Wednesday, July 31, 2013

broken compass moment

moving slow inside numbing pain with a broken compass.  grief is like some sort of demon that takes ahold of your mind and heart and feasts on everything in you that used to work. 

I think of this short story called Eleven by Sandra Cisneros in which the main character realizes that even though she is now eleven, depending on the moment, she is also all the years that came before.  She is sometimes the three year old who wants to climb into the lap of her mom and cry, sometimes you say something dumb and that's your ten year old self. 

I keep thinking right now that I don't know how to find the energy to do anything, let alone anything right.  and I'm lonely and reaching out.  but what if you reach out to the wrong person?  what if in reaching out, you hurt someone, wreck something?  then what?  all I want is for the pain to stop.  I want to not feel so alone. 

all these people keep saying I am not alone.  but here i am in my bed, crying, feeling horrible, and where are you all?  all these people who say I am not alone?  John was the one who made me whole, made me not alone.  and I didn't have enough time with him.  I have traveled so many hard paths.  I have done so many things, some incredibly stupid and thoughtless, and some amazing and powerful, kind and generous and wonderful.

I keep saying "lost".  I am so very lost and I feel like i can't even see where I am going, or who to look for to give me direction.  Everything feels so broken.  My past has always felt that way, littered with so many betrayals and losses it's hard to remember the good things.  but now my future and my present seem torn to pieces, a beautiful painting that was hanging on the wall during some sort of mini-war and ended up shredded to the point that whatever was there is now totally unrecognizable. 

I am nothing.  I am lost.  I am spinning out of control.  But if you reach out to offer a hand to hold, well, just don't expect that I won't just crash into you and tear you to pieces too.  I got in a hot bath, to melt away some of the shame and pain and sorrow.  I don't think it helped.  So I am writing here.

And I'm scared to post it.  But this is part of my journey too. 

I don't know why, but I just feel so sorry.  I'm sorry I reached out to the wrong person.  I'm sorry it's John and not me that died.  Not that I want to die. Just that I don't know where the hell to find the strength to go forward and be who I want and need to be!!  And I think he would be doing so much better if he were the one left behind.

I wish so desperately that I could believe in god and beg for help....I just don't know how to do this and I don't understand why it is getting so much harder...maybe it's just a moment.  but it feels like a really long one...

someone please fix my compass and put a new battery in the clock so time can move forward, would ya?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We will get through this together.

Man, it is 8:30 and I have been close to nodding off for about an hour already.  I have spent much of today thinking about reinvention, rejuvenation, letting go of anger, letting go of fear, opening doors I thought had been nailed, cemented, caulked, bricked in, and covered in poison ivy juice. 

Finding out, once barricades were taken down, that there were connecting paths all along.  No idea how, just saw that they are there.  As in, my heart is connected from today, to the excited first year teacher I was when I met John, to the lonely and hurting grad student from 1999, to the voiceless college freshman, even all the way back to the little girl in the grocery store lines that talked to whomever was standing beside us and made friends with abandon . 

Each of these events touches sparks across the others, all interwoven like the strands of a silken spiderweb.  So inside me, I hold the power of a dozen goddesses, the fear of a lonely child, the screaming sibling being annoyed beyond rationality, the tortured teenager accused of things she would never have dreamed of doing, the young adult trying those messed up things, the kid worker in the battered women's shelter, the aid to the violent kids modeling how to apologize for mistakes and truly mean it...

I think of all the places I have been, the mistakes I have made, the adventures, the lovers, the pain, the crazy laughter....I remember being in Maine after the winter of broken rules and internal terror, lying in Jeremy's bed and, with a little chemical help that I will leave undefined here, laughing and giggling, at nothing, just at being there, alive and in the woods.  Just gently laughing and laughing and full of life and joy.  And that is in me.  That is a part of me.  Now, and even when I momentarily forget about it...that moment still fills me and shapes me.

When I think of the things I have done, the lives I have lived, it blows my mind.  I have been people and places I never would have believed if you told me what was coming twenty years ago.  How crazy that I have closed the doors all along as I have traveled. Even crazier to think of the rush of power and strength and truth that is coming at me now that I am trying to open them...

I see this journey as a gift from John.  When he was alive, he loved me more than anyone ever had.  Now that he is gone, I need to find a way to move forward.  How in the hell do you move forward without that, once you have had that?? 

To move forward without him, I need to reach deep into myself to find whatever resources I can muster.  So I am pulling out the key ring, the bulldozers, the wrecking ball.  There are bits of me all over in here.  It's time for a family reunion.

briefly guilty

smiling doesn't mean
I am no longer grieving
It just means
I'm still working
on living


Who will I be?
without that fear--

on the screen my memory plays
scenes of days
that almost killed me
Each day, each breach of trust
carefully placed a rock
a boulder
on my heart making a tower
to tighten my chest
make breathing
make believing
make being

Watching yellow gliding, guiding
circles for my eyes
the fear begins
to melt the images
like water colors
dripping down a drain
Finally ruining the picture of me
that I let
Potomac marble: Gettysburg shale, quartz,  and limestone

Not a blank canvass
left behind
more like conglomerate rock
striated multicolored
some parts hard, some parts soft all of it
to be smoothed and polished
into Potomac marble
shaped by
this time
and those I choose to let in.


School is starting again soon...I am having a hard time with how very soon.  I have taught for twelve years and every year, there is this crazy excitement/anxiety that comes around this time of year.  I can't help perusing the teacher stuff magazines I get and I start day dreaming about ways to set up my classroom so that things flow better than they did the year before...I start thinking about how much being in the hallways surrounded by kids still makes me smile and about ways to breathe through the frustration that running a class of 25+ kids inevitably creates...

This year is different.  That stuff is there...but it's more like a gopher head and less like a chocolate craving.  Not sure how many of you get that.  I will pretend everyone does.

I am scared to be back at work for the first teacher day.  I know that everyone is going to have a moment where they want to offer their condolences.  Some will want to hug me, tell me how sorry they are for my loss;  some will want to make me laugh, some will inadvertently make me cry I'm sure.  There will be at least a few who don't know what to say and say so, and others who say nothing because of it.  Regardless, everyone will look at me differently.  Hell, even I look at me differently.  But seeing it in the eyes of these people will be different.  It will make my loss real on another level.  I imagine there will be comfort there as well, there is that.

I am also a little bit nervous about the patience and concentration it takes to teach.  I am not too worried, because love helps you do amazing things, and I love my students and I love teaching, so I am betting on that carrying me through...

I have a totally different decision I have to work on too...more logistical stuff.  I have to figure out how to be the best pet mom possible.  I got Sammy for John's birthday.  We love him very much.  He is snuggly, sweet, a great friend for Sokka...but he hates his crate, and still attacks the cats so that we have to keep a gate up.  Inca and Nonnie never come up anymore.  Plus Sammy still poops and pees in the house.  My initial thoughts are to get someone to come in and walk them.  I can't find anyone.  And I can't afford actual businesses who do that.  So I talked with the kids about it today and I am wondering if we need to find a friend or someone we know and like, to adopt him.  I absolutely hate that thought.  It would be giving away the last thing I got for John...not that Sammy is a thing.  But still...and he always sleeps beside me.  He jumps into my lap and follows me everywhere.  I really like that.  So then, I think about the cats.  I think about how old Maggie is and how lonely the boys are, and I wonder what if I should think about them not being here...

**Also, even though this doesn't fit the topic of "logistics", I wanted to put this down, to help me remember.  I read this quote by a young woman I never heard of.  Facebook does that- shares things from celebrities that you never would have run into following the things that interest you.  Anyway, she is young and heavy and gorgeous.  She said that one day, she just decided to believe she was beautiful and started acting like a beautiful woman.  I think that somewhere along the way, I woke up and decided I was unbeautiful and acted like I believed that.  Till I did.  And now I don't want to anymore.  So every day, I am going to repeat to myself over and over that I am beautiful.  That patience and hope and honesty will get me through.  I will cry.  Smiles will be harder to come by then they used to be.  And I am still beautiful.**

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A couple thoughts inspired by a dresser

I am writing a lot of poetry right now, which feels quite good.  My mood swings are even hard for me to keep up with.  I wonder if I am cramming things in because school starts soon and I have to go back to work...I don't know.  I had help cleaning up my room today.  By cleaning, I don't just mean a regular adventure in "let's fold and put this away".  When we got married, one of the things John and I bought was a bedroom set.  We got a king size bed, two dressers, and a night stand.  I have been emptying his dresser, bit by bit.  I finally decided it would be good to go ahead and actually use it for my stuff.  Strange that something so simple could be so awkward; a bit like putting a clamp on your heart. 

I laughed today.  A few times, at a friend's house.  And I heard myself as if from the outside.  It was like an echo from someone I have deep inside.  Then, on the ride home, I saw just my eyes in the rear view mirror.  They look so old.  I don't mean to say they are particularly wrinkled, just, well, tired.  Worn down.  Sad.  Almost beaten.

Another interesting thing:  at my friend's house, we were talking and I mentioned how I loved the smell of Hyde Park in Sydney Australia because of all the eucalyptus trees.  I have known her for a couple years, but she had no idea that I had ever been to Australia.  I told her the octopus story from my SCUBA adventures and talked a bit about my trip through Europe.   I remembered how often I felt pushed aside when John was with me.  I just let myself fade to the background and watch the kids because he was talking.  That was something that bothered us both.  He hated making me feel that way.  I hated letting myself fade.  It isn't something either of us tried to do.  It just happened.  Now, I find myself wondering if this is one of those things I might be grateful for.  Although I feel like being grateful for anything that happens as a result of, or in the aftermath of, losing him is a betrayal of sorts.  I know that isn't the case.  It just feels that way. 

I am sitting here trying to think of a good ending.  Then I realized this one is just an entry, not a poem.  So...

Friday, July 26, 2013


I find I want to say "I love you"....
do you believe knowledge is a mirror?

What if
I find it in me
to be okay
close to joyful


why does that scare me, too??

I truly believe the only thing
that matters
is how you connect to others

to make each other feel and know
we are not alone- even when we are-
to reach into the pain of the heart of someone else
if not to lessen it
to allow
a connection

the music from my dream
plays to something
deep in you

that makes you real

and time blinks forward
I find myself melting
sudden tears
because I realize how empty I am
without your smile and
the safety
of everything

Thursday, July 25, 2013


He asked if I knew,
or at least had a sense
of who I am

Here's the thing:
to find that out
I find I dip backward
like a slow-dance-back-hand-spring

I flash on images-
graveyard poetry
Irish pubs
rooftop renditions of Moondance
cabins in the back woods of Maine
pints and pints of Guinness
one night of tequila and whole lot of dancing

the Barrier Reef
the park by the Eiffel Tower, on a rainy afternoon
acoustic punk music
tattoos and belly rings
labor for days
attacks while working a homeless shelter
seizure disorders, ADD, and autism all shining out of tiny faces
Portable classrooms, handstands and backflips...

and I pause
wonder deeply
I always seem to fall back
onto wanting
or trying
to be like someone else.
I am, quite honestly,
quite a lot

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

clues and cluelessness

I remember one visit John and I had at NIH before he had any deficits.  We were waiting for the nurse to come and do his evaluation and the door was open.  A man, perhaps around John's age, was shuffling along using a cane, fairly unbalanced.  It terrified John.  He didn't want to end up that way.  And then he did.  But he didn't seem terrified.  Don't get me wrong- he had his moments.  As much as I like to say (and believe wholeheartedly) that he was my super hero, he was still human and we all get scared.  Especially facing cancer.  But once it happened to him, he focused on getting back whatever he could.  He just kept moving forward and looking for things to laugh at. 

I remember the first Halloween after his surgery.  A friend lent us her mom's scooter so he could drive around and watch the kids trick or treat.  As we were coming home, he had this massive smile on his face, so big his nose was bending the way it did from where it was broken and healed crooked.  He laughed an almost spooky laugh, full of fear and joy all at once.  If I remember correctly, he stood up, looked around and laughed again, saying "I'm alive!"  I wasn't embarrassed, although that is the emotion I initially attributed to my reaction.  He scared the hell out of me.  He was openly loving the fact that he had made it through this awful thing that could have killed him.  And in so doing, he was, to my eyes anyway, acknowledging that he might die. 

I remember when the doctor came back with the pathology and told us that it was, for sure, grade IV, a GBM.  My world tilted, reality became unstable and everything seemed to shift.  That memory is like looking through a fun house mirror.  The terror.  And I wanted to be outside- I remember clawing at the windows.  And I couldn't stop any of it.

I remember a couple days before he died, laying on the small bed beside him.  He was still able to respond with his hands and would try so hard to whisper responses that had finally become unintelligible.  I was crying and telling him that I would be okay, that I would be a great mom, and that I would get through this and he didn't have to worry about me.  And kissing his hands, rubbing his feet. 

Wow.  The tears that come all of a sudden are hot, like tiny pokers.

But listen, here is the thing.  I keep trying to figure out who I am now.  I am reaching back in time to try to reconnect to things from far away that I let go of long ago.  And trying to remember the hardest lessons I learned about myself and about life before this.  And the good thing is that most of the time, I DO feel like I can do this.  I don't think I will do it exceedingly well, but then I don't know that it can be done exceedingly well.  I think you get through it with honestly.  I think you get dirty and you mess up, you hurt some people, scare away others, feel crazy and lost and confused, until you don't.  At least not most of the time.

I feel like I am looking up from the bottom of a well.  And below me were several worlds, filled with travel and love and tenderness, passion, adventure, mistakes, pain, babies and day to day stuff.  And above me is hard to see- it is just that narrow circle of light.  So I am imagining what I want to see.  Or what I want to feel.  I laugh still.  I have all along.  That is one of my gifts.  I am not afraid to find the humor in things, even in things that frighten me.  But I haven't felt joy.  Not for a long time, it seems.  And I think of the The Mustard Seed.  And I know that there is pain all around us, in each and every house.  But I can't believe that this precludes the existence of joy.  I wanted to badly to grow old with John.  He was weird and playful and original, energetic and funny...and now he is gone.  And I still want someone to grow old with.  I want to hold hands, kiss in front of my kids, have special bedroom based in jokes, a shoulder to put my head on when I am tired and sad.  I want great big huge quiet joy, that now and then yells.  And I want it to last a long long time.

John will always be a part of me.  He helped me heal so many things.  He loved me in a real and messy way, screwing up all sorts of little things and never on anything big.  He is the father of my babies.  He has branded me in ways beyond the two tattoos I have because of him.  He is now and will forever be in my heart.  But I want someone in my life, too. 

I simply have no CLUE how to allow that to happen.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Agents of hope

Do you believe we are carriers, agents of joy and hope? 
Do you see the power of being AWARE, not only of the soothing ones? For we are 
carries of those, as well.
We may not be our anger, despair, fear...we are not our pasts.
And yet, these things each help shape us, help teach our hearts the ways to connect to others in the world around us. 

We are not our past, but we must carry pieces
of our past with us
as we travel ever deeper into our futures
for there are lessons to be learned there,
into our memories as surely as initials and hearts
can be carved
into trees.

The same is true of each of those;  we carry pieces
of our anger with us, 
We carry hunks of our despair, our fear, our grief. 
We carry portions of them all. 
For when we mix these together with our hope, passion, joy and love...they make a fine drink indeed.

For what is sour without sweet?  Night without day, birth without death...
for us to be ambassadors from our own heart
to that of another
it helps to know both sides of your own coin

So, carry the weight as long as it takes
learn to stand tall beneath it.
That drink, that curse, that blessing, that joy, that pressure and burden, those oceans of tears
They are what will
eventually, hopefully
carry you
the heart of another.   

Saturday, July 20, 2013

next step into my personal "pit of despair"...

It seems the next step is anger.  But I am not the kind of angry where I am screaming or raging.  It is disconnected, perhaps closer to a volatile version of sadness.  I decided to look for some of my old things- I have two binders that hold the poetry I wrote when I was in high school.  I know we have them here somewhere.  I thought I knew where.  But when I went to look, the amount of stuff that was there was overwhelming.  The thing is, there were games and Christmas stuff...and boxes and bags and piles of John's stuff.  And I realized how much of my life I have spent closing doors to my past.  Maybe it wasn't so much about closing, but about moving on in a way that leaves almost everything behind. Maybe it is just that I moved on so many times... I feel like my few things are just buried by all his stuff....I always felt a little like I was on the sidelines...we were both adventurous.  He was more so, by far.  We were both talkers, and he was more so. It wasn't his fault...I wanted to try to enter his life as much as I could.  And he always encouraged me to keep writing, to dance, to do those things that I loved that were only mine.  I just didn't know how to reach out to do that.

So I ended up frustrated with his diving and trampoline stories...I love swimming, but was afraid of diving and only really let him give me one series of lessons.  I really liked bouncing trampoline, but it felt so odd to be so much older than kids doing so much more than me...and it was so much fun when I started to get the barani (front flip with a half twist) and even did it into pools!  Then, I got pregnant and everything just went so damn fast after mother dying, insane stress at school, losing the house, living in his parents' basement all crammed into two rooms, then Neil and then cancer and then...and I never felt cool enough around most of his friends.  I was embarrassed that I was not from their world, not able to do the things they could...I felt like so much less than him, so often.  I felt like I didn't fit.  He hated that I felt that way and always tried to reassure me, but I have old issues with self confidence.

I am not alone.  I keep saying this.  There are songs about love and longing…about desire and hollowness.  Since the beginning of time, there has been heart ache.  Till the end of time, there will be heart ache.  It often seems that one of the things that touches me, that reaches inside and helps me feel this, is music.  Beautiful voices, lamenting and melting, coating and covering, sad and strong and  magical:  Ella Fitzgerald, Pavarotti, Billie Holiday…

But I am alone.  I feel like I am a ghost of walking desire.  It isn’t only the sensual touches, the lips and kisses and arching backs…it is the feelings that bring you to the place where those things are the natural consequences of everything else you are with another person.  

I feel like I am a ghost in general.  I can't keep functioning in his world without him when I felt like I barely fit beside him.  And without him, I have no world.  Don't get me wrong, I have a terrific school where I have been since he proposed, so they know my journey.  I have a wonderful church community with open minds that value curiosity, compassion, and that witnessed John's determination and positive force first hand.  But that's it.  I keep thinking I would like to take dancing lessons.  Who would babysit?  I'd like to start working out more regularly, but my stupid psoriasis hurts my feet and there seem to always be kid issues.  Or not enough energy to even get out of bed.  I would love to travel again, but that would mean finding someone to care for the pets, in addition to money I don't have.  I hope to be able to continue singing in my church choir but, again, who will babysit when it is something so regular?  And I have thought about poetry readings at cafe's downtown, or cooking classes, or Parents without Partners dances...When you rely on the kindness of previous students and friendly folks from church to babysit for free because paying sitters is so hard to do when money is so tight, you can only find help so often...that is a big part of my problem in general.  There are many many amazingly sweet people who have been there to help and who have supported my family in various ways.  But their families do and should come first in their lives.  And I know I need to ask for help, it's just the fact that I keep on needing it, and will likely continue to need it for some is the repetitive nature of my need that is intimidating and that makes me feel like it eventually becomes a burden and not a blessing....

So I am listening to music that sends waves deep into my heart;  watching movies so I don't cry alone; reading books to go to places other than where I am; reaching into the past to remember days before this kind of pain.  And the kids are living off Little Bites muffins, V8 Fusion, peanut butter and jelly, hot dogs, and pizza.  Oh, and popcorn, or course.  I am living off coffee with vanilla creamer, luna bars, crackers and cheese or hummus, raw veggies nibbled direct from the fridge at random moments, too much red wine, and green machine with a splash of hemp oil.  

The Pit of case someone didn't know...

letter to John

I am reading the book I got at the bereavement support group held at hospice.  It is entitled "From Grief to Memories".  The first thing that was interesting was a photo that had different sizes of circles around a sad face.  You were supposed to number a bunch of stress factors about family and money, relationships, and other personal issues. Anything 5 or above and you color in a small circle red. Then, you briefly fill out info about death and then about other life issues that you have gone through in recent years.  For each category you entered an issue, you color a big circle red.  23 red circles out of 29 total.  Awesome.

Then, there was a page that had you write a letter to your loved one.  So I did.

Oh, Johh-
I miss you so much it hurts.  I feel like a robot, going through the motions similar to life with no ability to direct myself, so I randomly bang into people, walls, furniture...

I am so MAD that you left me alone.  I can't find it in me to be mad at you- I know you fought like a super hero to stay here with us and would have endured any treatment to make that happen.  But I am still mad I am alone. 

I am terrified I won't be strong enough to get through this as a good mother and I feel horrible at how desperately I want to be loved again- to not be alone.  I feel overwhelmed by everything.  And I'm relieved that I don't have to pretend to believe you will get better anymore.  And I feel slightly evil for that last thought.  God  I want you back, whole and happy and playful and healthy.

Who knew "empty" could be so damn HEAVY.

Struggling to be strong, keeping you deep in my heart forever,

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Moving Forward Makes No Sense

Words and screens and baby screams
Empty arms, ancient loves, breaking hearts
Longing, hiding, dreaming
Scared and hopeful, somehow all at once
Guilty for hoping, fearful of hoping
Under cared for
Wanting and needing and asked to ask for things
But I have no idea what
I want, or need, or am supposed to ask for.
Hold me?  Love me?  That can’t be right…
No one is him
And no one is mine
Find me a corner to hide,
a helping hand to uncover me
There are tiny voices all around me
Love like oxygen
Like banging your head against a wall
Over and over
Like everything there ever was or will be…
And I still want more
And while I think there is nothing wrong with that
I have no idea what to do with that