Thursday, March 31, 2005

Awakening

Something awoke in me and I am feeling such a part of life this evening. I just feel good. I’m not questioning it. I’m just going to breathe and enjoy myself tonight.

I walked home from the train station, smirking most of the way, just being happy to be alive. There’s a future ahead of me that I am dying to take hold of and shape and mold. For some reason, the prospect of that is very exciting to me tonight. I haven’t felt this way in a very long time. Tonight I am not under it. I am on top of it.

I was going to walk home from work but I’m feeling so wonderful that I didn’t want to waste any time at all walking. I need to breathe and feel good and rest and relax. (mumbled through clenched teeth. Go on. Do it. : and I need to go grocery shopping.)

The events of the past year and a half have had a very profound effect on me and tonight I’m getting a glimpse of wellness…of well-being, that I thought could never exist again. It can. It does. Like winter turning into spring, the ice will begin to melt, the trees will begin to bloom and the grass to grow. The birds will sing again. This Robin will sing again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Precious

I was very bored at work today and found myself looking at Los Angeles apartments. I feel an inclination to claim that I don’t know why I did it but I’m very in tune with myself and I know damn well that I was going back in time, exploring that part of our relationship together; the last time I can really remember everything being okay.

I just looked at a few. Y’know, that L.A. sky still brings back all of the misery I felt while we were living there? That’s all it takes. Just looking at a picture of the sky, those hateful palm trees, the charmless architecture and remembering how evident the division of the poor and the rich there; the beautiful and the not beautiful. Chris hated it there, too, though he tried to fight it.

The truth is that we were both ready to come home four months after we got there, but Creej felt this obligation to stay there. At first, we were both going to feel funny leaving so soon after we got there. Then Chris felt that he needed to give L.A. a fair try, even though he hated everything about it (except the weather). Then he confided that he wanted to stay simply because the thought of packing up all of our stuff was unbearable to him. I never understood that. He was so angry there. He was working fourteen-hour days and coming home so angry and uptight that many nights he would just go straight to bed. When he didn’t go straight to bed, he would spark up a joint and get stoned every single night. He said it was just until we moved home and could be happy again.

Then we moved home. Then he got cancer.

So, though we were totally happy within our relationship with one another, neither of us was really ever happy again since the day we moved to Los Angeles. Does that make me angry? You bet. We got gypped. First us, then him and now me.

I just left my desk to run into the bathroom and have an all out crying hate-fest toward Chris. The anger just exploded within me and I could think of nothing but how much I hate him.

And now I love him, again.

Just like that, the anger came, I expressed it, pushed through it and now I’m on my way to drop my rings off at the jewelers we bought them from to be transformed into a tribute ring. I’m fusing my engagement ring, wedding band and his wedding band together and adding 3 sapphires to each side of the diamond to symbolize the six beautiful years we shared together.

I love you, Creej. Now and always (except when I’m expressing anger toward you)

Shneed

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

True Lies

The cast of The Secret Garden is the first group of people I have been a part of that knows nothing about my situation.

At our first rehearsal, one of the cast members saw my and Chris’ rings, which I have been wearing since he died, and commented on how pretty they are. I automatically thought she knew something happened. How could she not? Women don’t wear their husbands’ wedding rings unless there is no husband, right? Then a man from the cast whom I acted with years ago asked me what I have been up to. I told him I hadn’t done a show in years, that I had moved to Los Angeles and that I had gotten married. At that point we were interrupted by the music director to begin singing. I was relieved. I didn’t know where the conversation was going to go from there. I left feeling like I had lied to him about my life. I didn’t, though. I did get married. I also got widowed.

At our second rehearsal, I began conversing with another cast member who spent two years with her husband in Los Angeles many years ago. She talked about it being the best two years of her life, filled with carefree fun and freedom. They loved L.A. It’s now years later and they’re still married and now they have four children. I began to feel very sad. Sad for the life Chris and I will never have and sad that we couldn’t have been happier in Los Angeles. Neither of us wanted children, but still, something about children tells a story of the future; of love, commitment and lifelong happiness together. I began crying in the car on the way home and didn’t’ stop until I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

For a time, I wondered when I was going to get the chance to tell people in the cast what had happened. Yes, I did get married but my husband died. Somehow, every time I thought about it, I came to the same conclusion; there’s no reason for them to know; in such a happy atmosphere, there’s no reason to bring anyone down. I began thinking about my life, my experiences and my choices past and present. I have choices. I didn’t have a choice in Chris’ death, but I did have a choice in how I reacted to his illness and now, in how I react to his death. In the beginning (yeah, I know…it’s still the beginning), I had caught myself in the act of walking in what I have come to call my “widow stance”; my head slightly bowed, shoulders rounded, serious face and basically a demeanor that says, “I’m very sad because of what happened to me.” Somehow, maintaining that stance, though exhausting and unnatural, made me feel loyal to my and Chris’ love and respectful of his memory. I simply didn’t allow myself to portray an image other than that. I felt that to do that would be to leave Chris behind. I now can see my choices.

After three months of grieving, I had come to believe that I had opened up many doors into my self when, in fact, I had sealed doors that desperately need to be left open. Behind door #1, safely concealed from my consciousness, was the truth that Chris is never coming back. Behind door #2 was the fact that I actually can be happy again someday and behind door #3 still resides half of my confidence that I can live the rest of my life, if I choose, without a man by my side. Do I want to spend the rest of my life as a single woman? Not really. Will I die if I do? Not from being alone.

One thing is true. With my sad story, I will attract only the sad stories of others. To act victimized is to remain in the past with Chris. Conversely, to repair myself and live according to the values and morals that my relationship with Chris has taught me is to carry Chris into the future within me, always. With a mind open to awareness, healing and growing, I will learn to spread the love I had for Chris to all other areas of my life and in turn, attract love, happiness and contentedness from those around me.

I’m beginning to shape my thoughts into the belief that despite its twists, turns and sometimes horrid events, life can be wonderful, again. This is really a match of wits; me against me, a game of great strategy in which I am my own opponent. May the best me win.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Alice's Champagne Palace

I went to an Ellis Paul concert at Club Passim, without Chris, once. He was still feeling the effects from chemo and he insisted that I go with my friends. I didn’t want to go…I mean, I wanted to go, but felt as though I should stay with Chris. How could I have fun taking in a concert by our favorite folk singer, a singer I knew nothing about until Chris brought me to see him, when he couldn’t even get up off the couch? My friends and I went. I cried. I got to hear Ellis’ new song, Alice’s Champagne Palace, and Chris didn’t. It was the first time I had heard more of Ellis’ songs than Chris. I felt as though I had stolen from him; one-upped him. I needed for him to hear that song before he died but it just didn’t turn out that way. I knew he would appreciate the rhyming conventions. I mean, c’mon…”Raise a chalice to Alice’s Champagne Palace”? The words just roll around in your mouth. Creej never got to hear the song. I always knew he would love it but by the time the CD was released, he was already dead.

I read a magazine article about Ellis which revealed that his real name is Paul Plissey. Chris and I felt so betrayed! In silent protest, Chris was going to start his own folk band and call it “Paul Plissey”.

Though I feel that someday I will find myself at another of Ellis’ shows, the mere thought of going induces shortness of breath, butterflies, guilt, sadness and anxiety. He’s playing on April 6th at Borders here in Boston. I think I may break away, take a long lunch and let the conquering begin. Chris would have told me to go. Pre-cancer, he would have come into town to meet me and we would have enjoyed the show together. He is also playing the Somerville Theater on April 9th. It’s probably sold out by now. It sold out last year but Chris and I were there because he used to buy the tickets the moment they went on sale. It was a great show. I cried then, too, because I feared that Chris would die. I don’t think he saw me, but then, I never thought he saw me. Somehow he could always tell when I was fighting it.

I used to tease him (relentlessly…and about most things). The moment Ellis hit the stage, or Mark Erelli for that matter, I would fish, frantically, through my bag, find my house keys, push them on Chris and exclaim, “Thank you for a beautiful 5 years! I’m coming Ellis!! Wait for me!!” Chris would just say, “You little sonova…!”

The last time we were going to see Ellis was this past New Years Eve. In November, we walked up Mass Ave. to Harvard Square together to buy our tickets and walked back as darkness fell. It was what I loved doing with Chris; nothing more; a nice, romantic walk (he would have made fun of me for saying that) with my husband. But alas, the services were never rendered. On Christmas morning, after being in pain for three weeks, Chris woke up and told me he needed to go to the hospital. I drove us to the emergency room where Chris underwent tests for the entire day, the last of which revealed many large tumors on his liver. We talked that day about how we were both sure he’d be out by New Years Eve and in time to ring in the new year with Ellis. Neither of us knew he would be dead a week later.

Ellis’ music has the capacity to instill euphoria throughout my soul, but until I can step over the life and death line (I have been walking the grey area of the death side of the line since Chris’ death), I can’t be free to enjoy it. It haunts me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Suddenly Seymour

For a week or two each month Creej would feel pretty good in between chemo treatments so he would come to meet me in town and we’d walk home together. Today feels like one of those days. Sitting at my desk, I can still feel what it felt like to have him walking next to me, standing next to me, just being next to me. His body. What I wouldn’t give to be able to hug him again; to feel him and experience the surge of love I felt each time I laid eyes on him.

There were times during our relationship when I would bump into him, unexpectedly, on the street. One such time he was walking from our apartment to the train station and I was walking from the train station to our apartment. We thought we might cross paths and when we did it was pure magic; more magical than living with him under the same roof. Bumping into Creej unexpectedly was one of my favorite things in the world. Just to see him coming up the street sent a euphoric excitement coursing through my soul. As the distance between us closed, my knees would buckle as we recognized and stood smiling at each other. I would always wrap my arms around his neck and hold him, feeling the love coursing through my veins (a Creej-ism). I hoped everyone was watching and seeing how lucky I was to be with him. That’s how I felt on a daily basis; just plain lucky and so full of love. (Another Creej-ism)

Does love like that come only once in a lifetime? Part of me hopes so, because the thought of loving that much again makes me feel like my Creej would be slipping away. Part of me hopes not, because having that much beauty and light surrounding me every day was truly a gift and to feel that again would be to remember that it was Chris who first showed me that love.


Chris defined my standard and who knew my standard would be as simple as a quiet, sweet little guy who taught me the meaning of happiness and the value of simplicity?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Control

Death is still inconceivable to me. I think that’s why I have had such a hard time in the past two weeks. In the beginning, when Chris first died, I was in shock and the numbness kept me from feeling much of anything. Now that it has been almost three months, the feelings are seeping in. I’m beginning to realize that I’m alone…well, not completely alone, I still have my friends and family…but alone, in the sense that Chris is no longer going to be by my side hearing all of my stories, how my day went, what I’m doing, what I’m laughing at, crying about, etc…

I can’t believe that it has been three months. When I was on the phone with Janine last night I said to her, “About a month and a half after Chris died…” I felt shock at hearing myself say that. “A month and a half after Chris died.” It’s becoming the past. I guess it became the past the moment after his last breath. I’m short of breath just writing that. How can it be three months since I have seen the love of my life? It’s inconceivable, yet, it’s happening. It will be happening for the rest of my time here on Earth. I can’t stop it. I can’t control it. I lost control of my life the moment cancer stepped into Chris’ life; our lives. Cancer took Chris’ life and altered mine forever.

I wasn’t able to journal about any of it up until now. Not really, anyway. I mean, when I was still in shock, I did a little writing, but for the past month or so, I couldn’t really think coherently about any of it. The book I am currently reading is helping tremendously. It’s called “Getting to the Other Side of Grief” and it was written by a male and a female, both of whom lost their spouses at young ages. Each chapter is broken down and looked at from a psychiatrist’s point of view and then from a Christian point of view. I thought that would bother me but I’m finding the Christian point of view to be very comforting and eye-opening.

I was very, very, very angry with God for hurting Chris and then for taking his life. I still am deep down inside. I’m trying not to be, but it’s so deep seated that it’s tough to turn it around. The book is helping me with that. It’s telling me that God loves me and will help me through this tough time as long as I work hard to get myself through it as much as I can. I always believed that, but when I prayed and prayed for God to save Chris and heal his cancer, he did not answer my prayers. I nearly killed myself in the hospital chapel the night before the hospital staff told us that they were not going to treat Chris anymore; that they were sending him home for comfort care, or to die. I prayed and screamed and thrashed and nearly went out of my mind with panic, fear and desperation. God didn’t listen. He didn’t care. He took my Chris from me and I will never understand why. I’m left to wonder if this will always be a gaping wound in my soul; this inability to control the circumstances surrounding Chris and me. I wanted to, so badly.

And now, whenever Carol refers to that week as “The Week Chris was Dying” I feel a sharp pain in my soul comprised of panic, dread and the need to control the situation, to make it not so; to stop it from happening and to put my hand up in God’s face and tell him to stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. STOP. STOP. Please please please don’t do this. Don’t take my baby away from me. Don’t. I need him. I can’t do it without him. Please please please please please save him. But God didn’t. Or did he? I don’t even know what it means to be saved. God did save Chris, just not the way I wanted him to. He did save him from the pain. That’s not what I asked him to do, though. I asked him to heal Chris’ cancer so he and I could live a long, happy marriage together. Instead, God saved him from the pain of Earth and from the pain of having disease. Maybe God always knew I’d be okay on my own. Maybe that ‘s why Chris and I met in the first place; so I could help him through this dark time in his life and ultimately through his death. Maybe God always knew.