Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This is MY FAULT

Today I have to break one of my rules.

Normally I refrain from getting swallowed up in religious or political debates in social media, but this one hits too close to home.

Since Friday my Facebook news feed has been awash with shared pictures, quotes, and articles blaming the tragic shooting in Connecticut on gun control laws, a lack of God in schools, and poor parenting. Every time I see one of these I click away and try not to seethe with anger. With frustration. With disgust.

It makes my stomach churn to think of these families watching the news and going online to see these kinds of comments. Why? These comments are not helpful. Not at all. They hurt. Believe me, I know. When my husband was killed, I sat for hours watching people’s comments saying he deserved to die for talking on his cell phone while driving (he wasn’t) or that he was probably speeding (he wasn’t) or that it was all part of God’s plan (it isn’t). Not only was each one of these a painful accusatory jab at the wrong person, but they minimized my grief. The danger in these statements is that they carry a clear, underlying message: If something bad happens to you, it must be your fault. You didn’t pray enough, you weren’t a strong enough Christian, somehow you had it coming. We don’t know all the details and in all likelihood this shooter suffered from a mental illness. Would you tell someone with a broken leg or cancer that they deserved it or that they just didn’t pray hard enough? Of course not.

Do you know what was helpful?

People who said to me, this is tragic. This is horrible. This is not how his life was meant to end. This should never have happened. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. They came by with food, they sat and listened to me cry, they drove me to work.

These are the people who cared.

If you are sitting back, behind your keyboard, lazily reposting someone else’s speech or comments on this tragedy being a result of God being kicked out of our schools or ignored by society, I ask you this: What are you actually doing to help?

Those types of posts can be hurtful, offensive, and cruel. Instead of blaming society, our gun laws, or a lack of faith, maybe you should be contemplating your own role. Because if this is really because God has been kicked out of schools and ignored by society, perhaps the more appropriate message is this:

This is my fault.

MY fault.


Last week I lied to my husband about how much I spent at the store. I was short with my children. I was jealous and bitter. I allowed my competitive nature to take over instead of my loving nature. I gossiped viciously about my sister. I slandered. I embellished a story to make myself look more favourable and someone else worse. I lusted after someone who wasn’t my spouse. I was too lazy to clear my sidewalk after it snowed, not really caring my postman could fall and hurt him/herself. I sped. I cut someone off in traffic. I got angry with the clerk at McDonald’s who got my order wrong. I cheated on a test. I took credit for someone else’s work. I saw starving children on the news and changed the channel. I got angry someone who wasn’t a part of my family was invited for Christmas – they aren’t one of us. I slacked off at work. I knew my mom was having a bad day but instead of calling her, I went out to dinner. I didn’t listen, I didn’t offer support, I didn’t act. I chose anger over kindness. I chose pride over humility. I chose indifference over love. This tragedy is the fault of people like me, doing these things, every day.

I AM society.

MY actions are God’s work in society.

This is MY FAULT.

Instead of sitting back, blaming other people and other things, why not act with love EVERY DAY.

Don’t repost some trite quote on Facebook. Help the families instead. Show them they are loved, that you care, that their tragedy is more important than your religious or political agenda. Send them a letter of love and support. If you live too far away to shovel their walkways or bring over food, give to local mental health organizations to support families dealing with mental illness. Encourage your friends on Facebook to do the same. You can find info on that here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/newtown-conn-shooting-victims-families-community/story?id=17998635

This time of year is the perfect time to ACT with love, instead of just talking. Did you know you can send care packages filled with cookies, toiletries, and gifts to soldiers overseas? Here’s how in Canada: http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/commun/message/addresses-2-eng.asp

How about giving to a local charity or inviting someone over for the holidays who is grieving, single, or alone? Shovel your neighbour’s walkway instead of just yours. Stop speeding. Tip generously. Live with the kindness, the grace, the forgiveness, the generosity, and the love of the God you keep saying others have kicked out of society.

Show the world what it looks like when He is welcomed back in.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1,000 Sleepless Nights

On Monday I woke up from 1,000 nights.

1,000 nights without my Craig.

1,000 days of missing him, of wondering what happened, of not understanding.

1,000 days of tears, of heartache, of anger.

1,000 days of fighting, of breathing, of putting one foot in front of the other.

1,000 feels so big.

It sounds so long.

But in the grand scheme of things, it's barely a blip. My heart understands this better than my head.

I wish I had words of wisdom, beautiful things I had learned. Something to mark those 1,000 days.

But in truth, I feel just as lost at times as I did 1,000 days ago.

I still don't know why this happened.

I still don't understand how God, if He exists, could have looked away.

I still can't fathom the magnitude of losing Craig, of where he is now.

I still miss my best friend. So much. Every day.

1,000 days is just time. A human construct, how we mark the slow ticking of a clock. It has absolutely no relevance when it comes to loss.

Loss is still loss, even 1,000 days later.

If anything, it magnifies that loss. Because now we can finally begin to see just how long time can stretch, what it can encompass. 1,000 days means 3 missed birthdays, 3 missed Christmases, 2 nephews' births missed.

It is missing hearing your name called by someone, over and over. Missing experiences, missing jokes, missing laughter, missing fights. It means missing drives to work, visiting with your in-laws, cooking dinner together, sipping coffee on the weekends, curling up to a movie, moving furniture, visiting garage sales, walking in the cold, skating on the pond.

It means missing waking up to someone's face that you know better than your own, eyes that light up whenever you walk in a room, a grin that could make you laugh no matter how mad you might be. It is missing notes left to make you smile and the world's worst macaroni & cheese, made just for you.

1,000 feels like forever.

It crawled by.

It flew past.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Taking the Plunge

Well, after almost a year of interviews, training, counselling, and meetings it's finally time... I am now officially a volunteer with Alberta Health Services! The program that gave me so much in my early days of grief is now one I get to give back to. In January I start as a co-facilitator for my first official grief group!

I am so excited.

Like, ridiculously excited.

Seems so weird, right?

Only it's not. I was chatting with a fellow volunteer at our last meeting and we both said the same thing - that we can't wait to help someone else, to do something, to be to someone else what this group was for us.

I've found with any type of grief, and being widowed at such a young age in particular, you can feel like the only person in the world going through what you are going through. Everyone around you seems happy and normal and the world keeps chugging along as though nothing has happened. Meanwhile you are drowning in sorrow, feeling left behind more and more every day.

While everyone else is worrying about traffic, paying bills, and what to cook for dinner, you struggle to get out of bed, wear the same shirt four days in a row, and eat cheerios off the floor for breakfast. While they head off to work and meet up with friends for lunch, you cry in the grocery store over your husband's favourite gummi candy and replay the answering machine recording 38 times in a row. They catch their favourite tv show before heading to bed at night while you clutch your spouse's old sweater, inhaling as deeply as you can for imaginary traces of his cologne.

Add to that the fact that most of your friends haven't even lost grandparents, let alone a spouse. You become "special"... only not in a way you ever would have wanted. In fact, being ordinary becomes the long lost dream you never knew you had. Oh what you wouldn't give to be plain and boring and have a simple, happy life like everybody else.

And then you find your grief group.

And there staring back at you are twenty other people who feel exactly the way you do, struggling through the same thing, searching desperately for someone, anyone who understands. And the stories are heartbreaking and awful. You cry. They cry. You heal. They heal. There is something about coming together with strangers over something as heavy as the loss of a spouse that can turn you into instant friends for life.

I don't know what I would have done without my grief group or the fellow wids I met online. Meeting in the midst of such shared turmoil brought us together and brought much-needed comfort. Oh, you ate cheerios off the floor? Me too! SO much easier than cooking, right? Oh, drinking coffee makes you cry? Me too! Wait. That shirt looks like it belongs to a man and hasn't been washed in three months. Mine too!

I love this program and believe in it. It works wonders. For me, it was one of the single greatest tools for processing my grief. It is the first recommendation that comes out of my mouth when people ask about dealing with their own loss. Even for the shy and introverted (yes, believe it or not, that includes me) it can be deeply therapeutic. You can talk or listen, soaking it all in. There is so much to learn from others and great comfort in knowing that you are, in fact, not alone at all. And not nearly as weird as you thought. Mostly.

So I can't wait to get started. I hope I can help as much as others helped me. I hope I can be as strong as others were for me. I hope their life is changed by this program and they realize they are not alone. That they belong, they are loved, and they can survive.

Just like me.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Your Voice In My Head

I've gotten so used to talking to you that sometimes I forget I am not.

I whisper words in empty rooms and always, always the air whispers back. It tricks me by doing it in your voice. It wears your puzzled expression. It laughs when you laugh.

I hear it say all the things you would say. Running through the back of my mind is the question - is it saying these things because you would say them, because you ARE saying them, or because it's what I want you to say?

Sometimes I ask you what you think of my dress, how I look, do you like my hair this way? You never saw my hair this way. I wear dresses now. You would love them.

Other times it is just the same phrase, muttered over and over, each time more urgently than the last. Why did you leave me?

Sometimes it changes.

Why did you me here?

Why did you leave me like this?

Why did you leave me with these people?

Why did you leave me behind?

They are not questions, really. Just statements.

They are the only things you never answer. I just feel you looking at me, so sadly. Like you pity me. As if you want to tell me an answer that you know I want to hear. An answer you can't give me. Because I know it anyway and there would be no point. There is never a point.

I wonder if I'm going mad. If I already was.

It is an indulgence. To think these things. To imagine you in my head. But is my own and so I allow myself this one small thing. When everything has been taken it is only the things left in your mind that can comfort you.

I feel that I must explain myself. Justify everything. Why I did this, why I did that. But you know. You already know. You could have predicted my moves down to the letter. We loved each other that way. I'd like you to get mad, just to see your expression change. But you won't. You never do.

Maybe it is not you, then, that I need to explain things to. Maybe it is me. To make sense of the absurdity of what has happened. It is like taking a house torn apart by a tornado and trying to put it back together with eleastic bands. I never get further than the door handle. It falls off in my hand.

I imagine you there, sitting, always sitting. Waiting. Watching. You seem bemused. I don't know why. They made your face so weird in that casket. They failed to miss the spot you always missed when you shaved. I hated them for that. It made you not real. And that's the face I see you in. Smirking. Not unfriendly. Just slightly confused, slightly amused.

Do you wonder too? What has happened?

I hope at least one of us can make sense of this. Although I'd rather it be me. Is that selfish? I want all the answers. You would never have needed them. If there is a way to make things make sense, I need to find it. You were much better at accepting things just as they are. I like this about you. Liked.

You make a very frustrating ghost. No hauntings or special tokens. You just hover, saying little. Poking up from time to time when I summon you. It's not very much, you know. Perhaps you could do better? Probably not. You aren't really real.

What more can I say? I miss you. I love you. You forgot some things. Make sure you stop by to pick them up.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Crying In Cars (And Other Inapropriate Places)

If there's one thing I've learned (and it probably is the only thing), it's that you should cry whenever the moment hits. Saving that shit up just makes you hemorrhage tears while snot dribbles down your nose because you just can't hold it in anymore after seeking the pink pig gummy candy on the floor of the grocery store. For reals.

I'd like to blame this week's episode of Crying In Random Places on hormones or a special anniversary. But the truth is, it's basically just my fault. I haven't had a good cry in almost three weeks (stop judging me... lots of people cry more than that... probably) and was getting a little too cocky about it.

And really, this week was the perfect shitstorm of tear inducers. My nephew finished school and brought home his in-class journal featuring a nonsensical child's viewpoint of his uncle Craig's death (I want to be someone's favourite because I play with them and because I'm their favourite just because). I wasn't sleeping very well and work was kind of stressing me out. Oh and did I mention I'm on a stupid diet that makes me hangry 24/7 to the point where I actually thought to myself like some kind of sicko the other day, hm, maybe this salad will taste good without any dressing on it. You see? I was out of my mind. Clearly.

Somewhere around Thursday my brain gave up and on the drive home, when some a-hole cut me off, I burst into tears. Not the pretty kind either. I am not a pretty crier. I am an ugly snot-dribbling, wailing, hiccupping, red-nosed bag of misery when I cry. One of the many reasons I like to cry by myself. Nobody there to look away awkwardly or try to put a paper bag over my head so they can stand to comfort me properly. I bawled the whole way home and still wasn't done.

My husband came home and made the mistake of trying to be nice to me. This turned into an argument which turned into even more tears and a chilly night of fighting over the blankets. The next morning I was busted in the office sniffling away. Thankfully I'm one of the only ones in that early and my dark sunglasses are huge enough to cover half my face. It did not occur to me until later that walking around in dark sunglasses in a well-lit office probably looks kind of strange too. Oh well.

A couple days of miserable wailing and finally, this morning, I started to feel better. Gorging on homemade pie probably helped. My god, I have been hungry.

I take these stretches of time as they come. I know this comes with the territory of being widowed. You cry, you blow your nose, you cry some more. Sometimes it lasts twenty minutes, sometimes several days. I go through periods of time where it hits me all over again - I have lost my husband. I. Have. Lost. My. Husband. He is gone. While never as overwhelming as hearing that news the first time, it nevertheless brings me to my knees, ransacking me all over again.

Only this time I know. I know that it will ease. That the crying will stop. That I will be happy again in a few hours, days, or weeks. There is happiness on the other side of this. Because this is what grief looks like, two years later. The heartache is still there, the loneliness, the feeling that something is always missing. But it is broken up with moments of happiness, of enjoyment, of things that don't revolve around death.

You just have to ride out the wave.

And repack the Kleenex supply in your car for the next round.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Little Bit of Loki

This weekend I went and watched the Avengers.

It has been out for a couple weeks now but I've been putting it off, not sure I'd see it all.

Mostly because I didn't want to be the idiot sobbing at the back of the theatre blowing her nose at the funny parts or when Loki makes his epic appearance all badass and whatnot.

Turns out those fears were completely justified. I was and I did. As a random sidenote - it's really hard to see through 3D glasses when they are misted over with salty tears.

No, it was not a sad movie.

In fact, it was pretty cool. No. That's not right. It was amazing. And epic. And everything Craig and I have waited for all these years.

Craig was a comic book nerd. Which amused me to no end considering how much of a jock he was. Like many a closetted comic book nerd, he hoarded his collection possessivey and spent hour after endless hour painstakingly caring for them and savouring them. He would never let me read more than one at a time - something that always reminded me of my own father and his precious collection.

After a couple years of dating I finally gave up and started helping him with his collection, tracking down rare editions, wasting hours and hours at garage sales and farmers' markets searching for missing pieces. It became our favourite go-to activity for most weekends. I even attending Comic Con with him one year and was introduced to a whole new world. A scary, scary world. Just kidding. But not.

We started following the superhero movie craze long before it was a craze and obsessed over every detail of every movie, often seeing them several times in theatres in their opening weeks. We loved Iron Man, didn't care for the Hulk. Superman wasn't relatable but Spiderman was just like us. We argued over plot twists and adherence to the comics, who was too short or too serious or too whatever. Which detail was missed, which was overdone, which was just right.

Nothing excited Craig more than knowing looking forward to the Avengers movie, which was far too many years in the coming.

We theorized for hours about who'd be in it, which superheroes would be best, who the baddy would be.

We loved it.

And, of course, Loki was his favourite villain of all time. He loved him. Poor Loki, always the underdog, unloved, not wanted, always struggling, always failing. For some reason, Craig loved him more than any of the good guys. Appreciated that Loki was just born at the wrong time, in the wrong place, bullied, ignored.

When Iron Man II came out, I struggled to see it. I didn't enjoy it. It was too hard.

By the time Thor came out enough time had passed I didn't feel too bad. Of course it helped that neither of us really liked him as a character and didn't see it going anywhere (so much for that).

But The Big Avengers Movie was what we really wanted, anticipated, couldn't wait for.

So I sat there in the theatre this weekend, sobbing amongst the fellow nerds, oh so grateful for the ridiculous volume of the movie that nobody could hear me over.

It's not fair.

It's not fair that Craig waited so long, wanted to see this so bad, and can't.

It's not fair that they waited forever to make this movie, making him miss it.

It's not fair that the world kept going, that movies were still made, even after he was gone.

It's not fair that the things he loved were allowed to carry on without him, as if nothing had happened.

And it was not fair that I had to see it without him.

That we didn't get to gush over Loki, his absolute favourite villain, that he had to miss.

That we didn't get to squeal together over "Clench up, Legolas".

That he didn't get to roll his eyes at me over my love of Mark Ruffalo.

It hurt so much to see that without him. To try to enjoy something we should have been enjoying together. To reap the rewards of all his hard nerdwork he put into getting me up to speed on these characters, without him there to pat himself on the back for it.

There are so many things he misses now.

Sometimes I hope, wherever he is, he still gets to see them. That it's not so unimportant that he doesn't care. Or maybe I don't hope that. It's hard to say.

I just wish he was here.

I wish he was sitting next to me.

So I could be cheering with the rest of the crowd, instead of crying.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Bill of Rights for Grief

(Source: http://family.lifegoesstrong.com/article/bill-rights-grieving)

1. You have the right to take whatever path you take through your grief without judgment.

2. You have the right to ignore or incorporate any or all of the MOUNTAINS of advice you will get.

3. You have the right to say: "No thank you."

4. You have the right to grieve for whatever you have lost, including things you never had but ache for, like phantom limb pain.

5. You have the right to ask people to bring you pizza, not platitudes.

6. You have the right to your own definition of grief. For someone else the loss may have some unknowable reason; it may be a journey, a blessing 'in disguise', bad karma, a teachable moment, part of a plan, a test, a process, a choice. It doesn't have to be any of those things for you. It can simply be where you are at the time. Or it can be senseless, stupid, meaningless and profoundly awful.

7. You have the right not to be grateful, reasonable, inspired or inspiring.

8. You have the right not to feel or believe or be comforted by any of the following: "he's in a better place; his work here was done; she's in your heart; it's a blessing; it's no one's fault; time heals all wounds; you'll find a new one; it could have been worse."

9. You have the right to buzz around, filling your life with activities and people so you don't have to feel a thing.

10. You have the right to feel what you can feel when you can feel it. Be numb when you are numb. Seek comfort when you can stand to. Sometimes the deep fog of grief can make all intimacy too painful - any feelings unbearable. You have the right not to bear them even when everyone around you says you MUST FEEL YOUR FEELINGS OR YOU WILL NEVER MOVE ON.

11. You have the right not to "move on."

12. You have the right to ungodly, ugly, blind rage.

13. You have the right to feel complete, utter hoplessness and despair, and to say – out loud – over and over, that it will never get better, you will never feel better – without everyone shushing you.

14. You have the right to eat or sing or say whatever you want.

15. You have the right to be inalterably changed. The person you were before the death of your loved one is gone. You are now someone else. You don't know who yet. It's your right to find out.

16. You have the right to experience the many tricky, shape-shifting forms grief takes in whatever order you experience them: Here it looks like rage. There it takes the shape of obsession. It has many forms. They are all true. They are all lies.

17. You have the right to stay where you are. Sometimes there are no signs at all and you are moving through grief's darkest depths without knowing it. It's like starting on the bottom floor of an elevator in the deepest core of the earth. Each floor you go up, the doors open, only to reveal more darkness. It all looks and feels the same, but it is not. You are moving toward where you need to be.

18. You have the right to self-pity, selfishness, self-loathing, self-awareness. You have the right to be YOURSELF. Deep grief is a profoundly lonely experience, and yet, it binds us all. We all walk beside you, which will give you comfort when you are ready.



Guess I'm still mad.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Two Years

Two years is no time at all. Two years is forever. Time can slip like water through your fingers or freeze like ice in your veins.

The mind plays tricks on you, whether you are awake or asleep. In my dreams, without my walls of logic and rationale to protect it, my mind slips backwards in time, lulls me into a world where none of this happened. I still wake up, reach across an empty bed, and feel you die all over again. Though I still do not see you outright in my dreams, I can sense you there, just out of reach. I wake up sweating, panicked, terrified that something terrible is about to happen. Then I remember: it already has. Even in the light of day, I am fooled. Little things, slips of focus. For a brief second, I am eager to tell you something. Then I remember. I drive a road we drove a thousand times and it is like dipping into our past and for that one small second I forget that you are not there with me.

I don’t just think of you from time to time. People assume that the passing of hours, months, and years means that you will slip from conscious thought. But you don’t. You are always there. I talk to you a hundred times a day. Whispered words, sad smiles, bits of my day I want to store up and save for you in a story like I used to. You never answer back. At most, I hear your little sigh, “Oh Sal.” It is not enough. It will never be enough.

Time trudges on without you. I have recovered from the initial shock of this. That time itself did not collapse when you left. It should have. Instead, the world carried on as though nothing had happened. As though the most important part of it didn’t suddenly disappear. Politicians bicker, babies are born, bills must be paid. Many times it is like watching through a frosted pane of glass. I see it all happening as though it is happening to someone else. Why does this part of my life often feel like it is the dream and before was actually real? Other times you are so far away I think perhaps I imagined you altogether.

It has been so long for everyone else that I mostly keep you to myself now. To bring you up, to speak of you, to relive our life garners strange looks, tilts of the head, and awkward escapes from my presence. I am the only one who remembers. I have no choice. You haunt me. Just as you said you would. It is like we have our own secret life that nobody knows. This secret is the heaviest burden I have ever had to bear. It is like scrambling up a mountainside with a boulder strapped to you, dragging it slowly, painfully through the mud. While everyone else takes an escalator.

I should hate you. Resent you. Wish you had never been. That I could undo that entire part of my life and keep it from happening. Save myself. But I cannot bring myself to it. The truth is, those memories are all mine. They are precious. I take them out, turn them over, look at them from every angle, over and over. I was loved. It was real. We were real.

Two years is just a number. An arbitrarily assigned date. It means nothing, really. Each day hurts as much as the one before. Each day I miss you regardless. But these dates, these numbers, still carry weight. Even to me. They mark something. Years with, years without. They are like the beads on a rosary, I count them over and over and over, whispering prayers as they slip through my fingers.

There is little else to say that I have not said a thousand times already. I miss you. I love you. Don’t forget me. You know the words by now.

Come back to me. One day. Promise me.

Remember me.

Just as I remember you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Help?

Ok, so most of you know that about six months after Craig passed away I did a major shake-up of my career. I quit my stable, secure job I'd had at a large oil and gas firm for almost five years and went back to school.

I sold my house, moved, and started all over again.

It was terrifying.

I'm about halfway through my degree and after a bit of a rocky start, I'm finally getting a handle on things. Unfortunately, the Calgary employment market isn't what it used to be and that year off work leaves a bit of a gap in my resume, even though I was in school at the time.

I'm currently trying out for an internship at a large oil and gas company here in Calgary but I need some help. It's a part of the Alberta's Next Top Accountant competition and in order to win the job I have to get the most "likes" on my tryout video online.

So if you are able, please help me out by clicking the link below and then "liking" my video (it's the little thumbs-up icon to the right of the video you need to click). I would be so grateful and know it would go a long way to beefing up my resume and helping me get my career back on track.


Thank you!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Because It Makes Me Laugh

So a million years ago, give or take, Craig and I finally got all grown up and decided to get an apartment of our own.

Well, technically I got tired of living in a basement and got an apartment of my own, dragging Craig with me.

We were finally grown ups and loved every minute of it. At least for that first week. The rent was a mere $700 a month for 546 square feet of pure... bliss? Ok, so the bedroom was too small to fit a bed (which we didn't even have) and with no couches we were forced to watch our 14" tv while lying on blankets on the floor. Oh and that 14" tv? It was too old to hook our dvd player up to so we were forced to watch beta. For those of you who don't remember beta... well... good grief I'm old.

Only one person could be in the kitchen at a time and you couldn't load dishes into the dishwasher while still in the kitchen so you either had to, a) wash them by hand in the teeny tiny sink, or b) stand outside the kitchen to load the dishwasher while someone else stood inside the kitchen passing you the dishes that had been sitting on the counters, stove, or in the oven (when we ran out of room on the counters... pretty much every day).

We didn't have a dining room or a table - just a sort of breakfast bar that became a pseudo shelf for our desk since we had nowhere else to put stuff. Those first couple weeks we ate dinner off of ice cream bucket lids and tupperware.

The washer and dryer were stackable which is just a fancy way of saying you could only wash about two pairs of socks at a time. We did have a deck, though. All ten beautiful square feet of it. The dust from construction in the area was so bad if you went out there you usually left footprints akin to those after a serious snowfall. Whenever the global fireworks festival came in August we would scrunch ourselves up against the far corner of this deck and catch the left 50% of the show. It was magical.

It only took about a year for the nerves to fray and my patience to run out. I'd found us a nice little place for not much more a month, down the street from my parents, that had not one, but TWO bathrooms. This, I knew, would be the secret to matrimonial success - no more sharing sinks or having to wait for someone else to finish in the bathroom. We got three good sized bedrooms, an actual place for a table (which, ironically, took us over a year to buy anyway), and a real kitchen with cupboard doors you could open and everything. I was only too thrilled to dump that apartment and head for our new life, never looking back.

It actually shocked the heck out of me when Craig became all nostalgic about that shoebox of an apartment. We bickered there constantly and always seemed to be crawling on top of each other just to get anything done. For some reason he saw this as "being close". While I complained about having to try to cook in a cramped kitchen and was forever bashing my head on cupboard doors and low-lying light fixtures, he watched wistfully as his wife made him a home cooked meal, marvelling at my "cuteness" (read: clumsiness). While I hated dragging groceries up three flights of stairs because of an elevator that never worked, he relished the exercise and would take them full speed, two at a time, grinning with glee.

When it actually came to moving day, I couldn't have been happier. Craig, however, was sad. He wanted to remember those days in the crummy apartment for the rest of our lives. Some thing he could tell our grandkids about and remember fondly in our old age. I, of course, wanted no part in this.

So, oblivious to my disbelief, he decided to run around frantically and catalogue as much as he could of the old apartment. These photos are a few of the ones he took that day. They are my favourites, obviously:

Now I look at these and I can't help but laugh. Instead of the two of us on our rockers perusing memories of our "first crappy apartment", it's just me. I don't love these because I loved that apartment. Far from it. I don't think I could ever have the affection for it that Craig did.

Instead I love them because of what they represent. Craig's enthusiasm for cataloguing our lives as though someday we might forget. He was meticulous about keeping old cards, notes, photographs, and trinkets that held special meaning to him. Like a magpie he would squirrel away these tokens like shiny objects, taking them out from time to time to reminisce.

I always loved that about him and was delighted to uncover these treasures, one at a time, after he passed away.

In the end, he didn't just catalogue our lives for himself. He catalogued them for me.

They became a way for me to remember. To pick up these trinkets and photographs, turn them over in my hands, and smile about where they came from.

All the little pieces of our lives, neatly wrapped up and ready for me.

And though he may never know this, I am truly grateful for this gift he left me.

I do take them out and remember these moments in our life. Sometimes it's like he's looking at them with me, hovering just over my should to point and say, "See, Sal? Look at how skinny I used to be!"

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Valentine's Day Really Looks

When you are first widowed, the pain is so big and so real, it manifests physically. I remember having very severe chest pain (first time I actually took "die of a broken heart" as more than an overblown cliche), back aches, constant nausea (good for weight loss, bad for being social), and no ability to sleep on my own whatsoever. Everything hurts. Not just emotionally, but your whole body too.

Then time marches on and that pain begins to ebb. It fades, slowly, so very slowly you don't even notice it happening at the time.

Eventually it turns into a big empty space where the hurt used to be.

You walk around with this. A big empty bubble, ready to burst at any moment from the slightest provocation. When it bursts... well, duck and run for cover because the hurt comes back tenfold.

It's been almost two years now.

This time of year is hard for me. It has a lot of memories. Mostly I associate it with this sick feeling of dread. That something bad happened/could happen/might happen/did happen. It makes me reflective. Probably unecessarily so.

This time last year, Valentine's Day made me sick. Not because my boyfriend wasn't great (he was... and is) but because it still remains a fixed point in time that I actually remember spending with Craig. You see, most days drift by in your life without you even noticing. A million little things that slide by, some funny, some sweet, some sad. It's like the little ripples in a wave. You see the bigger wave, but the little ones, no matter how special or beautiful, sort of slide by.

But big days, days like Valentine's Day or anniversaries or Christmas, stand out because of their fixed date.

So those I can remember.

I remember exactly what we did.

I remember what we said.

I remember how it felt.

I've told the story of Craig's lack of Valentine's Day forethought before and the resulting Coach bag I love so much, so I won't bother recounting it here. Last year, the one year anniversary of that date, was thick with heartache for me.

This year, with more time having passed, I feel less.

This is not to say it doesn't make me sad or make me miss him. It doesn't mean I love him less than I ever did. It just means that I feel... less.

I try not to let myself get too carried away on what-ifs anymore. I know that once I allow myself to follow a train of thought, like "I wonder what we would be doing today if he was still here..." there will be no stopping the hamster wheel in my mind that can race for days, round and round, obsessing over the possibilities.

I've learned from experience how this can create someone new to mourn. Because as time goes on, you inevitably imagine the person with the slightest of alterations, so small you barely notice them at the time. Before you know it, that person you are remembering isn't the same as the one you lost. And I'd much rather keep those memories of Craig intact, preserved, exactly as he was.

This Valentine's Day I'll be rocking out alone, studying for exams, probably finishing off the night with a glass of wine. Or bottle. Depending on how things go.

I can't promise dinner won't be McDonald's accompanied by a box of Kleenex.

Or I might just laugh my way through some old emails.

I might take Coach out to look at, I might not.

Either way, I think I'll feel a little calmer, a little softer, a little less sad than last year.

And that's progress.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Because Awesome Friends are Awesome

I don't have a whole lot to say today. My posts have been a little darker as of late. What can I say? It's been a rough go of things for the last couple months.

But I've started settling back into the routine of school and for some reason (clearly magical in nature) I actually feel like I'm not drowning this go around. I like my classes. All of them. Well. Except one where I have to do group work every day. Note to course developers: accountants don't like playing with others. That's why we are accountants!

I have a few exciting projects on the go that I'm actually looking forward to. One is a competition for a summer internship at Husky. Shameless plug: Please visit this website and vote for me! http://nexttopaccountant.ca/?p=70

But more than that I have two great buds suffering through the workload with me this semester making my classes a heck of a lot more fun. Yes, we are that obnoxious trio at the front of the room constantly giggling and talking about eating cake. Normally after class we head home but get stalled right before leaving campus and end up yakking for an hour in the freezing cold because we just can't shut up long enough to actually get going. Besides, we are all way too interesting and funny.

Suffice to say, after the way I struggled last semester, having someone to giggle with innapropriately during lectures and share notes with makes it all a lot easier to deal with.

And did I mention they don't get weird when I talk about Craig?


They are awesome.

So here's to awesome friends being awesome!

(but don't let it go to your heads guys... I'll mark you down on peer evaluations if you get too cocky)

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Trade-Off

I read an interesting article this week that cited a survey done amongst widow(er)s who stated, almost unanimously, they would give up an entire year of their life for one more day with their deceased spouse.

At first, I found this statistic rather jarring.

I have no idea if they posed the question outright or if "one year" was simply one of the options to choose from, but I found the very idea bizarre. Had any of these widdas come up with that on their own? Is this part of the bargaining process we go through when we lose a spouse? Dear God, I promise to die a year earlier if I could just have one more day with my husband.

The thought had never really occurred to me before. Largely because my bargaining process went a little more like this: Dear God, thanks for nothing. Please help me survive this now. Help me find a way to pay next month's phone bill. Help me get to work without getting in an accident. Help me survive my coworkers and their misguided attempts at helping. Give me someone to talk to. I promise I'll stop hating everyone. Why did you do this to me? How could you? I hate you... no wait, I don't. Please don't smite me.

Suffice to say the idea of bargaining a little more time with Craig has been working it's way through my brain all week. What would I give up?

To throw a year out there seems almost too glib. Which year? The last year of my life (preferably at 95 or something) or some other random year? And is it unfair to A to throw out what could be one of our years together for someone who is already gone?

Then I thought, what would I do with that one day, anyhow?

I can't imagine taking Craig somewhere or trying to show him what my life is like now. What a waste of time.

Would I cook him dinner or would we go out for McDonald's just to keep things quick?

What would we talk about?

I think I realized I don't really have a whole day's worth of things to say to Craig anymore, assuming he'd just sit there patiently listening the entire time.

And I don't really have things to say.

More like yell.

I'd probably scream my head off at him for leaving me, for making everything so hard. For not paying more attention when he was driving. I'd probably interrogate him about what happened and then not even listen to what he was saying because it still makes me so mad. I'd yell at him for the family mess and everything that has happened with them since.

Somewhere among this obsessive train of thought I realized one very important thing:

I'm still pretty mad.

It's been almost 2 years and I love Craig as much as I ever did and want to yell at him as much as I did the first day. I kind of figured that would have changed by now.

Which inevitably brought me around to one rather depressing thought: How much have I healed, really?

Not nearly as much as I thought I would have.

And the only person that really leaves me mad at is me.

You see, Craig's death involved a lot of trade-offs. I had to swap out my job to go back to school. I have less debt but somehow more financial insecurity. I have a house but I lost our home. I have a new car but now I hate to drive.

I used to have a laundry list of things I wanted in my life that would make me "happy". Craig always gave me a hard time that for every thing on that list I checked off, I'd somehow find a new one to add on.

Now it seems I've checked the majority of those boxes (ok, I still haven't won the lottery) but that "happy" feeling is still eluding me.

And I think it's because I'm disappointed in myself at not getting as far as I'd planned.

I didn't quit my job because I found something better. I quit because my brain stopped working right and I couldn't stay sharp and focused anymore and it was only a matter of time before I flubbed something up beyond repair.

I went back to school but I stuggle with it constantly. It is too hard for me sometimes. Most times, in fact.

I still don't have it "emotionally together" and stay home at least a couple times a month because I just can't will myself to get out of bed and pretend to be a normal human.

I haven't finished my book, reached enlightenment, or changed the world.

I'm still carrying those extra pounds.

I'm still just boring old me, only slightly more defective.

This, more than anything, depresses me.

To think that my life was somehow traded for Craig's and I really haven't done much of anything with it. And the worst part of that is, I've been trying my hardest.

I know all about survivor's guilt - I'm a walking billboard for it. You will tell me that there was nothing I could do, that I couldn't trade places with Craig anyhow. Maybe you'll tell me it was his time to go, not mine. There is a greater cosmic plan at work.

You can tell me all these things.

But I can't make myself believe you.

Every day I walk around happy, I think perhaps I shouldn't be, it's not fair. Every time I try to achieve something, I drown in guilt that I should get something that he should have had. Every minute I get to keep going is a minute he didn't get.

I wish I had a magical answer or perhaps that awesome machine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where I could just brain wipe whatever sucked in my life. So I could unknow the things that make me immobile.

I think perhaps THAT would make me happy.