Before Colleen and Jimmy’s

Jimmy and Colleen will forgive me being late for dinner on New Year’s Eve.

They loved George.

Six years ago this holiday George McAvoy came firmly into my life – on a beautiful New Year’s getaway to Nantucket – I’ve told the story too many times, stacking wood, Alan hurt in a biking accident, watching Inception, going to a Nantucket HS hockey game and loving it.

Brilliant, beautiful, loving George came into my heart – into my family – bringing the deep love neither of us expected and both appreciated so deeply every day – most days beyond description. Our families and friends felt and appreciated it too. So grand.

Five years ago tonight we were is Moscow – with Peter and Rita and the girls and Rita’s family – magical does not begin to describe that holiday – those memories. Rita – I can never thank you enough. Never. Never.

Four years ago – anyone? Sorry – escaping me for tonight.Maybe at Al’s show in Northampton…I think so….Last night I was with Al and Maryanne in CT – so many memories – so much gratitude.

Three years ago George was living in Boston and we hit a big bump just before New Years…and we spent New Years Eve on the phone – figuring it out – and figure it out we did – in big beautiful loving ways.

Ten weeks later George died. So much for figuring it out…but so glad that we did.

Two years ago Keith and Clint mercifully took me to New Years in Duxbury…such great memories that we share – and about which we laugh. Keith and Clint – would not have made it without you – fitting that I just left your house…so much gratitude.

Last year – no idea…anyone?

Tonight – Colleen and Jimmy’s…

On Christmas someone said to me “I never remember what I did in the past unless there is some traumatic memory.” I have a lot of those – and a tremendous amount of gratitude for those who love me so much and have cut me so much leeway while I find my way – while I have wandered…

I seem to be in the minority in looking forward to 2017 – I have this – thanks to so so so many family and friends near and far. Happy New Year!

 

 

Advertisements

The Short Story

George McAvoy and I fell in love six years ago – at Spiderman on Broadway for George’s birthday and in the quiet beauty of Nantucket for New Years. The memories are graphic. We lived together for very close to three years – the happiest three years of my life. And then, while I was walking the dog, George died – well pretty much died – it was two more days until we disconnected him from artificial life support. And pretty much – I just realized that pretty much I died with him. I lived for a very long time in a dull, grey netherworld…a member of the walking dead…drowning over and over and over again – the pain usually winning. Yet somehow, slowly, gradually, I am being reborn. I was not sure I would make it. But for the past few days I have felt like the happiest, most peaceful version of my new self – of my new self yet. I am just starting to believe – to trust – that the healing will continue – continue at its own pace. And I am returning to the world of the living.

Transitions and Juxtaposition

I have had an extraordinarily good stretch…not always easy but really good…calm after the storm good…Finding peace…Finding peace through really challenging trauma work good…

Maybe I will write about that some time later. The headline will be You Have to Walk Through Fire – but that’s writing for another time. I always always knew you had to walk through fire – but somehow I couldn’t find my way through the fire for a long time…it’s beyond horrible to be lost in that fire…but that’s for another time…

I’ve had a particularly extraordinary month of December – finding peace, and the return of skills I didn’t know I had missed (like it’s no big deal to make dinner for 8) and peace of mind that I have maybe never even had before…stronger at the broken places…

But today I arrived home from six or seven hours of really good meetings  – it’s rare for me to be away from my home/office for a whole work day – especially with an hour commute home. I used to have that commute every day. For the 9 months that George and I lived together with Kita in the condo where Kita and I have lived alone for the past 2 years and 9 plus months, and in the apartments where George and Kita and I – and George and I – lived for a few years before that, I always had an hour commute home – followed by dinner with George and whatever happened alongside of that…a routine in which I reveled…

I left my work after George died in part because I could not tolerate the arrival home. I would go to work, be engaged and animated (that took a while), and then I would drive home – and George would be dead again – over and over and over and over.

But (not the way to start a sentence I know – or to even think…but…) today the change of work did not do its thing. I had great meetings – great conversations – along with lots of talk about the holidays…and arrived home at 5:30 to a dead quiet condo – with Kita waiting for a walk…so I walked her – and then arrived home to a dead quiet condo – without clear holiday plans – and I started to cry – a surprise to me –  if that makes any sense at all. I struggled for a few minutes and then booked myself into a yoga class that started a half hour later. Go to yoga George said. Go to yoga they all said after he died.

So I went to yoga – and within minutes I thought more clearly – it’s about juxtaposition. I’ve been out every night for over a week – enjoying birthdays and holidays with friends and family…Boston, Marblehead, Boston, New Jersey, NYC, Boston. I cancelled plans for tonight because I thought I needed to “catch up” – but instead it was quiet – a juxtaposition to all of the festivities and all of the not being alone.

And it was also the same old transition – I came home – a transition – and it was very quiet – and my aloneness hit me the wrong way – or I let my aloneness hit me the wrong way.

I felt much better once I grasped this alongside a “vigorous vinyasa flow” and some wandering processing…I felt much better and came home in peace – a do-over – feeling much better. My sadness was simply about juxtaposition and transitions.

And then the real juxtaposition hit: horribly, unthinkably bad news about a beautiful 12 year old boy who is like family to me. His cancer has progressed rapidly – extremely rapidly –  the details are graphic and personal and although I want to share them to show the juxtaposition – they are personal and not mine.  

Trust me that the juxtaposition of this news and my sadness about coming home alone was enough to change the meaning of juxtaposition for me. And the news was enough to choke my heart and tear into my soul – and make me cry unbridled tears.

And for the first time ever Kita came to stand by me as I cried…maybe remembering when it seemed like I might not recover from losing George…But I have recovered…apparently in time to do it again…

We are all just walking each other home she told me when George died…having gone through too much of her own loss and pain. We are all born too. The two universals – the juxtaposition of birth and death…We are all just walking each other home. The destination is clear – it’s about the walk, the journey, the love, the passion, the energy. It’s all transition…

 

 

More questions…please…

I will learn not to say no. I will learn to be present. To be connected and responsive – even when the question is challenging – especially when the question is challenging.

Last week a friend asked me about fear…am I afraid…no I said no. I thought I was connected to the question – and to the answer. But as I do with so many situations, so many conversations, so many questions – I thought about it after the conversation. I reflected. I connected. I wrote…about fear. Yes to fear. I am not without fear.

This week it was Trish asking if I was angry at George. I don’t remember the evolution of the question. I know how the fear question started. Not the angry question. Angry? Not at all. I don’t feel it at all…yes I understand that’s acceptable…and that happens. But angry? No…

But yes…I am a little angry it turns out… more frustrated than angry…frustrated that I have lost almost 3 years of my ever shortening (same as everyone) life. Not angry…frustrated…frustrated that I can’t move through this grief process at my pace…it has it’s own pace…

Got it…I am however grateful for the opportunity to move forward…beyond the loss…integrating what I have learned…but did not choose to learn…

Got it…I’m not in charge of this grief process…I can control how I respond…
I’m a tiny bit angry.

A Delayed Answer to the question: Am I (Are you) afraid

I knew the short answer pretty much right away – no, I am not afraid – not right now – not for the past few weeks especially. I was sure about the short answer – and then a little surprised by my own certainty. I am not afraid – not for now – not really of anything…well two things only…

This is very new for me…

I was weaned on fear. It served me well as a child. I was afraid  – and if I pretended that I wasn’t afraid, that enraged her more. As did crying. A quick study, I learned the art of silent terror. Swallow your fear so that you lose your voice, develop an ulcer and think a rustic summer overnight camp is the best. And going away to college – nirvana.

Swallow your fear and learn not to allow yourself to show much real feeling at all. And then wonder why you never really feel known. Why you never really feel loved. While you are choking on your own feelings…Wondering about the loneliness…

Fear was so much a part of my soul that I had no awareness that I was afraid. None.

Then wise teachers began to appear. I must have been ready, as the saying goes.

First I learned to give up on trying to control the people in my life – that’s what fear does – fear feeds rigidity and expectations and disappointments and blame. I remember the moment I let that one go – thank you Anne – for teaching me that trying to control was futile. I learned to focus on controlling myself – that was plenty.

Fear was so much a part of my soul that I never expected to really feel loved – the kind of deep soul love I had always silently mourned. Not expected – mourned. I expected to die feeling unloved.

And then somehow, magically, mystically, George and I fell in love – again – very differently. Love that neither of us had ever expected to experience – and certainly not with each other. Never. Can you believe this George asked me every single day – without fail.

Early on George challenged me to confront my fears – as I challenged him to do – I with less success – until the end. And at the same time Susan stepped in and taught me that love and fear were opposite sides of the same coin – and that there is only love and fear – and I got it – in a moment I got this too.

I, challenged and supported and loved, began to figure out my fear. I reunited with the little girl cowering on her bed – waiting for the rage. I began to conquer my fear – with one major nagging exception that I still regret – often. I was terrified of losing George – not to death – but to his own fears – to his own terrors – to his own flights from the reality of his terrors. And until close to the end, I was too afraid to not show fear when George struggled.

I was terrified of losing George – and as we began to figure that out – to understand the ways our remaining fears collided – and as we began, with deep love, to move beyond that place – George died. I lost him in a moment. I lost him not as I had feared or imagined losing him – but rather to a random intruder – a strep bacteria gone rogue. I lost him in a way I had never worried about – never imagined. Never could have imagined. I watched him silently, slowly, so quickly die – killed by a random intruder.

And when George was dead I came home from the hospital gripped by a toxic terror that I could not shake – and could not begin to control. I had expected to feel sad and I did. I had not expected to be so terrified that I barely breathed…for more than a year closer to two I held my breathe in sheer terror. Numb, I moved through the hours and days and weeks and months and more than a year…cornered in a netherworld in which I did not see in color for 18 months; in which I could not read for two years; and in which I could not really grieve George dying for two and a half years.

And this fall, more than two and a half years after George died I realized in a much deeper way that he was really gone – and that no matter how much I worked and exercised and dated that I might not find my way through. How, I wondered, after so much of doing all of the right things, could I be in such a deep dark not-bearable place.

And now, thankfully, I am finding my way through to peace and no fear…to peace and love…to peace and hope…

Just two fears remaining (I didn’t lie – I just didn’t know until I thought hard about this)…my fears are of the people I love feeling pain…and of dying alone…

I am mostly not afraid.

Uncle

Remember that childhood game or maybe just a phrase – when you’d had enough of something you would say uncle. Where did that come from anyway?

I’m once again behind on writing posts – a good sign that I’m doing better and engaged in my life – but be prepared for a cluster (or cluster@#%&) of blog posts coming your way soon.

Meanwhile…I’m sharing what will seem like a random thought…What’s on my mind my Facebook page asked? Tonight I know what’s on my mind. Here:

I’m really tired of having “things put into perspective” by having profoundly horrible experiences. I get it. I’d like to opt out of the profoundly horrible experiences please. I would like them to stop. I’ve had enough. Many of us have had enough. Uncle.

Holidays

NOTE: I started this post a couple of days before Thanksgiving…home alone preparing for the holiday – really missing having a partner for this.

Here’s the original post:

Holidays are hard for some. I spent years cooking for and celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas with abandoned kids…shopping and cooking and celebrating with friends on the same mission. For a year or two George was one of those friends. So much fun and so joyful and expansive to share.

I went on to cooking for and celebrating with my own family – nuclear and extended and family of choice. So many get togethers big and really big and huge – and sometimes just a few of us. All wonderful…

When my marriage ended 8 years ago one of the consequences was a downsizing of holidays. Small get togethers, an incredible not -Thanksgiving in Barcelona, a Christmas day cooking for and celebrating with the family of a dying friend, and some holidays alone…Then holidays with George and his family and mine and ours.

And then two years ago George wasn’t here for the holidays. I barely made it through that first year. My kids struggled and tried. Linda and Marc rescued me Christmas Eve. I actually spent Christmas Day as far away as I could get. New Years with amazing friends.

Last year. Much better! A really nice Thanksgiving and a quiet Christmas and I don’t remember New Years…somebody took me in I think.

I am so fortunate to have kids and family and family-by-choice who love me and I love them so much. They will come for Thanksgiving and shop and cook and eat and hang out. I am blessed and grateful.

And then it will get too quiet again.

And then there’s Christmas and New Year’s. I will figure them out shortly…

Some people really do find the holidays hard – especially when other challenges prevail – like this year…

Be kind…be open…

Some people really do find the holidays hard.

Tonight in Perugia

I have been thinking about a post about healing – about growing awareness – about the shedding of the armor of pain and fear. About a new wave of grief – healthier – more painful. Progress. I will write about that soon I hope.

But today life intervened – with some of the worst news ever – and since it’s not my news to share I will be intentionally vague…I spent the day slightly numb with intermittent tears and gnawing pain in my belly…the pain of more loss…the pain of deep empathy…the pain…

And tonight, as I have done so many times in the past 32 months, I went to yoga. I really didn’t want to go but I went because it is one of the best things to do when you can’t breathe deeply and you can’t stand the pain…I went to yoga…and I breathed…

And immediately, at quiet rest, I met George in Perugia – the only place I think I have seen him since he died…

Strange, we were only in Perugia for dinner one night – an out of the way stop on a drive from Rome to Florence. Let’s go there we decided, looking up to the east – to hills with what looked like forts and castles on top – and we wound our way there. I’ve written before about Perugia and I don’t want to go back to our evening there right now…But I wondered tonight why Perugia?

We were just passing through…no place we knew well…magical…winding stone stairways and stone walled pathways, open piazzas, a big sky…dining al fresco…a late late summer night…we got lost there…on foot, and couldn’t find our way back to the car…We had loved Rome but had a very unusual tiff there…trauma bumping into trauma I know in retrospect…a few bad hours that shook us both…there was no hint of that bad time as we drove and then reveled in Perugia…light…adventurers in place and time…

I still don’t know why Perugia…no clarity in this writing…sometimes that’s what happens…but not tonight…

WHY Perugia is a digression anyway…

Tonight, at quiet rest in yoga, I met George in Perugia – and he held my hand and smiled and walked lightly with a bit of twirling…more like a dance…silently…lightly…I told him of my sadness…my grief…the grief of imminent loss…and he smiled and silently, without words, told me that dying was ok…dying was light…dying was nothing to worry about…and he hugged me…not the old oh my goodness so tight I never want to let go of you hug…but a light hug…maybe he knew I might go with him if he hugged me that way – and then we both faded away…me back to the yoga studio…and George? Maybe somewhere near Perugia…

 

Grief Redux – Political

It’s clearly a hard night.

First presidential election without George – who had more political passion than anyone I have ever known. I didn’t expect that doing this alone would rock me – it has rocked me – tears and wine and chocolate and pacing and I don’t know rocked me…no sleep tonight rocked me…both missing G and the horror of what is unfolding – the potential horror…

I’m sorry – a little – that I did not let him talk me into running for Senate – there were a few months when he told everyone that I WAS running – until I finally realized that I had to engage – and say no. No babe I said – I don’t want to do that…You/we would be amazing he said…no wonder I miss him so much…no, I said…my whole life has been about trying to make a difference…now, I just want to balance that with being with you…just being…Please stop telling people I’m running for Senate…please…he stopped…

More than a few people have reminded me that this election might have killed George…it would certainly have been loud at our house…laced with profanity…George actually would have been out – I with him – at Clinton HQ – somewhere…no rest…

I actually don’t know…

It’s clearly a hard night…I recognize that my being alone is the least of it…but for me…I’m alone…like so many others…no support through this nightmare…

 

 

Contrast

When I was 53 – I unexpectedly fell madly in love – with reciprocity. I was well into my second wonderful career and my youngest child was a senior in college. My day to day parenting days had waned (pretty much!) and I was starting to think about a third career. But love struck – with absolute delight.

I was finally able to be my truest self yet – with the support of a loving compassionate empathetic wise partner. We spoke every day about how fortunate we each were. We shared – our days, our news, our nights, our challenges, our fears and worries, our kids, our work, our dog, food, travel, love, body fluids, friends, workouts, chores, family, politics, sports, theater, music, road trips, health tips, reading recommendations, poetry, advice, the future, vast amounts of gratitude – and yes some bumps – but the bumps were isolated and always linked to ghosts from our pasts – we both got this and worked things out when needed – on those very rare occasions we dug deep and worked hard. We laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced, we booked plane reservations, bought tickets, walked the dog, met after work, couldn’t wait to be together when separated…

And then when I was 57 George got the flu and pneumonia over night – the same night he was diagnosed with the flu. In the early morning I brought him to the ER and as I guess I still can’t quite believe – but I do – when I went home to walk our dog – George stopped breathing – end of the love story (except for the part about disconnecting George from artificial life support and hosting his life celebration – and the friends and family and wisdom and delight I would not have had without him). Gone are the days and nights, the sharing of news, the sharing of challenges, the sharing of household responsibilities, my travel buddy, my advisor, the guy next to me, holding my hand, hugging me at endless concerts, plays, movies, baseball games, hockey games. Gone was my advisor, my lover, my co-host for dinner parties and overnight guests, my road trip buddy, the person I brushed my teeth with, who brought me coffee, who danced with me in the kitchen, who cried with me in happiness and sadness…I could go on and on and on…

This is what it is like to lose a beloved partner. The loss is vast…

And as sudden loss is for most people, it was vast and stunning for me – left me literally stunned.

I have come out of the fog, out of the depths, out of the darkness – but I don’t always see a clear, bright way forward. I work hard, love my kids and my other kids, and love my friends and family – some of whom started out as George’s friends and family. But on a day to day – and night to night basis – I am alone – starkly alone. I do all the right things – try all the prescribed remedies – but at the end of the day I am alone – and the person who held me and comforted me and made things ok is gone. It’s indescribably hard. Still. Because of the contrast.