Most days this month, I have done what needs to be done. I've managed to deal with Thanksgiving without resentment. Now, I seem to have hit a bit of a slump in my determination to stay positive. I haven't completely lost it, I really am determined, but I'm struggling. I've been easy on myself for not always being a shining example of how to get on with life. I know occasional slumps are to be expected. Holidays probably make slumps worse. I'm at peace with my slump. That's sounds a bit funny.
I worked today on a little project with photos of Rudy. I thought I was up for it and actually am quite pleased with what I accomplished. When it was done, I went for a walk with the dogs, still thinking I was just fine. My mind wandered. I wasn't braced or careful with my thoughts. Pandora's grief box opened just enough to knock me for a loop.
Grief isn't just emotional. It's physical. These last 7 months, make that 13 months, have shown me the physical side. It's probably different for others, but when a wave of grief hits me, first I can't breathe. It feels like someone large is sitting on my chest. My lungs seem to stop working and my airway narrows all the way up through my neck. I feel it slowly narrowing. Next, I feel a pain in my chest. I feel sure it's a piece of my heart chipping off. Then come the tears. Sometimes one. Sometimes many. The number of tears don't always equal the amount of sadness. There have been some mighty bad moments with no tears at all. When it's over, it takes about ten minutes or so to breathe normally and for my heart to feel right again. It's not imagined. These are actual physical symptoms. If I were hooked up to monitors, they'd set off warning alarms, for sure. I wonder if a grief wave is similar to incidents where people have panic attacks that mimic heart attacks.
Speaking of physical, there's one other thing that has been bothering me and I don't see anyone mentioning it in grief discussions. I miss hugs. Rudy was a champion hugger. You can only hug a friend or relative for so long before it becomes awkward. If you have kids or grandkids, you can hug them longer - long enough to keep you from going nutty. If you don't have a long-hug candidate nearby, then it's a slow form of torture. I remember a study about baby monkeys kept from motherly contact. They all started rocking themselves as they slowly went crazy. Am I on the fast track to crazy? I'm rocking more these days. Next thing you know, I may start grabbing strangers. You'll hear them frantically screaming calling out, "She's hugging me and won't let go!" If you have someone nearby who gives good hugs, don't take them or their hugs for granted. By the way, my longing for a good hug does not translate to me being desperate to start dating. I'm still damaged goods and don't plan to latch onto somebody who might "save me". Anyway, I think it must take a special kind of person to be willing to take on a widow.
There are several things that seem to be making a positive difference in my life -
Most importantly, I am surrounded by people who love me. I have a wonderful family - both my side and Rudy's side. I hate describing Rudy's side of the family that way, because they are MY family, too. I have many, many friends who watch out for me. I even have a few people new to my life who have taken me on and become important. Our connection to people is what life is all about, right? In the end, it's what really matters.
My 6 dogs and 2 cats have been both a curse and a blessing. Mostly a blessing. They run me ragged. They cost a fortune. They keep me from running off to exotic locations. Several of them have issues. But they love me and I love them. They are my family. They make me laugh. They love to snuggle. They keep me from going off the deep end.
Getting outside is my equivalent of getting on a life raft. I go on daily walks and I've been hiking, as well. My dad and/or my dogs are my daily walking partners. We walk around our property - it's about a mile all the way around. It's always beautiful. We have a pond, woods, pastures, and plenty of wildlife to watch. It never gets old. As much as I dream of simplifying and downsizing, I love this place. My friend, Susan, is my hiking partner. We've been mostly going to state parks. We prefer ones with water features - creeks, rivers, falls. They'll all been just challenging enough to keep us focused. Best of all, they've all been beautiful and sooooo worth the challenges.
An old book has become my new friend. The book is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. At one time, Oprah was promoting it as the best thing since sliced bread. I bought it when it first came out (1995-ish) with the best of intentions, but it sat unread for years til I finally donated it to Goodwill. A few months after Rudy died, I bought a used copy from Goodwill. Maybe the one I donated came full circle! This time I started reading it daily (it's a daily journal). Soon, I started underlining and writing notes in the margins. Some days the message is nice, but nothing major. Many days, the message seems to be written just for me. This book has helped me along. It's not a book for widows. It's a book I'd recommend to any woman.
Decorating for the holidays has been a joke. I pulled things out and put them back away, over and over. I finally gave up. I stubbornly thought for a bit that I could be OK with putting a few Christmas-y things on my dining table. I'm packing those back up tomorrow. I've decided to be tongue in cheek about it and put out a bowl of lemons. When I go to the grocery store, if my attitude has improved, I might also get some oranges and cinnamon sticks to add to the bowl. We'll see. I doubt it. I'm feeling a bit mad at life right now, so lemons seem fitting. Sour grapes seem fitting as well, but they aren't very attractive and would probably smell bad, too.
I'll end on a nicer note with a photo of Rudy. This is one of my favorite photos of him. I haven't actually ranked his photos, but I'd be willing to bet if I did, this would be in the top five. Possibly THE favorite. The photo is old and faded. It was taken in 1978. He's a mess. He's just come from a fishing trip and he's holding his catch. I've never been a fan of fishing and I've definitely never been a fan of proudly holding up an animal you've just killed. (Full disclaimer: I eat meat and am completely aware that I am a big hypocrite.) Despite all this, I love this photo. This is the guy I fell in love with. He's so happy! Even filthy and holding a dead fish, he could charm me. This is the guy who is causing me to lose my mind right now.