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Posts from the ‘Standing On My Own’ Category

Three years Ago

As I sit typing this, I’m remembering.  It doesn’t hurt like it did.  It doesn’t cause the eruption of tears it once did.  Tonight, three years ago, was our last date.  We went and got ice cream and sat out talking and when he got saturated by the surroundings we went home.  We didn’t go out the next day.  I have no memory of what I did that Saturday as  it has been wiped out.  But, I can tell you what happened Sunday: that will never be wiped out. That was the day that he “did the deed”, as I now think of it.  

Pain like this doesn’t just disappear, it doesn’t do anything helpful.  Pain like this is a pernicious tyrant of a thing, hanging around and teasing you.  Just when you think there are no more tears you start to tear up again.  When you think you have the tears under control they continue.  Oh, they aren’t the same ugly tears of the beginning, but they are still ugly.  This is an ugly cry on steroids.  It is beyond description.  

Three years later I can tell you that  grief and pain have altered who I am on some level.  There are times when I have become selfish and ungiving.  “I’m not that”, I scream to myself!  And yet when the pain surfaces in waves, “I am that”.  Grief on steroids alters the soul.  

I’m having to be real about this.  Getting through this means getting really real about what happens inside the mind as well as the soul, and how you handle it.  

Some of the things I thought I was certain about have become large uncertainties.  In the beginning I thought that everyone would pull together and rally with me.  Not so.  What I discovered in the first six months was that people were clueless about what to say.  Let’s be real here about what you do say to the widow whose husband did what he felt was, at that point in time, the only option he had left.  Treatment had not failed him, but the thought of continuing on wasn’t an option for him.  What does one say when the guy was in so much mental pain that the ultimate act was the only option left.  

I’d gone into things knowing the risks.  We’d talked many times during our 22 years together about “what if the mental pain gets so bad that…”  He knew how I felt about him and the suffering he was in.  Three years ago it boiled over.  

I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  Knowing what I do about bipolar illness,  just makes it harder at times.  And now as I write this, I cry.  

It doesn’t go away and it never will.  Pain like this changes in quality and quantity, but it will always be present. 

You might be wondering, well, if it’s changed, then are you over it?  NO!!!  You work through some things and when you work through that stack of stuff other stuff surfaces because that is how life is.  I can say this about my process but not someone else’s: in meeting grief head-on it has reared its ugly face to me.  Grief has caused me to stand stronger than I ever thought possible.  I’ve had to risk, to grow, to survive, and learn how to thrive on my own.  I’m still working on it.  You know that line from “The Abyss” where she drowns herself and he carries her to the pool and they’re trying to revive her and she isn’t coming back?  Yeah, the one where he slaps her silly and tells her to fight because she’s never walked away from a battle. That one.  Well, that’s me.  I’m just doing what I’ve always done.  This time around it really sucks.  

Yeah, three years ago, my life took a strange turn.  Three years ago it altered me in ways I”m still discovering.  Only three years and I remember it like it were yesterday. 

The Rose Room

As some of my readers know I’ve just painted and will be painting the rest of the space soon. There was one Room that has gone untouched. It is a beautiful rose color and in it there are many treasures. It is the Room of All Things Gail.

On the walls there are works of art and each piece has a loving history.

There is a painting that my aunt Ruth did way back when, that I treasure. I love it because she let me have it knowing how much it meant to me. There is the counted cross stitch that my friend Leann labored to create for me. It is beautiful, and I cherish it because she performed a labor of love when she stitched it.

Along with that, my older sister Beth has a place of honor with the picture that has been with me since childhood. It is a Gail version of “The Princess and The Pea.” She put me in a blue dress on top of many mattresses. Each mattress is a different color and design. I love this so much and someday it will go to one of her daughters.

Hanging in the Room, and moved from the bedroom, is another counted cross stitch. My sister-in-law Peg made this for our wedding. It too was done with love. Shared love is the only requirement to be placed in this Room.

I also have two stained glass pieces of art that my mother-in-law, Mary made. I am so thankful to have them.

Hanging in another place of honor is the wedding bouquet that my three sisters-in-law Peg, Bev, and Rebecca, created for me.

There are two parasols that Jon hung up. I’ve mentioned in “Sneakiness” that he backlit them for me. That is a day I will remember forever. Oh, the love that filled the space that day!

The Room holds objects that span the years of my life and are sacred to me. It holds something from a friend who I came to know in the last five years of my life. That friendship has given me many gifts of thought and hope. Thank you, Betty. The Room is my place of healing and restoration. I can sit quietly, get ready for my day, and read in that room.

In some ways the Room has existed for a few years but in other ways the Room is new. The Room, in its present form emerged into its new role in my life over the late summer and early fall. It started with knowing that I wanted to place a new piece of furniture in the Room and as I envisioned where it would go and how it would feel in the Room, The Room grew in purpose and my understanding of the space began to change. What I had used as an office during Jon’s life would be no more. My office was to move to the other side of the house where the sunlight can stream into it and I can see out into a larger world.

This Room, called Gail, is a place of healing and hope. This is where my heart is found, where the healing is strongest and where, when I enter, I find the most peace.

For those of you who read “Raw” or listened to the podcast (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) that I posted late in 2017, my healing journey has been both traumatic, challenging, amazing and in some ways, even peaceful. I suppose that it has been a combination of watchfulness, the love and caring of others, and the understanding that this type of pain and hurt only dissipate when faced head on. It is my tiny sanctuary, however, that allows me to find what I most need in my heart.

It is the realization that I can say a loving goodbye to someone I have loved deeply. He is not in pain now. It is also an acceptance that I can hold on to his memory in new ways.

The creation of this space has done its secret healing and holds a place in my soul that I didn’t understand until I let go to find it.

I don’t think that there is any single or correct way to heal from something like this. I think that the best healing comes from following your heart and soul and listening to your gut. Healing involves talking and finding a supportive listener. For the listener you need to choose wisely. Find someone who you feel a bond with, someone who respects you and who you respect. If there is not such a person in your life then find a good therapist who understands both grief and the loss involved with a completed suicide.

Healing is about recognizing that you will have really good days, really bad days, happy days and days of hopelessness. Healing is about allowing the depression that will come because of the death enter into your life. Sit with the depression for a time, and if it doesn’t fade, seek professional help. Healing is about understanding that the pain will diminish and calm. Healing is about loving yourself. It is about seeing yourself in the mirror as “enough”: no more and no less than, “enough”.

Healing takes strength and courage. It is your own unique journey.

As I spend time in this healing space I’m discovering its complete power. It is the power of the lit candle in the darkness. It is the homing beacon that steadies me. It is that place that tells me that I’m loved both by myself and by many others who I both know personally and who I only know because of the Internet.

To walk through the process of healing is also to be able to look out the window on a grey day and see the sun that the clouds hide. It is a knowing that you and only you can fully understand. It comes from traveling  “Through” it and stumbling along the way. It happens when you stand up once more and say AGAIN! You are never beyond, but you have moved on.

Forward movement takes on many forms. Sometimes it is a return to the old haunts and other times it is the unexpected and unfamiliar that call to the soul. In many ways the Room of All Things Gail was totally unexpected to me. It was a feeling that I had to create a place of sanctuary.

As I write this I am in my new, blue, office space surrounded by books, my sand tray collection, and hope. This space is one I’ve claimed as mine. As I look out of the window I see the stormy skies closing in, I see the other homes in the area. Most of all I see LIFE. It is good. It is peaceful and this is my space now. This is the room where he wrote the notes. This is the room where he spent so many hours…and yet this is not “that room” any longer.. The painter came one November day and covered the rich green walls with my beautiful blue color. The painter took nothing away but what had to go. It doesn’t hurt like it did a year ago. This is a place I come to work and to enable the healing of others. This Room also holds some treasures.

While blue is the color of my soul it has not been the color of my deepest healing. That has been rose. That Room is just a few steps away from where I now sit working on this and I shall go there to feel the warmth of the sanctuary: the Room of All Things Gail.

As I sit here I realize that I could not have created this lovely space without the Room of All Things Gail. It was the power of healing that let me say goodbye to what had been and greet anew what was to be. It was the power in that Room of Rose that set me on a journey to claim the space I’m now working on. It was the realization while sitting in that space that I could and should listen to my heart and follow my desires to create what I wanted for myself. Thank you Rose Room. I think I’ll go there now to pause, give thanks and continue the journey.

Navigation

Navigation

River pilots have been a mainstay of the great rivers of the world and in the U.S. they taught many how to navigate dangerous places and waters. I’ve used this analogy in closed groups and am now choosing to use it here in this space. I hope the message is one of hope. This is an imaginary conversation.

The master river pilot and I sit in the boat eating bread and cheese, drinking the cold water of the river we’ve been on. The pilot is silent and waiting for me, the student, to comment.

“Devastation and damage is there. That is what I see.”

“Is that all?”

I slice off more cheese and bread and drink the water.

“No, I see triumph and wisdom.” We turn back to view what was navigated and we both sit in silence thinking over the trip that has placed the boat in its current location.

WHOA! We both survey the damage, crazy as it is, and we embrace. I’m sobbing in joy and gratitude. I stammer an “I could not have done this alone” and take the pilot’s hand. “You didn’t tell me how beautiful it would be and I didn’t think I could see it this way. This river is magnificent! And so is the damage!” Yes, in my fresh realization I discover that the damage I have navigated has its own beauty.

We can see it all! The mountain and the sacred space. We can see the dark,creepy forests and valleys that held spaces of peace. I wonder if the people that were there are still present or if they have also left for new destinations. I notice a city and inhabitants exploring its environs; they are being told to get on the newer, more elaborate boat that has been brought to this point in time. I knew it was time for a new boat, and a new journey. I understood the pilot would not be as active this trip but that if I asked for help and assistance I would have it. I had grown much and it was time to test my new strength against the currents on my own.

I remember the terror of boarding a tiny, dilapidated boat and feeling as if it would get me nowhere and I prepared to sink as I went out on the water. But, I remember thinking that if I had to be on the water in this craft, I’d better do my best to save or repair it. And that is how the journey began. I remember beaching the craft and walking inland to a forest that looked dark and threatening. I sat on a rock and cried because I knew I had to go into that place and I was alone and fearful of journeying into the darkness. I wasn’t afraid of what I would find, but I was uncertain of navigating in the darkness. As I sat there I heard the tinkle of bracelets and earrings. It was a gypsy lady! She was saucy and vibrant and said that she’d been into that particular forest in the past and would be glad to serve as a guide. Together we reached a meadow of great beauty where the gypsy helped me locate a magnificent chrysalis that was just about to hatch and as we watched it the most beautiful butterfly emerged. It was the soul of the woman who had gone into the forest! “This is yours and it will be with you forever.” The memories come back and the memory of the bond between the two of us floods my mind. The butterfly has remained nearby as the journey has unfolded. It holds magnificent strength! I know now that I have been molded by this soaring creature of such beauty, and I still wonder why I have not captured its deeper essence. In wondering about this the butterfly responds to my heart. “You have! You have been so busy on the journey that you’ve failed to look in the mirror! All you see is the damage! You know the beauty is there, but have you really claimed it for yourself? You are aware of triumph and wisdom, but are you aware of them residing in you? Don’t you remember when I broke free? Don’t you remember how I soared? Do you think that was only the beauty of my wings? You doubted what I gave you, but I’ve been near you all of this time. I am you, in pureness! Take a fresh look at me!”

I return to the boat and realize I’m crying. I gasp for breath and try to calm myself.

The master looks at me, the student of the river, and echoes the butterfly. “Your butterfly joined you so long ago that I think you have forgotten her full power. You have held her close and soared and at other times sunk into deep despair. She never left you and when times required her to, she reached down and pulled you up to travel on the river another day. I sent the gypsy lady to you when you needed a primer that would serve you well and prove to you that you could do this work of Life.” I sit speechless. What words can I use to respond to this? I don’t have words; only a realization that truth has been spoken.

When I asked you what you saw, you spoke the worst, first. You have done this type of thinking for so long that it has become primary to your functioning and yet when you stand tall and survey the surroundings you also speak to the triumph, and finally, the wisdom that you have gained.

The master teacher and navigator focuses me on the rapids that I so recently transited.

“Look! What is there?”

“Only triumph. I don’t see anything else.” But you were there with me guiding me through the rocks and when the boat began to take on water you stood and watched as I bailed myself out.” “I only did that to teach you to trust me as you never have trusted me before. I knew that in your heart you wanted to learn it for yourself.”

“You have learned this part of the river well. Well enough to guide others. Look again and learn from the journey you have been on. You are not that scared, younger woman of so long ago. Look at your hands. Feel your strengths.” Once again the truth is spoken to my heart.

In the past two years the journey has taken me to many places on the river. It has been a transit and journey of a new type. Leaving the old and finding the new only to discover that the old has served in ways I never felt it could.

The boat I am in now is simpler, yet sleek and modern. The guides who have served to enable me to navigate the rough stretches have come and gone. Each has taught me new things. Each guide has been specialized in a very particular portion of the river. But the pilot who began the journey with me has remained.

As I think back over the journey, I’ve come to understand the lessons the river has taught me. Pain and growth, whether in childhood or adulthood, teach strong lessons. I’ve gathered them in and managed to weave something out of it all, yet I’m not quite certain what the is all about. I just know that it is there, and that someday I’ll look over it and maybe have some insight that isn’t present now.

What I have learned from all of this is that there are times when the insights we gather serve us well and other times our view can trap us into paths we’d rather not wander on.

So, as I pause on this river, look and observe, I can’t get too snarky or certain. I am, like each of you, a traveler on this river. I navigate it with respect. I turn to the master pilot and navigator and announce that it is time to run this new river area. I get a smile, a slice of bread and cheese and more fresh water. I wonder who the new guides will be. I wonder if I’ve learned enough to guide myself or others. I realize that it’s not my call. But the master of navigation seems to feel that I’m ready. I turn my back on the damage holding the triumph and wisdom in my heart and raise my voice to the skies in a way I have not done in two years. “Okay, cast off!” I drop the ropes that have anchored the boat to shore and sing as I do so. The boat feels good and sturdy and I know that on this new stretch I’ll learn, grow and move in ways I have not done before. I wave to the navigator who is once again on the shore but never out of contact range.

“Show me what you can do now! I’ve been waiting so long for you to run this portion of the river, and run it you will!”