"Physical" therapy

I worked in the garden, cleaning out lots of dead stuff from the winter, trimming the scraggly-haired willow trees. I scrubbed the kitchen floor, and the living room floor, and the foyer floor, too.

I feel better.

=======

I clearly need to make some changes. Some of the changes I can identify and are relatively easy to make; others, not so much. The first thing I need to do is find a counselor to work with. The woman in Maryland was so amazingly good for me; I hate having to start from scratch, but obviously, I'm not doing so well on my own.

Yup, that's depression

Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems?
  • Not at all
  • Several days
  • More than half the days
  • Nearly every day
Q1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things

Q2. Feeling down or depressed or hopeless

Q3. Trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much

Q4. Feeling tired or having little energy

Q5. Poor appetite or overeating

Q6. Feeling bad about yourself—-or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down

Q7. Trouble concentrating on things such as reading the newspaper or watching television

Q8. Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or the opposite—being so fidgety or restless that you have been moving around a lot more than usual

Q9. Thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way

Q10. If you checked off any problems how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work take care of things at home or get along with other people?.

I won't tell you what my answers to these questions were (except to assure you that the answer to Q9 was Not At All). But the computer's response to me was Your screening results indicate a high likelihood that you are suffering from severe depression.

Crap. I don't WANT to be depressed. I don't WANT to feel the way I do. I want to be whole and healthy and happy. This isn't just about Nick: It's about everything. It's Nick's death, my brother's death, my sister's cancer, my mother's cancer, my relationship with Ron gone awry, my leaving Maryland -- leaving my home, my friends, my church -- my struggles helping the kids grow up to be good people, helping them adjust to our new environment, worrying about money, worrying about the boys' well-being. There's just too much EVERYTHING.

No wonder I feel like crap.

Old Friends



When I was in college, my best friend Wendy and I would talk about growing old together. We both wanted husbands and families, of course, but we were also both children of divorced parents, and we knew that such things don't always work out the way we plan. Yet we also knew that we'd always be friends, and we could imagine ourselves sitting on a front porch somewhere together, sitting in rockers, wearing fuzzy slippers and drinking Earl Grey tea.

Wendy has been married, divorced, remarried, no kids. I've been married, widowed, with kids, not remarried. She and I have largely fallen out of touch, getting back together with love and laughter only once every few years (but the love and laughter abide). Yet I can still see myself rocking on a porch somewhere, arthritic hands wrapped around a mug of tea, talking or not talking with an old friend.

There are women in my life whom I will always love, who will always be a part of my life, whom I will always be able to share ribald laughter with, or sit in wondrous silence with. Many, but not all, of these women are widows; a few, I have yet to meet in person, but the love and laughter and silence are there nonetheless.

Side comment:

I have just realized something very interesting about the women I'm thinking of. We met each other at evolutionary points in our lives.

I met Wendy, Paola, and Jane in college -- the classic time for self-discovery, for claiming one's identity, for staking out THIS IS WHO I AM.

Taina and Beata became my best friends when we all had babies in the same general age range -- and we're all married to scientists, the most frustrating men in the world -- we were finding ourselves as mothers and wives and working professional women, still staking out THIS IS WHO I AM.

And then my widows -- whom I won't name for fear of leaving someone out -- "MY" widows, the women who have laughed with me and wept with me, the women who have walked with me as I discover Alicia again, saying, THIS IS WHO I AM.

Fascinating, this realization is, fascinating indeed.

These women give me courage and comfort. I need not dread the future. I need not fear a lonely old age. For these women will always be a part of my life. Always -- even if I never meet them. And I would gladly take a rickety rocking chair next to any one of them, to share a mug of tea and the silence and love that forever binds old friends.

Ladies, I do love you.

Thinking of Stella today

... and sending her hugs.

Confucius say...

You are heading for a land of sunshine and fun.

Hmmm... It would be nice to think my fortune cookie was speaking metaphorically last night. It would be nice to believe that my spirit will be brightening, that a change is coming.

I tend to think, however, that it was speaking about the delightful morning we had at the beach today. It rained most of yesterday, so we cut out of SeaWorld early; today dawned bright and inviting, so we headed to the beach. We'll go back to SeaWorld after lunch to see all the stuff we missed yesterday -- like Shamu. And the dolphins. And and and. We hardly did anything before we were soaked and cold and miserable.

I do, however, have all three things I that I need to send to those who asked for something from me. What fun!

Un-

I stood on the beach at sunset today, missing Nick. You know how big the Pacific Ocean is? My missing of Nick is bigger than that; at least it was today. I don't know if there is anything vast enough to hold the emptiness that is my missing him.

Bookends

Morning

We walk down to the beach after breakfast, intending to spend the hour or so before LegoLand opens playing on the sand. The beach by the hotel, however, is a thin strip, and at high tide there is no beach -- just waves pounding against the cliff. Everyone is understandably disappointed. Nonetheless, we walk down the stairs and watch. The water is over the bottom step, so we can't even set foot on the sand. It is still very cool, very humbling to be in the awesome presence of the power of water. I could stay here all day, I say to Beth.

What's that? It must just be seaweed. No, it's too big? A pod of dolphins swims through the surf -- I even manage to catch their leaps on video. This is WAY BETTER than Sea World! We take their presence as gift and happily go on our way toward LegoLand, into a day filled with laughter and delight.

Evening

We decide to eat dinner someplace near the ocean. As we're driving up the coastal highway, I casually point to one place and say, That was my dad's favorite restaurant. Well, let's go there then, says Beth, as she swoops into the parking lot and nabs the ideal spot. Umm. Wait. No, that's not why I said it. Geeee... okay.

As I sit in Dini's, thoughts of my dad flood over me. My associations with this place are not very pleasant, and I start feeling angry -- except "angry" is such a small, insufficient word. I remember an email I got from my half-brother sometime in the fall of 2002: I scattered Dad's ashes from the rocks at the bottom of the bluff below Dini's at sunset last night... Again, "anger" is so small and insufficient.

Yes, the man was a bastard; yes, I spent years hating him; yes, he never forgave me for growing up and refusing to play his games; yes, he broke my heart more times than I can count. But the man was my father, dammit; and I loved him; and I wept the last time I saw him; and I wept when he died; and I should have been told beforehand when his ashes were going to be scattered.

It's started raining, and I confirm with Beth that we aren't going to be taking the kids to the beach after dinner after all. I briefly tell her why I need to go, that I won't be long, and I excuse myself. It takes a few minutes to cross the dark, wet street. The moment I get to the bluff and touch the railing, the moment I lean over to look down out across, I begin keening. There is no other word to describe the sound forcing its way out of my gut: sharp, short notes, keening into the wind, inaudible to anyone else in the roar of the wind and waves.

Keening. I stand there keening. Oh, Daddy, why? Maybe that's the reason I never asked why about Nick's death: All the whywhywhys of my father, his life, the way he treated me remain brutally, painfully unanswered. I go halfway down the stairs. Keening. What's the point of asking why? Down a few more steps. I pluck a flower from the cliff, and the keening stops -- as cleanly and simply as that.

The keening stops, and I feel the rain. Smell the rain. Hear the rain. Back up the steps. Goodbye, Larry. Dad. Daddy. Goodbye.

Road trips and birthdays

Ten years ago today, my life changed forever -- and has been forever changed -- when a sweet little boy was born in a hospital in a Baltimore suburb. HardPlace has been my sweetest guy forever; I only wish he hadn't chosen such a HardPlace. He is the quintessential HalfEmpty kind of guy, and that's a hard road to walk.

Today, though, we're heading on a road trip. We're going with Rock's best friend (and his mom and sister) to California. We'll spend a day and a half each at LegoLand and SeaWorld. Yeah, we were there just this past summer -- but we didn't see it all, and even if we had, none of us would be satisfied.

California, here we come!

I'll try to write more from the hotel tonight, because -- as always -- there is more to say.

First things first

I keep on forgetting to invite you to join me in some fun.

I will be getting something in the mail from Barbara at Surfside Serenity; in turn, the first three (3) people who reply to this post will get something from me. I have no idea what I'll send you yet -- it might be a piece of quartz from "my desert" or a seashell that I pick up at the beach this weekend; maybe I'll send you a beloved book that I'm ready to pass along, or a goodie from a gift shop. You get the idea.

So, if you want to play ...
  1. Make a comment to this post, expressing your desire for me to send you a token of our connectedness.
  2. Make a SECOND comment to this post with your snail mail address.
  3. As soon as you have posted your address, delete that comment -- I will still have the info in the email that blogger sends me.
  4. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Pay it Forward by making a post similar to this one on your own blog.
Okay. Off to make lunches, cart kids to school, pack for our road trip, take Mother to and from the chemo clinic, etc. etc. etc. I hope to post again later today.

but then one day

A fellow blogging widow -- relatively new to this terrible place I call the WidowRoad -- wrote today that she couldn't seem to find the sun. Part of my response to her follows:
But then one day —

you’ll realize that you are breathing,
without gasping,
you’ll realize that you are walking,
without watching every footstep,
you’ll realize that you are remembering,
without weeping,
you’ll realize that you are laughing,
without aching,
you’ll realize that you are seeing,
… that the darkness is yielding to light.

At first I told myself I was copying it to my own blog so that it didn't get lost in a sea of comments, so that others who might draw comfort would be able to read them. The truth, of course, is that I need the comfort those words have to offer.

Strange isn't it?
We teach best what we most need to learn.
Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Jumble jar

1. I discovered GoodReads today -- see the link in my sidebar for my personal choices. What a great way to waste time. I have to work very hard to keep myself from sitting in front of my bookshelves with my laptop ...

If you join, be sure to add me as a friend!

2. I took this photo from my cul-de-sac over the weekend; but I can't seem to get it to display properly. Maybe because it's several photos stitched together. I'm hoping that if you click on it, you'll get a sense of the panorama where I live.


The little ridge in the foreground is the last of the Tortolita Mountains; if you turned left (north), you would see them RIGHT THERE, and my house is in the foothills. The distant range is the Catalina Mountains. The boys' school is at the far south point of that range (right where the saguaro in front cuts off the foothills.

I also took this one ...

There were three feet of snow on Mount Lemmon Saturday afternoon. The boys and I had a great time, wandering the open space. Unfortunately, more houses are coming; I got very sad thinking about how the desert is going to be disappearing, just as the great forest of the East Coast has been decimated. Sigh.

This last picture reminds me of Baucis and Philemon:


3. The conversation started by yesterday's post is really important to me. I've received a few private comments, and I am churning, turning, thinking about it all. I'll be writing about this again soon -- thank you for your thoughtful comments, and let's keep thinking/posting on it.

4. The boys and I have a getaway later this week. School was open today, even though it's President's Day, because Tucson schools are not in session on Thursday or Friday for RODEO DAYS. Yup, it's Rodeo Week in Tucson, and the schools shut down. As far as I can tell, nobody from school actually goes to the rodeo. The boys and I are going on a minivacation with one of Rock's classmates (and his mom and sister). It'll be great!

5. Some of you may recall that I sent "Danny" an email, seeking more information about his request for an article. I never did hear from him.

Is it true?

Anonymous said...

Three years.. You are weaning
[sic] this. You are capitalizing on your husband's death three years ago and you are dying to get married again. Stop with the " I miss Joe" when you want to marry "T."

Wow. It's clear, Anonymous, that you have experienced no significant losses in your life. Be grateful that you do not understand what it is like to have your best friend, chosen partner, and the father of your children ripped out of your life. Be grateful and pray that you never have to understand.

It would seem that you think she has two options:

1. Grieve the loss of her beloved Joe forever, being in mourning to the end of her days -- what some would call dwelling in the past

OR

2. Forget about Joe and live happily ever after with someone else.

Reality is not so black-and-white, the truth is not crystal-cut.

Joe is part of her past. He is ALSO part of her present; he IS her boys' father. She cannot simply close the door and walk away without ever thinking about him again. She cannot see him in her boys' faces and NOT feel sad that he's not here to see himself in their faces.

And wherever she finds herself in the future -- married, not married, happy, not happy -- Joe will be there as well. Not in the way they intended when they said, "I do" -- but in a very real way, Joe will always be a part of her, will always be a presence in her life.

Again, be grateful that you have no inkling what I am saying, what she has lost. Be grateful, and pray that it is many many years before you have to understand how horrendously painful and difficult the WidowRoad is.

I think weaning should probably be milking; but this is how Anonymous wrote it.

"Anonymous" made his/her remark in response to a fellow blogger's post a few days ago. I responded as best I could on the spur of the moment, but this exchange has been niggling my mind ever since.

Is what I said true? It feels true to me now, 3½ years after Nick's death -- but will it still feel true 3½ years from now? or 13½ years from now? or when I am so old I don't remember my own name?

We widoweds tell ourselves and one another that our spouses will always be with us, will always be a part of who we are. But is that true? Or is it just a useful lie we tell ourselves to help us get through the worst of the pain?

I don't get "signs" from Nick, messages in songs or numbers or pennies from heaven. I don't have dreams about him. I don't feel his presence in the room with me, I don't feel his touch, smell his scent, or any of the other things widoweds write about on the board or in their blogs. So why do I insist that he is and always will be part of me?

Is it true? or do I simply want it to be true?

Valentine's Day, 2008


... I still miss someone.

Oh, I never got over those blue eyes
I see them everywhere.
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there.

I wonder if [he's] sorry
For leaving what we'd begun.
There's someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone.

Oh, I never got over those blue eyes
I see them everywhere...
Johnny Cash, "I Still Miss Someone"

... continued

My hope is in what the human heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart.

I hope there is something beyond what my heart can feel. My heart now feels heaviness, pain, betrayal, grief, loss. And love, deep abiding love. But where does that love abide? Can I find it again? Can I dwell in that love again?

In my youth, my shining optimistic youth, I gave my heart to God, knew Jesus to be my Beloved. Then Nick entered my life, and we were so powerfully called to love each other, to be each other's Beloved.


Since Nick's death, my heart has carried a dull throbbing ache. I have loved again, deeply and truly. But the one my heart called Beloved is gone, and I still ache for him.

My hope is in what the hand has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can grasp between my fingers.

In my youth, my shining unfettered youth, I spread my hands and arms and heart wide to receive whatever the good Lord offered me. I knew that nothing that mattered would be achieved by my own effort.

And behold, I found myself embraced by and embracing goodness in a sacrament beyond words.

Sacraments make us holy; that is the literal meaning of the word. My marriage to Nick made me holy, and not just because we loved so truly. Being married to "that man" -- said with a certain amount of irritation -- demanded more patience, forgiveness, forbearance, forgiveness, patience than I ever imagined.

We took each other's hands and discovered therein grace beyond measure.

Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability, or in human resources.

For all those things -- health, strength, ability, human resources -- dwindle away, and in the end, I stand alone before God. In my youth, my shining irrepressible youth, I did not fear standing alone. I did not know the meaning of alone.

I do now. I have faced alone, and I have faced that which is worse than alone, the death of my Beloved.
My hope is in what the human heart cannot feel...
My hope is in what the hand has never touched...
Let my trust be in Your mercy...
Let my hope be in Your love.

Let me be alone in Your mercy. Let me be alone in Your love. For You are, and always have been, my Beloved.
Open the dance photo to really see an amazingly happy gorgeous man.

Primal scream

aaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHhhhhhrrr

Consumer review

This is the Calphalon tomato/bagel knife. According to the Calphalon website, it features
  • Full tang design, providing better balance and superior strength
  • One-piece forging of blade, bolster, and tang for long-lasting durability
  • Ergonomic grip handle uniquely contoured for comfort
  • High-carbon German steel from tip to tang; sharpens more easily than ordinary stainless and maintains its edge longer
  • Individual balance for efficiency and comfort
  • Full taper from cutting edge to spine and from tip to heel for superior strength and greater cutting versatility
  • Hand-ground satin finish, with a perfect, equal edge
Note the two (TWO) sharp points, making this an excellent tool for piercing the tough skins of tomatoes and bagels.

This is the hand.

Custom-made with superior design, the hand can perform myriad actions with grace, ease, and perfect balance. The hand can slice, dice, chop, cut, spread, type, wave, caress, flip, rap, knock, pat, squeeze, tug, tickle, slap, wash, rinse, scrub, dry, dust, point, push, beckon, jab, and just about anything else you can think of.

Its design includes bone, marrow, sinew, blood, tendon, muscle, and several layers of skin. The skin on the hand is a tough, flexible, soft, breathable miracle. It is not as tough, however, as the skin of a tomato or the crust of a bagel.

When the hand is thrust onto the Calphalon tomato/bagel knife, in such a manner that both German-steel tips of the knife pierce the skin at the second joint of the index finger, penetrating into the flesh, it hurts. It really hurts. It really really REALLY hurts.

It also generates a surprising amount of blood.

Consumer review of the Calphalon tomato/bagel knife

Design, balance, and strength ♦♦♦♦
Forging of blade, bolster, and tang ♦♦♦♦
Comfort of ergonomic grip handle ♦♦♦♦
Ease of sharpening ♦♦♦
Maintaining of edge ♦♦♦♦♦
Efficiency ♦♦♦♦♦
Strength and cutting versatility ♦♦♦♦♦
Hand-ground perfect, equal edge ♦♦♦♦

Recommended for use on bagels or tomatoes? Yes
Recommended for use on hands or fingers? No

Archaeology

I just excavated a page that I cut out of a calendar sometime in the early 1980s. The calendar contained photographs taken by Thomas Merton -- monk, activist, poet.



Twenty-five years ago or so, I typed this quote on the bottom of the page:
My hope is in what the human heart cannot feel. Therefore let me not trust in the feelings of my heart.
My hope is in what the hand has never touched. Do not let me trust what I can grasp between my fingers.
Let my trust be in Your mercy, not in myself. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability, or in human resources.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude, 1956

This ancient artifact reveals a life gone by. I remember that young woman, seeking her way into adulthood, looking for her place in the sacred woods. She really believed -- she needed to believe -- she could be holy.

More on this tomorrow -- The boys are driving me crazy.

Good news, in two parts

Part One

Jane had her 1-year follow-up exams, scans, tests last week. She met with the oncologist and surgeon yesterday. Her blood-marker count is still ridiculously high, but the PET scan and MRI both came back clear. Her blood has the antibodies for cancer, but there are no tumors or malignancies to be found.

Wow.

Part Two

Mother has started her second series of chemotherapy and is doing amazingly well, even though this protocol is more intense and more toxic than the first -- which made her miserably sick and awful.

Jane and I attribute the different results to two factors. The first series of chemo was designed to prepare her for surgery. Mother felt like she had to do it, even though it wouldn't change the ultimate outcome: death in the next 18 months. The astoundingly different report from the surgery changed everything. This chemo series is designed to help her get rid of the cancer and live. What a difference that makes in Mother's attitude.

The other difference is quite simply that the surgeons have removed that beast from her belly. Even though recovery from the surgery has been very slow and very painful, her body has got to feel better. Her energy can go toward getting stronger, instead of to holding the beast at bay.

Good news, in two parts,
Delivers hope in three parts --
Mother, Jane, and me.

Just curious

How many of my fellow bloggers got a message from "Danny"?
Are you going to respond?

Just a little beauty


The heavens proclaim the glory of God --
right in my backyard!

Click on the picture to really see the clouds!

Clarity, n.

free from obscurity and easy to understand; the comprehensibility of clear expression

I hate the loss of clarity that has become my life. Everything has been so muddled lately, and I don't like being muddled. A good part of this muddling has been related to the ending of my relationship with Ron. The relationship ended some months ago, and we struggled to remain friends because of the biding love we had for each other. Staying friends became more and more difficult and in the last few weeks, the friendship itself came to an end. It was not easy; it was not pretty; it was not painless.

Side note: For the most part, Ron and I kept our relationship off the board and even off our blogs. In my open letter to my brother-in-law, I wrote that this blog has been and will remain, among other things, my place to blow off steam and vent. So long as I treat you graciously and with respect in real life, I feel no shame or embarrassment about what I write here. ... This blog is about me, about my walk on the WidowRoad, my journey through life. I was not entirely gracious with Ron in real life, but I will write nothing to shame or embarrass him here; however, I do need to be able to write about it, express it, process it. This is my blog, about me, about my walk, my journey.

One aftermath of the ending of our relationship has been, of course, being "single" again, feeling my widowhood again. And it stinks. The loneliness creeps in, and there's nobody to call; the sadness creeps in, and there is no comfort; the fear creeps in, and there is no haven; the emptiness creeps in, and remains.

I find myself thinking very much the way I did in the first months after Nick's death. I'll never love anyone the way I loved him; I'll never be loved the way he loved me; I'll never marry again. I "know" that's ridiculous -- I learned from Ron that I can love and be loved again, that I can imagine getting married again. And yet, I might not get married again. I might never meet the right person.

I just finished reading for the umpteenth time one of my favorite books, Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers. It's a psychological masterpiece, and several ideas from it have really helped me the last few weeks. The two protagonists, Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey, have known each other for 5 years, and he has patiently pursued her affections. Near the end of the book, Miss Vane confides to a colleague
"If I once gave way to Peter, I should go up like straw."
"That," said Miss de Vine, drily, " is moderately obvious, How often has he used that weapon against you?"
"Never," said Harriet, remembering the moments when he might have used it. "Never."

Nick knew everything about me. Everything. And he never used that knowledge to hurt me. Ever. I held nothing back from him. Nothing. What an amazing thing that in all the years we were together, neither of us ever used the weapons of intimate knowledge to hurt each other.

During our engagement, Nick and I participated in an Engaged Encounter weekend. All the participants had to stand and introduce their fiance/fiancee, telling the room why we loved our intended. He and I were definitely the oldest couple in the room (32 and 31, respectively), and we listened as youngthing after youngthing stood and talked about sweetness, kindness, smartness, great smiles, being funny, being gorgeous, being a good cook...
My name is Alicia. This is my fiance, Nick. I love him for his integrity.
I'm Nick. This is Alicia. I love her because she is direct.

I don't think folks knew quite what to make of us.

Earlier in Gaudy Night, Lord Peter had told Harriet that he loved her for her devastating talent for keeping to the point and speaking the truth. I had forgotten that line until I read it this morning, and it filled me with sweet memories of that introduction to the Engaged Encounter meeting. Nick and I had an astounding relationship: We knew each other, we understood each other, and we knew what our love was.

Like all couples, Ron and I had "our" exchanges, trademarks of our relationship.
I love you.
WHY?
Damned if I know.

I want to love again. I want to be loved again. And I want to know WHY we love each other. Until that happens, I am content to be Alicia, just Alicia. If it doesn't happen, I will always be Alicia
, always Alicia.

And THAT is all the clarity I need right now.

Random haiku

Tears for no reason
Leaking, streaking, drip by drop.
Tears know no season.
.
.
.

Ten bazillion stars
proclaim to the desert night:
Behold -- all is well.
.
.
.

The roadrunner struts
the long sun-drenched garden wall --
Balanced perfection.
.
.
.