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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

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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.

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© 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 . . .

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©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

The Enigmatic Ramblings of a Crazy Woman


     I think each of us goes through life searching for some sense of purpose. We mindlessly follow whatever the dominant paradigm of our generation preaches, whether it is “Stepford” mentality, independence or dispensationalism. We want to stand out as the generation that changed the world, when realistically, we usually follow along and blend. Along with the endless quest for answers to our existence, we search for love. Yes, love. Most of us long for love in some manner. I think solitude may lead to madness. Look at our world; we connect at the touch of a cell phone or click of a mouse. Look at all the available methods to chat and connect via social networking sites, even dating sites. I saw an advertisement for a “Farmer’s dating site.” Really, I did. Someone told me, “Farmers need love too.” I think that is one of the most true and hilarious insights I have ever heard. Farmers are people so why shouldn’t they seek love too. We gather in our cliques and chatter about things that may not matter to our great-grandchildren. Maybe they will get it right. Maybe mainstream bullshit will not sway them. Perhaps flying away to some great yonder will not consume their thoughts and they will concentrate on realizing we each evaluate our own experiences in this life.

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     Perhaps it will be their children who realize that homosexuals are not a threat. I think one of the dumbest things I hear is that homosexual marriage is a threat to the institution of marriage. If two people in love threaten your marriage, then you have a lot more problems. It makes me sad when I hear all the rhetoric regarding homosexuals and how God condemns them. The God I know is more apt to be disappointed in the way everyone picks out biblical verse and twists it to suit his or her purpose. It is as though the part about not judging and loving thy neighbor is less important than the parts where we get to judge and condemn others. In addition, what of all the “chosen” religions. Are we so vain that we believe one religion reigns supreme over another? What if we all go to the same place, regardless of our religion, color or sexual preference. The point is—we do not know, not one of us, not even the crazy dude who yelled, “The end of the world is here.” Live and let live. It is a great concept.

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     A sense of purpose and love are the two major goals of life. Why can’t we all just chill a little and accept that. The movie with that little Haley kid presented a good idea, pay it forward. Do something nice for someone else. Say something nice to a stranger. Hold the door for a stranger. Are those really such difficult concepts to comprehend? Are we so greed-driven and consumed with jealousy that we cannot even take the time to say “good job” or “how are you today?”  The world, our world is not going to change overnight, but let us hope it changes at some point. Let us hope everyone stops listening to people ranting about how we are all going to hell and instead begin listening to our own souls. I went to a church once and listened to the preacher tell a story about a man who had died. The deceased man’s wife asked the preacher to speak at her husband’s funeral service. The preacher began telling how this presented such a dilemma for him because he knew the man was going to hell. How could he, a man of God, say good things about a man who did not attend his church and would go to hell for it? I think my chin fell to the ground.  If there is a hell, I think that preacher will be serving drinks. I left.

©2012 Relinda R.