Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Haiku: 2013


Haiku: 2013

These are things I have
Lost: a child, a husband, a
House – in that order.

What I have: at night
And quiet times not much, but
Sun in the morning.

Next up: joy. Seeking.
The light of the world on my
Skin. Bliss. Maybe love.


Blessed be,
Suzannah

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Home

I think I have written a post with this title before; possibly not. At any rate, I have put writing this blog off for days but the concept of "home" has weighed heavily on my mind since February 17, 2013.

In my last blog about it, I think I said something sage about how the places don't change; we change. Everything is the same but our memory of it is distorted by distance, time and our own inevitable growing up.

Well, that's fancy.

Sometimes places change, too.

Seattle was nothing like I remember, except for the hour Sicily and I spent on the beach at Golden Gardens, or the walk down by Ivar's on the waterfront. Water is a constant for me; not a huge astrology buff, but if I were I would admit that I am every little scrap of everything about my sign. Pisces, if you're keeping track. March 14th, for those who don't know, and yes, I love presents and cards, so feel free.

But I digress.

So I have changed, and the place has changed.

And, like the Pisces I am, I feel all melodramatic about it.

When I was 17, I went on a sort of a moving spree, moving every six months or so for four years. I came to hate moving. Nothing felt right. I was antsy.

Then I started moving from state to state. More expensive and very inconvenient, but it was pretty nice to be able to pack up my whole life in whatever crappy little car I was driving and just leave. My parents had sold my childhood home by the time I was 25 and moved away, so I moved, too, to Colorado and then Seattle. Where I met Dane and had The Child.

And finally.

My home was Dane and Sicily.

I remember vividly one morning when Sicily was a week or two old, looking down the row of lavender pillows on our bed, watching Dane and Sicily sleeping, so full of joy and contentment that I cried (quiet as shit because GOD FORBID you wake a sleeping baby. Just. Don't.). I felt such gratitude for the feeling that I was, in that moment, completely at home and utterly at peace. The sun came in through the slats in the blinds, and I sat up in bed next to my little family and wept for the simple, unadulterated beauty of that feeling.

Home isn't a place. It's just not. It is the people in the place, which is rough because I am generally not too fond of people but when I am I totally am.

But it's not just the people in the place either. It's me in the place. And man, I still kind of suck right now. Which is fine, because that's how things go, and it is getting better but it is still rough being me some days.

So if what I am saying is true, then the planets need to be aligned, I need to be my best self, and I have to be surrounded by just the right people to ever feel like I am at home again.

Yikes. Tall order. I have high hopes for 2014.





Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Important Gift


I am writing this sitting at Cousin Jennifer's kitchen table in Washington State; Sicily is wrapping a couple gifts that we bought when we got here, and Steve and Karlene are out delivering the food baskets that Karlene and Sicily put together on Friday. Yesterday we woke up to three inches of snow.

We are absolutely wrapped in the bosom of family right now; that's the best I can put it. I can feel how badly they want us to have a good time, to feel loved, to be comforted, and I am so grateful to have such amazing people to share the holidays with. It made me realize how much time we wasted over the years, not coming to visit for so long, always having an excuse not to come to Seattle or go to someone's wedding or baby shower or party or whatever it was that we chose not to do.

I am not beating myself up about it because it is done. But I keep writing about it and thinking about it so that I can continue to keep making the most important thing the most important thing. It is so easy to let everyday things take over (the small business of life, like running errands, appointments, keeping the house together, etc), but while those things are necessary, I really feel like they took over for too long. No more.

I have people in my life who will not understand the choices I am making (or will make) in the coming months/years. I hope that you have enough faith in me to support and respect them anyway, and if you don't I guess that's just the way it is. Just because it is not your path doesn't make it wrong (just like your path, though a disaster for me, fits you).

We are a big, fat walking cliché in Seattle because I really feel like just being here is present enough. After this crap pile of a year, I feel lucky. And that is a pretty amazing gift itself.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Choices

Choices suck (said the spoiled, first-world person).

Seriously.

The world is wide open. In my view, there is nothing we can't do, and now is the time to do it.

Well, we can't do the opposite of whatever we choose to do. So in choosing, we eliminate possibilities.

Example: if we move to Seattle, we won't live in Baltimore, and nothing is guaranteed, so for everyone who is thinking really loudly, "You can always do that later," yeah, right (see February 16, 2013 for evidence of how much say we have in that).

If I start the school again, we don't get to travel.

If we stay in Georgia...we are stuck in Georgia.

By choosing FOR, we are also choosing AGAINST.

It sucks and is nearly paralyzing. Those of you who really, really know me can understand how close I am to saying, 'Fuck it," and taking off with just a car full of whatever is important. Things will all work out in the end (and if it doesn't work out, it's not the end), so who really cares if we stick around?

(don't panic, softball people. I am also not in the habit of leaving people in the lurch. )

Life is uncertain and the longer we sit around waiting and planning and saving and otherwise delaying action, the better chance we have of doing NOTHING. We can't do it all, but I want to do more. Life is too short to settle down, and no place feels like home anymore anyway, so what the hell are we doing here?

Choices SUCK.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Anxiety

I have been an anxious person my entire life. Most people never realized that, including, I think my family. I come by it honestly; my grandmother is anxious and has serious sleep issues, along with vertigo and high blood pressure. I have everything but the high blood pressure. My first memory of anxiety was me crouching under a seat at a Washington Bullets game at a young age (five? seven?), crying as the crowd roared around me.

After Sicily was born, things got out of control. Anxiety attacks came without warning and resulted in fainting and puking, more often than not in public places. Best time ever was when I almost fainted driving on the freeway in DC, trying to get to an airport, with Sicily in the car. We managed to pull over somewhere, on a completely deserted and dark highway, where I proceeded to black out outside of the car while Sicily's anxious little face peered out at me through the backseat window. She was six.

After that incident, I went to the doc. He was a moron. To keep this short, I eventually diagnosed myself with anxiety and told him what to prescribe me.

The best part of my doc is that he will give me whatever I want. #Priceless

So now I deal with it as best I can. Dane produced a lot of anxiety for me (those who know him understand why), but the world in general just makes me anxious. I have to monitor my news consumption. I have to watch what I eat. I have to have some sort of routine.

And when I travel, especially in airports, I have to medicate myself. So I popped my first pill about an hour ago, as I can feel it rising already.

And I HATE IT.

The medicine is pretty benign. I take it, and 30 minutes later I sort of forget I am anxious. It doesn't knock me out; it just allows the worrying part of my brain to shut off. So it's pretty perfect, fairly low dose, and very effective.

However.

I hate having to rely on this medicine to do things people take for granted. Like go to a mall. Or a sporting event. Or a concert. It is this cloud that hangs over me, and everywhere I go I take this bottle of pills. It works, it's easy, and I manage it pretty well (a huge change from Sicily's fifth birthday where I spent three hours on the floor on the bathroom in the Georgia Aquarium. Not one single person asked if I was okay. Not one. And there was little Sicily, standing so patiently in the stall while I repeatedly passed out and threw up and passed out and threw up. #Awesome), but still. It doesn't leave me as sharp and interested as I would like to be, and I feel like I miss things.

This goes back to being able to just let go. Nearly impossible.

Working on it. Just letting go. Letting whatever happens, happen. Being unfazed.

Those of you that know me are chuckling. Not my MO. But I am trying.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

LUSH

When I lived in Seattle, right after I met Dane and we started dating, my previous boyfriend tried to woo me back. On my birthday, he assembled everything that he knew I loved: art, Marco's Supper Club in Seattle, and a small pink satin purse covered in pink feathers.

Huh, you say? Pink feathers?

Seriously. I LOVED that purse. Loved it like a fat kid love cake. It was frothy and frivolous and LUSH.

I miss lush.

Irony du jour: I am drinking as I write this. Get it? Lush? Anyway.

In the movie 3:10 to Yuma, the outlaw  Ben Wade sidles up behind a barmaid and whispers into the nape of her neck, "You look skinny." And she says, "I feel skinny."

Well, I feel skinny, too. Deprived and sere. 

I am craving soft beds, fluffy sweaters, rich chocolate, sumptuous lotion and cashmere socks. A metaphorical feather purse - beautiful JUST BECAUSE.

Sometimes I get sick of being me, the conscious consumer. I can't buy lettuce without thinking about the workers, the chemicals, the dying bees. My eyes go automatically to the label and my mind flies to the small children busily sewing my clothes and dying in their 20s from poor health due to inhaling fibers for their entire short lives. I can't buy something new if I already have the same thing (and it still works), and every penny that comes out of my hand has been considered thoroughly before exiting my care. I have too much of my grandmother in me: "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without." It's exhausting.

Just once, for a little period of time, I would like to not be me. I would like to shuffle off the overly active imagination, the brain that won't shut off, the sensitivity to all of the pain in the world that needs to be carefully monitored or else it becomes debilitating. I'd like to not worry so often about everything.

I would like to fling money around without care, spoil myself, be irresponsible. I couldn't do it before Dane died, and I can't do it now. The other ironic part of this is that even with all of that, I still don't feel like an adult. So that's good, I guess?

The trick about LUSH is that I know that a pink feather purse won't cut the mustard; it will fill no void, and things won't be different. I won't be different. Still. Sometimes it's nice to have beautiful, sumptuous things surrounding you instead of worn out and tired things. They make me feel worn out and tired, and that is the very last thing I need at this point.

What do you do when you need lush?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Too Much Time

The Child is spending the night away from home.
 
This is a good thing, sort of. It's just that I can't quite figure out what to do with myself so I end up eating really badly, watching a movie, and then screwing around on the interwebs until my eyes bleed.
 
I have a stupid tumblr as a result of one of her sleepovers. What is that for, anyway? Pretty much only adolescent girls or people who want to say "fuck" and "dick" all the time. Even the good people I follow get a little overwrought at times. Easy on the gifs, people. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
 
And brainpickings?  Totally bleeding heart liberal. Like tumblr is also, apparently, which you might think I would like but sometimes that level of obvious bias gets a little old.

But I digress.

Tonight I ended up applying for eleventy million freelance writing gigs, making each cover letter more and more ridiculous as I went, not ridiculous as in, "Watch out for that lady," but as in, "We get so many boring cover letters and clips, and this chick sent us something about toasters and using sunshine to cure cancer. And incorporated hashtags in her cover letter. #NovelIdea."

This was after watching Life After Top Chef, taking the world's longest shower, and eating my weight in non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-cheese French bread pizza. Which I totally bought accidentally (the soy cheese part, I mean. #BARF).

Jesus. I have no idea what to do with myself. It's not the world's greatest feeling. Even reading, my refuge, is getting old (although I have been reading cookbooks lately, LA Son by Roy Choi and the Sussmans' two cookbooks, This is a Cookbook, and the other one whose name escapes me, and enjoying those). It's too cold to really do much outside, and I am full up of home improvement with building the tiny house with the kid. I'd just give in to the movie thing if I had a theme, but nothing interests me for long enough.

I need a hobby. Nothing stupid. What do you do?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dream Lessons

A couple nights ago I had a dream about Dane. Usually when I dream about him, there is a part of me that stays separate and is in the background saying, "It's a dream about Dane! Pay attention!" And the dream goes on and I wake up really happy and sad at the same time (or really confused, like in the first few months after he died when all he did was yell at me in my dreams).

This time, though, I didn't realize it was a dream about Dane until I woke up. Then, not only did I realize that it was a dream about Dane, but I also realized that it was a reminder.

WAKE UP.

Stop taking things for granted and falling into old patterns. The night of the dream I made dinner and then Sicily took hers and I took mine and we went our separate ways. We do spend a TON of time together, so it's not like I never see her, but I don't know the last time we sat down at our table and had dinner together.

 We watched a movie together afterwards, and I had my computer open nearly the whole time, screwing around online instead of putting all my attention on what we were doing.

STOP IT.

Stop letting things go by. I had a moment of panic yesterday morning when I saw a pair of earrings Sicily was wearing when I woke her up and thought, "Oh my God, she got her ears pierced and I didn't notice." (not true. Just new earrings. But WTF.)

It's really not enough to just say you are going to do something and then not follow through. I don't want to be that person. "Do or do not; there is no try": Yoda had it right. If I say I am going to keep the most important thing the most important thing, then, hey, guess what? I need to shut my yap and do it.

In the dream, Dane and I were playing cards, a strategy game of some kind, where we both had one more turn. If I played my turn correctly, I would whoop his ass. He was sitting across from me, giving me suggestions on how to do it so I would win (this is another reason it was totally a dream...that never would have happened!!), and I was ignoring him, doing it my way, my way, my way.

Well, over the past year, I have seen the flaws in my way.

Let's not get overeager: doesn't mean your way is right for me either.

It does mean that I need to be more mindful about the changes I want to make and keep putting them into practice.

So I have been trying for the past couple days, starting small, to re-connect with whatever I am doing and to stay very present. It requires re-training not to multitask but to give one thing undivided attention (try it. You'll see, naysayers.), but it is work worth doing.  



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Review: Or, How Much Crap Do I Have To Wade Through To Get A Good Book About Grief?

As part of this whole awful horrible, terrible, no-good year, I have been casting about for ways to help myself; thankfully, I don't know any other widows my age, and losing a husband, especially unexpectedly and under the circumstances in which he died (me out of town, Sicily opening the door at 4 a.m. to the police...good times), makes for an even rarer breed of widow. This is definitely a good thing, my lack of contacts in the widowed world.

However. Makes it hard to know what's normal. Makes it hard to gauge my progress or lack thereof. I know that's weird, but sometimes having even one person who has been there and understands what you need (or don't need) helps.

So I looked at some self-help books (lots of stuff about God: not for me. Lots of schmaltzy schlocky crap: not for me). I went to therapy (not a ton of help, although she meant well, tried hard and is doing GREAT for Sicily). I joined an online community and started writing this blog, and those two things led to this: a book that actually helped.

Catherine Tidd is the author of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow: Or, How I Lost My Husband And My Sanity; she is also the founder of the online community I joined.  Catherine's husband died in a motorcycle accident when he was 34, leaving 31-year-old Catherine widowed with three children under six. In addition to founding a very supportive place online for other widow(er)s, Catherine has also written the only book on being suddenly widowed that actually completely GETS IT.

She gets the shock that comes after death.

She gets the manic need to move on and the paralyzing inability to remember where you put the shoes you JUST TOOK OFF.

She gets the weird look people get when you bring up your dead husband, and understands the sharp intake of breath that people have when you refer to him as "my dead husband" (see also references to "The Widow Card").

She even gets the complicated mess that is dating as a widow.

And WOW, does she ever get the blessing and a curse that is being a widow with children.

Catherine Tidd explains in direct, funny, and honest language what it is like to be left without the person who knows you the best; she talks about what it's like trying to figure out how to do all the stuff that the other person used to do (and which you probably took for granted); she explains the difference between "regular lonely" and "widow lonely" in the way I see it in my head, only she has managed to put it into words:

"The best way I can describe it is the worst kind of homesickness you can imagine because you can't pinpoint what it is you're missing. It's more than just losing a person - it's yearning for a way of life you had and know you will never have again. And the difference between being widowed and other types of loss is that, in most cases, we've lost the person we could lean on and talk to about the despair that we're feeling. We've lost the person we can be most honest with. We've lost the person who would hand us a box of tissues and a glass of wine, hoping that our nervous breakdown would stop before halftime was over."

Above all, Tidd gives grieving widows the room in this book to laugh, to be lost, to be found, to be angry, to grieve, to grow and to move on. At the end she offers suggestions of what to say and do for widows and also for people who are grieving with them. This was the only helpful book that I have read about becoming and being a widow. I found myself laughing and listening to Tidd as I would listen to a friend telling her story; she has a voice that is compelling, a story that is real and a book that is an invaluable addition to grief memoirs. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and not just for widows; for those of you who are watching me (or someone else) go through this process, Tidd's book offers insight into what is happening as we experience the awfulness of widowhood.

I don't really share self-help books much, but this one was a bit of a revelation.  I hope none of you need it, but if you do, or if you know someone who does, I cannot recommend it enough.



Thursday, December 5, 2013

Out of My Head. For Now.

Warning: This post may be very difficult for some of you to read, so please use caution. It was difficult to write, but honest and true and raw and what needed to not be in my head. There is a stretch of road on Barrett Parkway that gets to me. It's dumb. There is nothing significant that happened to me on that road, it's pretty bland and very brief, but twice I have started bawling for no reason on this stretch of road. I dictated this post in one breath into my phone two days ago, and I can just now look at it to transcribe it. It is not as hopeful or cheery or reflective as the last few posts may have been - just a very brutal moment in my head.

Sometimes I can't get the image of his bloody, dying face out of my head. It is vivid and graphic and filled with violent pictures of torn flesh and bone and hair mixed in with glass, his body sprawled across the front of the car. I can't stop imaging what he might have thought as he died in a car alone in the middle of the night, a block away from his house. Did he think about Sicily? Did he have a moment of consciousness where he might have considered what he was leaving behind? Did he apologize? Feel remorse?

It is torture to think about these things. I don't know why I do it to myself except that I cannot help it. I am not looking for why or how. I know why and how. These thoughts spring into my head unbidden and will not go away until I think them, examine them, roll them around for a bit.

If I could just talk to him one more time I would ask him what he was thinking as he died. I would tell him that I love him and I miss him every day, even as we begin to move on with life.

I would ask him where he is and what it's like, and if he was right or wrong. Just to hear his voice.

Of all of the hard years of my life, this has been the hardest. I told Sicily the other day that I hope this is the worst year of her life. She knew what I meant.

I wish I had been there in his final moments, not a thousand miles away. Even if I was just sleeping in my bed I felt like it would have been some comfort. I hope there was no pain. I hope it was quick. I hope there was no moment when he had to think about what he had done. I hope there was a flash and then nothing. It is torture to think he was aware in his final moments, and I can't know for sure that he wasn't.

Out of my head. For now.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Big, Inflated Ego

My horoscope for this week from Free Will Astrology:

"Maybe your ego isn't big enough. I'm serious. Is it possible that you could benefit from being more proud of yourself? Would it be healthy for you to give yourself more credit for the struggles you have weathered and the skills you have mastered and the beauty you have managed to forge out of the chaotic raw materials that life has given you? I've got a good feeling about this, Pisces. I can imagine you summoning the playful courage you will need to express more confidence. I can even picture you beginning to fantasize about embarking on certain stirring adventures you've never believed you were strong enough to try before now."

Huh.

So this year The Child and I have been saying "yes" to most things we have been asked to do/places to go/experiences to have. The vast majority (okay, all) of these things have dealt with The Child and making opportunities for her. Nothing wrong with that for now.

But in the long-term, eventually I will have to find something to really and truly care about again, and that means, perhaps, inflating my ego a little.

Death has a way of sitting you on your ass. Hard. It is difficult to remain confident and self-assured. And when that happens (thinks punch to the throat), it takes time to stand up again and gather your wits, to feel good about yourself, what you do and why you exist. People who believe in God (or at least profess to actively follow an organized religion) gather those wits by saying "Things happen for a reason," and "S/he's in heaven now." I understand how that could work for them, but it's not quite good enough for me (see earlier posts on this topic and my feeling, in general, about those pithy platitudes).

Which is unfortunate. Because that seems really easy. Turning it over to someone else, saying, "Here. You deal with this, then let me know what happens next."

So I am not doing that. I am trying, hard, to summon some "playful courage," and to "forge something out of the chaotic raw materials life has given [me]." Trying to develop the big, inflated ego that Rob Brezsny says I should have about myself.

Should be interesting...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Be Wherever You Are

It is rainy, blustery. Day before Thanksgiving.

Plans changed, as plans do when there is weather involved, and we are in NOVA with my brother and his family. I actually got eight uninterrupted hours of sleep last night, which changes everything about my day.

Being rested is weird. Sometimes too much clarity is overwhelming.

Not today, though. Today is presents with my nieces and nephew, relaxing and just hanging out. I have no dogs to take care of, no obligations to contend with. A nice change.

The wet snow has started to fall, and I am on my third cup of coffee. My brother has a lovely bourbon in the bar downstairs, and I may wander down there later this afternoon. The fire is lit, and I am barely thinking about the fact that tomorrow would have been my dad's 72nd birthday. I am also missing Dane in a sweet, non-morose way that doesn't collapse me into a quivering pile but just tugs a little at the edges of the day.  

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Love your family, no matter how crazy, and be wherever you are. #LessonOfTheDay

Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Connection and the Habit of Being Alone

Good Sunday morning to you all.

It is bright sunny sunshine outside, windy, and inside, the dog (the good one), the cat and me are all huddled on the settee. This is a lovely way to spend the morning. I could use someone to bring me more coffee and a gluten-free bagel, though, which brings us to today's topic.

Connection.

I think the reason the internet is so popular (other than cat videos) is the connection people feel when they are online. Most people talk about how disconnected we are when we have our face in a screen, and it is true that we are disconnected from everything physically around us when that happens (think people recording a memorable experience on their iPhones instead of actually experiencing the experience), but when there is nothing around and all is quiet the internet (and various social media) provide a digital hand to hold.

This is nice at times. Sometimes I get a sense of community from my Twitter feed (diminished somewhat by the ads that are now being inserted); sometimes a great conversation arises on Facebook (especially lately with my friends at Baltimore Homeschool Community Center - talking about race and religion). I have lots of followers in England and Australia through Twitter, mostly because I tend to tweet in the dark hours of the morning, EST, when they are awake and about (just figured that one out), but things get quiet on FB around 11, which is unfortunate because I have had raging insomnia and sometimes it's nice to chat.

It feels a little ridiculous, though, getting my community from a device, especially since, at heart, I am a Luddite. I don't love people IRL a ton, though. It's a catch-22.  One of my favorite songs on this.


In the habit of being alone...a prisoner of freedom...

Hard to have it both ways. Missing connection of the real-life kind necessitates going out into the world, but the world is an annoying place at times. We have had to re-institute penalties for cursing lately, as my vocabulary has returned to its pre-child state in the last few months. Once in the habit of being alone, though, it becomes harder, more necessary and infinitely more annoying to seek out physical community.

One does not want to appear desperate. No matter how much one insists that one doesn't give a rat's ass about what other people think. One might be lying to oneself.

I guess we will get all of the IRL connection we can handle next week during the holidays. And then home for awhile and back out into the world on the left coast. And then the quiet of January and the awful reminder of February. You people had better step it up online, or else come and visit. I'm just sayin'.

A disconnected post. A bit rambly. Have a great day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Leave Taking, Joy Seeking

It feels kind of bad to move on. I don't think this is the end of grief or grieving, but there has definitely been some kind of a shift since New Orleans, in both myself and in Sicily. I guess the holidays will probably bring all of this to a screeching halt a bit, as we spend them in Seattle with Dane's family, but it feels like the decisions we are about to make (Sicily and me, separately and as a little family) are ours and not a part of our former family of three.

It's hard to explain. It makes me feel guilty.

I will miss Dane forever. He will never not be a part of who I am; if there is any possible configuration where we meet again in any kind of life after consciousness, I look forward to it (although I don't really believe any of that). He was an asshole sometimes, but he was my best friend, a good man, and the father of the most wonderful human being.

However.

It feels like limbo, grief. Can't move forward, can't go back. As we come to the end of this horrible year, I want to move in a direction, and since back is not an option, and sideways is kind of what we have been doing for the last nine months, forward it must be.

I am not sure what happiness feels like, it has been so long. But I would really like to feel it again. The closest I have come in the past nine months is pride (in Sicily) and a calm neutrality where there was no sadness for a moment. The description of this blog is "seeking joy"; I don't think that is too much to ask. I don't think we are on this planet to slog through; I think we are meant to seek more, to become the highest version of ourselves, whatever that means. I don't really know what makes me happy anymore; I am not even sure where to look. I just know that there is a sliver of light under the door, and I want to know what's on the other side.
 
I continue my written dialogue with Dane. This conversation about moving forward has not made its way into it yet; mostly I am still so angry at him that when I write to him that is all I can see. I woke up this morning at 3:39 a.m., thinking about what he must have thought as the car hit the tree; I think he must have felt awful about what was coming, and I hope that thought was fleeting and brief and that he knew we would eventually forgive him. It dampens the anger a bit to think of the sadness he may have felt himself as he realized what was happening, but I still have trouble getting from anger to acceptance with him.

Even in the course of writing this blog I have seesawed back to sadness and tears from the original feeling of wanting to move forward. It is complicated and awful, thinking of leaving Dane behind; already his name seems strange as I write it.

Complex. Unfathomable. That I have to go through this is wretched and unfair. Unavoidable. Too soon. Too much. Still, seeking joy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dating. Huh.

So someone asked me out on a date. Weird.

Totally unexpected. No one I know. Random stranger. Cruising the grocery store. Came up, asked me out.

I wasn't looking especially fabulous. Or being especially fabulous. Or feeling especially fabulous (like when I feel fabulous I can be in my pie pants and random people come up and tell me how awesome I look or cute my hair is, even when my hair is not cute. I am not one of those people who can fake pretty. If I feel good, I look good. If I feel like shit, well, you do the math. At best I can do passable, or sometimes tortured. Usually that comes across as plain old pissy, but I digress).

Maybe he liked the kefir in my cart, or the pineapple.

He was nicely dressed. Good shoes. Attractive. Not shorter than me. All good things.

I said no.

I said I appreciated the offer, admired the courage. He was gracious and gave me his number.

I threw it out.

Maybe it's the weight loss as a result of the grief diet. Or maybe it's the planking (up to three minutes but Christ-on-a-crutch that's hard). Or maybe he thought I was someone else.

Whatever. Apparently I am vibing "available," even with a man's ring around my neck and a wild/lost/clueless look in my eye. And hair that is perpetually in the in-between stage.

No matter the reason, it makes me think about things that I am not 100% sure I am ready to think about, but there they are, right in my face while I am fondling organic produce and buying fussy gluten-free tortillas. All the insecurities that come with meeting someone new and getting to know them - not into it. All of the backstory-telling and history revealing - not into it.

I have not been on a date in 14 years. I am more of a serial monogamist than a dater; I don't do coy and flirty very well. "Is you is or is you ain't my baby" is more my style. We are, or we aren't. I am interested in you, or I really don't have time. Apparently, most men find that intimidating or overwhelming. Lucky for me, Dane wasn't one of those and threw himself into it as deeply and as quickly as I did. It worked out well.

I hope the dude doesn't shop where I shop. It's hard enough avoiding all of the parents from my public school days without adding jilted potential suitors.

Dating. Huh.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Waiting and Casting About

Momager. Helicopter parent. Vacuum parenting.

These are things I would like to avoid.

When we were in NOLA, I purposely left The Child alone. Yes, I sent her a text now and again to remind her to maybe get something to eat, but for the most part, she and her new friends were together, and I was working in the balcony, or wandering around myself. It reminded me a bit of softball - endless waiting, computer or trashy magazine on my lap, killing time.

So I started thinking about this whole waiting business. This is sort of what you do as a parent, I suppose, at least until the kids are old enough to drive.  I think this is why parents drop off after middle school so drastically - to gain some time for themselves. It is exacerbated being a single parent (yet another thing I took for granted); there is no one to step in and give me some time off (unless The Child hangs with a friend, which she does on occasion and I am grateful but it may not appear so because I drop her off and then speed out of there as fast as I can to have a few precious hours alone because even though I love The Child sometimes I want to murdilate her and her 13-year-old ways).

More than a meditation on waiting, the thinking had mostly to do with what is next for me.

It is hard to say what interests me these days, so it is hard to say what I want to do with my free time. Mostly I write and work on the tiny house and cook and avoid cleaning and that's about it. Sometimes I will hike and do some yoga or read or stand around and stare at the sky. I only paint on very good days because I am an awful critic of myself, and that's just not helpful.

This stage of the whole process reminds me of my early 20s, casting about, trying to figure out WTF. Except now I have grey hair, my back hurts sometimes, and I am drunk after one bourbon. So a cheap date but also a little sad.

Being at TEDYouth and talking to all of those interesting people made me want to get into something again, deep into something compelling and creative (and portable, because I do still have several years of waiting on The Child left no matter how I slice it). I miss teaching, but I don't miss the stress of running the school. I would like to travel, but no matter how good I am at a budget that is not a long-term possibility (well, maybe. I could probably do it). Eventually The Child will walk out through the doors I am opening for her, and I want to be able to let her go without panicking about what I am going to do without her around.

Nothing worse than someone whose entire existence rests in their child.

I think that it has been hard for me (and for her, to some extent) to leave the bubble we have constructed around us for the past nine months, but something changed this past weekend, and we are both ready for something. Not sure what, but something.

As Tom Petty said, "Waiting is the hardest part."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NOLA, Part the First

Damn you, New Orleans time. It is late, and I am tired, but to my body it is an hour earlier. No time like the present to start thinking about the TEDYouth conference, I suppose.

Yes. I did cry. Softly, to myself, and filled with pride. MAN. That kid gets me.

The whole conference was incredible. Speakers from Sonny Lee, who talked about the use of the n-word ("Replace it with the word 'slave,'" he said. "How does it sound now when you call your friends that word?"), to McKenna Pope, a 14-year-old who petitioned the makers of the Easy-Bake oven to include less girly marketing techniques (and succeeded), to Cole Plante, 15-year-old DJ who has worked with ridiculous numbers of famous people, to Cam Perron, another 15-year-old who started a pension plan for former Negro League baseball players to Jonathan Mannion, legendary hip-hop photographer (for little-known folks like Jay-Z, Luda, DMX, Eminem, Aaliyah, Notorious B.I.G, and others) to Suzanne Simard who talked about mother trees and their "social networks."

That's just a few of the speakers.

Sicily CRUSHED IT. Perspective: the child has NEVER spoken in public like this before, not even a little speech. A few things in a classroom years ago, but that's it. More perspective: the other speakers knew for months in advance that they would be speaking and rehearsed their speeches via Skype with the producers multiple times before they came to New Orleans. Sicily found out seven days before the conference that she would be speaking and showed the producers in the hotel lobby the night before the speakers' rehearsal (with people walking around and staring at her).

CRUSHED IT.

Next speaking engagement on the calendar is the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte in April 2014, but who knows? Once her talk is online, we will see where that takes her.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Big Easy

We are here.

The Big Easy. Which turns out to not be so easy when it comes to driving. I have made more u-turns (by the city's own design) in the last five hours than I have in the last five years. Seriously. It  is a design flaw.

We have mostly seen warehouses and highways. And u-turns.

We listened to "War Pigs" as we crossed into Mississippi, and that was BAD. ASS. When I say "we," I mean "me" because the kid was sleeping. I barely restrained myself from cranking it, and there was headbanging and hair flinging. It was awesome.

We met the coordinators of the TED conference and they loved La (of course), and then we finally bought an effing map, got some food, found our way home and are now fat and happy on the couch of our little rented bungalow, which is not much bigger than La's house. But it is ours, and not a hotel, and quiet and clean and private and I am now a huge fan of Airbnb.

Tomorrow, CafĂ© du Monde, Riverwalk. Maybe a muffaletta, except I am gluten-free, and The Child doesn't love olives. Damn you, Dane Kolbeck. You would have LOVED that. The real sandwich from the place it was invented.  The Garden District. Rehearsal on stage at 6, and a pizza for the speakers after.

Saturday, speakers' briefing at 9:30 and then a full, intense day followed by a reception for the speakers.

The Kid is going to be amazing. I'm just saying.

(oh, and robbers who are reading this and maybe considering visiting our house? Someone is staying there to watch the cat. So stay away. #KThanxBai)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Persistence

This video of La and her papa is nearly killing me today:

video
(his Indian name was "Takes Many Breaks." It was appropriate to capture this)

I am so angry at him. I am so angry that he made the choices he made and left me and La to fend for ourselves. She is trying to write a talk for TEDYouth where she has been invited to speak, and all we can both think about is his overwhelming absence and how very hard it is to be passionate about anything. She is trying to recapture the excitement she felt when she started the house, but today it's just a three-ton reminder of everything we have lost. On days like this, I want to set it on fire and leave town.

We miss him so much. She wants her papa so bad but doesn't want to hurt my feelings.

We are getting ready to go to NOLA and deliver a speech that could open up some serious doors for La, and all we both want to do is go to sleep. Life is like swimming through pudding with razors in it, or getting a million tiny papercuts that you don't really notice (or are able to ignore) until you accidentally get some hand sanitizer in them. This is just every day reality for us, a reality that doesn't even address the basic shitty realities of overwhelming needs for the house (new 'fridge, dryer, roof, gutters) and family (another death on Dane's side, great g'ma moving again).

When she finishes this speech and delivers it, regardless of what happens, I am going to be crying like a moron in the front row of the theater, heartbroken, proud, sad and just amazed at my child. If you want to know what persistence means, look to her. Her father, that asshole, would be so proud.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thanks.

One post in November thus far. I am either very busy, or very lazy.

This blog is the last thing I am going to feel pressure about. I quit my therapist because she was maybe 27, married for three years and didn't have much life experience at all (no kids, no death, no trauma. I asked.). It was kind of like going to unload on a little sister who smiled and nodded and said she understood (which she may have) but mostly it was just unload the grief for an hour and move on.

Not really conducive to healing, especially when every time I sat on her couch (a real couch), I immediately felt glum. Didn't matter what had happened during the week; good or bad, I was depressed and morose every time I walked into her office. So I quit.

Now I write. I write in three different places, in three different degrees of revelation, to three different people (#AudienceAudienceAudience). I write in a journal for me, in a document directly to Dane, and this blog for everyone else, including strangers and anyone who might possibly get something from it. This blog is more therapeutic than therapy for me, and free. #Bonus

I think this blog is hard for people to read. I am trying to be as transparent as possible, honest and real. I am not generally a fake person - what you see is what you get - but I am also a private person, so this unburdening is sometimes painful for me as well. I am trying to be transparent and to document the process of grief for myself, for Sicily (who may or may not read it after a recent blog's brief mention of sex and her mother in the same sentence) and for other people who are suffering. The hardest part of this is that very few people my age and in my circle understand what it is like to lose a spouse and parent a child through that loss. Thankfully. I don't really have someone close who can understand what nights are like, or what mornings are like, or what every moment in between is like.

Maybe this blog does that for someone. Maybe not.

My most popular post has nearly 1,600 views. Someone is reading.

So in the month of thanksgiving, a post of thanks for sticking in there with me, silently or out loud. Thanks for reading and commenting, or reading and thinking about it.

Thanks.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On Physical Beauty*

Another rainy morning.

I have impressed myself with how I have put my epiphany on acceptance into play. If you have run into me you may not have noticed, or if you have been the asshole in front of me on the road you certainly have not noticed, but I have definitely felt a shift in my mind towards other people.

Not so much for myself.

Having a husband die is like having a baby. #Truth

I had Sicily at 29; all of the years up to 29 were spent figuring out who I was, who I was not, what I wanted and where I wanted to be. After she was born, everything changed and there was that inevitable time of soul-searching and trying to figure all of that out all over again, only with a tiny, precious person in tow. This is why, I believe, in addition to hormones, many women suffer from serious postpartum depression - realizing that no matter what you think, no matter how hard you try, after that baby comes out you are a different person. Acceptance again. Very difficult. But I digress.

Having a dead husband, especially on the younger (youngish  - 42. That is youngish, yes?) side of things has forced me to evaluate YET AGAIN who and what I am. It took me 29 years to figure it out the first time. I am really not interested in taking another 29 years to figure it out again, especially not with Sicily watching me now, seeing how I react and respond to everything, but it feels like a different, awful kind of new beginning. I don't feel resistance in myself, knowing this is what I have to do, but I can't quite accept myself in this new phase. I feel old, tired, beleaguered, not so attractive. I feel like a walking rictus of pain and sadness; it's hard to imagine being alone forever, but who the hell would want to sidle up next to THIS (gestures to self)? It is keeping me up at night, literally, which is not helping at all. In addition to trying to figure out how I am going to make money and be fulfilled intellectually (and emotionally, as far as helping other people and being more than just an oxygen-sucking drain on the planet and my fellow man), I have to figure out how to feel good again physically.

And yes, I exercise (yoga, hiking, planking like a madwoman). I don't eat enough, but I have recently starting taking vitamins to supplement that, and drinking tons of water, which I really hate. I am not talking about that. I am talking about feeling pretty instead of like the lone old shoe I saw in the road the other day.

There. I said it.

So I am doing what I can on the outside to help the inside, but it's super slow going. The outside doesn't look like much if the inside is totally screwy. It is hard to admit how much someone else's opinion of my physical self meant, but Dane's carried a lot of weight. He saw me at my worst (which was not, amazingly, childbirth) and thought I was smokin' hot (well, okay, maybe not at the time, but totally afterwards). Along with everything else he did that I have come to realize too late, this is one thing that you can't really just replace. Or rather, maybe you could replace it for an evening (ahem) but not for real. That takes mother-effing TIME. And I have never been good at waiting.

*This blog brought to you in a moment of weakness and vulnerability. If you can't say something nice, please shut your piehole and unsubscribe. Hell hath no fury like a woman in grief who feels like a schlub 99% of the time. You've been warned.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Acceptance


The only person I can change, and should change, is myself.

I am coming to a place of acceptance in that. I have been preaching that mantra as a child-rearing and teaching strategy for a long time, trying to adhere to it as an adult, and failing for some of the most important people in my life.

I need to be accepting. I don't have to love it, like it, or lump it; I can walk away; I can say no. I don't have to be part of something that  don't agree with, but I am going to make the really difficult and important effort to just accept people as they are. Dane did that. It was an important lesson that I missed.

I will fail, probably more often than not, for awhile. I have failed to do this for myself frequently, and I certainly deserve my own acceptance just as much as the other people in my life.

So there's that. My self-help of the day. It sounds really cheesy, I know, but (to use a vocabulary word I gave to my students this week), it really was an epiphany in the past 24 hours that changed my mind.  This blog feels kind of like a twelve-step program in that the first step is recognizing I have a problem. I am Judgey McJudgerson so loudly in my head sometimes I can't even hear myself think. I am too aware of myself to let it all out, but it's a burden I am ready to put down.

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another Saturday Night

I feel like a broken fucking record.

Sicily, if you are reading this you might want to stop now. There is brief gross adult content that you don't want to have in your mind below. You have been warned.

Today (Saturday. I am transcribing this on Sunday) I ran all over hell's half-acre, to softball practice (twice), to a birthday party, and finally to etiquette class, ending the evening killing time doing lonely loser shit like shopping for tulle for a Halloween costume and filling the Cube with gas. I am writing this entry longhand on Post-it notes on a new gluten-free cupcake book that was slated to be my evening's entertainment from 8-9:30 while I was waiting in the car for The Child to be finished with her thriving social life. For the last etiquette class (a month ago, also on a Saturday night from 8-9:30), I wandered through the aisles of Kroger and Target. #Awesome

And I haven't gone this long without having sex since 1995.

Yes, fixing the circular saw after I cut the cord this week was a pain in the ass. Yes, being solely responsible for every bit of softball (approximately 20 hours a week, unless you include tournaments, which ups the time commitment substantially) sucks. Yes, being the one who does all of the yard work (and all of the work, period) SUCKS. But the worst? No one to complain about it to. No partner in crime to get a drink with while we wait for the kid, or to giggle in the car as we watch awkward middle schoolers learn how to waltz, or to do other stuff in the car in a darker part of the parking lot.

Just me. Party of one.

This is none of anyone's business, I suppose, and I am not posting this for invitations. This is a record for me. I can't stand the sound of my own voice, bitching about this type of thing to friends, but it is infinitely more palatable to me on "paper." So I write today about how awful it feels to not have a male in my life. A girl won't cut the mustard for this one. I always tell Sicily that boys are dumb and smelly, and they don't start getting smart until they are about 26, but MAN. I miss having a dumb, smelly boy around.

Things are getting pretty lonely, even for someone who enjoys their own company.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Learning Lessons

I have to teach The Child what she is worth.

This is a revelation, but this is not the only thing I have to teach her.

I am a feminist. I don't necessarily believe in "men's work" and "women's work," although Dane and I were pretty divided in that way. Now it is all "my work," and I am learning the things I need to teach Sicily, things that Dane would have (and did) model, or would have talked about. Below is a short list of what we are working on so far.

Practice common courtesy, and expect it of your partner. Dane always unlocked my car door door first, even after 13 years of togetherness, but this is not restricted to men. If someone is close behind you as you approach a door, open it, step out of the way and let them in first. Smile. If they say "thank you," awesome. If not, not your problem. Smile anyway because you have done something nice. Don't settle for someone - a friend or a partner - who isn't going to treat you well on this very basic level.

Get physical. Americans raise their girls to sit down, play nice (quietly) and be dainty. Sicily plays travel softball. This, believe it or not, becomes a (nearly) full-contact sport as the years pass, especially in her position as catcher. Last night at batting practice, we watched as the batting coach tried to teach another catcher to "clear" a batter as part of a throwing motion down to third. Sicily has refused to try it, and this catcher was reluctant also. "What if I kill her?" she asked (jokingly, of course). I am not advocating violence, but I am advocating playing with the same intensity and athleticism as a boy would, and this means taking your space when you need it. And on that note..

Develop a thicker skin. At that same lesson, I worked the pitching machine, and Sicily got increasingly testy as the lesson went on. I generally stay out of the lesson (that's what the batting coach is for), but I made a couple comments on getting lower and other minor corrections (along with appreciative comments when she did well). She was so busy being offended that she sucked. I finally told her to stop focusing in how pissy I was making her and just focus on making her adjustments. She did, and she hit better. I am The Child's biggest fan. Full stop. It is my job to tell her how awesome she is, but it's also my job to tell her when she is awful. If she can't take constructive criticism and use it to get better, her life will be very hard and rather disappointing. Her ability to listen to feedback and apply it is compromised somewhat by teenage hormones, but hopefully it will improve with time. It is my job to help her practice this skill by not overpraising mediocrity; I also give her all of the tools she needs to do well (time, space, training, practice and encouragement). Sicily does not have siblings, so she has no peers to knock her down and keep her honest; her dad used to do that. Now it's up to me.

Ask for what you are worth, and expect to get it. Men ask for raises at an exponentially higher rate than women, and guess what? They get them. Women? Not so much. After batting practice, Sicily told me how much she earned (she works for her batting coach after her lesson, and they have negotiated a rate that is flexible at times depending on what exactly she is doing), and she said, "I'm just glad he's paying me at all." I stopped her there. She is performing a valuable service; she takes her job seriously, and she does it well. I told her that she needs to realize that she is earning the money she makes, and she is worth it; she needs to value what she does. I am raising her to be a conscientious person with a good work ethic (okay, trying. Reference "teenage hormones" again. 'tis a work in progress), and she will be a valuable commodity as she gets older. Women tend to de-value their contributions to the workplace, and it has kept us down. I want The Child to rise up.

Those are the lessons that pop for now. I am sure as we continue this journey more will arise, hopefully after I have learned what I need to know to help Sicily. Having to teach these things to Sicily by myself is alternately horrible and empowering; I wish it wasn't so, but as Dane would say, "Wish in one hand..."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Surprises

I never told you this, but for the first two months we dated, every time you left I forgot what you looked like.

Seriously.

I could never conjure an image of your face in my mind; every time you came to pick me up it was a pleasant surprise when I opened the door. You just weren't a clear picture in my mind.

Is that weird?

You continued to surprise me for 13 years. Sometimes bad (which I won't elaborate on because one should not speak ill of the dead unless it's Hitler or a similar bad guy), and sometimes good. Wormageddon was a surprise. The ring was a surprise. Coffee in  themorning on especially sleepy mornings was a surprise. Notes in my car and in my suitcase when I traveled solo. A full tank of gas. Sadie. A worm-filled black Lab puppy.

How much we were alike. How much I loved you. How much you loved me. How much it was possible to love another person who isn't your kid. How much I took for granted.

All surprises.

Do you remember when the Aquarium opened in Georgia, and we took little teeny Sicily and watched the otters? They were holding hands, floating in their tank. The would drift to the side, and one of the otters would push off into the center of the tank, and then they would drift back to the side, and the otter would push off again. One of the otters, the little girl, sucked on her paw.

That night, you took my hand as we went to sleep, and we slept all night that way. I found out a couple months ago that the proper animal behavioral name for that is "rafting," and otters do it when they sleep so they don't drift away from each other. From that day on, nine nights out of ten, that's how we slept.

I miss your hand at night. I wake up in the morning sometimes and my hand is stretched across the bed to where you should be. Eight months in and I still wake myself in the night looking for your fingers. Sometimes I wake up in the morning after doing that, and the pattern on the pillowcase looks like a heart and I think that maybe you were there in some way that night, which is almost worse than you not being there at all.

Surprising that just as I was really starting to miss you, then you were really gone.

(UPDATE: I wrote this blog on the morning of 10/22. That afternoon, a plumber showed up at the door to give us an estimate. He looked almost exactly like you - same height, same coloring, shaved bald, ratty baseball hat, Husky purple shirt on, blue eyes. He liked to talk a lot, and when he was consulting with someone on the phone, he paced in the sunroom and gesticulated, just like you. Surprising.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Talk About Dead People on a Sunny Day

Long weekend at the ballpark: 27 hours in two days, seven softball games. Last I checked, that was a part-time job. Here is La, looking just like her daddy, same expression and everything:


This is actually at her batting lesson, but it is softball-related, so it fits. #MakeItWork

She was so excited to get started; this was the first fall tournament (of three), then some time off from games (not workouts, though), and then we hit it hard again at the end of January (first tourney usually in March).

But that's not really what this post is about.

One of La's teammates lost her mother to cancer last year. This weekend, the papa sat alone, and between games the teammate and the papa left and went off by themselves. They are quiet anyway, but they seem like a self-contained unit.

I don't want to be one of those parents that force friendships on their kids, but La and her teammate share something that no other kid on the team can possibly understand (thank goodness). The teammate is a year older and so was La's age nearly exactly when her mom died. I am trying to figure out how to approach the papa without A) seeming like a jackass ("Hey, sorry your wife died, but can you help me figure out how to help my kid, since your kid has made it through a year?"), or B) bringing something up that is painful on a beautiful day ("Hey, I know this is totally out of nowhere on this gorgeous day while you're eating some cheesefries, but can we talk about how your wife died of cancer and you are all coping?"). They are both very sweet people, and as mentioned in the first paragraph, we will be spending nearly unendurable amounts of time together for the next ten months, and it is important to get off on the right foot.

Suggestions welcome. :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Post Mortem Employment

Where would we be without gallows humor? It would be a sorry state of affairs.

So anyway.

I have decided that it is time to muck about and see what I might like to do for the next depressing 40 years of my life, old, sad, and alone.

Inspiring, isn't it?

In between planning international trips, I have been seeking employment of the freelance variety: writing articles, blogging, proofreading, etc. Mainly I am going for nominal compensation and building up "clips," which is fancy writer speak for "shit you wrote."

So far I have written a press release, and I managed to land a novel proofreading gig; the money is crap, but I negotiated credit in the final published edition of the book.

This novel is the worst piece of awful writing that I have ever read in my life, and I taught sixth grade students for six years (and middle schoolers in general for another decade). If you were trying to intentionally write something horrendous to win a "Best Worst Fiction Writing Contest," this novel I am proofreading would kick your ass. It overfloweth with the worst kind of adverbs, stereotypes and florid language; the author apparently decided to make use of every possible synonym for the word "said." Worse yet, it is "historical," set in the 1890s, and then the 1950s, and it is written in present tense. There is not a character in the book that I don't want to meet a violent end. It. Is. HORRENDOUS. 

I want my name out of this book.

Nevertheless. I have decided to do the most amazing proofreading job of this horrible book in the hopes that people will see my genius and offer more lucrative gainful employment. Just hopefully not from the same publishing house. Or author. Who had the nerve to dedicate the novel to his students. If I were his students, I'd be pissed.

So I am still looking. If you know anyone who needs a writer, or a very, very professional proofreader or editor, I'm your girl.

Monday, October 14, 2013

You People Are Awesome and Other Wonderful Things. Finally.

So we're not all weepy doom-and-gloomers over here (only mostly, but sometimes not).

Today I got to obsessively read over all of your comments on Facebook for my last blog, and for all of the awfulness of 2013, the things that have come through clearly for me are as follows:

1. I have some seriously awesome people rooting for Sicily and me (yes, grammar police, that is correct), and I mean seriously awesome people who usually flinch at cursing but not the cursing in this blog, and seriously awesome people who know how chronically difficult I can be normally, much less post mortem, and they stick around anyway, and seriously awesome people whom I have known for a DOG'S AGE and who have consistently been there for me when I really needed them, the kind of people I knew well the moment I met them, either last month or 25 years ago, and who have stuck life out with me, regardless of how far away I moved, how drunk I was or how long it had been. And speaking of that...

2. I have been just a so-so friend. Not horrible, not INCREDIBLE, just consistently mediocre. Better for some than others. I have missed weddings, baby births and other milestones. I have forgotten birthdays, not called when I said I would and just generally bailed. I am not beating myself up because of this, just making a note. HINT: If you need something, right now is both the very best and the very worst time to ask. Roll the dice. If it involves travel, we are probably in. If it involves moving, don't ask. #MovingSucks

3. There is a constant battle in this world to move veryveryvery quickly. I REJECT that. Flat out. I can't believe everything we have been rushing to for the past ten years and how little most of it really means. Whenever we start rushing to things in our house, we get short-tempered and ill-mannered. There is cursing and lots of it (come to think of it, our standards on cursing have relaxed quite a bit. For both myself and for the 13-year-old. For the record also, the 13-year-old has been cursing since she was 2, and she is very adept. A quick study.). This rejection of a faster pace may translate to some as being lazy. That's okay. We'll get over it.

That's it. I have learned a lot more recently, but I mostly wanted to end the week with a message of gratitude and humility in the face of all of the awesome people I know. You could power a small city with your awesomeness, and I am grateful that you choose to shine your light on my family of two.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Today?*

Not so much with the goodness.

Grief sucks.

SUCKS.

The sun is out. It is a beautiful fall day. The light is so sharp and clear that everything is crisp, and the blowing wind makes me think of fires and hot apple cider and good books and warm socks knitted by Nana.

Here's the awesome part: Grief makes you not give a shit about any of that. Yeah, it sounds good on paper. Yeah, I have some socks on right now, a hot mug of coffee and a sleeping dog at my feet on the settee by the window where I can watch the leaves swaying and the sunlight hit the deck.

So what. Big deal.

Platitudes. It's all platitudes. My whole thing has been to get out of bed and put my feet on the floor every day. Check. To keep moving forward no matter how small the steps. Check. To try really hard to be kind to The Child. Check (the trying part. I am trying.).

At the end of the day, it has not helped. I am, for the most part, out of the weepy stage (today not withstanding, and last Wednesday notwithstanding. Sometimes it hits you and you can't do anything about it but give in so I do and it doesn't feel any better), but now I am in the blank stage. Nothing helps.

(certainly not religion, by the way, which people recently have felt the overwhelming need to assault me with. I don't believe he is in a better place, and if you know Dane you would know that even if God did need an angel - utter condescending bullshit - He certainly would not have chosen my  beloved. No angel, that one. So STFU about his soul to me. He would be PISSED and talk about how Mary was no virgin if he could. So just stop.)

And I am SERIOUSLY considering smoking. I haven't smoked in 12 years. They make me violently ill. I don't care. Because feeling something has to be better than this.

(please don't send me messages or post about how I shouldn't smoke. I know. I am not a moron. I am too cheap to go buy a pack of American Spirits, and no one around me smokes with regularity. But I am also an adult, so I don't need a lecture about smoking. I know.)

Every morning when I wake up, I roll over and the first two words that pop into my head are, "Dane's dead." This was a regular feature the first several months after his death, but it went away for a bit over the summer. Now, as we approach nine months it has come roaring back. So welcome to the new fucking day. Dane's dead. Good luck.

*and with that, I believe we have entered another stage of grief: ANGER. Probably best to give me a wide berth. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

It Begins Today

The sweat and the heat.

The endless days, shoved in a small space with hundreds of people.

Fast food choked down.

Rising at before the sun; returning home after midnight.

The driving, the driving...the driving.

We will persevere. We will Push Past This.

It begins today, after two months of nothingness. It begins today.

Softball.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Out of Nowhere*

Today driving home from the art store I was overwhelmed by tears. I was thinking about Pappy Van Winkle, driving through Kennesaw Mountain Park, sunshine-y day, art supplies in the back, fun times on the horizon, and I somewhat lost it.

Yay. Good times.

Out of Nowhere, La is a teenager.

Out of Nowhere, my school is Tango Uniform.

Out of Nowhere, people are all up in my business about how much money I have and what they feel I can and cannot afford to have/do/be. (Guess what? If I can find it, and I think I have, Imma buy a 23-year-old bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.)

Out of Nowhere, nothingness. Lonely.

Blah. Pity parties aside, it was an interesting experience to be hit by grief on a sunny day. Oxymoronic. A bit foolish and possibly dangerous to continue driving.

Out of Nowhere also: clarity in some things, important things. Some I have discussed here, some I have not.

Out of Nowhere also: even less of a need to give a flying rat's ass about what people think. This is bad news for those of you who felt that particular trait was too well-developed in me in the first place. *shrugs*

Nowhere is contradictory, not wholly (un)pleasant place. At any rate, I'll have good bourbon while I'm there.

This self-indulgent entry brought to you by Active Avoidance of Other Issues Occurring and a Real Desire to Stop Whining and Figure Out What the Fuck.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Saving All Your Nice For Other People

When I was teaching in my last few years of public school, it took every ounce of control to be nice at work. Not to the kids, who were fine and dandy in the main, but to clueless administrators and helicopter parents, very few of whom actually saw me as a person with thoughts, feelings, emotions and talents but rather as a lowly, replaceable cog in the machine of education. #Assholes #IDon'tMissYou

The result of this amount of stress was physical illness and a general bitchiness at home. One of the main reasons I quit public school (other than the fact that it was/is headed straight down the toilet and has been since the inception of NCLB. But I digress.) was that I was sick and tired of wasting all of my nice on other people and their children.

My name is Suzannah Kolbeck, and I am an Introvert.

(Hi, Suzannah. Keep coming back.)

I can only take so much small talk and general hi-LARITY before I need some quiet, unstructured time to putter around the garden, the kitchen, the bookstore, etc. The sheer amount of effort I had to expend to maintain civility amid the chaos and disorder of public school and its environs meant that I came home and took it all out on my people, the people who unconditionally took it (and sometimes gave it back, let's be honest. We're not saints.).

This is unacceptable. As a follow-up to my Advice to Couples From a Widow Blog, I offer this final piece of advice: don't waste all your nice on other people. There are some people who have an infinite store of nice: my friend Tamara, the Dalai Lama. That's about all I know.

All of us other mortals tend to be very nice in public but less so at home (to varying degrees), so I say this to everyone other than the Dalai Lama and my friend Tamara:  BE NICE. Show love and gratitude to the people who are where you hang your hat. They are the ones who have seen you at your worst and celebrate you at your best; they are the ones who love you best. They got your back.

Kindness anywhere is never wasted, and I am all for civility and courtesy in public. I am not suggesting you eliminate these things from your daily interactions.

I am suggesting, however, that we all turn off the screens, listen better, do more fun stuff together and generally enjoy each other's company. Don't waste time with your family in argument and petty disagreement, or nit-picking about trash removal, who is going to clean up the dog puke (AGAIN) and why is it that no one appreciates what you do around here (ad infinitum, et cetera. Fill in the blank with your personalized ranting)?!

If you are currently living with a sullen teenager, this advice is harder to implement. I know I am going to try anyway. I can only change myself, and I have realized that I just need to RELAX. Anyone who knows me knows that this is stupidly hard for me to do. Near impossible.

Ah, well. It matters, so I will try. I am planning on implementing deep breathing, rose smelling, art making, cookie baking and thoughtful listening. Also silence bearing, as The Child is way less interested in talking to me now, so I have to suck it up and let it be instead of asking constantly if anything is wrong, further annoying her. Or breathing. Which also annoys her. But I digress.

Be nicest to the ones you love the most. It's that simple.