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.