Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mirror Image

After washing the makeup off of my face in preparation for my night’s sleep, I stood staring at my reflection in the mirror. It occurred to me that I no longer know who I am looking at or who is looking back at me.

Even though I center myself in front of the mirror, what I see reflecting back at me is my own reflection off to the right of the mirror’s frame and Chris’s reflection next to mine. For the past year, I have seen my reflection this way, but I only just realized it tonight.

When I study my own image in the mirror, I don’t know what to make of the woman I see staring into my eyes. I see her auburn hair and her brown eyes but I don’t fully recognize her. She’s incomplete. I see Chris’s wife looking at me, Chris’s happy wife, except that she is no longer happy and she is full of worry.

I hate the mirror, it’s reflections and it’s way with telling truths I’d rather not know.

I don’t know who I am if I’m not Chris’s wife. I’m not done becoming who I’m supposed to be after I’m Chris’s wife. There is a work in progress in my bathroom mirror.

For now, I am without an identity. Who am I? Chris’s widow? Carol’s friend? Teri’s sister? The singer? The girl that buy’s coffee at the Someday? These are all pieces of me but they have been blown apart by the impact of illness and death. I am not together and I am not sure that I will be ever again. I exist every day with the feeling that a crucial part of me is missing. Empty. Gone. Because I still have not completely processed that truth, the realization hits me like a ton of bricks every time I am faced with the truth of my situation, that I am not with my husband anymore.

Time continues to march on. Chris died a long time ago. At this point, he has been dead for as long as he had cancer.

I have been dead that long, too.

I think that’s what I have been seeing in the mirror, my own dead self and a shadow of the woman who considered herself to be lucky to have met and married a man who was a perfect match for her.

Someday I will join him again, just as I promised him.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

On My Way Out

I spend my life, it seems, trying not to cry these days. I’m doing it right now. I’m dressed and ready to head out to sing at an open mike and thoughts of all that I lost keep trying to poke through my sturdy exterior. The thoughts are relentless in their pursuit and I’m certain that by the end of tonight, I will be curled up in my bed crying about my loss, just like I did last night. Ativan was helpful last night, but that was at bedtime. If I take one now, I’ll be washing it down with a glass of merlot and getting behind the wheel to drive myself home at 1:00 in the morning. I won’t do it.

Once I get there, the people in the room will keep my mind occupied and I’ll feel light again, I’m sure. I hope.

True to my plan, I confessed to my social worker that I have developed an infatuation with him. I went on to tell him that I know what I feel is a product of transference and we talked for quite a while about it. As usual, he was very professional and very nice. He really knows his stuff and he’s very good at keeping the focus on me, his client. He did commend me for having the courage to make myself so vulnerable and thanked me for my honesty. I feel better, now, and my infatuation has dwindled, which is a good thing because it was only getting in the way.

Today, I ran 4 miles in the snowfall. I have to keep remembering how exercising helps me. My endorphin rush lasted about eight hours.

So, it’s off to the open mike with me and then home to cry in bed, as usual. I told my social worker that I feel as though I’m going to feel this sad, angry and desperate until I’m dead. He said that’s just my fear. I hope he keeps reminding me of that. Hearing it helps me.

I asked him what he is diagnosing me with the other day. I was curious. I have flashbacks that can throw me into the depths of grief with no warning and I wondered what they mean. Clay said that he sees it as panic. So I guess that’s the official diagnosis. Panic Attacks. How cliché.

I’m going to finish my Pepsi, get my coat on and get going. I’m excited to sing tonight and panicked about everything else.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Way It Is

Yesterday I was feeling quite blue about my entire situation. After my breakdown of yesterday morning, I went to work and had a pretty good day. When I got home last night, I experienced another meltdown which lasted for about an hour.

I cried and thrashed about, as per my usual course in the throws of falling apart. I thought about all that I had when I had Chris in my life. I had stability (I thought), love, companionship, a live-in best friend, constant chit-chat, sensuality, sexuality and best of all, I had a good, solid partnership. Sometimes I cannot imagine how I’m going to get all of that back in my life. It is really hard when I cannot even imagine how I can ever allow a man, other than Chris, into my life. Sometimes my life seems and feels hopeless.

I feel better, today, though. I’m not sure why, although my guess is that grief just goes this way. Grief is up, down, sideways, bumpy, smooth and catastrophic among a host of other things. It is not uncommon for me to feel utterly destroyed one moment and perfectly fine and willing to face my future, the next.

Today is going to be a long day for me. I will work until 5:00 and then come home, eat very quickly and head out to rehearsal until about 10:30. When my schedule fills up this way, I become nervous that I don’t have the time I need to sit and think about Chris and process my grief. Before this week is out, I expect to have at least three more meltdowns.

That’s just the way it is.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I have been waking up, lately, feeling the most oppressive depression. My first thought each morning is “My husband is dead.” I used to think that in the first few weeks after Chris died. Now the thought has returned and scraping up the motivation to emerge from beneath my covers each morning has become something of a challenge.

Grief is a strange entity. It’s twists and turns and backs and forths can drive a person completely out of her mind. I don’t want to wake up, I don’t want to go to work, and I can’t imagine how I am ever going to want to live my life without Chris in it. I’m still very much just going through the motions, trying to get on with the business of getting on. I’m tired.

I have flashbacks on a regular basis, still. Last night I was ambushed by a memory of Chris waking up on the fourth morning of one of his five-day chemo treatments. He just sat in bed staring. He began to put on his shoes and then got really angry and through gritted teeth he exclaimed, “I don’t want to go.” As usual, there was absolutely nothing I could do to help him and I felt white terror take me over once again as I asked him, “You’re not going to stop, are you?” He replied, “I don’t have a choice.”

I don’t know what Chris went through. Only other cancer patients know what it feels like to have poison pumped through their body and to lose control over their lives and to be stripped of choices and freedom and threatened by a black monster threatening to eat them alive and push their organs around, rearranging them into a painful, sick and doubly distorted internal Picasso.

It was easy to listen to others and to tell myself that Chris was doing great. He was laughing and joking all the time, he didn’t look sick, he was getting better, he wasn’t losing weight and he was living his life to the fullest in between treatments. I fear, now, that it was never true. How could it be? We were all living in denial because the truth was too much to bear, but what right do any of us healty folk have to talk about what is and isn’t too much to bear when our loved ones are dying from a disease that is so far beyond “too much to bear” that we can’t even conceive of their pain without dying ourselves?

Gotta pull it together and go to work.


Monday, February 20, 2006

The Great Illusion

Discipline has been elusive this past week, which explains my scarcity of bloggings.

All week, I have carried with me a sense of dread, a cold anxiety which has frozen my creativity and ability to express myself in it’s tracks. Loosely draped atop my anxiety has resided a manufactured lightheartedness whose purpose has served to hide my depression from others and to deny it to myself.

I am scared of what I feel.

There is a phenomenon in psychology called transference, which I have been experiencing during my sessions with my therapist. When transference occurs a whole series of psychological experiences are revived, not as belonging to the past, but as applying to the person or the physician at the present moment. In short, I have discovered that although I thought I had developed an infatuation with my therapist, it is very likely that the truth is that I have superimposed qualities of Chris over what few qualities I have seen in my therapist and therefore, I have developed a false sense of attraction, trust and love for him.

Transference is a common occurrence in the therapeutical realm. Chris was the man with whom I shared every mundane detail of my life. He loved me. He accepted everything about me, even those things he did not necessarily understand or like. Clay is now the man with whom I share every mundane detail of my life. He accepts me. Accepting me is Clay’s job. Before I read about transference and before I developed an understanding for it’s power, I became confused about my feelings and about how I could feel such a strong attraction to somebody about whom I know almost nothing.

I have fantasized about being with Clay. I was really fantasizing about being with my husband, whose company I miss more than I can express in words.

He is a cutie, but what I feel is not love for him. What I feel is love for Chris. Chris was quiet, sweet, funny, smart and easy-going with me. Clay is quiet, sweet, funny, smart and easy-going with me.

I deliberately chose to see a male therapist. I told everybody I was doing it to get a male’s point of view of my situation. I lied. I was doing it to get male attention and I get fifty glorious minutes of male attention every single week.

I plan to talk this through with Clay in my next session. the topic is big and it is one I need to get up and over so that I don’t begin a pattern of transferring my love for Chris onto every man I meet.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Valentines Day Apprehension

I have been told again and again that even if I think a holiday or certain anniversary is not going to unnerve me, subconsciously my mind and even my body are aware that the day is approaching.

Last Valentines Day I was still very much in my grief-fog. I had planned to have a drink and a toast to Chris with my friend, Carol, but our plan was changed when a friend of hers invited us to a gallery opening. It was a nice evening, considering all I had been through. The gallery atmosphere with all of it’s colors and bright lighting somehow lifted me.

Valentines Day is just about here again and although I haven’t given it much thought, I have been more prone to tears than usual (the “new” usual) in the past few days.

Last night, I pictured Chris sitting across from me at a table in a small pub and I realized that I haven’t looked at anybody the way I used to look at him in a very long time. The sight of Chris had a way with making my heart swell. He had a way of sipping his beer, Anchor Steam, Sam Adams and the like, and of always coveting a sip of my wine which I readily proffered. I wanted him to taste it. I wasn’t completely settled until he did.

I’m not quite sure what to do with myself tomorrow evening. I still get excited on special society-imposed love days such as this one, as though the two of us have a romantic plan in place. For all of our denouncements of the day, which originate back to our first Valentines Day together one month into our relationship, we sure had a way with feeling the love along with the rest of the couples in Boston.

I still recall our first Valentines Day together. It was as awkward as it could be only one month in, yet together we sat there scoffing at the red, white and pink balloons ornamenting the walls of Jae’s Restaurant in the theater district. That evening, we learned that we both agreed that love is to be given and taken on any and every day of life and not just on holidays.

There are a few things I could do tomorrow evening. I could work out at the gym. I could shop for a gift for my friend. I could go to a bar or restaurant by myself and drink to Chris or ask a friend to join me in doing so. Somehow, the last option feels right. How can I leave him out? He is my love, even still. But he isn’t here, so what difference does it make?

Valentines Day will come and go just like his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years Day and our anniversary all came and went. I survived every one of them and they all occurred between November and January in a nice, neat concentrated package.

I understand, now, how year 2 can be more painful than year 1. At least year 1 brought with it a protective fog which prevented me from feeling some of the hurt and loneliness. I’m on my own in year 2, left with the hope that the remaining years of my life will grow progressively easier and that Chris, from wherever he is, will send me somebody to love, again.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Tip of the Iceberg

Anger is not an emotion readily admitted to by many people, especially when it is being directed toward a deceased loved one.

I had no idea what my therapy session was going to produce, even as I sat in the waiting room uncomfortably aware of the intense anxiety wreaking havoc in the pit of my stomach. My nerves began harassing me from the moment I boarded the train and continued growing as I neared the building where I sit for an hour each week trying to sort through the mess Chris’ pain and eventual death have left behind.

Sitting on the forest green, leather sofa watching the time pass minute by minute I anticipated the sound of Clay’s steps descending the staircase. My heart was pounding and breathing easy was quickly becoming a thing of the past. I wanted to leave. I wanted to run out of there. I didn’t know why.

Once inside his office, I sat on the couch perpendicular to Clay’s chair and began relaying the feelings of anxiety that had all but overtaken me. I fidgeted uncontrollably, pulling at my own hair, clenching and opening my fists, crossing my arms, uncrossing them and finding the simple task of sitting still and conveying any notable events of the week past to be quite difficult. On a scale of 1 to 10, ten being any one of the millions of times I feared that Chris would die, I rated my anxiety a six.

What I have come to know is that experiencing anxiety at a level which causes me to want to run out of the room is a clear indicator that staying and talking will be most beneficial. My mind has a way with trying to protect me from my own fears and can be quite persuasive at convincing me that talking will not help.

I read my last blog entry to Clay. I often bring entries with me so I can remember how I felt the last time I fell. Typically, I don’t read my entries after I write them. I publish, close my laptop and set my sights on making my way through another week. I do not want to become too familiar with my feelings because then I will not be able to recapture and accurately relay them to Clay. Remembering my feelings right there at my therapy session forces me to process my feelings in the company of a trained professional. Don’t try this at home.

For forty minutes, I groped my way through the anxiety coursing through my body and tried to decipher it’s meaning and choked and coughed my way through the reading of my last blog entry. The recollection was despairing, to say the least.

I analogized Chris’ absence to the childhood game of “keep-away”. I can remember at least one episode when two schoolboys ripped the hat from my head after school and began throwing it back and forth, high enough so it was just out of my reach. I tried desperately to get my hat back, feeling angry and humiliated by the lack of control I had for the situation. Inevitably, the time would come when I just-wanted-my-fucking-hat-back. That’s how I feel all the time now, like I am done with this foolishness. I just-want-my-fucking-husband-back. That’s the way it goes. I’m ready for him to come back now but it’s over and he’s not coming and I have no control over it and I miss him and I love him and he’s gone forever.

What ensued during the last twenty minutes was a most horrid display of anger which began very deeply within my core and erupted, like a volcano spewing hot, molten lava in it’s wake.

I still feel guilty about the aspects of Chris that angered me, but I made a promise to myself to post the truth in this journal and I must do that in order to remain true to my purpose. There is no reason for me reveal those parts of our relationship that angered me, for there is a sacred privacy I choose to protect. What happened between Chris and me will remain forever within the circle of our love, flowing outside of that circle only in my own interest of marching forward.

Clay reassured me that all people feel intense anger toward their spouses from time to time and that anger is a normal part of a relationship. The fact that Chris is no longer alive has a way with making me feel as though I ought to be stricken dead, myself, for ever feeling so much as a shred of anger toward him.

But I do feel anger. I feel a lot of anger. Granted, most of it is because he died and left me here alone without him to love and to love me back. But some of it is just normal anger that I squelched when cancer came. I’m am not monstrous enough to fume at a man who is already under attack by cancer, chemo, loss of dignity, loss of a basic quality of life and under the threat of death. Still, my anger toward Chris makes me feel like a monster. I’m only human, though, and I have to forgive myself. For certain, I infuriated my husband periodically during our time together. Had he lived, we would have worked everything out. All we needed was time. We already had love and respect on our side.

I sat with Clay for the last twenty minutes of my session, yelling, swearing, hating and raging and I believe I have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Now that therapy has become therapeutical, I am not so sure I want any part of it.

Sunday, February 5, 2006


Somerville reminds me of Chris. Something about the rows of two and three family homes lining the streets brings me immediately back to the frist couple of months we knew each other.

The houses, close together, separated by chain link fences, remind me of the white, three story apartment house on Waterhouse Street in Teele Square where Chris lived when we met. There is an emotion related to the view down that street, to most of the streets in Somerville for that matter. Those are the same streets that held hope for us, for our future and promises that we would live together, grow together and continue to love together.

Today, as I sat on my friend’s sofa in her apartment just outside of Davis Square, I glanced outside. The slant of the window sill against the backdrop of the street below and the window framing the neighborhood outside replaced my lightness with panic.

The red house across the street reminded me of Chris. The window sill reminded me of Chris. The street, the cars outside, Sunday, the weather, the basic feel of the afternoon all reminded me of Chris in such a way that I felt as though he could come walking down the street any minute.

I would watch as he approached the house and tap on the window when he got close enough to hear. He would look up and smile and I would wait for him to come upstairs where I would wrap my arms around his neck without speaking a word, just feeling him with me, the scent of his Old Spice deodorant filling the air around us.

He would break the embrace. If it were up to me, I would never let go.

I miss the days when Chris was well. I miss the days when we thought he would, once again, be well. We had plans. We had love. I had my adorable best friend and I was foolish, believing he would be with me forever.

I don’t want him to be dead. Part of me died when he died. Most of me died when Chris died.

I’m trying really hard to continue living my life, but sometimes it feels impossible. Sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch under my blanket and cry and cry until I’m shriveled up and dehydrated.

Today, I would much rather have not cried. I had a wonderful day, an eight-mile walk, the sun came out and I was happy and laughing.

I should never have looked out the window.


Just Out of Bed

Grief is annoying. I feel like crying. I want him back. I want our life back. But I can’t have it.

That’s all I really have to say right now.


Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Route 30

My first audition was this evening. Singing with an ensemble of eight people in six-part harmony was an absolute rush. Whether I get cast or not, the evening was well worth the joy.

When it was over, I decided to drive home the long way from Wayland to Malden, taking route 30 all the way into Kenmore Square and then connecting with Sturrow Drive to 93 N. The entire ride took about an hour. If I had taken 90 W, as suggested by the auditor, I would have been home in half an hour. I felt like wandering.

Route 30 reminds me of the early days of Chris’ chemo treatments which he endured at Southshore Hospital before switching to Dana Farber.

The ride, itself, brought on a vague sense of memories past, as if my life used to be one thing and now it’s not that thing anymore. The Zoloft makes me feel as though it’s possible that the entire episode (my meeting Chris, us moving to L.A., his getting sick and his death) may not have really occurred. I’m already finding the memory of being somebody's wife slip away. Did that really happen?

When I reached the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Washington Street in Brighton, a feeling of heaviness washed over me. I experienced the same sense of defeat as in the early days of my grief. We lived there. We grabbed breakfast or lunch at the Brighton Cafe and celebrated nothings at Tasca. We walked up Commonwealth Ave. to the Blue Diner or whatever the hell it’s called. We walked to Coolidge Corner and Harvard Ave. and got coffees and all the while I existed in a silent state of panic, horrified at the thought of him dying.

Sometimes I wonder if the silent panic will ever really leave me. The feeling is like the music behind the knife in the movie Psycho and I am overcome with two forces: heaviness that makes me want to go to sleep and fear that leaves me needing to remember to breathe.

I think this is just me, now.