Sunday, 13 August 2017

Good men exist




Men are wonderful, they are different from women, that is what is so refreshing about them and it's sometimes exactly just what I miss and need (a conversation, hug, their sense of humor, their strong hold, the wonderful company of a man). They think differently, they can bring a new perspective to my own thought processes and ways of doing life. They are physically strong, tire less easily than myself, they know shit I can't figure out nor want to. Now I love the women in my life, they get it on the whole female level, but men get it differently. I love that. I miss good men, men who love women. I especially miss the man who loved this women.

So when I see a bunch of hate mongering brown shirt nazi pig men marching and spewing their hate and self righteousness it first saddens me profoundly (because my good male isn't here to ease this sadness with a hug and tell me the world will be ok) and then it makes my blood boil. Who kidnapped the man in you all? Where did the beautiful other half of us go? I want to cover you up, hide your shame for the sake of the better in your gender, apologize for you to them - the good men. I can't express what it does to my gut to see the hate in your eyes, the prejudice and sense of smugness spewing from your mouths. You hurt all of humanity, your ignorance and bigotry lessens the world as a good and right place to be. Stop - just stop. You don't have to be like this just because you are white and you're male, because you have a dick. Who told you that you are privileged? That you have the right to keep everyone else excluded from your privilege? Is it just because your sexual organ is on the outside of your body? Is it? Is it because you are male and therefore somehow better and brighter and superior than us women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ, disabled, poor, etc. etc. ? I wonder because I have not seen a mass protest by women with brown shirts, or white hoods spewing hatred and trying to keep everyone else down under our clitorises (those of us that haven't had them cut out by the male patriarchy afraid of our sexuality). But I digress. We are all human. Period. Fuck off and stop acting like you're something else better than your fellow human being.

I remember when that fucktard orange narcissistic smug piece of shit became president. I felt this overwhelming need to have a good man hug me. I felt afraid of the world, afraid for my gender. I wanted all the good men in my life to hold me and tell me it would be ok. I missed Terry so much that day. Today I felt that in my gut when I saw this picture online. I am fearful for the good men and women, I want them to stand up and be counted, to pull their magic tricks out and make this stop. I don't want to feel powerless against the bad males again like I did on that day. I am a strong women who loves good men, we can fight these cowards. Lets.

I miss men, today I miss them. I want their strength, I want them to tell me everything will work out. I want Terry to rant at the TV about them with me, to commiserate and tell me they are wrong, bad apples, misguided bigots, ignorant low lifes. That it's not the male gender - that good men exist, that they are there for me, that I don't need to be afraid- that good men do exist.


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Serenity Acre



My happy place by the sea, I call it serenity acre, my daughter Mary's suggestion.  I wanted to name it and it had to be related to my husband somehow as he built it with my dad and brother-in-law in early 2000. When I first met Terry in Fort St. John, BC he was working there with a mutual friend, which is how I met him. In the first winter we were together he took me up to the interior of the province to see his place. It was a few miles on the outskirts of Wells Gray National Park. It had acreage, two log cabins and a creek. It was called Serenity Acres, marked by a big beautiful colored sign. I wonder if the sign is still there? God I loved that place. We married there. So this place pays homage to our first home. The rocks in this picture that are white is where some of his ashes are spread and where he laid in the sun hiding from people when he was at camp. He built up all those stones there so the bank wouldn't erode away.  Originally this place was built for ours and my two sisters kids, as a overflow bunkie. Last year I asked my sibs if I could buy them out and make it mine. They said yes.

This place means a lot to me, it's not just a cottage by the sea, my little acre of serenity, rather it's something to look forward to. It is a purpose and a reason to move forward in life. I see my kids and my grandchildren in it after I am long gone. I am fixing it up with help from family, this teaches me to accept help graciously and gratefully. It gives me a place of my own on the earth, where I can continue to go to until I die. I have been coming to this property since I was in my mother's womb, so talk about the circle of life.  The hammock is mine, a gift on my 40th birthday from Terry. The part of the cottage in the picture is the back, it faces Liscombe Harbour. The moon sets in the water in front of here. There is a stiff breeze most afternoons whipping up the whitecaps, the trees sway to and fro with a beautiful sound like the ocean, some days you can't tell which is which. In the morning the sun shines there and the water is usually flat calm. Perfect for sitting on the deck, that will be built on both sides of it this summer, to drink my morning java and contemplate how lucky I am. And I feel that way here. I felt blessed and happy and privileged and I am. I know that. This is big, really big, I need to feel this.

Inside the cottage I am commissioning my cousin's wife to do a large stained glass window, it will sit in the wall separating the bedroom with the living area where the three windows are. The scene in glass will be the rocks on the shore below the cottage and what we call Terry's feather, a spit of land with trees across the harbour shaped like a feather on its side, I never noticed it before, not before Terry died.  In the glass in one of the pictorial glass rocks will be embedded the last of my husband's ashes.  I picture waking up to sun streaming in this colored scene at the foot of the bed. A piece of him shining on me wishing me good morning. Some may think this weird or morbid or ghastly, that's fine, just don't tell me.

It's all coming together, my kids working away on it, cousins pitching in, community - feeling that love, I need that too. To feel a part of something alive and good and special and for me, me and my loved ones.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Uncertainty


I have noticed many changes over the past three years on this journey as widow. One of the mini casualties in myself has been confidence. I was reminded of this when I heard a widow speaking on cbc this am. This was comforting to hear, as often is the case with me when I feel that connection with another that tells me it isn't just you. I have been stuck in this thought ever since. I never had a great sense of confidence to begin with, so having the world ripped out from under me when I was on my way there was a setback for sure. It's an effort for me to accept a compliment even one deserved. I immediately want to justify why you shouldn't say that. I have learned to shut up sometimes, try to take it in, twist it around my brain, let it spin like the rainbow circle on my mac, analyze and ignore the voice that wishes to spit it back in your face. But acceptance -it's not my automatic response by any means. I am learning.

I notice instead the areas where I have failed in confidence lately. Things like minor household fixes, walking in the woods at dusk, dating, making decisions alone, staying alone in the cottage with only a mouse as company, my photography, my writing, my job as educator, giving advice to my children, picking good movies to watch, sticking to my word. I am also afraid of things I once wasn't- eating alone in a restaurant, walking alone at night in Halifax, aging, grocery shopping yes I am afraid of fucking grocery shopping and avoid at all costs until I have to. Yet in some big things I overcame the fear (flying, driving, being alone in a strange place) Another of life's paradoxes. But on the whole I have to say I don't trust life as much as I once did. I have hardened myself since that second big rug pulling in my life - Terry's swift death, and my first born son Justin's- that swift shocking reversal of fortune. I find these took more than my feet out from under me. The uncertainty in life left me breathless on the floor. A fallen warrior so to speak. I use any excuse in the book to stay down, to remain in uncertainty, to not move forward.  Part of it I believe is directly related to moving on without him. To be in some way exceeding and thriving in the here and now leaves behind the old life, the person I was with Terry who I want to be again, me and him, the us we were.

We only have one life unless my hopeful dream of reincarnation is true. One life to live. I am more than half way through mine. I am asking how to trust in life again and no answers are forthcoming. Save one.  Just do it anyway. Fuck I hate to admit it but Nike has it right, just put one foot in front of the other. Get up off the floor, move through the fear, the uncertainty, it doesn't have to feel good, in fact it won't sometimes, do it anyway. It's the bravest thing I can do some days to just get out of bed, shower, dress and face the day. I have not spent a day in bed since he died, I have crawled there grateful as hell, when it was still light out, but I have not hidden all day beneath the covers from the shitty rug pulling life. Some days that's the bravest I am, other days I go for groceries taking baby steps toward my own life. Semi confident in the fact that if I buy it, maybe cook it, and then eat it I will have energy to go on and do something I am not afraid of.

I don't want to be one of those people who never try, I'd rather try and fail or try and still have uncertainty and lack of confidence but do it the fuck anyway. Cliche I know, maybe Oprah was right all along dammit. I will reward myself today and thank the women on cbc for her courage in admitting my foibles by doing something scary that I lack confidence in, if I fail so be it. No one is watching except me.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The secret life of widows



One of the loneliest yet most comforting things (yes paradoxes abound in life) about being a widow are the memories that I carry. Many are mine and Terry's alone and will remain between us, or now that he is dead, will remain mine alone - me the surviving memory carrier. Those memories of the marriage that aren't public with your children or friends are the most poignant of course. These are part of the secret life of the widow.  Then there is the not so secret life of the widow - those tiny and not so tiny triggers of everyday life that open that portal into a memory we shared with our spouse- and these ones are predicated on a decision to share or not. It could be a song that comes on that you danced to in a restaurant in Italy not caring who looked; a phrase the person you're with speaks that your husband also did. Or you might immediately recall how your spouse would have responded to the situation at hand, what they would have said or thought about what was going on. I have sat with a person or in a group and drifted off into this secret life many times. Some bring a smile, some a tear, some I comment on; most I now remain silent about. The person may or may not pick up on a change in atmosphere. They may say "what's wrong"? or look at you funny. I have a decision to go there or remain silent, but most times it is up to me to initiate.  At three and a half years into my loss many people might not suspect I still constantly drift into this secret life, that I am with him and our secret life in many everyday moments. In the earlier months I could not control going there, everything related to him. Every minute detail. Now I can choose to go there to fully and completely; to immerse myself to him and us. At other times I am transported there against my will and when that happens it is still with a sharp intake of breath and a flood to my emotional center. 

I believe in our society grief is not written or spoken about much after the first milestone- that first year after a death. I also believe that the first year is the worse and the best year (paradox I know) it is the worst because the grief is most acute and painful, it is the best because the social support is the strongest and because we feel the memories the sharpest and clearest that year. Many don't want to go there after that first year with you; perhaps they don't want to remind you of the pain, maybe they are afraid to see you cry again, most just want you to be happy and cheerful. Let's face it death is a shitty scary subject, it pokes holes in our false sense of immortality. This brings up that choice to discuss the memory or not. To let the other person into the secret life of a widow. I write this blog for other widows and widowers so that maybe they can relate and hopefully not feel so alone. In the earlier days of grieving I did not speak with or know other widows, I read a few of the books out there (and sadly there are only a few). I remember much comfort when I related to the words on the page. I felt the many complications of grief resolve for a fraction of a second, I felt the vindication I desperately craved without even know why I needed to feel that. I searched and searched for an outlet. I wrote my grief into a book I titled 1000 days without you. I found comfort in those pages, I still do even though others can't read it or find it too sad, not me. I joined a grief group two years after my loss and heard other widows talk about their experiences. It ignited so much inside me, so much that still needed healing. Secrecy breeds isolation and ignorance. So I bring some of this secret life of widows to the light of day to illuminate this human experience that isn't mine alone. I will not feel ashamed to write what I choose.  I will not put a caution or warning "sad content" on the post. It is what it is.

Like this memory invoked this morning out of the blue by the word anniversary. This picture of my love was taken eight days after our last wedding anniversary together. The only one we didn't celebrate because we were mourning the death of our first grandson. It was a warm summer night, we decided to have a fire in the chiminea and sit outside and quietly share our grief. I grabbed my camera as I often did during that year to bring some semblance of closure to the events of those troubled days, to mark it somehow (I seem to need to mark memories and events then and now). In his expression I see the grief on his face, the sadness of what his beloved daughter was going through. Perhaps he was remembering other deaths he had experienced in his past, his mom his dad? I see the glow of the flames kissing his face and his rock work around him. This brought him comfort- these elements of earth and fire he so loved to talk about. I think it was this night we talked about how we'd totally missed our anniversary and that it was okay, there would be more (how could we know there wouldn't be?), we'd had plenty in the past where we did celebrate, that life was how it was right now and we were occupied, rightly so, with our daughter and her family. We shared that lost anniversary in these few verbal exchanges captured in this picture on that warm July night in 2013. So today I remember it as I peek through the window to my secret life of a widow. And I tell you it is good, it is not sad, it is healing to do.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Here is where I am


Here is where I am standing right now. Let me describe the scene. the water is slapping against the shore and my new favorite musical artist Fink is on the speaker in the cottage window (ummm his music is fodder for contemplation and meditation). The sun just came out and burned off this fog and the deck in the front is so hot it forced me here by the ocean, the breeze is not quite cool but just enough, just enough. My hair is blowing in the wind. the sweat on my neck is drying and cooling from the earlier yard work. I hear the wind in my ears along with the mourning birds cooing and crying, and diving seagulls are fishing in the ocean near my feet. A loon just skipped by slapping the water; there is a sailboat against the distance shore floating by (swear I am not making this up). I can smell the new mowed lawn blowing on the breeze down to me, rewards reaped from my effort. Pax, my faithful border collie is on the shore with me, he is panting from a day of frisbee and ball catching, he is smiling. There are no demands. No one is here that I have to please, conform to, wait on or consider, no one. My parents are in their cottage 100 feet away minding their own business, my belly is full from a delicious healthy salad made by my mom. The sun is getting ready to set in a hour or two, the clouds mixed with fog are starting to roll in quick. My bike is a few feet away waiting if I want to take a ride, my new camera gear all set up and waiting for me to practice with.  I have choices, I have options, I am blessed.

Just at my feet a few yards away is the place where I and my loved ones let go some of Terry's ashes three and a half years ago. I feel him close, he'd love what I am doing. He knew how to be in the moment here at the cottage and I am in the moment.  Here is where I am. This is not a easy concept for me, rather it is one I aspire to but have a difficult time getting there. Living fully with all of your senses everything right here this second in front of you. This is life as I wish it could always be. How life might have been way back in the day before we had so much to complicate us, before all the technological advances and lost connection with each other and with nature. Before the bats, bees and finches started dying off, and global warming wasn't at the point of no return and before clowns got to be presidents. Where have we come and where are we going to I wonder?

My parents were talking last night to me, reminiscing as elders do, about the time the ammunition depot in Dartmouth on magazine hill exploded in the 1940's. My dad spoke about having a neighbor drive him and all his siblings down to Chezzetcook in the back of a pick up truck and put them up for a night. Would a neighbor do that now? Would it be all for one, would anxiety overtake our common sense or would we gather to help our fellow citizen in a crisis? I hope so, I still have hope for humanity. Can this beautiful earth still invoke feelings of the rightness of humanity in us? For me it can. As I gaze at the ocean or sit in nature I feel closer to the "divine" whatever you perceive that to be, for me it's nature and the beauty in it. I can't be sad or moody or gloomy or mad when I view or sit in nature. I know I am all over the place with this post. But it is connected someway somehow.

Maybe it is in the fact that when I am in the moment (and I hope for you too - whatever being in the moment is for you and however you get there) it would be natural or happen automatically that I'd pick up my neighbors and deliver them to safety, that I understand their pain, commiserate with their plight and their anguish,  hear them and see them for who they are. If I am not distracted with past and future I can notice when someone is in distress, I can reach out - connect. I feel nature precipitates this happening, I feel when I am not caught up with world turmoil- rather being in the moment- it is then I am allowed to taste this blessing. I say "feel" here not "think" because this is a feeling I have when I am where I am. The busyness of life falls away, the work, the bills, the wants, needs, jealousy and desires, the worries, stresses and disappointments are no where to be found. Only the calm ocean, the birds, the seaweed and the sky fill my view and my heart.

Here is where I am, I am in the moment. I am blessed.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Open those cold gates


My first question has to be why are people so cold and cruel sometimes? If you try to be genuine if you trust and let those cold gates fly open and let someone close, why then are some so cruel? I am talking about little and big things here. From chance encounters with strangers to close emotional and intimate relationships- the whole gamit- from one extreme to another. From unknowingly stepping in front of a person and getting a cold cutting uncalled for remark so bitter and swift it brings immediate stinging tears to the eyes ( because the intention is not what was meant at all ) to downright extreme nasty verbal abuse. Has this happened to you? It has to me and I am left wondering about our morals and decency as a society.

So I need to ponder why, both my part in this and others' reactions I have encountered as well as society as a whole.  There are a lot of wonderful human beings out there, kind souls on this spinning blue dot just wanting to connect with another and feel some warm niceness in their soul to sooth the hardships life can send us all. They smile and hold a door open for you, they let you go in traffic with a nice wave, they give you a warm hug, a nice meal, their favorite chair to sit in. They want to hear your ideas, story, opinions, to help you through a difficult situation, solve a problem for you or just do a favor.  They are devoted to your well being without nothing in return, they get comfort from making you a better person, they make you all you are supposed to be. They pay it forward and you reap their loving gifts in the smallest gestures and in the largest extremes of the selflessness of their giving. They make you smile, make you want to carry on, make those heart strings ting and sing. They bring the good tears to your eyes. They open the gates, make you trust in life again and melt that cold icy veneer you put up. Oh my god (if there is one) they embody all that is good in the god concept.

You know the type, and pray tell you have had them in your life and still do.  But and I hesitate to even give space and words to the opposite type of people. You have had them in your life too I am sure. Sadly, their words and action sticks with me like shit on concrete.  Does it stick with you? Do you replay the encounter or the deed or the remark over in your head wondering about your own worthiness as a human being as a result of such shit and garbage?  When this happens to me ( the chance encounter or otherwise that leaves you breathless and shaky with emotion ignited up from the depth of your amygdala and fueled with cortisol) my resulting response is flight or fight. In the past I have flighted the hell outta there, now I just want to fight. But I don't,  I write instead. And I curse a little (I must say that saying motherfucker takes care of a lot of calming down the cortisol levels) but I digress.

Seriously has society lost it's morals?  Is this new age of hiding behind a computer screen to spout your madness-or for some not having even learned another way of connecting and interacting with a person on a face to face human level with conversation- has this shaped humans to such a degree that when they do come to encounter another life in the "live" sense can't even behave decently because a person miffed them in a gesture or action?  Or on a whole different intimate level they feel wronged and without thought of why they jump to conclusions (which of course are always the other persons fault and folly not their own). Fuck people wake the hell up, this is a soul you are dealing with here, an incredible piece of miraculous evolution. How fucking dare you, really. Think before you speak your poison, pause before your nasty action, before that thumb hits send. The consequences might be that one day you could be the one behind the cold gates unable to get out or have others get in.

For me personally this is painful because I lost my sounding board, like I have said in the past when you have a love to hold you through life's bumps and bruises it eases the journey. You can tell them about it, they can commiserate and call them fuckers along with you, they can kiss the hurt away. Some of my bad encounters have happened as a direct result of the fact he isn't in my life, I would never have met these people I would have been sheltered from the nastiness in the first place ( here I can feel a little bit of the anger therapists talk about when they say are you mad he has left you) yes I am mad I am left with this! I guess indirectly mad at him for leaving me to need to encounter this- this widows journey- and what she has to go through. I love you and want you back to kiss away what I have to encounter Terry.

So what is the answer in all this, I write to find answers so where is it?  Do I respond in the moment, tell that person oh I am sorry you took my action to be what you've just said, you are wrong this was not my intention, in fact, you've got it totally twisted- you stupid fuck you- okay you can leave that last part out. Or do you stay silent and take the higher road, let them find their own life lesson on their own? I guess it's all about context as a friend keeps telling me, it's in that moment under whatever circumstances arise that we have to weigh/wait out -ummmm am I gonna walk up this hill, battle on this hill, die on this hill? Do I use my voice that I learned to keep silent? And more importantly I guess I need to ask what are MY intentions in my reaction at that time, in that moment. Is it to shame, hurt back, give them those stinging tears, close my gate tighter? Fuck life is complicated.

In the examination of all this I can only conclude my answer is no to the nastiness. Damn it I worked hard for a open heart, I will not allow you motherfuckers to shut a cold gate over it again.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Anniversaries



So one of the hallmarks of a married life together are wedding anniversaries. Mine (yes it's only mine now) was on Sunday. If Terry had lived we would have celebrated 35 years married, or 36 years, 8 months and 27 days since I first met him. I was with him from the day I met him, so the day we married is special but the real hallmark is October 2nd, 1980 the day I fell in love with him and knew I'd marry him. Life is funny that way, at least mine has been with crazy stuff like that. I am so overcome with profound tiredness right now I can't write and I must sleep instead.

That was weird, the fatigue overcame me like a wet blanket. Like I was drowning in this water unable to reach that buoy to hold onto. I crawled to my bed cried myself to sleep and woke nine and a half hours later. It's morning now. I am semi refreshed and on the ferry heading to my work.  I think I may have dreamt of him, I am unsure because this is very unusual and so wanted that I may have conjured it up as a daydream or wishful thinking memories but I had a flash of seeing him, young and tanned and talking a blue streak to me happy about something. I kinda doubt this and am untrusting of such privilege - that he'd visit me on a night I so needed him to - but maybe just maybe I did dream this. Anyway what a difficult post to write but not sure why yet...?.  So back to hallmarks. Sunday ......35 years ago I married him...........and I forgot. I did not once pause throughout that day to remember. I did not remember my wedding anniversary. At work on Monday while having breakfast with a colleague I glanced at the calendar above her head and noticed it was July 24th. One day after the 23rd, one day after what we could have been celebrating had he lived. I was overcome with sadness. I could feel my old friends self deprecation and depression waiting in the wings to pounce. I finished my breakfast, went to my office closed the door and buried myself in work. Sad still but stuffing it down to wherever in my body that goes.

You see when I was going through the first very difficult months of grieving for my husband I vividly remember crying (to that same person I was having breakfast with actually) and telling her how I was going to forget. I would forget our life together, his smell, his voice, all that mattered, all that was my world would not be anymore. This was my biggest fear because grief has no rationality, it didn't then it doesn't now. I don't know why I would fear this, how can you forget half a lifetime?  I can't and I won't, I just really fear I will. And in that moment of seeing the calendar I felt that fear again. I never want to be that lonely, that I can't even have my memories (seriously kill me instead).

But after some sober second thought and through a conversation with a dear friend the next night I came to see that it isn't the day, it isn't about the dress, the ceremony etc., it's about the marriage. I said yes everyday of that marriage, not just on July 23rd, 1982, not just "yes to the dress" but to the day in and day out hard work of a long marriage.  I said yes everyday and I was there everyday right to the bittersweet sorrowful last second of it. I was there. I remember it. I could never forget that. If I think really hard with no distraction I can see his face, hear his voice, remember his words and what we shared over those years. This is honoring the hallmarks, the remembering of each silly funny loving sweet embarrassing awful sad joyful moment of our life together.

I see him now cooking for me on the Coleman stove in the highlands of Cape Breton, the salmon and corn he made that night, how a crow sat watching us and he remarked on it. I remember him giving me my emerald ring on our sixth wedding anniversary, storming off from the car in the middle of Halifax pissed at me over some stupid fight. It's all there, the good, the bad, the mundane. The life of a marriage. I celebrated, rejoiced, mused, fussed, felt boredom, angst, passion, anger, disappointment, love, sadness and hope everyday. We lived it out him and I. Today I alone remember it. I won't forget the total, maybe some of the parts and the dates as they go by, but never the sum total of them all.

This is me forgetting to remember my 35th wedding anniversary.