Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Live, Laugh, Love

"We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails." ~Bertha Calloway

I've decided to start a blog.

I've had the urge to share my story for some time now, but was not sure what format or media I wanted to use to get it out. A blog seemed like a good idea -- it will let me ramble in an informal manner. I also don't have to follow any rules about organization or order. I am not sure what exactly I hope to achieve by this endeavor, other than getting the many thoughts, that often race through my brain, out. Perhaps this is my own cheap therapy, of which I will inflict upon whoever happens to see this. Perhaps I will serve as a voice out there someone else can relate to. Perhaps no one but me will ever bother to read what I write. I am not sure it really matters.

But I should introduce myself first.

I am 31 years old and I am a widow. My husband of just over 2 years died January 27, 2010. I don't know what time, I was at work. I did not find out until several hours later and by then he had been moved to the morgue where his body was allowed to turn cold and stiff. I never said a proper good-bye.

That was how it ended.

It began much differently, over 10 years now, and several states from where I currently live. Back when I had just moved out of my parent's house & had just started college. I was a 19 year old kid, who at the time was certain I had life figured out, but more than anything was pretty naive, young and confused. But it didn't matter. I was at that perfect age where you had limitless freedom, endless idealism, and a core belief that you could do whatever you set your mind to do. The only problem was that when one tends to have those beliefs, one rarely has a paycheck to fund any great endeavors. So I worked a menial job as a cashier in a grocery store. It barely paid rent & I spent a good year living on ramen noodles, but at the time it didn't seem to matter. It was during that period that I first met Mike.

He worked at that same store, just for the briefest of moments. We sort of talked to each other on breaks, but it was nothing memorable (as in, I don't remember anything we talked about). He was older than me, and done with college, but not yet employed doing anything in his field (industrial design). I don't even remember being that impressed with him, other than feeling a strange connection and desire to be friends with this super friendly guy who always smiled at me. We spend the next two years running into each other off and on around the side of town we both lived on & hung out in. It was that part of town populated by coffee shops and bars, and the residents were either college kids, burnouts, or ex-hippies that had never really outgrown the 60's. And yet, this is the place where I spend some of the best years of my life, and the place that ultimately drew us together. I don't even know what changed, but after this long period of superficial meetings and spending time in mutual hang-outs we all of a sudden decided to take a leap of faith. I gave him my number at the end of a night of driving aimlessly around town, not really sure if he would ever call. Well he did. And one thing led to another -- although not really very quickly. Just as our friendship was slow to evolve into a relationship, our relationship was slow to evolve into a life. A life I thought I had planned out with just the right amount of care and abandon that would lead to a life I wanted to live.

College eventually became graduate school. And Mike & I eventually moved in together. After finishing with my double-masters degrees we moved to NYC to pursue the dreams we both had that would be forever suffocated in the little upper-midwest city we lived in. We were married in September of 2007.

Looking back, that was probably the high-point. I lost my well-paying job in late 2008 & was forced into some low-paying work in Long Island that had me making an 2 hour commute each way. But in early 2009 I had an opportunity for a decent job working for the federal government in DC, so we made the decision to cash in the rest of our savings and take another leap of faith in a new city. Things seemed to be looking up, but after so much time of unemployment, underemployment, and set back after set back, we found ourselves scraping bottom, just hanging on for survival. And yet, we were hopeful. We were hopeful that after a really bad bout of bad luck, that opportunities were on the horizon that would finally allow us to dig out of the pit we were in, and get back to the life we wanted to live.

And then in a moment........ it was all taken from me.

I later learned that he died from what was discovered to be an enlarged heart, probably genetic, and probably little we could have done to prevent it. Yet, racked with guilt over the years we lived without access to medical care and the constant stress our financial problems put us in, it took me a long time to forgive myself for his death. There are times when I am not sure I have fully forgiven myself.

I sort of exist in a weird place now where my past, present and future often co-mingle. Although I feel I have gotten through the darkest days of my grief, it is still there.... like a quiet shadow in the night, that will still jump out and surprise you when you least expect it.

I have done a lot to get through this period of my life, and have moved forward in ways I never would have foreseen. My old life abruptly pulled out from under me, I was forced to find a new life and a new future, or be pulled down in the undercurrent. In many ways I live now a life that is richer, fuller and more full of love than anything my old life was capable of. Death has a way of turning your world inside out and upside down in ways you cannot even imagine until you experience close loss in your own life. I live now in a way that I am fully aware that this is all just borrowed time, borrowed life, and borrowed love. It will eventually all come to an end once again. It is because I now live in this world, with full awareness of the fragility and preciousness of it, that I am able to fully embrace life and new love in ways I was never capable of before. I hope that these are ideas I can share more of in future posts.

I have several items in my house with have an oft used quote: "Dance as though no one is watching, love as though you have never loved before, sing as though no one can hear you, live as though heaven is on earth." The overuse of this quote can take away the impact of it, but for me it reminds me that the most important thing we can do to honor those who we have loved and lost, is to go on and love some more. Maybe that is all I am trying to do. Love my new love and through this new life I now embrace, honor the past that I shared with Mike.

So now hoping that anyone who reads this can figure out how to "live, laugh and love," I will end by saying welcome to my new blog and through it, my new world.

On our honeymoon in London, Oct. 2007

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