Stuck

I have come to the conclusion that I am stuck. I have the best intentions to move forward and began by taking one step at a time but now I find myself immobile. I have lists of things to do, drawers to clean, cabinets to sort through and decisions to make but I can’t seem to get off the couch. I can get off the couch to go to yoga, to make a quick stop to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, to meet up for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, but I can’t get off of the couch to tackle my list.

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It seems endless and even sorting through an emotional box of memorabilia doesn’t make a dent. I am completing the unseen cleaning, the insides of things that don’t take up space whether or not I have emptied of the contents. Of course there are drawers a bit too scary to open because I don’t know what I will find that will trigger a flood of tears.

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There are the meaningless items that in theory are easy to dispose of; the last remaining boxes of large size Baggies my mother had bought and we had brought with us when we moved, the boxes of decorative strands of garden lights and the unneeded BBQ items from years of outdoor entertaining.

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There are boxes of camping items, expired batteries, and some games saved from the days we used to play family games. There is a desk filled with office supplies, useful duplicates that most likely can be given away, and endless electronics with their accompanying power cords, speakers and mice that have to be properly recycled at a difficult to find unknown location.

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I am baffled by the 40-year-old collection of tools including drills, a collection of screws, nails, hooks and boxes of cords of all kinds. I don’t know what to do with these things. I have 10 pound and 15 pound hand weights that I will never use (but I’ll keep the 5s and 8s). I’m stuck.

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I’m stuck in the transition of us to me.

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Looking for What I Want

IMG_2108Two years ago I read the book E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality by Pam Grout. I became enthusiastic about conducting the experiments and convinced Gary to join me. I remember the first experiment we tried was to look for a specific color (we choose green), as we went about our day we noticed so many green things, beyond the obvious trees, shrubs and other green in nature, we saw green cars, houses, people’s clothing, street signs and traffic lights. Once we had planted the idea of “green” in our minds it seemed that everything was green. It was a fun game to play and we could substitute other colors, or objects, such as butterflies.

I’ve thought about this a lot since Gary died and I have noticed certain things, considered spiritual signs such as seeing the time on a clock, 11:11 and especially seeing birds.

I live in the hills so seeing birds is not unusual, but what is unusual is the sheer quantity and variety of birds sitting on the telephone wires outside my windows. There are woodpeckers, blue jays, robins, sparrows, finches, hawks, owls, hummingbirds and especially the lone mourning dove that visits daily. Some days I wake up and there is a little bird on the wire looking at me, or I notice a bird sitting on the wire looking in as I walk by the window. The funny thing is that I am compelled to stop what I am doing and go out on the balcony to make “eye contact” with the birds. I feel Gary’s presence.

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Two weeks ago, as I was driving, a blue Honda Pilot pulled up next to me. We had a blue Honda Pilot many years back. It was my favorite car and one I drove for quite a while during one of the happiest periods of my life, of our lives together. It was a time when my daughters were at home, my mom lived with us and we needed a car to seat six so that when we went places together as a family, we could all ride together. I loved that Honda Pilot. Eventually we had to replace it but it remains my favorite car. When the blue Honda Pilot pulled up next to me, I felt Gary’s presence, as if he was riding along with me for just a minute. Now I see Honda Pilots everywhere. Driving up to Monterey two weeks ago they were on the road and this morning as I ran errands between 10:00 and 12:00, I saw 5 Honda Pilots within a 2-mile radius.

Does this mean Gary is watching over me, or trying to communicate through birds and cars? I don’t know, though I feel that he is somehow close. I ask him for signs that he is still near and I ask him to help me move forward, make good choices and be strong enough to deal with this new way of living.

I think the message is “look for what you want to see.” We can travel through life thinking that life is random, and it certainly has random moments and crazy, sucky, horrible things that happen, but we can also start looking for opportunities, opportunities to see beauty, to see people who are kind and leaders who care about creating a positive, hopeful world. We can look for friends who genuinely care about us and for family that wants to stay connected, close and to support each other. We look for what we want to see, and maybe, if we are lucky, we will see our thoughts materialize.

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Filed under change, death, Life thoughts, opportunities

Back to Reality, It’s Normal

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It’s normal.  I am back in my (new) reality.  I woke up with an early to-do list and accomplished three errands before the start of the 11:00 a.m. -2:00 p.m. window allotted for my donation pick-up.  I was so excited to finally be able to donate the 7 bags of clothing (mostly mine) and linens and the 2 boxes and 2 bags of books.  My dining room will be back to “normal.”  The real excitement came from my anticipation of the donation of 2 no longer needed patio sets and a doghouse that was never used by our dog.  I am trying to condense without dealing with anything too emotional…

It’s normal.  The nice guys showed up just after 11:00 a.m. and looked at the patio sets (they are too worn) and the doghouse (we don’t take dog houses).  My dreams were shattered!  I think the steep steps up the side of the house-the only way to get things up to street level, might have had something to do with it, but it could just be that they look worse that I thought they did.  I showed them the bags and boxes, which they quickly took out to the truck.  They gave me my itemized tax receipt and off they went.  It was only after the truck drove off, that I remembered I hadn’t given them the items in the garage!  I totally forgot about it even though I had made a list so I wouldn’t forget.  I forget about the list.

It’s normal.  This is my new reality.  Fleeting thoughts, absent-mindedness, moments of extreme energy followed by the inability to move at all are now my normal.  Looking for distractions and the desire to be anywhere but where I am.  Every book I read says that it is normal, after going through a loss, trauma, when trying to function, to be forgetful, to act in ways other than one’s usual manner, but for someone who has functioned as a pretty organized person for most of her life, this doesn’t really feel comfortable and I crave my old normal.  Meanwhile, I have a 2-drawer file cabinet, 2 used patio sets, some plastic outdoor chairs and a cool doghouse up for grabs!

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Solo

My first solo trip, I am in the Bay, San Francisco and Berkeley to be exact, and I’ll be honest, I am not totally alone, staying with my cousin and visiting my daughter, but I flew here and am navigating the cities myself. I have used Lyft, Uber and BART. What started out, as a scary unknown has become a familiar luxury, and an interesting adventure.

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These amazing sunflowers were taller than me!

 

The Lyft and Uber drivers have been pleasant for the most part and some have been really interesting. I have been able to view the city without worrying about navigating it myself so I have seen amazing architecture, bustling streets, people walking, biking, taking dogs for a stroll and the many homeless people here.

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BART is like a ride at Disneyland complete with the voice announcing incoming trains and the stops along the way. Interacting with the other riders is pleasant and people aren’t afraid to strike up a conversation. It is so different from the solitude car culture of L.A. that I am used to.

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Walking around Berkeley is relaxing and the homes and gardens charming. The climate brings out the best in both vegetables and flowers. The front gardens are sometimes tame but usually haphazard, with a variety of flowers and whimsical decorations. Walking gives me time to think and I don’t distract myself by talking on the phone, or listening to music. I want to hear the world around me and notice everything.

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This first solo trip gave me a lot of anxiety as it was approaching, but I feel like I have crossed a hurdle and can relax a little, at least in this one new experience, and hopefully in the other new solo areas of my life.

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Surviving with Battle Scars Wrapped in Love

It is not the strongest of the species that survive,

nor the most intelligent,

but the one most responsive to change.

~Charles Darwin

 

I looked at the calendar on July 10th are realized that it had been three-month since I took Gary to the Emergency Room that Sunday night, April 10th. That Sunday was the last day we would spend together, but I didn’t know that then. That evening, though he wasn’t feeling well, we sat together watching TV. While I worried, he tried to reassure me that some days were harder than others during his post cancer-surgery recovery. When we talked to my cousin, who is a doctor, and he talked to Gary, listening to him struggle to get a good breath, we were told to go to the ER, now. He was diagnosed with sepsis. What followed was the last- minute strong fight through surgery (once again), two procedures and the gradual slipping away from this world, to another.

 

It’s been three months, but the days are long and complicated. Complicated by changing moods, a million decisions small and large, new routines, and the empty vast space of departure. I never know if I will wake up sad or mad and tear bursts are unpredictable and often have terrible timing. I don’t want to scare people away with my sadness, which is not always in my control, and I need people. I find myself with a lot of time alone and am reading, looking for answers in the experiences of others brave enough to write about their survival, their journeys and those who share their expertise:

Martha Whitmore Hickman’s Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking

Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.’s I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.’s Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart

Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S.’s Widow to Widow

 

It’s been three months since we last spoke, and as he was wheeled to the OR, morphine comfortable, with scared eyes resigned to fate, I made him promise to fight and stay strong, something I had said often during trying times over the past 37 years we shared. The doctors were amazed by his strength saying most people would not have survived the sepsis surgery, amazed that he had been joking around in the morning, talking about Porsches, describing his on order to arrive in June. After surgery, he was kept sedated awaiting the following procedures to complete closure. We never got closure with each other because we never spoke again. We never even shared another glance.

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I became an expert at signs. Signs on the monitors, signs of pain, signs of fluid levels, breathing, heart rate and the more difficult to read signs in the faces of the nursing staff as they changed shifts and gave updates to the next nurse on duty. I learned to decode the medical jargon during rounds, each morning, listening for encouraging signs. Stable is good. Sitting in the dark room, illuminated only by numbers on machines and blinking horizontal lines, I looked at my husband knowing something had shifted and he was leaving. I didn’t say this, because I hang onto the belief that I have some control and thoughts become things, so why would I jinx it? I didn’t say it, but I felt it. I felt Gary in the room, but not necessarily in his body.

 

I went home at 11:00 p.m. on April 20th. It happened in 14 seconds. His heart stopped at 2:59 a.m. I was called at 3:14 a.m. They performed (mandatory) resuscitation for 30 minutes. I arrived at 3:30 a.m. Time of Death is listed at 3:29 a.m. Since then I have been looking for signs. Signs I missed. Signs the doctors missed. Signs the nurses missed. There are really no answers. It seems this is a common reaction, trying to make sense of that which makes no sense, as if finding the missed sign could trigger a rewind. If only.

 

I am looking for signs now, the common ones of the folklore told to me, when the clock shows 11:11 (a message from one on “the other side”), visiting birds (like those that sit on the wire watching me, air-brushed clouds, a song on the radio or a small paper message found in a file. I am looking for a sign to let me know he is OK somehow, happier maybe, with long-lost friends and family. As time goes on, that day, April 10th gets further away and I struggle to hold on to feelings, his voice, that life before. I look for signs that I will be OK. A restful night’s sleep, a nice, helpful voice on the telephone, figuring out how to take care of this business of moving on, and glimmers of a meaningful future.

 

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Back on the Mat

 

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This was the week. My Hay House calendar for Tuesday said “Today is the beginning of a positive turning point for me.” I decided to take that seriously and get up and go out into the world of my former life. I went for a 2 mile walk and felt pretty accomplished, a little out of shape, but happier. I considered it a meditation walk, contemplating the houses, trees, birds, dogs out for their morning walks and listening to the sounds in the neighborhood and in my head.

Wednesday I decided to take the big step and return to yoga. I haven’t been since early March, unable to face the introspection and solitude on my yoga mat, but my body craved the stretch, the familiar asanas and the quiet reward of the savasana at the end of class. I walked into the studio and was asked if I had cancelled my membership. No, I’ve just been gone for a while. I’ve had some stuff going on. I have seen the payment going out of my account each month. No problem. Walking into the room I run into a teacher I know who is a member of my community. She knows everything and gives me a hug and encouragement, “It will be good, just what you need, really.” I hope so.

Laying out my mat, I assemble the familiar props, foam blocks, blankets and a strap; I lay down, breathing in the calm. The teacher is smiling and positive, speaking slowly and demonstrating every new posture and walking around the room helping to make small adjustments. The bamboo floor is smooth and lovely, the blue walls are tranquil and the view out the windows is of children playing on a leafy climbing structure. I breathe, arms circling up and folding forward, then fingertips to shins stretching out and folding down again. Stepping back into plank, the most difficult for me, I breathe into the rigidity of the pose and then down, chaturanga dandasana, pushing slightly up to a low cobra and elevating into downward facing dog. Stepping forward on my mat, arms circling, reaching up, I look up at my hands and then bring them to my heart center. There is nowhere else to look, except in my heart.

Today I went to yoga, the second day back was not as dramatic, no questions, just smiles and hellos by name. I settled in and welcomed the calm, the warmth of the room and the returning familiarity of sun salutations. Today we work on balance. Triangle pose and preparation for half-moon, standing on one leg, lifting the other straight out and up using the foam block for support. I need practice on balancing, my leg wobbles and I am glad for the support of the block but it still doesn’t guarantee an easy balance. It still takes work, repositioning and focusing on the breathing through it all.

 

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Filed under Life thoughts, Walking, yoga

Holding On-On Hold

FullSizeRenderToday is the third day in a row I have waited on hold with the Social Security office. I have received different information from every person I have spoken to and all insist I must talk to the original clams specialist with whom I met at my office appointment. The problem is that person omitted information, which caused me to file a claim incorrectly. It’s a moot point though since she will not pick up her line when I am transferred to it, answer messages from the interoffice system sent by the kind lady who answers the phone for questions, or return my calls from voice messages I leave or from the messages sent by the nice phone lady. The claims specialist’s mistake could potentially cost me thousands of dollars. I have sent in the needed paperwork but haven’t received confirmation of their receipt.

This is the 10th week I have spent making phone calls, being placed on hold, inadvertently (or perhaps purposefully) being disconnected and speaking to endless bureaucratic workers who really have no interest in me, my confusion or my grief. As the weeks slip by, I’ve memorized the music played by each institution as I wait on hold. I’ve been listening to the same music now for 25 minutes, but I know it oh so well from the many previous sessions.

This is the 50th day (not including weekends of course) I have spent wading through paperwork, trying to understand things I don’t understand easily and those I don’t want to have to understand. I am unraveling a life entwined and trying to get a grip on how to survive on hold.

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