Life is Full of Seasons ……

…… good, bad, fun, boring, happy, content and downright horrendous.

The thing about seasons is …… they come around again and again, though you never know when to expect them.
Or …… what special effects they’ll bring along with them.
And most times …… you don’t know how long they’ll last.

But, I think I can tell you, with some authority, that the bad seasons …… you know, the tear and snot-filled, cold and black, grief-filled seasons …… get shorter and shorter.
Just so you know.

I’ve been in one of those negative seasons for a few months now, though I only admitted it yesterday. The further out I get from Jim’s death, the more it feels like I’m not allowed to have a bad season. “Holy cow, it’s been over 7 years now …… and you’re STILL grieving?!” “Good grief, aren’t you over this yet?!”
“Why aren’t you dating anyone?” “Why aren’t you doing anything to get yourself out there and dating.”

I really have no answers to questions like these. Not nice, polite answers anyway.

Overall, my life is good. Often great.
But there’s always a caveat there, and most people don’t understand that.

My life is great …… as great as it can be without Jim.
That’s a fact.
Or, as I used to tell my kids, “It is what it is”.
I don’t choose to have that missing piece of my joy.
And I can’t replace it. With anything or anyone.
We all know people who’ve tried …… and failed.

Thankfully, for me, I also have God.
Not that He’s always been one of my favorite people (I’m sure He could say the same of me!), but He’s always been there.
Even when I didn’t feel Him.

Most days I can praise and thank Him.
Even when I don’t feel like it.
There’s always something in my life to be thankful about.
Just as there’s always the missing of Jim.

But I had to learn how to choose to be thankful, and choose to praise Him.
It didn’t come back naturally after Jim’s death. And it took me a while.
But I finally reached the point where I could choose to just sit in my grief and let it stunt and rob me of the rest of my life …… or I could choose to start seeing the things/people in my life that I’m thankful for.

The funny thing is …… once you start feeling thankful for a few things, it kind of snowballs. Your eyes open to more and more good things in your life, in spite of …… so much.

So this is what I’ve learned: when the seasons come …… and they DO come …… I need to just sit in them for a bit, let myself feel them, and see if there’s anything new in them. Once I let myself feel them and just “be”, they slowly start to fade. And that’s when I can choose joy.
Not 100% of the time, though ……. I’m no angel and I’m about as far from perfection as one can be. But I’m a work in progress. Sometimes the progress is painstakingly slow, sometimes I catch on quickly.

I am who I am.
And it is what it is.
Grief. It’s not just for anybody.

There Are Things I Whisper ……

…… only to myself.

There are some pains that can’t be said aloud. Well, technically they could, but societally, they can’t. If I were to say why I feel sad …… why I’ve felt sad for weeks now, there would be angry comments. And I can’t say that I’d blame the commenters.

Yes, I’m a widow.
Yes, Jim was wise and planned ahead for an event we never thought would really happen.
No, I don’t have to work to make ends meet.
Yes, I am blessed.

But financial security doesn’t cure loneliness.
Money can’t help me fill my house with anything but things.
I can’t buy someone to hold me while I sleep and still love me when he sees me in the morning.
(Yes, I’m aware that money certainly can “buy” someone to keep me company …… but that, also, doesn’t cure the loneliness in my heart).

The security I have didn’t help me this morning as I sat in a meeting with my accountant and another guy who helps me …… biting my lip the entire hour to keep the tears from spilling over.
I hate those meetings. I end up depressed for at least a day because they bring back the memories of those first days and all of the meetings I had to attend in the wake of Jim’s death.
And I usually don’t understand much that’s said, which makes me feel sad …… and stupid.
As soon as I get back to my car, the dam breaks and the tears pour forth …… all the way home.

But if I were to tell a group of people how lost I sometimes feel, how “afloat” I am …… how purposeless I feel, I know that the common reaction/thought would be, “Oh, poor you!”, (in a snarky tone.)
I don’t expect or want anyone to feel sorry for me.
I don’t feel sorry for myself …… I just …… miss him.
I miss what we had, what we were …… who I was.

I can only imagine how much more difficult and painful my life would be if I had to struggle financially. I didn’t do anything to deserve this, anymore than I deserved his love.
He just gave it.

I wish that someone had told me about the guilt that comes with each check that’s deposited. It’s difficult to enjoy “death money”. Especially when you’d much rather have that person than a check.

I wonder if I would still feel purposeless if he were alive?
Is this a part of the “empty nest syndrome”? Once our children don’t really need us any longer, is this how we feel?
I think I’d probably still feel that way, though I’m sure it’s magnified by widowhood.

And while I am beyond blessed to be able to live in two wonderful cities, it’s difficult to feel connected in either one.
I know …… poor me, right?

As I’ve said before, and will continue to say, “I am blessed.”
I was “before” and I am in my “after”.
But blessings sometimes come with pain, and tears.
Like childbirth …… and parenting.

Maybe the more we are blessed …… the more susceptible we are to hurt.

Or maybe I just need to find a new “purpose” in my life.
And stop whining.
There, I said it for you.

I knew I should’ve just whispered it to myself.

Just Like The Iceman ……

…… the taxman cometh.

And at least once a year, but more like four, this causes me to hyperventilate, and even cry.
I hate this day.

For 25 years I never did anything but sign where indicated. I’d laughingly question Jim while I signed, asking, “This won’t put me in jail, right”. He’d just shake his head.

You see, that was our agreement. Before marriage. When we went to our very last pre-marital counseling class with his pastor (do they even have those anymore?!), we each took a quiz, asking who we saw doing different household tasks.
When it came to paying the bills, I had always seen my parents sitting at the dining room table, doing them together. And so I answered, “together”.
However, when the pastor read our answers out loud, Jim had answered, “me”.
What the what?!!!
Evidently my body language of crossing both arms across my chest, although saying nothing, spoke volumes to the pastor.
He stopped everything to address the question …… and my body language. He asked me why I evidently didn’t agree. I said that I just thought we’d both do it, and that I was just as qualified as Jim to do our bills.
(Did I mention that I was a bit offended by his answer?).
The pastor turned to Jim and asked him why he answered the way he did. Jim said, “Well, I just figured that I do the bills since I’m the accountant.”
To which I replied, “Fine. You’ve got ’em”.
And that was the last time we discussed the bills.
Ever.

So you can probably imagine how beyond stressed I felt the first time I sat down with the bills in front of me.
Especially since, as Jim always said, we weren’t just a family …… we were a corporation.
Xanax, anyone?

I feel like such an imbecile when it comes to taxes. Thankfully I have a good CPA. And he, thankfully, has me.
But I still tend to hyperventilate when it comes time to find everything he needs, because I never get it right. Something is always missing.
And it slowly makes me resent the fact that I’m the one doing this. Just me. Alone.
This was NOT supposed to happen.
And then everything comes flooding back and there I am, sitting and crying over what was …… and what was supposed to be.
But that’s today.
Let me tell you about yesterday.

My CPA sent me three tax forms that needed to be sent in, and paid, today. He sent them by email. So I needed to print them off in order to send them in (all while truly hyperventilating at how much I feel like I’m being robbed).
I had used my printer a few days ago and everything was normal.
But this day? This day the printer decided to die a slow death. And a painful one. At least for me.
First, the pages were barely legible. I debated for a while just sending them in that way because why should I care if some IRS dude/dudette has to squint? But I’ve heard how testy they can be, so I investigated.
I added more ink cartridges. No better.
I cleaned the cartridge heads. No better.
And then, to top everything, I ran out of paper.
Of course this was at 5:00 p.m., when I knew that traffic would soon be at its peak here.
And there was a letter I needed to print off, sign, scan and send back.
God has such a sense of humor.
(I was not amused.)

So I put Gracie into her kennel, which is like giving her the death penalty, and headed to Target, where I bought a new printer, ink and paper.

Who, but me, would this happen to??!!!

I made it to the post office today, saw them stamp the envelopes and then breathed a sigh of relief.

I hung out with some friends today and of course the subject of taxes came up. There were many complaints, of course, but I just listened. And then one woman said, “I don’t mess with any of that stuff. My husband takes care of it.”
I should’ve told her how awesomely lucky she is.
And blessed.
And to not take it for granted.
But I just sat there, trying to control my breathing so that I wouldn’t cry.
Because that’s exactly what I used to say.
Used to.

The missing of that man will never, ever end.
It does ease, over time …… thank God.
But it will never end.

But then, neither will our love.

Here’s What I’ve Realized ……

vcx copy
(source)

…… in the past two days.
Everybody …… absolutely every single person on this earth …… needs to know that they have been missed.
Because being missed means that you matter.
To someone.

Yes, I realize that this seems like a basic piece of knowledge, or maybe it should be. But I’ve found that it’s not really. We all need to be told that we are missed …… and we all need to tell people who matter to us that we miss them.
This is not one of those pieces of information that you can take for granted …… but we do.

Sure, you think that your loved ones know you miss them.
So why bother to get all mushy and tell them, right?
After all, they know.
Right?

No. That’s not right.
We are human beings, and as such, we can be very fragile, no matter how hard we pretend that we aren’t. Because being fragile is negative, isn’t it? We should be strong. Who cares if we’re missed or not missed? We can do just fine on our own, thank you very much.
We just slip on one of the many masks we keep hidden in our closet and voila! No one knows what we look like beneath the mask. No one can see the tears, thankfully.
No one can see that we’re …… God forbid …… human.

And so we help to perpetuate the myth that all is well. We’re all strong. We’re all just fine, thank you very much.
If we’re missed, great. If we’re not, no problem.
If we’re loved, nice. If we’re not, it’s your loss, not ours.

What a load of crap.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else in this category. I miss so very many people. On a daily basis.
Hell, on a second to second basis.
But I rarely tell all of those people how much I miss them.
First of all, it would take all day.
Second of all, what if they don’t miss me back?
Ouch.

I have deeply missed the people at my “old” church. And the responses and comments that I received telling me the same (from my previous post) made me cry.
I didn’t realize until then how much I need to feel missed.
How much I need to feel loved.

There are people in my life who tell me this on a regular basis, as I do them.
I’d say that 99.9% of them are widowed. Or have experienced a profound loss, too.
Once that changes your life forever, you can’t help but love people fiercely and tell them so.

It’s the people in your “before” life that fall into the cracks. There’s no finger of blame to point, I can’t come up with a reason why, it just happens. On both sides.
And that’s a shame.

I need my “before” people in my life.
I need people who knew Jim.
Who knew Jim and Janine.

Yes, it can be a huge relief to have people in my life who only know the “after Janine”, as I’m sure any widowed person feels.
But I think we still need those who knew and loved the “before us”.

I think I’ve been pondering this more lately because my heart has been hurting so much for my sweet friend whose son died recently.
I’ve never experienced the death of a child. And yet, the two of us are connecting with the grief our hearts hold. I’m not sure if it’s because I loved her “before”, or because she’s a single parent and so she’s going through this loss alone. I think it’s probably both.
Her heart not only breaks for the future her son will never have, but for the future she’ll never have with a partner. Both losses are slamming into her on a constant basis.

I always thought that if one of our children died, Jim and I would get through it together. The loss of him was greater than the potential loss of one of our children.
But now, with him gone, the loss of one of my children would …… I can’t even go there.

Yet my friend wakes up there every single day. I want to take her pain away. But I know I can’t.
I want to tell her that things will get better soon. But we both know they won’t.
All I can do is be there for her. Sit with her, listen to her, cry with her.
But she needs more than just me. She needs a boatload of people who can, and will, do this with her.

Grief is exhausting.
And hard to carry alone.
If you know someone who’s carrying it, please help them.
Just offer to sit with them.
Tell them that you love them.
Tell them that you miss them.
Tell them, above all, that you miss their loved one.
Because that matters.

You matter.
Your words matter.
Your feelings matter.
So share them.

And help someone know that they matter.

Life is too precious to do alone.

Sometimes a Building ……

10006320_675147515857828_1254076021_n

…… is so much more than walls, ceilings, stone, wood and paint.

Sometimes buildings are living, breathing things.
Or so they seem.
So very much.

I was up quite early this morning and I decided that I would visit my old church today for the Sunday service. Just as I was looking its service times up on the internet, one of my best friends texted me and asked if I’d like to attend with her.
Coincidence? I think not.
So I said yes, and proceeded to get ready.

I haven’t been to this exact church in many, many, many months.
I’ve visited a few churches all across our area, and have enjoyed a couple of them, but nothing has clicked in with that feeling of, dare I say it …… home.

In fact, as I was getting ready I thought, briefly, “I wonder if it will feel like home?”, thinking that it probably would not.
But I wanted to give it one last try.
I don’t say goodbye easily, you see.

This church is so much more to me than a church…… more than a building that holds a church.
It’s a living, breathing organism that holds so much of Jim in it. It also holds emotions that I poured into it, or had them ripped from me there.

And then there are the memories.
The memory of our first visit back when we were a young family of six (4 small children, 2 parents). Then Son #2 came along and was baptized there, as was Son #3. All 6 of our children were confirmed there, deep friendships were created there, faith-growing happened there and bold decisions were made there.

Jim is all over that building. He was the President of our congregation when we purchased the land next to ours so that we could create a larger sanctuary. He was a huge part of our church, both the new and the old.

So I feel him every time I step into that building. Not only him, but the huge, gaping loss of him. His absence is, for me, nowhere greater than in that building.
I feel the huge emptiness of him there.
I feel the pain and anguish and icy darkness I felt there after his death.
I feel the pain of “friends”, who, I’m choosing to believe had no idea what they were doing, said terribly hurtful things, or stood with those who did.
When you add all that pain up it creates one very large barrier for a building.

Not that everything and everyone was all negative, because that’s not true. There was a lot of love in that building, too, but the love couldn’t over compensate for the pain, hurt and darkness.

But every time I return to Texas I argue with myself about visiting “our” church again. This was the first Sunday that part of me won that argument. So I decided to not give it much thought, but to just hurry and get ready and go before I could change my mind.

As I drove to the church, I again wondered, “Will it feel like home?”, thinking the chances were low.
My heart rate sped up pretty quickly and my breathing quickened as I walked from the parking lot to the doors. I tried to keep my eyes averted so that I didn’t appear to look like a “deer in the headlights” to anyone. But soon a long-time friend saw me and came over for a quick hug and said that it was good to see me. I said the same.
I was still trying not to hyperventilate as I looked around, when suddenly my dear, sweet friend Janet walked straight up to me and wrapped me in the strongest, longest hug I’ve had in months and months and months. I didn’t want her to let go. But she eventually did. And when she did, she held my hand warmly and firmly in hers, caught my eyes and said, as sincerely and warmly as possible, “Welcome Home. It’s good to have you.”
It was all I could do to not cry. To not ugly cry.
You see, that’s all I wanted, though I didn’t clearly realize it …… to be made to feel at home. And she blessed me hugely with her touch and her words……with her love.
I thanked her and told her that her words meant very much to me. She said, “I know.”
I totally love that woman and wish that I could travel the world with her. Or at least parts of Texas.
She helped me realize that I could go in and actually sit through the service, which I did, with my friend next to me for support.

I have to admit that I almost hyperventilated for the first 10 minutes or so. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I felt very overwhelmed with the rush of feelings, memories, pain, good times, etc. that came charging at me all at once. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stay. But I chose to just breathe.
That’s all.
To concentrate on breathing in …… and then out.
As long as I could focus on that job, I could keep the emotions under control.
And it became easier and easier.

So maybe this was a first tiny step to coming back home.
Maybe.

I feel blessed to have two churches where I can feel home now. One here, one in NY.
They have common themes, goals, and plans. And yet they have different ways of carrying out those things. They’ll all get done, each in their own way, which will make them all the more remarkable.
I am blessed.
Even on those days when I feel too overwhelmed to walk inside, I’m blessed when I enter anyway.

I will always be overwhelmed with the sense of Jim in that building. I’m sure there will always be moments, songs, prayers that will bring tears from memories.
And that’s ok.

Sometimes home can be very overwhelming.
And I’ve learned …… that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Three Things ……

…… to help make your day a little bit brighter.

1. I’m going to survive.
True, I don’t really know if that will brighten your day, but I’m going to pretend that it will.
It may also be the fever talking.
But it’s a way lower fever than it has been, so I’m going to let it talk.

2. This series is hilarious.
Hi.
Lar.
I.
Ous.
Unless you don’t enjoy Tina Fey. And if you don’t, why are you reading this? We have nothing in common and we wouldn’t be friends.
Go re-evaluate your life.

For the rest of you …… go start binge watching this on NetFlix today.
Here’s the trailer, in case you’re still debating.
And if you are, really?!!

3. This company professes to have the most comfortable underwear, hands down.
So you know me …… always up for a challenge. Especially if it’s an easy one.
They are absolutely right.
If you don’t believe me, just go to http://www.meundies.com and order your own pair. And then let me know what you think.
And no, they aren’t paying me to write this.
I wish!

So there you go.
Three things to brighten your day.
Or maybe two.
If it’s less than that then you really do need to re-evaluate.
Something.

:)