Sunday, July 31, 2005

Old People

Someone in Carol's neighborhood has a wireless router. That's good news for me.

I moved today, from Somerville to Malden, the town in which I grew up. I was dead-set against it a few months ago. I'm a city girl and I really loved living near Davis Square. When I began the apartment search, I was looking in Davis Square and North Cambridge, my areas of choice. Both of those areas are very nice and very bustling places. Porter Square and Davis Square have been two of my favorite places for many years.

I had been looking on the Craigslist for weeks and weeks and choosing this apartment in Somerville and that apartment in Cambridge and blah, blah, blah, when suddenly and quite out of the blue, an apartment in Malden appeared out of nowhere with one single picture of the kitchen. From the moment I saw that beautiful hardwood floor and unbelievable built-in butcher block, I knew the entire apartment had to be mine. And now it is mine.

For months, I had been dreading this move because I thought it was going to be sad and scary. I was dreading this day right up until yesterday morning when the movers arrived. We loaded up the truck, drove to Malden, unloaded the truck and I became overwhelmed with emotion -- the wrong emotion....I mean, the right emotion -- Well, the "not-what-I-expected" emotion.

The very moment I set foot into the new apartment, I was overcome with euphoria. It's just so right. Everything about it is what's supposed to be. This was fate.

I'm a person who believes in fate and a person who believes that everything happens for a reason and that what's supposed to be, will be. Chris never believed that stuff. He accepted that I believed it though and that's just one of the many wonderful things about him. Even if he thought something I believed or thought was absurd, ridiculous or even insane, he accepted that I believed in it and he loved me anyway. Chris showed me so much love and acceptance that it sunk in and now I love and accept myself on a daily basis. He was the most wonderful friend and such a natural at being a husband. He really got the gist of it. Chris knew how to love and honor me no matter what. He knew what his vows stood for and he followed through with them. I did the same for him.

I believe that Chris guided me to this apartment. I can't really explain why. the way it all came about was so suddenly and meeting my landlords and signing the lease went so smoothly. I hate having to go into a cellar or to a Laundromat to wash my clothes and I ended up in a place with a washer and dryer right in my own kitchen. I'm up on a third floor, so I can keep my windows open when I go out so the air will always be fresh. I don't have to be paranoid that somebody can get into my apartment like I was when I lived on the first floor. When I called Rita, my new landlord, in June and told her about Chris and also that I wasn't going to be ready to rent until August and said to her, "You probably want to get rid of it for July, right?" she replied, "Not necessarily. It's more important to us that we get the right person in there."

Sometimes I feel Chris' presence. I can't really explain that, either. It's a feeling that he's sitting right next to me. I believe that he will watch over me and keep me safe throughout my life. Moving was a very tough decision to make. I was so convinced that I was going to cry all day today and I was not looking forward to it, but instead, I laughed all day and I felt as though I shredded more of my grief. This is an excellent move for me in the grief-scheme.

I brought my pictures of Chris with me. I wrote, the other day, about how I no longer felt anything when I looked at them. All of that changed today. The moment I walked into my new apartment, the pictures came alive again and I can remember Chris more clearly and with more love now than I have been able to in the past two months.

We sure had a time. Cancer is a very sad disease. Chris and I endured much stress, worry, depression and fear. All of those emotions cause wear and tear on the mind, body and soul. I didn't realize how much stress until a short while ago. My life had become an constant panic that Chris was going to die and constant attempt to make him be alive by shopping at Whole Foods, buying organic foods, pleading with him to meditate, praying to God and hoping against hope. That became my resting position.

Chris died seven months ago and I am just now beginning to grasp the reality of his demise. It has taken this long just to be able to say, "Chris died." I still wish he didn't die. I still need him. I still love him. Each day I make progress, though. Sometimes the progress is being able to move and feel euphoric about it. Sometimes the progress is having a good, hyperventilating cry. Sometimes kicking and punching my pillows and swallowing an antidepressant is about all of the acceptance I can muster up. It's all good.

What confuses me is that Chris was once alive. He was once healthy. I still ask "How could this have happened?" Everything was going so well. I had finally met the man of my dreams and he married me! How did this happen. Why us? Why me? Why, why, why?

I don't know when I will be free. I do know that I'm different, now, in so many ways. As tragic as this ordeal has been, there is some good that has come out of it. I won't go into it right now because my eyes are fluttering and I can barely keep them open.

It's time for me to sleep and hopefully have sweet dreams about my sweet husband. I loved him more than I thought I was capable of loving any man.

And now I am living in a sacred space.

If I could, Creej, I would hold onto you right now and never let you go. I would squeeze you with thankfulness and love powerful enough to shrink tumors.

And we would live to be old people together.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005


I’m afraid of leaving here.

When I look at my pictures of Chris, now, I can’t make the connection that he was once a person...a flesh and blood presence in my daily life. I look at the images and I see flat paper containing a likeness of my husband but I don’t see my Chris. I know it ‘s him because I recognize him. I’d recognize him anywhere. There’s no warmth. Only sadness. Only a feeling of having been through the mill, having fought dragons and having been defeated. I feel a quiet surrender and my heart is at half-mast. And I hear the bugle echoing Taps in my mind which is now as hollow as my heart. Still, I keep moving on, treading gingerly forward because that’s what I chose for myself. That’s what Chris chose for me, too. And that’s what I choose for his spirit and soul, to always move forward for all of eternity. We’ll meet again, of that I’m certain.

I have almost finished packing up my apartment. I’m leaving on Saturday and for the first time in my life, I’m not going to take one last look at this empty, cold, dark, icy palace. Once it was filled with silliness laughter and love. Now it’s haunted by memories, longing, yearning, sadness and resign. I’m tired and it’s time to begin anew.

I’m afraid of leaving here. That’s part of why I must.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Little Tantrum...Just a Little One

The Brighton Cafe sits on the corner of Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, right on the Brookline town line. Chris and I spent many weekend mornings eating breakfast there before venturing into the city. The restaurant was one of his favorite places to eat. Open until only 1:00PM each day, it served our breakfast and sometimes our lunch appetites well.

Only a two-minute stroll from our second floor walkup on Washington Street, we would leave the apartment unbathed, ungroomed and me without makeup just in time to chase away the caffeine headaches that threatened to overtake our skulls as morning approached afternoon.

So many memories have I of sipping coffee and looking into Chris’ face. When our eyes met, we would both smile and continue to wake up over coffee and eggs. We didn’t need to speak a word. We were completely content to sit in silence and just be with one another. Chris’ smiles were worth more to me than just about anything I have or ever had. There was a safety in his smiles. Approval filled his smiles, too., And love that encompassed every cell in my body and wrapped me in warmth like none I had ever felt in my life. I loved him.

Carol’s birthday was today. We celebrated with two other friends in the north end of Boston. Four ladies out on the town sipping wine and enjoying good Italian food and each others’ company.

We drank white wine, not my favorite. I much prefer red. I decided to go with white because Carol preferred it and after all, it was her birthday. It was still very good.

Wine always makes me feel sexy. It always has. Chris noticed it early on. He used to laugh about the advances I made toward him after a glass of wine. It only took one glass; hell, it only took half a glass to make me feel all fuzzy and warm.

Tonight, I entertained the idea of flirting with another man. I didn’t do it; I just entertained the idea. There was no specific man in my mind, just a nameless, faceless figment. As usual, what went on in my mind was tremendous fun. Tremendous fun always happens when I retreat into my own head. Chris knew that about me, too.

It’s amazing to me that somebody once knew all about me and he wasn’t confused. Irritated at times, of course, but never confused. he understood who I was and accepted me and loved me. Where did he go?

I went to New York City this past weekend on my first trip without Chris since he died. Every other trip I took since I knew him was with him. This was a big deal. I really enjoyed New York. It was lively, overbearing in an exciting way, gritty and bustling. The upper west side was absolutely lovely. The west village was just as enchanting. We saw two shows: The Pillowman and Sweet Charity. Chris would have loved The Pillowman. It was his kind of show. He much preferred plays to musicals but he always came to my musicals with me.

The trip was a challenging one. I missed what we could have done there. How can you miss something you didn’t do? I missed that it wasn’t him and me in the west village. I missed that he didn’t sit next to me during the play. I missed his body next to mine in the hotel bed. I had the next best thing; I had Carol next to me in bed.

I did it, though. I took my first trip without him. I’m still feeling the after tremors, but it’s okay. It’s the start of the beginning of the rest of my life.

I’m moving on Saturday. This summer is just full of firsts. This is going to be so good for me. I need to claim my space. I need to look around and see things that don’t remind me of a life that no longer exists for me. I only hope the landlords understand when my tears cause water damage to their ceilings down below. That’s what my security deposit is for, I guess.

I’m not going to look for another man. I don’t want to. I’m not putting myself through that. If I’m going to meet and fall in love with another man, it’s going to have to happen by accident. That’s all there is to it. It happened once, it can happen again. Until then, I’m going to improve myself and do all of the things that fill me up until I’m such a good catch that I’ll attract another somebody who will love me for exactly who I am. It has to happen naturally, though.

Carol and Robby are having brunch on Sunday to continue Carol’s birthday celebration. I had invited myself, but that’s before I knew that they were going to The Fireplace, which sits on the corner of Washington Street and Commonwealth Avenue. I don’t feel ready to sit there with the Brighton Cafe in plain sight, reminding me, taunting me, tricking me into thinking that I can see the two of us dining in there from my seat in the Fireplace. I can’t do it.

I want it to be true too badly to put myself through it.

P.S. Besides the grief, I had a wonderful day today. Seriously.


Monday, July 25, 2005


I have zero tolerance, today, for people and their pathetic little sorry lives. I just said hi to somebody and asked how she was doing and she replied in the most nasty, depressed voice, “I wish it was Friday. I hate Mondays.”

Listen, sweetheart. If “Monday” is the worst thing that has happened to you, you’ve got a pretty happy fucking life, I would say. I would say it, too, if I wasn’t fully aware that my anger is PMS induced.

I do get on my high-horse sometimes regarding all that happened to Chris’. He would have ridden on my high horse, with me, into the sunset.


Monday, July 18, 2005

A Powerful Place

I sat between the trees again, tonight after class. I felt drawn there, once again.

I guess I haven’t really broken any of my promises to myself. The only thing I really promised is that I wouldn’t cry every night anymore. Well, I haven’t cried for three nights. Tonight was the first time since my promise.

I don’t know who I was kidding. I couldn’t have held back if I tried. My tears began falling as I walked past the payphones. Just the sight of our trees green with the leaves of summer made me sad for time that has passed. They were barren on our wedding day. We said our vows and I was glad I didn’t ask the J.P. what I had planned ot ask her --to leave out “Til Death Do us Part”. Back then, I thought those words would be too harsh to hear. Back then I thought Chris was going to die and I was afraid to bring any attention to that thought at all, so I left well enough alone.

Tonight I sat there and tried to call Meira, Carol, Robby, Teri and my mother. Robby was the only person who answered the phone, but he had dinner guests so I didn’t let on that I was sitting in the middle of Boston Common trying to hold myself together. I stifled myself. I’m not in the business of ruining anybody’s evening.

I tried Carol again and she answered this time and I let it flow out. Man, it felt good.

I have realized that my situation at work these days has been causing me some distress. The woman who sits in front of me is a breast cancer survivor and last week I was asking her all kinds of questions about how she felt when she was diagnosed, how her family felt, how the chemo felt, how it turned her life upside-down and she was generous enough to share with me. In a bizarre sense, I felt as though I was getting answers from Chris about how he felt about all of those things.

The other woman who sits across from me is currently battling colon cancer. She was diagnosed at stage three out of four stages. She underwent surgery and is now being treated with chemo. She has just returned to work on a part-time basis. Because her white blood cell count is low, she has been coughing the worst kind of cough imaginable. It sounds like it must be very painful and frustrating for her and it has caused me to think way too much about what Chris might have gone through upon his return to his job at the school. I know he felt isolated, strange and conspicuous and remembering that makes me really sad.

To top it all off, the other woman I have been working with for the past few weeks just got a research job with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I can’t seem to get away from cancer these days. I guess it all added up and ambushed me.

It has been the longest time since I walked the streets of Boston and Davis Square hyperventilating and fighting back tears only to arrive home and burst like a dike in a tidal wave. It happened tonight. I guess it will happen. That’s what Ativan is for.

When I arrived at my car in Davis Square, there was a piece of notebook paper under my windshield wiper. It was a note from Meira saying that she hoped I had a good time in class and NOT walking home with her. Even in the midst of my breakdown, it made me laugh out loud. I love my friends.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

All Aboard

Tonight is the second night that I did not cry in about three weeks. After the six-month mark, I couldn't seem to stop crying at night. Yesterday I got mad, though, and whenever that happens in my life, it is usually followed up with change.

I made a conscious decision to stop crying every night. It became annoying and I began to dread going home. And it is a choice; a tough one, but a choice, no less. Enough is enough. How long can a person go on choosing to be miserable? I understand grief. There is a period of time in which you are not in control of your emotions or your actions. There is a period of time in which you are not aware that you have choices and there is even a period of time in which you are absolutely unequivocally unwilling to stop crying. I understand all of it. But last night I chose to stop. Once I made it through one night of not crying, the second night was easier.

I almost cried tonight, but I have a responsibility to myself to keep moving forward. I like to be busy. Going back to school as quickly as I did was the best thing for me. Being in a play as soon as I was ended up being extremely therapeutical and another good choice. For me. Maybe not for everyone. But for me, they were both incredibly helpful choices.

Sometimes I get so busy that I accidentally isolate myself from my friends. Those are the times when my anxiety and sadness creep up and ambush me. I never see it coming and before I know it, I have been crying for days on end.

I have so much strength inside of me. I am not going to grieve for the rest of my life. I'm not doing it. I will always love, cherish and miss my sweet, sweet Chris and I will always view what happened to us as an absolute injustice. What else could it be?

The train is back on the tracks and once again, I'm traveling full Shneed ahead.

Tonight, as every night, I pray to God for eternal happiness for Chris' soul.

Love, Shneed

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

As a valiant effort not to become addicted to Ativan, at my own and at Carol’s urging, I dropped two Tylenol Nighttime caplets this evening. It’s not that I don’t thoroughly enjoy my little Ativan trips. In fact, it’s that I DO enjoy them. The last thing I need is to become addicted to prescription drugs. I’d have more dignity if I became a crack-addicted whore. So, as an experiment, I’m giving the over-the-counter breed of drugs a go. We’ll see what happ...zzzzzzzzzz. Nah, just kidding.

I’m scared. That truly sums up my feelings. In his book, A Grief Observed (though I have not yet read it), C.S. Lewis mentions something to the effect that he never knew grief could feel so much like fear. He goes on to clarify that it’s not that he feels fear for his own life or even for his personal safety, but fear as a feeling; the quickened heartbeat, the shortness of breath and the restlessness. I’m so glad I learned of this statement from someone who has read this book, which I am going to buy very shortly. It somehow validates my own feelings of fear.

I began packing my stuff up for the big move on July 30. It’s going to be a good and a necessary move for me. I’m so afraid of leaving Chris behind. I’m so afraid of looking around and seeing only my own things. I’m scared of everything being right where I left it. I’m afraid of Chris never laying eyes on my new apartment. It should have been our apartment. Enough of that, though. That’s simply not helpful.

The butterflies are here tonight. They nest in the hollow of my belly. I can’t relax. In fact, I relaxed for the first time in years the other night at my voice lesson. It was all that breathing. Imagine that. Breathing. I didn’t know I could still do that.

I’m supposed to write a division/classification essay tonight. It’s due tomorrow night. I’d better get to it.

Friday, July 8, 2005

Breaking Down Barriers

Last night I got to thinking about some of the things I couldn’t do back in January and thought I could never do again. I’m doing some of them these days.

I walked home with Meira last night. We walk together now, since she moved closer to my apartment, even though I’m moving away from her apartment in a couple weeks. I think I will continue to walk to Somerville sometimes and then get on the train and go home. I digress.

On the way home, we stopped to eat Asian food in what was my and Chris’ favorite little romantic place. The last time we were there was on Valentines Day 2004. Before last night, I hadn’t been there since.

From January through April or May, I wasn’t able to even look at the place without feeling my heart collapse in my chest. Then I thought I could go, but I would have to accept that I would feel guilty every time I ate there. Last night, the waitress sat us at the same table Chris and I occupied in 2004. I wasn’t sad. I felt warm and full of sweet memories. It was nice to be in a familiar place.

This morning, in the shower, I thought about Ellis Paul. (Not THAT way.) I thought about the song; the one that caused my heart to break for two years; the one that I associate with the entire ordeal from diagnosis to death. I read it at Chris’ memorial service but I don’t want to try to recall the lyrics right now. I began singing it in the shower this morning and then began thinking that someday I might find myself at another of his shows. Not yet, though, but eventually. My chest has become tight just thinking about it and the butterflies are back. Ellis is a very touchy subject for me, but now that I have broken a barrier or two, I suppose I can open my mind to the possibility of breaking this one, too.

On January first, I couldn’t even walk out of my apartment. The thought terrified me. I think it was the next day that Meb went for a walk with me, I’m not sure, though, it could have been the same day. Time ceased to exist for me for a while. Anyway…the view down my street is etched in my memory forever; the coldness of the air, the grayness of the sky and of dirty snow, the wind blowing the tree branches…Pearson Road in general. I cannot be there this January. I have never been more certain of anything in my life. I need to be away from that entire area for a while. Maybe forever.

Monday, July 4, 2005

Independence Day

Friday, July 1, has come and gone. It is a date I had been dreading for weeks. Friday was the 6-month mark since Chris’...sigh...for some reason I can’t say the “d” word today.

Calling it an “anniversary” is too upsetting, too. Anniversaries are supposed to be happy occasions, aren’t they? Maybe that was true when I was still naive, which was right up until New Years Day.

July 1 was not an easy day for me. Up until then, dates I thought I was going to dread had come and gone and I had been okay, but July 1 was very, very difficult. Had I not shared coffee and breakfast with Meira and then driven to Portland, Maine to be with my brother and then driven back to spend the night with Carol, I’m not sure I would have done as well. Basically, I ran away all day; away from the memories, away from my own brain, away from the constant vacancy of the other half of my life. I just ran and hid.

I just had a phone conversation with my father. I’m going to his house today, for a barbecue. Chris would have come with me. He loved going to my father’s house. He loved my father’s sense of humor and his overall character. My father is a character with very prominent and unique characteristics. Chris recognized them and they made him laugh.

When I asked my father if he wanted me to bring anything, he replied, “Just your bathing suit.” I said, “Oh, I can’t do that today.” and he said, “Why not?” I very sternly answered, “YOU KNOW WHY.” He chuckled and said, “Oh. Well, shove a towel up there. Do what ya gotta do, kid.” I laughed at the vile nature of his answer and instantly wanted to tell Chris what he had said. Chris would have laughed. He absolutely loved my fathers’ sense of humor. But there’s nobody to share it with now; nobody who would understand and appreciate the tactless, horrifically shocking beauty and humor of it.

So now I’m trying to stop crying. It isn’t fair. None of this is fair. Whoever else in this entire world would think that was a funny comment?

I waited so long for somebody like Creej. He wasn’t even one-in-a-million. He’s simply “one”. I’ll never find another man like him in my entire lifetime.

Chris could be vile, too; So, so vile. I loved that about him. One of his friends described him as being a dichotomy and he was right. To meet Chris and talk to him in the beginning was to meet and talk with a small, sweet, cute, polite, studious, considerate man. To know him was to know a small, sweet, cute, polite, studious, considerate man with a vile, shocking, filthy, twisted side built right in for everyone’s entertainment and enjoyment. Those of us who loved him loved all of him, ESPECIALLY that sick and twisted breath of filthy-fresh air.

Last Independence Day I sat in the tiny, cramped living room of our tiny, cramped one-bedroom apartment in Brighton with the blinds drawn and the lights out while Chris was in the midst of sleeping off a five-day chemo treatment, which usually took five more days to sleep off. It was a very painful and lonely holiday weekend watching him sleep and knowing he probably wasn’t drinking enough water, but not wanting to wake him up so he could look around and remember the horrible turn his quality of life had taken. Those were my choices; to let him sleep and dehydrate or to wake him up and remind him of his disease. There was no lesser of the two evils. I let him sleep and over the course of a long weekend, watched him wake up repeatedly for two minutes, shuffle to the bathroom and go back to bed. God, I missed him so much that weekend and I felt so sad for him and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was raging at his cancer and his hateful chemo side-effects and at the loss of our fun-loving, improvisational sit-com existence. I have been raging over that for two years.

Today I have unlocked that memory and set it free from my subconscious. It’s out there now, floating away, away, away.

What does this Independence Day mean for me personally? It means that I am now living independently of one more horrible memory which is no longer suppressed deeply within my psyche, gurgling and rumbling its way into my nightmares. Today the volcano has erupted again, and rivers of pain-polluted lava have flown from my core. I’m sure by the time I stop crying, I’ll feel a new lightness.

Happy Independence Day.