Home, Heart and Facing Fears


Written Jan 2:
Last I wrote, I was really struggling with this move, and trying to learn some patience with it. I was on my way to my first backpacking trip with Mike. I’d have to say, I found so much peace in the woods. We’ve been hiking nearly every day we get a chance in the past month now… and it really is helping to settle me.

To fill you in, I was down in Texas visiting Drew’s family last week for Christmas. It is the first time I have ever “visited” Texas… the place that has always been my home. I had fears before leaving that it would dredge up so much emotion. That visiting the cemetery where Drew is buried would be so painful. That I would find myself missing Texas so much that leaving to come back to Ohio would be really painful. I feared all kinds of pain leading up to that trip. But, I am back now… and it wasn’t as bad as I’m anticipated. There were hard moments, but what I realized from those moments is that I have missed the experiences of my life with Drew in Texas, far more than the place itself.

I realized, I wasn’t sad just for western boots and plaid shirts. I wasn’t just sad for country bars and dance halls and the wide open Texas skies. I was sad for times I shared all those things with Drew. Going back there meant going back to all those things without him. Suddenly, they didn’t have the same meaning anymore. They felt empty. I also realized something else. Something that surprised me… I missed Ohio. In only a few months of moving, somewhere else is starting to feel like home. I can tell you, I never in a million years thought I’d be saying “I miss Ohio” haha. But it’s true.

I’ve had a new sense of appreciation for my new home state since coming back to Ohio last week. A feeling that I am more ready to embrace this life. A knowing inside that Drew is not down there in Texas… he is right here with me on every new adventure that Mike, Shelby and I go on. In this new life, with new memories, is where he will always live.

I want to end this post with a little side note. Like everyone, I’ve been reflecting on the past year. A year ago this week, I shared with you all about the debacle of my New Year’s Eve in this post. On that day, a man I’d been on a date or two with basically took advantage by messing around with me and then bailed on me. It was horrific, and one of the worst triggers I have had since Drew died… particularly because it was the first romantic encounter I’d had since his death. I still cannot even describe how traumatic that was.

This New Year’s Eve, I was sitting in the kitchen of my own house (my own HOUSE!), drinking beers and dancing around in the kitchen with Mike like a fool… to such old hits as the Fresh Prince theme song. There was laughter. So much laughter. And so much joy. And goofiness. And there were no triggers, and no sadness. Just life, and love, and joy. And everything felt good.

A year ago, if you had told me I would meet some guy in Ohio and end up moving my entire life 1400 miles away within a year in order to date him, I would have laughed in your face. Like really hard. Because I was never leaving Texas. And I do not make sudden moves in my life, ever. And I didn’t feel ready to be in a relationship at all. AT ALL. I believed 100% that my 2015 would be spent focusing on trying to get my career as an artist and writer going a step further in the right direction, and that’s it.

Then Mike shows up at Camp Widow, and turned all of my plans upside down… as men do. As life likes to do. (Does anyone else ever feel like life is just laughing at you when you start trying to make plans?) Before you know it, we’re flying to visit each other, meeting each other’s families and in-laws. And then bam, we’ve been dating for 8 months and I am flying up to look at a rent house in Ohio. Um, what? How did all this even happen?

Every step of this “after” life has been new, painful and terrifying – including this entire past year of beginning a new relationship for the first time since Drew died. I have walked through the fear that I could never love again, only to find that yes, I can… and that I am an even better partner now because of all I’ve been through. I have walked through the fear that I could never be a good role model or mother figure for a little girl because I lost my own mother so young… only to find that I am exactly the sort of woman this little girl needs in her life going forward, precisely because I lost my mother – as she has – young. I have walked thru the fear that I am fragile and cannot handle much since he died, only to find that I am handling more each day. Not always with the grace I would like to, but still, I am handling it.

Every step along the way has been scary and hard. But it’s taught me that it’s worth wading through the fears to see what else is out there for my life. To see what’s on the other side. It’s worth enduring some sadness and some scary new things now and again – even if I don’t know where they will take me. By enduring all the parts of life that are challenging, and stepping through them, I have almost always found joy, love, and fuller life on the other side. As always, I have Drew to thank for so much of this.

Turning A New Page

I’ve gotten behind on posting some of my blogs here recently, so this one is a catch-up. Written Sept 13….

I am sitting in my hotel room in Toronto writing… trying to find the best and most concise way to describe all that has happened in the past seven days of my life. I say “most concise” because I’ve got a bag to pack, and many wonderful widow friends to still say farewells to before leaving Camp Widow Toronto. In a nutshell, the past week has been an enormous roller coaster. My first day visiting Mike in Ohio, I met his parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. Oh, I also viewed the house I am looking to rent… because yes, its a great idea to go looking at a house the very first day you have ever been to a state halfway across the country from where you lived with your fiance. Yeah.

On day two, I met Mike’s mother-in-law and father-in-law, Megan’s parents, and her brother. On the same day, I looked at a new car, which I would be driving around in this new state halfway across the country when I move. This is because my in-laws want to keep Drew’s truck, which they told me just days before leaving to Ohio. Since we weren’t married, that one isn’t my say. I’m grateful for their help financially to get a new vehicle, but the idea of leaving his truck has added a whole other layer of grief to the idea of this move.

During these first two days, Mike and his daughter Shelby also drove me around and showed me their city and the various interesting things about the area. Even this was overwhelming, because I wasn’t looking at it as a place to visit… but as a place I will soon live. A place I will soon live that is NOT any place I have ever been with Drew. It felt foreign, very foreign from Texas. I felt so tense, like a part of me was resenting every last thing in Ohio because Ohio is taking me away from my beautiful home state. Ultimately, taking me away from the world I knew with Drew, and with my parents. It is another layer of loss. Despite how wonderful it’s been to meet all of Mike and Megan’s family and to see this beautiful part of the country and to fall in love with this house I want to rent, my heart has been honestly pretty pissed off since arriving here… because I do NOT want to endure any more fucking loss. Like seriously, no more.

And then on Friday, Mike and I packed up the car and took a road trip up to Toronto, for Camp Widow. I really have to say that, yet again, I am leaving Camp completely transformed. I brought so much resentment and fear with me to camp. So much resistance to change. And I am leaving with none of it.

I am leaving instead with laughter and smiles. With a renewed lightness and trust about things working out. With an even deeper assurance that Mike is the person I want to uproot my life for. I’ve shared moments of tears and opening my heart to others who understand. Moments of being able to talk about how scary it is to be changing so much of my life all over again. I’ve shared about how much I really really REALLY hate that opening this new chapter in my life also means turning the page on some of the old chapters. But most of all, I am leaving Camp with HOPE.

There’s a feeling of excitement now about this big unknown future I am about to jump into (even the snow, which for a Texas girl, is a hard thing to say). Over the past few days, I’ve started to realize that just maybe there will be even more goodness to this change than I could possibly imagine. Just maybe there are so many more reasons for living in this new place than just being near Mike and Shelby. There will be a chance to deepen relationships with many other people who I have previously lived very far away from… widowed friends, artist friends, and even some family.

It is nearly official now… I will be signing a lease agreement in just a few days. I will be moving at the end of October. I’ve decided. And I am committing to this leap, no matter what. It’s still scary as shit, but now it is also exciting. Having my community of widowed people this weekend was EXACTLY what I needed during this time. And I cannot thank them all enough. You all remind me that I am safe, and loved, and strong, and I can do this. You remind me that we are all capable of doing big things. Michele’s keynote address reminded me that, even though I am starting a new volume of my life, I can always go back to the previous books. They are always there in me, just waiting for me to pick them up, sit down with them, and flip thru the pages. The volume of my life that is Drew will always be there… and his volume will go with me everywhere I go. Just as all the others will.

At the end of this whole crazy week, I am seeing that what’s waiting in the next chapter could still be some of the happiest years of my life… not the same happiest years I had with Drew, but different happiest years… with new love, new friendships, new laughter, new memories, and new life. Drew is going to be a part of this chapter too, just as he is going to be a part of every chapter ahead. And his volume in my life will come right along with me and my moving truck. And it will be okay. And life will still be beautiful.

To Be Changed


Last night just before going to bed, for some reason I felt called to go back through some really old journal entries from the years leading up to when I met Drew. I don’t always pay attention to those little cues, but last night for whatever reason I did. 

I smiled to read some of the entries about our first days together… about how safe and natural and trusting it all felt. How much fun we had together. The adventures we went on, like sky diving and hot air ballooning. But where I ended up reading more – and where my truth really was – was a bit different. 

I was only in my mid-twenties and had been through a lot already… my father suffered from alcoholism – which got pretty bad from the time I was 17 to the time I finally took off to finish college when I was 21. I left home with my boyfriend, who began to be physically abusive once we lived together. I stayed for the three years it took me to finish college – basically until I didn’t need his financial support anymore. That ending was incredibly traumatic, and brought up the loss of my mother as well, which I had never really coped with. I then had an affair of sorts with a man who was nearly married (not one of my more proud moments). Around the end of that debacle, I started having some pretty bad anxiety issues and hit an all-time low. That is when I finally started working on myself. 

I went to therapy, devoured self help books and articles about dysfunctional families and abuse. It was one of the worst periods of my life – equally painful, but in very different ways, to losing the love of my life. I felt worthless, invisible, and very alone. In those years, I worked through an immense amount of pain and began healing a lot of my past.

By the time I was 26, I had been single for about a year and wanted nothing to do with men. Romantic relationships in my world were still nothing but overstepped boundaries, yelling, hitting, disrespect, and feeling trapped. And that is where Drew came in… with his kindness and patience, and his ability to never ever push me and to always allow me to step closer toward him on my own. He was careful with my heart in a way no man ever has been. Slowly my trust for him grew… and after about a year, I finally took the chance to date him. 

And this is where the journal entries came in… at this time when I had just taken the leap into facing my fears about intimate relationships. I immediately tried to run away after our first date. And I freaked out at every single little twist and turn. At the slightest sign of trouble, boy, I was ready to hit the road. But I never did. It is astounding to look back at this girl years later… to read her thoughts…. thoughts which to me now, sound like borderline paranoia. She was just SO scared of being hurt again. Despite all her fears though, she still had the courage to try and open her heart to this man, no matter how much she wanted to run. And slowly, very slowly, he changed her whole world.

In those three short years we had together, I came to know love in a way that was deeper and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I continued to work on myself, and he did the same, and together we began to grow into the people we had always wanted to be. Or perhaps more accurately, the people we always had been, underneath it all. We helped each other heal, we remained careful with each other always. I gave more love than I even knew I had in me… and in return, I received more love than I ever fathomed another person could give. And now, looking back, I can see just how immensely the love we shared has changed me. And how it is STILL changing me. 

Since he died, I have opened my heart to more people more deeply than in all my past years combined. I have learned to let the love I share with many many people become the way that he continues to give and receive with me. From the perspective that we are all connected, this is one of the most powerful ways that my relationship to him continues on past death.

I have been broken by life, over and over again. Yet I sit here now, a beautiful, confident woman. A woman who knows her worth and who values herself above all who tolerates no level of abuse or malevalence in her world. A woman who is grounded in her soul and who lives by faith and intuition. Just 5 years ago… this is the kind of woman I dreamed of being, and one that felt lightyears away from where I sat. All of this is a thing that he set in motion in me… from the first time he stood by my side, to the last time, to the time he now spends on other side, working to help me become more fully the person I was born to be.

 It seems maybe that his greatest gift was to allow me the space in which to decide to be changed… To first teach me how to love and be loved deeply by one, and then, in his passing over, to teach me how to do this with the rest of the world. There is not a day that goes by that I am not grateful that I took the chance to be changed by life, by death, and by everything in between. 

Loss of Self & Looking Ahead.

576360_10151233344985306_1238993831_nOne of the many difficult parts of losing someone so close to you so suddenly, is that you not only lose that person in a traumatic way, but you also lose a part of yourself instantly too. The moment I got the phone call that night, I was acutely aware that I would never be the same person again. I hated this with such passion. I don’t WANT to become a different person!

To have lost him was already the worst pain I could bare, but to also lose myself has been equally devastating. I feel like, as a society, we already don’t do too good of a job in talking about death in general, but our conversations are even more lacking on the subject of this loss of self. I think its something we should talk about more… as it will happen to all of us at one time or another with a major loss, and important for people to not feel alone in experiencing it.

The woman I was in the three years that he and I were together was my very best self I’ve ever been. She was the woman I became while with him. She was embracing life and love and possibilities and adventures. And he was an integral part of helping to build her. And I miss both of these people terribly and forever. So no, I did NOT want to become a different person. The “me” I had was seriously awesome. I realize that even if he were here today, I would still be becoming a different person. But I’d be doing it with him. I just hate that the person I will become is someone that he will have never known.

I can see now that there are good things – like how I am more open and honest about my needs and feelings, and I do so with more people than ever before. I’m not as afraid to take risks now and I follow my intuition more closely. I’m not as nervous about every little thing as I used to be. I believe in myself. My understanding of an afterlife and spirituality are completely different. These are good things, things I need and am grateful for, but they are a part of me he never knew – and I want to fight it. The bottom line is that I’m so incredibly sad to be becoming someone that he did not know. Sad that there is nothing I can do about it. Even though I know I have his blessing to become whoever I will become. Even though I know that his soul will know the person I am becoming, and that our souls will always know each other. Even though he is an extremely important part of continuing to shape who I am becoming… it still holds an enormous sadness for me that he will not be physically here to share in it. And that I will not get to know the new persons he will become in his lifetime here either.

*sigh* I also realize the nature of life is change. And we must change with it if we are to make the most of our time here. Even if it hurts. Even if we don’t like it. I know that I did not lose the whole of me, but right now I don’t know what I’m left with. That is a big part of the journey ahead… trying to understand just how much of myself I lost, and what still remains. Trying to see what new parts of myself have emerged through this, and how to integrate that into the new self that I will be. It is exhausting work to say the least. I’m more tired than I even realize most days.

I’ve kicked and screamed against this loss of self for many months (and still do) but I’m starting to wear down a bit now. I’m running out of steam, and maybe finally tired enough to begin to surrender and accept that the old me is gone and I must create some new self out of what is left. I cannot deny that change is still happening whether I want it to or not. And I must change with it, whether I like it or not. I think in small, gentle movements, I am starting to be able explore this new self… slowly, carefully and with kindness for myself. And that is enough. Its going to be glacially slow, and I know I’m going to stumble a lot. I know that every positive milestones is going to trigger the loss again as I remember that he is not there to share in it with me… but I also know he’ll be watching, and that he’d be seriously upset with me if I didn’t get out there and make the best of whatever life I have left.

We don’t always get to a choice in when we must become someone new in this life, but we always have a choice in who we will become. I will make sure I become someone that both he and my old self will be greatly proud of. That is the only thing I am sure of right now, that I will honor them.

On our way…

Well, the day is here. Two kitties and a carload of stuff and we’re off to the hill country….

Today is the day
Here we go on our way
I don’t know what we’ll find
or how long we will stay
all i know is one thing
as sure as can be
you’ll be in my heart
and with that I am free

Free to be bold
and free to be brave
Free to be fearless
while still feeling safe
Because you are here
to watch over me
I can finally be all
I was born to be.