Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Expanding and Evolving: The Exchange

I have been so stressed out this year.  Financially in trouble.  Overcommitted time-wise.  Feeling guilt for not spending enough time with family and non-derby friends.  Heart broken as I witness steep decline in both dogs’ health and am faced with hard, looming choices.  Trying to sell my house.  Trying to keep up with the demands of the house.  It is just a lot. 

I do it mostly alone.  I don’t ask for help as often as I actually need it.  And when I do, I feel guilty for that, too.  Somewhere in my lifetime I wrote the script where I need to be awesome and not need anyone but myself.  This is just not feasible.  We all need help.

Every now and then, I have a taste of closeness with someone.  And when I do, I am reminded of how much I miss that.  I miss emotional connection.  I miss physical touch.  When I get a small sample, I want more, more, more and it consumes me a little, my desire for partnership.

Thank goodness for derby, where it is regular practice not just to hit and be hit, but also to grope and be groped.  I know that sounds weird, but it is the most social and physical contact I get during the average week and who knows where I would be without it.  But, I have to remind myself in regular life that it is not OK to walk up to someone and grab their butt or boob as a greeting.  And it is not OK to hip check or Johnny crash coworkers or family members as a sign of affection or admiration.  But in derby, it is, and I know this awesome, weird world makes me a better person.

When I feel lonely and yearn for more than what I have, something happens to remind me that I am too busy to keep close company in my life.  Do I keep myself too busy as a way to avoid loneliness?  Or as a way to be unavailable for a deeper relationship with someone?  Because of course I still just want Ron Clark back.  Which I will not get.  But would it be fair to have a thing with anyone who is not Ron?  Maybe fair doesn’t matter.  Maybe what matters is what I can handle and what the hypothetical someone else, willingly and knowingly entering into my life, can handle.

In spite of loneliness.  In spite of feeling overwhelmed and having too much to do and not enough help to do it all.  In spite of consistently being the not-quite-pretty-enough but convenient-enough friend.  In spite of wanting to be seen and really loved wholly, the way Ron could see and love me.  In spite of all of it, I do sometimes feel loved.  Today, I feel loved.  It is not one thing.  No resounding moment I can tell you about.  I just feel like I have a lot of people who do care and support me.  Friends from long ago.  New friends.  Acquaintances that have become friends.  Coworkers.  My derby family.  My sweet little niece, now on Skype since they moved to South Carolina, singing back to me the song I’ve been singing to her since she was born.  My family.  My dogs.  My own slow-growing respect for myself.  The spirit of Ron, which is with me always.  All of this love is immense and ever expanding and evolving.  I just need to allow myself to feel and recognize it.

I haven’t blogged much this year out of fear that all it would be is complaints and venting frustration and whiny pleas for sympathy.  It has been a downcast year for me.  Of course I have been through and survived worse.  I know and can appreciate that, but still, it has not been pleasant.  I need to keep my focus on what I do have instead of what I don’t.  So, in this moment when I can feel the love, I wanted to blog to acknowledge that there really is a lot of it in my life.  I have so much love to give and I enjoy giving it.  And I also enjoy receiving. 

Thanks to all who have been a part of the exchange.  You make a difference.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Good Enough

An insignificant mass

Of infinite sadness

Hurtling through space

At super warp speed

Will never reach its destination

Because the destination keeps moving

Out of reach;

An unholy miracle of quantum physics

With inestimable possibilities

For unending disappointment.

It’s never good enough.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dishing Personal

In 72 hours, I will be standing before Clutch at a sold out show at The Machine Shop in Flint, MI.  I suspect this may be the most badass venue I will ever set foot in and I do so with great enthusiasm.  After a decade of seeing Clutch once a year since 1997, I have now gone just over five years without catching a live performance.  The last time I caught a Clutch show was New Year’s Eve 2008.  I missed their next MI show in September 2009 in order to attend the first live performance from the band Ron was in, Numpt, at Rubbles.  For some reason, I have been missing them ever since.  But not this weekend.  This weekend, I’m back in the crowd-surfing pit action.  Yesssssss!!!!

It does not seem like it has been five years since that New Year’s, which, consequently, was one of the best ever, thanks to Clutch and the friends I celebrated with.  It seems like it has been so much longer.  I squeezed in a whole lifetime of a relationship with Ron Clark in just over three short years.  I was with him through his illness and at the time of his death, even throwing together a quickie wedding to seal the deal when that became important to us.  So much happened in such a very short amount of time.  And I have now been a widow for just over 20 months.  All of that since I last saw Clutch.

Recapping, because it kinda blows my mind, since my last Clutch show: I was “officially” dumped by my then-boyfriend of almost 10 years, met Ron and instantly fell in love, had an intense long distance courtship, moved him into my house, learned he had terminal cancer, took care of him during his illness, got married, became a widow, joined a roller derby team, and, for the first time in my life, became self-sufficiently happy being a single, independent woman.  Is it no wonder that it seems like more than five years would have to have spanned for all of that to have taken place?  It’s a whole lotta life to cram in.

What else involves fives in the near future?  My birthday this year.  Turning 35.  I am definitely feeling my age.  Yet also kinda not, as I live this fabulously free and fun single life that is not at all where I envisioned myself, but is everything I want at this moment.  An older coworker recently reflected that her 30’s were her favorite years.  I have to agree.  I don’t think my life has ever been any better than it has been since turning 30 and meeting Ron, even though that includes the terrible tragedy of losing him.  The blessing from losing him is that I have figured out who I am and what makes me happy on my own, not in relation to anyone else.  And I have learned I can accomplish a lot on my own.  And I have gained this incredible derby family that I could never have imagined having before and who I cannot imagine not having in my life going forward.  Yes, my 30’s have been far more tragic than what most experience and I am sad about that.  I am sad about not having Ron at my side physically, though I never doubt he is by my side.  But I am also grateful to have experienced so much and developed such an understanding of mortality, the fragility of life, and the beauty of each moment we are gifted.  Have no doubts about it; each moment is definitely a gift and not a guarantee. 

Friends, I admit I have been avoiding this next topic a little bit, which is part of why I feel like I need to speak to it.  Otherwise, I am living my life in secret and everyone who knows me knows I do not keep myself a secret.  Even though I know it is normal and important to explore new relationships, I still feel some twinge of guilt in doing so.  Ron never verbally gave me the go-ahead to fall in love again (though he did give rather explicit and hilarious permission to have plenty of roller derby girl-on-girl bedroom action, which has not happened . . . yet).  Anyway, after a year and a half without kissing anyone, I made out with a boy after our last home bout of 2013.  It was just for fun at our after party and he and I both understood it was going nowhere after this one random encounter; right place, right time.  He approached me and, of course, because I cannot just keep my mouth shut and let things happen, I had to tell him that I was a widow and hadn’t kissed anyone in a long time.  “It’s still happening,” he said.  And it did.  And it was really fun.  I had a few weird feelings, as it was my first-ever bar hook-up adventure, but they were only mildly weird and I knew Ron wouldn’t really mind. 

So there was that.  And that really did not feel like a big deal, other than excitement that I could still feel cute and fun.  Then there has also been this unique thing that started with a long time, brother-from-another-mother, close friend of mine.  The dynamic between us just shifted rather suddenly.  And he felt like a safe way for me to approach getting back into the world of physical closeness with others after two years without that type of contact.  Even with this, I did not feel guilt.  Ron loved this friend, too, and I honestly believe he would be/is just laughing his ass off that it happened, it really was so unexpected. 

But because this friend and I care so much about one another, a whole world of texting and emailing and phone calls opened up.  And it turned into having someone who cared about me on a day-to-day basis.  Someone I cared about on a day to day basis.  Support.  Smiles.  Honest affection and love.  Compliments.  Flirting.  It was all so fun.  Yet I knew it was going to end.  There is actual love between us, which simultaneously confounds and compliments the situation, but it is not boyfriend/girlfriend love and it is not soul-mate/life-partner love.  And that seemed ok at first.  I felt pretty good about just having an open, undefined relationship with my out-of-town friendly friend.  I am not looking to replace Ron (I know I never will).  I am not even looking for anything long term or serious.  With derby, work, the house, friends, family, travel, and the dogs - I have no time to have a serious relationship.  I am just trying some things out, to see how they fit and how they feel. 

During the course of this scenario, my friendly friend and I have been defining what it is and what it is not between us.  At some point I realized that the benefit of the arrangement, for me, was based on filling an emotional void.  I liked having someone who checked in with me daily and cared about how I was doing.  I liked feeling cute again.  I liked someone encouraging and supporting me with derby.  I liked asking someone for advice about house stuff.  I liked feeling a closer connection to this one person than I do to all the other phenomenal people in my life.  Knowing that it is nothing serious made me feel nervous about becoming emotionally dependent on the fun and positive communication.  Until I am in a real relationship with another person, I don’t want to depend on anyone in particular to give me those warm-fuzzy feelings.  Better that they come from friends, family, teammates, coworkers, animals, and others I encounter in my community at random times than for me to start to anticipate them coming from one person . . . which inevitably leads to disappointment when that need is no longer being met.  This seemed particularly important to recognize when we were lining it up for me to be disappointed with such a very good, long-term friend.  I don’t want to wind up feeling poorly about him or our friendship.  I felt like I needed to call it off.  So I did.  And he let me.  And we remain friends and who knows what will happen down the road.  Everything remains full of love and possibility and the sense of adventure.  I’m still smiling.

Calling it off does not come without sadness, though.  I am missing the communication.  I want to text him and tell him I made a mistake and that we should just proceed as we had been, but I know that is probably not healthy for either of us in the long run.  It is a loss not to have him in my daily life after enjoying frequent communication for the past several weeks.  But, it is not anywhere near the loss I have already experienced in my 30’s, so I know I can cope with it and be OK.  I am just feeling sad.  And admittedly drinking a bit more than usual to get through it, though I know that will not go on for ever.  I will mend.  Things will be awesome on my own again, as they were before.  And I still have this awesome friend in my life.  And we will just continue to define who we are as time goes on.  I am totally winning here.

Even though my heart hurts, I don’t have any regrets about the experience.  It has been fun.  And more importantly it helped me realize that I am open to new experiences and other people being a part of my life.  And it helped me see that I have a desire to be loved again and to express love for someone else (a HUGE step for me).  I know this love will not be the same as the love I experienced with Ron, as each love is unique and he and I certainly shared something truly special.  But, as a wise friend (also a pseudocrush) once told me, “The human ability to love and be loved is infinite. It's one of the few things we can add to without taking away from something else.”  I am not looking for anyone.  But I am open to love and I think I now have a greater awareness to recognize these feelings in myself and in others when the time is right.

About the potential guilt factor . . . Ron may not have given me “permission” to find another love.  But I know he would not want me to be lonely and devoid of love and intimacy for the rest of my life.  Even his family (which always surprises me) consistently advocates for me to find someone and to be happy.  Though I have the twinge of wishing I were some kind of superhero widow who could die alone after sharing only three years with her true love, I think I have to admit that this notion (while once my lifeblood) is 1) unrealistic, and 2) not me.  I am coming to accept that I will have a full, well-rounded, truly happy life.  I have a lot of love to give.  And I will keep giving it to Ron.  But I would also like to bestow some of it upon the living and receive love back in return.  I think Ron would be OK with that.  I feel gratitude for getting to this place where I can see this now.

Five years since my last Clutch show.  So.  Much.  Life.  What will the next five years bring?  Lots more love and gratitude for everything and everyone in my life, this much I know.

Friday, November 8, 2013

549 Days

I have been a widow for a year and a half.  18 months.  549 days. 

How many things alarm me about this?  Too many to count.  I start to worry about how well I am adjusting.  Is it possible that I am fine after losing the living version of Ron Clark?  I worry about how the scales will eventually start to shift as time goes on and how I will reach a point when I have lived longer since his passing than I did during our too-short three years and two months together.  Even now, I have lived as long after his passing as I did with him after his cancer diagnosis.

Right after he first died, I could not imagine ever being OK again.  I did not believe anyone who told me I would be.  ‘Your heart will be light again.’  Lie.  ‘You will love again.’  Lie.  ‘You will feel happiness again.’  Lie.  ‘Time heals everything.’  Lie.  ‘You have so much to live for.’  Lie.  But now . . . I start to notice that my heart often is light and I am frequently happy.  Sure I did a lot of grief work to get here, but I do think time has helped to distance me from the sadness.  It is a healing balm.  I lived through it.  I lived in spite of it.  I am still living.  I do not take living for granted.  Each day is a gift.  I do feel that now, whereas right after his death, each day felt like an insult or a burden.  Perspective has shifted and this is a good thing.

So, as I go forward, I reflect on so many of the gifts Ron Clark blessed me with.  In addition to my newfound appreciation for each day, I am learning acceptance and tolerance, both of myself and others.

One of the coolest things about Ron was how accepting he was of everyone, faults and all.  He was not blind to people’s faults.  He saw them and joked about them, but never from a place of malice or contempt.  He lovingly accepted people in their totality.  I could put him in a room with strangers and they would become instant friends.  He just had this awesome, magnetic personality.  He had charm.  A friend of mine, in talking with me about Ron shortly after his passing, pointed out how part of the attraction people (myself included) felt toward Ron was his confidence.

Ron had a lot of faults.  He was the first to tell you about them.  He was overweight and unhealthy in his eating and exercise habits.  He did not attend to his medical issues.  He had a lot of debt and was sought after by numerous collection agencies.  He did not finish things, making it almost all the way through a music education program and then almost all the way through a culinary program, starting sewing and crocheting projects and abandoning them, getting obsessively interested in learning something new and then giving it up entirely a short time later.  He avoided confrontation and would quit jobs by just not showing up for assigned shifts.  I don’t say any of this to be disrespectful to Ron.  Obviously, he is not here to defend himself.  But, I don’t think he would defend himself.  These were his faults and he knew them, just like he could see other people’s faults.  He loved himself in an all-encompassing way, faults included, the same way he loved others.  He accepted imperfections.

Ron knew I had faults.  There were the quirky, fun ones I told him about and there were the ones I was too ashamed to say that he just witnessed firsthand.  He knew about me seriously binging eating after a stressful day, making judgmental comments regarding people I genuinely care about, and having serious rage episodes during which I would spew spiteful, hateful things out of my mouth, often misdirected at the wrong person (sometimes at him).  He could see that I was anxious, socially awkward, and perfectionistic.  He knew that one little thing going differently than planned would send me into a tailspin of despair and hopelessness.  He knew I was uncomfortable when everything was going too smoothly and would distort some stupid thing just so that we could have a fight now and then.  Still, Ron loved me totally, all faults included.

I have a hard time loving myself along with my faults.  I don’t love my faults.  I hate them.  I want to change them.  I beat myself up over them.  I criticize.  I berate.  I am far meaner to myself than I could ever be to anyone else.  But, the thing about this is, not having acceptance for myself seems to translate into not having acceptance for others.  Please know this is something I am working on, because it really makes me sound like an asshole to admit that people often don’t meet my expectations for them and then I wind up feeling mad and/or hurt and/or disappointed in them.  I am impatient with others.  I want people to be more efficient.  Smarter.  To make healthier/better/wiser (all subjective) decisions for themselves.  I want people to be better to one another and to me.  I want people to make improvements.  I love them, but . . . (fill in the blank with ‘I wish they didn’t do this thing’ or ‘I wish they would be a little more whatever’).

So the thing I am becoming aware of is that what we all found so comforting and attractive in Ron was his self-confidence for all that he was and his vast acceptance of himself and others.  I am grateful for this awareness as I begin to try to harness acceptance in my own life.  I realize that I need to be more forgiving of myself and of other people.  I need to accept the good, bad, and ugly of all of us.  The more I can accept who I am, the more I will also be able to accept (and not want to help, save, change) others.  The more I can accept all of us, myself included, the more whole of a person I will be.  Ron was a fucking rockstar of acceptance.  I don’t know how or where he developed this skill, but from talking with folks who were in his inner circle a lot longer than I was, it sounds like it was always there.  I don’t know many people who have the skill of acceptance as down pat as Ron did.  Maybe he was just a blessed, gifted individual.  Whatever it was, I am glad I knew him, glad he modeled this for me, glad to have become aware of the capacity for it in myself, and glad to have the inspiration to try to tap into it a bit more.

None of us are perfect.  We cannot expect this of ourselves.  We cannot expect this of others.  Loving one another, not in spite of our faults, but including and even because of them is key.  Ron Clark genuinely loved all of the things about me that I hated.  He did.  He just saw them as part of who I am.  He knew the same to be true of his faults; they were just a part of him.  He loved it all.  And he radiated that confidence and love.  He was a beacon of charm that everyone wanted to be near. 

I miss him so much, but my gratitude for Ron’s existence in my life, what he taught me, and what he is still teaching me is limitless.  

Thanks for teaching me love and acceptance, Ron.  I love you always.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Perils of Pseudo-Crushing

Mostly, I do very well in my single, widowed-woman life.  I keep busy with work, roller derby, taking care of my dogs and house, visiting family and friends, and the occasional travel, party, camping trip, concert, or music festival.  I still miss Ron, but it has shifted and is different than before, more tolerable and less sharp; more of a dull ache that is always there, just more pronounced at certain times, like arthritis just before a rain storm.  There is not much downtime in my life, but when there is, I general welcome it and rejoice in the space.

Still, I get lonely intermittently.  The top things that spur on some loneliness/feeling sorry for myself are:
1)      Sunday mornings – wish I had Ron to go to brunch or share breakfast and coffee on the porch
2)      Weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings – any big social event to which he previously would have accompanied me
3)      When it is cold and I want someone to cuddle with on the couch
4)      When I am injured or sick – I want someone to be concerned for me and to take care of me
5)      When someone or something has me super upset (mad, frustrated, sad) – I want Ron to tell me I am OK and it will be alright

I try to self-soothe.  I try to be a grown-up.  I have found I take pretty good care of myself – better than I ever guessed I would have.  I still talk to Ron, especially in bed at night.  It is one of my favorite times – falling asleep – because it is here I feel the most connected to him.  I also still write him, though much less frequently and less desperately than before.  Every now and then when I am communicating with him, I am struck by a thought or a feeling that is so clearly not my own that I am sure it must be him.  But this is a rare occurrence. 

Mostly, I remain a girl in the land of the living, in love with a dude who resides where the dead go.  However, I don’t know how to say this: the inkling that I may find myself in a relationship with another living human being has crossed my mind.  Even though I know it is highly likely that I will love again.  Even though I know Ron would ultimately want me to be happy.  Even though I know most folks would support me and want this for me.  Even with all of that, I still feel like a jerk.  I have always been loyal.  Naively, I wanted to believe that what I had with Ron was enough to fill the rest of my life and I would never have affection for anyone else.

But carrying on a relationship with someone who cannot interact with you (save those few, rare “maybe it’s him (but maybe it’s just me) occurrences) is really hard.  I am not a statue.  I am not indestructible.  I am not made of stone or metal.  I am a person.  I have a deeply feeling heart.  I have a pulse.  I have an imagination.  Not being able to actually have an exchange in the land of the living leaves me lonely.

So, I pick people with whom it would never work out and then develop pseudo-crushes on them.  Pseudo because they are not real.  A friend declared one an infauxuation, which is the perfect term.  They are crushes based on little actual significance or merit.  They are crushes on people I most likely couldn’t stand if I ever had an actual, real-life interaction with them.  They are crushes on people from far away, in relationships, or who even don’t know I exist.  For the most part, no one knows about them.  And I am sure it is healthy, in a way, this experimenting with feeling something in my heart for someone else with a still-beating heart.  This is normal.  I am 34.  Statistically, I am going to love again.  Realistically, I am going to be in a relationship again . . . with someone who has the confidence to leave room for how I feel about Ron, of course.  But, for now, an infauxuation allows space for trying the feeling on and my selections have been made (on a subconscious level) for people with whom there is zero chance of it working out, thus I can feel safe pseudo-crushing. 

What bothers me the second most about these infauxuations (second to the fact that I feel them at all and cannot just be content becoming a widow-nun-derby-girl or something) is what they become for me in my head.  As I play out scenarios and think about the pseudo-crushees, I realize what I want and need most is to be liked/loved by someone else.  And then I get mad.  Really pissed.  Because that is just ridiculous.  I want to be content with liking/loving myself.  That I want someone else to tell me I am hilarious, brilliant, insightful, awesome, pretty enough, kind enough, creative, whatever – that just blows me away.  I mean, I thought I was past all this.  I have been thoroughly liked and loved.  I have been told by the human who mattered most to me that I was all of those things.  Why should I need anyone else to tell me this?  I reread Ron’s amazing little love notes to me and I am satiated while I read them.  And then I want more.  I want new notes, from Ron . . . or someone else.  (Again, I feel criminal saying I want notes from someone else.  Ouch.) 

So, this is my problem.  This is what bothers me.  Why does it take someone else?  Aren’t I enough for me?  And I wonder from anyone reading – are you/would you be enough for you?  If you answer yes quickly, I challenge you to look deep within.  If the answer is still yes, tell me why/how you got there.    

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Am I Doing?

What am I doing?  Seriously.  What?

That has been my question all day.  Maybe for the past couple days.

I find myself in some realm of dissociated self.  I narrate things from inside my head (usually a habit I reserve for very drunk nights at the bar) talking about myself in the third person.  I recognize this shit.  It is “Survival Mechanisms 101.” 

As a mental health clinician, I know things.  Or I am supposed to know them.  I know how grief cycles back around and comes in waves.  I know how it can be triggered by special dates and anniversaries.  I figured I would give myself the one year death anniversary off from work and without solid plans so I could just feel however I needed to feel.  I knew it would be hard.  I had no idea how hard.  At work today, I honestly felt like I needed to go home.  I felt crazy.  Crazier than the calls I was taking (and, no, crazy is not the politically correct way to talk about my line of work, but this is my blog and it does not have to be politically correct).  It was all I could do not to shatter something, beat my fist against the second story window, scream, sob, or gouge my arm with a paperclip.  I wanted to leave early, but that didn't happen. 

At least I have tomorrow.  Thank God I have tomorrow.

I did not anticipate it being this bad.  This is the part where knowing things, as a clinician, is not at all the same as experiencing them.  It’s the part where sometimes our clients really are telling us the truth when they say that if we have not gone through the experience, we cannot even begin to know.  And of course everyone’s experience is different, so we cannot begin to know their experience even if we have gone through a similar one ourselves.  The point being, you have to take a person’s word for it when they are telling you how they feel and telling you that you cannot possibly know.  They are probably right.

I find that it is all kicked up fresh.  All this grief.  For the past week or so . . . well, really since Ron’s birthday, I have been time warping back to a year ago.  What were Ron and I doing a year ago?  How did I not realize his life was coming to an end?  I mean, I knew he was terminal, but I never put it together that he was really dying, like, right then.  Even on this night a year ago, even after the hospice nurse had come out to the house and listened to his heart and told him it was slowing down and that he maybe had a few days left . . . even then, when I asked him if he thought he was dying and he told me ‘no’ I believed him.

Time warping back.  Ron's Last Moments.  Rereading that post just now was incredible – so glad I wrote it while it was all new in my memory bank.  I have honored some of those final days.  Dustin and Carrie and I repeated the last dog walk Ron took, this time pushing Evy Jo in a baby stroller instead of Ron in the wheelchair along the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek.  I weeded out his vegetable beds last night, just as I did a year ago while he watched and talked to me for as long as his body would tolerate sitting up. 

But tonight.  What to do tonight?  I have so much anxiety.  There is not a concrete thing to occupy me.  A year ago, after Ron told his hospice nurse that he wasn't dying, I got him out of bed and to the bathroom and out to the porch for what would be his last ever cigarette.  I brought him the foods he requested – Chef Boyardee raviolis and rainbow sherbet to go along with the plethora of Lik-M-Aid and Little Debbie snack cakes he had at bed side – and he picked out shows for us to watch on Netflix.  I remember numbly sitting through Mike Rowe on Dirty Jobs (season 5, episode 6: Spider Pharm) as he learned to milk poisonous spider venom.  I couldn't concentrate on the show.  My mind was racing, juxtaposed thoughts about what the nurse said and what Ron said.  Who was right?  He had always fought with the medical professionals about his life expectancy and, up until that night, he won.  I also remember that we watched the third to last ever episode of House, M.D.  I would watch the final two episodes without him.  One of the things that really killed Ron when he was dying was knowing he would not get to see how a tv series ended or a movie in production about a comic book  storyline he was really into.  I hate seeing how these things end now, even when I pretend he is seeing with my eyes and watching with me.

So, since I left work, I have not been able to figure out what to do with myself.  I skipped roller derby practice because I just don’t have it in me tonight.  I don’t want to see or talk to anyone.  I can’t seem to do anything except cry and everyone knows there’s no crying in derby. 

Along those same lines, if you are texting or emailing or calling me and I am not responding, that is why.  I just don’t feel like communicating directly with anyone.

And yet, I can blog, and actually find this therapeutic.  I can post to Facebook.  I can take pictures and share them.  Somehow, words and photos are my way of processing.  Sharing them is my way of expressing where I am at.  Your responses are the support I need without having to actually have that direct contact.  In some ways, I say it is a messed up world we live in where rather than have real human interaction, we can hide behind our light-up screens and keyboards.  In other ways, I say thank goodness for technology that allows those of us who are emotionally/socially crippled or wounded to reach out, express, emote, and receive support.  In my head, I come up with sociology and psychology theses to be written about this socially networked world we live in.

But again, this is just more detaching, me going off on a tangent about our technologically advanced, socially crippled society.  Refocus. 

I keep telling myself Ron would want me to do “whatever I need to do to heal my heart.”  Those are his words, actually.  I didn't want to write heal, because yes, I admit it, parts of me are still not ready to heal.  I wanted to write “whatever I need to do to feel and experience this anniversary time however I need to.”  I imagine this means a lot of dark stuff for me to do and go through.  But the Ron voice in my head wants me to heal. 

Trouble is, I don’t know what to do to make that happen. 

I went for my dog walk like usual.  I saw my neighbor Margaret out watering her roses so we stopped and I talked to her for the first time in months.  She has been on my mind for many weeks now and I have been meaning to call her, but just haven’t gotten around to it.  I told her tomorrow marks the one year death anniversary, which I acknowledged means that for her in two weeks it will be one year since she lost her husband Earl to cancer.  I held her hand for about a solid two minutes.  It was cool from holding the garden hose and her skin was soft and paper thin.  It seemed like the only real thing that I encountered in my whole day of narration – this tangible hand belonging to my kind neighbor, one of at least three of us widows on my road.  Her hand grounded me for a moment.  Margaret has been such a beacon of strength and hope and grace through her widowhood, but tonight she seemed down.  She said she was tired.  We both agreed that we have been doing well, up until now.  This anniversary thing seems to drag us down.  Neither of us can believe it has been a year already.

I cannot believe it has been a year.  I cannot.  So much has happened and yet it seems like I was just with Ron, just talking to him yesterday. 

In a way, I was.  I am always talking to Ron.  I talk to him aloud.  I still reach over and touch where he would sit in the passenger seat when I see or hear or think about something particularly beautiful.  I write to him.  And, not always, but sometimes when I am getting ready to fall asleep, I keep my eyes open in the dark and whisper to him like he is next to me.  I can almost create the feeling that he is really there.  Last night, in particular, it seemed so real.  I could feel him rubbing my sore back while I drifted off and I told him not stop until I was completely out.  He didn't.

Yes, I am that completely deranged person who is carrying on a relationship with a ghost.  I don’t care.  I still have so much love in my life because of Ron. 

And yet . . . he really is gone.  His family and I often talk about how the phone is the worst.  Not being able to just call him up when we want to.  Not being able to hear his voice.  Today, when I walked downtown on my lunch hour to get some food, I wanted to call him and burst into tears at how hard a time I was having holding it together at my job.  He was always the greatest support and when I would call him with stuff like this.  He knew just what to say to make me feel better.  Now, I can’t call him.  How real is that shit?  It is really real and it really sucks. 

A year ago on this night, hours before Ron lost consciousness, we started watching Darjeeling Limited.  I think tonight I will try watching it for the first time since then.  Because I don’t know what else to do right now . . .

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Random Updates and Ron's Birthday

Over two months since I last blogged.  So much has happened.  The OCD part of me feels this compelling need to recap it all.  The “Let It Be” part of me feels like that is crazy and I should just move on with today’s business. 

A compromise - some highlights, in brief:
1)  My sister came to visit and we got some good quality time together
2)  I was approached by a derby sister who needed a place to live and because I have the extra space and we get along, I agreed to let her crash here temporarily
3)  The one year wedding anniversary came and went on 3/9/13 – complicating factors meant that I could not spend it the way I had pictured and it ended up being a lot harder and sadder than I had imagined
4)  I refinanced my house so that it is just in my name (and has lower interest)
5)  I was in my first roller derby bout . . .  and my second . . . and (last night) my third
6)  I realized I am not able to live with someone else, at least not at this time in my life – I still have so much grieving and personal work to do and I find that I am not doing it when I am sharing my living space, so I had to ask my derby friend to move out - she gracefully has agreed and we will still be friends, so it all works out
7)  My little brother became a Ph.D yesterday – Dr. Dustin M. Hoffman

I feel like I am growing.  Leaps and bounds.  I learn more and more about myself and my place in the world each day.  I am increasingly filled with calm and confidence.  Not that I think I am the best or anything like that.  Just that I am starting to learn who I am and I am increasingly comfortable in my own skin.  Just as in derby I am told and finding it to be true that my body can do things I did not think it was capable of, in life I am finding that I have a reserve of strength, determination, and will that I never realized existed. 

Most of the time, like 97% of the time now, I am full of Ron’s love.  I have stopped doubting and questioning like I was in the first months after he passed away.  That was such a crazy space to inhabit . . . the really wicked, self-destructive space that is called my head.  So, 3% of the time I still go there.  The rest of the time I just know I was loved and am loved, and that I did love and keep loving, and that love is so huge.  It just is.  It is giant.  It is full.  It fills my life.  In the realm of loving and being loved, I feel like I lack nothing. 

Today is Ron’s birthday.  He would be 31 years old.  I cannot help but time warp to last year.  To what I was doing each hour of the day to pull off his big birthday party.  To the people who came from near and far to celebrate with us.  To Ron needing me to help him . . . the way his arms felt around my neck while my body shuffled the weight of him in and out of his wheelchair . . . and his joy at the party . . . and his exhaustion after.  What an amazing day it was.  I keep looking out the window and expecting to see the pink flamingos that littered the lawn.  Instead I see his memorial tree and the daffodils I planted around it.

Sharing again some memories from his party last year, here is the blog post.  You can click here for a link to all the pictures.  Here is one of my favorites:

Ron with some of his guests

Yesterday, I was busy all day with a home bout for the Battle Creek Cereal Killers.  The weather was gorgeous and I filled my time helping to prepare the arena.  Ron’s brother, Doug, and sister, Heather, came down to watch the bout.  Friends Kara and Dan also came to watch, and so did my cousin Stacey and her kids.  The Killers won, for the first time since I have been playing with them, and it was so much fun. 

After a quick stop at the bout after party, we came home and decorated biodegradable Sky Lanterns to send up as birthday wishes for Ron.  Borrowing from a card that a lifelong friend mailed to me, I wished Ron a happy 30 earthly years and 1 heavenly year.  Dustin, Carrie, and Evy Jo came to join us with their dog Sadie.  And one of my Cereal Killer friends, Brooke, also joined.  We hiked through pricker vines, daffodils, and a small wooded area to the field next to my house – six adults, one infant, and three dogs.  At midnight, as the stars vanished into the clouds and the wind picked up, we lit and sent off six lanterns.  One got caught in a tree, but the rest took to the sky, slowly ascending at first and then catching wind and racing higher and farther.  With each one, I yelled “Happy birthday, Ron,” and on the last one, we sang Happy Birthday to him.  The earth smelled like spring.  The wind was not too cool and had a hint of moisture to it.  Three of us tipped back beers and four of us smoked.  I felt like Ron was all around us, standing in the circle of humans and animals, weaving the love of interconnectedness.

Speaking of interconnectedness, I created an event on Facebook for others to share in the midnight festivities, or just to think of Ron on this special day.  I continue to be touched by the posts I am reading and photos being shared.  Not all of them are going to the event page, but here it is, for anyone not on Facebook who wants to follow along (hopefully this link works).  It is amazing how one person can bring people together, even people he never met who are just inspired by the stories we share of him.

My friend Cathy Franklin recently shared this with me:
“I think in sharing in whatever small way I have with you through the illness and loss of Ron, I have learned so much more about life, so much more about loss, and about people.  Ron has left a legacy, changed lives, perspectives, people, brought some together, seen others walk away, taught many to dig deep, helped many to see their resilience, find new normals, and the list goes on.  I can only imagine how much you miss him, and if I could do anything to bring him back for you I would, but we both know that is not possible.  BUT, we do know however unfair his death was; the loss for you and his family and friends, it was not in vain.  Ron has taught the world many lessons by just being who he was.”
Spot on!  Thanks, Cathy!

After a delicious breakfast at Frona’s this morning, Heather and Doug headed back to Alma.  I am alone in my house, which has been rare these days.  As the events of this weekend quiet down and I am more still with myself and my thoughts, I am so sad.  I am crying.  I miss Ron so much.  I am grateful for the love he’s shown me.  I am grateful for the friends, family, and animals that I have in my life.  I am also grateful for derby and that Ron encouraged me to pursue it, because I am pretty sure it has saved my life.  It is a good life.  I like it.  Often now, I actually feel happy, which I thought I would never do after Ron left this world.  But I would give it all up to have Ron alive again. 

As I write that last statement, I judge it.  I think about how it sounds.  I wonder who it hurts.  I think about taking it out.  But it is true.  So I leave it.  I would give it all up to have Ron alive again.

Until we meet again, Ron Clark, happy birthday.  You are vastly loved by so many.