Being Thankful

Lots of people have been writing all month about what they are grateful for and honestly, I think most of it is sappy and annoying.  It’s the season that people remember they have more people in their lives and try to look outside themselves.  I was probably one of those people a year ago, a person with narrow vision only expanded when stores started putting up holiday decorations.  This year has changed everything – obviously.

My priorities have shifted and my focus has become razor sharp.  I am thankful for my tight little circle of people, people to whom I owe an emotional debt I know I will never ever be able to begin to repay.  I am thankful for the people who let me express the rage and grief and unstable emotions so powerful I can’t even express them properly without ever faltering.  They stood by me while I stood at the edge of the cliff and stared into the abyss, while I contemplated the nothingness one jump away, they waited until I finally backed away too stubborn to give in.  These people dropped their lives and spent $1000 a ticket when it was clear that life had sucker punched me.  I don’t know about you but I know I rarely have a grand to blow on a plane ticket just lying around.  But they came anyway, they found a way when the world shattered around me and they stood by me when I raged so hard it was finally obvious why storms are named after people.

I don’t have many people because I don’t invite very many in close but for those few I would walk through hell for and I am thankful that they did the same for me.  People like that don’t come around every day.

I am thankful for the trials that I have endured and the pain I have suffered even though that sounds insane on just about every level.  If there was anything I could have ever done to change the outcome I obviously would have though that was never in my power and I refuse to dwell in the ‘what if’s’ but I am grateful because not only did the pain show me the limits of my endurance but also cut away all the fat of life.  I can tell you without a doubt that 95% of my previous life, my previous concerns, worries, cares, and stress do not matter so I let them go.  I sometimes feel disconnected from others because of this, I sometimes feel outside of what other people struggle with because I refuse to get swept up into the tiny pain of insignificant details and instead step away without anything to say. I often feel confused and bored by the pettiness where a year ago I would have been entrenched in it and even controlled by it.  Instead, I’ll admit, I feel nothing.

Something Matt’s uncle said the day after he passed has stuck with me and probably will echo through my head till the day I die.  “The worst thing imaginable has already happened, the rest is just bullshit.”  That one sentence has freed me in a way to look at things from a distance, to put space between me and whatever might be upsetting.  There will undoubtedly be new pains, new heartbreaks, new reasons to cry, but that was the first and the worst.  Nothing will ever compare to it and I got through it.  Maybe not with flying colors, not always with grace or kindness or thoughtfulness, but I made it to the other side.  Nothing will ever be worse and that has liberated me from the fears that once controlled me and as painful as that lesson was I am thankful for it because I am a different, stronger, and maybe even a better person.

Matt made me a better person without a doubt.  He smoothed my sharp edges, brought enlightenment into my life,made me think deeply about how my actions and words affect others, and surrounded me in unconditional love (which I don’t know that I always deserved), and his last lesson was no different.  He taught me to let go even if it is the most painful thing in the world because hanging on and being dragged is no way to go through life.  Sometimes letting go and free falling is the only option even if it’s terrifying because eventually you will land on your feet.

I am thankful for my dogs (I know that sounds corny).  I am thankful that they forced me to have real obligations, to get up an keep a schedule, to look outside of myself and to keep moving.  When it was too painful to focus on myself I focused on them, I spent a lot of time making sure their lives were ok, that they were loved.  Without them, without the responsibility to them I most likely would have given up quite quickly.

I am thankful for the friends that have come into my life post loss knowing full well that if Matt had never died I would have never spent so much time with them, I would never have developed the relationships with them that I have now. I am so grateful for these people that have brought me a heavy dose of peace and happiness.  I am thankful for the time I get with the people I care about.  Time is what matters most to me and it is the one thing that people give that they can never get back.  Money and things don’t matter, I don’t need you to buy me anything, I don’t need you to spend money on me, give me time and I’ll be your biggest champion and your most loyal fan.

This first year has been tough, it’s sucked in a million different ways but it’s taught me at least two million different lessons.  Lessons that I believe have made me a better, stronger, even more caring person.  I may not have tolerance for the bullshit but I have a deeper understanding of what’s really important, what really makes life beautiful and worth living, and even a better understanding of who I am because of it.


It’s Not Strength

With everything that I have gone through in the last year I have been called strong a lot and I have repeatedly denied that I am strong to the surprise and confusion to most people.  See, I don’t see myself as being stronger than the average person, I don’t know that there is anything about me that contains more strength to deal with situations others can’t fathom.  What I am is Finnish, (well half), and we are different than you. We are different than Swedes and Norwegians and all the other Scandinavians and it’s more than our square heads or complete lack of profile.  There is a cultural belief so deeply ingrained in us that it’s difficult to explain it to outsiders.  What we have is sisu.

This is what happens when the strength is gone, our reserves completely empty and we keep forging ahead anyway.  Head down, face into the wind, complete stubborn absolute determination to keep going.  It’s hard to describe if not explained in context so here it is.  Matt died and two weeks after that the last person left and I was alone.  I worked full time, ran Matt’s bar, sold my farm animals, let his truck get repossessed, and started packing to move into a two bedroom apartment from a three bedroom house with an attached 2 car garage, 4 car unattached garage, and a barn.  I wasn’t strong at this point, I had used my last bit of strength doing what I knew Matt wanted by removing him from a ventilator.  I had nothing left and I was empty but I kept going.  I sold 3/4 of our possessions, I worked desperately trying to get a grip on the bar, and I faced eviction from my house (because reduced to one income I couldn’t make the rent).  There was no strength left but I had determination and honestly, there was no other path I could take so I worked every day for two months and made it happen.

I guess a lot of widows don’t have to deal with the enormity of this right off the bat, they don’t have to pack up everything, go through everything, and decide what stays and what goes within weeks of their husband’s death but for me there was no other choice.  I had to do it so I did.  Strength was not a part of it because if I was strong I wouldn’t have had the same thought every day driving home from work, the same curiosity of what would happen if I drove my car into the ditch at top speed.  When that thought became more attractive than what I was dealing with I followed the only path I had available to me, I found myself a therapist who let me rail at him with rage I can’t even express to this day.  It’s not strength, it’s stubbornness that moved me forward through my grief.  I didn’t have the luxury of letting someone else handle my life, I couldn’t stay in bed and ignore the world, I had shit that had to be accomplished, not just for me but for my family as well.  So I trudged on finding things that helped me move forward.

Maybe I’ve moved through the stages of grief faster than others because of this.  For the first 6 months I didn’t have a moment where I wasn’t moving at top speed, where I wasn’t running my ass off trying to hold everything together by the very edges of my fingernails because I was too angry and too stubborn to give up and give in. People label it strength because they are looking on it from the outside completely unaware of what it was like in the storm. Even the people I called every day trying just to get through that day didn’t see because they weren’t there and honestly even as open as I am I didn’t share everything, I kept a whole hell of a lot back. Every day I did things I had to do because there was no one else to do them and in the process it changed me to my very core.  I am not the person I was anymore and part of me is sad about that.

What I’m not sad about is the choices I made or the way I wound my path back to really living.  I would argue that I am living more now than I ever did in the first 31 years of my life.  I have no opinion on drama and I’ve let friends go.  I try to complain less and focus instead on other things that make me happy.  I spend time with people who make me happy and avoid people who don’t without apology or explanation.  I have very few expectations of other people or of life itself other than to be fully present in each day without putting things off because I learned the hard way that there isn’t always later.

Some people are naturally stronger than others but everyone possesses the fortitude to continue on and keep moving. Strength fades but resilience does not, do not allow yourself to wallow, move forward and one day you will realize that just like spring, happiness returns when you aren’t seeking it.

Sometimes Strength Isn’t Strength

Through my whole life changing ordeal one thing that people from all walks of life have repeated over and over again is their amazement at how strong I am.  How I never stopped even for a day to wallow, that I never gave up and walked away.  That I continued to do whatever needed to be done no matter how painful it was, how exhausted I was, or how hollow I felt inside.  I think that people look at me and they see strength because that is the only thing that makes sense to them and honestly I have a good deal of personal strength in me.  Maybe more than others or maybe I just utilize it more.  But strength has a limit, it has an end where you have no more to give and your reserves are bone dry.

My strength probably ended about 2 months after Matt died, after I had a horrible move into my new apartment, after I was exhausted and sleeping only about 4 hours a night, working a full time job, running a bar, and trying to right a ship that I felt was sinking beneath my feet.  The Finnish have a word for this, a concept of what happens after your strength ends but you HAVE to keep going.  It’s called Sisu and it is by far one of the most defining points in our personalities.  It’s not a conscious thing, it’s not something you ever think about, it’s a way you are raised and a belief that no matter what happens you get back on your feet and get your ass moving.

That's right...and my family has lots of Sisu!

That is probably one of the best definitions of sisu I’ve ever come across.  Notice how at no point does it mention strength.  This is the second wind, this is what happens after the strength has evaporated and you are left with nothing but stubbornness and determination.  It is the iron grit that puts steel in your backbone and iron in your step.  I am strong but I am more stubborn and determined than anything else.  When the world fell apart is when my absolute refusal to quit kicked in.

I refused to quit after Matt died, I refused to take time to wallow in what had happened and let the numbness take over.  There was never a day that I was not working hard at something that might get my life back into some sort of order, to make some sort of sense.  Life sucker punched me several times but I hit back harder.  When I was drowning I made lists of things to accomplish.  In the beginning they really sucked ass but they kept me going since I knew that each morning I had crap to work on, things that needed to get done no matter what.  I needed to sell my farm animals so I did it, I needed to sell 75% of what I owned so I did it, I needed to pack my house to move so I did it and the list goes on and on.  These things kept me moving, kept the muscles warm as it were so I wouldn’t atrophy from disuse.  It is always easier to keep moving if you never stop in the first place.

The hardest part of this and probably something I’m going to be working on for a long time to come is that given my circumstances I feel that I have even less empathy toward people who whine.  I have little to no patience for people who complain about minor life events and do nothing about them.  I have no respect for people who quit at the slightest roadblock instead of finding a new path and continuing to move on.  (This is not at all the same as taking a break and regrouping before trudging on mind you).  Life is damn hard sometimes but you know what makes it harder?  Complaining about it.  Life is peppered with amazing joy but if you spend your whole time drowning in the pain you will miss it and it’s no one’s fault but your own.  Swim your ass to the surface and start paddling because I guarantee you that with enough grit you will find land again.

Today Matt and I would have been married 11 years. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about things like this so they always hit me pretty hard when I realize a day before what is about to happen. This revelation was not as sharp as I feared, not as cutting, it didn’t cut me off at the knees as I expected it would have when I first thought about it months and months and months ago. I still miss the hell out of him, I miss my best friend but the memories, the feelings are easier to handle and easier to express. I talk about him freely these days without losing my shit.

It’s no secret that I went through some serious shit when Matt died suddenly of a rare form of testicular cancer. People close to me probably thought they knew everything because I talk so often (about anything and everything) and there were a lot of phone calls where I called people overwhelmed, crying, or just this side of screaming. Everyone probably had a good idea what was going on but I doubt anyone really did. Though I am very open about my shit the worst of the worst I kept buried deep in a journal I’d never let anyone see.

I had serious rage issues. Not just anger at the change or the loss but complete blinding rage even toward some of the people I love the most. I had fantasies of driving my car into a ditch at high speed (not to hurt myself but to destroy something completely), I thought about packing everything that mattered to me and disappearing someplace new and not telling anyone (I thought very seriously about this), I thought about burning down my house that I was desperately trying to move out after selling 3/4 of what I owned (by myself), and I thought quite frequently about punching random strangers in the face for minor offenses. Thankfully I have mad self control skills and never did any of these things and they have all moved into the past.

These experiences have changed who I am and changed my view on life forever. Before I was a woman of little patience and a low tolerance for bullshit. Now it is almost non-existent though in different ways.

I am more willing to walk away from toxic situations, relationships, and people. I am not the Bob Villa of your life, I will not fix your problems if you have no investment in them yourself. We all have those people we hang on to because of shared experiences. We find ourselves pulled into drama because of morbid curiosity. Lately I’ve been accused of zoning out when people try to talk to me, it’s halfway true, I hear what people are saying I just don’t pay attention to the whining. If you involved yourself willingly in drama I will not pay attention to you whining about it, I just can’t, I don’t have the mental capacity or emotional reserves for it.

I don’t give advice anymore but I do listen more deeply. I am a fixer by nature, chances are I have some ideas on what you should be doing. How annoying is that? Sometimes I used to keep it to myself, sometimes not. I’m sure it was totally frustrating for people. Now I have nothing to offer except to know that you are heard. I have no advise on relationships, on families, on work, on anything. I realized that people will do whatever they will do no matter what you advise them of, all you can offer is your non-judgement and your friendship. This also makes it easier on yourself because you are not taking someone else’s problems (even if you love them to death) on your own shoulders.

I let a lot of shit go. My Father In Law used to pound this into my head (sometimes not so kindly) and it’s one of the best things he ever could have done for me. I am kind of an uptight person, I’m really easy to get wound up but not as much these days. Matt’s death put a lot of shit into perspective, it showed me what was really important (people), and what wasn’t (mostly their bullshit). Even when someone says something really jerky (and if you’ve followed me through my journey into widowhood you know that people are awesome at that) I let my brain take a break and let it go. Even when I’m really worked up and have bitched about something for a bit I will stop and mentally ask myself “will I remember this in 5 years?” chances are I won’t because I don’t remember what bothers me 10 minutes after it’s happened. Do you know how much time this opens up in your life when you refuse to dwell? It’s amazing. Things still bother me, I’m no zen master, I still lose my shit like any good Finnish woman (in spectacular and explosive form liberally peppered with the word “fuck”), but then I’m done. It’s really fucking liberating to just shrug your shoulders and let it go.

I’m more selfish. Pick your jaws up off the floor people, yes, this only child said she is MORE selfish. I am and I’m not ashamed of it. You know who laughs at this? People who aren’t married. People who haven’t worked for family businesses. People who haven’t given everything to everyone else and then asked for more. People get taught at a very young age that it’s the worst of the worst to be selfish but it’s not, it’s detrimental to constantly live for someone else, you lose yourself. Since it’s just me and my dogs I do what I want to do. If I want to get drunk on Wednesday (something I never would have considered doing a year ago) I will, if I want to break my own self imposed curfew and stay out late I’m going to, if I want to spend all weekend holed up in my apartment watching Star Trek then I’m going to and I don’t care what anyone is going to say about it. I do what I want, when I want and though I always try to be a kind person I’m not going to spend my time thinking about what other people want of me.

Mostly I feel like the sun has finally started to rise on my world again and that I have the first real glimpses of happiness again.

Life Changing

When Matt died it changed everything for me.  This is probably a very obvious statement to most people but being pressed they wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what it would change.  Yes, the man I loved above all others passed away, I lost my best friend, I lost half my income, I lost the life that I had been living for 11 years and all the plans we had made.  These are the obvious ways in which my life changed but though they were momentous they opened up the door for many more changes, some subtle, some earth shaking.

Not many people at 32 see their own mortality, we don’t see face to face right up close and personal how fragile life really is.  Most of us have lost a grandparent at this point, some of us have even lost a parent or an aunt or uncle.  A very unlucky few have lost a sibling or a friend.  Losing someone who has lived a full long life is different than losing someone who is 4 years older than you, someone so young and who had so much more to do with their life rocks you to your core.  It makes you question everything you do, every relationship you have, every bit of time spent on tasks society tells you that you must accomplish in order to get to point B.  It makes you step back and look at the bigger picture and when it snaps into full focus it’s scary as hell.

I found that I wasn’t scared at what I hadn’t been accomplishing, (I had checked the boxes in work, I owned my own home at one point, sold it too, I moved states for careers, I went through terribly painful fertility treatments in order to try to start a family), I was shocked at the things that I had pushed aside in order to pursue what we believed we were supposed.  Matt and I only ever took two vacations, two in the 11 years we were married.  Instead we worked and worked and worked some more believing that there was always time later.  I promised friends I would visit them and never planned those trips because I believed there would be time later and the timing wasn’t right now.

I allowed people in my life because I felt that it was the right thing to do, that even though they didn’t bring anything to the table, though they took more emotionally from me than gave, I kept them because I thought it showed that i had patience, that I was kind.  I no longer think that way and I no longer have the patience for people who take more than they offer.  Now we all have bad days, sometimes we have bad weeks or months or years, but even in those moments if you don’t give back to the people in your life it’s time to take a long hard look at what’s wrong.  If you start a conversation with “how are you?” but hate to hear the person actually answer because YOU have things to talk about it’s time to reevaluate.  I was not the greatest friend after Matt died and there was a point where I definitely felt like I was running on credit even with my closest people, where I knew I was calling them crying AGAIN and I secretly dreaded that this was the last straw.  But you know what?  Even in my darkest days I wanted more than anything to hear about other people’s lives because that was normal and I wanted to talk about everything and anything besides what had happened and how I was feeling.  Relationships I had allowed in my life changed and I did let some people go, some people I actively pushed out.  I stopped clinging to people that I had been friends with just because we’d known each other for a long time and I formed new friendships.

Making time for myself still feels selfish but I am doing it anyway.  I am carving out personal time even if it’s not convenient for other people.  I make plans based on when I am free and when things come up to threaten that I am getting better at dealing with it later and perusing what I really want to do.  I’m not great at it but I’ve learned the hard way that there is not always later and life does not give you credit because you had good intentions.

Decluttering my life has also been part of the process.  When I moved out of a 3 bedroom house with 2 garages and a barn I got rid of 75% of the things I owned.  You know how much of that I miss?  None of it.  I haven’t missed a single item.  There are still things in my apartment I’m getting rid of and donating.  I no longer care about accumulating STUFF, I’d rather have experiences and memories.  I’d rather collect things I don’t have to dust or navigate around.  I still like things but it’s not as important anymore.  I’d rather spend my time and money on people, on experiences that I love or are new and exciting rather than trying to save up for some little piece of nothing that won’t give me pleasure three months from now.

I don’t have to win every battle.  Sometimes I don’t even fight it in the first place.  This is new for me, I’m a recovering know it all (I’ve been recovering since Matt first pointed out this less than pleasing personality trait to me 11 years ago) and I usually fight like hell for just about everything.  Now I just don’t have the head space for battles that aren’t important.  I say “fuck it” a lot but that’s not a very eloquent or accurate expression of what I’m really doing.  I’m really letting go of things that aren’t really important in the long run, I’m letting go of the petty bullshit or the things that are too small to freak out about.  This has expanded a bit more than I intended and I have stopped really freaking out about some of the issues that probably are more important.  It’s just too much damn work to freak out all the time.  Letting go has been a big process for me and it works better sometimes than others.

We don’t get to choose what life bitch slaps us in the face with but we get to choose how we deal with it and how we cope.  I’m not perfect but I’m working on it.  I refuse to wallow and I take each experience as a lesson in how I am to live, each new slap as a chance to learn my true path.  It’s painful but its better than being stagnant.

Strong Women

I’m a strong ass woman, if you know me this isn’t a surprise, if you don’t know me then you find out fast.  I have a low tolerance for bullshit, I speak the truth, I am confident in how I look (I’m not the best out there but I’m not the worst and there have always been men that dig it), I am happy with my own personality, own my faults (and often try to work on them), and I don’t need someone to validate me.  That said, I love my people.  I am viciously protective and will defend them with a sharp tongue and a stiff right hook.  I will do just about anything to ease their suffering an make them smile.  I am the wrong woman to cross but I have a huge ass heart and the love I hold for people close to me is a bottomless well.  If I love you I will have your back even if you are wrong, maybe especially if you are wrong.

I know I am not an easy person to love in return or at least I view it that way.  It takes me a long time to really open up to people and allow them into the depths of my life.  What you see, what I show you is just the surface of who I am.  It can take years to see all the places in which I truly hide myself from the world.

What I am not is weak, or if I feel weak I will never show it to you.  I was raised in a strong family that often targeted weakness, we made you strong because we would allow no other alternative.  If you are family you better gut up because this ocean is stormy.

That, I think, is why this new experience of dating is hard for me.  I am attracted to the strong alpha male personality.  I don’t want to be with anyone I feel like I could take in a street fight.  No I wouldn’t actually fight them, but I am mentally and physically strong so being with anyone I could over power (or would LET me over power them) is just just unappealing.  I always knew how lucky I was when Matt decided he loved me above all others but I know just how seriously one in a million lucky I really was.  He was strong but he was also gentle and that is an amazing combination.  He was upright and stood up for others.  He was a whole person, so like us all he had his faults but they were not as glaring to me.  He was a strong ass man who was at ease being married to a strong ass woman.  Someone who would go with the flow but would be able to back me down without being unkind.  I need that sometimes, if you are not strong enough I will bulldoze right over you without a second thought.

Taking a good look around at the men out there and the ones that have approached me for dates I have some advise.  Strong ass women can be seriously attractive, I get it but you have to be prepared and you have to be confident in yourself or else we will walk away in a heart beat.

1. Your opinion matters.
It really does, even if you think that we like to be in charge all the time you opinion really does matter.  If you don’t want to do something say it, if you want something say it.  Being with a strong ass woman is all about communication.  Tell us what you want and chances are you’ll get it.  We don’t always want to be in charge.  We aren’t your mother, we don’t want to make all the decisions and if we are making all the decisions chances are we are already thinking it’s better being single.

2. Passive Aggression will get you punched.
Strong ass people don’t deal well with people who can not be aggressive.  If you are pissed be pissed and say it.  Don’t pretend like nothing is wrong.  This will have us walking away in a heartbeat.  Nothing is more unattractive for a strong person than someone who can’t just express basic human emotions.  Anger can be productive, it can spark real conversation, if you hold it in and be petty you are missing a huge opportunity.  Strong ass people will give you the space to express yourself because we are confident in ourselves to let you do so.  We might not always LIKE what you have to say but we will appreciate that you have the balls to say it.

3. Make a stand.
If you are passionate about something plant your flag in it and let it fly free.  Don’t back down because it’s weird or unpopular.  Even if I think it’s weird I will respect the shit out of you for being passionate about something.  I will even brag to other people about your weird passion because man, “this person is amazing at something and they don’t care if you are going to be a jerk about it.”  Point in case, I knit and I cross stitch, I don’t care what people think about that.  I make cool ass crap and I will knit my ass off in public even if you laugh at me.  Laugh away mother fucker, what are you passionate about?

4. Strong ass people fall apart too.
We do, and it’s usually spectacular.  It’s like a comet smashing into an erupting volcano.  There will be yelling, the crying will be messy but we will surface much faster than other people.  Weather the storm, tie yourself to the mast and stare right into that gale and when it has passed you will be inner circle for life.  Strong ass people recognize there are very few people we can be weak in front of and we will pull you closer than ever before.

That’s just a small sample but it will get you in the door.  If you like a strong ass person don’t be a door mat, don’t be a wimp about your own feelings, stand up to us and we will respect you for it.

Hippy Crap to Calm Pissy Spirits.

A year ago I would have openly laughed at anyone saging a room or dwelling, now, it’s something I take semi seriously. Living in a 120 year old building I have a steady truce with the energies that live beside me but last week my landlord was in a side of the building’s basement we have all decided that does not belong to us.  I will not lie, as soon as I pulled up and saw the plumbers moving in and out of the wrong side of the basement my stomach cramped.  See, this building is old as hell and has seen a lot of things.  I have had very real experiences here and none have creeped me out (a whistle in the kitchen when I was totally alone in the bar? One only Matt and I used to call our dogs, our very personal “get your ass over here and pay attention to me you filthy canine” whistle was clear as day while I was by myself.

Well, in the basement things get different really damn fast.  It’s split into 3 parts.  The part right off the kitchen stairs, a bit of storage, and the rest.  I don’t like to go into the main part, it’s poorly lit, it’s damp, and I’ve heard things being tossed around down there but I’ve never felt THREATENED.  The storage is fine, apparently no one cares about storage.  The OTHER part of the basement is a different story completely.  It is not a place any person ever wants to be.  It’s filled with amazing things and I refuse to go look at them.  That part of the basement belongs to something else and I have decided to respect the crap out of that as long as they respect my apartment.

5 hours after the plumbers invaded the wrong side of the basement fixing a drain I got a call from my chef saying that my smoke alarm (1 of 2) was going off like crazy without any hint of smoke and my dogs were howling (even scarier is I wasn’t home and it wouldn’t’ stop), It went off again after I reset it out of no where an me not being in the apartment an hour later so I pulled the thing apart and took it downstairs.  I still had a smoke alarm and I’m not going to deal with it, The next night I heard a loud bang in my apartment while I was down in the bar, upstairs nothing was amiss (this was definitely not a dog thump), it was so solid a thump that I could feel it through the floor of the bar 14 feet below.

That night I knew that something was amiss and saged the fuck out of my apartment.  I did this when I first moved in mostly in a ritual to claim this space as mine and a place for positive energy for myself.  I decided that this would be a place of healing and progress and I wasn’t going to accept any crap into my space.  I saged every corner of this place with windows wide open feeling a little foolish and also determined.  I could have sprinkled fairy dust into each corner and thought happy thoughts and it would have had the same effect.  This was going to be my home and my first without Matt and I was going to make it the best I could.

Tonight my bartender told me that last Sunday she actually had to take a break while closing because she was so scared so suddenly that she almost broke down in tears.  This is from a woman who had worked before at the same bar for years without ever being bothered by anything in the bar.  I hadn’t even told her about my smoke alarms or thump.  Tonight I brought down the sage and gave it to my bartender working tonight.  Thankfully I seem to always employ at least one hippy who doesn’t give it a second thought.  We had invaded something’s space and now it was invading ours.

I know it sounds dumb and new agey but sometimes you have to accept that there are things you just can’t understand and that doesn’t make them any less real. I’ve probably had the least of all the experiences reported by my staff and patrons so tonight we sage and hopefully put the truce back in place.

And before you say it, no I don’t at all believe that Matt’s spirit is at the bar.  I believe he is in peace where ever we all go after we die.  He’s definitely not here, I don’t know how to explain it but I just know it deep in my heart, he’s gone and whatever I’m dealing with is not him.

Things That Change

I’m sure anyone who has every gone from being in a relationship probably can relate but there are a lot of things about suddenly being a widow I never thought of before.  Things that would affect me in a way I never imagined.

1.  I can complete all my laundry in like 3 loads.  This is astonishing to me.  I can also do this after going 3 weeks without doing laundry.  How crazy pants is that?

2.  When I go looking for a clean dish or cup I have one and my sink is clean (most of the time).  This is even crazier because I only have 4 plates and 6 cups to my name (including coffee cups).

3 Taking care of two massive dogs can be more challenging.  I don’t have any back up when the boys are being jerks so there are times when I just send them to their corners for 15 minutes of quiet time and to settle.

4. I can have a carton of ice cream in my freezer for weeks before it’s gone.  I didn’t even know this was possible.

5. I bought scented drier sheets.  My sheets smell NICE.  Matt had seriously sensitive skin so everything was perfume and dye free.

6. I can light scented candles without criticism.  I can pick the scents i like and not worry if they are “stinky”.

There are lots of things I don’t like obviously.  I miss my best friend every day.  He had the kindest eyes (which he shared with his sister and his father) and the best smile and was a center of calm in my worst storms.  I hate how empty the house can feel about an hour before bedtime and all my midwest friends have gone to bed and I have no one to talk to.  My bed is empty and I still haven’t adapted to sleeping in the middle.  I have found ways to root out the happiness though.  There are still things that make me insanely happy and I’m trying to focus on them.  Sometimes I suceed and sometimes I fail but that is all in being human.  Whenever I start to get stressed or upset about something I try to remember that the worst thing has already happened, whatever follows is nothing compared to that and if I could get through losing my best friend and husband I can make just about anything happen.

Distance and Time

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time but I neither had the emotional strength nor the distance to put what I have been feeling and encountered into words.  Now, almost 6 months since Matt passed I feel like I have a better perspective on this thing we call grief than I did.  It’s like driving onto an overpass and seeing the skyline of a city, it’s easy to see with some distance, maybe in another 6 months I’ll see it from the distance of a plane flying overhead.  Someplace I recognize, some place that still tugs a bit at my heartstrings, but not my home anymore.  

It’s easy to make your home in grief and linger there, wallowing in the days that you don’t get and forgetting to live the days that you have.  To look back on the road your traveling, on everything that you’ve lost, on everything that’s been taken from you.  It’s hard to turn away from that and look forward to where you are going.  It’s a struggle not to try to grasp for the things that have fallen beside the road and try to drag them with you, it’s hard to let go because you feel as though letting go might mean forget and you never ever want to forget a single moment.  Those plans you had are gone, you must let them go and make new ones, make a new life, and try to be a whole person again.  It’s hard.  It’s really fucking hard.  Distance through time helps, it doesn’t solve anything but it helps.  The razor sharp edges of loss are dulled and eroded, eventually they don’t slice right through you every time, only sometimes and only in some moments.

I have had some crazy things said to me in the months that I’ve lost Matt from being criticized to wearing my wedding ring too long (a month), to comments about NOT wearing it, to dating advise, criticized about keeping my last name because I’m “not married anymore”, to being told not to “grieve too long” to “I don’t see you as a widow, you can’t be a widow” (ok, let me just jump in my way way back machine and will my husband’s cancer away so I don’t have to be a widow anymore, wish I thought of that).

I am determined to believe that people are generally coming from a good place, that they are good people who have no idea what the hell is coming out of their mouths or how they sound.  I have to believe this or else I would spend a lot of time punching people in the face.  This tragedy didn’t happen to other people, it happened to me and my inlaws.  More people might have been saddened by Matt’s sudden death but they weren’t affected by it the way we were.  They weren’t present at those horrible final moments.  They don’t count, at least not in my book.  Given that I believe that people are inherently good I have to believe that the terrible things that come out of their mouths are because they just don’t know what to say.  

What is the best and only thing you have to say upon learning that someone has passed?  “I’m sorry”, “That fucking sucks,” “That’s horrible”, then let the conversation move on.  Don’t dwell, don’t force us to talk about what we don’t want to talk about.  If I don’t know you chances are I don’t want to play 20 questions about the worst 11 days of my life.  I might cry, you might feel like a dick, and this could have been avoided.  

No one wants to compare loss.  Ever.  I know it might have been a big event in your life that you lost [fill in the blank], but it’s not the same, it’s nowhere near the same.  The reason for that?  We are not the same person.  How I deal with grief and how I feel about my loss you could never understand and I could never understand how you felt about yours.  I might have an idea but I’d never presume to know how it affected you.  I hate to hear “I know exactly how you feel” because all I want to say in response is “No you FUCKING don’t, you have NO IDEA how I feel.”  I definitely don’t want to compare notes with you. 

Things do get better though.  Not because of anything anyone says, not because of anything anyone does.  It gets better because that’s the only option.  The pain will be with me forever, there is nothing I can ever do to erase those terrible days, but it becomes more distant, it becomes more manageable.  Eventually life turns becomes normal again, a new kind of normal, something different than before but not necessarily terrible.  The storm has passed and the cleanup can take years but eventually everything is swept up and a new life forms. 

Time Marches On

So, in another week an a half my husband will have been gone for 3 months.

I don’t know how the time has passed, mostly I’ve spent it in a total fog though I know I’ve been super productive.  I’ve been productive because I needed to run my husband’s bar, continue working my full time job, and pack up a 3 bedroom house, 2 garages, a barn, sell my livestock, and move into Portland to be closer to my bar which i was commuting to every day.

Busy has helped.  Everyone said that being busy would keep my mind off things.  People who say crap like that have never experienced their life shattering apart in a million pieces.  Yes, I’m putting the pieces together, there are unexpected triumphs as well as unexpected baseball bats to the face.  If life gives you what you can handle but if that’s true life must think I’m as badass as Batman.

Some days I can handle just fine, some days I’m really freaking awesome, some days I can’t do anything but cry in my car at lunch, and sometimes I just want to break anything and everything I can.  I am more often the latter than anything else.  I have always been quit hot tempered but now it’s different.  Now a rage boils within me unlike anything else, it’s not explosive, it’s not as though I’m mad at any one thing, but ti’s there just as physical as a boulder and no amount of yoga or breathing exercises help.  It probably exacerbates things that I swallow down my feelings whenever I’m in public.  

I’ve never been good at publicly expressing the deeper sides of my personality and though i don’t want to share those feelings with the world I don’t know that sucking it up is working for me.  I guess time will only tell.

One thing I think definitely helped was moving. The space I now live in doesn’t have any memories of Matt and it’s a good retreat when the world gets to hard.  I like my little two bedroom apartment, I like living closer to the city, I like everything about it except that I wish I had larger sidewalks to walk my dogs.  Thankfully I am very close to a large nature reserve. 

Things have changed, obviously, but not in the most expected ways.  I learned that I am not an un-tidy person, that I regularly keep my dishes done and vacuum once a week along with my bathroom spotless.  Who knew?  Who knew that cleaning up after another person for 11 years made me give up completely?  I have learned also that I will watch the same DVD twice in row rather than get up and put another one in.  I also have not cooked a thing in 2 weeks.  I am in love with my blender and if I can not make a smoothie out of it in 5 minutes chances are I’m not eating it.  Also, LAUNDRY, who knew you could do all your laundry in two loads? WHO KNEW? I sure as hell didn’t.  

These are not really plus sides as unexpected but obvious outcomes of living by myself.  Living by myself is weird but I think being an introvert and an only child makes me much more ok with it than most people.  I don’t mind my time alone, I find ways to fill my space.  I’ve started drawing and painting again, eventually, when I can face it I’ll start knitting again.  I put aside all the hobbies that brought me happiness when Matt died, not intentionally, but I just didn’t have the attention span for anything lasting for more than 5 minutes. 

I have rekindled friendships I had always had but are much more present in my life.  I walk with the dogs, hike by myself, and for the first time in a long time do everything I want to do when I want to do it.  I miss Matt like crazy every moment of every day, but I think I’m starting to find myself again.


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