Monday, April 25, 2016

Eleven Years.



I dreamed about Chris last night for the first time in a very long time.

I was just getting home to my apartment. I opened the door, entered, and walked over to the telephone when I saw Chris on the couch. He rose up, approached me, placed each of his hands on my upper arms, smiled and said, “So…It’s okay for me to go now.”  He immediately grabbed his own side, his cheeks turning red from a sudden cramp. My tears flowed instantly, warm on my face, and I felt the crushing, defeating sadness I felt in life after we all knew his doctors were discontinuing his chemo treatments. I said, “How?” and he said, “Iodine.”  

Then I woke up. 

I have to admit, I’m a bit teary today because of my dream, but I love dreaming about him because it’s like seeing him, again, even if it is eleven years later and I have been happily remarried for the past five years. 

Here’s to Chris. You are within me always and forever. And I will love you for the duration.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

1:17

My and Jonathan’s one-year wedding anniversary is coming up on March 27. It’s hard to believe we’ve already been married for one year. Chris and I didn’t make it to the one-year mark. This is all new territory for me. In a way, It’s a separation from the past and from how things had gone…up until now. Every new thing Jonathan and I share, that Chris and I hadn’t shared, allows me a large, refreshing step backwards, away from the Chris(Creej) and Robin(Shneed) chronicles of yester-decade. And of course every step backwards begins with the sound of my white-knuckled grip ripping away from the past’s hold on me.

Jonathan has been away on business this week. Every time he goes away it feels like he died because I’m used to my husband either being with me, or being dead. There has really been no in-between for me for a few years. But my sweet Jonathan is not dead. He’s very much alive and he’s here to stay, thankfully…hopefully.

Last night, I went out for dinner with a dear friend of mine. We enjoyed Thai food in Coolidge Corner, then went to a bar and had another drink to cap off an evening of hysterical laughter, affection and sweet friendship. This man was a friend of Chris’ and the two of us talked about how much we both loved him. I love that he remembers all of the same things I do about Chris and talking with him made me feel warm and happy for what I had, what we both had. We hugged, kissed and said good bye before he walked home to JP, and I got into my car and drove home.

Later on, after I crawled into bed, I whispered, “I miss you Jonathan,” and as I began drifting off to sleep, I whispered, “I miss you Creej.” I thought about how Chris never visits me anymore in my dreams, and in spirit, and I felt sad about that. Then I fell asleep.

I awoke in the middle of the night, rolled over and glanced at the digital clock on my nightstand and the time displayed 1:17. January 17 was my and Chris’ wedding anniversary. Was that a coincidence or a sweet visit -- the first one in a long time -- from my sweet Chris, reminding me that he’s here and watching over me?

I already know what I believe, and the warmth still permeates my soul.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

And for the Record...

I still hate that it happened.

I'm Not Sure

Jonathan has given me the most magical, most wonderful holiday season imaginable. Just being in love again is a very powerful gift for me. Being with a man like Jonathan, who sees so much good in me, who loves me, who helps me and whom I love back makes an immeasurable difference in my life. This is my life, now. Complete and utter happiness with a man I love.

I will likely say this for the rest of my life, but I can't believe seven years have just about passed. In some bizarre way, when I think back to my seven years of grief, I romanticize them, feeling as though I was somehow happy, which is ludicrous, because I was nothing but heart-broken. I think what I am remembering and feeling and holding onto is the growth I experienced during those years, especially the three years I lived in Cambridge. I loved how I healed, I loved how I learned to walk again, to feel again. I loved who I blossomed into...I think. The thoughts are so convoluted, that I'm having a difficult time deciphering them.

I skipped October and November this year, unaware that I had gone two months without writing. I forgot to write on Chris' birthday for the first time, this year. I posted a happy birthday message on FaceBook, but this is the first time I didn't record how I felt on his birthday in my blog.

I have been on vacation since December 23, and I will be on vacation until January 2. Jonathan has taken the time off, as well.

For the first time in seven years, I can truly say that I have had a joyous holiday season. Truly joyous. The mere thought of Jonathan fills me with feelings of joy, security and safety. I have laughed more in the past two weeks than I have probably laughed in the seven years prior.

I’m aware that the seven-year anniversary of Chris’ death is days away, and I have become teary-eyed over the past couple of weeks, here and there. I’m going to spend that day with my family, the family I gained through Chris; Me, Bonnie, Beth, Bryan, and the girls.

I haven’t been to Chris’ grave since the day of his memorial service in 2005. His family, friends, and I dropped a cherished piece of history of our own in with his urn of ashes, left before the hole was filled in, and I never went back. I might like to visit it this year and maybe take a photo of it.

Is that about closure? I’m not sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Reflection on the Water

Of course the changing of the seasons is causing me to reflect on what happened to Chris. Trepidation of reflection and contemplation is the aftermath of my experience of Chris’ encounter with cancer.

Autumn has ever been my favorite season, full of new beginnings, the end of the 90-degree heat, and the start of my annual pride in my fashion choices. Added to that is a sense of melancholy, probably because Chris’ diagnosis occurred during the fall. I find that during the change in seasons, I just need a little more time in solitude to really remember all of the things that led up to Chris’ demise. I often surprise myself when I think about all of the dimensions of my memories in new light, and from new angles.

Chris’ diagnosis, his fear, my fear, my ignorance regarding the face of what I didn’t know at the time to be a diagnosis of terminal illness, are all topics that I still sift through the corridors of my mind. Hospitals, hospital gowns, helplessness, wishing to extents of which I had never wished before, profound sadness, and being thrown into autopilot as a form of denial, are all pieces of the vignette, the dance of grief caused by the cancer and death of Chris that claimed that span of my life.

After this past week of 80+ degree temperatures, I have decided to gift myself. Noticing the forecasted temperature for Friday (today) was 62 (well within my favorite range of temperatures), I looked at my calendar and, much to my chagrin, there was a meeting scheduled from 1:00-3:00. Still, I daydreamed about taking half a vacation day and kayaking on the Charles River, if only the meeting would get canceled. Then, lo and behold, the cancellation noticed arrived in my inbox and I jumped on the opportunity, scheduled my vacation time, and today I’m off at 1:00 to kayak from the Elliot Bridge to Kendall Square where I will then exit my boat and run 6 miles along the river back to my car. This afternoon has the makings of perfection, with just me, the water, the sun and my thoughts, and most importantly, renewed peace of mind.

Just thinking about it instills nirvana throughout my mind and soul.

Life was happy. Life was sad. And life is happy once again, and rich with reflection.

-Shneed

Thursday, June 30, 2011

'Unstucking' Myself

For the past couple of weeks, even though I haven’t been 100% aware that I have been feeling differently, I have been vaguely aware of another change in the winds. The most accurate way for me to describe this latest forward movement is for me to say that things around me ‘look’ different. My perception has changed.

When Chris first died, I experienced something similar with regard to the way the world around me looked. Back then, things seemed to have a ‘toy’ essence for me. For example, I remember walking over the Mass Ave bridge in Cambridge thinking that the city and everything around me looked like a model, made of plastic, and like nothing was real. I suppose I was experiencing a form of detachment. I remember how I felt during those first few months, very transparent, like a ghost visible to none floating through the masses as if undetectable to others. And I remember describing that to my then therapist (whom I did not respect), the first in a small list of grief therapists I saw during those first weeks. She raised her voice, telling me I was getting too depressed, and ordered me to throw away all of my books about the spirit world. Those books are the ones that helped me the most. Sometimes it pays to listen to our own voices and tend to our own needs.

The same switch that altered my life view then has been recently re-flicked, and now things look different again, in a different way – like a rebirth, or like the cell door has been opened and I’m walking out of prison for the first time in 7 years. I feel like I am back in shock, but this time the shock is from the realization (even though I cannot admit it with 100% lack of guilt) that my life is finally a happy one once again. When I walked out the door this morning, the sun was shining and there was a beautiful breeze, and I really, really wanted to keep walking past my car, and down to Mass Ave. I wanted to sit in Arlington Center with a cup of coffee, and relax all day. I haven’t felt that way in a very long time. In fact, I have spent the better part of the past few years rushing around, filling up my time with anything I could stuff into it.

While all of this is quite positive and uplifting, my unconscious brain has been waging war on my subconscious brain on the ‘moving forward’ process, so I have been experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance – a push/pull effect, which is maintaining a certain level of anxiety within my body and mind at all times. Now that I am ‘out’ I’m feeling like running back in where it’s safe.

Because the two parts of my mind have been in conflict, I have been feeling paralyzed with respect to almost everything.

- I haven’t been practicing singing enough, so I feel unprepared
- I haven’t been thinking about or planning my own show, so I feel pressured
- I haven’t been spending enough time learning about my profession, web development, so I feel stuck

Unprepared, pressured and stuck does not make for a relaxed state of mind. My next order of business is to ‘unstuck’ myself.

Otherwise, I’m feeling very blessed and very lucky to be Jonathan’s wife, and I have just recently been allowing myself to feel and soak in his support. I could not have asked for a better husband and a better friend.

I'm certain that I'm not able to convey exactly what transpires in my brain and in my daily life with 100% accuracy – I’m not sure I even know how to -- but I do believe I have begun the process of popping the lid onto Chapter Grief of my life book.

The time has now come for me to accept my life as it is today, and to begin remapping my courses of action to try to put myself in line with my most recent healing stage.

There’s a lot of fun to be had. I haven’t felt this way in a very long time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Journey of a Lifetime

The biggest difference I notice, these days, is that I’m not depressed. I’m finally not depressed. I guess on some base level, I had come to believe that I would always feel sad, that “sad” had taken over the neutral span on my emotional spectrum, that “neutral” had shrunken to a mere splinter of what it once was, and that happiness was at the tippity-top, still just as active as it always was, except not as often.

Marrying Jonathan closed the door on my active grief, finally, and now grief is as it should be, dormant in the most personal, private corner of my mind. I am in love, truly in love, with my husband, my living husband, and Chris has become a very cherished memory of a very cherished first husband. I feel sadness for him for all that he had to endure, but I know from the deepest part of my soul that all is as it should be. Everything is as it was always meant to be. I can see more clearly than ever that I was supposed to meet Chris, I was supposed to fall in love with him and marry him, we were supposed to learn a great lesson by moving 6,000 miles away and experiencing financial hardship and loneliness together, that we were supposed to come to the realization that love was all that mattered, that he was supposed to get cancer and die, and that I was supposed to grieve the great loss I suffered in losing all of the many wonderful aspects he encompassed. That was the journey that was always meant to be ours.

My journey is not new, and it’s not over. I’m on the same journey I have always been on. Me and Jonathan, Jonathan and me are what’s meant to be, now.

I find myself periodically terrified that Jonathan could die, too. I try not to think about it. How ironic would it be if I thought I learned all of my lessons about death, only to…oh, nevermind. Thoughts like that are a waste of time that could be spent enjoying his company and our love.

Our wedding was lovely. Our ceremony, even lovelier. The premise was “The Second Time Around” since I had lost my husband to cancer and Jonathan had experienced a divorce. We openly acknowledged our losses on our wedding day in front of our loved ones, admitting that neither of us would be the people we are today without our own personal past experiences. In fact, without our experiences, we may not have ever fallen in love with each other, at all.

Life is a beautiful, sometimes extremely trying journey during which we meet others who change us, others from whom we learn valuable lessons. The most beautiful part of life is that it’s not over until it’s over. We get chance after chance after chance to be happy. Past sadness only gives us the capacity to achieve more future happiness. The two, sadness and happiness, work in tandem.

I’m here. I never thought I would ever again feel as happy as I do now. Six and half years is a long time to grieve, but now that I’m through the hardest parts, I can see how much I have gained and grown from the experience of losing a spouse. I can now say the word “husband” and know that I mean Jonathan. And I can now also say that same word and know when I’m talking about Chris.

And most importantly, I can now know that both of those scenarios are okay.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to Bed

It’s 4:00 AM. I’m used to being kept awake in the wee hours, needled by thoughts of how Chris’ death changed my life. The storm has passed, and my thoughts about the reality of death, and the chaos that followed, blow around in my mind like the last few leaves at the end of a crisp, windy autumn afternoon.

I still don’t fully believe that I was a happy single woman who met a happy single man, dated him for five years, moved across the country with and for him, married him, dreamed dreams with him, lost him and grieved my loss of him for six years. I no longer actively grieve my loss of his life. I do, however, still grieve the parts of my own life I lost as a result.

After everything I have been through, I know that overcoming my loss of enthusiasm for my passions (musical theater, singing and acting) lies entirely in my own hands. I tend to think I lost six years of time, and work that could have been spent honing my skills. But after the intensity of emotion brought on by the ending of two lives, one life together, I am left with the knowledge that my dream isn’t over unless I decide to allow poisonous, counter-productive thoughts and memories to constrict the door to my future happiness and to my dreams. I know many people who regularly follow their dreams. I must become and then remain one of them in order to preserve my authentic being and all sense of who I am. I am no longer the widow. I have experienced fourteen months of horror followed by six years of intense grief and anxiety, and now, standing at the finish line, I find myself evaluating some “much-needed-at-the-time”, albeit “not-needed-anymore” attachments to places, things and people who were there when it happened, attachments that hinder some of my forward movement today. Letting go is no easy task. Habits of hanging on have been burned into my soul for so long that I am in need of extensive mental reconstruction.

I miss my former therapist, Clay, this morning. I no longer need his services, and I haven’t seen him for almost a year. But he is one of the people who was there shortly after I hit bottom. He carried me along from week to week, giving me a reason for being, and even though that was just business, it felt like love and care. I sometimes feel like seeing him again because I miss him, but he’s not my friend. He’s just a therapist I pulled out of my health insurance database. Without Clay, my mind would have snapped more violently than it did, and I might not have regained and retained some very basic, vital parts of myself.

I’m frightened by how much time has passed since Chris died. In general, I have become frightened by the passing of time, by how old my own mother is now, by the realization that I met Chris twelve years ago, which doesn’t seem possible, because how could he be dead for six years? Where did those six years go? Where did the 32-year-old, na├»ve woman who met Chris go? How did I suddenly look up and see a 43-year-old woman in her place? If I place the old me in the past with Chris, can there now exist a brand new me in the present and in the future who walks forward holding hands with Jonathan? I’m still not quite sure where or how to put the old me in the past where she belongs.

If I could have one wish right now, it would be to lose the nagging, relentless anxiety with which I have been saddled, and walk, worry-free into my future with Jonathan. I’m not going to drone on about how much I love Jonathan. I do, but that’s for future posts, should I decide to continue writing here, or in a new blog. Maybe our wedding, which is now in just two weeks, will be the major life event, the marker that allows me to fearlessly and without anxiety walk into a brighter, promising future. It’s my choice, and I’m hoping I’ll have the courage to let go of the security blanket I wove from grief.

It’s time to move on. And it’s time to go back to bed.

Shneed