Sunday, August 31, 2014

aw, did you do it?  How did you stay so damn positive??  I told you when things looked rough that I didn't know how I would make it only thought about how you wouldn't be here.  I get that.  I see how in some ways your deal was far far are gone.  You don't get to see the babies grow.  I know you wanted nothing more than to be there to walk Cilly down the isle.  I swear on everything that if I could have traded places with you, I would have.  But I am here.  I have to handle every fight, as well as participate in every joy.  I have to wash every dish and plan every meal...quiet every tear and answer every question.  And I have to do it all alone.  I have no one to back me up or give me a break.  I miss you so damn much it is like a disease in my heart and mind and soul.  I don't know who I am or where I am going without you.  You always dreamed so well...wished and fantasized, reached for things and pushed yourself to add to your life resume.  I don't know how to live up to that...I don't know how to be that good or that strong.  I don't know what I am doing or how to get from one step to the next, and I hate that I even have to think about doing it all without you.

It's like I'm blind, in a way.  I stumble through, trying to understand how it should be...but I'm not only blind, I'm carrying so much weight...not just on my body.  I'm carrying the weight of three babies, the history I came to you with, and so much nothing beside me its as if I could name the pile of emptiness.

I'm not mad at you.  You would have lived to three hundred if you could have.  I am just so mad that the universe took you...left me alone to be the be by myself again.  You promised me I would never be alone again, yet here I am...falling back into old stupid, hurtful routines.  Trying to be worthy of your love, of your legacy.  I'm not as good as you.  I don't know what I am doing.  I miss you.

The rub?  It doesn't matter.  None of it.  Because you are gone and I am here and I have to and will do everything possible to be the best person I can be...tonight, today is just a pity party.  I hate it.  But it's part of the journey.  Help me be strong, my dear...I need your help.

confessions and a poem

Gloves off for a bit.  Please do not report me to bosses or principals or anything like that.  I will be find with the kids, I will do my best at work.  But I'm sick of pretending.  I'm sick of acting like I'm okay or happy or anything other than lonelier than I ever believed possible and heart sore, sad and angry and deeply hopeless.  I'm so sorry to admit this to you, oh internet void with my few random loving readers.  I am though.  All those things.  Even when I laugh and feel full of love for my babies, or when I feel playful and goofy.

You see, it's not just lonely.  It's the loneliness of having had something so good ripped away from me.  And I do not believe it happened for a reason.  There is no plan.  It is what it is, and I have to deal with it now.  I have to raise three kids with no one to help soften my edges when I get hurt or pissed or frustrated.  All that oxytocin that gets released when you kiss and hug and touch and snuggle, yeah, I don't get that happy juice.  That sated, loved, cradled feeling you get when you make love to the person who means the most to you, that safe and wet and lovely place, that isn't mine anymore.  And I just don't see it happening.  Yeah yeah, I know you have to try...or you have to not look for it...either way, I lose.  Damned if you do and damned if you don't.  So why bother, when the inevitable includes meeting people who make you think of serial killers or who laugh at you for the whole 15 minutes.  It's a twisted and messed up game.  If it is going to happen, it'll happen.  Except I don't believe that bunk.  Increase your interactions and you increase your chances, a friend scientifically told me.  It's not that easy when you are 40 with three little kids and no one to babysit.

So I'm being honest today.  I will stuff it away again tomorrow and definitely Tuesday.  But I am miserable.  I did not WANT to ever be a mom by myself.  My mother and grandmother had that role, and one of the reasons I didn't get married till I was 31 is that I was not willing to go down a path that looked like theirs.  I want my man back.  I want THAT life.  But I don't get a say in any of that.  So, welcome the tears.

Things that are anomalous
thrown at you
from strangely invisible
of rounded rooms
seem like signs, at times
or gifts from gods

like a moment waltzing with a
a wisp of wavering history
spinning just past
the tip
of things tangible

Any time I try
to reach beyond my here and now
I feel settled
shoulders lowering
while the soft breaths
of helplessness
and torn things
whispers to me
to stop being silly

My fingers
try to speak
my soul

My hips
try to grind out
some sweaty carnal connection

My heart lies dull
in my chest
sardonically sneering
at any effort
made by my mind
to write online dating improv scripts

Perhaps the anomalous
is that, while I believe love
is all that matters,
connection, compassion, passion, and community
of all of these
the one I want the most
is the one
completely beyond my control
buried in rubble and painted in the blood
of loss and tears
a love note lost in the rain
soft paper ripping, ink a ruin of
spider lines...

“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” 

― Rumi

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

exhaustion emotional immunity

tenuous tingly moments
of clarity mixed evenly
with confusion
a wind chime
which may have been mine
or his
too far away to forget
too close to regret

tumbles of ill-timed emotional immunities
vaccinated against
knowing that the thing that
makes it
the connection
is believing

feeling ashamed
for doing well enough
without weaving my way
to a place where the sleeping lid image

too tired to care
too tired to hope
too tired
just tired

and when I'm too tired,
I don't remember dreams
so even if he is there
as in real life

he isn't

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sideways smile broken heart pause

okay, I'm going to sleep.  I start back teaching fifth grade tomorrow.  I still can't get my head into the exact place I should be to prepare for the classroom, but that doesn't feel wrong, or even really bad.  I know fifth grade.  I taught it for ten years.  That's a long time, in my opinion.  So we will get through.

I cleaned the kitchen, washed and dried laundry, I got Aiden's lunch box out of the car.  I labeled it and Cilly's, I packed their school supplies in their backpacks.  I think I picked out clothes for me, and I know the kids know what they are wearing.

I took a shower.  I touched the tile on the shower walls.  I feel like I should be happy about this new place.  I think I am.  It just feels so crooked, so confusing and weird and scary and wrong.  All because John isn't here.  It's a fresh start that quite honestly, I don't really want.  Perhaps we need it, but that doesn't change my feelings right now.  Bit by bit, we will make it ours.  We will unpack and settle in, make memories both good and bad.  And I do not have enough words to explain how desperately I hate that John will not ever be a direct part of those memories.  Yesterday, while unpacking stuff in the littles' room, I found one of the two John shirts I have that used to be a bit stinky with his body odor.  Now, they just smell like him.  They still smell like him.  When I put them to my face and inhale, I get lost for a moment.  Anyway, I found one yesterday and draped it over the side of Cilly's upper bunk.  When I came back in the room, the whole small room smelled of him.  Sideways smile broken heart pause in my step.

  The other strange and messed up thing is that the dogs aren't here.  There used to be this underlying panic/rush mode constantly running below every choice I made to do things out of the house because I had to get back to walk them.  I don't have to do that now.  So many changes in the last year and three months.  It's too much to process.  It's too much to understand.  I imagine I might have to stop trying to understand everything and just do what I know, which is to roll with it all.  I just wish I had a happy place...something I could do, somewhere I could go where I could just dance and laugh and play.  I found that for a week this summer and it was amazing.  I look forward to going back next year, but that seems like too long to wait.  And I'm not sure what to do with my need for release and play and laughter in the meantime.

I find that when I'm on my own, I don't smile as much as I have, not even in the last year.  I remember 14 years ago, when I was starting my first teaching job, one of the custodians at that school commented on how I smiled a lot...his point was made quickly when he said I wouldn't be smiling that much by the end of the year.  It has only taken 14 years for his prediction to come true.  But who knows?  When I teach, I am the best parts of myself because, no matter what is going on at home or in my heart, the kids deserve nothing less than that.  Maybe they will help me find my smile.

I have to go to bed, or I won't be able to get out of the house on time.  Send me rest and hope and some secret smiles.  I dreamed of John for the tiniest of brief moments last night.  I saw him, really really saw him.  And it excited and startled me so much, I woke up.  Maybe tonight, I will see him again and stay asleep.

And so it goes.

what am I doing?

Last night, I went on my third adventure to meet someone from a dating site.  Why does it seem to be getting worse?  The first guy was nice, but not even remotely interested in committing to someone with difficulties, as it turns out.  We talked so long, I thought we would at least be friends. I had a moment where I freaked out at the way that he was different from John...I imagine that is to be expected, since it was the first date I have had as a widow.  He immediately cut ties and said he would never respond to me again.

The second was just a meeting, to see if we wanted to date.  We actually talked for hours, which was cool.  But the fit wasn't right.

Granted, with the third one, I had a really hard time getting a sitter.  I contacted him to let him know I finally had someone yesterday for a while, and if he was free, perhaps we could meet.  He said he had a small window of time.  My sitter was a bit later than anticipated, so I was about a half hour beyond when I thought I'd get there.  As I walked up to the door, I saw him at the bar and he was laughing.  He hugged me hello (a very nice hug, I might add...), and continued to laugh softly.  When I asked why he was laughing, I said something like "You have to tell me why you are laughing..." and his response was that he didn't have to tell me anything.  We talked for about 15 minutes- the time it took him to finish his beer.  He told me he was having a party for a team he used to coach at his house, so the time limit thing was a pretty hard stop, since people were coming to his place.  He got up to leave, hugged me again (another really nice hug, and I told him so) and left without actually saying "see ya" or anything remotely close to "good bye".

I have never been left so bewildered before.  Was he laughing because I was even prettier than he thought?  Or because he thought I looked ridiculous?  Perhaps he was laughing because I was late? I have no idea what happened.  I don't know if I should chalk him up to being an ass, or wait before making that decision.

It was a weird day to try to meet someone anyway.  It was a deep missing John day.  After he left, this guy came by and offered to buy me a drink.  He was very cute, but hard to understand.  As in, he had this weird, almost full mouth sort of mumble.

I have to go start my day.  I feel so numb right now.  I don't know what is going on.  I'm just continuing to put one foot in front of the other.  And school starts tomorrow.  At least I'm back with 5th grade, with a few special siblings, and behavior I understand and am 10 years familiar with.

Friday, August 22, 2014

different kinds of lonely, not enough paragraphs

Another day done.  I made it through our open house night at school and met several of my students.  I got to see some very special previous students and parents, which was lovely.  It was another day where we were gone and I was constantly doing one thing or another for over 11 hours.  I should have been asleep 2 hours ago.  I really do feel a bit like a ghost version of myself.  I’m discovering that there are even more types of loneliness than I ever would have guessed.  For much of the last year, I have felt the lonely that is a desire to be seen.  That encompasses several things…for example, when you have finally known what it is to be someone’s favorite person, and that someone dies so that you are no longer that special vision in a person’s day.  That is one layer of that kind of lonely.  That lonely where you can be read and understood three layers down with just a look.  The lonely of knowing your presence is no longer home to someone.  I remember when John and I were talking about living together.  He was still traveling with work.  We were in the hallway of my first townhouse, down the street from here.  I was crying.  He was confused.  He was saying that when he got back from traveling with his shows, he just wanted to have a place to come back to where he could relax and decompress and just not worry.  I just wanted that place to be with me beside him in the bed.  He was so reluctant to make that change!  He didn’t see how he could have that comfort, that place of his own, while living with me.  I remember how it hurt to have to fight him for that.  I did not have to fight him for the marriage proposal, or for any of the kids.  But those first few years, almost everything felt like a battle of wills with me pulling him to me and him standing still.  He wasn't ever pulling away.  He just wanted to stand still.  In the end, that was much of how our relationship worked.  I pulled and tugged and argued, then I took three large steps to him, and he took one toward me.  Of all his world and friends and life, there is very little I interact with anymore.  I am all on my own.  That is another layer of loneliness.  He was the friend in most of his relationships that did the calling and catching up with people.  Now that he is gone, most of those folks that were in and of his world have fallen to the far corners.  There is one in particular whom he had asked to share stories with the kids about him.  Because of my need for closeness and connection after John died, this friend cut all ties.  In the now and then random quiet moments, this makes me mad on a deep and burning level.  I want to throw every swear I know at this man, I want to take every ounce of my grandmother and every drop of Jew in me, and lay the guilt on him for abandoning this promise to his dying friend till he breaks.  Another kind of loneliness is the vast chasm of hollow echoes.  I see our things-our cups and dishes, pictures, his Japanese robes, all around this new house.  They are silent specters of him and of what our life might have been.  They are only things.  They are symbols of a life lost, of a touch I will never feel.

Perhaps the hardest loneliness right now is just not having his laugh.  He had a great laugh.  It feels heavy without it, this life I have now.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

sledding with voodoo dolls

It is interesting because the strategy that is working for me is to just take a moment and breathe.  You would think that breath was an automatic, all day, no matter the circumstance.  You’d be amazed at how fractured that idea is, if you could see the bizarre, intricate, circuitous patterns my brain takes when things get hard.  Seriously.  I’m proud of how well I took care of myself today.  My move at home has been hard on many levels.  I miss John so much it is like a silent strike of lightning burning behind my eyes in silent scarf dances.  I filled the shelf we made with books…more books than we ever had in our room since we moved in together.  I stacked them horizontal, to fit more.  It thrilled me to see my Dante, my Vonnegut, my Alice Walker novels, complete Shakespeare works, Tom Robbins, and The Satanic Verses all now living with me in my room again.  Yet each stack I made was a voodoo pin pricking my heart, reminding me John is not here.  So I spend the day working, aching from lifting and climbing and bending, bleeding invisible from a thousand fantasy punctures, saying nothing, moving on.  And today, I entered my classroom.  I had many people ask if I am happy to be back in 5th.  I finally realized, I don’t really care.  It’s okay.  I’m happy to be with kids.  I don’t care what age.  What bothers me is that I missed the chance to teach some special people.  In that way, my old principal wins.  She pulled me from families I love, kids I have watched grow up.  All I did, when she moved me to second grade, was jump in with both feet and try to be the best teacher I could be…which is what I will do again.  But today I felt the heaviest alone feeling I have ever had at work.  It was deep and wide.  It was a SCUBA diving weight belt around my heart and head.  I wanted to find someone, anyone, to talk to about how heavy it was.  I didn’t.  I just kept working.  Some people helped me bits and pieces.  I just kept working.  It’s always easier to move forward with heavy, tedious things when you have someone to talk to while plodding. 

I want to say I don’t really feel like a different person, but that would be a lie.  In fact, I even typed half of the sentence saying so, but had to go back and delete it…I am vastly different.  Which is odd, because I am still me.  I still panic and assume the worst.  I still laugh too loud.  I just understand pain and independence much more deeply.  I know what it means to deeply and almost tragically need help, and not have it be there.  I also know that sometimes, when you least expect it, you will find that it shows up.  Perhaps not for as long as you need it, but for a while.  Life is the ultimate team sport.  Some of us feel that.  For the rest, there is no way to teach them other than to live it yourself.  You give of yourself everything you have, and sometimes more than you thought you could find.  Because some day you will find that you are needing more than anyone is able to give.  And you will know that you have more inside you than you ever would have dreamed. 

So, it’s time to go to sleep.  I have anxiety buzzing low and soft under my rib cage.  I imagine it will be there for quite some time.  But I will learn to live with it and still fight to be the best person I can be, the best teacher I can be…because I deserve no less than that.  And of course, there is nothing else the kids deserve.  I hope people looking in from the outside see the way that I give.  I hope I have the strength to struggle alone when I need to, to remember that my job, for now, is still on the line…under scrutiny.  And I don’t know who I can trust.  So I will toe the line.  Ask for help and offer it…smile and keep going…find the strength to do however much I can do all on my own.  What I need to do is not allow the hurt of others allowing me to be alone to touch my already raw lonely spots.  Those invisibly bleeding pin pricks.  They need to reside on a different layer…an avatar. 

I don’t know who I am.  I don’t know how I am doing this.  I don’t know where I am headed or how I will get there.  But the sled has started down the hill and I’m holding on for dear life, screaming all the way.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

vows and moments and movement

so here I am.  Starting another school year.  I have a teacher friend far away who is so anxious.  I don't feel that.  I wonder if it is because it is my 14th year teaching.  Or perhaps it is because I have so many things to be stressed over...I don't know.  I do know that my wrist is sore from trying to start my damn lawn mower.  I had to borrow my neighbor's but I got the lawn done.  And I got half (ish) of my room taken care of, as well as the finding the final box of special framed items and the cloth cube drawers for the kids' stuff in the living room.  It's such a strange thing, to be here today.  I was putting up these final special things on the walls:  a gorgeous painting we got in Peru on our Honeymoon, my Lithuanian flag piece, the Notre Dam drawing my mother and father got years ago that used to hang in my living room when I was growing up...and then there is this neat, oriental type writing thing.  It is actually English words, done in an ornate, oriental style.  John got it for me for Valentine's day several years ago.  It says our names.  I wanted to put it above the t.v. and I really struggled with that. I am thinking about when/if I find someone else, and where things will go then...the same way I am thinking about pictures of the kids as they get older and where those will go...but I decided to be here now.  So I put it up above the t.v.

At church today, I tried to write a poem.  I don't know how good it is, but I thought I'd share anyway. Sharing is good.

Imbued with a strength
so soft
it sways

a veil-thin
gauze cloak
draped loosely over
longing shoulders

the body beneath
scarred and tattooed
arms filled with the feat
of lifting a dying man
back into bed

breasts heavy with
the memory of milk
for the sweet babes now too big
for the breast

a belly soft, sliced open
stitched back together
a powerful symbol
my manifestation of
the crucible I've crawled through
cried through
fallen in
crumbled in
climbed up
searched through
longing to find the guide
in the ongoing search
of my part of the vow
till MY death do we part.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Last night, when I lay down to sleep, I put my hand out beside me and imagined I held John's hand in mine for a while before I closed my eyes.

I get angry when I see people doing well.  I have a "friend" who is a young widow and she posts pictures of her with friends and doing runs.  I remember, because she did not have to worry about money and her mother is around, she took more than one trip with her kids to far away beaches her first year.  In small ways, I hate her for being able to do that.

When I see pictures of friends with kids, doing things with both parents, I get pissed off.  I go to the hardware store with my kids and after 3 minutes I am ready to tear their arms off and staple their butts to the floor.  Since the moving stuff started, the only "fun" time they get is when friends help out and take them to play.  I thought it might be nice to take them out for dinner last night...until I realized it's just buffer, no help, no second set of hands.  And that would just have been asking for more of the same *see arms and butts comment above. makes me so bleeping angry to see people who have someone to hold hands with, to sit beside, to help set the table.  John used to be able to help me relax, make me laugh, when we were out and I was getting frustrated.  Not always, but he always tried.

When I bought my first house, my mother gave me the down payment and was then able to deduct it from her taxes, like many parents do for their child's first home.  I never worried too much about owning my own place, because I bought it to be here in Frederick County, near John.  I knew he would help if I needed anything fixed or looked at, and I knew if he couldn't fix it or didn't know what was going on, his dad was right there to help.  The only other single family home I have owned, because that first one was a townhouse, was in Hagerstown when John and I were finally married.  Aiden was born when we lived in that house.  John put the fence in, he built shelves for the basement.  He built a gate for the fence on the porch so that Nikko and Aiden could be out there and we could relax and not worry they'd run into the street.  Here, I'm going to have to roll up my sleeves a hell of a lot more.  I am going to have to call for help, learn how to watch youtube videos to fix and do things...

All while raising my babies on my own.  While not knowing how in the world to date.  While desperately not wanting to shut myself off from the possibility of dating.  While mourning the loss of my puppies.  While trying to fit about 2100 sq feet of stuff into about 1300 sq feet of space.  While grieving the man of my dreams.  While teaching.  While trying to get my three and six year old kiddos to eat more than just mac and cheese, pizza, and hot dogs without shoving their adorable faces into plates of new and, apparently, "disgusting" entrees.

I just want to be seen.  I want to go from a place where I am cared for immensely and helped deeply, and easily forgotten about for days, to a place where I am someone's everything...or almost.  I want that look in a pair of eyes...that look that says "I'm home" when he sees me, regardless of where we actually find ourselves.  I want to allow myself to dream again, to find another man of my dreams.  Problem is, I don't know how I did it the first time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

mixed up

perhaps there are those of you who read this, and are not direct friends with me.  In that case, I should tell you, I have been absent for a bit because I have moved.  Six years ago, when I was pregnant with my daughter, John and I moved out of the basement of his parents' place to a rental.  It was a good place.  It was a luxury townhouse.  It was not ours.  For that entire time, I would spend evenings looking at homes for sale, trying to find us a place with a yard, a porch...something that could be ours.  Two winters ago, we were working with a friend to find a place, and discovered the Interfaith Housing Coalition...the first time I noticed him dragging his leg was during our searches.  We were in their office going over paperwork and they needed his ID.  He went to the car and I watched him through the window behind the woman.  When I asked him if he felt anything, he brushed it off and said it was the winter boots. It wasn't.

We had hoped to find a home to call our own before he died.  I'm not sure if it is good or bad that this did not come to fruition.  I put the pictures of our kids up in the stairwell today.  There is one picture of our wedding I did not hesitate to put on the wall of my room.  It's not our room.  That hurts.  I wonder if it helps a tiny, messed up bit, too?  But there are wedding pictures that I contemplated, that I did not put up...I will never leave him out of our family pictures.  An old friend with a special connection told me how his wife's mother died when she was young.  Her father took down all her pictures.  I promised him I would not do that.  I wouldn't have anyway.  But that story helped.

I love and hate that this place is my own...mine and my kids.  What never ceases to amaze me is how many lovely people step up to the plate and help!!  It doesn't matter if it is time and sweat, or listening, or ideas, or money.  If you open your heart and are honest about your pain and fear and need, for me, anyway, people are there.  Not for everything.  But for so much.  And it makes me feel so honored.  So blessed.

I am feeling such a strange combination of afraid and strong right now that it boggles my mind.  Help me, hold me, love me...that is my mantra.  I am almost ashamed to admit that.

I want to type about the things I need, want, miss, wish for, feel will never be mine...I'm not sure there is strength in admitting those things.  I still strive for strength.

My world has not only been shattered, it has been shaken, moved, redefined, rattled, mixed up and turned on its head.

But I am still here. I still refuse to give up on love and hope and healing and connection.  Each connection you make can spread light in any direction at any time.  Hold fast to those touches.  Appreciate the energy you are given, that is shared with is unlikely it will be perfect, but inside its tiny, amazing self, it is everything there is from that person.  Give and accept all you can.  That is all that matters.