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


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


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.

Thursday, 20 July 2017


When Terry and I were first together we were semi homeless and nomadic. We traveled constantly in his old ford truck up to the top and down to the bottom of British Columbia. We roamed in places like  Fort St. John where we lived in my girlfriend's trailer bedroom to our first side by side rental home when we both worked at MacDonalds (I have a scar to prove that).  I remember our first trip down to Clearwater, the interior of the beautiful province, one mile from the stunning Wells Gray Park. It was a little place called serenity acres that he owned. It had two cabins and creek running through it. It was stunning and I could not believe he didn't live there all year round. It was where I first saw the aurora, green and red dancing in the night sky. Where I first made love outdoors in the tall grass. Where I saw my first bear and moose and caught my first big fish. We lived out of our suitcases there for about half a year before we sold it. During this six months we married in Clearwater. I do not believe I will ever return there.  It is not our/my place anymore.

We lived in a motel in mission BC for about four months while he worked everyday. I stayed there waiting for him each night learning to cook- badly. We were both so young. I wish I had really taken in the beauty of BC, the mountains, beautiful landscapes, waterfalls, parks and the winding mountainous highways we drove. He was so into nature, showing me how to just dive into a creek on the side of the road, I wouldn't do it with him, but I watched. He taught me to relove nature, I just didn't catch on until many years down the road, but it started there in the Kootneys. At the time I was too busy looking at him, focusing on our life together getting underway. It was not wasted time, I still see him driving, I have vivid memories of him laughing, us singing Me and Bobby McGee. Memories come back like the time in Kamloops the headlights died in the truck and we drove two hours without them on that moonlight night, me terrified, him laughing and reassuring me. I lived out of my mother's borrowed old hard shelled green suitcase, all my worldly possessions in that one tote. We had no children, just time together, just us. The road our home and cheesy motels to lay our tired bodies down in at days end.

Then we made the move back to Nova Scotia to settle down and raise a family. We rented six homes, one in Dartmouth and five in Lower Sackville. We conceived our babies, lost one and raised the rest in these temporary places that I never let myself get attached to. Until we bought our first home.

The one he died in, the one I sold when I could no longer cope. I wish I had coped, but I am not that strong. This was the first place that made me feel "home". Like I belonged somewhere-the home that I didn't feel homelesss in. We fell in love all over again in that house, most of our hard times behind us. Our kids left to make their own way from that house. It is hard to go back there now, even though my daughter bought it and I can see it and our beautiful magnolia tree we planted on our anniversary,  the memory hangover I feel when I leave isn't worth it. Sad. Maybe that will change in time.

So today I was thinking about my week away in PEI and how it's familiar again ( like in Italy), how it is like the past somehow and I was trying to put my finger on why. It came to me as I walked by this chap on my way to work.  I felt like it was normal to be there in a house with four strangers. It wasn't uncomfortable or foreign. I am homeless again. It doesn't hurt to go elsewhere, it doesn't feel sad to leave or homesick when I am gone, there is no yearning to go "home" because there is no home. It's what I miss most about being married, that sense of home. Someone there to greet you at the days end, who is waiting for you, delicious smells in the kitchen as they prepare for your arrival.

Yes it is true, despite my big lovely apartment I still consider myself "home" less. I can't settle in even after a year, I can't embrace the space. I prefer the balcony where I can view the open green space where I am not confined to walls and an empty kitchen. It's not all bad this homelessness feeling, there are aspects that are quite freeing, like connection with others out there in the world- it is a different connection than being on the couch at night snuggled with Terry watching a foreign film and discussing it's quirkiness-but a connection nonetheless.  Today I am learning to find the "home" in other places; like the inside of my car on a long stretch of highway, different provinces and places in the world, friend's homes, in nature. These are my temporary home. It's not all bad. It could be worse, but I do miss that "hi honey" as I walk through the door. For now pax's hug does the trick.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Rage pure and simple

When I feel a "bad" emotion coming on, in the past I would bury it, I was not allowed to express any emotions that were "bad". It was frowned upon, not lady like, beaten out of me, or just plain ignored. I learned young to suppress them. Those labelled bad included first and foremost anger. And this will be what this post is about. Oh there are many more emotions I learned were bad, but I have enough on my hands to deal with this one. When this (suppressing your natural emotion to an event, situation, etc) happens it takes a lot of training, and for some like myself, therapy, to relearn how to first feel that emotion and then to express it (correctly of course). Lately I have noticed I have a lot of anger. Well lets put this another way - lets be honest here- I am fucking filled with rage! Oh not all the time, I go through life like the rest of us, being polite, working , putting on that face for all to see. But in the core of my sorry soul there sits a ball of it just burning away. Deep in my gut, so embedded in the me of me it's reached the mitochondria of my cells probably causing the fundamental mutation, the prodromal of the fuck cancer that will most likely eat away at me. That is a lot of anger. Recent events have pushed this to the surface and so I write to examine.

I have never gotten angry at Terry for dying, I think that is really stupid, dead people aren't to be blamed for getting cancer, it's not like he asked for cancer, he didn't die on purpose to smite me! I have never gotten mad at him for leaving me, oh I am mad he's gone and I am alone, but I never got mad at him for this. I know he would not have wanted to leave me. I am mad at fuck cancer. I think it's unfair it has such a nice name, cancer, sounds soft, so lithe-like. Give it a shit name for fuck sake. Like smear-itis. But I digress. This anger comes from other incidentals like: being accused of stuff you are not guilty of; the unfairness of life in general; being ill equipped or untalented to do things you want to; asking for help; being selfish; not seeing the forest for the trees. Ad nauseum. I could go on and on about each of these in great detail, but I fear it will rachet up the anger even more.

And herein lies the rub. To feel it. To allow it, to not mask it or have as we say in the business- a reaction formation. I told you it was hard for me to express my anger. I turned it inward and became depressed instead. I didn't deal. I remember in my therapy days learning it was ok to do this. To find a healthy way to express it (punch pillows, smash glass, smash huge rocks) seems so silly at the time but fuck you should see the rocks I split. Trouble was it was like a good drunk  felt good at the time but you pay for it the next day.  I think it multiplied the anger, it brought up so much more anger I felt like I was in an abyss that I could not climb out of. I scared myself, overwhelmed my capacity to handle it all,  even in therapy with a guide I just couldn't cut it. I have tried meditation, yoga , talking to friends,  antidepressants and addiction to cigarettes and wine. Nothing has touched that core of anger inside. All it takes is a trigger and up it comes.

So what to do?  First I think this writing helps to release it. This blog is for me and for other widows and widowers who it might help as they see a reflection of their story here. So I will write and I will continue to grieve the way it happens, as it happens. I will not apologize for my journey, I will not conform to the norms of society that say move on now.  I will not be ok and healed for you, I will not smile for you bloody motherfucking assholes,  I will not feel shame for still grieving, I will heal when I heal. I will not care about the people who no longer wish to listen, this is not about you. When you have lost your soul mate then you can tell me when I can be happy or sad or depressed or joyful, when I can date other men, how I should relate to them, when I should stop dating. And of course you wouldn't  because you would understand. You would never tell me to stop hiding behind my dead husband, you would never judge me. You would know. When you have lost your love you would know. Yes some people move on and find happiness, and yes some never do. It is their journey, not yours. Yes I am angry, yes I am hurt and have hurt others, yes I am damaged. So fucking what, what are you going to do about it ?  Listen, care, run, hide, talk behind my back, hurt me, help me, hug me ?  Maybe all or none of this, just please don't tell me I can't feel this, don't tell me how to grieve or not grieve. This is my journey.

His last day

Three days and nights of freezing rain was finally coming to an end. And so was Terry's life. At 1030 pm April 2nd, 2014 I told all the children and their lovers it was time to go to bed, get some rest and I would yell for them if he died. No one was keeping vigil in the room tonight except me. I knew I had to lay down and be with him alone this night. He was cleaned and lovingly tucked in, morphine and scopalamine given, all by me, these last things I could do for him. The Cheyenne-stokes breathing endlessly continuing with long apenic spells. I wondered and worried would I be awake if he went tonight. I laid down beside him under the covers and pressed up really close against him. I half uncovered him worrying so much he was hot and agitated with the work of dying. I left the light on in case - I guess that I would see him in his dying if his loud breathing stopped, it would cue me to awake and see him as he died.  I worried he would die without me witnessing his leaving, that I would be sleeping. I was exhausted beyond staying awake, I was cried out. I knew other different tears were to come but for this night I just needed to lay here and hear his last night of breathing next to me in our bed.

I fell into the most deepest sleep I'd had since the week he was diagnosed, no dreams, no tossing or turning. His body also exhausted from the effort of breathing, I felt no pushing at me with his hands and flailing arms, as his agitation about slipping into unconciousness tried to tell me, "help me Sue, I don't want to go", like he had done the previous two nights. There was only the breathing, the sound I wanted to end so he would be free and out of his suffering, the sound I never wanted to end because the silence would kill me. I woke at 4am listening, amazed to hear it. Joyful he had not died without my knowing. I got up to make coffee, still hearing him as I went about a regular ordinary routine done by millions every morning. But this wasn't a regular morning, and I went through the motions heartbroken knowing, I could never make him a coffee, he would never bring me my tea in bed again. That today he would die. I came back to our bed and I sat beside him, and I wrote, and I listened to music and I read wishes of hope and prayers. I took pictures of him, I talked to him in his ear about how much I loved him, how I would miss him, how sorry I was for not knowing he was dying, that I didn't notice until it was too late. I asked for forgiveness.  At 6am my daughter and I cleaned him and dressed him, he groaned when we rolled him over, he may have mumbled fuck off, hah ha   his last words  good on you my sweet. The palliative care nurse came by. I asked for supplies to do mouth care and she had to go to the car to get this.  She was unable to do anything else for him. By noon his heart was pounding, he was sweating, I medicated him to help him relax. I worried he was in pain.

We were all in the room after a lunch I could not eat, talking about him, and the crazy funny things he would say and do. Everyone had had their time alone with him the previous two days. It was a Thursday we wanted him to be at rest, we wanted this to stop, we wanted him back. We were talking about monopoly and the different versions of it and my son just quietly said, "look". It seemed out of context and I was confused but realized "oh at Terry he must mean", so I did. And his eyes were opened. This was new so different from the two days of unconsciousness and the breathing. His eyes rolled back a bit, I just looked at him, gasped, and held him and started to talk to him before they opened again. He looked past me up and towards a corner of the bedroom in front of him. I had a moment to think I wonder if he sees someone, Justin, or his mom or dad? before they closed again and he let out his long last breath, and never breathed one in again. I was still holding him and whispering in his ear that we are all here, we love you, tell Justin I love him, I love you, I love you.

It was my pregnant daughter that said he's gone. "He's passed" she said. It was 2:50pm. We all started to cry, my daughter Candice the loudest, I remember my son holding her. I remember going into "robot" mode. I took his rings off . I looked at and touched his chest so I could memorize it. I held on and on to him, so long the blood was pooling in his back and still warm, the only part of him with some small semblance of energy left. I wanted to keep feeling it, the last warmth in his beautiful body. I knew we could have as long as needed before calling the doctor to pronounce him and funeral home to take him.  I just kept holding him and memorizing his chest. Looking at his beautiful hands, the small blue tattoo that looked like a splinter under the skin by his thumb, his hair, his lips.

You were free, but I was not. We called the doctor to come. He listened to his nonexistent heartbeat for one minute. He had tears in his eyes, he said he was a good man. Yes he was. The funeral home people gently and honorably carried my husband out of our bedroom, his house, for his final time. My two sons walking and witnessing and standing by him as he was put into the van, like honor gaurds. I didn't go down the steps with them to the vechile. I was not in my body. I noticed all the mail in the mailbox, it had been awhile since I saw the outdoors. I took the mail. I took the mail out of the mailbox. This normal ordinary act of daily life I was doing as my husband's body was placed in the van is a shameful memory. An act I regret, that makes me cringe. This needs forgiveness, this seems somehow to mar all the good I did as I cared for him in his last week on earth. This is how he left our house and what I did.

This was his last day.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Find your muse

What if you were told you could be given a super power, anything at all?  Would you choose strength, or to be invisible, or maybe to fly or bend anothers will to your own?  I would choose none of these. I would choose creativity. Now you might be saying that isn't a super power, (yeah? tell a writer with writer's block or a singer with no voice that) that we all have creativity within us, some just to a greater extent than others. True, we all have that creative spark, at least I believe we do, that we are all gifted with this at birth or maybe even before birth - but that does not mean we all choose to light it. It does not mean we are brave enough to express it, patient enough to nurture it, or disciplined enough to see it through to fruition into its super power status.

I heard once that to become expert in anything takes 10, 000 hours of practice. That is one hell of a commitment. 10, 000 hours is a average of 90 minutes a day for 20 years. Think about that, who commits to that? And if this is true well then I am expert in TV watching, music listening, my job and mothering. None of which I would label a creative superpower of mine (although ok the 6 babies is pretty fucking creative).  I also know this 10, 000 hour practice theory has been debunked, by the one who put it forth no less, and is only one aspect of expertness. The rest being achieved by other forces such as meta learning, deliberate practice, teaching your skill, genetics, quality versus quantity. Hence, all is not lost for myself to become expert or gain my super power of creativity in say one skill (photography, writing, grieving). Hold the phone  grieving?? Where the hell did that come from? Wow, surprise! I guess there is a part of me who believes my journey here is to be expert in grieving. To have this super power of creativity in how to grieve expertly, perfectly (ergo finally) the death of my husband. If I could create the perfect way, or master the expertise needed to do this grief to perfection, it would be done, over.  I have an idea of this in my head, but I am not going to practice it for 10, 000 hours that is for sure. Only until it's over. Okay lets leave that little ditty there for now, maybe for another post when it has been mulled over longer as to why that surfaced in the first place in this post.

I would much rather have the super power of creativity in and of itself so I can apply this to all I wish to do, those things I am into now and those to come. The old and the yet to be discovered new. For now it's photography and writing. I feel this drive, this powerful urge to express express express until I am empty. It bubbles up at the weirdest times, walks, in the shower, upon waking, a hour before bedtime. And it needs to be taken care of, like an itch or a need to sing along to a song.  Anyway, no I am not manic. So how do we nurture this drive in ourselves? One way is to find your muse. I have a literary muse, I have photography muses, I have these in my life so I am using them. Like a fine bottle of wine- never let that go to waste. Use it up. saturate yourself with its generous gift of inspiration.

I am about to embark on a photography vacation. Five days totally devoted to, from sunrise to well into each night, photography.  I will live, breath, eat and sleep the craft of photography. I have not done this since I went to Italy a year after Terry died. That trip was more about proving to myself I was a big girl alone in the world now and could survive it. That I could fearlessly fly, navigate my way around the world alone, feast my eyes on beauty and replace the sorrow in my heart with it. It was also to relive our time there together  - and yes to light my creative spark again. On the trip I let go, I fully and completely immersed myself into something other than my grief and it was good. The rewards and spin offs (no fear of flying, ability to talk to strangers intimately, no fear of driving switchbacks and some damn good pictures) were so much more than I'd hoped for.  But a strange thing happened. Months home after the dust settled I lost my creative drive to photograph. I still don't know why, I told myself maybe having so much beauty to capture there blinded me to see ours here. I just lost all my desire.  So there is a bit of apprehensive (mainly because I haven't fully figured out why it happened thus if I had I would be able to correct it from happening this time) about this upcoming week of diving into creativity, surrounding myself with my muse. That I will fail again to carry it forward, that I will become stagnant.

Ah, yes here it comes, I also notice that I did/do this with Terry's death -haven't fully figured out why it happened thus if I had I would be able to correct it from happening (again).  There it is - looking at grieving as a creative skill I must master, as a perfect way to do it so it doesn't have to be done anymore.  Or hey maybe let's explore this a bit deeper (I love how writing opens up these channels of insight), maybe I took pictures and lost my heart and soul into that creative drive that first year after Terry died because it was the only way to escape, to feel alive, to live. Maybe now I need to live without an escape, just live life on life's terms now. Embrace and accept the loss, and move on. Fuck that is terrifying.  Of course it is.

Ok Sussey, take that, take this creative thought that came from writing this post and let it gel or let it slip. Create anyway. Take the risk, keep finding your muse, your super power. It does not have to perfect, it only has to light that spark.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Static on the wires

When life gives you lemons, grind them the fuck up add some sugar and voila all is good. Well what if you are on a desert island with one lemon tree and you're thirsty as hell?

During  my short span of life on this spinning blue dot I have come to learn a thing or two." I didn't just fall off the turnip truck", does this mean I did at one time? When I fell, did I look for someone to help me back on it? We reach out for that helping hand, a little help from our friends.  If we are lucky and blessed we find that and we learn to stay on board, even through the bumpy ride in the back 40 as we plow ahead to get the harvest in. I got to thinking what if nobody saw you fall off the truck and the harvest continued? That is a long walk back to the farmhouse. Maybe it's hot out and you get sun burnt, as you walk you rage about how the fuck?  When you get home you ask why didn't you notice me, how could you have not seen me? This begs the question what lesson did you learn?

"Like a baby stillborn........ who has tried in his way to be free" he?   Like the abused child who doesn't have that one good influence to plant the seed of resilience, who then brings to his or her world hate and more abuse, are they to blame? "When I knew better, I did better" can one die before they know? Can one never learn when they are alive? What about the person who never sees the stars or the milky way because they pass out drunk before it gets dark; those who never caught that sunrise or sunset because they had to work in a factory 14 hours a day. The eleven year old prostitute who doesn't get to go for forest walks or hug a tree and feel the life force rejuvenate their sorry soul. The three year old boy of drug addicted parents doesn't get fed or changed when he needs to. The loved child with terminal cancer. The child molester who lives until he is 95. The political prisoner who gets stoned or hanged before they can tell their side of the story. The grandmother who raised her child right, waiting her whole life to pour her love out to her grand babies, and her children must move far away for work.

Is life meaningless? Because it is not for others, does that make it untrue?  Because it is for many does that make it true? These are heady questions, ones that make people very uncomfortable. Viktor Frankl found meaning in the concentration camp with murder all around him. Do you know a Viktor? Did they mentor you? Or did you lose your faith?

After Joan Gideon suddenly lost her husband she wrote about her experience in her book, The year of magical thinking. This talented writer said:
"When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."

Although I could never express it so eloquently and correctly, I too have come to know this in my journey. I get stuck in the meaninglessness of life, this void that is all encompassing, so scary and consuming that I will do anything to get out from it. That I will sacrifice all I love and care about and know is right to not feel it. I will search for the meaning in all the wrong ways...all the possible hurtful and damaging ways in order to just not feel it. I wonder now at the stupidity and purposelessness of this useless quest. Is this too meaningless?  Does this and all it has encompassed this last 1000 plus days have meaning? Is it just a space and time on this spinning blue dot where I am off the turnip truck and can't find my way back home? Will I tell my grand babies the lessons I learned from it or will I just get run over by the truck before I learn them? Is it all just static on the wires and I can't hear the message yet?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The royal road to the unconcious

Did you ever wake up from a dream that was vivid and long and told a whole unique story and you remembered it? This happened to me this morning. It took awhile for all the pieces of it to fit together into the knowing you have when it gels. It could make for a new reality show. It may sound scattered as I try to describe it but it all makes sense in my head. There was a whole group of people, me included who were in a airport type setting, a lounge of some kind where they were holding us before an international flight we were all to take to ?  There was a diplomat type women (pretty, young) her body guard and driver, (you know how pieces of dreams are there because of events or conversations you had earlier in the day, week or month? well, this was in here because about two weeks ago I had spoken to someone with a diplomatic passport).  Okay, gotta hurry with the telling before I lose pieces which I feel I already am. So my old boss was there (I spoke to a friend of her last night). There was a whole host of other people and it was very clever in my dream that all of them were "like" other people I knew and met, but not them (with one exception).  For instance they had the same stature, personality ect. but were not them. I recognized these people in I guess their "essence", not their looks. For example, a couple I met in Italy (who I also spoke of last night) were there but looked totally different, yet I knew it was them. Sadly, and as per usual, Terry was not there, nor was there a facsimile of him. So we are waiting and waiting and the flight is delayed, this flight to who knows where, I think it was overseas (at this point a piece of another actual dream I had had probably years ago sneaks in, it's me on a overseas bumpy flight in a big open cabin with no seats and all the visuals and emotions of that dream). I know, weird - you can even day dream imagine and drift off to another real dream you'd had previously while in a dream, go figure. I wasn't scared of this upcoming "flight" we were delayed from like I had been in that previous dream, I was just recalling that at one time I had been afraid on an overseas dream flight.

So next we are all boarding into one of those carts they shuttle elderly people around in the airport with, but ours is bigger, closed in with glass and more like a mini train. Some of all the people in that big holding area are now gone, and maybe 10 are left with me. One is the diplomat and her entourage. She wants to go do some shopping, there is time and it is allowed of course because she is a diplomat and they would hold the plane for her if need be. So us 10 or 7 or so remaining people are left to wait in this desolate type airport. It is like the airport I was in once in Guyana, South America in that you can see beautiful tropics outside, some far off distant mountains are there in my dream and some wide open runways. The airport is much more modern and larger than Guyana's. It comes to pass as things do in dreams that a lot of time has flown by, the diplomat is not back, we are all in waiting mode. And surprisingly for me I do not seem to care, others are freaking about this unplanned wait and want answers. I drift off by the window and look out at the environment and could care less about our flight, no longer afraid to fly (also in my last night's discussion).

Then the diplomat returns (lets call her Johanna) her bodyguard is Steve (our restaurant host last night) and very handsome,  he was the same, not a facsimile.  Johanna's driver is off to the side with another person playing poker they both look like mafiosa.  Other officials arrive with a knowing on my part that in the background the essence of all the others to take this flight are there now as well.  This is when we are told by said officials that there is no flight right now, and a vague discussion that we are to hang tight for a month. (I will skip ahead to reveal that what is to happen is an experiment to see can your small groups coexist for the next month together here without anything except food, and also like weird and twisted dreams  this was not revealed until the end of the dream, so at this time of being told the delay we do not know this, stay with me if you can)  Well fuck me! I was surprised but also not, because even though this was a huge change in the whole dynamic and plan and course of action I was taking, I easily (and here is why I love dreams) I easily adapted and thought ok, hey no problemo. Then, as dreams do, they skip around, there is a conversation I am having with my old boss about the whole thing, and I am showing her how to use her camera settings ect (obviously we were allowed the things we carried on us at the time) our electronic devices could not be used, I tried but got the clear message "no internet connection". There was a older couple (not the ones I knew from Italy) who were very cranky and upset and obviously not going to make the month together with just each other and us to talk to and interact with. The diplomat's bodyguard Steve and I had a grand conversation about his family, how sad he felt about missing them, but an acceptance of this as part of the job, "I have to protect Johanna at all costs, even though my pregnant wife is due with my twin girls soon and I am not there". I was in awe at his sacrifice, at his selflessness. I had no sacrifice to make, I did not have to be selfless for anyone, hence why I could accept this game. I had no one to return to (jobs were taken care of and time off prearranged). I came to not resent Johanna -in the beginning of our month I did- she had more privilege (and people in her life I wanted ). I understood later that this privilege meant nothing at all if you can't interact with another human on the most basic level. That you have to know people first in order to know what you do and don't want. And so good for her let her have what she has, I will too one day when I learn my lesson.

In the end Johanna in her beautiful white car was driven into the final set of this dream (that is too crazy visually to describe  albeit to say a grand entrance indeed). I noted that many of us were missing because there seemed to be only about 5 or 6 that gathered now - my boss, my Italy friends and Johanna's entourage. Our friends and family showed up to greet us now that we were back to "civilization". Here is when we were told this was all an experiment to see could you last a month knowing people without anything coming between the relationships like internet, distractions, sex,  family members, work, etc. Could you do it and not go crazy, fight, hurt other people, give up, storm off? I remember in this part of the dream being really pleased with myself that I had, that I did it, that I observed these people talked to them, interacted with them, got to know them, without any trappings of the world except our connection as humans and conversation.

Now I am a firm believer that dream are very important, especially vivid ones we remember. On this I agree with Freud, dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. If you can decipher the message, the teaching is there, your truth is all within you, just like I was told by my dear friend last night, and shown in this wacky dream. I could analyze so many aspects of this dream, that might not make any sense to you dear reader, but it does to me. Oh boy it does. My relationship with Johanna, yup, my need to connect without any technology with people and take a month to know them, yup. My awe at another person's selflessness, yup, my not seeing my husband, oh yes!!! My winning in the end?

We will see, the truth is in you Sussey.

Sunday, 18 June 2017


When I was young I had a lot of faith, a lot. The Catholic church was the church I was brought up in. I used to go every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not. My parents of the old school belief that a Sunday mass missed on purpose was a mortal sin, and if you died with a mortal sin on your soul you went straight to hell, unless you said your act of contrition first. I often worried would I have time or remember the words when I was in the process and work of dying to say it right? Would my intention be enough? Silly I know but for a young impressionable mind like mine, well let's just say, it was a life and beyond death matter. The purpose of such dogma I will not get into - (we all know how rich the coffers of the church are and why they need the money now); and for fuck's sake that and the anger associated with it is the last place I need to go now dear writer.  I am more concerned about examination of my take on things I was to learn and later discard. The church taught me a lot I no longer believe, and I marvel at how much I believed without question yet no longer do. How does this contrast of beliefs get reckoned with? Through time? Life shitting on you enough? Science? Other influential teachings? Lack of evidence? Growing the fuck up?  Maybe all of this is true for me.

I no longer can say I have faith, not in the catholic church at least. I have faith in my friends, my dog, myself (half the time- see yesterdays post), and for the time being wine, but not in the church. I have gone from a young mom bringing my baby to daily mass to only attending funerals and weddings inside it's doors. I will say having no faith in an after life (because lets admit it that ultimately is what the church is selling) is shaky territory for me. Like standing in a kayak on the sea, it's precarious. I used to feel sorry for people who had no faith in an afterlife, who did not believe, now I am that person. But I really really goddamn it don't want to be some days. Days like today when I am full of sorrow and grief and longing. Days when I want my old life back with a vengeance. When I really want to believe in a god I can curse and cry to and yell at and then feel comforted by when I have ranted and raved through my fit.

Instead I walked in the woods and told a tree, I told my husband's grave and ashes in it how sorry I was that I didn't believe I would see him again even though I know he believed, "I just don't know honey I just know nothing now". I told a leaf how much I hated being here and how sad I was there was nowhere to go to for everlasting redemption and peace. I told the moss and the lady slippers how I wanted my husband back so my children could shower him with gifts and hugs and kisses on this father's day. My tears did not soothe me today, instead nature did, she took it.  I used to believe, now I don't.

"God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-Ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me"    John Lennon

I used to believe I knew things I no longer know.  This contrast of belief and disbelief, knowing and  not knowing- in my personality I show the world -to who I am at the core of my being- has rocked my foundation. It has me off my moorings and I am unsure of everything. I have lost trust in myself to believe anything. All is to be questioned. I am never to commit to anything that matters. They say do not make any major decisions within the first year of a major loss, ha! I am just seeing three years later why. I always was a little slow on the uptake. The older I get the less I know, even your steadfast childish faith is not with you now because all is fleeting, nothing forever. Remember that Sussey.

Maybe today all you can do about this contrast of self and life is to go to bed and see if there is a better day tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

I'd rather go blind

New phases in life show up when I am least ready for them. I anticipate them or listen as my friends tell me about them but they still catch me by surprise. Initially I am never ready for change, my first reaction is always to balk it. I groan and fret and ruminate about the upheaval. But eventually adapt and even thrive with it. I have come to see myself as a resilient women. I have weathered many major life changes and done quite well with them overall. I remember when my eldest son Jeremy, who was 18 at the time, went off to basic training. Terry and I drove him from the cottage to the bus depot in Antigonish. I remember my underlying anxiety on the way there, that 50 km drive to drop him off. The flood of memories that swirled in my head from when he was quickly born that sunny fall morning, to his birthdays, his first girlfriend, the stupid and silly shit he pulled over the years. It was like a life review of our relationship, like the one people say you have when you are drowning or dying. Round and round it went in my head along with the thought - how the hell am I going to say goodbye? You see I knew this was it, the start of the loss of my children, of my loss of them  and their taking on the world as young adults in their own right. It was starting with him and I wasn't ready. And the goodbye was as painful as I thought, I would have rather gone blind than to see him walking away, to misquote a song. I remember crying the whole way home, that sobbing that gets hysterical at times. I remember Terry pulling over and hugging me on the side of the road to comfort me. Such bittersweet leaving.  My intuition was correct that day in knowing he was moving to a new different phase in his life that would include never living with us again. He never returned home to Nova Scotia to live again in his spot as eldest son in our family, he visits, but doesn't stay. He has his own family now. This is good, but wasn't then.

When Sam and Mary moved out it was like two doors down, I knew it wasn't permanent, rather just a test of them spreading their wings and flying out the nest, and I was right- they both moved back and forth numerous times until the permanent one. The coming and going lessened the pain and made the transition easier for all of us. When my sweet Candice moved it was to the big smoke, downtown in a highrise by her school. My girl all alone, minimal money, half blind and on her own. My anxiety over that so profound I buried it, stuffed the feelings and minimized the whole thing. I was not very supportive,  I see now (as I do many things in hindsight) my self protective unhealthy mechanisms to deal with this was a huge mistake. One I still profoundly regret and live with. I have sincerely apologized with tears in my eyes to her but wonder if that is enough (probably not). Or maybe I just think it wouldn't be for me if the shoe was on the other foot- and I need to give this sweet child of mine more credit, maybe she did forgive me. (perhaps I will save this examination for another post).

But now my baby has told me of his leaving. Yes he is 24, not a baby, he has his own life and love, I get that, I want that for him, it's time. None of that soothes the heart because emotion has it's own logic. He is not only my baby, he is probably the child who knows me best, who has seen the most of my private life, who has seen me through the worse grieving of my spouse. The one whom I have had the deepest and most meaningful conversations with, the child with whom I have had the most growth, pain, laughs, learning and fights with. I love him no more than my other four precious children but circumstances made my relationship with him unique among them all. His absence will hurt I am sure, but here is what I now know- I will grow as a result. Despite the fact his leaving will leave the biggest void, and usher in the dreaded empty nest and despite no Terry to turn to and hug when the door shuts -the apartment empty save me and Pax- I will grow. I am resilient.

I say this because I believe that with all this experience I have had in my children's flights to freedom from mom, I can muster the courage to do this right. By that dear reader I mean and envision feeling the loss that surfaces, not feeling the need anymore to minimize, medicate or bury it. Just have the cry if need be, revel in the emptiness, daydream the youngest son's life accomplishments as you review. And also marvel at mine and Terry's job in raising five beautiful strong healthy fantastic children ready to offer the world all of their unique and wonderful gifts. We did our job well darling.

I fell in love with all my children, with my husband, knowing the pain it would bring. It's funny to admit and believe the old saying that it is so much better to have loved and lost than never loved at all. I remember being told that shortly after my husband died and I wanted to fucking gouge out the eyes of the person who said it. I remember thinking "easy for you to say you fuck, have you lost your ......?). But all that love, all that amazing family life, special occasions, pride, joy and wonder I felt over the years with these beautiful souls in my life's journey- oh yes- so much worth any pain. I would never trade it, not if you showed me all the pain and offered me a out before it even happened, never.  I would always choose them and my life with them.  Like I have said, the older I get the more I know what I didn't know.  Life is full of mini losses and big ones, it is full of joy and revelation. Embrace it all.

I, the willing pupil, fearlessly await.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sweet summer, fear not

Today as I was walking to work, I saw a couple kissing. They were in a car, she dropping him off for work at the Maritime Center. I was walking up the street and caught them in the act. They were leaning in together making it last, a really nice goodbye kiss, the sun shining on them through the windshield. The kind of kiss the researcher would have marked as among the 124 (see my post titled the art of kissing and . )
Anyway it was a nice sight for sore eyes. I was close to the man when he got out of the car and wanted to say to him, "that's how its done, spread that love to her". But I just smiled and walked on to work. Again never saying what I really want to, fear holding me back.

I see a lot of couples, a lot. It's like when you get a hair cut or want a certain one and you see it everywhere, or you buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice them all over the road when you hadn't before. This is called the frequency illusion or the baader-meinhof-phenomenon. Now you are going to run into that name again soon guaranteed, like a literary version of a earworm. Anyhoo, so I see them everywhere, I sit on my balcony and couples walk by all the time holding hands, some talking, others not. Invading my single life like a deep cut when you step on a clam shell sticking up from the warm sandy beach and it slices your instep to shreds. Yeah like that. Summer is hard, and it has been hard since Terry died. It's when I get frightened. Weird I know, but it's my scary season now. Because life is in your face. You can't hide behind the drawn drapes and in the warm blankets on the couch in the dark at 6pm. You need to get out and cool off in public, encounter other humans doing their business, like kissing and holding hands and going for that fucking walk I used to with my guy.

When I was really young before I met Terry I remember a few trysts with guys, Timmy Derbashire in the park, David ?  down by the lake making out and never wanting the warm nights to end. I felt so alive in summer, so part of the world and at one with everything. Any wonder it scares me now. It's constant in-your-face aliveness. Maybe it is more about middle age and not wanting life to end, not wanting to become my old boring parents whom I felt so sorry for when I was young and running out the door for fun as they stayed in their house watching TV. Maybe it is about fear I am missing out on something.

But I think it is aptly titled this frequency illusion.  It is an illusion, couples are not everywhere and hey they might not even be happy and contented - contented like I sometimes feel as a uncoupled women. Maybe there are many many more lonelier than me people all around me, single frightened and yearning for the good old summer days just like me. I could start thinking of them and see them everywhere too. It's all what lens you want to look through, it's all the glasses you put on, the mindset you convince yourself to have on any given day. There is no magic, no conspiracy, no winter of your discontent to hide into, no summer to fear. There is only you and what you make of each day you have left.

So I am sitting outside on my deck in this warm summer like spring night with the most gorgeous sunset right now and I want to go grab my camera and capture it, the clouds are swirly and a darkish grey with white tips. The sun behind them makes the clouds glow a reddish orange especially the ones low on the horizon as they look like mountains and the sun has underlit the ones above it's setting into a dark red. Some clouds look like stream rising and are wind patterned, the whole sky turning from pale orange to dark red and violet, a real light show, it's stunning. I am fighting the urge to capture it and put the picture in this post. Instead I am letting it be there, enjoying it, just for me, no need to share, no need to try to hold on, just watch it and let the sweet summer feel of this night envelop me. It is a sunset you are experiencing and it is grand. Fear not singleton.

But damn the photographer in me is having a hissy fit.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Where did my wedding shoes go?

You can barely see them in the picture. white high heels, fake leather, open toe - bought special for my wedding. I saved the dress, the headpiece, the bouquet, but it occurred to me on my drive home from the cottage today that I did not only not have these shoes, but I don't even remember when, how or why I didn't save them. And I started to cry. Not about the shoes I am sure, it was just one of those triggers that start the cascade into the what I now call the grief guilt. A two and a half hour drive alone is a long time to think and cry it out, but I have not got to the bottom of it yet. So I write,  because I know it is so much more than the shoes. Although I would dearly like to have saved these along with those trinkets I did save from that day (paper pink bells, wedding cake pillars, pictures and napkins with notes on it he wrote me) it's more about what is behind the jolt I felt when I re-remembered I didn't have them.

And that brings me to things I do remember and to the worry about others things I don't yet. In a 32 year marriage there is a lot to regret. Words spoken in anger, words not spoken and actions not taken that should have been. This is life, the human condition. Yes it can bring a pang of guilt here and there when it bubbles to the surface, but today this is not what's fully under there. That yet to be examined muck and mire of remorse. So I searched for the feeling behind the tears. I drifted off into thoughts about how life is such a fertile ground for learning if we take notice. I wondered about why I needed to become overly acquainted with death so early in life with my son, and in midlife with my husband. What meaning in this purposelessness I can find. Why I was blessed with such extremes of sadness and joy in my life. When I was young, like in this picture, I had so much to learn. I didn't even know yet what that was. I am just 20 in this picture and have the advantage of 34 years of hindsight looking at her in the shoes she gave away or lost. She didn't know that in 2017 while driving on a highway that would cause her one powerful cry when it came back to her. At the time she just either outgrew them or didn't think they would be missed. Oh yes, so much I didn't think would be missed!

Like the shoes, I have done so many things in my life in a mindless way- without intention- without thought of consequence- that has come back to bite me and force me to take notice. Sometimes I speak without thought, I do things that hurt other people, I have bad habits that have consequences and get called out on it, I wear my heart on my sleeve too much, I step in shit without looking only to realize later I fucking stink. Yes, life. When I was married and I made mistakes I could bounce this off Terry, I could get advice, get challenged, or often just listened to with a hug. The shame receded and the hurt got mended. I can't cry and be held and apologize for losing those shoes, say I am sorry for thinking they were meaningless. I can't tell him all the ways since his death that I have changed for the worse, from the women he loved, the awful mistakes I have made, the way I lost myself. I try, I admit it, say the bad out loud to him and wonder with all my powers of imagination what he would say back. And up to now I can't for the life of me hear anything except "oh Sue".

Now it's mine, mine to feel alone. And I do, but I also have choices. I can keep doing it, I can ignore it, I can change, I can learn from it, I can be mindful and feel it. I can't get those shoes back, but I can cry over their loss and examine why the loss is so powerful now and move forward.

I think maybe when we grow up we have many many moments like this. We can ignore them (as I did for years when I was super busy with kids and school) or we can take notice. Life has been trying to teach me to be present in the moment. To take notice now, to stop looking back or too far forward. Yet, I get super pissed at people who tell me not to look back this is where the life I am not yet ready in many ways to give up was. Why not spend time daydreaming of a distant future where this grief may be healed? I missed and still do a lot of life because I didn't/don't live in the moment. This causes even more regret. I suppose the good news is I am not on my death bed yet. Today is today, now is right now. I feel the sun on my legs the warm wrap over my shoulders the computer keys under my fingers, the music and wind in my ears. I can practice mindfulness in each and every moment, in each and every mistake, in each and every good and bad thing I do and learn from it.

It just came to me "Oh Sue you looked beautiful in your shoes honey, I remember you taking them off on our wedding night and how tired and sore your feet were".

Monday, 5 June 2017

Warm nights and celebrations

         It's a warm night as I sit on my balcony with a glass of vino and listen to the peepers. The clouds are black in the midnight blue sky and the red glow of the already set sun hangs on the horizon like it doesn't want to say goodnight. It's a perfect background for reflection. This past weekend I have spent a evening with family; celebrating my father's 80th birthday with a good steak, accompanied by all my children save one, and my siblings. It was very nice. The rents are aging well, they are still with us and I am grateful for that. Eighty and eighty four and they still live alone without any help or support from anyone, fifty five years married this year.  Wow.

Also this weekend my son graduated with his baccalaureate in chemistry (high honors-mom gotta brag) so at his request his siblings, their significant others and I spent two days at the cottage talking, laughing, crying, eating, and making merriment. Michael, my baby, spent the last four years (through some very tough times and major life changes) studying his heart out to achieve this goal. We are all so proud of what he has been able to do. In these last four years his father died, he fell in love and she moved in with him and we moved from his childhood home. He still managed to graduate at that caliber of achievement. I am in awe. I could not do anything these last four years save stay alive.  So this type of achievement is noteworthy for sure. And we all wanted to show him. My daughter decorated the cottage with his school colors and helium balloons, my son bought lobster for his grad supper, I ordered a cake and made a rib dinner, his sister surprised him by showing up unexpectedly. He got his first Cuban cigar and his favorite drinks. Meaningful messages came his way from those who couldn't attend. Everyone knows what this achievement means.

Especially Mike. And all it took was looking at his cake to open the floodgate. Four years of accumulated perseverance and dedication bubbled to the surface.... and of course the absence of who didn't see this day.  When Mike was in his first year university his dad was his champion. He would have tears in his eyes when Mike brought home a B- , he encouraged him, cheered him and noticed every step of his first semester as he struggled and spent endless hours in his bedroom studying. Near the end of Michael's first year Terry died unexpectedly and quickly. Mike had no time to even process the death of his dad when his first year final exams were on him. He also was the only one left in the house to attend to things like rats, floods, lawn mowing, wood to fetch through snowstorms, shoveling and general mom worrying. It was not easy. we shared many a good cry.  But he made it, he did it.

So when we all gathered and I put the cake down in front of him it all hit home. You see his dad used to do that, every year he'd make a supper of Mike's choosing for his birthday, he'd make his cake, offer it to him and light his candles. And he wasn't there to do it this time. Terry would have been over the moon about this achievement, just like he was over all the other kids graduations, from high school, from college, from the army etc. he was always there for all of them except this.  We all felt it-we all grieved it together, all of us crying over what we miss. What Mike missed.

It was weird to feel comfort in this moment of communal grieving, to not be alone in it for a change. To grieve for someone else besides me. Eventually I moved it on, we had our moment and I moved us along to the celebrations. And so we did well into the night. And it was good.

Sunday, 28 May 2017


In my online photography community group we are doing a 12 month series on self portraits. The month of June's topic is courage. The idea is to post a picture of yourself facing something head on, finding courage to do it. Some physical attribute or other aspect of yourself that you need courage to face.  This is thought provoking so really got me wondering about what I was going to post. I realized quite early it wasn't going to be a physical attribute. I have worked very hard and long to make peace with my body. I have gone from: cringing and crying through massages to absolutely loving them (only took about 15 years); hating the way I looked; decades of bad bad haircuts; flat chested to my too big boobs; children scarring my belly; cellulite settling in my fat knees and other places. You name it I gave it all the dirty looks and disgusted sighs over the years. I got it out of my system. I learned bodies are only the exterior where our true essence is housed (imagine having to learn this) and that looks don't matter as much as they do when you are young and your true essence has not yet fully flourished. Youth is so wasted on the young. This old crone had a nice body once, slim and unscarred but little essence, no interior depth. I'll take essence of spirit and soul any day. And there is a lot of freedom in this, a lot. Amen to that sister.

So I knew my post was not going to be about physicality. I know where I need courage, where I have always needed it. It's in my voice. My inability to speak my truth. Even my gifted naturopath told me about all the blocked energy in the my throat chakra, (umm how the hell did she pick up on that I wonder?). Now I know where this tendency to default to silence comes from, and quite frankly I can happily say that doesn't matter anymore. Why I am like this is not of any value now, what the hell you are going to do about it and how you are going to find the courage to change it is where I must look to.  In many things I intuitively knew how I felt and kept silent. Out of fear of rejection mainly. But having lived through all of the most horrifying things a person can live through (except incarceration) seriously what do I have to lose?  Start speaking your truth old crone.  Now on the heels of this is in all matters be sensitive and loving and kind. Compassion first. Sometimes to speak the truth is better left for naught, that dress does looks nice, what a cute dog, etc etc. But speak when it matters. Do not sit on a fence with a issue that demands you take a stand, or worse don't look to others and go the way all the sheep are heading when you know in your heart it's right to head the other way.

In my life the worst thing I kept silent on was my husband dying, both before and during- and the damage this has caused me, for now, this has been left in a fallow field in the back 40 acres in my life to tend to and examine at a later time. I know it waits for me, and I will write and speak my way through that when I am ready, all in due time. Build your courage first and it will come. I have spoken and written much about the after his dying but the lesson in that is it was too late Sussey, you missed the mark - learn from this. So I will.

It does not matter if you are disliked, rejected, hated, shunned. Speak- just speak. Let those you love and cherish know it. Do not ignore your children who's hidden messages in their sentences are speaking to your heart and you know it but are just too busy to go that extra step and address it. Do not stay silent when a coworker asks for your opinion and help because you think you have nothing to offer. Do not be afraid to assert your opinion on heady issues even if they are different than the group you are sitting among.  Be yourself.  Speak it. You will thank you, even if others don't.