Two Years

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This week brings us into Grief Season, a two week stretch of milestones and anniversaries.  We have successfully navigated the passing of another Mother’s Day, the last full day we had a healthy, happy Tim in our presence.  Yesterday, May 15th, brought the anniversary of his heart attack.  The Urgent Care visit, our drive into Brooklyn, the feelings of frustration and annoyance I had towards him that I have recycled and regretted a thousand times over.  The shocked look in his eyes when his heart seized up.  CPR on the living room floor.  The beginning of the unknown.

I’m doing surprisingly well overall.  I feel firmly settled into my new life, navigating the new challenges of homeownership, career, housework, childcare, dating, life.  I’m learning and growing with my new experiences, keeping Tim’s legacy permanently tattooed to my heart like his words inked into my skin.

“…may we create the best possible universe together…”

Year two has brought new life experiences and obstacles.  I’m having to learn quickly and leave my ego aside as I navigate this new existence without him.  My grief has softened it’s edges and rests comfortably in the corners of my consciousness.  It doesn’t strangle my brain anymore with it’s black, toxic numbness.  The sadness can be heavy, but it no longer weights me down like the leaden coat I wore through the first year.  I no longer get flashbacks.  I manage trauma triggers effectively.  I’m healing.

I’m lonely, I can admit that.  I miss him. I miss companionship, intimacy, the feeling of being valued by a loving partner. Most of all, I miss him as the father he had always dreamed of being.  The kind of dad who would have coached youth sports and taught his kids to ride bikes and skateboards.  The kind of dad who would have sat down and lovingly supported his children through homework and creative projects and heartache.  The kind of dad who gave baths and read bedtime stories, and enveloped his children and wife with open arms and heart.  The father of my children.  My Tim.

I’m stronger.  Stronger than I ever imagined I could have been.  I’m confident and outgoing and passionate.  I take advantage of the experiences life offers me far more enthusiastically and openly than I ever did before.  I no longer take any of what I have for granted.  I more fully embrace my existence and what I truly wish to do with this life.  I’m still learning, growing, expanding.  A woman forged in fire, singed hair and heart muscle.  Still fighting.  Still loving.  Always working on it.

The eternal winter is slowly fading over the daffodils and tulips sprouting in my perennial beds.  The sunlight is stronger.  The birds sing in the trees surrounding our home.  This morning, Claira danced in the kitchen and repeatedly exclaimed “Dis is a HAPPY HOUSE!”.

It is, indeed.

We are happy.  We are thriving.  We are evolving.  We press on.

Two years, my love.  You would be awfully proud of us.

 

 

Confit Garlic Roasted Lamb with Fresh Herb and Shallot Sauce to Unfuck Your Week.

 

I see you there, Friend.

It’s been a Spring, right?  The kids have been sick.  The weather is cold and dreary.  That pesky Universe has been up to her tricks again. (What a bitch, amiright?)

I see that you’ve been struggling a bit.  Yeah, you’ve been through worse, I know.  But these feelings right here?  Those are valid too.  It’s ok that you’re struggling.

I need you to remember two things, sweetheart.

One: Everything is temporary.  All of it.  All the time.  “This too shall pass” and whatnot.  Just as the leaves will emerge and the flowers will bloom, so shall you, with the verdant energy of every renewal before.  It will get better.  It always does.  Trust that, my love.

Two: 

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Confit Garlic Roasted Lamb with Fresh Herb and Shallot Sauce to Unfuck Your Week.

Roast (cook time 7+ hours):

5-6 Lb Lamb Roast

20+ cloves of Garlic (Don’t doubt me on that one.  Hush your mouth.)

2-3 Springs Fresh Rosemary

1.5 teaspoons Salt

Generous grind of Black Pepper (Did someone say “generous grind?”…Yum.)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

 

Sauce:

1 packed cup fresh herbs (Parsley, Cilantro, Chives, Rosemary)

7 large cloves Garlic

1 Shallot

1/2 cup good Olive Oil

Juice of 1 Lemon

Salt to taste (2-3 large pinches)

 

Ok, Honey, time to get your shit together.  You’ve been bummed lately.  Things haven’t really been going the way you had hoped.  It’s ok, we’re going to make it all better today.

Are you ready?

First, get yourself a roast of lamb.  One with good bones and thick muscle and just enough fat to make it luscious.  (Mmm.  Yeah.  You know you like it like that.)  Preferably from your friend that owns that local organic heritage sheep farm.  Yeah, that one.  That’s the stuff.

Pat that beautiful piece of meat dry and stick it in the dutch oven your dead husband gave you for Christmas four years ago.  Oh, you don’t have one of those?  Huh.  Well, go to Target or Amazon or wherever it is that normal people buy Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and get yourself one.  You’re welcome.

Add a bit of olive oil to the pan.  Salt the roast and place the rosemary springs on top.  Sprinkle the garlic cloves (yes, keep them whole) around the bottom.  Stick it in the oven. 275 degrees.  Covered.  Now just leave it.  Yes, go live your life for a couple hours.  Just trust me on that.

*Two Hours Elapsed*

Ok, get back in the kitchen, friend.  Pull that roast out of the oven.  It’s not even close to done, but that’s ok.  See all the garlic at the bottom?  See how it’s been slowly roasting in fat and juices?  Oh yeah, baby.  Take that garlic and use a fork to smash it all over the top of the roast.  Mmm.  Really press it into the meat and let that confit garlic paste smother that meat in deliciousness.  You got it.

Put the roast, uncovered, back in the oven for another 4-5 hours.  Baste occasionally.

Ok, it’s almost dinner time.  Take the roast out of the oven.  The meat should be beginning to fall off the bones at this point.  The goal is the roast that beast into submission, until it’s succulent flesh is falling apart in your hands.  Yes.  Time to let it rest.  30 minutes or more, covered.

Let’s make some sauce, baby.

Ok, roughly chop the sauce ingredients.  Don’t overthink it.  Throw them in a food processor, blender, or bowl with immersion blender.  Add liquids and salt.  Puree until smooth.  You’re good.

Chop up that meat.  Stick it on a serving tray and top with sauce.  More sauce on the side. Sauce forever.

 

Ok, Honeybee, now comes the important part.

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Invite some friends over.

Some good ones.  The ones who make you feel light and love in their presence.

Have them bring some vegetable sides and sweets.

Open up some wine.  Set a nice table.

Gather and laugh and share and sing.

Feast on good food and the shared energy of people who love you.

Pick at the lamb with greasy fingers.  Dip chunks into the sauce, letting the oil dribble down the side of your hand, licking it clean.

Get a little tipsy.  Eat until you’re satiated.

 

Maybe someone will bring a fun chocolate dessert.

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You’re going to be just fine.

 

 

 

Second Firsts: Heart-Hurt and Healing

 

The Universe has not always been kind to me in regard to romantic connections.  A college boyfriend took it upon himself and sleep around during our six-month courtship. Tim and I enjoyed a strong and passionate love for 12 years before… well…you know.  Upon re-entering the dating pool at 34, I enjoyed a handful of first dates, one enjoyable yet unattached relationship, and a myriad of online bores, creeps and man-children eager for female attention yet unable to fully connect.

After a hiatus over the winter to focus on myself, my career, and the tiny humans in my constant care, I jumped back into the online-dating world in early February.  Amongst the forest of matches and messages, one man, with kind, cocoa-colored eyes and adorable dimples, stood out.  We made a date to FaceTime for four days later, that Wednesday.

The next day he texted requesting an earlier date.  I admitted that I was already in my flannel robe and settled in for the evening.  He didn’t care.  We talked and laughed for well over an hour, like old friends catching up on life events.  The tone and rhythm of his voice warm and resonant.  We wrapped up the call in unison.  A surreal connection formed in moments.

Timing quickly made itself a strong and undeniable presence in our dynamic.  He would fly out for vacation a few days after our first call.  I flew to Florida with my kids a few days later.  Between flights and kids and activities we would steal away in quiet moments for video calls and texts, eager to catch the heady dopamine rush of new connection.  The chemistry that was forming was intense and unexpected.  It was crazy. Completely out of character for my normally cautious heart.  It felt great.

Our first in-person meeting was planned for three weeks after our first conversation.  I drove to his small city two hours away and planned to meet him at his office building.  He greeted me at the front door, his presence familiar and warm.  A man I had just met, yet seemingly had known forever.  He showed me his office, with exposed brick, and his framed photography on the walls.  Nag Champa burning next to a small windowsill Bonsai.  Joni Mitchel on the stereo.  It went very well.  I’ll leave it at that.

Over the next weeks we communicated daily.  The mental-emotional-physical-spiritual resonance I found with him shocked me, and left me off my guard.  On an over-night date we enjoyed Vietnamese, craft beer, and a shared dark sense of humor.  We walked in step, arms linked, fingers clasped, talking about futures while side-stepping puddles.  He shared the complications of his life.  A man in free-fall, navigating life’s transitions, as I had been a year prior.  I ignored the red flags he openly waved.  His arms felt like home.

He ended it with a text 8 weeks in.  An offer of friendship, a wish for my “great day”, and a winking emoji.  An anticlimactic and disappointing ending to an otherwise thrilling and meaningful relationship.  In many ways it came as a relief, as I processed the slow fade he had been displaying for the previous week or more.  Much of life comes down to time and place, and neither were working in our favor.  My first post-loss heart-hurt.  My emotional scar-tissue left raw and throbbing.

I can openly admit now that I felt love for the man.  The rush of oxytocin clouding my generally sound judgment.  I do not regret the connection that we shared, nor do I question the feelings I developed for him.  I have experienced the deepest depths of loss and trauma, yet I am still fully capable of opening my heart to another man.  I am capable of connection and laughter and growth.  I can experience a significant emotional set-back, and still enjoy the first warm day of Spring.

I wish nothing but peace and happiness for this man.  I cannot fault him for the timing and complexities of life.  I hope to remain his friend and continue our unique connection through a new lens.  I am unsure of what the future will hold (as we all should be).  I chose to move forward with a renewed sense of growth and self-awareness.

I’m grateful for the brief memories.

I look forward to what new love experience life may bring.

I now fully realize I’m ready for it.

Onwards.

 

 

Mid April

“Grief as a spiritual enzyme waits for our sorrows and then is recreated by our soul, not to soften losses, but to utterly change them by metabolizing the impossible emptiness and confusion of our losses into a spiritual substance that can definitely be digested into the matrix of our ongoing existence.  We are changed by this…and how to allow grief to instigate in us what it always has: the ultimate and only legitimate source of all human expression of beauty, real art, and kindness through living”

– Martin Prechtel “The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise”

We are closing in on two years.  A year ago this Thursday, I closed on Hopewell House in a quiet ceremony of scrawled signatures, financial transfer, and warm metal keys passed from hand to hand.  This was the beginning of Chapter 2.  Smudged sage in every corner with spoken intentions of love, peace, and happiness.  Tiny lemon cakes and wine.  Hannah crosslegged on the empty hardwood floor of what would be my living room.

A month from now will be the anniversaries, 9 days of memory amongst the day to day that has evolved from the worst possible thing.  Work, dinner, sippy cups and snuggles in the shadow of the memories of his waxen body, ventilators, surgeries, informed consent, the MRI, the long-short exhale of his final breath.

We are firmly in the midst of Life #2.  We have a rhythm and pattern to the days.  New opportunities and potentials have emerged and slipped away and emerged again in unexpected places.  I have started to reconnect with my creative self.  I’m working on learning jazz chords on my guitar at the longstanding suggestion of Matt.  I’m singing in the shower.  I’m accepting my many small failures and shortcomings and attempting to make it all opportunity for growth.  So. Much. Growth.

(PS, there is a bumper sticker that says “Oh no!  Not another learning experience!” and I want it real bad if you see it.)

I’m thinking less about my grief, though it does pop up in the opportunities it finds.  It’s softening and snuggling it’s self into the crevices.  I’m growing accustomed to its presence.  The surreal and comforting memories it brings of life before.

The snow is melting.  Despite the persistent chill, we now hear bird song in the morning. My hyacinth are poking their little stems out from their leafy blankets.  I’ve started cleaning off my porch for Summer.  Easter is 12 days away (the kids are PUMPED).  I’ve got plans and minimal expectation.

It’s April 2019, 23 months out, years ahead.

Let’s see what happens. life.

 

 

Transformations.

IMG_5343(July 2017 and January 2019)

 

Losing Tim changed me on a molecular level.  I have said this before.  I cannot say it enough.  The physical and emotional shifts that I experienced in the early grief phases of 2017 transitioned me from a quiet, comfortable, sometimes mundane married life into the hell-scape of early widowhood.  I went from being a stay at home mother and wife of my college sweetheart to a broken, crumpled mess of a woman, still breastfeeding her baby while mentally fighting for emotional and physical survival.  My worldview, sense of self, physical location, home, relationships, and aspects of my personality underwent profound transition in the months post-loss.  I became a different person.  A stranger to myself.  A trauma survivor.

For over a year after losing Tim I focused on getting by.  I struggled to function, yet I was still responsible for my children and the mountain of emotional and logistical challenges that Tim’s death left behind.

In August of 2018 I made the conscious choice to change other key parts of my being.  My relationship with food, my fitness, and my attitude towards my life moving forward.  This transition has been slow, but deliberate.  It has been one of countless miss-steps and moments of self doubt.  It continues to be a work in progress, but I have found myself coming into a place of ownership over this new life, mindset, body, existence I have created for myself.

And you know what?

I’M DAMN PROUD.

I haven’t really put much of this journey on this blog.  I did not want this space to become some sort of sad, awkward weight loss journal.  I did not want my inner journey to be boiled down to pounds and inches.  I did not want to have my changing body be seen as a sign that everything was somehow magically better for me.  Though I have fought my way into a healthier existence and holistic healing, I still struggle at times.  I have much growth ahead.  I’m not where I want to be.  I’m trying.  I’m doing it.

 

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(Pictures from September 2018 and March 2019)

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My relationship with my body had been strained for the majority of my life.  As a child, I began gaining weight at five and hit 200lbs in 7th grade.  I was accustomed to being the fat kid.  I was teased, bullied, and made to feel inferior on countless occasions.  A constant in my life was the sentiment “you would be so beautiful *if*…”.  If I lost weight.  If I got in shape.  If my cheekbones showed.  If I changed.

I can remember becoming aware of my food consumption around age 11.  I started actively trying to lose weight at 14.  Through high school, college, and young adulthood I exercised regularly and counted calories.  I did cleanses, diets, fasts.  I saw fat and flesh with hatred and distain.  I literally dreamed of cutting it off.  I spent one summer forcing myself to burn no less than 1000 calories daily on the elliptical before I allowed myself a small dinner.  I went through phases of self hatred and self defeat, always wishing that somehow I could make my body change into one that better fit our society’s standards of beauty.  With Tim, I found confidence in myself, but I continued to feel insecure in my skin and excess flab.  My body was not a reflection of who I was, it was separate from myself.

I took up running in 2011, which allowed me to lose weight and changed my body composition.  I loved running before dawn, and the feeling it left in my muscles throughout the day.  I loved the confidence, mental clarity, and swagger it gave me.  I continued running until well into my second trimester with Jack Byron.  Then came the realities of a postpartum body and the onset of hypothyroidism that left me feeling like I had been hit by a truck.  Then a second pregnancy with Claira that forced my feet to grow a full size in 41 weeks.  Then another period of postpartum existence, chronic foot pain, two babies, life.  I worked hard to tackle my body demons while nourishing myself appropriately.  I began to find new footing.

Then Tim died.

And everything, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, went to shit.

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August 2018 began the transition.  And in one month, I lost 10 pounds of grief weight.

It started with a sense of inner urgency.  I had spent the summer of 2018 moving into our new home, setting up and decorating every corner with colorful pieces of a life old and new.  I was eating a lot of crackers and sweets, and drinking a fair amount of alcohol.  Not so much that it was a problem, but enough that I felt the need to keep myself in check.  So, going into August with a will to change and a bit of personal motivation, I made the decision to cut out added sugar and alcohol entirely for a month.  It was not easy at times, and I did go off track on a few occasions, but I had made the decision that I was tired of being fat.   I was a person I never imagined I would have to be.  My lover of 12 years was suddenly gone from this earth.  My entire life had changed.  It was time for my body to change with it.

So I did it.

In September 2018 I began working with a wellness coach who helped me find a nutrition and fitness routine that fit my new life as a single working mother.  I began to feel fitter and lose weight through sustainable lifestyle choices.  I began to learn more about what dietary choices worked best for my individual body, and how to stay focused through periods of stress and self-doubt.  I learned to transition away from emotional eating patterns.  I learned what I needed, and how to provide that for myself.

I am now 56 pounds into this new phase of life.  I still have around 25 to go, though my goals go beyond a number on a scale.  I’m confident in my body now.  I love the woman I have become on every level.  I feel physically and mentally stronger than I have ever been.  I have the energy and focus to care for my children (most of the time).  I’m embracing this new life and the forced and chosen transitions it has brought.

I’m truly excited to see where this life will go.  I am transitioning into a body that reflects the woman I am now.  I am embracing these changes and challenges that come, with the knowledge that nothing is permanent, everything changes, but I still have some choice in the matter.  I am feeling the power I have earned and growing and expanding by the day.

This journey of self-discovery, awareness, clarity, and wellness, is far from over.  It will never be over.  But each day I make the choice to love and care for myself.  It’s my choice.

 

The Value of Independence.

I have always been an independent person.  As an only child, I grew up being self-sufficient in my play and overall worldview.  As I grew older, I found that I worked better in independent projects than group efforts.  While I have always held a deep value in friendship and human connection, I have always been comfortable navigating on my own.  Taking the lead.  Motivating and driving myself.

In my partnership with Tim, it was my independence and strong will that could sometimes come into conflict with his own needs.  He thrived from abundant external motivation and collaboration.  I thrived internally.  We were different, but we generally made it work with love and communication.

My independence has served me well as a widow.  I have come to a point in my journey where I can look back on the months that have passed since Tim’s death and see just how much work I have done to bring my life to where it is.  I bought a house on my own.  Unpacked, decorated, assembled furniture and hung drapery rods.  I negotiated the purchase of my car and am nearly finished finalizing Tim’s estate.  I manage my money.  I embrace my career.  I raise my children.  I pursue my goals.  I make life happen.

We recently returned from a family vacation in Florida.  Over February break, we flew down, the children and I, to visit Tim’s family in Sarasota.  The travel days were brutal, with delays, cancellations, last minute flight exchanges, a dead car battery, and two very tired little beings in my charge.  Yet, we made it happen.  I managed the car rental, airports, vacation home and itinerary on my own.  We spent a wonderful five days with Tim’s family, and enjoyed quality time with the reunited cousins.  We scattered a portion of Tim’s ashes amongst the buttress roots of one of our favorite trees.  We splashed in the ocean.  And while I had the love, support, and help of family, I did it on my own.

I am entering a point in my healing process where I am recognizing my own power.  The authority I have established over my own life.  The potential for growth, renewal, transformation.  A year ago, I was not able to recognize that.  But today, as we near the two year mark through this new landscape of life, I can see myself as the woman I have become.  An independent, powerful, loving being, capable of living the life she deserves.

I like her.  She can stay.

 

The F#@&*ing Silver Lining.

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I am currently 647 days out from the worst thing that ever happened to me*

(*Don’t jinx this, Universe.)

Lately I’ve been spending a fair amount of time reflecting on the months that have passed since Tim’s final days.  I’ve come to the point in my process where the memories have softened and I no longer obsessively play the trauma in my head.  I feel some distance from the life I lived then vs. the life I am embarking on now.  The world feels a bit brighter.  I don’t feel so dead inside.  I am successfully healing and growing and moving forward in all the ways Tim would have wanted and hoped for me.

You guys…I’m feeling pretty decent.

To be honest, a year ago I could have not imagined I would be able to write that.  I was still in the dark fog of grief.  I was beginning to see the potential of a life ahead, but the deep mistrust I have developed towards the Universal Chaos prevented me from fully allowing myself the painful pleasure of hope.  I have come into a place now where hope feels possible.  Scary, but possible.  I’m engaged in the life I have built.  I’m enjoying what I have.  I’m living.

I’ve begun to see The Fucking Silver Linings of my situation.  (A phrase that was introduced to me by a dear friend, fellow widow, and prolific poet, Verandah Porche.)  Sometimes that makes me angry at times, the silver lining.  Because why did Tim have to die and how could I ever be happy?  But, I’m learning to allow myself joy when it comes.  I’m able to see all the ways in which I am fortunate.  All the ways in which my life has grown and flourished through my own fortitude and determination.*

(*and crying and anger and self medicating and irrational rage and crazy-making thought patterns and self-deprecation and general malaise.)

I’ve come to realize I have a lot going for me.  And in many ways, that makes me sad.  Because of what I lost to get to this point.  Because realizing that good things can come from tragedy is a bitter but necessary pill to swallow.  I cannot go back in time (as much as I have obsessed over that idea).  I cannot change the things that have happened to us.  I can press forward and strengthen the path that I’m on now.  So that’s what I’m doing.

Career

I fucking love my job, guys.  I love where I work and who I work with, staff and students alike.  I love the pace and structure of my days.  I love the nature of the work I do.  I love knowing that I am able to affect the social-emotional growth and wellbeing of hundreds of kids.  I could not imagine a more perfect position for me at this juncture of life.  I could not say that about being a stay-at-home-mom.  I’m doing what I need to do, now, and it’s working.

My writing has also taken on a new meaning in my life.  My recent publication in Modern Loss validated and expanded my voice and reach as a writer.  It is becoming more important that I continue to share my story.  A new art form to explore in deeper ways.  More on that in the future, no doubt.

Relationships

Tim’s death taught me just how powerful my friendships and relationships can be.  It was painful to leave Madison so quickly, and leave behind the beautiful community we had built there.  I still think about them and miss them every day.  But I have been able to build a new community since returning to Vermont.  I still feel the love and support of all the people I have meaningfully connected with over the past 35 years of my life.  I know now that I have hundreds, if not thousands, of people who love my children and myself.  My spirituality as a Secular Humanist has expanded and blossomed in ways I never imagined possible.  I have deep, meaningful connections with the people in my life.  I’m connecting in new and expanding ways. For that, I am endlessly thankful.

Home

Hopewell House is the best, guys.  It was one year ago last week that I put an offer on this house and it was the best choice I could have possibly made.  My home is spacious, airy, and filled with positive, creative energy.  Hopewell House has been a place of healing and growth.  Decorated with reminders of the life before and promises of the life ahead.  My sanctuary in the storm.

Health

I. Am. Getting. FIT, people.  I’ve officially reached the 50lb mark in my weight loss adventure over 7 months, and I am NEVER going back. (For real). I feel more energetic, focused, and physically powerful.  I’m proud of the progress I have made in overhauling my lifestyle and eating habits. I’m proud and accepting of the permanent changes carrying Tim’s babies made to my body. I’m excited to see the shape and structure that my body will come into as I reach my goals. I’m feeling physically better, which is improving my overall mental health.  New life, new mind, new body.

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Some of these things might not have come into fruition had Tim survived the events of May 15th 2017.  And that would have been fine. Better. I would have had a different, beautiful life with less suffering and more comfort.  But that’s not what happened.  Tim died.  My life burned to the ground.  I faced the second hardest thing that could have happened to me.  I survived.  I’m thriving.  God-damnit, things are looking up.

(and that’s ok.)

35

I’m 35 years old today.  Mid way through my thirties and rapidly approaching middle age.  Not a milestone birthday, per-say, but a marker in time. A number of significance.

Today, I’m officially older than Tim will ever be.  He died 3 weeks before 35, never quite making it to this particular age.  Birthdays were not a big deal to Tim.  As a twin, he was accustomed to sharing his birthday with his sister, Kelli.   He was elated to spend a long weekend with her in the days before his heart attack.  He and I had talked about planning a trip with her and her family to mark 35.  I was planning to make his peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting.  Things we thought we would do with the seemingly endless expanse of time that being a 30-something affords you.

Before his death, Tim was 1.5 years older than me.  An age difference that worked well in our coupling dynamic.  Developmentally, we were in similar places.  He had graduated high school and college before me.  He was slightly older, but the small space in time between our births left us in the same generation and experiencing cultural events around the same time.  I enjoyed our small age gap.  My slightly older husband.  I’m older now.  Tim will always be left at 34, and here I am at 35.

When I turned 34, people who did not know the significance of that age would remark “My, you are still so young”.  I would think of Tim dying at 34.  Yes, 34 is indeed SO young.

I am young, yet I am old.  Older than many living people.  Emotionally, I feel I’ve lived several lifetimes.  In other ways, I’m completely new to the world.  My experiences have aged me by decades, yet shrunk me down to a moody teen.  I don’t really fit in to normal society.  I can talk to anyone about anything.  I feel 85.  I feel 15.  I’ve seen and done things that the average person can not imagine.  I’m 35 with a lifetime behind and a lifetime ahead.

I feel thankful to have turned 35 at 1:11am this morning.  I’m thankful to be able to celebrate my birthday with my parents, the people who brought and raised me into this world.  To hug my mom and dad and share a meal with them.  I’m thankful to celebrate this birthday with my children, quite literally my reasons for being alive.  This weekend I will celebrate with my friends, the people who have helped me rediscover my sense of happiness in this life.  Another year has passed.  And I made it.  I’m older than Tim now, and I will continue to be older than him until the day I die.  I will continue to carry him with me in my mind a heart, and share his legacy in any ways I can.  The passing of time will continue on.  These milestones will continue on. And I will continue on.

35 and still alive.

Reflections on Foreverness.

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School was cancelled this morning due to the barrage of rain we have suddenly encountered after days in a deep-freeze.

While I am thankful to have these days with my children, I do not especially enjoy these unexpected, endless days of childhood needs and mind-melting toddler drama.

I’m struggling with my sense of motherhood, to be completely honest.  I adore my children.  I love them with every ounce of my being, but the relentless demands of single motherhood sucks every ounce of creative and intellectual energy from my being.  Reading, podcasts, moments of silence, creative outlets, cleaning and house projects, are luxuries I have to carve out in the smattered moments of solitude I get in bits and pieces through the week.  There is little time or space for me, my personhood, in this current phase of life.  My own dreams and interests have been filed away for some distant future where my children will have the independence I need to save my dwindling sanity.

I often think back to the days when Tim was alive and we functioned as a two-parent family.  I remember the stress I used to feel.  The sense of being overwhelmed by my children’s needs.  In retrospect, it was an easy time.  I had a partner to support me and co-parent by my side.  Weekends were a time to relax and connect, not just a 48 marathon of survival.  We thought we had a lifetime of weekends.  Then we didn’t.

I’m thankful for my children, of course.  Had Tim died before they were born, he would not have been able to fulfill his life-long dream of fatherhood.  I would likely not have had the opportunity to be mother and raise these beautiful beings into the world.  But there are still times that I dream of what life would have been like if it were just me, alone, with the time and space I need to fulfill my own wants and needs.  This is the dance of motherhood.  Neglecting your own humanity for the sake of launching well rounded, emotionally healthy, creative beings into the adult world.  We sacrifice, despite our feminism and progressive views on parenting.  We give all of ourselves because there is simply no other way to give children everything they need to thrive.  Because they need so. much.

I’m fortunate to have occasional breaks.  20 hours a week to sleep and socialize and stare into the middle distance while my children are in the care of my parents.  This is a luxury not afforded to all, and I am deeply thankful for the time.  But on days like today, when we are trapped by weather and circumstance and nap refusal, I’m pulled into the existential spiral of “forever”.  “THIS IS MY LIFE FOREVER.”

Even if it’s not.

Jack Byron is growing by the day.  His intellectual curiosity and creative expression are a beautiful convergence of Tim and I’s skills and capabilities.  He is slowly growing more independent, more emotionally mature.  He’s becoming an incredible little boy with a brain for engineering and art.  But first, he needs to learn to wipe his butt.

At 2.5, Claira Soleil is a powerhouse.  She bounces around with her intense dark brown eyes staring out under lengthening bangs.  Her energy and strength is endless.  A strong, independent  lady with limited sense of logic and zero emotional control.  She carries around my 10lb kettlebell like it’s a stuffed animal.  1/3 of her total body weight, lifted like a feather.  One day she will be a powerful force of change, love, intellect, compassion.  Maybe a body-builder.  Today she’s a pain in the ass.  Jesus Christ, I love that kid.

A tiny light I have found in the day is a Conor Oberst album that was released after Tim’s death (Salutations). Tim loved Conor.  He referred to him by his first name, like a good friend.  He once suggested we drive through a hurricane to make it to a concert we had bought tickets for on the other side of the state (it was cancelled).  We brought Jack Byron to a show in Milwaukee when he was just 2 months old.  Tim died to his “Cleanse Song”.  This man’s music was an integral part of Tim and our relationship.  So what a pleasure to come across a new album I had not yet heard.  To be able to play his music over our speakers and imagine how Tim would feel about his evolving style.  A little glimmer of emotional sunshine on a gloomy day.

There are five hours left until bedtime.  We will get through them through play and art and screen time and  fighting and crying, just as we do every other day.  We will get through today just like we get through every other day.  I will keep playing music and keeping myself stable.  And I will keep in my mind that this is not forever, even if it feels that way.  Today is just today. It may not be the best day I’ve had.  It’s not the worse either.

Dreams and Wonder Walls.

I had a vivid dream last night.  About Tim.  One of the few I’ve had of him since he died.

Once a week, my parents take my children for an overnight.  I use that night to socialize and clean, but mostly to sleep.  To sleep until my body tells me it is time to wake.  The kind of deep, refreshing sleep mothers are rarely afforded.  It is a gift and a privilege I appreciate deeply.

I can only clearly remember three dreams in which Tim appeared in my subconscious since his death.  This dream felt life-like.  To the point that when I woke up, it took me a full 30 minutes to process the sudden drop in my stomach that occurred when I realized that the dream was not my reality.  In my dream, it was Summer.  We were in a vacation rental with family and friends and a wide assortment of people I’m sure I’ve never met.  The sun was bright and warm, I could step barefoot out the sliding screen door onto soft grass.  Children were running wild, joyful in their freedom. And Tim was alive.  Not only was he alive, he had returned to life.  At some point in the early stages of loss, the terrible misunderstanding had been corrected, and Tim was, indeed ALIVE.  He looked healthy.  He was happy and content.  He was free of the anxiety that sometimes plagued him.  He was my Tim, his voice, his scent, his face with a small smile adorning the edges of his mouth and bright eyes filled with curiosity and love.

We spent the entire dream talking.  Talking about the heart attack, his hospitalization, his death, what he wanted with his new life.  Everything he may have felt and thought in that time.  All of the things I have ached to ask him, snuggled in him arms in a comfortable, sunlit room.  In dream time, it was hours, maybe days that I spent with him.  Just enjoying his company and feeling the sensation of happiness, lightness, security, that have eluded me since that Monday night in Brooklyn.  Feeling loved.

It’s the loss of Tim’s love that has been the most difficult for me to process in the 21 months that have passed since he left this realm.  While I continue to feel love for him, it is an unrequited hollowness that I carry in my core.  I can feel grateful for what I had.  12 years of love and connection to my person.  But the sudden loss of that love, that resonance and comfort, ripped away the illusions that many seem to effortlessly carry with them through the world.  I’m one of the broken people now.  And that might not necessarily be a bad thing.  It’s made me a much better therapist.  It’s given me that edge I longed for as an adolescent.  I’m stronger in myself and my own power than I ever thought imaginable.  I’m kind of a bad-ass bitch, if I do say so myself.  But, oh, does it sting.

I was told early in the grief process that I would have no difficulty finding another love.  It’s a well-meaning encouragement I can imagine myself telling someone else in another life.  I was not offended to hear it, but I’m not quite sure I believe it.  I’m a naturally loving person with giant steel walls barricading some deep part of myself.  I’d gladly sell the blueprints and materials to the US Government.  They are not easily broached.

Love is a risk.  Human connection, while vital to our survival, brings the terrifying threat of future hurt.  While I may be partially dead inside, there is a good part of me that is growing and thriving in beautiful ways.   I’m not sure I can risk the destruction that this garden I’m cultivating.

But does that mindset benefit the person I strive to be?  Probably not.  While the possibility of dying alone in Hopewell House, surrounded by beautiful things and the many cats I will likely adopt once my children are grown, it not the worst demise I can imagine, it’s not necessarily the end I would like to see to my life.

Time will tell.

My dream of Tim allowed me to exist in the alternate reality I have fantasized about since it ended.  It felt freeing to feel that brand of hope and happiness flooding my system.  The innocence of an existence in which everything works out as you had hoped.

This morning brings a grief hangover.  The biting harshness of a pre-dawn January morning.  The reminder of just how alone I truly feel without him.  It exposes the walls I have built up around myself.  The layers of protective materials, reinforced with trauma and fear.  But it allows me to see how and why the walls were constructed.  To get up-close and personal with these towering barricades that protect and isolate my heart.  My inner-therapist sees this as a good thing.  An opportunity.  My inner-human is pissed.

It may be time to start working on these walls.  Chipping away to expose their weaknesses.  They are not very good for my environment and create a hazard for the humans that may attempt to circumvent their boundaries.  They are built with fear and pain.  They may or may not truly be serving me in my path forward.

I don’t really believe in walls anyway.