Archives

Learning to Live Again


Catchy title. Catchy, but I find myself struggling to learn how to live again. I wake up every day, I go to work, and I sleep at night. All the routine motions of living continue, but my heart beats differently and my mind thinks differently. Basically, I am a different person now. The things around which my life once revolved have drifted to the farthest recesses of my mind. For the last eight-and-a-half years, I haven’t permitted myself the leisure of thinking too much. I should’ve followed the advice I read in hundreds of articles about grieving; I should’ve been easier on myself and given myself the time to heal. I didn’t. Instead, I pushed forward while focusing on a promise I made and spent too much time worrying about how my grief affected others. I regret that. I don’t imagine there is a “proper” way to heal, but after so many years, I believe that worrying about what others think should be at the very bottom of the list, if at all.

My lack of foresight results in unexpected and abrupt flashes now. A couple of weeks ago, I was washing some dishes and gazing out the window and in an abrupt and unexpected moment, my mind recalled a distant memory. There he was, mowing the hill where I was gazing. I smiled. Then, I wanted to cry. I don’t allow myself to cry, so it took a lot of strength to hold back tears. I suppose the memory popped into my mind because I was thinking that the grass is growing and I need to start mowing. I suppose the memory popped into my mind because he is never far from my mind. I suppose that instead of analyzing the mechanics of what prompted a memory, I should try focusing on my instant reaction to it, which was a fleeting smile. The smile was not one of those manufactured smiles that widows practice in order to appease onlookers; the smile was sincere and without thought.

These glimpses into the past are coming more frequently now. This morning, I was sitting under my dining room table, cleaning the parts I seldom find time to scrub and I saw Star Puppy Ruth with his paws draping the table legs. We lost our beloved Star Puppy six months before Doyle joined him. Again, I smiled. Star Puppy Ruth was almost a permanent fixture under Doyle’s legs. That was Doyle’s favorite place to sit at the dining room table and Star Puppy was always right there. Sometimes, I had to slide that 60-pound puppy across the floor while I tried to clean. Sometimes, I scolded him. Sometimes, I laughed at him and rubbed his belly while telling him what a big baby he was. The memory of him was completely unexpected. It just popped into my mind, much like the mowing incident. This time, I didn’t analyze it; I just soaked it all in. This time, I didn’t fight the tear that came to my eye.

Perhaps these abrupt and unexpected flashes of the past are the stepping stones to learning to live again. I don’t claim to know the answers. All I know is that the motions I’ve been making that resemble some semblance of normalcy do not represent living.

I recently shared an old piece of writing and a few friends asked me to continue writing. I’m giving it a shot. I started writing because I thought it would help me heal faster, but I learned healing is not something that can be controlled. I stopped writing because I wasn’t healing. Healing from grief is not like healing from a physical wound. The heart, once broken, has to learn its own path to healing. There is not a pattern and there is definitely not a specific timeline. Each person and situation is unique. I can’t follow one person’s advice any more than I can follow one widow’s advice; I have to follow my heart.

I’m going to take my friends’ requests to heart and try writing again. It helps me to know that a few people actually enjoy reading what I write, and who knows, I may find that writing will help me learn to live again. This time, I won’t write with any expectations or intentions. I’ll just let my heart express what it needs to express. If it does lead to living again, then I’ll know it’s time. For now, I plan to treasure the memories of happiness that pop into my mind.

©2018 Relinda R.

Advertisements

Life is What You Make It


 

I call myself a writer, but I haven’t written anything (other than syllabi, course proposals, and research material) in a long time. I am taking this brief respite from work to write something personal. Oh sure, it happens to be the first day of a new year, so you’re probably thinking, “It’s just that ‘new year, new me’ bullshit,” but it’s more than that. It’s a story of a widow stepping out of the fog and looking for the sun for the first time in seven years. Yes, the first day of a new year is a good time to start anew, but this is something I’ve needed to do for some time. I’ve been lost in a fog of grief for the last seven years and I’m ready to walk out of the fog and resume living. I’m ready to experience life. I’m ready to meet the new me.

I was 42 years old when I enrolled at college, 44 when I proudly accepted my first degree, 47 when I earned a B.S. degree, and almost 50 when I earned an M.A. I was still working on the Associate’s degree when I lost my husband to cancer. To say that it changed my life would be an understatement. His death changed everything. I promised him that I would finish my education and I wasn’t about to let him down, but that promise became my driving force to keep going. My mom was able to see me accept a B.S., but sadly, she passed away before I presented my Master’s thesis. Oddly enough, I know both my husband and my mom were with me the whole way and had the best seats in the house during commencement ceremonies. I did all that, but I still wasn’t sure who I was without my husband by my side.

During the last seven years, I earned three degrees and did it during the most difficult and loneliest period of my life. I never claimed that I did it alone; I had family and friends, but I often felt alone. In 2008, before my husband died, I remember telling people that life is what you make it. I forgot that after his death. I believed that my life was some plot from a real nightmare. While I was lost in that fog of grief, I forgot that my life was exactly what I made it.

During the last seven years, I went from earning minimum wage in a bookstore to becoming a Director at a college. I’ve had opportunities to present at conferences and lead different activities. I met many different people and made new friends. And I did all that while stumbling through in a thick fog of despair that many of us know so well. Knowing that, I wonder what I can achieve with the sun shining and the fog lifted.

After seven years, I still wake during the night reaching for him; I still pick up my phone to call him when something happens; and I still miss him. It still hurts. The loneliness and longing for human touch is still sometimes overwhelming, but the pain has lessened. Life does go on. I’ve always been independent and confident, but when I lost him, I lost myself too. I started worrying that I didn’t have anyone to help me with things. I remembered that I could do so much on my own. Sure, it is difficult, but it can be done. Life is what you make it.

Realistically, I know that when you love someone-you never completely overcome grief. However, I also know that life continues. Your world ends, but the world around you continues moving forward. Some describe the time after a loved one’s death as a “limbo.” That is a good description of widowhood. It’s as though you are suspended in time and unsure of whether you want to continue living. Fortunately, most do continue living.

I am tired of living in limbo. I am ready to step out of the fog and get to know the person I’ve become. I am an intelligent person. I know there will still be rough moments and difficult times, but I also know there are still smiles to share and memories to make. I’ve accomplished a lot during the last seven years, while consumed in a fog of despair so thick I thought I’d never escape. I can only imagine what I can accomplish without the fog and constant darkness that consumed me. It’s nice to have a partner to share life with, but it can still be meaningful, even when you’re alone. I’ll always love you, Doyle. It’s time to start a new chapter on my own. We made a great life together. Now, it’s time for me to make a life on my own. Life is what you make it.

Relinda

Autumn and Spring


autumntear

I was leaves floating on the wind,
Reds, greens, and yellows floating gracefully,
Joining in that annual farewell dance.
I was cool, brisk mornings, foreshadowing
Cold winter days to come
And kissing the carefree summer nights goodbye.
You were the bright colors bursting forth
After the winter killed the fathers and mothers
That left their seeds in the rich, fertile earth.
You were the warm March breeze
Foreshadowing the carefree summer nights to come.
When you and I would kiss happiness goodbye.
How could you and I ever stay together
With winter always keeping us apart?
How I long to stay afloat on the air with you
Where seasons never end
And happiness forever embraces us.
Just to kiss you again.
©2014 Relinda R.


 

Today I played a game of make-believe, much as I did during childhood. I think it is something we all do at some point. Perhaps not when we are nearing fifty, but at some point in life—we play the game either to escape reality or simply to enhance reality. Every month I sink into a pit of self-pity around the fourteenth through the twenty-second. For me, they are dates signifying the end of happiness, future, and the beginning of loss. I steel myself to those days each month until it culminates into the inevitable annual anniversary of my love’s death. Those days are the darkest—December 14 through Christmas—my days of darkness—a “Long December.” But in my December, “there’s [no] reason to believe . . . this year will be better than the last” (Vickrey, et al. ~Counting Crows~).

My game of make-believe did not include princess tiaras or dress-up, but rather pretending that he sat in his usual spot while I stood in front of the oven stirring soup. I turned toward his chair talking to the air as though he were sitting there. Perhaps he was because I could see his smile. We laughed. Our conversation lasted only for a moment, and then I sank to the floor as I realized it was not real—it was only make-believe. He will never sit in his chair again. I will never hear his laughter again. I will never see his smile again. We will never be together again. All those thoughts hit me with full force. I stayed on my knees with my head in my hands sobbing.

widow

 

© Relinda R.

from Shades of Grief


 

I spent the first forty-four years of my life wearing blinders. I sympathized with others, but I lacked the insight into what true loss means. His death brought me to a new level of understanding, one that devastated me. . . but it gave me new eyes, a new perception, and a new awareness. I could see not only into their eyes, but also into their souls. I could feel their pain and I wondered had he cried so hard and for so long that he forgot to breathe and nearly suffocated under the weight of the enormous pain. I wondered whether she had cried so much that the seemingly endless well of tears had an end indeed. I wondered if she curled into a ball gasping for air while her hands grasped for some invisible thread of hope. I looked into hundreds of sets of eyes, feeling their souls . . . just wondering if they cried so hard and for so long that they realized they could stop smiling. I wondered whether their smiles were weapons they wielded like swords. I wondered when they would surrender their weapons. I just wondered . . .

Image

 

©2012 Relinda

The Book…Your Book…


Each moment of life is an eloquent word written in a paragraph. Those paragraphs are created from each day of experiences filled with laughter and tears. Each year, another chapter is complete. It is my wish that each of your pages contain laughter. It is my wish that you never have to wear a smile as armor. It is my wish that you never have to hurt alone. None of us knows how many chapters our book will hold, but it is my wish that as you write the concluding chapter of yours, you will smile and say, “I have loved with all my heart and I am truly loved for my heart.”

©2011 Relinda R.Image