Thursday, August 24, 2017

Eight Years

Eight. Years.

It feels like yesterday. And also like a different lifetime.

I still remember the way the light looked on the morning that I kissed him goodbye, not knowing it was our last kiss. The sun had that beautiful butterscotch hue to it as it flooded the kitchen of our little condo, the rich color that only August sun has. I had on a too-big green give-away t-shirt and still had my TMJ mouth guard in. He scolded me for being out of bed early on my day off, but I wanted to make him coffee before he left for school. It was so--ordinary.

I would be widowed by the time that lovely sun set.

***

I find myself reflecting on the last eight years. What lessons have these years taught me? Among other things, this:

I learned how to grieve. Well, I know I’m still learning, but I learned early on that grief is a relentless teacher that never really takes a break, only changes, but can apparate back to it’s original form and back again in the same moment. I learned to give myself grace about timelines and linear “progress” and anything else that felt like expectation. I learned to give grace to others; too, even if they had expectations for my grieving that I could not meet.  Some of the support I got was tremendous (saints, I tell you!). But, it’s also amazing to me how few of the people in my current “inner circle” even knew me eight years ago. It’s hard for me sometimes that they never even knew Sawan, this man that changed me so fully and completely by his presence and then by his absence.

I learned that there are no guarantees. I was not promised a husband that would live until we were old. I was not promised children. I was not promised an easy life. (I was also not promised other marriage benefits-- like orgasms, or someone to do the “dude” things like changing the furnace filters and taking out the trash and opening all the jars.) I was only promised sufficient grace. You know, just enough grace to get by. Over the years I recognized that so much of the time I enjoy not merely sufficient grace, but rather an extravagance of grace.

I learned that life isn’t going to look like I thought it would. It isn’t even going to look like I thought it would once I realized I had to re-think life. I’m still learning to get over that and just live. I’m learning to live like this is my one wild and precious life, and I won’t squander it by merely surviving.

***

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it every day.
And I know that I am the luckiest.
-Ben Folds from The Luckiest (which was “our song”)


It was pretty great while the luck held, Baby. I miss you every day.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lonesome

Today, in my “memories” on Facebook, where it shows all of the posts you’ve ever had on this same date, from previous years, I had a status from 2009, less than a month before my husband died.  “I get ready for work so much faster when there’s no one around to pester.  It’s kinda lonesome, though.”  Sawan was out of town, fishing with my Dad, I think.  He was not a morning person, and hated it when I woke him up as I was getting ready for work.  So I of course woke him.  Every day.  If I had only known.  Less than a month later I’d be forever lonesome in my morning ritual.

It’s that time of year again.  I used to love summer, and now I merely survive it, especially the brutal 7 or 8 weeks between our wedding anniversary, July 1st, and the anniversary of the day he died, August 24th.  His birthday is thrown in there on August 2nd, just to really make it hard.  It’s been almost seven years since my husband died but as the days get closer to the same length as that hateful day, my body remembers, and even though so much time has passed, it’s still hard.

I walked through Costco tonight.  The Halloween costumes were out.  It’s been a long time since an image like that has made me cry, but suddenly my eyes just leaked.  Will I ever get to have a little person to put in one of those?  It’s looking more and more like the answer is “no.”  On days like today I grieve for the loss of the life that I thought I was going to have.

Most days I’m ok.  Most days I remember that I’ve found my new normal.  I even have found a way to enjoy myself again.  I laugh a lot.  I don’t feel sad every single day.  Not even in this gross 8 weeks. 

But today, I’m just not that ok.  I long for the days when I thought that one morning without him was too hard, and when I still believed that it was my destiny to have a small, costume-clad person holding my hand.



Monday, March 21, 2016

The Bod

I’ve been crazy busy living life, but when I told a client in my chair this story the other day, she said, “You should write a blog.”  I told her, I do write a blog (you know, in the loose sense of the word, I should have said I sometimes write a blog).

Right before Christmas, I met a man.  What makes this remarkable is that I had just made a statement, the day before, that I was done for awhile.  Benched.  I felt a bit creeped out by men in general and needed a break.

And then I met this guy.  I was at an event at church, one of the happy hours for the 30’s group.  I was actually there to avoid being home because of a (before mentioned) creepy man situation (but that’s another story for another time), even though I was benched.  Anyway, we ended up having a 30 to 45 minute conversation, which is rare in that setting, and had a ton of things in common.  He was handsome (my friends came to call him The Bod), was soft spoken, and super kind.  Because of the fact that I was “done,” I was just totally being my authentic, unfettered self.  I wasn’t trying to impress him.  It came up that I was a widow (because I was benched, my guard wasn’t up), and in a totally non-weird way, he asked about the story and I told it.  He was compassionate.  At the end of the conversation he told me to find him on Facebook, and mutual friends overheard that, and had been observing our long talk, and got excited.  This meeting had potential.

I found him on Facebook, and we exchanged messages over Christmas, but nothing substantial. 

After New Years, a friend of mine had a birthday and a big group of my friends, including the Bod, went out to celebrate.  We had a lot to drink, closed the bar down, went to get food afterward, and then he kissed me in my car.  I was shocked.  Other women had been throwing themselves at him all night.  I had actually been having an internal dialogue with myself all night:  Don’t fall for this guy, Noel.  Church guys are weird.  They can be such pussies.  He’ll never make a move.  You don’t want to be part of the harem.  So when he actually did make a move, I was shocked!  In a good way.  My internal dialogue changed to: Oh, it’s on.

And then the next day I saw him and it was like he was giving me the Heisman (as in, the body language that the trophy shows).  We finally had a conversation a week later, where I totally gave him an out:  We had been drinking a lot.  We don’t really know each other.  Blah Blah Blah.  But, he assured me that he had felt a connection, that he had meant to kiss me, but that he wanted to take things slow, base a relationship on friendship.  He wanted to get to know me.  Internal dialogue: Well, I don’t typically do slow, but that hasn’t been working for me lately.  Sure.  I could try slow.

After a couple of weeks of more awkwardness, with just enough hint of connection to keep me guessing, I sent an email.  I kindly told him that he’s not the type that I normally date, so if this is slow, I can be patient, but if he’s not interested, well, basically, could he help a sister out and just let me know?  He responded saying that he wanted to talk about it in person, and could we get together the following week because he was out of town?  “Sure,” I said.

But then he didn’t follow up, either via email or in person when I ran into him twice that week.  So, I felt mildly disappointed, both in the fact that he clearly wasn’t interested and also in the fact that he was, after all that, exactly what I had been warning myself against the whole night before we kissed.  But, whatever.

The problem is, we’re part of the same friend group.  So, a couple of weeks later, after seeing him a few times and not talking to him, he asked me if we could grab coffee or a drink.  Internal Dialogue: Do we seriously need to get together now, a month after I emailed you, for you to tell me you’re not interested? I think I got it, buddy.  But, I agreed.  Why not?  I’m pretty sure that I can’t remember what I ever saw in him, but, I’m pretty good at giving lots of chances.  Plus, because we run in the same gang, I’d like for him to be able to make eye contact with me.

My friends all told me not to worry anyway.  “What kind of asshole wants to get together after you’ve clearly moved on to tell you that he’s not interested?”

Oh, my friends, the Bod is that kind of asshole. We met for coffee, and I waited an hour for him to beat around the bush, to hint at the idea that he’s not interested.  I had to say, “Um, could we just circle back to the fact that you aren’t going to date anyone at the church that we go to, ‘cuz I feel like that was for me.”  After him stuttering through an explanation, and finally being somewhat direct, I told him he owed me an aplogy.  “You wanted to sit down and talk about this now?  It’s been two months since you kissed me.  You think it’s okay to just string someone along like that?”  He stuttered another explanation, no apology, and told me that he was “spooked” by my direct communication style.  And by the fact that I’m a widow.   

Mmokay then.  I’m actually proud of the fact that I’m a direct communicator.  And the widow thing?  That I can’t change.  I didn’t kill my husband.  It’s completely unfair.  It’s not my fault.  Really, in the whole above scenario, I can’t really think where I went wrong.

But now, even a couple of weeks later, I’m still furious.  Before we sat down, I had felt a bit of rejection, but it was no big deal. I had already moved on.  And then he dropped the widow thing on me.  I’m not someone who struggles with confidence.  Ever.  To a degree that it is probably actually not healthy, it probably borders on arrogance.  But, sheesh.  Every date that I’ve been on since my husband died, this is an issue, (well, except for that minute that I was dating the guy that I’ve known my whole life).  Internal Dialogue: No one will want you.  Ever.

And that just sucks.

I'm trying to tell myself that it's not true.

And, I keep reminding myself that I don’t even know this man.  That my first impressions were that he was just so kind.  That’s not the picture of him that he ended up showing me, but I believe that he has to be bigger than the small (asshole) piece of him that he showed me. 


But still.  F#ck him.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

#tbt

A couple of weeks ago, Ellie (my sister) found these photos from Christmas 2008 and showed them to me.  I had never seen them before. 
Sawan and Arthur

Sawan and I with our Christmas cracker hats on

Ellie says she was trying out her new iphone and took this picture before he left for work.  It was his contact photo in her phone. 
After looking through them that night, I had a dream about Sawan, which has seriously only happened about four times (isn’t that strange?).  It was just a normal day, we were back in our old condo and he was making me dinner, which is pretty much how life always was.  His back was to me almost the whole time, and in random dream world he was making a salad but then he was trying to put it all on a pita, not in a “hey this will make a great wrap” sort of way, but just in a “this makes absolutely no sense because it’s in random dream world” way.  He put raw onions on it, which he realized too late and was annoyed about because then he knew I wouldn’t want to eat it (I hate raw onions).  And then I woke up.  I never touched him, didn’t get to tell him I loved him, how much I miss him.  It was truly disappointing.  Especially for it only being the fourth time in six years that I have had a late night rendezvous with my dead husband.







There was also this one.  Because, you know, safety first.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Intolerable Complement

2016 is starting out pretty amazing.  I’m crazy busy, but I won’t complain.  I’m loving life.

Remember that I said that I was listening to books?  I’ve been on a bit of a C.S. Lewis binge of late. 

In the last few months I’ve “read” The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity, and The Problem of Pain.  I took a break in between to listen to something a bit less heady, and just finished The Problem of Pain last week.  I feel like I’m secure in the fact that I’m an intelligent woman, but when I read C.S. Lewis I feel like I know nothing, that I’m never going to get it.  Like he’s speaking the language of the gods and I am a mere mortal.  I was talking to someone about this and he told me that you have to just realize that every time you read him you’re going to get something more than you got the last time, and be patient with yourself.  So, I’m working on it.

But, reading The Problem of Pain has totally changed my life. 

I struggle with caring too much about what people think about me.  I think I’m better than I used to be, but it’s still there.  In a lot of ways I feel that people think that I must have really screwed up to be in the position that I am.  Widowed.  I have let that affect my own thoughts about myself as well.

It seems like there are multiple ways to process grief and suffering, but the way that I always go is that its all my fault.  Since the terrible thing that happened to me can’t be explained, it must be because of something that I did, or because I’m a bad person, or at any rate not good enough, and eventually, I get to, because God doesn’t love me enough. 

Part of the “messy spirituality" that I’m known for is that (as I have said before) I know intellectually that God loves me and wants what’s best for me, but if he thinks that me being widowed is best for me, then he’s kind of an asshole.  Even though I hate it, that’s  pretty much been the way I’ve been relating to him for the last six or so years.  And then I read this:

"We are, not metaphorically, but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.  Here again we come up against what I have called the 'intolerable compliment'. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life - the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child - he will take endless trouble - and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [the ability to feel and to have subjective experiences]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.

Hmm.  He really loves me after all.  Talk about a paradigm shift.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

So long, 2015 (don't let the door hit'cha...)

What a crazy year 2015 was.

By seasons, it was a rough winter, followed by springtime of conflict, one of my darkest summers on record, and a fall that was beautiful but also painful in a different way.  As the year moved on toward colder weather again, I found myself loving winter in a way that I never have before.  I need the cold to seal everything up and let dormant things lie, so that there can be new life.

But, amid the dark stuff, there was light.  Here’s are some of the major happenings:

I got a Fitbit.  I got it in March, and gradually became obsessed with it. By May my crazy was full blown.  Picture me doing laps inside my house getting steps.  The neighbors see me walk by and call out, “Getting your steps?”  Pacing the floor in a quiet moment, causing my friends to say, “What are you doing?” I went from the second week of May through the beginning of September without missing my 10,000-step count goal (When you reach your goal, the Fitbit vibrates.  I call it “Party on my wrist.” It now comes with a dance, as well.).  A combination of it getting more difficult to walk outside and a three-week separation from it in November allowed me to release myself (I have a problem with letting things go once I’ve set a goal).  I still average 9K, but it’s not like the 12K I was getting in July.  Let it go, Noel.  *deep breath* But, summer 2015 will always be the Summer of the Fitbit.  All of my Denver family had one, and we would compete against each other and our Australia family.  My sister would stop by just because she was going out to get steps and she wanted company.  We would all be together and find the furthest parking spot away so that we could all increase our steps.  It was such fun. 
From a Fitbit walk this summer.  Sun setting, perfect weather, and a field full of dandelions.  I hate them in my own yard, but at the park, it was so dreamy, all I could think was, "That's a lot of wishes."

From an amazing encounter with author of the Shack, Paul Young.  
That leads to another great thing about 2015.  I began to “read” again.  Well, sort of.  You see, I used to be a big reader.  I would read one or two books a month.  When I was a kid, I actually got grounded from reading more than once.  I would be reading when I was supposed to be doing other things, like chores, or sleeping.  After Sawan died, however, I had to stop.  I couldn’t read as quickly as I had before, and my comprehension had gone down the tubes.  Reading provided only frustration where it used to bring joy, so I gave it up for awhile.  There have been a few books that I’ve struggled through in the last six years, but it was just that, a struggle.  I have a friend that is an occupational therapist that suggested I try doing two things at once, like reading and swinging, or reading on my elliptical.  That would employ both sides of my brain and therefore help me to remember.  But, I found an even better solution, using her suggestion of two things at once.  Audiobooks.  I listen while I’m getting my steps (or walking, if you want), or driving, or working in the yard, or in the tub, or doing the dishes.  It’s employing both sides of my brain but I’m still being productive.  I “read” 17 books this year.  Plus, I’m old school reading (actual books with paper and words) three more right now, but that takes me forever.

August is always a hard month for me; the majority of my "hard days" fall in August.  I really keep thinking that it’s going to get easier, but man, this one was tough.  I told my mom one day that the only thing I wanted to do was smoke and work out.  A bit counter-productive, I know, but I allowed myself some grace in the cigarette department (I technically quit November 2014) and gained some muscle at Orange Theory.



Which brings me to my very favorite thing from 2015.  Orange Theory Fitness.  Orange Theory is a HIIT workout that kicks my butt every time, but is completely enjoyable.  When I tell my friends about it, some of them say they never want to do it, and some of them have come with me.  Either way, I am addicted to the endorphins and have injured myself more than once from trying to go too often. I think it probably saved my life this summer and so I’m incredibly thankful for it.

I started a new job in September staging real estate.  I work staging on the days that I’m not doing hair.  Well, to be fair, I only worked a handful of days last fall and then things totally slowed down around the holidays, so I had plenty of time for the busy season at the salon.  A really gifted friend is training me, and I love every minute of it.  It’s totally energizing in a whole new way.

I began to use Arthur (my service dog) less and less this fall; it just felt like it was time, because I’m doing so much better than I was when I first started using him.  I just don’t need him as much as I used to.  He and I are stumbling a bit through the transition of him not having to work all the time, but still being a good boy when I need him to work.  I think he doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand why I’m leaving him.  And, I miss him.  I don’t miss all of the questions or the attention that we got, though.  Anyway, we’re getting it figured out.
Arthur with his birthday cone

freezing his paws off.  not a fan of the boots.



September in Santa Fe
My parents moved away this fall.  My dad started a new job in October, so he headed north then, and my mom came and went throughout the fall working on finding their new house and getting the old house ready to go.  They left for good right after Thanksgiving. I went up there for Christmas (BTW, spending time in the town where I went to high school and have rarely been since was surreal), so I haven’t really felt their absence until this week.  It pretty much sucks.






Sprinkle in there a few bad dates, a few good dates (but none with a permanent solution to my single-girl woes), some awesome time deepening old friendships and making new ones, another season watching the Rockies lose, and you pretty much have my year.  For the most part I feel like 2015 can suck it.  I’m not sad to see it go.

old friends. (Or friends for a long time.  We're NOT old.)
(relatively) new friends.

I’m excited to see what 2016 will bring

My dear readers, my Readership of Tens, thank you for reading my words.  Thanks for your comments and words of encouragement.  Especially you widows…we got this!  We’re in it together.  Thanks for another year.
 
Christmas in Montana



Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

'DO NOT BE AFRAID. For unto you I bring glad tidings of great joy which shall be for ALL people.' Unto us a savior is born. With all of the hope that the season brings, I wish you a Merry Christmas!