Thursday, April 7, 2016

Eleven Months - Before, During and After

While organizing and cleaning out photos on my computer, I have realized my adult life seems to now be divided into three eras - before, during, and after Rudy's cancer.

When illness is involved, I think there is a third - DURING.

BEFORE.   Lung cancer apparently takes a long time to show symptoms, so when I see photos of Rudy from anytime before 2014, I wonder, Did he have a tumor then?  Was he at stage 1 or 2 or 3?  Could he have been cured if it was discovered then? His face looks a bit tired in that photo.  Why didn't I notice and send him to a doctor?  The answer to that last one is that he was working really long hours and his tired look was easy to attribute to the fact that he had every reason to be tired. I wonder too, how I could have been preoccupied with mundane things and not realize that time was running out for happiness.  How could I have acted like it would last forever?  When I catch myself second guessing about the past, I try to think about something else.  Second guessing is a sure road to insanity.  I might actually be close to that destination right now.  I'm hoping to head in a different direction, but there doesn't seem to be a map. Also of note, all of these questions are stupid.  Of course I had no way of knowing what was in store.  We were both just living normal lives.  A normal life doesn't include foreseeing doom or worrying about what awful thing may happen.  That's no way to live.  But in grief, my questions don't have to be smart, nor do they need to make sense.  

Taken July 29, 2014.  Our world would crash less than two months after this photo was taken.  Ignorance was bliss.

DURING.  The Facebook newsfeed now picks random posts from a year before to show on your newsfeed.  That's fine if the previous year was happy.  It's not fine when it was a nightmare.  Can that feature be turned off?  I don't want to be reminded.  (Actually, It can't exactly be turned off, but you can block date ranges and people! I blocked about 2 years!) One popped up today showing a post I had shared last April about the joys of blowing bubbles.  Luckily, it wasn't a photo showing Rudy sick with a month left to live.  Still, a post about bubbles???  How silly.   I know exactly what was going through my head.  I tried so hard to look for joy while Rudy was sick.  I was so determined to be positive for him, as if that were incredibly important.  I wanted to make his time as pleasant as possible.  I didn't think he needed to see me falling apart.  (I fell apart privately. I wonder if he ever knew how often I did that.)   I wish I'd talked more to him about the deep stuff. I wish I hadn't hidden so many of my feelings. That's a huge regret.  We did have some deep conversations.  Those were the ones I value most.  Why didn't we do it more? Truthfully, he couldn't talk for long, especially in the last months.  It would bring on a bout of nausea.  Also, I never wanted to be the one to bring up the heavy stuff.  I waited for signs he wanted to talk.  He was probably not wanting to burden me.  Huge regret.  Huge.  Thoughts like this are yet another road to insanity.  Apparently, all my roads lead there.

I attempted to find a good photo of Rudy for the DURING time period, but they all made me cry, even the ones where he was smiling.  This photo was taken Nov 23, 2014.  Rudy was at home, sick as could be.  I was on my way home, I think from the pharmacy picking up yet another unit-nausea medication.  I was losing my mind and in the midst of a really good cry.  Suddenly,  I saw a rainbow.  It was fabulous.  I stopped and took some photos of it but the rainbow wouldn't show up at all in any of them.  None. I kept snapping over and over trying to get it to show up.   What did that mean?  I was sure it meant something.  Looking back, maybe it meant I was seeing hope when there was absolutely no hope at all.  The invisible rainbow experience did help me that day.  I become so preoccupied with the oddness of it that it put an end to my meltdown.  I pulled myself back together and was able to go back home and focus on what needed to be done.  It's heartbreaking to think how sick he was that week.  That was definitely one of the worst weeks of his illness.

AFTER.   I have gone through so many phases of grief in the 11 months since he died.  I have tried to be positive and to know that one day I will feel alive again.  I understand that grief is a series of highs and lows.  I've heard that the highs and lows are extreme at first, but slowly the waves become less drastic.  As you can probably tell from this post, I'm feeling a little out of sorts these days.  I don't want anyone to worry.  I know I'll perk up.  There's not a thing anyone can do to help.  I don't need to be taken off and distracted.  This has nothing to do with boredom.  I'm not bored by any means!  I just need to work through these emotions.  I'm a bit reluctant to talk about it, but I'm going to do it for the widows who read my page.  These monthly grief posts seem to help other widows feel less alone. There are other widowed bloggers that have written posts that helped me.  I'm paying it forward.

What does this low feel like?  Here's what I'm feeling.  It's emotion based, rather than sensible. I hope it's not the truth, but it feels true right now.    It feels like real life is over for me.  Rudy was the love of my life and there's not likely to be another.  I will be left living a half life and entertaining myself as best I can for the rest of my days, without any one person to confide in.  I will never again be happy-go-lucky.  I will never again be able to casually say goodbye to anyone without wondering if there will be some catastrophe before we see each other again.  There have been too many deaths and serious illnesses in the last year to people I know - of all ages.  I've been shaken over and over (I have even fallen apart over people I'd never actually met who died unexpectedly - friends of friends.)  My negative thoughts really need to be snuffed out.

The line from Joni Mitchell's song is so true -You don't know what you've got till it's gone.  So much is gone from my life without Rudy.  Lately, I've been thinking about how it felt to be carefree and think my life would most likely be about the same tomorrow as it was today.  I've been thinking about how it felt to make plans and set goals with a reasonable certainty that I could make it happen. That there will be more time with the people I love.  We all know that one day, people we love will pass.  We know in our heads that for some, it could possibly be an early, unexpected death, but we tell ourselves the people we love most won't pass until they have lived a good long life.  But once a person loses someone really dear to an untimely death, I don't think it's possible to live carefree again.  I could be wrong.  Maybe I'll get over that weighty feeling.  I try.  The worry is exhausting.  But, this isn't my first experience with untimely deaths.  In the past, I came back from that fear over time (it takes years).   I doubt I'll get over it this time.  On the other hand, maybe I'll give up the worry completely and learn to throw caution to the wind and accept that I can't control a darned thing in life.  I might as well get on with life with a screw-it attitude and have some fun.  That's my be-fearless pep talk.  It's what Rudy would say, only his language would be a bit more colorful. Sometimes, this pep talk actually works for me.

Here's a weird little thing.  You might think I'm crazy for even thinking about it.  I'm not into palm reading, but many years ago, I learned a tiny bit about it.  Enough to identify a few lines on my hand.  Not much more.  I remember looking at my lifeline and wondering about it.  It's long, but there is a big gap in it.  The line virtually disappears for a little over a quarter of an inch.  I remember thinking that I really didn't want to hear what anyone had to say about that because it sure didn't seem like it would be a happy thing.  Maybe there's something to palm reading because I must be right smack in the midst of that gap.  It makes sense.  I am missing right now.  Not really living.  I go through the motions.  I laugh and have adventures with friends.  Stay busy.   I look normal, act normal, and function really well considering.  But I am not really present.  I seem to be observing myself, rather than being myself.  I'm a Stepford widow.  I'm faking it till I make it. The life line does reappear and actually looks really great on the other side of the gap.  Hopefully, that means I'll find myself eventually.  It's just hard to picture it right now.

So.  This is a real downer post, isn't it?  But I'm a positive person, dammit, so let me end with happier things.

One thing that saves me during the worst of my alone times is Netflix and Amazon Prime.  I should write them a thank you note.  I don't even watch regular TV or cable anymore.  When I am feeling too low, I can turn on whatever series I'm working through and it takes me away... without commercials.   My latest series has been Call the Midwife.  It was really good.  I also watch about everything put out by BBC and/or PBS.  I've gone through a number of series in the last year.  Some of my other favs - The Good Wife, Grace and Frankie (season 2 premieres May 5th!), and surprisingly for me, Orange is the New Black.  That last one is crazy.  Can't believe I watched it. It's so unlike my normal viewing preferences.  It has put me on the straight and narrow and I'm determined to stay out of prison, but should I ever go (for a crime I obviously did not commit) I would stay safe by helping the ladies write parole letters and coaching them on what to say at their hearings.  Apparently, you need a skill or a commodity to survive in prison!   Can you tell I spent some time working this all out (just in case I go completely nuts and take up a life of crime)?

I have all sorts of projects going on around the house.  The biggest projects involve landscaping and painting.  There are plenty of things that need to be attended to.  I know I'll feel much better once these things have been taken care of.  I have to keep this house up until I move to my little dream cottage.

I'm considering some big changes to this area at the side of the house. - much more involved than just trimming bushes (which is what I'm doing in this photo).   And by the way, that 3 ft star on the porch is coming down.  I need a change.


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