Tag Archives: self-discovery

Dodging Acorns

img_2689If life imitates art, then I guess it can also imitate fables like Chicken Little. My life is a lot like that lately and I find myself dodging acorns. On many days it feels like the sky is falling and I’m looking for someone to tell so that I can be reassured that it isn’t really falling, it is just life. Life with it’s suddenly appearing hurdles and inconvenient inconveniences. As my sister reminded me, there is never a good time for an inconvenience.

These minor annoyances aren’t the real acorns, the real acorns are the larger life hurdles that pop up suddenly when I realize there is yet another new situation to navigate such as negotiating a car repair, or taking the trash out every week. These things aren’t huge, but they are new to me because I always had a partner to share the responsibilities of keeping a home.

Then there are the larger acorns looming ahead, things I will encounter soon, negotiating a car deal, going through every item in my house in an effort to “downsize,” finding a home, packing everything in my home and moving. I thought many of these decisions would be things Gary and I would be deciding together, like where we would go on our next vacation, but in this new life, the one where I am alone, it’s a new, unfamiliar game.

I try to remember to take one day at a time, or sometimes an hour at a time. I navigate running into well-meaning friends and acquaintances that hug me and ask how I am doing when my only answer is a slight smile and tear-filled eyes. I get through each day, but I don’t see a future yet. I get through each day but the days without plans are hard. I get through each day, but I don’t have a lot to look forward to at this point. I’m working on those positive affirmations. I’m making lists.

Things I am grateful for:

A comfortable place to live

Food to eat

My friends and family

A rewarding job

My health.

 

Things I am learning:

To change heater filters

To add washer fluid to my car

To handle car repairs and maintenance

To make a fire and enjoy it alone

To eat dinner alone

 

Things I want:

A home.

A life with purpose.

A life filled with friends and family.

A clear sky, or at least one with very little chance of acorns.

 

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Filed under change, death, hurdles, Life thoughts

Five Months In Five Months Out

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Five months in and we were madly in love. Listening to the best music, Springsteen, Zevon, Clapton, Eagles, Ronstadt, Jackson, listening to music you were creating with Ed in the studio that held nighttime adventures. We saw every new movie and ate at Chinese restaurants that no longer exist. We drove the streets of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Woodland Hills and we drove the highways to Yosemite, up the coast exploring, spending late afternoons at the beach watching surfers and sunsets.

Five months in and our families were meeting. Could this be serious? We didn’t let a day go by without spending at least a part of it together because separation was not possible. We became part of a bigger circle of friends and possibilities seemed endless as our futures began to merge, becoming entwined.

Five months out and I miss the love, and the music. The shared dinners at our favorite places no longer exist and sitting in the movies holding hands is a retreating memory. I drive the streets alone with Google Maps for company. Driving highways triggers memories, but also creates new memories with my daughters along. The beach with its salty air, endless waves and pelicans provides familiar solace.

Five months out and our little family grieves, not sure of our new formation, not sure about the approaching holidays and the new traditions we will begin to create. This is serious. A text thread miles long connects us now and if a day goes by without contact my heart aches for the loss of our intact family. I am grateful to be part of a community and an expanding circle of friends but I don’t know what the possibilities are or what my future will look like. The unwinding of two lives, braided together over time is an unfamiliar painful process.

Five months ago my world stopped with your heart and the unrequested resuscitation failed us all. I wake up many nights at 2:59 or 3:30. The time your heart stopped, the time they declared you were officially gone. I look at the clock as I turn out the light at night, 11:11 p.m. and I startle awake from dreams of you at 1:11 a.m. Is it a message? Can you show me a sign that is easy to read, more transparent, less symbolic? Hotel rooms numbered 303, an entourage of Honda Pilots, I am grasping for meaning and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. I was told the other day, that there is no rhyme or reason and even with our best efforts to live healthy lives the best we can hope for is good luck. Five months in we had it. Five months ago yours ran out. Five months out and luck is a mystery.

 

 

 

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Filed under death, Family, Life thoughts

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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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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Filed under change, hurdles, Independence, Life thoughts, Walking

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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Comfortable Books

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The books are comfortable on their shelves. They are organized in the semi-haphazard way that works for me and since I feel comfortable surrounded by books, every room in my house (with the exception of the bathroom, which has a basket) has at least one bookcase. I grew up surrounded by books, being read to from birth, maybe even before, and I still have some of my original books, Goodnight Moon, Moy Moy (signed by Leo Politi with a water-color flair), The Umbrella, Lucy McLockett, The Birthday Party by Ruth Krauss, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories. I am not even sure that all of these books are still in print. They are on the top shelf as the crown jewels to my extensive children’s book collection.FullSizeRenderMost are too dear to part with and I can remember reading each one to my daughters during our traditional “three books before bed” story time each night. Of course, books were read during the day too, and kept in baskets, tubs and bookcases around the house for easy access. My mother managed a children’s bookstore for twenty years after she retired from teaching English and creative writing and found it impossible to visit my daughters without bringing a book for each one of them.  Leo Politi

 

 

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The dining room houses two tall bookcases filled with more mature memories, books belonging to my mother, then in her late 20’s and friends with Ray Bradbury, Norman Cousins (who was my godfather) and other young emerging writers of the time, those from my reading past and on a top shelf, the biographies of musicians that could suck Gary into reading. There are books with beautiful photography of Yosemite and hopeful gardening books for someday.FullSizeRender_2

The shelves of books are organized thematically: one bookcase holds the spiritual books, a bible from Gary’s bar mitzvah, and books seeking to answer the questions that seem to have no answers.  FullSizeRender_1

 

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The living room bookcase holds books more current, books about finances, organizing and an entire shelf devoted to books on writing. Most books here have been recommended by people I hold in high regard and whose opinions I respect, and though some have only been half-read, my stopping point noted by a bookmark, all have been started. The writing books have been read more than once and their exercises practiced to lend motivation during the times when I felt stuck or that I needed to expand. Some books here arrived as gifts of distraction, comedic books and popular books from the bestseller list to even out the fiction/non-fiction aspect of the bookcase.IMG_2049

The books are comfortable on their shelves. The small bedroom bookcase next to my bed holds treasured books, books that must reside close by, books with meditations to reflect on nightly and a few I need to look at just to regain a sense of composure and that feeling that friends are close by. Some stand tall and others rest on their sides, nestled together like long time family members who have lived together so long they take each other for granted. I don’t take them for granted and when I hold them, I remember when and why each one came into my life and take comfort in the special place they hold in my heart.FullSizeRender_3

The books are comfortable on their shelves. I was comfortable too, but now I find that I have to downsize, begin to purge or at least to sort through the lifetime accumulation of possessions in residence. I thought books would be the easiest things to start with, easier than say, clothes or mementos, but these books have personalities and they are so comfortable on their shelves. They look back at me and I find it hard to pick them up off the shelf and put them in a box. It’s just hard sometimes to say goodbye.

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