few times a year for holiday celebrations where everyone pretends to be closer than we are. I struggled this Easter (actually agonized) about whether to go to my brother's home or not. I feel a great deal of despair and sadness over my siblings not really caring about our foreclosure or my recent divorce. In the end I went to my brother's home and did bring up our current situation with the foreclosure. News of our affairs is taken on a very matter-of-fact level. My three closest friends have all extended offers that we can stay in their homes if the need arises. No such offer has come from my family. During the nine-month period of my divorce my sister only talked to me once. If she were going through any type of hardship with her husband I would have been at her door with a chocolate cake and two forks, taken her out for a drink, gone window shopping to distract her and LISTENED!

The biggest issue that haunts me is that I am not after any type of handout or financial assistance. I'll deal with this situation as well as I can. What I crave and expect even to a certain extent is a moderate amount of verbal sympathy, encouragement and support which doesn't cost a dime! Since Easter I have not heard from any of my family. My sister is upset with me for some reason I am guessing has to do with my dad (perhaps that I do not see him as regularly as she does) but I am projecting because she has refused to discuss the matter with me despite my pleas to her to tell me what is wrong.

When you are grieving losses, unresolved losses from the past come back to haunt you. I know in my family's case, we have had to deal with the ghosts of the past brought on by my father's Alzheimer's disease and my mom's death two years ago. The two years they were both very sick were difficult for all of us. Then we were involved in clearing out our large childhood home and having it sold. The ghosts that returned involved the pain of having been raised in an abusive (physical and emotional) home by neglectful parents, one of whom was an alcoholic and suffered from mental illness. It is terribly painful for me to write these words but over the past months as I've dealt with the grief of my husband's death and then my divorce, I've also been battling deeply ingrained feelings of self-worth, abandonment and rejection with roots in my childhood.

My therapist tells me that my siblings are reacting in response to the way we are all raised. No one in my family ever acknowledged the truth (it always had to be hidden). I try to keep this all in perspective as I deal with my current housing and financial situation. But there are days when it is harder than others. Hearing about how more "normal" families interact with, help and support one another is tough. It seems to me that it is a pretty small request to have a sibling make contact with me to wish me well or say they are thinking of me. And there is additional hurt that my family hasn't been involved with my sons. Some days I actually feel that if the three of us fell off the face of the earth no one would really care (and in my family no one would even notice for months!).

It is not easy to turn these terribly sad but true words around and come up with my gratitude list next but I'll so my best and try to keep it simple so I don't have to think too much.

Today I am grateful:

1. That there were a few hanging flower baskets on clearance left at the hardware store because I can only afford the really marked down flowers - but I did get some.
2. That my my sons are healthy, active and happy despite the financial hardships that surround us.
3. That the boys improved their academic grades this year despite the stress going on in our home because of the divorce.
4. For my male friend who came and cut down some dead tress in the yard and watched the boys at their baseball game while I was at work.
5. For the friends who have become like family in the wake of my misfortune.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A ball falls (or I screwed up)

In the almost six years my husband has been gone, I've been pretty much a master at keeping the juggled balls in the air. Not to say that it has been an easy feat - most days I am drained and stressed. Until recently, I've only worked outside the home part-time for half of this time period. Which means that for about three years I wasn't working at a job, although I did help my parents on an almost daily basis on top of my parenting duties. For me the juggling has been getting my sons to all of their numerous activities, keeping our schedules straight, handling all aspects of daily living without any assistance from anyone. At times it is challenging because there are so many details to remember and when something changes (like a baseball game gets rescheduled) it can take some real creativity to reorganize the schedule. I honestly do not think there could have been any way I could have worked even part-time outside the home and handled everything on my own when the boys were younger. Now that they are in high school and one can drive, it is more foreseeable.

But back to my juggling metaphor, because today one of the balls in the air dropped. I was at work an hour and a half into my 8 hour shift when I received a call from my oldest that all of the baseball equipment was in the back of the van. The boys had a summer league game this afternoon. I had left for work late in the morning so proud that I'd gotten up early to make a home cooked meal for the boys that they could reheat on their own, totally forgetting that I needed to take out their equipment from the van. I knew they had a game and we had discussed their walking to the field and eating dinner afterward. I remembered everything except where the equipment was. I told my manager that I had to attend to an emergency situation at home and would take my half hour dinner break early so I could get them their sports bags.

As I rushed home, I cried and felt very depressed about having to always "fix" everything by myself. I was upset with myself for not remembering about the equipment in the first place, having to leave work and then losing my poor little 30-minute break! Here I have been so good about remembering all the details of our life! When I wasn't working outside the home this kind of thing wouldn't happen because I was the one always driving the boys so they would have been dropped off with their sports bags. So remembering to take the equipment out of the van before I leave is not something I am used to.

I realize that it is pretty silly to be upset with myself for such a small mistake but I still was because over the past six years I've done so well! This is one of the first times something like this has happened. I've become such an expert at juggling so many balls and keeping it all together (despite my fatigue and stress!). I guess the first time you goof it stings a bit. I have to be somewhat realistic here and acknowledge that with going back to work something had to give - there were bound to be some scheduling problems. No one can keep it together 100% - NOBODY! I need to commend myself for all that I've been able to do in the past and to recognize all that I'm doing now, especially with having gone back to work.

While driving home, I passed a wedding party posing for photos in the park. My tears fell harder as I thought about how difficult this is everyday - to keep on going raising the boys on my own, without a husband alongside me. It wasn't my fault that he died and left me in this predicament. I just wished there had been someone to call to help me while I was at work today, someone to help share the load - but as a widowed mom it is just me. So I did what I had to do; drove home, unloaded the baseball stuff, redid my makeup, ate a banana on the way back to work to tide me over, then returned to work, finished out the day and tried to comfort myself (something my husband would have provided when the going got tough). And I guess that would be a pretty good way to describe my current life - doing what has to be done with a little crying here and there; parenting on my own while getting back into the work force and doing the best I can. I guess I should be grateful that this has been the worst thing I have forgotten!

Today I am grateful:

1. That I was allowed to leave work to get the boys their baseball equipment.
2. That my oldest was able to deal with the situation in a calm, mature manner by finding the store phone number, calling the store and then getting me on the phone to explain the situation. Since I've always been at home, he has never had to face something like this on his own.
3. That despite the mishap, the day continued and ended in one piece with no great harm done (except to my pride).
4. To have been shown that I can't always keep it up, there will be times things fall apart and it is okay - I need to be able to support myself even when forgetting something or making a mistake. I need to cut myself some slack - that is the lesson here.
5. For being human and realizing I am only human.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

11 Little Words

The 11 most important words we can say in our relationships are:

"Please forgive me."
"I forgive you."
"Thank you."
"I love you."

This marvelous concept comes from the book of Ira Byock, M.D., "The Four Things That Matter Most." I came across the book while searching for another in my bookcase (one of many in the house) - something I picked up a few years ago and never read. The book's message is totally applicable to what is going on in my life right now so maybe it is better that it sat on the shelf until now. I can better appreciate and incorporate its message.

The author promotes being mindful of forgiveness, gratitude, affection and love on a daily basis, not just when we want to make amends or deal with conflicts. He proposes that in saying these words regularly, we'll avoid creating misunderstandings and long-standing resentments within our relationships. And saying them in times of conflict will help heal wounds and allow people to move on.

Reading the book inspired me to try and live a life where I am conscious of these qualities everyday! It is important that we tell people we love them and not expect them to just assume our feelings. It always feels so good to hear those words, and I continue to believe that all of us need to say it much more!

I remember asking for my husband's forgiveness while standing on the driveway of our home as I helped him into the car for his last journey to the hospital. I just blurted out that I was sorry for ANYTHING I had ever done in the marriage that hurt him; for any act of unkindness I had inflicted. My husband didn't really acknowledge my words nor did he offer any kind of apology to me (which would have been nice to have heard). He was not a man willing to look at or admit his faults and it was difficult for him to apologize. I am also sure that his physical and psychological pain that he was experiencing did not lend itself to the healing moment I was after. But after he had died I was glad I had said those words to him.

All of us are human - we hurt each other, say insensitive things, are impatient, demanding, critical and rude. Especially to the ones closest to us and those we love the most. Keeping these 11 words in focus is a small way to counteract our humanness. I wonder if I should ask my ex-husband for forgiveness? There is still such a gaping hole of incompleteness in regard to that relationship. As Byock writes, "It is no surprise then that forgiveness is so often at the heart of completing relationships and finding peace."

Today I am grateful:

1. For the pleasure of experiencing a cool morning with time to spend listening to the rain fall while lying under warm, cozy covers.
2. For rainy days that force you to slow down, catch up on little details and relax a bit.
3. For the store clerks who have become familiar with you over the years and know you by name and ask how you are doing.
4. For classic Land's End Oxford shirts that never go out of style and last forever.
5. For being able to walk, stand and physically tolerate the demands of my cashiering job.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Everything That Comes Afterward

The death of my husband was actually the easy part. It was everything that has followed that has been the most difficult and given me the most grief. And I'm still grieving because I am continuing to face these challenges. It is not that a year goes by and suddenly you're grief free. Maybe the gut-retching impact of the death has lessened but now there are new obstacles to face such as the constant fatigue of parenting on one's own, working, trying to maintain a home and vehicle, worrying about finances, cutting the grass, cooking dinners, shopping and dating again, to name a few. Underneath attending to all the daily chores of living is the emotional job of grieving about all the new losses (loss of income/financial stability, loss of a helpmate, loss of social status, loss of a sexual partner, loss of identity). And even another layer is the psychological need to navigate an unfamiliar, unplanned life with a different rule book - which you're still trying to comprehend. Lets throw some stress and anxiety into the mix too (the normal day-to-day stuff we all face and the stuff that has been added to your life because of the loss).

Another reality is that the living sometimes have to pickup and fix the mistakes or oversights of those who have died. My husband failed to leave a will which resulted in years of legal complications. There were family conflicts with his relatives which he should have been responsible for righting - but he got off easy, dying. I was left holding a bag of his messes that I was given no choice in but having to clean up. So there has also been resentment and anger toward my husband that just doesn't disappear because he has died.

In that first year after my husband's death I read everything I could lay my hands on about widowhood. I particularly wanted to read real stories of loss to reassure myself that these woman had survived (I also wanted to know that they had felt happy again too). There weren't many memoirs out there then - thank goodness more tales are being told now through blogging and the publishing of memoirs. But a criticism about grief books in general and even real life memoirs is that they tend to focus on the first year or two following the loss. As my journey continues I realize how much we need to keep focusing on the grief process beyond the initial loss.

What happens to those of us who have really faced some trying times and had to deal with numerous secondary grief losses? Where are the books, timetables and guidelines for this stage of the grief process?

Today I am grateful:

1. That I've been given the gift of another day to live!
2. That love is in my life (my cats, my friends, my sons).
3. For everything that has happened in my life because it means I have lived.
4. That I honored the love I had for my mother and that I stood by her side during her final days as a tribute to what she had meant to me.
5. For the wisdom and inspiration of others who have traveled through grief that somehow finds its way to me.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Beating Up the Widow

I have been reflecting on the disparaging nature of my ex-husband's recent emails. I am glad that he has had an opportunity to vent and that I finally have some clarification of why he sought the divorce. But at the same time I am dismayed by the constant barrage of criticism that I have received since widowhood. I have tried to understand why so many people in my life felt like they could be critical of what I did or didn't do.

Take for example one of the things my ex brought up - fast food. I know my reliance on fast food always bothered him. But what alternatives did I have? At the time I was caring for my gravely ill parents, I also had the responsibility of parenting the boys. Their sports schedules made it difficult to be at home much and oftentimes we'd grab a Subway sandwich or McDonald's for a 10:00 p.m. dinner. The ironic thing is that there were plenty of other intact families with only one son in a sport and the mom not working who were eating at fast food places as much as we were. There isn't much choice when you're on the road for a weekend travel baseball tournament 30 miles from home and need to be at the field at 7:00 a.m.! Have I liked eating so much fast food? Absolutely not! But you do what you have to do and in cutting corners something has to be the casualty and in this case it was home cooked meals.

The funny thing is that the past two Sundays after working 8 hours on Sat. and then Sun., I've been driving home at 7:30 and opted to pick up Taco Bell and Panda Express for the boys because I was too tired to be cooking by the time I'd be in the kitchen at 8:00. Something has to give.

Over the years I have been told how I should have parented, handled my finances, cared for my parents, gone on working, etc., etc., etc. Why is it so easy for others to presume that they would have done any better and be critical of my choices? And most of the criticism has come from those who have been the least involved in my life. Really, why does anyone even care where or what we eat anyway?

Has anyone else experienced this situation? How have you handled it? Why do you think it has occurred?

I know for me that I have felt taken advantage of with people coming in to work on the house (repairmen and such) as if my being alone has made it easier to pull the wool over my eyes. But why would family members and friends be so critical? What is in it for them to gain to put down a disadvantaged, single, grieving mom? Maybe one reason is that the weak are easier targets?

I do know that every decision made since my husband's death was done with the best intentions. Why on earth would anyone purposely try to make a bad decision? We all do the best we can under our circumstances and with the knowledge we have. I did the best I could.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I have been able to keep putting food on the table.
2. That we still have a roof over our heads.
3. That I have a dependable vehicle to drive.
4. That there are still unread books on my bookshelf - I have some choices left to make in my life even if only what book I am going to read next.
5. For the friends in my life who have stood by me and listened and not been critical!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Drivers License Update

I let my son have the van for an hour before his afternoon volleyball practice. He was just going to drive to a friend's house across town to celebrate his achievement. I figured I'd give in and let him have his moment. I hope it gets some of the pent up urge to take the van out of his system (fat chance!).

A very, very small feat in the grand scheme of things, I guess. But also representative of the need to somehow balance life within the boundaries of our current circumstances.

"Mom, can I have the van?"

My 16-year-old just got his drivers license. I tried to delay the process as long as possible and bought myself a few weeks but could only go so far continuing to tell him that his replacement social security card had not yet arrived in the mail! So I bit the bullet and we accomplished this milestone this morning. Then went to my insurance agent to have him covered. I am excited, proud and happy for him but at the same time looking at our situation realistically. Our main vehicle is a van with just over 100,000 miles on it. If something happens to it, I would not receive enough money from the insurance to get a replacement; nor do I have the means to be able to get a new vehicle. This van is it - I rely on it for all of our transportation and without it would not be able to survive here in the suburbs. Or, get to a job.

And of course, my son now thinks he can have the van to go out socializing with his friends. I am not looking forward to this next phase of adolescence. My son needs to realize that our vehicle is our lifeblood right now - a necessity, not a luxury. I do feel bad that this is another hardship my son needs to acknowledge. If my husband were still alive, or I was still married, the financial concerns I have wouldn't exist.

As we drove home, I passed the home of a mom I know who was out gardening. She lives in a nice home with her three nice kids and nice husband. The thought flashed through my mind that she sure isn't dealing with any of the worries on my plate right now. I know when I bring this kind of observation up I always hear back, "You don't know what is going on behind other houses" and all that kind of stuff. Yes, that is true. But I do not think that this woman is fretting about what will happen if her teen crashes the only vehicle they have. She may have some troubles or concerns but I'm pretty certain they're not on the same intensity as mine - and in any case she has a husband with whom to share her issues. A bit of resentment flowed through my veins as we drove by. And then we got home and I had to deal with my son already asking for the van...

Today I am grateful:

1. That my son got his drivers license.
2. That my son is a good driver.
3. That my son got a perfect score on his drivers license test (very rare).
4. That both my sons are pretty great kids.
5. That there weren't long lines at the drivers license facility.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Delayed Grief

My grief journey has the unfortunate addition of what I've chosen to call "delayed grief." After my husband died, a number of difficult events followed in close succession that required my full attention and I pretty much shelved the grieving I needed to do. Not because I wanted to but because I had to.

That first year following his death remains a blur to me. It was like living through the motions of life - just getting by - living on autopilot. I remember being so relieved that the first year was over. But what I discovered was that the second year was far worse because the full impact of what I had really lost and how life had changed was recognized. In those first weeks and months following the death we got lots of meals and food. Sometimes five dinners a day. But no one was hungry or wanted to eat much and all that food got thrown out. During the second year I really wished that food was around. We were hungry again and I had started to really grieve - it would have been so helpful to have experienced the well wishes of others during that phase when it could have been really used and been fully appreciated!

Just a few months after the year anniversary of my husband's death, my youngest son collapsed in a movie theater and we were given the diagnosis of Long QT Syndrome, which is a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia. It was recommended that I have a pace maker put into my son just days after his collapse. My son had actually been told by the pediatric cardiologist that he could die! Smart move, Doc! My son was terrified and I was still a grieving widow now being told I might lose my youngest. I trusted my instincts and decided to get a second opinion and we ended up working with Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago for seven months of extensive diagnostic and genetic testing.

During that time I didn't let my youngest out of my sight and even had him sleep with me. We made weekly trips to two hospitals and also consulted the Mayo Clinic. He was also hospitalized. Lets just say that all of my energies were focused on comforting my child, parenting the other son and trying to cope with another disaster. The hardest part of this experience was not having had the support of a spouse. I was already so depleted from the three years of caring for my husband through his illness. But strangely, we were all so used to being at hospitals all the time, it was also a kind of comforting/familiar situation as well! I mean I was used to dealing with doctors and spending lots of time at hospitals so it was almost a continuation of the life we'd been living with my husband.

The other aspect of my son's experience was that in making the complicated and scary medical decisions I had to make for my son, I felt pretty confident that I'd known my husband intimately enough to make the decisions he would have wanted and approved of as well. In a way, it was like I had my husband with me in spirit becasue with every decision I made, I always asked myself if it would have been okay with my husband. Anyway, my son was eventually cleared of the diagnosis although he has Vasal Vagal which is fainting at the sight of blood and the reason he had collapsed (while watching a movie scene with blood in it). But as soon as our lives had gotten back to a little normalcy, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and both of my parent's health took a turn for the worse.

I began to help care for them and as the year went on, the caretaking duties increased. But again, I was interacting with doctors and going to hospitals and it all felt strangely familar. The only bad part of all this was that all the backlogged grief was still there and I was stretched too thin - caring for kids as an only parent and then caring for my folks. Need I mention that I was not taking care of myself? This is not a good choice to make, I have learned!

It was during this time that I started to date my second husband, we had a whirlwind romance and married after seven months. Most of our time together was spent going to hospitals to visit my parents, or the assisted living facilities they lived in when they weren't in the hospital. And of course during this entire period since my husband's death I had not spent much time orgainizing my affairs or the estate, etc. My house was also sorely unattended to. My new husband and I had made the agreement that we would live apart for the first year of our marriage to give me time to get the house taken care of, put on the market to sell, etc.

But, life had other plans and my parent's continued to need help and I had difficulty taking care of everything on my own. By the time nine months had passed, my mom was in the hospital dying of cancer and my father hospitalized at another for his health conditions! The dominos kept falling! A tornado struck our town a week after my mom's death and we suffered severe damage to my propery - then there was the draining task of clearing/cleaning out my parent's home... Fast forward, dealing with a husband who'd filed for divorce and still having to face the grief I'd put aside. But now that grief included feelings concerning my son's medical diagnosis, my mom's death, my dad's illnesses and near death, sibling crap and a whole lot of other stuff mixed in to make the stew even more spicy!

In writing this blog I find myself really focusing on the grief surrounding my husband's death and I suppose it is because I finally have an opportunity to work on that. I do wish that my life had allowed me to do my grief work in a timely manner - 4 or 5 years ago instead of now. And it is really crappy and unfair that I've had to deal with other hardships besides widowhood - really, that is a hard enough adjustment on its own! But I am very grateful for this vehicle in which to process and express myself. It is a little wierd because I feel like these are all new and raw emotions but that simultaneously I have the perspective of time having passed!

Today I am grateful:

1. For the hope and clean slate a new day brings.
2. For being able to experience a new day.
3. For everything I have accomplished during the past five years (and the heck to everything I wasn't able to do! Look at all that I lived through!).
4. To be finally given a chance to be able to concentrate on my grief work.
5. For some of the peace and perspective I am gaining.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hope within Despair

I have taken to wearing an engagement type ring again. It was given to me as a Valentine's Day gift from my second husband. I had coveted it for over a year at a local jewelery store. My husband had insisted on giving me a custom designed engagement ring with a very large diamond, when we married, not my real, more simplistic style at all. But I went along with the first ring to please my husband. But as time went on I was just too worried about damaging or having it stolen that I didn't like wearing it on an everyday basis. Hence, the second ring.

It had a round diamond (instead of the oval shape of my first ring) with two emeralds on each side. I really just fell in love with the overall simplistic look and that it was unique with the emeralds (and green is my favorite color). But the ring cost almost as much as my first and therefore, not affordable. After seeing it and coveting it for over a year, I asked if we could have the diamond taken out and replaced with a cubic zirconia. This suddenly made the ring affordable and I loved that it would be my little secret - having a ring that looked so genuine but wasn't. The emeralds were of fantastic quality and color and that made the ring expensive even without the real diamond.

When I received the ring as a gift I loved it and wore it daily. I no longer felt so worried about damaging, losing or having my original engagement ring stolen. It gave me a lot of joy because it was exactly what I wanted. During my divorce I was forced to sell the big diamond as part of the divorce settlement and then my husband asked for all my jewelry back (what he had given to me as gifts). Somehow my emeral, cz ring had been forgotten by him and was never mentioned. So in a way it became another little secret of mine. Although I did want to have some kind of token from my marriage as a memory of the love we had once shared!

A few months ago I thought it silly not to wear - it gave me so much pleasure why not wear it? People can do whatever they want these days and many older widows continue to wear their rings (it didn't matter to me that this was a ring from my remarriage). Every time I put the ring on and wore it made me a little happy. It also served as hope for me that someday I will remarry but in the meantime I can wear and enjoy a lovely ring without being married. I got tons of compliments on it while at work which was fun too.

But then disaster struck! Yesterday at work my hand struck up against something and as I was cashiering I looked at my ring and saw one of the emeralds missing. I was heartbroken. Not that an emerald was gone (each was supposed to be worth $1,000) but that something so pretty and enjoyable to me was ruined. I just couldn't stand the thought of having something else valuable to me taken away - something that had provided such pleasure to me in these trying times. As I looked around on the floor, I became aware of how futile it would be to find the emerald. I tried to take stock and feel brave but I continued to look - what harm would come out of it? I couldn't just give up so easily. I tried to retrace my steps and to think of how I could have bumped the ring. It made sense that it would have happened while bagging a purchase so I decided to look in the bin that holds the plastic shopping bags and there was a glimmer of green resting on top of the pile of white bags! I felt vindicated! Disaster averted! A tiny bit of hope!

Today I received my weekly email message from life coach Cheryl Richardson, which was by coincidence on the topic of feeling hope even while in dire situations. I thought about my ring and everything it represents. That it was a symbol of a marriage that ended tragically; about how much I loved it and still wanted to wear it despite the pain of my divorce. And then how one of the emeralds had fallen out and all that could have symbolized - the absolute end of my marriage. That would have been the more fitting ending - to have not found the emerald. But that is not what happened. I did find it! So therein lies a little hope within a dire situation.

Today I am grateful:

1. To have found the emerald.
2. To have gotten my Cheryl Richardson weekly message about hope.
3. To feel hope even within the pain and sadness I am now experiencing.
4. That happy endings can exist even within sad endings.
5. For all the pleasure this little ring has given me (and it is a plus to whomever might marry me in the future because my frugal nature will enable me to wear it as my next wedding ring!).
6. For having the strength to wear the ring because it gave me such joy - and right now small pleasures mean a lot.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Angels in Disguise?

The counselor is coming out in me at work. Today, I spent over eight hours cashiering. Doing this job is just mind numbing for me - utterly boring beyond words! I can get through five or six hour shifts so much more easier than the eight hour ones. But anyway, I had a couple opportunities to talk to customers today. One woman about my age and I chatted about working jobs outside our fields. She is doing dog grooming. I remarked that given the economy and shortage of jobs in our area, that I am grateful for the job I do have even though it is not in my field of social services. I added that sometimes we're put on paths we don't expect or want but that it turns out to provide a hidden opportunity. And that I've come to trust that whatever road I'm on is the one I'm supposed to be taking. The lovely woman, so pleasant and nice to talk with left my register relating her heartfelt thanks for our conversation. She said that talking about the paths we're given in life had given her some new perspective and she was grateful we had spoken.

Then another customer spoke to me about her feelings that one of our head managers had seemed to be following her around the store as she shopped, as though she intended to shoplift. I found myself going into "counselor mode" and being empathic to her feelings. As the exchange continued I felt strangely like I was in a counseling session with a client! But it felt good and it felt like what I am supposed to be doing instead of ringing up people's "super box store" purchases. It felt like I was home and I was confident and capable. I guess the next step here is to move toward finding a job in my actual field - I still need to concentrate on the house though but a job in my field needs to be moved to the next priority after that.

How funny that our true natures seem to come out no matter what or where the setting! It was also nice to be talking with people and exchanging ideas and positive vibes. Good to not be the only one getting all the attention but focusing on others too! Also good to not be only moping and complaining. I believe that people are put into our paths for a reason - and maybe these people found me or I found them in a check-out line. Angels in disguise?

The real gem to this day was chatting with an older couple, whom I found out had been dating for two years after the woman was widowed three years ago. Seeing them made me optimistic for my future and that it will come together for me. I got the typical response that I am so young when I related that I was widowed almost six years ago (I do have that going for me since I look much younger than age 50 -I have long brown hair and a youthful face). But this conversation restored my hope and optimism in the world.

Today I am grateful:

1. For a job - even as a cashier.
2. For being given some opportunities to remember who I am and what I do well.
3. That I've improved greatly on my job - I'm a pretty good cashier now and the customers like me (I get lots of compliments on how nice I am).
4. That I was given this path to take - I'm not sure where cashiering at the big box store will lead me but it will lead somewhere.
5. For the customers who interacted with me and what I gained from them.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sex and Sleeping Alone

I am feeling particularly discouraged, lonely and sad tonight and the prospect of going to bed alone is even more depressing. I want to be sharing and sleeping in the same bed with a partner every night. To go to bed with someone special by your side and then to awaken with them to start a new day is in my opinion one of the most simple pleasures we can experience. Nothing tops having someone to hold or having someone hold you; especially when you need to feel supported and loved.

The entire year before my husband died, we had sex only once. He was just so sick and in and out of the hospital. There came a point for both of us where his survival became our focus and sex was something we didn't even think about anymore. After he died, I remember regretting not having had more sex - not so much in the final year of his illness but during the healthy years. I remembered all the times when we'd had arguments and gone to bed facing away from each other. I vowed to myself that in my next relationship I would never take sex for granted again, nor would I ever go to bed angry with my partner.

I started dating two and a half years after my husband's death not for any real significant reason other than I wanted to experience sex again. I missed sex. And again I made a vow but this time it was that I would not go for such a long time without sex. But tonight I'm thinking of things other than sex and my need to share a bed and life with a committed partner. It is going on almost seven years since I've had a man next to me in bed on a daily basis (the last year of my husband's life he was in the hospital and not at home and when I remarried, my second husband and I had a long-distance marriage and he only stayed with me on some weekends or over school breaks and vacations).

That is what I am most missing now - not the sex so much but that steady physical presence in my life. And how significant it is that committed partners end and start their days together in bed. That makes my going to sleep tonight in my comfy Queen bed a bit more melancholy.

Talking til I am blue in the face

For me, one of the hardest aspects of widowhood has been my inability to explain to others my feelings and new life realities. Particularly with my family and my second husband. I've talked until I've been blue in the face to no avail and it is still causing much frustration. Briefly, my family has not understood how hard it has been for me to parent alone, handle finances, work, manage the house, etc. Nor do I think that they have been tolerant of the grief process. They have also failed to step up to the plate in any way to interact with the boys or provide a male influence (my brothers and brother-in-law).

Since April I have been corresponding by email on a very limited basis with my ex-husband. Last night he sent me a scathing message accusing me of always putting him last, one of the reasons he divorced me. During the brief time of our marriage, I was helping to care for both of my parents (one dying and the other terribly ill) while still doing the only parent routine. I just couldn't manage it all, I admit. But part of me now is getting pissed off at this lack of compassion and just plain decency. (No one in my family has offered any emotional support during my divorce and now during this foreclosure. I guess I shouldn't expect anything because they didn't provide any during my husband's illness either. Nor should I be surprised that I ended up remarrying a man whom replicated my family in certain ways.)

I just don't want to be punished anymore for the decisions I made under duress about caring for my parents that resulted in my not moving quickly enough to my husband's home out of state. Enough is enough. Everyone always thinks that they would have done better but the fact is that no one knows how they would cope/manage under challenging circumstances. And to assume they would have handled the situation better is unfair. The way I handled that part of my life is in direction reaction to the fact that my husband had died a mere three years before and that two years before I'd had to care for my youngest who had been diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition. This made it impossible for me to leave my parents in their hour of need to move into my new husband's home 120 miles away. There was so much stress and tension going on along with the boys not wanting to move and leave their friends that I could not face the move. I had to take care of what was happening on the home front first.

I have gone over and over this with my ex to no avail. (Even my siblings have criticized me for not moving sooner). And here I am trying to explain it again to my husband after the divorce. At one point I just wrote him that I will not grovel anymore - I did the best I could under horrific circumstances. Why is it so hard for those closest to me to give me any credit for what I did do? The loyalty I gave my parents and the parenting care I provided my children during this horrible period so soon after my husband's death? I just am throwing in the towel here. I know what I accomplished and my dignity is intact. I refuse to be browbeaten and condemned. It would seem that my family and ex deserve a swift kick in their pants for their lack of compassion far more than I deserve to be continually criticized for what has been done. The reality is that they have not been emotionally supportive and that is yet another loss that I have to face, accept, forgive and move on from. I always believed that a family stood by its members in their darkest hours, including husbands, as I did for mine. This has not turned out to be my reality and it has been a painful realization.

Today I am grateful:
1. That I have had an opportunity to communicate (such as it has been) with my ex.
2. That I never gave into temptation and actually did all those evil plots I wanted to inflict during my divorce when I was so angry - that would have been pointless and accomplished nothing.
3. That I am starting to stand up for myself because if I don't no one else is going to for me.
4. That I am proud of what I have lived through and know it was the right way for me to have lived despite the criticisms of others.
5. That I am beginning to realize that I don't have to subject myself to dysfunctional relationships if I don't want to (I can limit my family contact, etc. in the future).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Advice 101

A friend offered his advice that my oldest should get a job to help pay for the increased cost of car insurance now that he is getting his driver's license. Of course, this would be a great idea but unfortunately not entirely practical in our situation. Right now I have difficulty managing to get the boys where they need to go and to my job - the thought of adding a job held by one of the boys to the mix seems impossible at the moment!

This kind of response from friends just gets my goat! It is so easy to tell me what to do without examining the logistics needed to accomplish the plan. It might even be hard for an intact family to figure out how to manage driving teenagers but I'm here on my own and expected to do it, plus go above and beyond! I just get so tired of all of this. People just see the surface of my life - they don't have the time or interest to delve below the water to really understand the workings of my life. And as usual, they're coming up with advice based on their lives which aren't being lived as "only parents."

To add insult to injury (and this has become my favorite part of all of this), when I admit that I honestly can't accomplish their advice right now, I'm criticized as not being good enough or trying to get out of it. I hate that I am penalized for being honest in regard to my circumstances.

Today my oldest and I have been at it because he doesn't want to go to club volleyball practice tonight (it was the last day of school and he has a baseball game tomorrow). I want him to go because he asked to join this club, made a commitment to being in it and then I paid $235.00 of money we really don't have for him to join. We have been going back and forth on the matter and I have wished over the course of the afternoon that there was another parent here to help me in this situation. I'm feeling tired and worn down from the "only parenting" because it is hard to be doing this on one's own day after day.

I am so in need of some kind of break or vacation. I just have to restore my energy and mental strength here soon because I am absolutely running on empty.

TIP: If by chance you are reading this and know of an only parent, rather than be quick to offer advice and then respond judgmentally, just offer sympathy and support the next time. Advice is helpful sometimes, but not advice that isn't feasible in our situations. What would be so nice to hear is just some compassion of how hard it is to manage everything on our own. Personally, that would help me feel stronger and more productive knowing that someone can view my situation for what it is. A pat on the back goes so much farther than criticism.

The World Can't Stop Because ____________

Last night I watched a movie that just blew me away! Director King Vidor's, 1928 silent classic, "The Crowd." I had never heard of it before but it is better late than never. The plot is about an "everyman" and the trials and tribulations he faces as a young, married father in New York City. Although this movie is 80 years old, the depictions of marital struggles, especially the cold/unaccepting mother-in-law are priceless and hold true even today. Even the financial conflicts between husband and wife are relevant to today's economy. Which I guess goes to show that human nature is what it is and doesn't change that much over the years. We all want to be loved and happy - to provide for our family and to feel some importance in the world.

But what really gripped me were the ways in which grief and tragedy were portrayed. And again, I found them similar to today's reactions. The young family faces a horrific tragedy when their baby daughter is hit by a truck in a senseless, freak accident. As the family waits to learn of their of their daughter's fate, the father becomes crazed with grief. He can't be still and runs out to the busy street where he tries to demand that the world become more quiet. As this scene played out, I understood exactly what was going through this man's head. When someone you love is dying, you just want the world to stop if even for a moment! A policeman interacts with the father and curtly says, "Get inside! The world can't stop because your baby's sick!" A very modern reaction to such a situation today, as well. In subsequent scenes, the father pretty much goes to pieces in his grief but is not supported or understood by his co-workers - he is expected to get over it and move on. Again, current expectations about how people should handle grief. The quote that is shown on screen during this part of the movie says it all: "The crowd laughs with you always...but it will cry with you for only a day."

This movie was considered too depressing for its time (early Depression - people only wanted to see fun movies to escape their reality). But the director insisted the movie be produced as per his vision - a realistic portrayal of honest life. It is the first movie ever to show a toilet - again the director took flack for this as people going to the show didn't want to be reminded of bodily functions. But again, he insisted the toilet remain in the footage because it is a fact of life! There is a camera tracking scene in which the side of a skyscraper is panned up from the bottom to the top and ends by going into a window which leads to a wide scene of a huge office space. This is considered to be one of the most famous tracking scenes in the history of movies. In fact, some people say you should see this great movie if only because of this camera mastery - I don't know how they accomplished that feat back then - utterly spectacular - it took my breath away as I watched!

The end of the movie really put the whole viewing into perspective for me. The MGM executives had seven different endings shot because of their view that the movie was too depressing. But the director's first choice was used. The movie ends with the small family taking a break from their tragedy by going to a vaudeville show. They are shown laughing in the large theatre as the camera pans away from them. I was overcome with the meanings this ending evoked for me; that life can overcome tragedy; that life can go on; that it is possible to be happy again and most importantly, how we all need love in our lives and if we have it, life will be survivable. All beliefs I hold to be true since facing my losses.

On a personal note, what watching this movie made me realize is that I need to watch more movies and go out and do more for myself. I do read a lot because I can do it easily and with the time I have but I need to see more of the world and to be exposed to more priceless gems such as this movie. There are more restaruants to try, more parks to explore, more antique shops to discover to name just a few!

Today I am grateful:

1. To have had an opportunity to view this masterpiece of our history.
2. For the creative genius of the director, King Vidor.
3. To realize that insights can be gained from the past.
4. For the vitalization and perspective one gets from being exposed to art in all forms.
5. For the excitement for living this movie brought out in me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Plan of Attack for the Next Hurdle

When my husband first died I remember wanting to have some kind of plan to follow in those early weeks and months to guide me through the transition. Life pretty much overtook me and I ended up muddling and stumbling through that period without any specific direction. Now that I have survived that loss as well as a divorce and am facing the loss of our home, I want to take action and have a plan in place to adhere to over the summer. So in looking through my library of grief books for some guidance, came across a chapter from "The First 30 Days - Your Guide to Any Change and Loving Life More" by Ariane de Bonvoisin. In the chapter "Get Unstuck" she outlines a series of steps that make sense to me to follow as a guide over the summer as I focus on the house.

1. Take Care of Yourself!
How many times do we hear this?. Plant the foundation of change with "SEED" - Sleep, Eat, Exercise, Drink (water). Balanced, healthy living made a priority.

2. Turn to the Familiar.
We need the comfort of familiar people, places and things when we are going through change. Makes sense. So we should seek these out. Like the Teddy Bears or Blankets we had as kids to help soothe us.

3. Take Care of the Little Things.
Handling the bills, laundry, daily tasks make us feel more confident to deal with the bigger ones. It also gives us some control over our lives. So we need to keep up with the little tasks.

4. Make a Decision.
It is better to make decisions (follow your intuition) than sit on problems and let them fester. Sometimes it is the making of the decision that proves to be the hardest part. Once the decision is made everything else falls into place.

5. Read and Write.
Both offer new insights and persepectives. For me, blogging has taken the place of journaling.

6. Do Something for Someone Else.
Ariane says, "To move through change, it's essential to bust through the illusion that you are the only one experiencing pain or suffering. It is the gift of perspective. Be bigger than just your change. Someone else needs you."

7. Get Quiet.
Sometimes we just need to do nothing to gain clarification. We can meditate or for me knit as ways to become quiet to the outside world.

8. Bring Joy Back!
Despite all the change going on outside, we are still the same inside, and we need to acknowledge that by doing the things we love or trying new activities to rejuvinate us.

So that is the plan of action I hope to follow over the summer with intention and resolve. No more handfuls of M&Ms; more exercise; more laughter; more keeping up with the daily tasks as I focus on clearing out and downsizing our possessions; more focusing on others; moe time for knitting; more vitamins; more decision making instead of going over all the options again and again.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I am trying to face the loss of the house with strength.
2. That I made increasing my compassion and forgiveness a priority during the divorce.
3. That it has been cool the past week and we have not been overpowered yet by the heat of summer.
4. That having reduced work hours right now gives me a chance to work on the house - once the house is taken care of I can renew the job search.
5. That I have created a plan that fits me and the way I think/live to give me a little guidance over the next three months.