Archive | September 2012

Happy Birthday, my Love


“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”
Mitch Albom

 

I was better today, but tomorrow I begin another downward spiral. Tuesday, September 25 is his birthday. He would have been 57 years old. I find myself wondering if I should say, he is 57 today, or he would have been 57 today. Do the numbers even matter where he is? Do they even matter here anymore? The important thing is that it is his birthday, his special day, but he is not here to celebrate. Certain dates are difficult, but anniversaries are almost unbearable, especially birthdays. You wonder what he is doing, is he comfortable, is he happy…things like that. Most of all, you feel as though you are in a creek sinking deeper and deeper until you are nearly submerged in cold water. You begin to gasp for air because the water is threatening to fill your lungs and then from nowhere, a sound escapes. You realize it is your own scream and you can only cry silently. Silent cries are the worst because your body shakes uncontrollably and sound cannot escape. The hot tears feel as if they are burning your flesh, but you cannot stop them. They never really stop, do they?

I am already listing instructions for that day. That is how I will function without looking like a lunatic. I keep reminding myself how emotions make others uneasy.

  1. Get out of bed.
  2. Get in the shower.
  3. Dry hair.
  4. Get dressed.
  5. Drive to work.
  6. Concentrate on work.
  7. Lock up shop and drive home.
  8. Take care of da’ schnauzer.
  9. Eat something.
  10. Fall apart.

Notice it is only at the end of the day that I give myself permission to fall apart. I hope I do not hear a “Happy Birthday” song. That will ruin my intentions of making everyone else comfortable. I hope I do not hear music at all. Music speaks to the heart. My heart does not feel like listening, especially on that day.

I want to make his favorite, banana pudding, but I have not yet reached a point in which I can do it. Just thinking about it makes me fall apart. He loved banana pudding. I wonder if he can eat banana pudding where he is now. Do they even have bananas there? Do they even eat there? No, I do not think I will be making banana pudding this year. Maybe I will make it for his next birthday. Maybe I can hug him with my eyes wide open on his next birthday. Maybe…just maybe. Happy birthday, my darling, happy birthday to you.

©2012 Relinda R.

 

 

 

The Amazing Correlation between Puberty and Menopause


     When I think of teenagers, I cannot help but to think of the process they go through as they battle the inevitable process of puberty. When I think of puberty, I imagine a culmination of lifelong events which lead to another inevitable process for women—menopause. As I consider these two inexorable events, I recognize the implications of both. Puberty is a long process of preparing for an introduction to adulthood. Menopause is a long process of preparing to enter a realm of golden years while nearing the conclusion to adulthood.

Ask any parent who has witnessed their child experiencing puberty what it was like. They will most likely explain that it was similar to what hell must be like. The first thing that happens is the mood swings. There is nothing worse than watching a pre-pubescent child drifting from an angelic state to a satanic state. A child about to experience Mother Nature’s cruel destiny of raging hormones can literally become the spawn of the devil disguised as an angel within moments.

  I can provide an experience from my past to verify this unsettling transformation. As my daughter was preparing for this rite of passage into her teen years, I once asked her to do the laundry. At the time I asked, she was comfortably seated in front of a desktop computer, most likely chatting with her friends. I was in an ideal mood at the time and had no idea that I was about to witness this transformation firsthand. As I asked her to do the laundry, she spun around to look at me with this incredible look of hatred in her eyes. I almost winced from the blow. As I looked at my little angel, all I could see was an image of Linda Blair from The Exorcist. I could have sworn her eyes began to glow red and her head was spinning. One would think I had asked her to plow a ten-acre field of corn. I quickly retreated from the room before the projectile vomiting I imagined could begin. This is just one example of the moodiness accompanying puberty. It never ceases to amaze me how a perfect little angel can transform into the devil within mere seconds.

As I began the stages of menopause, I also experienced the same moodiness that puberty brings. The mood swings for which my husband had no previous experience suddenly consumed his world. I went from being a sweet, mild-mannered wife to a violent demon in a matter of seconds. I believe he asked me something about whether I had washed his work clothes. Under normal circumstances, that would have been a casual conversation; however, while I was under the influence of menopause, this meant war. I began to rant and rave about laundry, politics, and religion all at once. I could not see my eyes, but he swears that they were glowing in a suspiciously crimson hue. He also mentioned The Exorcist.

I am not sure what possessed me as I verbally attacked my husband. In hindsight, I can see the undeniable correlation between the moodiness that accompanies puberty and menopause. One event marks the beginning of hormones that control our lives, and the other marks the end of those same hormones. I believe the significance of both events is monumental. As puberty descends upon a child, their subconscious recognizes the vast expectations accompanying it. They are about to undergo physical and mental changes that will determine the crux of their existence. I believe our subconscious also recognizes that the inevitable process of menopause is the body’s way of preparing for the end. While there is no doubt that we usually have many more years to contemplate this wonderment of nature, subconsciously we recognize that we are ending a chapter in our lives.

     As my son underwent the transformation of puberty, he also developed an insufferable temper. I was blissfully unaware of this temper as I asked him to mow the lawn one sunny day. His eyes did not glow red; however, his pupils did become enormously dilated as he looked at me as though I had lost my mind. The process of male puberty now had an example. He managed to throw a tantrum unlike any I had ever witnessed. It seems that I had interrupted a life-altering session with Mario on level five of his Nintendo game. I then witnessed an episode of violence that permanently scarred me. He hit the pillow on the couch. He kicked the chair. I am convinced that if there had been a dog in the room, he would have kicked the poor little thing. He did eventually mow the yard, but not before yelling, kicking, and hitting everything in his path.

  A menopausal woman can most likely relate to this bizarre episode of temper. An innocent telemarketer experienced the misfortune of experiencing the temper of a menopausal woman as he phoned my house one night. A person does not even have to be menopausal to understand how frustrating it is to have strangers calling your home late at night to sell something. I lit into that fellow, practically blaming him for the whole process of menopause. I lost my temper. My fit of rage was not quite as graphic as my son’s tantrum, but the verbal assault I heaped onto this poor telemarketer was enough to make one blush.

These two comparisons of temper are compliments of puberty and menopause. Puberty transforms a mild-mannered child into Attila the Hun within moments. Menopause likewise transforms Betty Crocker into a raving lunatic. Once again, the implications of both are amazingly similar. A normally calm individual can become violent while under the influence of hormonal changes.

As I watched my daughter go through puberty, I witnessed many uncontrollable episodes of crying. I would pick her up at school and make the mistake of asking how her day went. When she began to blubber about the way Tommy Joe was responsible for ruining her life and possibly, to blame for the Holocaust, I knew I should have just stopped at hello. Translating the English language amidst the sounds of sobbing became my destiny. I learned about how I had damaged her psyche by asking her to do laundry and possibly even scarred her for life by insisting that she wear a bra to school. I also learned that it is an unforgivable sin to embrace your child in public. At least that is what I think I learned. It is hard to say with absolute certainty since I was translating all this through the sounds of snuffling and weeping.

My menopausal symptoms included episodes of uncontrollable crying. My husband once made the mistake of asking how my day went. I say “once,” because he never made that mistake again. His simple inquiry led to a sobbing episode of sorts he had never witnessed. Instead of answering his hypothetical question about my day, I began to tell him about the plight of the dolphins in the ocean. I explained the problems of the world to him with dramatic emphasis on the trials of motherhood. He tried to be comforting as I sobbed uncontrollably, while explaining that polar bears were facing extinction.

     I learned that failing to have my daughter’s cerulean blouse washed, ironed, and ready for wear on the day she wanted could send her into a crying episode, altering the world’s balance. I cried if a leaf fell from a tree. She cried because of the hormonal effects of puberty; I cried because of the hormonal effects of menopause. I have to wonder, though…what was it my daughter was really crying for. Was it because of a blouse or was it something much deeper. Was her subconscious possibly crying because it recognized that her life would never again be simple and carefree?  Did she know on some level that she was undergoing a process that would tear the rose-tinted glasses from her eyes? Did she realize that puberty was taking her to a new stage in life? All that cogitation leads me to ask myself why I was crying. Did I recognize that menopause was preparing me for a new stage in life?

There are amazing correlations between puberty and menopause. Both will emphasize mood swings, raging tempers, and of course, uncontrollable episodes of tears. One leads to the beginning of adult life and the other leads to the end. Are the hormonal effects of both so powerful because of nature or because of the power of the mind? I ask myself about that every day now. I have yet to devise an answer. My daughter went through puberty and she is preparing to enter a new world where nothing is as simple as it was in childhood. She is learning that every decision she makes has a consequence. I am going through menopause and learning that life is too short. I have made decisions and faced the consequences—good or bad. Both puberty and menopause are responsible for introducing stages of our lives that we cannot avoid. Despite all the trials, I would not want to miss either event. It is the inevitable cycle of life.

©2008 Relinda R.

My Twilight Land


“My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
‘Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.
‘What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
‘I never know what you are thinking. Think.”

T.S. Eliot

It is 12:30 in the morning. Sounds like a reasonable time to be writing, right? It is not normal. Way not normal for me. I have managed to zone out for at least two hours. You might imagine that I am sleeping. No, not sleeping, but hovering somewhere in this twilight land I keep finding. Did I see my dead husband? I thought I did. I talked to him because I heard him say, “I love you, baby.” I smiled and calmly replied, “I wuv-e-d you too.” Saying it that way was one of those cute little games we played, sort of like the typical “I wuv you more.” We were married for nearly 20 years and we still acted like newlyweds. I heard him tonight and I saw him. I saw him standing at the end of the couch. Just a blur, really, but I know it was Doyle. He looks so happy whenever I see him now. Later, I want to scream and ask, “Why are you so happy. How can you be happy,” but I never think of it at the time. All I can think is I love you.

I keep considering all the life going on around me. Everyone around me seems oblivious to my pain while I remain locked in a bubble from which I cannot escape. Then, there is that damn twilight land to which I keep traveling. I do not know if it is even a real place. If I have music playing, I do not even hear it. If I have the television on, I do not sense it. It is just me, well, not just me, but everything that is me, mostly memories of the man I miss so much. I think I go there when I cry so much. I think it is the last stop before my mind snaps and my heart completely breaks. I think I remember reading about it somewhere. It is the mind’s last-ditch effort of retaining sanity. It may not be such a bad place to live though.

Flashes of light. Sounds. That damn buzzing noise. Love. Peace. Laughter. I could live there. I could do without the buzzing noise, but I could live there. Sometimes I imagine just how easy it would be to let go. Grief lives in me now and threatens to annihilate Hope constantly. Hope is tiring. Hope is dying. I think that living in the twilight land could revive Hope. I think chains could restrain Grief and I could smile again and dream of tomorrow.

Reality always manages to creep into my twilight land. Grief returns and Hope cowers in the corner while I cry. It is ironic that I never cried much in the past. I laughed a lot. I cling to the pillow upon which my husband took his last breath, praying that I see him in my dreams. One of the last things I think is, please, please, please…, but the very last thought that crosses my mind before I drift into slumber is I love you. I could learn to live in my twilight land for many reasons, but mostly because he would be there with me.

©2012 Relinda R.

Part I: Learning to be a Widow


How do you learn to be a widow? You do not learn how; you simply take one moment at a time. I was only 44 years old when I realized that I was truly alone. The man I love has gone on to a destination that I cannot travel to…yet. The beginning is survivable. Why? Because you are, numb. You become so numb that you cannot feel whether you are hot or cold or in pain. You just become absorbed in waking up and carrying on as though life still mattered. I learned that it takes more energy to crawl from the bed and attempt to eat than it does to build a house. It takes more energy to get dressed than it does to run a marathon. Sometimes, you just fall to your knees without warning. It does not hit you as a brick might; it hits you slowly like a gentle rain and gradually increases in intensity until your feel as though a storm of softball-sized hailstones are pounding you. As hard as you try, there is no escape from the pounding hailstones.

It hurts to know that you will be alone forever. It is like the final blow. You spend each day wondering what will go wrong on this day. Through all the wondering, still, you know that the next day will be worse than the previous one. You see the people you love moving on with their lives and realize that you have nothing in which to look forward. There is only the knowledge that you will never hear his laugh or feel his touch again. That is a hard pill to swallow.
Your face almost becomes plastic as you attempt to smile continuously, not because you are happy, but to comfort others. Yes, it comforts them. The tears make people uncomfortable. You begin to pray for lightning to strike you or never to awaken again. You have to do this in silence though because if you express the intensity of your sadness, people will undoubtedly discuss having you committed. No one wants to be committed against his or her will.
After the first year, the numbness begins to wear off and everything gets worse. The realization that he is never coming home begins to sink into your heart. The knowledge that no one will ever love you in the way that he did tears at your soul. Knowing that you will never again share a kiss or make love just makes you want to claw your way through the wall. Sometimes, you just cry instead.
During the first year, people are generally patient with you. As time goes on, they begin to lose their patience. People will ignore you and you may encounter those who berate you for grieving. One person ended his friendship with me because of my grief. It is difficult enough to exist with the knowledge that you will never again see the love of your life; it becomes even more difficult to know that people will abandon you unless you manage to laugh all the time. Oh, you will wear that familiar façade of the bereaved and try to make jokes even while your heart is breaking. You may even find yourself trying to laugh and struggle to hide your tears. Eventually, the façade begins to crack.
Every day, you slip a little deeper into an abyss of grief. Routine may become a savior. Get up. Get dressed. Go to work. Go home. Go to bed. Just those simple things are exhausting but they are a tie to some kind of normalcy. I spend the weekends poring through photo albums and journals, trying to pretend that I still have a life as half a person. I would not recommend that. It does not work. You risk staining the photos with your teardrops and coming perilously close to joining your other half quickly.
You cannot learn to be a widow; it just happens. You wake up alone, knowing that this is now your life. It does not hit you as a brick might; it hits you slowly like a gentle rain and gradually increases in intensity until your feel as though a storm of softball-sized hailstones are pounding you. As hard as you try, there is no escape from the pounding hailstones.

©2012 Relinda R.

Success


Man has long pondered the definition of success. What does it mean? Can an understanding of success only exist in a concrete sense of the word? Our current society overwhelmingly defines success by monetary standards. On the one hand, we judge a man by his wealth or his annual income, but on the other hand, we are quick to scream our praise for the greatest philanthropist in our history, Jesus Christ. Based on what we know about Jesus, it is safe to assume that he was not a wealthy man nor did he say that accumulating wealth and material items should be a goal in our existence. We are instructed to live our lives by the example Jesus set, so why is wealth such an important aspect of our existence.

For much of my life, I thought the definition of success was to acquire prestigious employment and accumulate vast fortune. I have since learned otherwise. Society’s standards cannot define success; each individual based on his or her own code of ethics must define it. I have reached a point in my life in which I understand that if I can gaze into a mirror at night and know that I helped one person during that day, I am successful. I will never be wealthy nor will I ever be famous, but I will be successful. I will be successful because I measure the meaning of the term by humanitarian standards, not by monetary ones.

Our world has become consumed by a “dog eat dog” mentality. If we could stand upon the highest mountaintop in the world and see the whole world at once, what would we realize? We would realize that we are hypocritical in our efforts to uphold our claims to Christianity. Depositing vast amounts of money into my own bank account does little to paint myself as a follower of Jesus Christ. By societal standards, I may be considered successful if my income exceeds the six-figure mark, but by philanthropic standards, not so much. We are a greedy society. Our efforts to accumulate wealth and material possessions outweigh our desire to help others. It is the way of our world.

You may be thinking that only a poor person would write such rubbish. Perhaps, but I implore you to ask yourself what you think success is. Be honest. I do not think the answer exists in a simple black and white form. There is much gray. I was fortunate to love a man with all my heart and to have that love reciprocated. We were not wealthy in a monetary sense, but we were successful beyond imagination because our love knew no limits. We helped each other to reach for our dreams and that makes us successful. We were wealthy in love. We were successful!

 

©2012 Relinda R.

Within


Today, I searched my mind for some remnant of Hope. I found him in a corner of my mind, cowering and alone. I asked him what he was so afraid of and he replied, “Annihilation.”      

I just read a beautiful story about life lessons and watching a lake freeze. A dear friend wrote the story about a moving moment in his life. To say that the story brought tears to my eyes would lessen its value. In reality, the story moved me to heart-wrenching sobs that I occasionally experience. His story inspires me to reach within and search for my own special moments.  I have not been writing much lately because I am beginning to sound like a Gertrude Stein piece—repetition, repetition, and more repetition. I am literally drowning in self-pity and grief, and I am finding it very difficult to express any happiness in my writing.

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     I see so many posts about letting go of the past or admonishment for whining about one’s plight in life.  I even saw a couple of posts declaring that you will burn in hell if you fail to forward a message about loving God, so I try to carefully measure the validity of each post I see. I do not claim to know the mind of God, but I am almost certain that His concern does not center on which posts you forward.

I want to believe that everyone around me knows better how to “let it go” than I, but considering few people with whom I am acquainted have faced losing the love of his or her life to death, I am going to have to go with my gut on this one. I think that in my own situation, the only way that I can continue to function is by delving into and embracing the past. I have many years of memories with the man I love buried in my heart, mind and soul. Perhaps through searching within, I can find a way to cope with my grief.

That deadly roller-coaster ride that has consumed the last few years of my life began again today. Today is the 33-month anniversary of the last day I heard him say, “I love you.” To some, that may seem such a trivial thing, but let me assure you that never hearing the words, “I love you” is a difficult concept to face. It makes you feel as though a world of darkness envelops you while you stumble around to search for light. “Whiny?” Perhaps, but when you trip in the darkness repeatedly and know that you will never find light, you tend to become bitter.

When people say, “You have to let go of the past to move forward,” I always questioned it. I do not think that we ever really let it go. Our past is a force that determines our future. Our history is the story of us. History teaches us lessons. We never completely let go of our past; we carry it along for the ride. Normally, I advise people to learn from their past, but not to let it consume them. I do not think that is the right advice for me. I think I need to concentrate on those special “moments” I shared with my love in order to find peace.

     Ironically, many years ago I experienced one of my vivid dreams in which I kept pointing out a book cover to my brother. I was adamant about showing him the book title, but I had to squint to read it. I was somewhere in that twilight land hovering between sleep and wakefulness when I saw the title. It said, “The Intruder Within.” I was the author. My husband was not in the dream. I also knew the year in which this was happening; it is in the future. I later told my husband that I thought the dream signified that I would indeed write. At the time, I did not realize why my husband was not present in the dream or that I would meet the intruder several years later. Its name—“Grief.”

Searching for and chronicling those moments of happiness may be the force necessary to expel the intruder from within my soul. I do not want to write like Gertrude Stein and unfortunately, the repetition of self-pity is gaining a strong foothold in anything I write. Thank you to my dear friend, Michael, for reminding me that those little moments are what really matters. I remembered a moment from my own twilight sleep that may turn out to be my source of salvation in this lifetime.

©2012 Relinda R.