About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Closer to the Saddle, I Think

Progress, not perfection. What a great little nugget this is. So simple, profound, yet so easy to dismiss. I dislike being so hard on myself.  I think it's getting in the way of my healing. Perfectionism causes me to judge myself without care, without compassion.  I worry that I'm not grieving *correctly* or quickly enough. I often feel guilty for having a good day, or having fun.

But mostly, I worry that I'm just being emotionally or physically lazy during this time.  But I'm keeping going, and beginning to add things back in to my life.

One day, it's the garden; another it's cooking dinner or cleaning the bathroom. Yes. This is how slow-going  it is. It is possible, though, that my reluctance to jump back in too quickly has prevented me from feeling better. I walk a very fine line, and it's often confusing. Treat myself gently...Get back on the horse! Some days I negotiate all right, while others feel like an utter shipwreck. The pendulum swings, still, but not as widely.

Anyway, what I mean is that my desire and worry to do all things correctly ties me up in knots and paralyzes even my thinking process. So when I  have moments of "normalcy,"  I move like lightning, making plans, appointments, cooking, filing...living at warp speed to catch up from and/or to anticipate the next time my heart cracks and I am suspended in sadness.   This may sound like bi-polar disorder, but as I've said before, grief is kind of like that. In my high powered moments I've made too many plans and not followed through by writing them in my diary/calendar. I've missed a couple of appointments with the physical therapist--not something I would choose to miss--and have also started to resent certain commitments I've made. THIS I must work through.

I'm trying to live at normal speed, and I'm not quite ready to do it. Yet.

Just recently I tackled a demon of fear...getting back into singing. I've taken several months off with the exception of one song at a concert and singing at a friend's funeral. This is not singing. Not even maintenance. I'm talking about getting back in shape, as a runner would. The only person I would call, who is also the most judgmental, is my voice teacher of 17 years, L.  I started and finished my doctorate under her guidance, and I learned a lot more than just singing. She is really my role model in many ways.  A survivor of cancer, a brilliant mind, a ladylike exterior with the soul of a sailor, and an analytical ear beyond the realm of excellent. Singing for her after a hiatus is a frightening prospect. I stared our first lesson with , "I don't know what's going to come out." Her answer was, "Well, let's see then." And off we went for about 90 minutes of technical exercises. I committed , walked the line of trying to "listen" to what I was doing (never an efficient idea).  L is one of the few people in my life to whom I can give myself fully. As if I place my voice, in my hands, like a beautiful flower, and hand it to her. She knows just the right vase, just the right sunlight, and just the right amount of water. And then knows where to put it. She hasn't always said she liked the flower, but is willing to look at it for a while  She cannot hurt my feelings because I trust her appreciation, her judgment so completely.  There is no one else in my world that holds this honor.  So I brought my rep to her, prepared and ready to work. And i found I was capable of working. Capable of working and  processing information. NO SHIT!!!  This was a real shot in the arm for me. My heart opened up like a lotus flower, floating on a sea of kindness, L knows me, the different and difficult journeys I've taken, and luckily has never called me a complainer. Sometimes she loses patience with my lack of self-esteem. Can  you tell how much I value L in my life? Especially now, that my parents are gone.   To be honest, we three are a little family, but have only talked about it once in 17 years. L was pregnant around the time I was born, and she lost the baby. She and her husband G, were not able to have any more children.  For many years.....until I came along, there were special students, friendships and the like. One visit, about five years ago L and G told me their story about the baby and that she was a girl, near the time i was born (once they realized when I was born).  The call me their celestial child, but they don't talk about it any more. To know I am in their hearts as a child of sorts makes me very, very special. Especially now. And so I go to them for lessons....I spent two weeks with them back in March during my Odyssey, but never sang a note.  I listened to other lessons L was teaching, making notes for our kibbutz at the end, but I could not muster any strength to sing.

SO here I was, back in DC, four months later, for lessons, and coaching with a pianist. With  a purpose: presenting this recital program in several cities but needing to shop it out some more.  L gives me a realistic view of who I am when I cannot see it. I know she knows this, and she knows I am in need of this, particularly now. She inspired me to re -start my daily regimen of practicing, a good half hour a day. I am happy to do this, even though I know it will not be perfect. ( I send them cards around mother's and father's day, but never that specific)

Flying back to my home state, the one that has nothing I want, I took some well-needed naps, clear and unaffected naps. I arrived at my doorstep with a few hours to spare before meeting some girlfriend/students for the midnight premiere of the Twilight Saga's Eclipse. I pushed myself to go, when Id rather have had my jammies, no contacts, no artifice of teacher/student propriety. I Awkwardly joined the crew near 11pm, ad they were so gracious. I just felt out of whack from the day ,the experience, being 45 with a bunch of 20 somethings...it was a lot of fun, I remember telling my father about the premiere we attended back last time in November, and of course he thought I was nuts,,,but he smiled, like he got it. That was cool. L nd G do not get it . They are old school...people my age, in my profession do *not* hang out with their students, do not have multiple tattoos and use the word "Dude."  I baffle them as much as I endear myself to them, I am fortunate. There isn't a word that I know that describes our affection for each other. Adoration? Love? Hmmm Yes, but they mercilessly kick my ass about the "courage" tattoo on my wrist, the color choice of my hair. They haven't yet seen the flowers at the base of my spine-the flowers on my parents' gravestone.

Goooood visit. L said, as I was leaving, "Please come back, any time.' She rarely says things like that. A woman of few but meaningful compliments.

Back at home for two days, I now regrouped for most today, getting the airplane rides out of my body in preparation for two more flights  in another day.  About a month ago, on an energetic day, a friend contacted me, hoping I was going to this Conference in Salt Lake over the 4th...she plied me with compliments about my fun personality, and I realized that it was time to get back into my field as my sabbatical winds down. FINE FINE I'll go. Honestly my initial thought was "Yes! It's perfect timing." Now with only two days to turn everything around, I find the speed of this is too much for me. I worry about what to wear, especially heels, because I am mortally sick of "OH, my gosh you're so tiny." One day I will respond with a roundhouse punch to a bitch's face. Or at least a slap in the face. "OH, I had no idea your ASS was so big." You know. I will have my beautiful friend with me and she makes me feel beautiful, too. This conference is going to be about what interests me, and how many people i can meet that I like, increasing my networks of colleagues. I am shy about this, but my friend S has a knack.

So it seems that I am back in the saddle, but it feels a little hectic, a little disorganized. I hope my little mare is kind to me. My lists just have to be in large font. I can do it I dread the 'nice to meet you''chitchat....I am out of a few key inclusions this year...Do I have family? Yes,  a sister and an aunt.  I need to have a comeback to shut people down without being rude or uncomfortable. Maybe I'll sound mysterious...ooooooOOOOOooooooooooohhhh. Find humor where I can . Stick to the happy stuff.
Talk a LOT of shop with people who can. Enjoy some good food, hopefully at least one dinner in my jammies while watching fun TV>

Then pack it up sneak out, and fly home. Details to follow.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Griefmobile

Hey, my friends, I made it.  Yesterday was Father's Day, (and I know, it's a Hallmark Holiday), and I made it with the help of friends, feojoada, and the World Cup. My friends and I have been gathering, as we're able, at K's house for the games that are played every day. There are three games; one at 6.30am, one at 9am, and one at 1.30pm.  The structure of this has been very, very good for me. It gives me something to look forward to, plan for.  Please don't misread this: usually I love my carefree summers, and I am hugely grateful for them. This summer, though, I've been hiding out a lot, and the World Cup has brought me out of the cave. It's a month-long "festival" of foods, friends, and fun. We have eaten incredibly well, and frankly, this has helped re-invigorate my appetite.  It's also helped me learn better how to "just be" with friends, rather than my usual modus operandi--which is to gauge the situation and create my "fitting in" persona. (I'm tellin' ya, I've wasted a lot of my life trying to fit in.)

Yesterday came on the heels of a fun day, a wedding. I rode to the wedding with two friends (my husband was playing at the reception, so he drove separately), and again, felt easy going. These guys are very dear to me, and funny as hell. At the reception, my husband snapped a picture of us; a visible confirmation that our lightheartedness is returning. A nagging headache put a bit of a damper on the day, but all in all, weddings are so life-affirming, how can one *not* have a good day?

The feojoada on Sunday was fabulous. Brasil was playing (one of the favorites to win the Cup), and my friend K was cooking.  Feojoada is a Brasilian stew with all kinds of smoked meat, beans, and greens. God, it was good.  We were all there early (9am) to watch the Azzuri (Forza Italia) and then for Brasil. A friend asked me how I was doing. I answered honestly, that I was okay. She had just returned from a family gathering--her grandmother had just passed away--and I wanted to know how she was.   Her grandmother was 101! As my friend put it, "she had a good run."

This got me thinking of my parents; I would never see them old, never have to contemplate nursing facilities, not be part of the generation between children and elderly parents. Not that I have children.  I guess that's the upside (?) of losing my parents when they were in their sixties.

So, I did make it through the games, and needed to hit the supermarket to get supplies for my contribution--tortas de patatas for the Spain game.  I was fine until I hit the pudding aisle. My father used to make this concoction called Icebox Cake, which is layers of graham crackers, chocolate pudding, vanilla pudding, butterscotch pudding, and sometimes sliced bananas.  I LOST it in the pudding aisle. My father would never make Icebox Cake again. What other things are dying along with him? How can I remember them all? Should I start making lists, writing down stories, collecting memorabilia? What am I forgetting?

Completely overwhelmed, I was bawling at the store, and called my husband. Once I got home, I sobbed. My lovely and patient husband encouraged me to let it out. He asked if there was anything he could do. My response was like that of a young child: "I just want him back!" And I kept crying.

And, scene.

I'm still on The Griefmobile.

Halfway through the first year. Seems impossible. Everything feels raw still, new, sad, confusing. I can still hear my Dad's voice and see his face in my head. I keep his watch, which is still ticking, next to my bed, and I put it on last night. I am fearing the day it stops ticking. I am afraid. It was working while he was still alive, all through the chemotherapy, the radiation, the morphine, the oxygen, the ativan, the hospital. His funeral; he was wearing it in his casket. It was ticking after his heart was not. I'm afraid of how I'll feel when his watch stops. I look at it at least twice a day, to make sure it's still working.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Coming up on another First

Father's Day is the day after tomorrow. The world is barraged with advertisements and images of dads; dads and their children; dads and their time off, cards and gifts for dads; dads and their kids playing in the park near my house.  Honestly, I couldn't even go to the card section of the local Hallmark store to get a father's day card for my lovely father-in-law.  Too hard.  I made one, which I think is nice, and sent it to him from k and I.

The past week has been a good diversion; the World Cup games are on, and I watch up to three games a day. Summer break creates this possibility~ thank god for summers off. But I genuinely cheer for certain teams, gather with friends for delicious food themed on the days games....this is healthy living~live is moving on, I know, and I've been happily wrapped up in it. The Financial Advisor  X has apparently been away at a conference, so I was not bothered by their shenanigans. The real estate agent was having a slow week, so I have to contemplate some tree work at dad's house...but I could let the soccer and friends distract me, and pull me back into the present moment.

I am very nervous about Father's Day. I think of all the ways in which he was my father. In every way. I am full of heartfelt gratitude for all the ways in which he was part of my life. I know people who did not have dads like mine. Our  nurse-practitioner at the hospital was "adopted" by my dad over the two years he was a patient at the Cancer Center. My "adopted" sister is  very, very dear to me. We know we'd be friends outside of The Situation, so we are gingerly stepping toward this friendship. A friendship where we have already shared major personal details, had very soulful talks...but we have to work "normal" into this relationship. Hey, if my father "adopted' her, that's good enough for me. I need her in my life. She is full of positive energy, she radiates compassion, and she is funny.

I am stuck, as always , 1500 miles from my home, and now from their graves I have to figure out how to pay my love and respect to my parents from a distance. You know, to walk to the graves with flowers or stones, spend a few minutes in quiet, and go.  Me, I drag the feelings of guilt around with me all day because I can't get there to pay my respects in the way  I wish. So I've gotta come up with something else, because I don't want to be a mess all day.  I know...when we plan, the Universe laughs....I don't konw.  Soccer will be on, good fun games. good food, good friends. Something he would do himself.
It is not the way  I'd choose to celebrate Father's Day~ I used to send a couple of cards, sometimes flowers, and talk to him on the phone, or let him talk to me if he'd had a bad week.

When he died I found all the cards I'd sent him. All of them. Twice a week for two years, I sent my father cards. Sometimes with little notes, sometimes with our signatures and a (((hug))) and xxxxooooo

I knew he liked them, but when I found them after he died, my heart swelled that I had been able to do something positive from far away. After some though, I chose not to keep those cards; their purpose had been accomplished.  I wanted him to know as often as possible, how much I admired his strength, and that I loved him for this and  whole lot more.  The lid came off my feelings,  and I gave them out without fear of recrimination. It felt glorious to be so generous, especially when the receiver's arms were wide open.

I am missing this purpose in my life now. I loved sending my love to someone. My dad was especially sentimental. I don't have anyone in my life like that now. A part of my has shut down, at least temporarily. Dad was able to take in all the love and respect I had for him.  I haven't met anyone else like him. Maybe the terminal process created more space in him for love. I don't have children, but I have all this love ....so he got it.  My husband, K,  doesn't value this kind of effusion. So now, I guess, these feelings are transmuted into grief, crying, and feeling very lonely, as if there's no one I can give these things to. So they well up within me and spill out.

Tomorrow I am going to a lovely summer outdoor wedding. I have no idea how I will respond.  I'll try to accept whatever happens to me, covered in waterproof makeup, naturally. For this event, I am focusing on organizing the perfect outfit. This also distracts me.

Doing my best during a really hard time. Yoga is getting me to breath, and keep my body strong. I am still working on the other stuff.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The World's Best Sandwich

As I am writing this, I am listening to my husband laughing in the other room. It's a wonderful sound. It makes me smile. I just popped into the kitchen to see what was making him laugh: Groucho Marx. He doesn't make me laugh, but that's okay; I like anything that makes K laugh. He has a most joyful sound; his easy, sunny personality is in that sound. 

I did a lot of happy things this weekend. I somehow took the weekend off from grief. K and I found a super deal at a four star hotel in the city, and went down with friends to celebrate a couple of things: my friend KT's birthday and the next morning, the World Cup game between USA and England.  I grew up in a soccer family, and though we didn't watch soccer much on television, we played from the time we were kids and throughout high school. Of all sports, I love soccer. I can't say that about any other.

Friday started out in a misty rain and with a funeral. I put on the dress I wore to my father's memorial service, warmed up my voice, and picked up a friend (who was also playing). Our mutual friend's funeral was designed to be a celebration of her personality and her extraordinary life. It *was*, too. In her 89 years, this lovely lady gathered people to her--she was vivacious, funny, educated, cultured, and one of those people everybody liked.  While the knowledge of her passing made me sad, I was honored to be mentioned in her funeral plans--she had asked that I sing. I also felt fortunate to meet members of my friend's family--women about whom she always referred with such love and generosity of spirit. 

In what felt a healthy fashion, after M's service, I went home, changed clothes, and met more friends. I have been officially stricken with World Cup Fever. It happens every time, but I've glommed on to this year's with a particular fervor. Our close circle of friends is celebrating this month of three games a day with themed menus. This is why we were at an English Pub in the city for the USA v England game--while British food is not fab, being at a pub for a soccer match is THE place to enjoy the fullest flavor of it all.

Our month long extravaganza is just beginning. I am loving the diversion from the heaviness of grief. Tomorrow's third game, the 1.30 game, will be bittersweet: it's Forza Italia, and it's one of the days I've chosen to cook for the crew. I decided NOT to cook, really, but to make sandwiches. The sandwiches my father used to make us when we were kids! Being Italian is a wonderful thing. Family, food, soccer....yeah.  My dad would usually make these sandwiches on Saturday afternoons for lunch, after the weekly trip to the grocery store. And I'm sharing this memory with my friends, among the many memories that pop up now, since he passed away. These memories are still painful, but I find myself being willing to mention them, and with each, it feels easier.   So when Italy plays tomorrow, we will be eating these sandwiches, and here's how to put them together:

Loaf of freshly baked Italian bread (baguettes will do, too) split lengthwise
olive oil and red wine vinegar
dried oregano
garlic powder
sliced tomatoes
fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade style
thinly sliced ham, genoa salami, bologna
chunk of sharp provalone cheese, sliced as you like it

Best. Sandwich. Ever.

As I said, I love my husband's laugh. I heard my own laugh this weekend, more than usual.  I also heard my dad's laugh in my head, and the way he always said, "Hi!" when I called him on the phone. 

Part of me is tired of grieving, but I know I'm not done yet. It's a deep grief. A soul grief. But I know it is beginning to feel manageable, just in time for me to step up some travels -- lessons with my longtime teacher and mentor in preparation for gigs this fall, and a national conference in my field (National Association of Teachers of Singing). After returning from those, we gear up to go to my father's house to move some furniture out, clean out the attic, and clean out the garage. I think the time I've spent healing, in the quiet, sleeping, resting, doing yoga has helped me become stronger and ready to do this last part of Dad's house. When it sells, what will be left can be done from a distance.  I can't predict when it will sell, but I'm choosing a time to complete my part. And I feel strong enough to do it, but thank the universe, with K's help.  It's not that I want my father to be gone: Not Ever: but there is a point in this process to which I've come --to want the nuts and bolts to be completed. Then, at least, I won't have the battle between The Executrix and The Bereaved.  I can simply be my dad's daughter, one who is missing him. I struggle with even articulating any of this. My aunt and I have talked a lot about the fear of saying "I want this to be over," because I fear that by saying it, by *feeling* it, that I want my dad to be gone from me, or that I am shirking my duty as the executrix of his estate, or that his belongings are a burden. No. I am not. They are not. What I am saying is that I want this to be simpler, so that I can focus things other than belongings, trappings. Again, this feels harsh, because he worked very hard, so hard to buy the house in which we grew up, worked so hard to save things of value to him, worked so hard to keep meticulous records, photos, tools, clothes...and yet he was not materialistic at all. I am incredibly conflicted about this, as I assume is evident. Is it wrong of me to disperse with his furniture, of whatever my sister and I don't want? Is it wrong NOT to WANT it? Even this strikes fear in my heart. 

I know I am moving along in my grieving because I am no longer blotted out by any of these queries and beginning to really search out how I feel about them. I couldn't even consider them before. They didn't occur to me, really. 

Of course, some of the major facets of my grieving are firmly in place, and in time, I know they'll ease up, too. But I'm neither hurrying nor rushing. My dad meant too much to me.  I haven't yet a concept of my world without him, and I'm not rushing toward that, either. 

Make the sandwiches. You'll LOVE them. And say, "Thanks, Rudy!"  I do <3

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grief makes me feel bipolar, like I'm on a rollercoaster of emotional extremes... PMS on crack. *Not that I do crack*

But, there's an emotional cocktail at work here, inside me, and sorting through it is a little scary and definitely confusing. I've put a lot of myself out here in this blog, so I might as well go All In. I was diagnosed with depression many years ago and have been treated with meds (still am) and the regular talk-therapy type stuff. Generally, this package, in combination with exercise and rest, had gotten me through the tough years of grad school, the stress of taking a job in the middle of nowhere, and managing my relationships.

My mother's progressive, aggressive alcoholism added an element that threw my delicate balance out of whack. Who's born to know what to do, how to handle a parent's alcoholism? Thank goodness for Al-Anon, a group created for friends and family who have alcoholics in their lives. It provides coping strategies and a safe place to discuss fears and worries.  I learned a lot, and added this to my bag of tricks.

When I started flying out east at a moment's notice to see my mother near death in the hospital, my depression kicked in. My fear was out of control. It was hard to balance any kind of happy emotional life. So I self-medicated with wine, late nights, and denial.  This did not do wonders for me. Imagine that. It was the beginning of my own descent.  My mom's death was a relief, and I am sure most of all to her. When we buried her, it was raining. As the priest said his final prayer, there was an unbelievable rainbow that blossomed out of the darkness.  I am SO not kidding. I knew she was at peace, and I started to think I was, too.

Not long after she died, my dad was diagnosed. The night he called, I drank a bottle of scotch.  There ain't no therapy for what I was experiencing, but I can't even imagine how my father must have been feeling. He had to digest the news himself, and then tell his children he was dying.  I was in a fog for weeks as I tried to wrap my head around it. Our relationship was good; we were all finding equilibrium after mom's death; what kind of fucked up Universe delivers a blow like this? Who were we to deserve it?

There are not enough anti-depressants to help with this. I developed generalized anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I was afraid of everything--getting in a car wreck, stalkers,  divorce, being diagnosed with cancer myself.  

So this is the cocktail of which I speak: depression/anxiety/post traumatic stress and grief. Which is which? My meds seem to keep me from killing myself, but not much else.  Meds aren't enough. There *are* no medications for grief. But yet, grief is adding to my depression. What can help me?

I started taking yoga classes almost every day, but I let myself off of most other obligations. I have committed to volunteering one night a week at a place that gives me as much I give. I can do one night a week.

My heart is still taking a beating, but I am beginning to have a new type of rollercoaster experience: some days, some moments, have been really happy, and then something small happens and I crumble. Swing-------> Swing -------> <-------Swing!  There are times that grief makes me feel like a lunatic. I can't predict my responses to things, people...I dislike this immensely. Thank god for Gardetto's. When nothing else makes sense, Gardetto's always make sense. Yes, I am depending on a snack food.  I don't care. I take what I can get.

There are some wonderful things coming up, and I have to dig deep to desire them, but if I can drag myself there the outcome is usually good. This is encouraging. We have trips upcoming, some local, some not, some together, and some solo. I just want to make it through all of them unscathed, but honestly, I doubt I will. There is still scathing to be experienced. I'm accepting this. It's part of my "now" normal. I am easily scathed. I accept this, too.

Tomorrow I am part of honoring the memory of a wonderful woman.  Her papers mentioned she wanted  me to sing at her funeral. Well, I can do that. One thing at a time. This weekend, celebrating a friend's birthday and beginning our World Cup madness.  Not thinking ahead to Father's Day.  Since my dad passed away, every day seems like Father's Day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Today is K's birthday, his 49th!

Yesterday I was in a wash of tears, mourning, uable to clear my sinuses, unable to eat more than Gardettos and Natural Ginger Ale. What got me there...I try to go back and reconstruct or reconstitute my schedule to see where things went awry. It happened somewhere between getting coffee ad Barnes and Noble and the ride back to the house. I began feeling overwhelmed with the amount of things that we feel need to be done at my father's house before the end of the summer, before I'm back to work and cannot get time. My head was swirling with so many details, I just got teary. K dropped me at the house, and he had another errand to run. Once I got into the house, however, tears became weeping, and then full -bodied wailing. Weeping because I didn't know what to do. What to focus on, all alone. My sister is out of the picture. I wrote her a letter, asking her why she doesn't keep in touch, if she understands that I am doing all I can from so far away. That I love her even though she has character flaws--as do we all--and I asked her to think about what a "good sister" is, since she didn't think I was one. I know I'm the best sister I can be from 1500 miles away. I'm willing to share my feelings, listen to hers, and help when ever I could.  I feel catty, when I admit she doesn't send me or my husband birthday cards, christmas cards, or sometimes presents. We send the kids cards once a week to say we love them and miss them. we post pictures of ourselves on my sister's FB page so the kids can see us. I am taking care of the entire estate in all its paperwork, bank accounts, repairs, lawn service, garbage service...this list goes on.

I seem to be capable of all these things, but it takes away from my grieving process. My grieving must be put aside while I am in conference calls with various investors, the cps, the attorney...it's all dollar amounts, account numbers...I have to keep it together by not screaming "It's my dad's money and he's dead! Can we get this down now, so I don't have to keep dredging this up  --it's preventing me from healing.

Tonight was nice.  I got a little dressed up (itty bitty) and wore my favorite rose quartz necklace, which promotes love.  All of our friends were there cheering him on, and he revelled in it. He deserved to feel this lighthearted and free. They are lovely friends that made his birthday special. I tried to rest my neck as much as I could, but bopped along to the music. Karl had a lot of well played solos, and we were all there to hear them. Nice. We're posting pictures on facebook.

So a beautiful evening rose from the ashes of the day. I expect more days like this one. WEll, now I have practice. Good night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Merits of Facebook

I have made yet another leap toward the technological sphere: I created a group on Facebook. Let me say first that I adore FB, privacy issues aside. I have re-connected with friends from long ago; established new friendships with people whom I have since met in person, and use it as a daily connection with local friends. Funnily enough, I really enjoy being "Friends" with many of my students; they are young adults, some now alums with kids, current doctoral students, all over the place. 

Back to my creating a Facebook group. Those of you who read this blog know I am reading The Year of Magical Thinking, a book suggested to me by a couple of friends (who don't know each other).  My friend SPants suggested this to me early on in my grief, or perhaps even before my father passed away. My friend S2 just recently suggested this title. I think it was she who mentioned she'd love to read it again and talk about it. This got me thinking of my eclectic circle of friends in various geographical locations yet all on Facebook...how cool would it be to have a book club with these extraordinary friends, centered on a book with a topic this specific? And so I asked a few questions here and there, and figured out how to do just this. And voila: The Facebook Group: The Year of Magical Thinking was born.  It's dedicated to the reading and discussion of Joan Didion's book focusing on her experience surrounding the death of her husband. It's really a memoir of a very particular time in her life. Well, I think everyone invited has joined and is in the process of securing their copies.  Until everyone gets up and rolling, I would like to start talking about the book's impact on me HERE.  The parallels are kind of scary; it helps to read the horror I am experiencing has been survived by someone else.

To be very nerdy--because that's who I am--Ms. Didion writes "people who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who have seen the same looks on their own faces.." (p 75)  This reminds me specifically of a series of "self portraits" I took while on the road after my father's death.  A (facebook) friend made a cheeky comment under one of them: "Are we becoming a little too fond of one's own face as subject?"  My response: "I'm trying to see if the sadness has left my eyes yet." This was three months after my father had passed away, and NO: the sadness had neither left my eyes nor my face.  Ms Didion goes on to talk about how she felt invisible,  "incorporeal" (p 76); I felt like a jelly fish, a clear jelly fish floating around...somewhere....but not knowing where.

I am almost six months out, and these images, fears, are just starting to fade from my reality. I can eat one meal a day and feel full, I generally know where I am in space, and there are moments one can see joy in my face. It doesn't stick yet, but I'm not hurrying to get over the death of my dad. All of the things I've saved of his are still in my room. I am still not sleeping there. Yet.

As horrifying as Joan Didion's account of her experience is, it is ultimately comforting in a way no other books on death have been.  I am reading her book very, very slowly. Normally a voracious reader, I want to ingest every word, every description I encounter in this most remarkable book. I've probably said things similar to this in previous (Ambien CR) posts.

It's been a quiet weekend here so far. I rely on it to keep a sense of equilibrium. Loud noises, constant talking wear me out. I really snapped at K when he came home from his gig tonight. He started talking non-stop about random, stream of consciousness  things from the moment he walked in the door. After about 45 minutes of this, I lost it and told him to SHUT UP, HONEY!  I couldn't take it.

I need a lot of time alone each day right now.   I don't obsess or worry during this alone time.   I am being.  Calm, quiet, authentic, meditative. All good things. If there are some sadnesses that need expression, than I have the time and mental place to express them. I am honoring myself and my grief in this way.  (I could have asked K  a second or third time before shouting at him. I'd asked him twice before, and didn't cut it out.) He has been surprisingly insensitive during  this process. That's why I get short tempered. Hello: I. need. my. quiet. processing. time. Dammit. How many times must I gently request his sensitivity to this?

Back to Didion's book, I received some wonderful insight about the extremely personal affects of shoes. They were worn often by the one we loved; their foot shapes are pushed into the leather. These were the hardest things to give away for me, and I wept openly  when putting Dad's shoes into the bags going to donation.  Joan Didion's psyche explained it thusly: "If I gave away his shoes, how could he come back?"
Hmmm. This makes sense to me. In the temporary mental disorder our brain becomes, it makes sense that we would want to keep the things he would need when he returned. I keep his watch on my bedstand. I check it every morning and every night.  I wonder how I'll feel when the battery dies. I hope not like another death; it's just a battery, but it's a battery HE put in. That makes it more important somehow.

Well, I wanted to celebrate my little victory in the world a begin a preliminary reaction to sections in Didion's book. I can't wait for my friends to all be ready; I'm sure we'll be on different trajectories and come from different angles...this will make it extraordinary discussion. It will help me process (hooray), because my local friends aren't so into that. they seem to get uncomfortable if ever i mention my father, as if all the air is sucked out of the room. Their deal, not mine.  Well, good night, my friends, and I look forward to our discussions/reviews of things you are reading in The Year of Magical Thinking.
Buona notte. baci ed abracci a tutti

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Something's Coming...

oooooOOOOOOOOOHHHhhhhhhh kay then. Last night's middle of the night posting clearly shows how much I've got going on in my noggin.  It makes me think I've got another wave coming. I think now, after having gone through today, a peaceful day, that something is coming. Something not good. It's my old thinking, thinking I identified in Al-Anon, the group formed for friends and family members of alcoholics. Al-Anon says, among many other wise things, that people raised in alcoholic environments always wait for "the other shoe to drop," because it usually did. So I've got a shoe in my hand, waiting for the other one to drop...don't know when it will, or over what, but something's brewing. These things sometimes wake me in the middle of the night with no name, just a feeling.  My mom's friend Rita was so kind in her email to me this morning, nervous that the mementos of my mother that she sent me had exacerbated my anxiety.

NB to Rita: I haven't been brave enough to open your envelope. It is with my father's things in my bedroom. I am glad to have them,  am glad they're here; I'm just taking my time.

For anyone reading, I did get my tattoo. It's not the first (it's my eighth), and it may not be the last.  I chose the flowers from my parents' gravestone. It's a big tattoo, but I like it. And it is easily covered by every day clothes, so it is really just for me. Like this blog, the tattoo and its design were a calling.

Several friends have mentioned to me Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. More friends commented that they'd like to read it. So I started a Facebook Page by invitation only--kind of like an online book circle. The main point of this is that I--technologically UN-savvy girl--was able to figure out the nuts and bolts of how to do it. Same is true with the blog.  Kind of exciting.  This will be a welcome addition to my grief journey.

Earlier this evening, I was looking at my calendar for tomorrow morning and a shocking thought popped into my head: I should call Dad and see how he's doing. This hasn't happened for a while. My brain hasn't jumped its reality tracks in a couple of months.

The day includes the reality of physical therapy, mailing weekly hello cards to my niece K and nephew T, making airplane reservations and reading something sent by a friend. And wandering. There has to be some wandering or my day isn't complete. After several months of ragged shuffling, it's evolved into a real walking meditation, transcending the schlumping through the mall I did every day to simply to avoid being at home with my father's stuff, our memories, the clutter. Now I walk, or wander, to free my mind, to let it say what it has to say (so it doesn't keep me up at night!). It is not such anguished time anymore. It's true that I do like to stay out of the house part of the day, but I have accepted this as part of my healing.

I guess, tonight, although I still fear the wave, and I believe it will come, I know I am on the right road. I hope tonight there will be no middle of the night spray tanning, or searching for gummy bears. I'd like it to be morning when I open my eyes.

MIddle of the Night Scramble

It's 2.30am, and I've awakened from a brief sleep. Strangely, I decided I needed to work on my faux tan, so I went into the bathroom and misted myself as the cats watched in dumbfounded amazement. I could almost imagine their conversation. "What the hell is SHE doing up this late?" "Why is she spraying that stinky stuff all over her?" "Wait, has she fed us?" Always the food.  Speaking of food, taking Ambien can give you the munchies (LOL). My fave, Gardetto, is on the bedstand just in case. Instead, I went outside to look at the stars. The big dipper was beautifully hung in the western sky. Didn't see any moon, but my neck is so stiff from this physical therapy on crack, I couldn't really look around too easily.

Reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. A beautiful, intelligent memoir that is cutting me to the core. I can read only two or three pages at a time. What she describes reaches me on a deep level. It is my story, in some ways. It answers some of my behaviors in a clarity and honesty that all the "self-help" and professional psychology books have not.  I've been missing my dad; it was at this time last year we were all getting ready to meet for our cruise, the "second vacation of a lifetime." The first was in 2008. I keep seeing Carnival Cruise ads on television, and additional promotions for one of the destinations we hit on the cruise. I panic a little, grab the remote, and change the channel.

Today I heard Reggae music on the radio and my stomach twisted, my eyes watered. My dad loved Reggae music, and on the cruise every day from 12-4 was live Reggae, on deck. At the time I remembered thinking it was the perfect music for the perfect place. Even though I knew my dad was sick, I didn't log in this potential crippling memory.

Contemplating a fitting memorial, I have had a tattoo designed for my back, based on the the gravestone; the flowers and the words "beloved parents." I feel something permanent is necessary. As part of my daily wandering, today I looked at sofas for our tv/media room. I went after yoga and before physical therapy. While I didn't buy one, the mini farmer's market in the store's parking lot had a baker's stall. He makes sourdough bread that is just divine. I shuffled back to my car, carrying the bread, smelling its inviting scent, hoping I'd feel like eating it.

I keep hoping to find things that stimulate my appetite. As I've said in the past: I am in no danger of winnowing away. I just don't want to eat, and I don't want to cook. My poor Karl. The full body pain I"m in now certainly contributes to my lack of desire. Tonight we had a simple green salad with strawberries, chevre, and sauteed chicken breast. That and a ginger beer was a satisfying dinner. This helped shore up the Vicodin I had to take.  Still using ice to its fullest potential and doing twice daily exercises. Just sayin'

Speaking of pain related to grief,  I am learning that fibromyalgia can be triggered by a traumatic event, be it physical or emotional. This makes me feel like a nervous nelly who lives in the Land of Hypochondria----except the pain is excrutiating! I hobbled around today, made it through yoga, and simply kept moving so I wouldn't crash and burn before PT at 2.30pm.

In Didion's book she relays useful studies about grief and physical status, to allay her own fears about what's happening to her after her husband dies suddenly.  The human body can really take a beating as in the animal world: when dolphins lose their mates, they refuse to eat; when geese lose their mate, they honk and fly and leave the formation in search, often getting lot and disoriented. Hellooooooo. Sounds familiar.  While I haven't lost my mate (and I am most grateful), I've lost someone who anchored my entire life from my earliest memories. Didion recalls being called a "cool customer" by various people with whom she interacts at this time; her brain protected her by putting her in a bubble so that she appeared to be fine, able to handle the tasks at hand.  What happened behind the scenes was that she could not read a full sentence, she could not remember what her phone number was. She was afraid to leave her apartment without ID in case she became lost and couldn't remember who she was. These primal, mortal fears are swirling in our brains as we go about the business at hand: planning the funeral, making the phone calls to friends and family, writing the obituary, planning the luncheon after the service. All perfectly organized, rational decisions made with a sense of calm and "coolness." The amount of chaos going on underneath is the size of a supernova exploding within us.

I know within me I have four autoimmune diseases, and adding fibromyalgia, five. They began to emerge in my twenties, as I separated from my parents and every few years, a new one was added on to the previous, until I accumulated a stack of them. I'm working with a rheumatologist to see if they're physiologically connected. I have begun examining from within, to see if they are emotionally connected. Not looking for a blame, but a connection. If it's true that grief can spark fibromyalgia and flare it to near incapacitation, what can other traumas spur?

I try to keep positive, be inspired by simple, beautiful things, but I feel like I can't give back to the people I love. There is a block right now, of pain in the physical body, and pain in the emotional body. Eckhart Tolle has a lot to say about these two pain bodies. Were it not so late I'd check into it.

I wrote my sister a letter yesterday. I shared with her the examination of my feelings and actions toward her that spawned her "I just want you to act like a sister and not be such a bitch." And during this inventory, I found a few things, which I shared, and then said some other truths. Our father was the glue that kept us together. We are very different people, but different does not mean bad. It does not mean we must be antagonist toward one another. I was honest, and said that I often felt her anger toward me just below the surface and could not figure out why. I do what I think sisters do, especially from far away: send cards to say hello to her and the kids, emails and facebook messages to see how she's faring, regular summer visits, little gifts for no reason as well as birthdays and Christmas, and sharing my own feelings about our father's death. After looking at these statements, two questions begged to be asked: 1. What is HER definition of a good sister? 2. Has she examined her own actions, her own behavior with this in mind, and how does she think she's doing?  She'll likely be furious. I told her I valued our differences, I wish we could be closer, but I've done everything I know to do from 1500 miles away. And I told her I loved her.  I promised my father I wouldn't fight with her, and I'm not trying to pick a fight. I'm pulling my last ditch effort with a sibling that seems to want nothing to do with me but everything from me.

That's enough for now. It's now 3.38am, and my heart feels lighter.  Hope I can get back to sleep.
Buona Notte, amici.