About Me

My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Can Get Some Satisfaction

Ken taught me a lot about satisfaction, in so many ways, many of them I am realizing now, while I couldn't while he lived. Nice, right? It took the death of my most excellent husband to teach me something about true satisfaction.

While he was alive, by my side, I didn't need to care so much about satisfaction. He had enough for both of us and everyone around him. I was "content" to be the one who always wondered if I was meeting my potential, doing enough, accomplishing enough. I was often filled with doubt about my purpose. I flustered easily, got excited about what was happening around me. Sometimes the excitement was positive and vibrant, sometimes it was just nervous, scattered, wasted energy. I was always scanning the horizon for the next event, opportunity, crisis. I was alert, ready, prepared, on the lookout for potential trouble. My to-do list bossed me around. I was on time. Not late. Punctual. On deadline. I was seeking the next moment instead of enjoying the one that was before me. Trying to be perfect, and failing perfectly at that.

Ken's stillness, his calm was always present for me. All he had to do was put his hand on mine and I'd get that transfer of warm, steady, calm energy. No matter what he was doing, the task was right. On the phone for an hour with Apple Computer? Why not. Has to be done. Balancing the Quicken account? Deeply satisfying. After all, it's a life task that needs doing. Children fussy for hours on end? Why not? That's what children do sometimes and that's why parents are there, to absorb and deflect. He was like a worry stone for me...make a connection with him and my blood pressure would plummet, heart rate decrease, perspective widen.

Ken lived in his own time zone, a mysterious, calm, cool, rock of assuredness and understanding. In Ken's world, all was as it should be. Things were meant to be understood, not judged. He could get an angry note from his boss ALL IN CAPS and shrug his shoulders. He could run late without sweating. At his memorial service, a friend told a story of sailing on Lake Michigan with Ken in a sudden squall. One of the passengers fell off the boat and as the distance grew between them, Ken surveying the surroundings said, "Wow, it's really windy out here," while turning the boat to retrieve her.

Today I'm the one in the water. Ken is gone, years now. Fortunately, at the moment, I'm not in cold, windy Lake Michigan. I'm alone in a warm Caribbean sea, all by myself, floating way out from the beach. No one knows I'm here but me. The water is clear and body temperature. I want to share this peace the way Ken shared his with me. But it's quiet out here and I'm all by myself. I can't see anyone. I splash every now and again enjoying how it feels and sounds. I'm sending out ripples.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peace at Last (for now)

Suddenly something has shifted. It's subtle, but I can feel it. I just feel so darn settled, at peace, calm, accepting, and OK. I'm living less and less in fear.

I'm happy with such small things lately: the sound of the furnace kicking in when it's cold and bitter outside; my ridiculous fleece pajamas with little moose on them; a phone call with a girlfriend who really gets me, who I really get; making a needlepoint pillow for my daughter. Watching my son's excitement as he views the sport of curling on the Olympics for the first time, making improvements on my house, planning a neighborhood party, beginning to imagine a future for myself where before there was only the past. Remembering the me I used to be before illness and death too soon made me someone else.

Grief is taking a new shape in a different sky, everything rearranging in blasts and gusts and silences. The absence of Ken is a permanent part of me now, just as those 15 years of being with him will never be erased. Now that his presence and absence have etched themselves through my skin and bones and heart, now that I know this, now that I trust that even in disappearing he remains, I can begin to loosen the grip of grief to cross safely into a place that remains unknown to me even as I enter it. With my eyes open, I still can't see where I'm going. I'm moving slower because I don't know this landscape. This is where I am and I can't be located. Certainty has been stripped from me: the promise of the husband, the marriage, the partner, the way it was supposed to be isn't. There is nothing to do but get up and see what's next.

My head's been down a long time. It's time to look up and imagine the future I never planned to have.


Take a few minutes and write about absence. Then write about peace. And then let yourself imagine the future on paper in words, if you can.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Breathe in the Present, Breathe out the Past

Breathe in the present moment. Breathe out the past. Breathe in the present moment. Breathe out the past.

If you've ever taken a yoga class or participated in any guided meditation, you have probably tried this exercise. You sit or lie down on your yoga mat, ground yourself firmly to the earth below you, relax your muscles, and settle into the rhythm of your own breath. With each inhalation you take in the present, the now, the new, the here-ness of it all. With each exhalation, you let go of the past, the accumulated stresses, the repeated thoughts, the jumpy, habitual ego-mind, the then.

I'm all for living in the moment. I truly believe that it is only in the present moment that we are able to change and grow and continually create our life. But what happens when your present and your past become one and the same?

Sometimes I feel as though in losing Ken, my whole life, present and past has become one long meditation on loss, whether I'm breathing in or breathing out.

I breathe out the past, our years of happy life together, the roll of memories, the warmth of skin and dark nights and real contact, the acceptance and understanding, the deep connection, the humor, the shared world-view, the pain of cancer and cancer treatments, the emotional ups and downs and disappointments, the new profound perspective that only life and death matters can provide, the unexpected turn of fate, the ultimate defeat by death, the shock and anguish and loneliness and disbelief. The less-ness of living solo. I breathe it out.

I breathe in my soft, young, forming, vibrant children, my energy moving, flagging, cascading, circling, my questions, my observations, my creative force, excitement and doubt and belief, hope for what is still to come, the strength of being stripped of the illusion of safety, the raw edges of change and growth. Contentment with what is. I breathe in the present which every day still means the present without you. I breathe it in.

The past is you, the present is without you. It's all still about you.

I meditate on loss every single day, breathing it in and out, again and again and again. I don't feel miserable. I feel alive.

This is Your Moment

What are you breathing in now? Name your present. Give it some words. Discover what you're taking in....

What are you breathing out as you exhale the past? Let it go.