Tag Archive | journal

Missing Hugs


During the last several years, I’ve tried to imagine what I miss the most and it’s proven impossible to narrow it down to one simple thing. I miss everything about what my life once was. Today was a hard day, one of those days in which one just wants to crawl back into bed and pretend it was all a bad dream. The moment I was able to think, I imagined what I miss the most. The hugs. Today, I missed the hugs most.

For nearly 20 years, my husband never left the house without kissing and hugging me. Never once. He told me that if anything ever happened, he wanted me to know how much he loved me and he always sealed it with a kiss and a hug. As I drove home, I thought about the way he would’ve been waiting for me or I for him and I tried to imagine how great it would be if he could wrap his arms around me. I tried to imagine how a hug would feel. It’s been many years, but I can still remember. Today, I needed his arms around me more than ever.

couple-love-romantic-silhouette.jpgMy advice to anyone is to treasure the little moments. Savor the unexpected and the expected kisses. Welcome the hugs. Hug every time you get a chance. Make the quick little hugs last as long as possible. Never take either for granted because a day may come in which you never get to experience affection again. Never leave the house without a hug. Tonight, I’ll close my eyes and sleep within a ghost’s embrace. Today, I miss hugs the most.

©2018 Relinda R.

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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.

Pressing Onward in 2017


After announcing my resolve to ‘do better,’ I unfortunately took a few steps backward. Thus far, it’s been a difficult year. It’s about to get better. It will get better because I recognize that despite all the self-sabotage habits I continue, I am a warrior.

I’ve spent a lot of time in reflection. The 18-year-old bridge in that photo still exists somewhere within my soul. Decades have passed and I’ve watched people I love die, but I’ve also watched people I love flourish. My children, who weren’t yet here, have grown to become adults pursuing their own paths and dreams. I had to say goodbye to my mother, my wind beneath my wings, and not a day passes that I don’t wish I could speak to her. I spent most of the last decade grieving the husband I loved dearly, too distraught to see life through the rose-tinted glasses the young girl in the photo donned. It was as though the girl in the photo shed those windows to optimism and died the same day he died.

Despite the grief, I managed to overcome many seemingly insurmountable obstacles in life. I learned that even with all grief consumes, the slightest connection to perseverance prevails. Even with this knowledge, I could see myself gradually slipping into a dark world in which optimism fades into the shadows. Negativity was slowly consuming my soul. I began to experience anger and resentment. When I saw couples holding hands, I felt pangs of envy tug at my heart. I knew the person feeling envy wasn’t me; it couldn’t be what I had become.

Recently, a dear friend said a few words to me that finally pulled me from a dark world filled with only negativity. That friend has no idea how profound seven little words spoken aloud could influence my heart. In that fleeting moment, I could see the direction in which I was moving and I realized how ugly and dark my soul could become. Since then, I’ve reflected on decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said, and even my thoughts. I didn’t like what that reflection revealed. I don’t belong in that world.

My friend will never know that one comment pulled me from darkness, but I’ll know and I’ll always be grateful. None of us knows how much time we have here; all we can do is live our lives and hope that we leave the world a little better than we found it. My friend reminded me how important it is to make helping others an ultimate goal.

My gift is that I love and care about people. I received an important message last week and it is the key to restoring my soul. It is ironic that one of the last things my husband said to me was, “The key is in helping others.” I lost my way for a little while, but I’m finding my way back. Through the chapters of my life, I’ve lost loved ones, as have we all, but I have blessings too. I’m going to remind myself that every day for the rest of my years. I am blessed.

©Relinda R. 2017

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.

No one ever said it would be easy


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I’ve been alone for four-and-a-half years now. Sometimes, I count each year on my fingers and when I get to the half-a-year, I try to figure out a way to represent that with a whole finger. I wonder if I should cut off the finger or just bend the thumb. The thumb seems to be the most flexible on my left hand. I don’t mind the loneliness anymore—truth is that I don’t even feel it anymore. I’ve worked hard to overcome that most primitive human need for companionship, for affection, for love and now I accept the solitude; I even crave it. It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.

During the first year, maybe a little longer, I remained numb. Reality didn’t sink in until I stopped talking to myself. I’ve since resumed talking to myself, my dog, my walls—anything really. I know that the echoes of my horrible voice will simply rise to the ceiling and then crash to the floor. Then I think that is one of the reasons people avoid me—my voice. I was born a girl, and every time I check—I’m still a girl, but my voice sounds like a heavy cable catching on the gears of an elevator. Can you imagine that? A small-framed woman with a booming voice like a faulty elevator cable—ugh. I consider all the nouns used to describe women—princess, angel, chick, babe, diva—and they all have one thing in common—the perfect sound. Stop laughing; they do. Close your eyes, picture each noun, and imagine how they sound when they talk. Heavenly, isn’t it? My husband once told me that was just one of the things that he found attractive about me—my voice. He always thought the raspy voice sounded sexy. He was twitterpated. Without him telling me how much he loved it, it took almost five years to accept my voice with all its deep raspy tones, but I’ve finally realized that it doesn’t matter how I sound; it’s what I have to say that matters. It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.

The second year passed; there was still numbness, but it was like when your foot goes to sleep and the feeling starts to return—you know that weird, tingly feeling, sort of like needles pricking your skin all the way to the bone—it was like that. That was the year I had a breakdown because of a milk jug. Seriously—a milk jug. I was getting a glass of milk; I still drank the two percent then, but switched to skim milk since. There I was with the milk jug in my hand and it hit me—I could drink directly from the jug if I wanted. Just like that—BAM—the realization that I was truly—alone. I dropped the milk jug, spilling milk everywhere and fell to my knees. Remember the voice—yes, well; the hysterical cry is not a pretty thing either. It’s not that I wanted to drink from the jug—I didn’t; I just wanted him there to say, “Relinda, don’t drink from the jug.” He would know if the temptation to do so showed in any way. He was good at that. We were always joking with each other. I called him “ass” and he called me “master ass.” We were good like that—always joking and laughing. I miss that. Missing someone so much that you cry for them in your sleep because you don’t want anyone to see you crying is not easy. People said it would get easier—people lie.

The last two years have been the hardest. I’ve spent most of the last year accepting that he’s not coming back—ever. I’ve also been coming to terms with spending the rest of my life alone. I’m getting better. My new motto is “Alone but Strong.” I am strong. Doyle knew how strong I was; he told me countless times. He was amazed at my physical strength, but more amazed at my emotional strength. I carried dead chickens, thirty pounds in each hand; hauled hay; unloaded a ton of 50-pound bags of cow feed every week; carried 100-pound calves around; turned cows over when they couldn’t do it themselves; and pulled calves, of course, I was strong. I don’t think I can do those things anymore. I survived my children’s terrible twos and terrible teens; fought cancer; watched my Mom fight cancer; survived my son’s crisis; dried everyone else’s tears; never shed my own; and nursed everyone else back to health, of course, I was strong. I don’t know if I can do those things anymore. It was never easy. No one said it would be easy.

On December 19, 2014, I’ll be counting to five. At least I won’t have to contemplate removing a finger. I know I’ll still be alone, but I don’t think that will bother me. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore; I have no desire to do so. He was in the ground for only three days when Christmas came. I buried him on the 22nd, and went to work the next day. Then, I couldn’t go to work for two days because of the stupid holiday. I wanted to work. I wanted to do anything but think. But I was still numb, so mostly I just stared at the wall—holding his shirt—wishing. . It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.

I don’t mind the loneliness anymore—truth is it’s seeped into my soul and become a part of me. I don’t need affection or love anymore either. I have goals that I’ve worked hard to reach and solitude is my friend. I don’t need anyone to make me feel pretty or special anymore. When Doyle was dying, he made me promise that I would finish college and get my degree. He called me his college girl. I can still hear him, “College girl” in his southern drawl. I don’t need anything but to keep that promise. It’s not easy. No one ever said it would be easy.

©~Relinda R.  22 June 2014broken heart

“We Can”


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Recently, a particular cliché about how people should not do things for others seeking reward, but do so because it is the right thing to do continues appearing in my life. Since it keeps popping out at me in one form or another, I consider the cliché as a sign that I should write about. The true test of a pure heart is not whether an individual does something in search of a reward, or even because it is morally right; the true test is whether an individual even considers the consequence of helping another. He or she should not even have time to ponder the situation. While on our life’s journey, upon discovering someone in need of help, we really do not need to wonder whether helping another is a method of self-exaltation or whether helping falls into some category of “right” or “wrong.” We should just jump in to help because we can. I mean, seriously, when you encounter an injured person or animal and you rush to help. . .do you pause for a moment to think, “Hmmm, I wonder if anyone is watching” or “I wonder if God will reward me for this?” I hope no one pauses to consider his or her consequence of aiding someone in need. Perhaps I do exist in a never-never land because I like to imagine that the people in my life never give a second thought to helping someone. There are events in life that do not require any consideration of consequences, and helping others is definitely one such event. It has nothing to do with religion or morality; it has to do with the fact that in the flow of life, we are all on this earth together. Let’s just help each other get through it because we can.

©Relinda R. 2014