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.