Monday, June 8, 2015

Birthday Wishes

When I blow out the birthday candles on my cake this year, I wouldn't know what to wish for. I want nothing and I certainly don't need more stuff, except maybe an extra set of measuring spoons or a heat-proof rubber spatula.  Other than that, I truly need nothing. I wish I would get excited about some trendy Italian handbags or expensive jewelries or even a fancy dinner.  Or a puppy.       But I don't.  

I still love my birthday.  

Bryan died a few days after I last saw him at the hospital.  His memorial service, a celebration of his life, was the 8th memorial service I attended in two years.  B and I were not very close, but his wife and I are.  We have been buddies for fifteen years.  Of all my friends who passed in the last two years, Jeff's loss feels the most like Eric's death.  I have tears every time I think about Jeff.  It reminds me of what Eric had left behind.  It makes me angry my good friend has to go through this shit.

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I think it's time to release Eric's ashes this summer.  I am not ready, because I would tear up every time I think about it.  Every single time, without fail.  But I do not believe there is such a thing as ever being ready to release your spouse's ashes.  I reason with myself that it's not about me being ready; it's about Eric's ashes.  My husband was never meant to be confined in a box, so why should his ashes?  I reason that if I wait until I am ready, I would never do it.  I reason with myself that life doesn't wait.  

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I wish for peace and healing for Jeff.  I wish for familiarity.  I wish for tears, but that they would stop after a while.  I wish for gratitude.  That's what I wish for.  I wish for him new normals soon.  

I already made my wishes.  I don't need candles; please let's just eat cake.   

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seven In Two Years

On the eve of my four months retirement from corporate America, it happens to be the eve of the wedding of my two good friends, B and J.  B is very very ill, and will likely pass very soon.  Every fiber in J's body will then hurt.  Today, in my head, I said my goodbye at the hospital.  I felt dull and sad; I couldn't fake a smile.  And I listened to Mozart Requiem all day while I sent crab grass and dandelions to their demise.  

I counted.  Seven in two years.  I went to seven memorial services in two years. That's three times of funerals as weddings I attended.  I don't know what is the average number, but seven in two years seems a bit excessive. Some, I was very close to, including Eric and Julian.  Some, acquaintances.  The rest, somewhere in-between.  One would think it's somewhat natural to start attending funerals once you hit a certain golden age.  The problem is I hardly consider 47 that "golden age." I feel morbid.  

Inspirational posters often remind us to live life to the fullest because we don't know when we would, well, die.  That's why some genius made up a thing called the Bucket List.  "Before I die, I want to see or do these 85 things on this list." Faithfully, a check mark was ticked when an item was accomplished.  Like a grocery list.  

I realized, it's all wrong.  We go on with our days hoping and assuming "they" - others in our lives - will be around tomorrow.  Then the next day.  And the next. The "they" is unspecific - it can be anyone.  

I don't know when "they" will leave.  I suppose "leave" can mean anything outside the status quo.  Of course, it also means death.  When it happens, that leaves me. The one who didn't yet die.  With holes of various sizes.  Wishing to have asked "them" to tell me more stories.  Wishing to have kept that lunch date instead of finishing some "critical steps" in a project.  Wishing to have gone to that baseball game instead of making up some lame excuses to not.  Wishing to have baked "them" more bread.  Or pies.  It could be anything.    

A purposeful life is not about self-preservation so that there is no hole.  A purposeful life is about creating meaningful holes.  You constantly move forward to create a new life, and more holes.  Stopping is dying. 

"Living life to the fullest" is never about my last breath.  Its about "their" last breath.   

I never bother to keep a Bucket List.  I don't need to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa that badly.  A postcard will do.  I would rather be spending time and doing things with "them", and if it happens to be at Pisa, let's pack a picnic.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Costa Rica Sunset + Catamaran Cruise = Medusa Moment

We've enjoyed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sunsets.  It's the same yellow fireball that goes up and down every 24 hours, for millions and millions of years. Yet, we snap pictures of it as if it were the first sunset.  Or the last.  Sunsets are mesmerizing and mysterious, like Medusa's crazy hair.  I had a Medusa Moment in Costa Rica.  

The sunset I saw while on the catamaran cruise was both mesmerizing and mysterious. Yet, defining.  The defining moment gave me this message, "thanks for all the adventures.  Now start your next one."  

Life adventures come in all shapes and forms, and obviously not limited to tropical vacations.  The defining message had more to do with "who" and not "what." 

Sunsets used to be simply beautiful to me until the last two years.  Now, sunsets become "meaningful" as if they carry special messages from my husband.  I say "as if" because they *don't* actually carry messages; I just make belief they do.  In time, I have become increasingly aware and grateful to my acceptance of a few facts of life.  One, I have become very aware that not only I am alive, but that I FEEL incredibly alive.  Two, I never felt the need to lament "why" or "why me" despite my husband's death.  The answer(s) to these questions did not and do not exist.  I have cognitively refused to trap myself in such fruitless agony.  Three, I have come to full acceptance that my husband's decision to die was his, and his alone.  It was NEVER my right or my place to take on any guilt or blame, nor is it my or anyone's right to cast guilt or blame on him.  I have come to realize that I will fiercely defend his decision until the last cow comes home.  Lastly, and probably the most important fact, was that I have unequivocal certainty that Eric loved me deeply when he was alive.  And without bounds.  These "simple" facts of life propelled me to live a determinately full life no matter the circumstance.    

So what do all these have to do with anything?  Or a Medusa Moment?  The moment that was mesmerizing and mysterious, yet defining?  I'll get to that.  

I went to Costa Rica with my boyfriend Ken, who is one of the most considerate and solid human beings I have the good fortune of dating.  We come from two distinctly opposite - not opposing, but opposite - worlds.  Yet, we couldn't be more compatible despite our polar differences, complemented by many similar values and viewpoints about the world.  I believe Psychology 101 has a layman term called "opposite attracts."  Frankly, "why" we complement each other is irrelevant.  What's relevant is ridiculously simple:  We are good to each other, and good for each other.  Together, we are happy.  Isn't that enough?  

But that's what I struggled with internally and battled fruitlessly:  My current adventures and my past adventures.  I need to reconcile the two.  The Facts of Life I've accumulated should have prepared me for my next stage of life.  And the next stage of life is obviously here.  Within reach.  It's right in front.  

I just needed a little bit something.  Like a small bite of brownie after a good meal...  

And there it was.  The Medusa Moment.  The mesmerizing sunset gave me the message:  Thanks for all the (life) adventures.  Start your next one now - it is here! There and then, the sunset gave me permission to make my new life with Ken official.  I felt at once incredible and free.  

Like a chrysalis just morphed into a butterfly, I fly.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sensible Ramble

I have been staring at the computer screen for 30 minutes.  Nothing.  I feel hypocritical.  On one hand saying I don't want to treat February 15 differently than any other day; on the other hand, I force myself to remember all the details about Eric's death.  I'm no dummy.  I know February 15 can never be "just another day."  

Somebody called me a widow earlier this week.  I almost kicked him in the knee, but then I realized, that would be like spitting at somebody who calls me Chinese. Hey, I didn't say I am a sensible person.  Pragmatic, maybe.

(Speaking of being pragmatic, I then wondered if I am supposed to file my taxes as a single or as a widow this year.  Is there such a thing, filing as a widow?  I protest silently that I should be at least 78 to qualify as a widow.  I feel ripped off.)  

The thing about keeping a blog is that I can go back (and I often do) and read my entries to appreciate how much I used to ramble in my writing, how much I used to ache and hurt, how stubborn I became to not be coddled, how determined I was to emerge victoriously.  I had so much pride in me.  My blog was my path to heal. Tonight, I re-read the entry Acceptance, written just a few days shy of the first anniversary of my "widowship."  I wrote about the many fresh perspectives I gained in the first year - especially the perspectives on honoring the way Eric lived, on accepting his decision to die, and my wicked determination to emerge bravely and victoriously.  

Soon, the second full year of Eric's death will come and go.  I have learned to never hide or lie about my emotions, or his death.  I think about my husband everyday in things big and small.  I miss his presence, and feel his absence in everything I do. Everyday, I will remember something about him or us that causes me to shed tears. However, one's life must not be defined by another's death.  My life has moved well beyond.  

I think I have accepted my new normal.   

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I didn't carry it with me today

Here I am.  A little more than two weeks to the anniversary of Eric's death, I tried to remind myself that a date on the calendar is merely another date on the calendar unless I assign it a value of significance.  Doesn't an anniversary deserve commemoration?  Does it?  Why? 

I stopped recognizing the "15th of each month" after the first year of Eric's death because I decided the 15th shall deserve no more attention than the 14th or the 16th, or the 8th, or 22nd.  My pragmatism scared me.  I felt un-humanlike.    

Indeed, this February 15 marks another 15th of the month; it shall be the 24th one. It is the second anniversary of Eric's death.  I have not yet come to terms with what that means. How I want to memorialize it.  Or not.  I have not yet learned to be at peace with the date.  I am, still, Grasshopper.  I am at peace with being Grasshopper.  

My life did not revolve around Eric when he was living, so in all sound rationale it should not revolve around his not-living.  My being, however, is profoundly evolved and deeply changed by his death.  I took the last breath of my old life on February 15, 2013.  I had since deduced, almost to the minute, when that last breath was taken.  That knowledge sometimes taunts me.  In many ways, I felt that I had also died that day, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.     

Edward Hirsch's poems about his deceased son Gabriel resonates with me in the way he describes one never quite gets over the grief of a loss; rather, you carry the grief with you.  Wherever you go, you carry it with you.  However you evolve, you carry it with you.  And you evolve.  I would not have understood what Hirsch meant during the first year of Eric's death.  I am beginning to comprehend just a little more now.  

I need to turn the office into my space.  I had tried on two occasions this week to no success.  I compare the task to getting a colonoscopy:  nobody ever looks forward to one but getting it done buys you five years peace of mind.  This space needs to be transformed.  It is the last room in the house I need to mindfully make it mine, how ever minor the changes.  I am determined the room where Eric spent most of his time must become my own space.  

I need to carry it with me one more time.  But today, I just let it be.  I didn't carry it with me today.  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Do you remember how you got your ass out of bed this morning?

Most of us don't. Why would we?  

It's new year's eve.  Traditionally, symphonies perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony Ode to Joy to welcome in the new year.  The subscribers email from the Seattle Symphony reminded me it's the "last chance in 2014 to see this performance live!"  The email reminded how I got my ass out of bed every morning for two straight months, after Eric died.  

Most things have become a blur, but some remain starkly clear.  Like the millions of stars in a moonless, cloudless night.  Perhaps in Montana.  Every morning, I blasted Ode to Joy.  It shook the walls.  My poor neighbors.  It worked like heroin being shot in the blood stream, I think.  When the chorus sang, I looked for that one small gleam of sunlight in the distance - that would be my sign.  I command myself, "get your fucking ass up."  

I didn't crawl out of bed.  I got up.  With my head high, back straight.  Tears would run down my face, but I stood up.  

I must not ever forget how to be courageous.  I have my mother to thank: she is the epitome of titanium backbone.  Lucky for me, I simply have the best example to emulate.

Every morning, for nearly two straight months.  That was how I got my ass out of bed:  Beethoven.

The Beethoven mornings are long gone.  I rarely think about them, but when I do, I shed tears of gratitude and commend myself with intention, "you have out done yourself, Daisy."  I reserve that comment for my proudest efforts, such as baking the most magnificent loaf of golden brown cinnamon raisin challah, or the tender mixed-berry pie.  

Or, about my retirement. 

I have ten more work days left with Starbucks before I look at corporate America in the rear view mirror.  It's time to be useful elsewhere now, I said.  Truth is, I don't know exactly where or precisely how I will be useful, but I think it is plenty smart to leave room for the unknown.  

I surmise I will miss nothing about the office, but I will think about everything in the office.  Is it ironic?  

I'm not certain how I will create my 2015, and I'm completely at peace with it. Luckily, I am pretty sure who I'm kissing to ring in the new year!  Lucky dog!!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Meet Me at the Library

There are days I would feel pronouncedly alone.  Not lonely.  Alone.  I feel I have to engage in a battle against the world, alone.  But, there is no battle.  There isn't even a squabble.  This charmed life I live has no real struggle of any sort.  

A few days ago, my mind wandered to emergency preparedness.  We had a meeting place in case "shit happens."  Eric, Katie, and I would meet at the library on 35th should something happen and we couldn't get home.  The library was our meeting place.  My mind wandered to the library but I realized, I no longer need a meeting place.  In fact, I must find my own way home if shit happens.  I need to remember the location of the water main and the gas shutoff.  The breaker.  How to operate the fire extinguishers.  My emergency bag and batteries and lighters.  The need to consider everything and make every decision on my own frustrates me and suddenly maddens me.  It maddens me, rational or not, that I am "abruptly left alone" to consider these decisions on my own.  

I realize millions of people - men and women - make these decisions, alone, everyday.  But that's not the point.  I was mad that I was left with "all this work" to do…  Alone.

That same day, I panicked that I have "forgotten" how old I was when Eric died.  I had to count.  I was 45.  I was 45 when my husband died.  I didn't know why, but that fact maddened me, too.  

"There is no right way to grieve, and you have to let people grieve in the way that they can.  One of the things that happens to everyone who is grief-stricken, who has lost someone, is there comes a time when everyone else just wants you to get over it, but of course you don't get over it.  You get stronger; you try and live on; you endure; you change; but you don't get over it.  You carry it with you."  ~Poet Edward Hirsch, author of Gabriel:  A Poem

I don't know if I am still grieving.  I know, however, that even I want me to get over my grief.  When I listened to the NPR interview with the poet Edward Hirsch, who lost his son Gabriel, the words struck me really hard that apparently I will NOT get over the death of my husband.  I will carry it with me, but I will not get over it. It comforts yet frightens me.  How long do I carry "it" with me?  What the hell does that even mean?  Why should I carry it with me?  I never asked for this burden nor did I sign up for this grief; yet, it landed on my lap.  Solely.  Squarely.  Solidly. Why is this mine?  Who died and made you king?  I was mad again. 

Emotions are mysterious.  I don't feel "grief" daily, but still, everyday - everyday - something will hit me and I shed tears over it.  Everyday.  I cannot label those emotions, nor is it necessary.  Perhaps, that's when I "carry" it with me.  I carry those sentiments when I go on with my day.  They may be sentiments of gratitude. Thankfulness.  Anger.  Abandonment.  Humor.  Memories.  Love.  Sorrow.  And yes, grief.       

I never regretted marrying my husband.  Never.  But how about that emergency bag?  Wish he had packed that damn thing.