Monday, January 29, 2007

Enough Said

I haven’t been able to write for the past week because my brain wouldn’t let me. Even now, I have to push myself to write since I’m still slightly frozen from the fear that I am going to begin admitting truths to myself I still don’t feel comfortable admitting.

My second date with Jim went nicely. I like him. He’s a nice man. I find myself thinking about him quite a bit and I find myself wanting him to like me back, which is strange because I feel as though that desire is coming from my head and not so much from my heart. I feel as though I have made a conscious decision for our relationship to grow. He’s nice. I like him. We seem compatible. It all makes sense. The part that gets cloudy for me is when I wonder if I am closing off my heart’s emotions and telling myself that my head says we’re a good match. Have I closed my heart because of the fear I have of losing somebody close to me? I don’t know the answer.

Jim is a complete gentleman. He pulls out my chair for me and helps me get into my coat. He hasn’t walked me to my car, yet, on either date we have been on and I wonder if he’s feeling awkward about kissing me. If that’s the case, I find that aspect of him quirky and endearing.

After our date, when I was walking to my car, I felt a surge of panic begin to erupt from within me. I immediately dialed Carol’s number and to my utter joy, she answered the phone. She said she had been standing by for me, which made my heart swell.

I talked with her through my affection toward Jim until I felt as though I had permission from the universe to feel my attraction. When I arrived home, my mind took me on a scary journey on which I realized that someday I will be doing all of the things I did with Chris with somebody else. My body jerked with panic, suctioning the air from my lungs and I began to cry from my realization and from yet another funeral in honor of my lost love.

In other news, the boxing gym continues to batter me to a pulp, which is exactly my favorite kind of workout, even if the aftermath is nothing short of excruciating. I worked out Saturday afternoon and I still cannot walk up or down stairs without supporting my weight with my arms. Now I know what happens when I perform two minutes each of jump squats, front and back lunges, side lunges and sitting squats. It ain’t pretty, yet I am already hungering for the next workout. I need to know, by human experimentation, if this drill is going to get easier with practice.

When I awoke Sunday morning, I, quite literally, rolled out of bed (I couldn’t use my legs to lift myself out of bed), shuffled gingerly into the kitchen and composed an e-mail to the gym which read,

Sincerely, Robin Burrage

I received a reply which read,

That means it’s working.

Enough said.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

There is no Great Depression. They all suck.

I am in the process of recovering from a day-long depression which erupted into a forty-five minute meltdown that is just wrapping up now.

The movie White Oleander was just on television. I caught the last hour of the film while I did housework and as the credits rolled, I felt an ambush of anguish wash over me. I read the book in Los Angeles and watched the movie when I lived with Chris in Brighton. The Santa Ana winds are an important theme in the book’s plot. I remember the winds from when I lived in L.A. They were strange and eerie in nature, warm, dry, powerful.

Chris went to a class one night, right up the street from our apartment. He was supposed to be home by 11:00pm so I drifted off to sleep at around 10:30 that night, figuring I’d wake up when he walked through the door. I awoke with a start at midnight and he still wasn’t home. I panicked, got dressed, left the apartment and ran up Fuller Ave to Santa Monica Boulevard looking for him. The winds were blowing and tree branches were strewn along the sidewalk. I developed an asthma attack along the way, due to the dry nature of the wind. I ran all the way to the studio where his class was being held but nobody was there. Chris was nowhere to be found. I ran back home, not really knowing what I would do when I got there. Ten minutes later, Chris came through the door. Class ran over an hour late and he didn’t call to tell me. We fought a bit, well not really, we bickered. I began coughing uncontrollably and didn’t stop until the next day when the doctor gave me an inhaler.

The incident horrified me. I thought Chris was dead. There had been several shootings on the very corner where his class was taking place and when he didn’t arrive home, my imagination ran wild.

Tonight, the mere mention of the Santa Ana winds squeezed a trigger in my mind and sent me on a trip into grief and anger. Hell, I was already on the edge of grief and anger since I woke up this morning. The trigger just helped me release the tension.

I miss him so much. I tried to look at pictures of him tonight but I felt no connection to his flattened likeness. I cried about his diagnosis, his cancer, the chemo, my anguish, his hair loss, his loss of control, my loneliness, my fear of unknown things to come and so many other things.

I’m happy that I am a healthy eater because I experienced a complete emotional eating binge this afternoon that consisted of beef stir-fry, a bunch of grapes and some unbuttered popcorn. A grieving widow could eat a lot worse than that. I’m still going to eat a weight watchers chocolate ice cream sandwich.

If only I hadn’t pulled that muscle, I would have gone to the boxing gym yesterday and worked all of this out of my system before it had a chance to work me over.

I’m going to return to the gym Tuesday night with a vengeance.

Watch out, muscles.



I had to skip boxing yesterday because I have pulled a muscle in my neck and back. I toiled over whether I should go work through the injury or skip the workout altogether. After much consideration I decided to skip.

I didn’t fully appreciate the effect boxing has been having on my mood. I was just teaming with anxiety all day yesterday to the point where I got nothing done. I can’t afford to let that happen today, too. I have tons of reading to do for school and I am hoping I can calm myself down and get my nose to the grindstone within the next few minutes. I can do it.

My muscle still hurts, but not as bad as yesterday, so by Tuesday, I will be back at the gym, hopefully.

I still have a hard time not crying when I return home for the evening these days. I still feel a large void in my life where Chris used to be. He would be proud of me as of late, though. I think my boxing shenanigans would have impressed him.

Carol said the most thoughtful thing last night. She said that when I’m ready, she and Josh would like to watch my wedding video so Josh can meet Chris. My heart swelled. What a sweet, thoughtful thing to say and do. I’d like Josh to meet Chris, too.

I have a second date with a man I met on Match a few weeks ago. He was my last-ditch effort at the online form of meeting people. I just don’t like that sort of setup. My account was running out and the day before it closed, he winked at me so I sent him my personal e-mail address and we stayed in touch. Our first date was nice. He’s a sweetie.

I’m not one for small talk on a first date, so we talked about theater, true crime stories, phobias (our own personal ones), fears and the deaths of Chris and of one of Jim's close friends. During our conversation, he said, “Wow. I don’t usually reveal this much on a first date.” Go me. We’re having dinner again this Thursday evening. I like this guy. He likes me, too.

He’s very busy pursuing his Ph.D. in Psychology so he works at a paid internship Monday through Friday and goes to school at night, plus he works a part-time job to help make ends meet. I like that he’s that busy. He’s got big plans to open his own practice by day and return to the stage at night. He’s an actor, too. I like our busy schedules. Anyway...I’m excited about Thursday evening.

Last night I cried for Chris. I just miss him. I still have a large amount of survivor’s guilt, too, and I wonder if it will ever dissipate.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17, 2007

Chris and I would have been married three years, today. Now that the day is here, I feel a little bit better. Sleep did not come easy, last night. I lay beneath my electric blanket, sobbing for a while and fell asleep around eleven-thirty, only to awaken at 3:30.

I have said it before and I will say it again and again, this boxing workout is unbelievable. Boxing is a discipline and because my workout is supervised by a trainer, I am able and much more willing to maintain my focus for longer periods of time and with more energy than ever before. What I love the most is how I forget everything during the two hours I spend in the gym (2 and half hours, last night). After the workout, my endorphins keep me in a nice, natural, much needed and much appreciated state of serene relaxation for sometime afterwards.

This morning, while I tossed and turned trying to forget the pain in just about every part of my body, I began to cry once again. Suddenly, an image appeared in my mind’s eye of a red rose opening into bloom. I stopped crying and thanked Chris for the flower. I know he sent the thought into my mind. Then my brain began to wander again and I remembered how Chris’ tumor distorted his body. A thought immediately took over in my mind.

“That isn’t who I am, Shneed.”

The thought was so crisp and clear and instantaneous, that I believe Chris sent those words into my mind, as well.

“I love you.” I thought back. “I always have, even before we met.”

I felt comforted by the discourse taking place within me, two spirits forever intertwined, still communicating.

I’m still sad, and still so happy that we met and loved each other.

Happy Anniversary, my love.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

January 17, 2004

I’m scared of tomorrow. Tomorrow would have been my and Chris’ third wedding anniversary and I’m afraid of the fear I’m expecting to feel.

I’m not going to go to the trees. The trees are in my mind and in my heart, now. We may have stood beneath them when we said our vows, but what would I do beneath the trees without Chris there? He’s in my heart and in my mind and in my spirit (except for when I’m crying).

I’m sad.


Friday, January 12, 2007


I joined the boxing gym the other night and became an official member, committing to going there every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. I canceled an audition I had for an upcoming musical. The two things I am focusing on for the next while are my school work and boxing.

I love the workout. It’s nothing like I have ever experienced before. I don’t even get to do the fun stuff until I get through the first part of my workout, which consists of jumping rope for 9 minutes, stretching, drill work (very difficult), and a medicine ball workout (extremely difficult). After, and only after that, I finally get to box. First I stand in front of a mirror and shadow box, practicing form, then I get to don my fabulous blue Everlast training gloves and punch the heavy bag for nine minutes before spending another six minutes sparring with the double-ended bag. After a bout with the speed bag, it’s off to the matt for sit-ups and then I get to go home. the entire workout takes two hours. I am exhausted and euphoric when it’s over. I love it.

School is difficult this semester, but so far, so good. I passed in my first Statistics and Analysis in Psychology assignment and passed with flying colors. Ugh. The material is very confusing and makes me want to cry. It’s really nice to cry about a trivial matter, for a change. My history class is lovely. There’s tons of reading to be done, but the class is only six weeks long (4 to go) so by the time I feel like beating myself to death with my own text book, the class will be over. I love my life when I’m this busy. I’m beginning to feel like the “old” Robin, the pre-Chris Robin and for the first time since Chris got sick, I’m starting to be able to feel good about that with minimal guilt.

I have been reading another great book by John E. Welshons entitled Awakening from Grief: Finding the Way Back to Joy. I could not have found this book at a more appropriate time. It falls on the heels of my reading, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, which was written by a man who survived the nazi war camps and lived to find meaning in all of his suffering. The book has helped me find meaning in my own suffering and now this new book is helping me see and feel my experience from a more transcendental vantage point.

I am a person who has experienced a cataclysmic event in my life. My husband came and then he went. His presence in my life was sheer bliss and his absense is crushing. But his job is done. He came and did what he was put here to do, and then he left. I am here to do what I am supposed to do and then I will be allowed to leave, as well. That’s the way it works.

I am feeling better these days, and although I am attributing some of my progress to Zoloft, Clay reminds me that Zoloft can only do so much and that I am the one who is making myself feel better. I know he’s right, but nevertheless, the guilt I feel from “walking away” from my husband remains. I believe, in time, I will overcome that exhausting part of my grief. When my loyalty counted, I didn’t walk away. I stayed for as long as I wanted and needed to see Chris through his last dark years on earth and I know that beneath all of his fear and pain, he appreciated my prescense. Was it enough? Did he love me? Did I help? I hope so.

I guess I’ll finally have the answer when it’s my time to go.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Self Deprecating Mood

My mood, tonight, centers around self-deprecation, probably the effects of PMS combined with the fact that school starts tomorrow and I will be going non-stop until 10:30 pm. For some reason, even though that’s the pace I prefer, I am filled with anxiety.

I don't know why I have been left alone. I feel as though I have been punished and I feel as though I just don't deserve the kind of love I shared with Chris.

I keep thinking about the way we met and how unassuming we both were and how naturally our relationship progressed. Neither of us expected to meet and neither of us knew we would fall in love and get married. Everything happened so naturally and since I don’t know how I found love the first time, I don’t know how to meet and fall in love with someone again. I am lonely these days and I want to be close with somebody, but I can’t imagine ever being close to anybody in the same way I was close to Chris. I am so afraid I will never know love again.

I think I made a good choice when I let my membership run out. I need to refocus my lens and gear my thoughts toward the things in my life which I can control. I want to stop pressuring myself to meet somebody. If I can forget about love for a while, I will feel better, I think.

I did have a date with a forensic psychologist (I know!) Friday night. He’s a very nice man and we had a very nice time. We both decided to see each other again, but unfortunately, people don’t always follow through with their intentions. He’s currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Psychology, so he’s very busy, as am I. He is my last ditch effort with Match and if he doesn’t call me, I’m just going to focus on other things for a while.

Everybody at Russian Christmas had a boyfriend or a husband and I wanted so badly to be sitting there with Chris.

Going to the party was really tough, since I hadn’t ever gone without Chris before. I’m so tired of being tough, going places on my own and having people tell me how brave I am. I’m not brave. I’m tired and I want my husband back. I had to walk to my car alone afterwards and everybody else went home with their partners. All of the men were so funny and nice and sweet and I kept thinking that Chris fit right in with all of them when he was here.

I hate this. This is so unfair. I want him back.Why did he have to die? I don’t want to be alone anymore, but I don’t want to date. I just want to find myself suddenly falling in love the way I did with Chris. I felt like loser sitting there without him.

Carol has a boyfriend and she’s talking about marriage. Robby has his husband. I’m feeling so alone and I’m feeling like I have become the single person I never wanted to be, again. I’m her again and now I have to start from the beginning and I DON’T WANT TO!

He should have been there with me.

I’m not going to try anymore. It’ll happen. It has to.

Russian Christmas

I just had a wonderful time celebrating Russian Christmas with a friend of mine who celebrates every year by inviting a handful of friends over and serving up hors d’oeuvres and home-made borsht, along with good wine and shots of vodka, which we all consume while engaging in witty, humorous discourse. It was fun, but now I’m feeling a little sad.

The first time I attended Russian Christmas was in 2000, when Chris invited me. My friend, Annemarie, was Chris’ boss at the time and Chris was the “real” invited guest, but he invited me along. We went to the party together for two years, 2000 and 2001. Then we moved to Los Angeles for the latter part of 2001 through the latter part of 2003 and then Chris got sick, so although we were invited in 2004, we did not attend. Then Chris was gone and I could not attend without him in 2005 or 2006, but this year I decided to attend.

Annemarie never excludes me from the invitation, and that very generous, very thoughtful gesture touches me very deeply. I feel as though most people would have given up on me by now.

What I love about Annemarie is that she isn’t afraid to talk about Chris out loud in a room full of jovial party guests. She nonchalantly mentioned the time that she and Chris attended a Red Sox game together in the rain. She’s not the least bit uncomfortable. She included Chris and she included me. I wish Chris could have been there with me tonight.

I drove myself there, found a parking space on Boylston Street and walked over to Park Drive on my own. I was nervous about finding parking and nervous about leaving the party alone and walking to my car, but I made myself proud by doing both of those things, tonight. Chris would have been proud of me.

I was the first one to leave the party. I don’t really like being out really late at night, so when the clock neared 11:30I felt a little bit of panic set in and I felt compelled to leave.

I’m home now and I already feel as though I can’t sleep, so I’m not even going to try. Eventually, the gravity of exhaustion will take me.

Good night.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Two Years of a Two-Year Sentence Served

When I think about the fact that Chris died two whole years ago, I feel scared. How can two years have passed? How can my life be piecing itself back together? How can I get through my days more easily and not be crying as much as I used to? Finally, how can I ever be free, completely free, from the guilt of moving on? No amount of logic seems to alleviate the guilt-generated nervousness in the pit of my stomach.

I can already feel that 2007 is going to be a good year for forward movement in my life. I have one more two-year anniversary date to get through, my wedding anniversary, before I am past the year of seconds, which in no way means I have finished experiencing the last of the firsts.

At the urging of one of my friends, I attended the Ellis Paul concert at Club Passim last night. My decision to attend came too late for me to order tickets to the late show, but nonetheless, Ellis rocked...or “folked” as it were. I guess he “folk rocked.”

Focusing on the music was a challenge last night as my mind peridocially wandered back in time throughout the evening. I missed entire blocks of the music set, remembering how Chris and I met, how he introduced me to the world of folk music and how we enjoyed romantic evenings out at venues similar to Passim. The festive holiday lights which regularly ornament the walls of the room reminded me of Chris. The view out the windows brought me back to a time when I was one-half of an “us.” Ellis’ lyrics messed with my moods, causing me to toggle back and forth between elation and destruction.

I was home by ten and in bed by eleven-thirty.

Today’s rain lent an entirely appropriate backdrop to the anniversary of the worst period of my life. I was happy to see the dismal weather system looming outside the panes of my living room window. Maybe by this time next year I will be ready for the sun.

I am trying. I still have to try. Nothing comes naturally, yet.

Last night, I donned Chris’ brown cordorouy jacket, my fabric hug, and I curled up on my bed and cried, telling him I love him, that I always have and that I wish he hadn’t died. I wore the embrace for a while before I sat up, and then I returned the textile remnant of my husband to its hanger along with his pajama bottoms, boxer shorts, ties, Red Sox t-shirt and stripey “Australian girlfriend” jersey. Those are the clothes I kept for myself as remembrances of the deepest love I have ever felt.

The year 2007 is going to be all about courage. Courage to move forward, courage to find love again, and courage to fully engage in my life, grounded in the truth that this is, indeed, my life and no longer a life I share with Chris.

This past Saturday, I took an introductory boxing lesson at a boxing club and absolutely loved my session. I am now gearing up for membership. Nothing, to date, has alleviated my anger and anxiety more than punching a bag and hitting the mits in the ring while I followed the trainer’s shoulted commands, “One! Two, one! One, two, three!”, concentrating on form, footwork and cardio endurance. I arrived home with the usual endorphin rush, amplified by the most pronounced feeling of relaxation I have ever experienced before and after Chris.

2007 is going to bring change and my life is going to become beautiful, again. I am going to punch my way out of prison this year.