Coming to Terms

We have a natural tendency to put those we loved on a pedestal after they die, as if everything they said and did was absolutely perfect.  And we all know that relationships aren’t perfect and are a tremendous amount of work.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what my life would have been like 5 years from now had things been different.  Jason was so career driven and worked more than anyone I’ve ever met.  He was an absolute perfectionist and would spend hours on one single PowerPoint slide to get it exactly perfect so he could present it to a room full of Chinese businessmen, who didn’t know what the hell he was talking about anyway.    And I spent hours and hours just waiting for a place on his schedule.  We didn’t even spend our 2nd wedding anniversary together because he was in Whistler on a work retreat.  I celebrated by myself, just like I did on Tuesday.   He told me there would be other anniversaries and he would make up for it.  But there wasn’t.  He missed the last one.

I hated hated hated Jason’s job.  He took the position only a couple of months after we were married and that was that.  He warned me there’d be some travel involved but he never said two weeks at a time, or that even when he wasn’t traveling he’d be barricaded in the office with the door shut, or that he would wake up at 4am and leave for work, not returning until 7pm.  And then he’d constantly be checking his work email while we were eating dinner, and then he’d pull out his laptop and continue tinkering on whatever it was that was more important than us.  I remember nights just sitting on the couch staring at him waiting for him to look up…but he rarely did.  It felt like rejection and it hurt.  I began to feel like subtle background music….always there but easy to ignore.

So, if Jason were here right now he’d probably be working and I’d feel almost as lonely as I do now.  What would life be like 5 years from now?   I loved him more than anything and I’m sure he loved me too…but I think the meaning of life and his existence revolved around his success….and my life revolved around him.

I’m angry about all of the things we missed out on because he was traveling around the world or on a conference call at 10pm with Korean sales people.  I’m starting to realize that there probably wasn’t really time for me in his long-term plans…so 5 years from now….I’d probably find myself alone just as I do now.

And there is the truth of it all.

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So Here We Are

I haven’t felt much like sharing my feelings lately.  Yesterday would have been our 3rd wedding anniversary so I spent the day working from home and then opened a bottle of cheap wine at 5pm sharp.  I didn’t even use a glass.  I drank straight from the bottle which meant I had purple lips by the time I arrived  at the tobacco shop to purchase a pack of clove cigarettes, something I always crave around this time of year.  I figure 12 cigarettes a year won’t kill you any faster than running a half-marathon.  So I camped out in my garage with my bottom shelf wine smoking a clove while I watched it rain and drizzle, a pastime Jason and I always enjoyed.  Perhaps it was the pull of the Pacific Northwest calling to me.  Sunny days were great but the gray rainy days are the perfect ambiance for a melancholy afternoon full of introspection and bit of self-pity.

I keep asking myself why am I the one riddled with sadness and anger when I’m still here and Jason is the one who got the short end of the stick.  I think a lot of my anger is towards the universe for cheating him on his time.  There is and will always be someone fundamentally missing from my life going forward and that thought can be so overwhelming at times.  I had so much left to say to him, and to apologize for…such as nagging him about forgetting the car keys after we had just walked down 6 flights of stairs at the hotel because the elevator was broken, or the many times I behaved passive aggressively when he would arrive home too late from work.

I wrote a very long journal entry last night trying to collect and organize everything I wanted to tell him….and then I woke up again at 3am and wrote him a Happy Anniversary card which I had picked out months ago.  I sealed it when I was done and placed it in the ‘sacred’ drawer where I keep the shirt and pants he was wearing the day before he died, as well as the newly purchased sunglasses he was wearing during his run.  They are still streaked with his salty sweat stains and I haven’t tried to clean them or remove those small traces of his existence.  Instead I go out of my way to retain the smell of his deodorant in his shirt and keep those last things that touched his body exactly as they were.  His running socks are still stuffed into his shoes and I will never move them.  I can’t go through our closet yet either.  The only thing I’ve been able to part with so far is his large drawer full of running socks…and even then I kept his favorites.   Last night I slept with the Project Linus blanket because I felt like it was the closest thing to his body when he died, and I just wanted to be that close to him again.

Tonight I actually became a little angry with him for leaving me here to deal with his ailing dog, a house I can’t really afford on my own, never-ending yard work and upkeep, and just the exhaustion of suddenly transitioning from a two-person house to a one-person (and sometimes even a half of a person) house.  I’m just so tired.  I received a letter from the HOA about needing to paint the fence.  I know the HOA is an organization to be feared but tonight I just felt like hearing the soothing sounds of the shredder which takes care of all pieces of paper I don’t want to deal with.

I opened his iPad and installed all the new updates just to keep things running smoothly.  I found myself looking through all of his pictures and listening to his playlists in iTunes.  His iPhone was still playing music when I got to the hospital to see him.  The hospital handed me the clear and sterile plastic bag with his belongings and I noticed “So Here We Are” was playing by Bloc Party on his phone.  He must have been listening to his ‘chill’ playlist while he was running.  Only he would listen to chilled out music during an intense run.   I’ve now listened to the entire playlist and I’ve become a little obsessed as to exactly what song was playing when he collapsed and died in the blink of an eye. I just want to know what the last thing he heard was.  I wish it had been my voice.  I hope the music was something uplifting and soothing.  I kept thinking “yes, so here we are” and now where do I go from here, without you.

Leaving him alone at the hospital that day was one of the hardest days of my life because I felt as though I was abandoning him in Raleigh, and I kept feeling like I was forgetting something the entire drive home.  I realized it was him.  I was leaving him behind in a cold hospital room by himself.  And the second hardest day was the day of the funeral, and those few minutes we had to ourselves before they had to close the casket lid.  I had written him a very long letter and left it with him so I am assuming it is now part of the ashes that sit on my dresser.

I never imagined I could miss someone so intensely with a pain that just settles into your bones and becomes part of your being, permeating every thought of the day and making even the happy moments just a little less happy.  I wonder sometimes if he truly knows how much he is missed and loved.  I tell him all the time but can he even hear me?  I don’t know and that is part of what makes this so much harder.  Where is he?  I keep waiting for a sign or signal that he’s happy and he’s okay.  I just have to believe that for my own sanity.  And I am sure he is.  He always landed on his feet.

And I believe I will learn ways to get through this but the pain that surfaces every single day is a fresh Hell to navigate…and the tiredness is just so all-encompassing.  But there are many of us out there going through the same storm, as I’ve learned through this blog, so none of us are truly alone although it feels that way.  We’re in this together and that gives me a small glimmer of hope.

Changing Seasons

The changing of the leaves from green to bright reds and yellows inspired weekend trips to the mountains and discussions of upcoming adventures.  Jason and I were children of the fall and loved the brisk cool air and the excitement of the oppressive North Carolina summer coming to a much anticipated end.

How do I manage this season without him?  He died in the spring and it doesn’t feel as though a summer has already passed.  I’m sad that he won’t get to see another October and visit Asheville with me one last time.  We had so many things we were going to do once the weather changed.  Camping trips, hikes with the dogs, brewery tours, another trip to D.C., night driving with the windows down while blasting M83 , visiting haunted houses to get us in the Halloween spirit… And now none of those things will ever happen again.   I hate the finality of death.  It just seems so fucking cruel.

I’ve tried so hard to step back from this loss and try to view it as a chance to grow and learn but sometimes I just want to cry the afternoon away and hibernate under my covers.  I know that is still considered healing but it just feels so counterproductive sometimes.  I spend a lot of energy trying to be positive for other people even when I feel completely dead inside and hopeless.  I fell asleep yesterday afternoon and the first thought that came into my mind when I woke up is “my husband died from a heart abnormality during a race.”  It seems like the only reprieve I get from these thoughts is during sleep…and yet the persistent voice telling me my husband is gone is the first thing I hear when I wake up.  How can this actually be our life?

I read an article in Runner’s World a couple of years ago about a man who died of a similar cause and the story was told from his wife’s perspective.  I remember thinking how would I possibly go on living if something like that happened to Jason…and then it did, and yet here I am.  Almost 6 months later and preparing to celebrate what would have been a 3 year anniversary in just a couple of days.

There is no point in asking why these things happen or spending much time mulling over the unfairness of life.  It just is.  I think those of us who find ourselves in this nightmare just have to keep looking for the little things that can make us smile, even for a brief moment.  For example my dog is intensely staring at me right now with two tennis balls lodged in his mouth.  That is my sign that it is time to get off the couch and entertain him.  And that makes me smile.

 

I Bite.

I’m thinking about starting my own clothing line called “Widow bWear because sometimes you just need a shirt that says “Back off or I will cut you!”  Perhaps the clothing line can have a secret pocket where pepper spray or a razor can be stored safely until needed.  Although younger widows may be a minority there is a major problem with the opposite sex thinking it is perfectly acceptable, and not the least bit morally bankrupt, to flirt with us.   I use the term opposite sex rather than males because I’ve heard this is an issue for widows and widowers and I don’t want to be sexist.    The predators naively assume we are ready to jump into regretful situations because they view us as weak and vulnerable…easy and wounded prey apt to make terrible choices when sidelined by grief and loneliness.   They believe our need to feel a connection is stronger than our longing for our lost love.

I can understand someone who doesn’t know me or my situation making inappropriate comments after some drinks at the bar, but someone who was my husband’s friend?   Seriously, in what world is such deplorable and ridiculous behavior acceptable?    I tried to write it off initially but the comments were followed by blatant texts and then insinuations in the midst of social situations.  The more I thought about it the angrier I became at the complete and total lack of respect for not only me, but especially for Jason.

I had visions of using the subpar pair of scissors that came with my Victorinox Swiss Army knife key chain to haphazardly  remove specific parts of his ‘friend’ and mail the shriveled remnant back to him weeks later.  I’d include a note saying something clever and sassy such as “Bites from Black Widows are deadly” or  “The next time it’ll be more than just your tongue in a box.”   Yes, the shriveled remnant I mentioned earlier was a reference to the tongue…but I know what you were thinking.  It occurred to me too.

I shouldn’t have to wear a shirt that says “Emotionally Unavailable Widow” because that should just be a given if you know me at all.   Unfortunately it isn’t and that makes me very sad…and also very frustrated and angry for the widows and widowers who are taken advantage of because I know it happens.  And I wish I was there with my crappy scissors on a key chain to avenge them all!  FedEx and UPS would be busy shipping hazardous material around the country and I’d be the vigilante serving up justice one tracking number at a time!

I still wear my wedding ring.  I am still married.  I still have a husband.  He’s just out of town.  Really out of town…forever.

 

 

 

Griefheimer’s Disease

I met someone this afternoon who told me the story about her daughter being killed in a car accident when she was only 16.  She even shared with me a picture of her daughter who was indeed a beautiful girl.  It is amazing how grief creates an instant bond between the people who are unwillingly left behind.  It is the kind of kinship you would never wish for but are relieved to find once you enter into that “family.”  I’ve felt more love in the last five months than I’ve ever experienced.  While she was hugging me she asked me my age.  I didn’t answer her immediately.  It wasn’t because I thought the question was invasive or inappropriate.  I didn’t respond because I couldn’t remember.  I started to panic.   How could I forget my age?!  I must have looked like an idiot…or just came across as rude.  You’d think she had just asked me to recite The Canterbury Tales in Middle English while balancing on a toothpick.  I knew the year I was born and so I was trying to work backwards and suddenly I lost the ability to count as well.

This isn’t the first time I have found myself utterly perplexed and confused by such a simple question.   Last week I completely forgot not only where I parked, but what type of car I drove.   Did I have a Ford, Honda, Toyota…I had no idea.  I just started pressing the unlock button on my key until I saw the tail lights of my car blink.  I’ve been asked very basic questions at work and I just stare at the person like a deer caught in headlights, afraid to admit that I can’t remember.  I call this phenomenon “Griefheimer’s Disease” and from what I’ve been told a brain going through grief looks very similar to a brain riddled with Alzheimer’s Disease.   The good news is that a “Griefheimer’s” brain will eventually repair itself but it could take a year or more.  I’m starting to wonder if I should start sewing my name and address in my undergarments…you know, just in case.