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I survived

I survived….

… Christmas, that is.

I won’t lie to you, the week before Christmas, I was not feeling great.  The weight of another Christmas without Greg weighed heavily on my mind.
I missed him.
I know I miss him every day, but last week I really missed him.

I missed sitting on the couch and snuggling, watching the lights on the tree flicker.
I missed talking to him about everything.
I missed his strong arms.
I missed his safe embrace.
I missed seeing the kids play with him.
I even missed seeing him stuck under a piece of machinery, tinkering away for hours on end.

I was sad.
Really sad.
Should-have-been-medicated sad.

But then on Sunday, I received an e-mail from my friend that made me feel less alone.

On Monday, we went to stay the night with one of my oldest friends and her family.  She is the friend that introduced Greg and I, 20 years ago.  Greg was best man at their wedding.  We drove to their resort-like house on the hill on the other side of the city and we swam in their pool and drank champagne while all of the children played.  I walked through the bushland at their house and smelt the eucalyptus. We laughed and cried and it felt so wonderful to be there.

On Tuesday, I got a phone call from my friend who lives too far away from me.  I haven’t known him long, but it feels like we’ve known each other far longer.  He is a widower with a school-aged child: we understand each other. Talking to him put me on a high for the rest of the day ….. to the point that when I took the children to church for the Christmas Eve service, I actually sang every carol.  I sang the harmonies and the descants.  I sang for the love of singing, if not from the love of the song itself.  This is HUGE. This is the first time I have sung inside a church for the past 3 years and 9 months and 24 days…..

Christmas Day itself was so much better than I could have imagined last week.  Of course I missed Greg like crazy, but for the first time since he died, I felt some of that old Christmas joy float in on the breeze.  My children showered me with love and my darling parents came bearing food and gifts.
It was hot here (Australian Christmases usually are), but we feasted on cold meats and salads, enjoyed Mum’s plum pudding and ended the day with a swim ….
…..and if you know me, you know that swimming is my path to instant happiness.  I don’t want to sound trite, but some of the most peaceful and surreal experiences I have ever had have been when I was floating on my back, staring up at the sky, remembering how much he loved me.

….and so I find myself on Boxing Day feeling the best I have since Greg died.
Last week, I couldn’t envision any way that I would feel this calm, peaceful and even happy.

Again, love has saved the day.

Love never dies.

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Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas

I am finding it hard to find any Christmas spirit this year.

I have no idea if I have bought the children presents that they will enjoy… just a couple of small gifts to keep up the pretense of Santa.

I have not sent a Christmas card in years … they remind me too much of all those funeral “thank you” cards that sat on my dining room table and mocked me for months after Greg’s death before I threw the lot of them in the bin and decided I just wasn’t going to do it and if anyone was offended, tough luck.

I am no longer a Christian, so there is no religious element to lift my spirits.
I don’t sing carols anymore: I used to enjoy singing so much.  They are now meaningless to me.
I sit through Christmas services at the church where I was married and where we had Greg’s funeral service. I go for my children. That they still have any faith is incredible to me when mine has gone.
I love the minister as he is a truly lovely man, but the words he speaks don’t reach my ears.  My heart is closed to the words that used to fill me with joy.
I smile at the people who look at me, wondering why my mouth does not open to sing and why I remain seated instead of taking communion.
None of it feels real to me anymore.
None of it has any meaning.
None of it gives me hope or joy or peace.

(Side note –  if  religion gives you peace, that’s great!  It just doesn’t do it for me).

But I have found something else that smoothes a balm onto my jangled nerves.
Another source of comfort when it is all I can do not to try to scratch my skin off so that I feel something.
A way of making things bearable when they are definitely not OK.

….and it comes in the form of other widows and widowers who don’t try to make everything joyful or happy or peaceful.
Who know what it is like to choose life and light every morning when there are days that you can only see the darkness.
Who laugh at how absurd it is that we have both found ourselves here (How the hell did we get here? Really? here?  He’s dead?  dead!   How did that even happen? How is this even possible?).

Each and every widow who looks around and wonders how the hell they arrived here and reaches out to another person wondering the same thing  makes this season bearable.
They don’t knit Christmas decorations and coat the house in tinsel and fake goodwill and love to all humans…
… they actually mean that love.

I hate that you guys have to be here with me, but I thank you for being here.
You are definitely making a difference.
Thank you.

The lost art of flirting

The lost art of flirting

… well lost to me anyway.

The last time I did “flirting” (without knowing that the flirtee was already very interested – ie Greg), I was in possession of a rather hot 22 year old body, flawless skin and a geeky naivete that was somehow attractive (who knew?).
In other words, the most flirting I did was glancing in the direction of someone I fancied …. and smiling. After that it wasn’t me who was trying to do the impressing.

Now?  Well I *think* I am doing it, but I honestly have no idea whether I am or not.

I am finding flirting very tricky.

What do modern flirters do?

Apparently taking the piss out of someone (gently) over dodgy taste in tv shows is NOT considered flirting anymore.
That’s my whole schtick now.
I do the witty come backs.
I do the friendly sarcasm. (Watching every season of Gilmore Girls can do that to anyone).
Because funny is sexy …. right?

Bueller?

I don’t do mani-pedis and I don’t do games.
I don’t go for a hot body anymore; I go for a cool brain.
I go for intelligent conversation and a good sense of humour.
I go for kindness and compassion.
I go for someone who can make me smile and who is good at cuddling on the lounge and watching dodgy tv shows.
(I think I just described Dara Ó Briain -funny and cuddly.  Also, he’s already married so that is another thing I don’t do: married men).

This flirting thing is tricky.

Looking at the good news though … did anyone notice I just wrote an Entire Post on flirting?  
A year ago, the thought of flirting was equivalent to stabbing myself in the eye, repeatedly.  With a knitting needle.  
Must mean I am starting to get my act together!

Inane Distractions

Inane distractions

Recently,  the cable through which my house receives both TV and internet had a major fault.  It lasted 4 days.
…and I nearly lost my marbles.

Part of the reason was that I needed to log onto the work system to download the latest files for school, but part of the reason was that I have come to rely on the television to provide an inane, background distraction whenever my brain wandered in to places I’d rather it not revisit.

I told two friends about how much I had come to rely on the television to provide me with entertainment and distraction from being lonely and grieving. ….

Both friends are highly articulate women who are well read, interesting, and intelligent.

One of them knew exactly what I was talking about.  She agreed that TV could indeed provide a valuable distraction that was great for whenever you were both tired and emotional to take your mind elsewhere for a while and allow it to rest.

The other one suggested that I go read a book instead because TV is “just a crutch”….

Guess which one of my two friends is another widow…….

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Sometimes all that I need to go from feeling low to feeling OK is half an hour of watching Stephen Fry on QI or Doctor Who.  I need to distract the part of my brain that  deals with language and memory … and with less effort than that required to read and comprehend  a chapter of a book.  (Having said that, I still read each day, but its not something that calms me down.  Rather, it is something I do when I am already calm.)

I can and do use other distractions frequently, but for me, the winner on an evening when I am feeling lonely and sad and angry that Greg had the hide to bloody well DIE on me is TV.

Am I alone in this?

Who knows?

Who knows?

When I met Greg, it was at a housewarming party for mutual friends.
He danced with me, brought me drinks, held my hand and at the end of the night, he walked me to my car and kissed me softly.

Years later, we could remember exactly where we were standing when we first clapped eyes on each other.

It was love at first sight.

It was perfect after feeling rather “meh” about previous boyfriends.  I knew I hadn’t loved any of them even when I was with them, but as soon as I met Greg, something in me shifted.

That love was so deep that it changed my soul.

…and something I always appreciated was that I was never in any doubt as to his intentions: he liked me. A lot.
From the first meeting.
…. and he let me know in no uncertain terms.
That made it really easy for me to tell him I loved him within 6 weeks of meeting him.
…and we fell deeper in love each day after

….and then 17 years later, he died.

But our love didn’t.

I’ve spent every day since his death desperately in love with a dead man…..which, as we all know,  is both beautiful and frustrating at the same time.

It has taken more then 3 years but I finally felt ready to dip a toe into the proverbial waters again.
For real this time.
I am ready to find someone new even if I will never let go the love I have for Greg.

….and recently I met someone who has made me sit up and think “hey – this one is nice”.

But its not been the same immediate, tumbling-fall into love.

In fact, its nothing more than a new friend:  a pen friend.

But talking to a male who is single (widowed) and clever and  who gets me is ….. alright.
Its good actually.
It is slow and steady with lots of words over a long distance.
I look forward to his nightly emails and I enjoy talking about my day … my ideas … with someone who is actually interested in what I have to say.

Maybe it will fizzle out, but maybe it will continue.  Who knows?

But whatever happens, knowing that I have made a new friend is a good feeling…. and that’s enough for now.

….. the woman inside me has sat up and started paying attention again.

Victim Mentality

Victim Mentality

Last week I had no internet access for over 4 days (hence the lack of WV post).
I also had no TV access as it runs from the same cable.
I was going stir crazy as I was needing to get online to finalise things for my return to work after the holidays.
WHY was this happening to me.
….and then I gave myself a good shake, a kick up the bum and asked myself if anyone I loved would die as a result of a faulty internet cable.

I was sinking into “victim mentality”*.

This week, I was speaking to someone who had every excuse in the book for their own poor behaviour.  Every excuse! Nothing was their own fault but life’s circumstances meant they thought it was OK to treat others in an appalling way.
They were appealing to me for sympathy for their situation … but frankly, I couldn’t muster much.  To be honest, I was thinking to myself that they needed to get a bit of perspective: nobody was dead.

So many people seem to carry around a form a of victim mentality with them.
So many people do not realise that EVERYONE is carrying a burden.
They don’t realise that nobody’s life is perfect.
They don’t realise that every day we have the choice to put our problems in perspective ….

….and as a teacher, I can see that this “poor me” mentality is being passed on to children by parents who have no coping mechanisms.  So many of children I meet have poor resilience to even the slightest stress that I really do worry about how they will cope with something that is really horrible.

… like death.

Even tonight I find myself feeling a bit sorry for myself as I have had a rough day.
A new relationship that I had thought was developing slowly-but-surely is no longer developing.
I feel like I am ugly and old and boring and why would anyone want to date me anyway?
I am tired: this week I have too many places to be in at the same time.
Everyone I speak to seems to need another piece of me.
Every question is an intrusion into my already tired mind.
I am jumpy and annoyed at the world.
I am feeling sad and sorry for myself.
but.
BUT.

Nobody is dead.

Nothing I am going through now even comes close to touching that true tragedy.
…and I have to remember that I can have the odd pity party,
….actually, I *deserve* the occasional slump into feeling hard-done-by,
….but sinking into victimhood is not helpful to me or anyone else.

So tonight I will moan and groan at how bloody AWFUL this week has been and how hard the rest of it will be, but by tomorrow I will wake up and remember that I have already endured something that would break so many other people and that my current woes are small.

I will remember that I am strong.
I will remember that I am not a victim.
I will choose hope.

(* Victim mentality is an acquired (learned) personality trait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to think, speak and act as if that were the case – even in the absence of clear evidence. )

Looking after me

Looking after me.

There’s someone I’ve been neglecting for the past 3.5 years.
She is strong, but has infrequent, spectacular meltdowns due to the ….(there is no word to describe this but widows know the feeling) …. of it all.
She loves hard, but falls hard.
She picks herself back up again, dusts herself off and keeps going.
She takes every sling and arrow personally …. yet never backs away from fighting for something she believes in.
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.
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School has been out for a week and there are still a few days of holidays to go before we head into the insane final term of the year.  Its a reporting term.  With a fete thrown in for good measure.  I know I will need something extra to get myself through to December….

So this week, I have been looking after me.

I’ve been eating right and walking lots.
I’ve been indulging my passion for photography.
I’ve been dog sitting and remember what fun it is to have a dog.
I bought myself the first non-work clothes I’ve had in the past 3.5 years.
I’ve listened to music I like .. Ed Sheeran, Passenger, Kate Miller- Heidke…..
I’ve read books and watched movies.
I decided that I can no longer cope with all of the housework and have just hired a cleaning lady to help me once a fortnight (oh the luxury!).

I’ve even found time to go out for a meal with a friend without the children.

Maybe its Spring talking, but life feels full of possibilities.

and that feeling is amazing.

I know that I am riding the crest of a wave, but maybe I can surf this one for a little while longer and the next trough won’t be so deep.

Legacy

A legacy of kindness….

I recently read a book (and then watched the movie) called “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell.
I count it as one of my top ten reads of all time.
It’s not an easy read, either in content (lots of death and savagery), nor in lightness (its complex, you can’t afford not to be 100% focused on the story or you will miss something important).
But this book spoke to me like no other book has done since Greg died.
The themes of death and rebirth, life after life, connectedness between all souls both rich and poor,  is something that that resonates with me on a deeper level.
A character in the book, Sonmi-451 makes the connection between how our acts today form our future and the futures of those whose lives we are part of.
…and I like to think that Greg’s calm nature, his kindness and compassion, even when met with people who were  … ummm …. exceedingly annoying (my view) …. has in many ways, birthed the future.
Not his, but mine.  The children’s.  …and hopefully, his grandchildren’s.
…and I know that his need to treat all he met with love and respect is something he learned from the lap of his own father, a man who was brought up witnessing the extreme cruelty of his own father and who made a choice to be different.
To birth a kind and compassionate future for his children and his children’s children.
…and I realise what it is about this idea that I like so much…..
 the realisation that THIS is Greg’s legacy….
A legacy of kindness.
…and I think that’s a pretty good legacy to have left.

All the dumb things….

All the dumb things*

… people say.

Last week, a teacher I like and respect was chatting to me in the staff room before school.  She said “I’ve been widowing all weekend because my husband was away.  Amanda, I don’t know how you do it”.

..and I know, I KNOW that these kinds of comments often make the collective blood of widows begin to simmer.

But I didn’t bite her head off or correct her because I know what she was trying to say.

She was trying to say that she admires me because I parent by myself all the time.
She was telling me with her clumsy words that she thinks I have strength and calmness that she knows is hard to keep up.
She was telling me that being a single (sole) parent who is working full time is a hard job.

…and it is.

.
.
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People say dumb things all the time.  But they think they are being compassionate and kind.  ..and they often are.

At the moment, I am a useless bystander, watching, waiting and hoping that a little girl I know survives long enough to get a new heart.
Last week she went to the doctor with a cold.  By that same afternoon, she was in hospital on life support with cardiomyopathy as her diagnosis.

Lara is 6 years old, on life support and needing a new heart.

This has stunned my collective friends to the core.
We are gobsmacked as to how this cheeky little girl has gone from having a persistent cough to having a ventilator in a couple of days.

…and like many of us have done in our time of grief (myself included), Lara’s mother Ali has turned to facebook as a way of keeping everyone updated on her condition and venting when she needs to.
On the facebook page, she has posted pictures of Lara doing craft whilst hooked up to pipes and tubes and she has posted her fear over the upcoming transfer to Melbourne where heart transplant surgery will occur if a heart is “found“.
I hang off every word, hoping that a heart is found (yet knowing another family has to suffer a tragedy for this to happen).
There’s even a fundraising page which raised over $10000 in less than a week: people care.

….But this is also where all the dumb things are being said … in the comments.

All the classics are there:
What a Little Angel / God is calling his little angel
What a fighter
Stay Strong

Don’t cry
Don’t worry
She needs you to stay calm
Let me know if I can do anything to help…

When what they mean is that the love Lara and her family.
That they are worried.
That they hope Lara doesn’t die.
That they don’t want to show how scared they are for fear of upsetting Ali even more.
That they are uncomfortable and don’t know what to do when Ali airs her feelings.
That they know they should do something but don’t know what exactly to do (so they put the onus back onto the one person who is stressed out of her gourd:, Ali).

What they are really doing is trying to let Ali know she is not alone.
That they care about Lara.
That they wish things were different.

They just tend to eat a fair bit of shoe while they are doing it.

People mean well and their love and concern is real.

This is something I know I need to remember next time someone drops an almighty clanger on me.

* All the dumb things is a line from a Paul Kelly song that I love and it seemed to fit this post….

Changes…..

Right … so no talking about controversial topics.

Like politics.

Or religion

Or feelings…

 

Don’t share opinions.

No … widows must not express an opinion on anything even slightly controversial…

Not even well-considered, toned down ones.

Don’t share anything that might upset someone. That might make someone else think differently about something.

Or research something they don’t know about.

Don’t share opinions and have a debate without devolving into “offense” until someone accuses someone else of being a Nazi for doing nothing more than having a difference of opinion.

No.

Best not say what I’m really thinking.

Best not think or my thoughts might upset someone.

So what’s left to talk about…..

The weather?

No!

I don’t want to say the same things over and over.

There’s something crippling about not being able to express myself.

I don’t want to have to talk about the same thing for 10 more years.

I can’t grow.

I wanna be able to talk about how much I hate something right now if that’s what I feel.

And that’s OK. ’cause what a boring world we would have if we all agreed on everything.

 

So I might not be able to talk to you in person, but you still make a better listener than some narrow-minded people.

 

I miss you.

I love you.

XA