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Longing
by Matthew Arnold (1822 1888)

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me.

Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth.
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say My love! why sufferest thou?

Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.

The insurance lady said, “Marital status. Are you married or single?”

I am neither.

I am both.

I don’t know.

I feel married to someone who is not here but who would be here if he could be. So I’m alone. But not technically single. Or maybe technically single but not emotionally single.

I don’t identify with single.

I have a wedding ring on…see? It’s a wedding ring. It’s platinum and it’s round and it signifies the circle of never ending love. And it’s inscribed. It says “To Susan, Love Michael.” And he meant it.

And the other wedding ring? It’s his. It is also platinum and inscribed. “To Michael, Love Susan.” And I meant it.

And we loved each other more than anything else. And we wanted it to last forever. And we were good together. And after a lifetime of abandonment, I had someone who would never leave me and I trusted him and thought he would be here for a long, long time. But he was taken away from me. And he wouldn’t have gone if he could help it.

And I think of him every minute of every day and feel so lost sometimes that I think I want to just jump in the river. I cry every single day. Lots. A piece of me is gone. And the universal wind howls through the hole in my soul.

And I feel married to him. Because I am shattered that he is not here. I don’t feel single because I’m not. But maybe I am.

I don’t know what box you check for that.

“When our grief is undeniable, we move like a blind person through a maze….” ~ Stephen Levine

Thanks everyone for sending email to see how I am…I know I haven’t checked in so I’ll do it now. I just feel at this point as if I’m repeating myself…as if I am confronted every day by the same old thing.

While in Phoenix I downloaded Stephen and Ondrea Levine’s Grief audio. I actually went to this seminar (maybe not this exact one but the same format) in Boston sometime in the early 90s. So it was very familiar to me. He talks about opening your heart in hell. That to be open to grief that is what you must do.

I know this material has comforted me before and made a huge difference (as those of you who know my work know how much he has influenced me…and this blog takes its name from one of his quotes)…and I make it through the initial meditation and then I can’t seem to go any further…and I know that he is comforting and healing…but I’m going slowly and tentatively it seems.

But the phrase “open your heart in hell” stayed with me and reminded me about his teaching and I’ve tried to stay open to my process even though it seems like it’s the circular staircase that C.S. Lewis talks about: am I going up or going down?

I had a good flight home and good day the next day…but then I start to feel the waves crashing over me. I start to think I’m back to square one even though intellectually I know that I am not. I fall in and out of searching mode still and sometimes it’s such a surprise to me that it smacks me right in the head.
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“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back
and realize they were the big things.” — Anonymous

Michael loved JetBlue. The DirecTV was great for his ADD and his fear of flying, but he had this thing for their blue chips. He just thought they were the greatest things. I didn’t like them, but when we flew together I would ask for a bag and give it to him.

When I flew alone I would get at least one bag to bring home to him, if not more. I was always proud when I could wrangle a few bags for him. Even when they started selling blue chips in the supermarket, Michael was convinced they were not JetBlue good. And as I’ve chronicled on here again and again, the little things made him so happy. So I became an expert at hoarding JetBlue blue chips.

***

Today I flew JetBlue for the first time in a couple of years. I had a bagel and coffee getting on and wasn’t really hungry and yet, out of habit, I asked for the blue chips and dutifully put them in my bag.

I didn’t even think about it. It’s what I always do on JetBlue.

When I got to my hotel room I emptied my briefcase and there lie the blue chips.

And I was standing there fighting back tears with my head screaming, “DO NOT cry over a bag of blue potato chips. DO NOT.”

But I did.

***

Sometimes the reminders just feel….

…relentless.

About a week before Michael died I had a very emotional day where he just didn’t remember anything I was talking about. Every few days I would sit with Michael and purposely recall our fun times. Sometimes I would show him pictures and he would laugh when I said something as simple as, “Remember when we….???” I wanted to keep our most precious memories alive to keep him going and to soothe myself. So many of those times were the best times of my life and we shared them so much…we loved our memories.

Over the course of that last week, he stared at me a lot when I talked to him. He didn’t do more than stare for days.

Finally, a few days before he died I sat with him with pictures and momentos and said, “Do you remember…” and he kept saying no. Our wedding? No. Our honeymoon? No. Riding our Harleys? No.

NO????????

My heart sank. I felt that I was alone in my memories of some of the best times that any two people ever had. And throughout that last week I realized that my memories were of being with a wonderful, sweet man who loved me. That I could truly enjoy every experience. Even when I was alone or we lived apart I knew he was there and he loved me. And that made everything more enjoyable.

Over that last week and through most of the past two months, I’ve occasionally been buckled (as I’ve spoken on here) by the sheer power of just missing him. Of simply missing his presence in my life. Because he was a good and kind and sweet man and if I wasn’t married to him, I’d still mourn the loss of someone that great in my life. But I was married to him and he loved me. Like no one else ever did. Like I never thought anyone would or could. And I miss that. I miss it so very much.

This week I recognized the enormity of rebuilding my life. I went to my doctors and to my hand therapist and to work and even had a facial and went to my support group. All the things I tell others to do. And in doing so, I feel how huge the void is that I’m trying to feel and the wound that I’m trying to heal.

Two phrases “I miss you” and “I wish you were here” are the two phrases that if they pop into my head render me weepy. Today I had a meltdown in the basement, like I hadn’t had since the week he died. There’s just so much him there and still things that he left there as if he was going to do something with it the next day (things still in bags that he bought that day). I go through things in spurts but some things just sit because I can’t even look at them.

So I’m just missing him…that’s all…and that is where it is right now.

Like GPYP, RopeBurns now requires you to be logged in to WordPress to comment. Definitely will cut down on the spam. Thanks guys!

Grief is a circular staircase, but am I going up or coming down? ~ C.S. Lewis

I may have quoted this on the blog before but it feels like that. Some days I am honestly okay and other days I know I am just doing what needs to be done, but as I do it, I feel this wall of grief shadowing me….the minute I think about Michael for any length of time, it will fall in and crush me.

I have stopped crying in public for the most part but have several instances each day where I blink back tears. I sometimes will think an odd, random thought about Michael and it will take me down for a minute. The other day I thought about the tattoo he had over his heart. The two hummingbirds holding a banner with our names and anniversary date. Michael was such a hairy Italian that I joked that the birds were in the bushes and no one really knew they were there. He would say, “I know they’re there.”

But the worst part was that I gave him a hard time about it when he got it to surprise me with it. It was a totally crazy girlfriend/wife moment. I did not have a lot of crazy girlfriend/wife moments with Michael (completely minute compared to other relationships) but this was one and it was a classic.

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I found out last week that my former boss died after being diagnosed with cancer two months ago. He married his long-time partner 10 days before he died.

I’ve read that when a cancer patient dies within the first six months, it’s like a sudden death in that the family has not had time to adjust to the illness, to the possibility of losing this person, to a future without this loved one. When the illness lasts beyond 18 months the family becomes weighted down by the effects of on-going anticipatory grief and the effects of living, long-term, with terminal illness.

As both a therapist and a lawyer I tend to both eschew broad, sweeping statements yet be fascinated by statistics and data. I know that not all cancers are alike, not all cancer families are alike and many cancer families are more like families who have survived other traumas and illness. As a good lawyer I know the answer is always: it depends.

But we were definitely feeling the effects of living long-term with terminal illness. We were coming up on 12 months and I was definitely feeling the effect of the anticipatory grief and the effects of living, for so long, with terminal illness. I told a friend that I felt guilty that I was, on some level, relieved that I did not have to declare bankruptcy after all.

I loved Michael and didn’t want to lose him and was prepared to go into bankruptcy or give up everything I own for him to continue living and have his caregiver here but if I want to be honest, I was starting to buckle under the pressure.
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I was on the bus tonight with a man who was yelling at his wife on the phone because she forgot to order pizza for him to pick up on the way home, and I guess she was saying she could order it now and he was saying, “No forget it, I don’t feel like waiting for it. I’ll eat something else. Goodbye.” Click.

And I thought Michael would have never spoken to me like that or had some hissy fit over this (or anything really).

And excuse me but I would like someone to explain to me why all the bastards are still alive and he’s not.