Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hope, and hope

I'm feeling like I should write one of those year-in-summary posts. Don't ask me why - I'm not completely sure.

But I think this year can be summed up like this:
fear fear fear
letting go
pain grief pain grief pain pain pain

A friend said last night in chat that he wants to kick 2015's ass. I agreed. 2014 so thoroughly kicked my ass that I'd really like to be on the giving end of a year-long ass-kicking instead.

Onwards ...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I never thought that life would find me laughing with the pale moon

I know I've been quiet here.  So here's a little catch-up catch-all ramble of a post, a little bit of everything.

I stopped doing my tracker posts because I was bored with them, and have been keeping track of those things privately.

My exercise program has gone to hell, but that's mostly because I've been spending very little time at home, and haven't yet quite figured out how to keep up with it where I've been staying.

Jay didn't have cable, and I don't either, so in all the time I've been in Portland up til now, I've spent almost zero time watching local news. I've seen so little local news that now that I'm getting to see it once in a while, I realize that my brain still expects to see Baltimore-related news. It was a profoundly surreal moment when that finally sunk in.

And Portland weather reports? Let's just say I've never seen anything as complicated as the weather we have here. There are so many zones and areas and whatnot. I wonder if the local meteorologists have to go through special training just to be able to talk sensibly about our weather.

I'm in the new- to early-settling-in stages of a relationship. I've been reluctant to talk about it, because the last time I talked about love, it fell apart in my hands. So here's fair warning that you may never hear about it again, and you probably won't know if that's because I'm being cautious or if it's over.

I feel like I've lost something of myself in losing Jay. I listen to recordings of conversations between me and Jay and friends, and wonder who that clever, funny woman with my voice is. I miss her, I miss being her.

I've been starting to think more seriously about where I want to move in Portland when my lease is up at the beginning of June. As much as I really really don't want to pack and move again, I know that living in Jay's house is not a viable long-term solution. I'm glad for the year I will have had here; it will have been a good transition for me from being with Jay to being here on my own.  But I need to move on, to shake things up again, so I don't root here where I'm not entirely comfortable being.

Recent events have taught me how easily I get hung up on not-knowing. This discovery is driving me a little bit crazy, as is the realization that I can't quite close the door completely.

The upcoming New Year has got me thinking about grief again. This will be my first New Year's Day since Jay died. That feels like it ought to be profound, but I'm not sure it is. We'll see how I feel on the day, especially since it will also be the 7 month anniversary of his death.

Life goes on.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I'm not looking back, but I want to look around me now

Jay has been gone six months today. It seems like he’s been gone forever, but there are still times when the grief is fresh and strong enough that it seems like only yesterday.

The grief still catches me off-guard from time to time, a punch in the gut that leaves me sobbing. Any sight of his life mask will do that, a song lyric, a picture on the digital frame. It happens infrequently, and generally passes quickly, but the grief is always there, like a pool just under the surface of my life, sometimes quiet, sometimes stormy.

I realized sometime recently that I’m in the ultimate long-distance relationship with Jay, albeit with somewhat less communication than might be desired.

I also realized that he’s been gone a quarter as long as we knew each other. That is sobering.

On the positive side, the universe has surprised me by showing me the face of love again. I honestly didn’t know whether I would ever be able to open my heart to love after Jay died. He and I talked about that a lot, with him worrying that I would purposely close myself off, which he surely didn’t want. And I wasn't so much afraid of closing myself off, but of having a heart that wouldn't open again.

So to find love again so soon and so strongly - what a gift.

And to realize that I have a life I love, full of laughter and friends and fun - this is what I wanted for myself when my husband left me almost four years ago, but that I couldn’t find either where I was living or because of who I was there. Now I have it, and what a blessing it is. It’s not without its challenges, but I’m learning and adjusting and figuring out how to make it all work.

This will likely be the last of my monthly updates on my grief process, unless something significant happens. No doubt I will post on the year anniversary of Jay’s death - that will be a hard day.

But for now, life goes on, and the dance is lively and lovely.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lisa's not-so-excellent adventure (complete with happy ending)

Now that it’s all over, and I can say the news is good and I’m OK, let me tell you the saga of my brush with breast cancer.

I had a routine mammogram at the beginning of September. It took a while to get the results, and when I did, it was not an answer, but just a note to say that my old films from Kaiser in Maryland had been requested so they could compare them with my current films.

This did not fill me with a sense of hope.

Time passed, and I communicated both with my primary care physician and a radiologist, but nothing seemed to be happening. During this time, I also being evaluated for thyroid nodules, which was an added stressor.

I heard back from the radiologist in mid-October, saying they were still waiting for my old films. This made me want to hop on a plane and wrest them from Kaiser personally, but I resisted the temptation and complained to my PCP instead.  (Poor guy - he was really patient with me.)

Fast-forward to the end of last week, when I received a letter in the mail from the Breast Center at OHSU, informing me that they’d wanted me to come back in for further imaging on my right breast *since the beginning of October*.  Clearly, some communication had gone awry, since I’d had no message from MyChart, nor anything in the mail.

So in a panic, I tried to call last Friday to schedule and appointment, but couldn’t get through. I called again yesterday and got appointments for a second mammogram and a first ultrasound for this morning.

Then, taking a leaf from Jay’s book, I did not follow my first instinct, which was to curl up in a ball and hide with this news. I emailed a bunch of friends, and got a lot of support and love. That helped a lot with the stress.

Today brought the most painful boob smashing I’ve ever had, but it also brought the news that the thing they saw was just a cyst, small and of no worry.

I came home and burst into tears.

This is my third brush with potential cancer in the past year.  Last fall (a year ago), it was cervical cancer as we were getting ready to go to England for WFC and then ended up going to Maryland to help close out my parents’ affairs there after my father’s stroke. Then this summer, the thing with my thyroid. Now this.

I have one last scan to do - I need to do a colonoscopy, but I talked my doctor into letting me do a poop card, which I’ve been putting off because one medical mystery at a time, please, while I still have that luxury.

I’m exhausted and emotionally very tender at the moment. Every time this comes up, it brings all the memories of Jay’s illness rushing back. I now know at a very basic level the emotional texture that his scanxiety brought, and the feeling of Schrodinger’s tumor.  Here’s hoping I never have to get more intimately acquainted with that anxiety. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

And all of your weight, all you dream, falls on me, it falls on me

Just a quick post to say that my body and heart are all too aware that the 6-month anniversary of Jay's death is coming up quickly.

I'm tender and quick to tears again. Little things and big things trigger me. As always, I'm letting the tears flow when I can, letting them wash away the pain.

I'm dreading the holidays, but I'll deal with those emotions when the time comes.

So for now, more tears, more grieving, and eventually, more healing.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lost voices

I've been spending a lot of time this week thinking about how sad it makes me that Jay's voice has been silenced, both in the literal sense of never hearing him speak to me again, and in the metaphorical sense of him never creating new stories. This line of thought has driven me to tears again and again.

Last night, I was enjoying listening to music. I started out shuffling Rush on my iPod, then was seized by a desire to listen to Big Country, who I haven't listened to in  quite a while. And I was enjoying myself quite nicely, until I realized that I was listening to another lost voice. The band's singer committed suicide in 2001 (see my post here for previous thoughts on this).

Sitting on the sofa, I burst into tears.

So here am I, grieving for all the lost voices in the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another rough patch

I'm having a rough week here.

This past weekend was the fan memorial for Jay at Orycon. I didn't participate, other than bringing Jay's tux, chili pepper aloha shirt, and flame sneakers to the con for display at the memorial.

But it was triggery for me, even so. I shudder to think what state I'd be in now if I'd gone.

On top of that, Jay's bench has come back from the engraver, freshly inscribed with his name and dates and his epitaph.

That hit hard.

So I'm back in a rough sea of grief after a patch of relatively smooth sailing.

I know this will pass, and that all there is to do is to get out there and live life.

So off I go, once more.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Safe on the shore I've been sleeping, faced by the thoughts I've been keeping

Five months on

Here we are again, at the turning of the month, another anniversary of Jay's death.

I think this is the first anniversary where I don't know what I'm feeling. Less pain, less overwhelming grief, yes - those things are true. A greater sense of moving forward, of moving away from our life together and into my life - this is true, too.

I'm in an in-between place, neither here nor there, unsure of what comes next. But for the first time, I'm feeling confident about not knowing.

I suppose it's possible I've just dug myself a comfortable rut, but this doesn't feel like that.

Still miss him, every single day.

And yes, this first-of-the-month thing continues to be difficult. Last night, I had the first genuine crying jag I've had in quite a while.

But life goes on.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Misc updatery

A couple of unrelated things make a post:
  • We had a big rain last weekend, and there was some minor flooding in my garage and downstairs bathroom., as well as major flooding in the other side of the duplex. This has led to major cleanup projects, which in turn will lead to waterproofing and other recovery. As I said on Facebook, this makes me very glad I'm a renter. And it also has the effect of filling my guest room downstairs with every single thing that used to be in the bathroom, except the toilet.  Just when I thought I might have a handle on getting that guest room cleaned out and usable - ah well. At least now I'm going to be forced to deal with all the stuff that was in the bathroom - this is a good thing.
  • I'm back to doing some heavy emotional processing, as evidenced by my constant exhaustion and hunger. It's not surprising, given that we're coming up on the first of the month again. But it's disconcerting to be back in that place of emotional upheaval after a couple of weeks of relative calm. But I know that this will pass, so I'm just riding the waves and trying to get some extra rest and calories.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Catching up

I know I've been quiet here lately. I've been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of processing, and haven't really come to any conclusions, hence my not being here talking about it all.

There are so many things that have changed for me in the wake of Jay's death, and so many of them are things I had given absolutely no thought to before he died. A lot of them are related to whatever relationships I'm going to have as time passes. Another lot of them are related to what I want my life to look like, whether I'm single or in the middle of a passel of lovers. A surprising number of them are about where I want to physically be in Portland.

I'm trying to remind myself that this is an unprecedented opportunity to remake my life pretty much how ever I want to, within my financial and emotional limits, although those latter may be able to be challenged and stretched a bit.

It's all still a jumble in my head, as you can tell from the ramble I'm having here.

But just know that I'm still around, still thinking, still grieving, but still also moving on into whatever the next phase of my life will be.

I'm still moving step by step, but it's less "one foot in front of the other" and more "slowly learning this new dance step". That's a vast improvement.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Knowing the name of the portal

I finally figured out which portal I walked through recently.

I'm starting to move on.

It feels profoundly wrong to be doing this so soon after Jay's death. I apologize every day to the pictures of him on my dresser. Even though I know it's what he would have wanted for me, I feel guilty.

But the process has begun. I set my relationship status to single on OKCupid (and then went on a fantastic first date). I haven't quite yet felt the need to change my relationship status on Facebook, but then all my friends there know me and know what I'm going through, and the truth is I am still in a complicated relationship with Jay.

As I said to a friend at lunch yesterday, in my heart of hearts, I'm still waiting for Jay to come back. But knowing how my life works, as long as I'm waiting for him to come back, he won't - but the moment I stop waiting, he will.

I know that sounds crazy, but that's how my bargaining/denial/disbelief is expressing itself these days.

All the usual disclaimers apply, especially the one that watches for the changing of the month.

But I've taken that first big step into the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leveling up? Achievement unlocked? Something like that ...

Passed through another portal since the Crater Lake trip.  I'm not quite sure what happened, but something surely has.

I'm back to a place of relative acceptance, with relatively little emotional overwhelm. I'm still sad and still grieving, but everything is less painful than it has been.

I feel stable for the first time in a long time.

I also have no illusions that this will last, but for the moment, I'm coping well.

We'll see what the next little while brings, especially as we approach the start of November.

But for now, doing pretty darn well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Anniversary trip

This past weekend, I drove down to Klamath Falls so I could reprise Jay's & my unsuccessful trip from last year, to actually successfully see Crater Lake and celebrate my second anniversary of moving to Portland.

Friday, I ended up taking the route that went right past Timberline Lodge, so since the last time I'd been there it was so foggy I couldn't see Mount Hood, I stopped in to see my old friend. He was looking fine:
View of Mount Hood from the amphitheater behind
Timberline Lodge

I spent Friday night in Klamath Falls, and drove out Saturday to see Crater Lake.  It was nothing short of spectacular.

It's impossible for pictures to do the lake justice. It's so enormous that all sense of scale is lost. Just remember - this lake started out as a 12,000 foot high volcano that exploded and left this hole in the ground.  My brain just can't cope with that.

And my heart had a tough time, as well. As gorgeous as the lake was, and as glad as I was to finally get to see it, Saturday was still a time of sadness and anger. All the usual grief stuff was there with me. I wanted nothing more than to turn to Jay and share all those moments with him. His death blew a huge hole in my heart that is certainly not a pretty thing surrounded by hills and pines.

Ah, well. Happy anniversary to me, anyway.

More shots of Mount Hood and Crater Lake at the Flickr sets.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's a far cry from the world we thought we'd inherit

This weekend is tough. Bad enough that this week brought the four-month anniversary of Jay's death. But today is my two-year anniversary of moving to Portland, and I'm celebrating it alone.

That's not meant to be a sweeping dramatic statement, just a statement of fact and emotional truth.

This weekend I'm reprising the trip we took together last year to celebrate this anniversary, driving down to stay in Klamath Falls and visit Crater Lake. We were thwarted last year in actually seeing Crater Lake by the government shutdown.

So here I am this year, on my own, going to see the sights we didn't see together last year.

So much changed over the last year, and looking back over it all, I can't even begin to think where I'll be this time next year. While Jay was alive, we were living in the two-month box - the time between his scans. Right now, I'm living in the one-month box - the time between the start of months, every turning of the calendar page another stab to the heart.

But I'm starting to feel the stirring of an emotion I consciously shut down while Jay was alive and ill - I'm beginning to feel hope for the first time in a long time. I don't know hope for what yet, maybe just hope for a new life. But I can feel it beginning in tiny excited flutters, from time to time, in and around the grief.

So I mark this anniversary, knowing that this time next year, I'll be in a different place, and looking forward to seeing where I might be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

If you don’t bring up those lonely parts this could be a good time

4 months on - a ramble about where I am

I'm still struggling daily, but I seem to have processed something large in the past month, setting down some big burden.

I'm still sad, sometimes unbearably so. I'm still lonely, sometimes unbearably so.

But I'm also feeling energized by the change to autumn. This is always the time of year my energy starts rising again. It's that old feeling of excitement about school starting. It's hard to feel the season change and know that I'm just that much further away from the life I had with Jay. But it's good, too.

I'm working hard to make this life into something I want to live. I'm learning more about my own fears and what they make me do and what they keep me from doing. I'm learning how to harness my creative drives to express things I could never have expressed before.

I'm doing my best to get back to being able to remember what I was like when Jay was alive and we were happy. I can't stay that person forever, have already moved away from being her, but I don't want to lose her entirely.

A month ago, I said this:
Harder for me is the psychological reality that I'm still waiting for Jay to come home from whatever trip he's on. The disbelief that he's truly gone is pervasive and deep, and I think this, too, is just part of my normal-for-now.
 This is still true.

Jay's been appearing my dreams a lot lately, which is unusual. Even when he was alive, he almost never appeared directly in my dreams, but appeared as other people who I knew to be him. Now he mostly shows up as himself. I don't always remember the dreams, but I know when I've dreamed about him.

I still miss him terribly, and am still angry at the universe for cutting his life short. I doubt those things will ever change, and I'm sure I say them every time I write one of these posts.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yesterday's great molasses flood

The word for the day yesterday was "resistance".

I could feel it from the moment I woke up.  Monday and Tuesday this week I managed to get up early enough to be able to have breakfast, meditate, and ride the exercise bike before I signed on to work.  Today, I crawled out of bed with just enough time to grab my breakfast shake before I signed on.

I was logy the whole day. My mind fought meditation mightily. My body tried to refuse exercise. I had to force myself to sit down and work. Even play was something I struggled with today.

I had two calls I had to make, both of which were critical, and I had to bribe myself to get them done.

I was impatient and surly. Days like yesterday make me glad I'm not in the physical presence of my co-workers - nobody needs to deal with me in that state.

The whole day was like wading through molasses.

I know that days like this happen - they're just part of the great sine wave of life.

But damn, are they unpleasant when they do roll around.

Hoping for a better face on things today.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Driving down the razor's edge between the past and the future

Edging up to four months without Jay, I'm coming to realize that every turning of a new month will be a reminder of my path away from our life together. I wonder how long that will last, or if it will last forever.

This has been an excruciating week for me, a week of exquisite and nearly unending pain. The difficulty I was having related to waiting for my medical test results didn't help. I think I'm in more emotional pain now than I was right after Jay died.

I keep waking up each morning to the realization that whatever I do with my life from this moment on, I do it without him. I do it only with the memory of him. That emptiness threatens to suck me in every single day.

Part of the problem is that the time in the clinical trial has nearly overwritten my memories of the good times. And god, did we have good times. But the pain and fear of the trial and of watching Jay slide inexorably toward death is, right now at least, carved more strongly on my heart.

This is one of the reasons for my continued passes through his blog. I want to see who he was before I knew him. I want to see what he said about all our good times. I re-read our early emails for the same reason - to be reminded of the strength of our love and the power of the joy we had in each other.

He was an incredible gift to me, and I don't want to squander that gift.

But I am plodding right now, barely putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Miscellaneous updatery

A few things make a post:

  • I finally got a new spice rack. It seems like such a silly thing, but it makes me very happy. The one I used to have was too tall for any of the spaces in the kitchen, and the only place it could be easily hung was on the wall over the trash can, which really didn't appeal. That's one of the downsides to having a tile backsplash.
  • I also finally sorted through Jay's flatware and figured out which bits I wanted, and gave the rest to Mother of the Child. This makes my fork story even sillier: when my ex moved out, I had a full set of 8 settings each of flatware, but I kept running out of forks. So I went to Target and bought another set of 8. Now I've added Jay's how-many-ever-there-were, and I have too many forks to fit in my divider. Mother of the Child says I need to have a dinner party with all those forks.
  • The brag shelf is finally in some semblance of order after the furniture moving in the dining room. It's a mixture of Jay's stuff and mine, including the electronic picture frame, to which I've added a bunch of pics.
  • I accidentally found the circuit breakers for the house when I took down a large chalk drawing in the upstairs hall to replace it with a Buddhist print. That was a surprise. I keep hoping that's not really the breaker box; what an awkward place to put it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cool stuff at OHSU

Because I'm me, and my appointment on Monday was up the hill, and because I'm constitutionally incapable of finding my way up and back down the hill by car, I parked at the Waterfront clinic and took the tram up to the hospital.

For anyone who's thinking about visiting Portland, if you come during clear weather season, you can get a spectacular view of the city and the river from the tram.  If you come in rainy weather, you get a lovely view, but somewhat more limited.

Of course, because I'm me, I didn't take pictures of the view.  The tram swings at one point during its trip and I have to focus very carefully on the floor not to let my vertigo get the better of me.

Instead, I took some shots when I got back down to the Waterfront end of things.

I was originally drawn by these shapes:
which turned out to be one end of this:

Then I looked to the right, and saw the main attraction:

This said "Dr." at the beginning of the name; I just missed the shot

The area where the ship-thing is is where the windows in the oncology clinic waiting room look over. I've spent many an hour sitting there, looking at the warehouse (which you can see a tiny bit of in the first shot, on the left side of the shot). But never in all that time was there actually something sitting on the asphalt. Until today, I never knew what that warehouse was.

So, that was a cool thing on an otherwise not-so-cool day.

A few more shots at the Flickr set.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fun at the doctor's

So, I had a thyroid nodule biopsy yesterday.  That was a lot of fun. (Please sense deep sarcasm here.)

I'm going to post this pic of the aftermath,  me with an enormous ice pack stuck to my neck, to keep you from the gory details if you don't want to. Seriously, bail out at the pic if you're squeamish. I'm not quite as bad as Jay was for medical TMI, but there is some ick below the pic.

Right now, I'm just left with an achy neck and a lovely bruise and a wish not to do that again anytime soon.

I have no idea how long the results will take - I was so foggy from low blood sugar and discomfort that I forgot to ask. I can always ping my primary care doctor and see what he says if I don't hear soon.

And on top of this, I'm also having to wait for my mammogram results until they can compare the current scan with my previous scans, all of which were done in Maryland. Imagine my mood right now.

The patient, post-procedure, 
about to eat lunch in the hospital cafeteria


This was an ultrasound-guided biopsy. The last biopsy I had, seven years ago or so, there was no ultrasound. I'm not sure which was worse.

First, I got the smurf treatment - that nasty blue surgical soap - all over my neck. I left with most of it still on me. That was attractive.

Then, I got a lidocaine shot. That hurt like a bitch, and the sensation it left was profoundly unpleasant.

Remember that last phrase - it will become a theme.

Then the doctor inserted the first biopsy needle. It was fine until she started wiggling it around to grab cells. Then the whole profoundly unpleasant thing started again.

Then she did it again with a second needle. And again with a third.

Then I asked for more lidocaine, since that third needle hurt rather than just being unpleasant. The lidocaine wasn't nearly so bad the second time.

There was the fun of 5 needles all together, all of them profoundly unpleasant. It wasn't painful, just weird, the kind of sensation you never want to feel from your body.

One thing I found both mildly amusing and mildly annoying was the skepticism with which my claim of being able to feel the nodule was met. I've been feeling it push against a neck tendon for a month or so now. How else would I have known it had flared up? The doctor was skeptical because of the nodule's small size. And it wasn't until she started digging around and saw how I was reacting that she was willing to admit that I might have been able to feel it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Taking a little side trip

I had a marvelous brunch with my friend Debra yesterday. She's the kind of friend that you can spend hours with and not notice the time passing. As we did, for two hours.

Afterwards, I had put on my calendar to go take pics of trains and trucks from the bridge on SE Holgate just east of 17th Ave. But as I drove away from dropping Debra off, I completely forgot and headed off in the wrong direction.  I took the long way around to get back to where I wanted to be, and parked and walked across 17th to get to the bridge.

Here are some random shots:

What is a bobtail, and why does it need a special exit?


Freight train moving along

More at the Flickr set.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The closing walls and the ticking clocks

I unpacked my last box today.

With the arrival of my old sideboard into my dining room, I finally have the space to unpack that box so I can now figure out what combination of Jay's kitchen stuff and mine I'm going to keep.

But that got me thinking about being finally moved in, and how odd my history here has been.

I moved to Portland at the beginning of October 2012. At the time, I was staying at Jay's house, with only what I had brought in the car with me. The plan was that I would stay with him until Nancy & I found a house to rent together.

The process of finding a house took longer than we anticipated, and it wasn't until January 2013 that the POD with all my stuff from Baltimore finally got unloaded into the rental house in South Tabor.

But by that time the necessities of caregiving and the growing bond Jay & I had had complicated the living situation. Even though most of my stuff was in the rental house, I was still living essentially full time in Jay's house. I lived out of a suitcase for a long time, long after Jay had offered me closet and drawer space in his bedroom.  I finally gave in - don't ask me what took me so long, I have no idea - and unpacked my suitcase into the closet and drawer.

I generally only spent time at the rental house when Jay was out of town or when he had intimate houseguests.

Neither place really felt like home. My stuff was one place, my heart another, and neither was really home. I am a nester, and that made things difficult because the place where I was most wasn't really mine and the place I could have made comfortably mine I rarely was.

We lived in this condition until sometime in the fall of 2013, when Jay officially asked me to move in with him. At the time, I think my plan was to keep the rental house and just move the stuff I needed into Jay's house. This morphed over time into Emily helping me discard stuff and pack up the rest during one break from the clinical trial ordeal, and then my dear friends moving my stuff into Jay's house while we were in Maryland in March or April 2014.

The hope was that we would come home from Maryland in April and that Jay would be well enough that we could together integrate me into what would then be our home.  Obviously, that never occurred.

So now I'm all moved in to what is now just the house I'm renting and also the place where Jay's life ended and his stuff still remains.

I'm left starting my life over in the ashes of his life. I'm essentially curating the rest of his life in this place I'm trying to make my home. It's tough and only occasionally rewarding. I often wonder if I've made a mistake staying in this house. But some of that doubt is just exhaustion from this, my third restart of my life since 2011.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Down a winding garden path

One of the things I've been dealing with since Jay's death is my issues around food.

If I really want to keep my addiction recovery program going strong, I need to cook more. If I want to keep my budget in good shape, I need to cook more. Are we sensing a theme?

And yet, I've been finding myself really disinterested in cooking. Mostly because I can't find things that I want to eat that I can cook.

I found what I hope will be the solution while reading Jay's blog.

Stay with me here - there's a connection, I promise.

I'm in the process of making my third pass through Jay's LJ. The first time, I read through his posts since we met; the second time, I read each day's posts from the beginning of his LJ. This time I am reading each individual post as well as all the comments.

Somewhere as I was reading through his March 2008 posts, it occurred to me to wonder what *I* had been blogging about at the same time. So I wandered over to my now defunct and locked-down original blog and took a look. (That was a fascinating exercise all on its own.)

One of the things I discovered was that for a while in 2008, I posted weekly menus. I was trying to get a handle on what I was eating and trying to learn how to do menu planning, so just like I post my daily trackers now, I was posting weekly menus and talking a little bit about how the previous week went.

Being the good indexer that I am, I even tagged all those posts as "menus".

And there was the answer to my "what the hell am I going to cook" dilemma - I printed out all those menus posts, and marked them up.  I'm going to compile a list of meals and probably keep them in Evernote, since everything in my universe is tucked away in Evernote. That will help me plan my week's food better, and get me back into the habit of going grocery shopping every weekend and spending time cooking ahead. (I don't think I'll ever completely break my habit of eating planned leftovers.)

So to celebrate this momentous occasion, and since so many of the things I used to make were based on things from Trader Joe's, I went and bought a whole bunch of TJ's food. My freezer is now nearly full, which is such a good feeling.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

To see from where I am there is nothing more than this

I'm realizing I'm not posting much these days, other than those pesky tracker posts.

Mostly that's because at the moment, nothing much is going on, nothing is changing.

I'm in a downward sweep of grief, crying a lot, being in pain a lot, going about my day every day because there's nothing else to be done. But feeling empty and lonely and unbearably sad.

The arrival on my doorstep today of Jay's final book hasn't helped any, but it didn't make things any worse, either.

I'm rolling in a sea of grief, waves crashing against me and pushing me up against the rocks. Over and over and over again.

So far, I'm keeping my head above the waves, not drowning, but sometimes my tears threaten to drown me, to sweep me so far out to sea I'll never find my way back.

I have no doubt there will be an upswing at some point, but not today.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Now my mind must go on holiday, torn from its hook, a broken valentine

Three months on

Here we are, three months after Jay's death.

The past week brought a lot of changes and subtle movement in what I hope is a positive direction.

I quit therapy.  I had a month off from it between my schedule and my therapist's vacation, and when I started thinking about going back, I started getting anxious. So I thought about that for a little while, then said to myself: what if I quit? Then I thought about that for a little while, and decided it was the right thing to do.

That decision propelled me into a couple of other movements forward.

I'm doing the Artist's Way again, mostly focusing on doing morning pages. I've done this before, two or three times, but I think I'm finally to the place where they will do me some good. And maybe I'll finally break through the block that's been holding me back.

I also went on a date this week for the first time since Jay died. (For anyone who doesn't already know, Jay & I were non-monogamous; he would have been quite happy had I been dating throughout our relationship, which I did a bit of. So this is not quite as weird as it may seem.) I'd been dithering around on OKCupid for a while, and someone found me who I didn't want to resist. It was lovely, and a little odd emotionally, and I hope for more of the lovely, if this thing takes off.

One kind-of tough thing this week: a doctor's appointment, which was fine, but it was the first time I'd been back to where Jay was treated in Portland since his last trip. It was harder than I anticipated.

But this three-months-since thing ... my heart is really tender right now. I'm back in that place where everything is making me tear up, like going to OHSU to see my doctor, who was also Jay's doctor. And I'm also in a place where I am beginning to understand that this is my normal-for-now, and where I am beginning to accept that it's OK and livable.

Harder for me is the psychological reality that I'm still waiting for Jay to come home from whatever trip he's on.  The disbelief that he's truly gone is pervasive and deep, and I think this, too, is just part of my normal-for-now.

But I did have a sweetly tender Jay moment this week: as I was dithering around trying to decide what to wear on my date, I could hear Jay's laughter in my head. To the point where I started laughing and said out loud, "Shut up!" in that way that we always did when one of us lovingly hit on a sore point. And when I got home, I told him all about it.

I miss him so terribly. That will never change either, I don't think.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Falling up the Falls

Got up this morning, and realized I really needed to get out of the house. So I pulled myself together and about 8:30 I drove out to the Columbia River Gorge.

My immediate goal was Multnomah Falls, which at the hour I arrived was relatively clear of tourists, and gorgeous as always.

I walked up the path to the top of the lower falls, where I got this shot, looking down on the lower falls from the bridge:

And this shot of the upper falls through the iron barrier near the top of the lower falls:

Then insanity struck me, and I decided to try to walk to the top of the upper falls. Straight up. Through 11 switchbacks.

Needless to say, I didn't make it to the top. I made it through 4 switchbacks, decided I'd walked straight up far enough, and started back down.  It was a good thing, too, as my legs were so wobbly and my knees complaining so hard by the time I got back down that if I'd actually made it to the top, someone would have had to carry me down. As I was on my own, that would have been awkward.

Then I drove down to Vista House, but the parking was impossible, so I headed home.

All in all, a lovely day. Just what I needed.

More shots at the Flickr set.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A pair of postcards from my brain

I framed a print of the doors to the Mines of Moria this week, and hung it on the wall next to the front door.  This was something Jay & I ordered together, along with what turned out to be a god-awful ugly poster of the Argonath. I'm still on the hunt for a better version of them.

The hanging of and placement of this print were very important to me - it had to be by the front door - for reasons I couldn't identify.

Then yesterday it hit me: the door to the Mines led to the death of the one counted on to lead the group through to the end. Walking out our front door and entering the clinical trial was our version of opening the door to the Mines.

And I lost the one I counted on most.

* * *

I'm now sleeping on a new set of sheets. This doesn't sound like that big a deal, but it's the first set of sheets for the big bed that Jay never slept on. I thought it was important to have one set that had my energy and not his, since eventually I will have lovers again, and they will sleep (and other things) in that bed.

For now, though, given that it's just me in that big bed, it feels strange and a little bit like a betrayal.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The city on the river there is a girl without a dream

I'm firmly in the grip of the blues.

This started Sunday when the announcements of the streaming video of the Hugo awards began showing up in my Facebook feed. I'd already long ago - like last year's Worldcon - decided I wasn't going to watch the awards streaming this year. As it was, during last year's memorial display part of the ceremony, I started crying in anticipation of what it was going to be like seeing Jay's name on the screen.

But that started me tumbling down the rabbit hole of grief and sadness once more. And now I'm sitting firmly at the bottom.

Once again, every little thing is making me cry. Every change in the house, every stray memory of Jay, every time I (still, even after all this time) start to grab my phone to text Jay about something cool I just saw, every time a shadow moves across the floor.

One foot in front of the other ...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lessons learned, fitness edition

Yesterday's hour-long walk on Jay's old neighborhood path was a real eye-opener for me.  It utterly wiped me out, and I'm still so wiped out today that I'm actually skipping exercise completely today to let my body recover.

But here's what that walk taught me:

  • I'm insanely out of shape. Well, this is not exactly news. But the last time I did this walk, I did it with only a little bit of whining about the hilly part near the end. <sarcasm>This time was just a little different </sarcasm>.
  • I'm insanely stubborn. (This isn't news, either, unfortunately.) There was a point during the walk where I could easily have either turned around or taken a shorter path, which would have made for a perfectly acceptable walk. But I had to know whether I could do the full walk, so on I went.
  • I need to stop neglecting my "active recovery" days. These are days when I would be doing stretching or joint mobility or chair compensation. I've been skipping these activities, and boy, am I paying the price. Even today, my back and hips are complaining at me.
  • My exercise program, as currently constituted, is helping. I couldn't have done this walk without all the bike riding I've been doing. So I need to keep up with that, and step up all the other parts of the exercise routine.

Friday, August 15, 2014

More miscellanea

A year ago, we were just finishing up our trip to New Zealand.  Two years ago, we were processing the news that sent Jay back into treatment for the rest of his life. And here I am now, without him.

Then I think even further back. Three years ago, I knew Jay only through his books and his LiveJournal. Four years ago, I was still happily married (or so I thought). Nice perspective, that.

* * *

Went to a lovely dinner party hosted by former housemate Nancy for the occasion of one of my longest-tenure friends being in town from Baltimore. It was wonderful to introduce Eric to The Tribe.

As I said to Eric as we were leaving the party, Jay was an amazing man, and he gathered amazing people around him. But I always forget that maybe that makes me an amazing person, too.

* * *

A talk with a friend the other day reminded me of something that's making me less anxious about regaining my hermit ways. She mentioned that Jay taught her the word "estivate", which basically means to hibernate in the summer. She does this, and so do I - always have. All the energy I had right after Jay's death happened before it got hot here. Once it got hot, estivation set in, and all my energy died off in the heat.

I have no doubt that once it cools off again, and we're back to my beloved cool gray weather, my energy level will increase.

* * *

Feeling very weirded out by my complete inability to read fiction. Granted, I've read some really interesting non-fiction, and have become a huge fan of Mary Roach, who can make any topic funny.  But I'm missing wrapping myself up in a made-up world, even if only for the length of a short story. My brain is simply refusing to go there.

* * *

Feeling simultaneously very lost, very sad, very calm, and full of acceptance. Fully in the stew that is grief.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Miscellaneous updatery

My meditation practice has taken an interesting turn.  My mind starts spontaneously chanting on the in-breath: In this moment I know peace (be here now), and on the out-breath: In this moment I know joy (be here now).  It starts and stops without any choice from me. It doesn't happen every session, but it's fun to watch while it's happening.

* * *

I found Jay's bathrobe while cleaning out a downstairs closet.  Ironically, it was exactly the bathrobe I'd been shopping for without success.  It's a bit big, but I'm enjoying wearing it on these nice cool mornings.

* * *

I'm still having issues with getting to sleep. I'm to the point of exhaustion every night when I turn out the lights, but it feels like I'm taking longer and longer to actually get to sleep. This is frustrating. I can't decide if this is just an extension of the grief sleep issues I've been having, or whether this is the start of menopausal sleep issues, or some hideous overlap of the two.

* * *

With the chemo chair gone, that side of the living room feels unbalanced, even though it's basically back to the arrangement it was in before the black chair came into the picture. It will take a bit of getting used to, having things back the way they were.

* * *

One thing Jay brought me back from his trip to Taos last year was a tiny trilobite fossil. He said he wanted to bring me a slice of Deep Time, since that was what we were living in and/or through. I've been contemplating that truth recently, to no conclusions, but it's made for interesting thinking.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Even though the walls are falling, I swear I hear the calling now

Today was particularly tough, for reasons I can't identify.

Nothing has changed, nothing has passed but time, but I've re-entered one of those phases where my grief is big and heavy and weighs my heart down. I remember my (now late) mother-in-law talking about the grief of losing her second husband, how it literally bowed her shoulders with its weight.

That's where I'm back to now.

Everything makes me sad: Couples talking about how long they've been together. Almost any song. The sound of Jay's voice on a recording. The breeze blowing. The beauty of clouds.

I got to the end of my work day and realized I hadn't yet meditated, so I got on my cushion and promptly lost my shit, sobbing hard.

This is one of those days when I honestly feel like I'm never going to pass through this, that I'm stuck in a tunnel that has no end.

Deep in my heart I know that's not true, because even here, I've seen the light at the end of this tunnel.

But at the moment, I'm back in the darkness, once again just putting one foot in front of the other.

Walking through the old 'hood

Yesterday, by the time my work day was done, I was ready to chew through nails. Two tough days in a row, and I'd had enough.

So I decided to go on a photo safari in Jay's old neighborhood, Brooklyn.

Because that's where our PO boxes are, I've spent quite a bit of time in various parts of the neighborhood, but had never walked through it.

I didn't find a lot to shoot, but there were some fun things:

The piano fence behind Jay's old house, now barely visible

His old back/front door

The Aladdin Theater

With The Lamp right next door - one of Jay's & my favorite spots

Street names in the sidewalk

I was hoping to find one of the old horse rings in a curb, but none of the streets I walked down had any that I spotted.

I walked around for about a half hour before my headache came back, and it and the sun started to make me queasy.  Still, it was good to get out and walk around.

A few more shots at the Flickr set.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Would I be out of line if I said I miss you

What I miss:

* I miss sitting in the dining room, with my computer on the dining table, working alongside Jay. Well, really behind him, since his desk was in front of me.

* I even miss seeing that goddamned head tattoo, which was my view for many a day.

* I miss him singing in the shower. (No picture here, unless you want a shot of our shower curtain.)

* I miss all the adventures we took

and all the ones we'll never get to take.

* I miss his silliness and his never-failing sense of humor.

* I miss his Thing with his tongue:

I just miss him, completely. This doesn't happen to be any special day, just a day when I can't stand how much I miss him, so I'm dragging you through some of my memories to try and ease that feeling.

Friday, August 1, 2014

All God's children take their passage into night

Is there a stage of grief where you lose track of time, where you realize you're not tracking days? I feel like I'm there now. Days and weeks pass, and I'm only dimly aware of their passage. I'm behind on so much correspondence it's not even funny.

And it's not even a matter of energy. I am literally not feeling time passing. This is a very bad thing for my work life. But it's not much better for my me-life, either. It means I'm neglecting friends and blowing chances to connect with new people, all because I take forever to respond to anything.

This is not a call for advice or comfort. I'm fairly confident this is perfectly normal. I'm just recording it here so I can remember this stage once I'm past it, if I ever get there.

* * *

I keep wondering what the new normal will be like, what my heart and psyche will be shaped like once I'm sufficiently put back together to feel like I have a new normal. I'm still an unfinished jigsaw puzzle sitting half on the table, half in the box, with the picture changing halfway through,

* * *

There are moments when all I want is for my life to stop, so I can know what Jay knows and see what he sees. This is not suicidal ideation. This is just the pain speaking, and my curiosity.

Then there are the moments of bargaining, when all I want is a year with Jay at his healthiest, in exchange for both of us dying at the end of that year. Again, not a death wish, just bargaining with the pain.

Then there are the moments of anger, when I rage at Jay's body for being too weak to fight the cancer, at my heart for connecting so profoundly to this doomed man, at any number of other things too petty to mention.

Then there are the rare moments of peace, when I can sit in perfect acceptance of all that has happened, feel the joy in the world, and know that I will find joy and peace and love all over again, even if it never tastes quite the same way again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

In dreams until my death I will wander on

In retrospect, the explanation for my sadness Sunday night is obvious: not only was Sunday the year anniversary of Jay Wake, but it was the 2-month anniversary of Jay's death.  I had just blanked both of them completely out of my mind.

So - two months on. I'm still struggling. Sometimes the struggles are big, sometimes they are moment-to-moment, sometimes they are small. Occasionally they threaten to crush me completely. But those moments are fewer as time passes. They're no less painful when they do happen, but they don't happen as often.

I've talked at great length with various people about the mystery of death, in the old-fashioned Christian sense of mystery.  It is literally something our minds are not designed to comprehend. We literally can't encompass it. It's bigger and deeper than we can grapple with.  Oddly enough, this is of great comfort to me, since it means all I have to do is accept, not to understand.

It's rare that I can give myself that kind of bye. This one is essential to my sanity.  It helps me cope with the impossibility of a life as large as Jay's having stopped.

It also helps me cope with never having felt like he's here in the house with me. I've never felt him in any way that I would give credence to. A couple of moments when I was half-asleep, but that's it.

I'm working to make sense of my life, the life I have now on the other side of this mystery. I doubt I'll ever make complete sense of it, but it would be nice to have a sense of the path I'm on. For now I'm just walking it without knowing anything of what lies ahead.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Where's that rock of ages when I need it most?

Feeling profoundly sad tonight.

I'm not even sure why - there's nothing I can point to that triggered this flow of emotion.  I'm just missing Jay, feeling lost, but mostly just feeling sad.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where have you gone again, my sweet?

It's been another rough week.

I'm pretty clearly processing another big emotional load. My dreams are vivid, weird, and forgotten the moment I wake up. I'm constantly hungry, no matter what or how much I eat. I'm exhausted all the time. All of these are clear signs from my body that my mind is doing a ton of work.

Of course, I have no idea what in particular is being worked through, but I know from experience I should feel better once it's all done. That is to say, I know what I'm feeling, but I have no idea what specific thing is triggering all this processing.

I'm having a lot of weepy moments, as well as moments where the weight of my grief is borne in on me anew. I find myself wondering how on earth I'm supposed to go on without Jay.  I'm learning how to love someone who isn't here and who never will be here again.

So I'm just laying low, and stocking up the fridge with lots of things to eat. I listening to my body and giving it food and sleep whenever it needs them. I'm rolling with the waves of emotion, and the waves of numbness.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Catching up

It was a rough weekend. I'd been feeling physically off for a couple of days at the end of the week, and whatever it was landed with a vengeance Saturday morning, derailing my plans for brunch and for the Portland informal memorial for Jay.  I spent most of the morning living Jay's toilet-based lifestyle.

I would rather have had brunch.

* * *

I've been both unpacking the book boxes from the downstairs bathroom and moving the books off the brag shelf upstairs onto the shelves in the basement. I'm almost done with that project.  Then I can sort out which books need to go where, including family and the archives.  Then I can see what's left for friends.

* * *

There are a couple of pieces of furniture going to various family members, and once that's done, I can move the brag shelf a few inches over on its wall and borrow some muscle to move my sideboard into place in the dining room.  I've really missed that piece of furniture and it will be nice to have it reunited with the dining table, both of which lived in the kitchen in my Baltimore house.

* * *

I'm still having trouble sleeping, although it's mostly settled down to having trouble getting to sleep. Once I'm asleep, I do pretty well.  But even with a white noise generator running every night and a fan running on the warmer nights, I'm still apparently waiting to hear Jay. It wouldn't be so bad if I were one of those people who can run well on short sleep, but I need every minute of my 8+ hours per night.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Find the ashes here and there

There's been a lot of change around here this week.

Saturday brought a swap of dining room tables. I wanted mine back from Nancy (but was too shy to ask for it directly), and we discovered that Jay's would fit in Nancy's dining room if the leaf was removed. So, a swap was made.

I tried to find a picture of Jay's table in situ, but was unsuccessful.  It's almost impossible to search his Flickr for anything useful.  But here's a shot of the new table:
It fits perfectly in the space, much better than the old table did.

Sunday brought the purchase and delivery of a new sofa.  It was a bit of a struggle getting a sofa out of a flat-pack box and birthing it into something that could be comfortably sat upon, but I got it all together.

And here's a shot of the old sofa:
And the new one:

More and more the place feels like mine, but I'm afraid Jay's getting lost in the shuffle.  I'm trying to figure out ways to keep his energy in the house without feeling overwhelmed by it.

I'll figure it out eventually.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sleeping, or not sleeping, as the case may be

One of the things I've noticed about how things have changed since Jay died is that no matter how functional I am during the day, and no matter how careful I am with things like napping and daytime caffeine consumption, I always have trouble getting to sleep.

Tonight is turning out to be one of the best examples of that.

I'm exhausted, but I have no desire to go to sleep.

I think some of it is how difficult the nights of the last month of Jay's life were.  I spent them sleeping on the sofa across from him in the living room, needing to be able to awaken at a moment's notice if he needed care, which he did every night, even if it was just for me to walk him to and from the bathroom so he didn't fall.

On nights when he'd had a good night, I would come into the bedroom about 4 in the morning and sleep the last couple of hours on the bed.  Those mornings, I would wait to hear him call for me from the living room.

I think I'm still waiting to hear his voice calling me. So I can't sleep and when I do sleep, I don't sleep well.

I'm off to take something to help get me to sleep. Let's hope I can stay there well tonight.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Achievements unlocked

The house is almost completely mine now.

New/old dining room table, new sofa, all but one box unpacked. Closets rearranged, with a couple of exceptions, kitchen mostly arranged to my liking and with a mix of my stuff and Jay's stuff.

Walls slowly being populated with my art, or at least plans for same, in with a mix of Jay's stuff that I either love or am sentimentally attached to.

The hardest news this weekend was finding out that my mother is going into a nursing home. That combined with the moving of house stuff was tough.

Decent progress, unsettled emotions. Another day, another day of grief, another day of recovery.

One foot in front of the other.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

It takes a long time just to get this all straight

Up and down day.

Last night was tough. I stayed up as late as I could, somehow knowing it was going to be a bad night of sleep.  Then a stray thought as I was laying in bed started me crying. I wish I could say I cried myself to sleep, but I was awake for a long while after that. The night was full of weird dreams, including the first dream I can remember since Jay died where he appeared. It was not a pleasant dream.

I started today with a pedicure, which was a lovely bit of self-care.

After that, it was a bout of furniture moving with help from former housemate Nancy and another friend. We moved the sofa and two smaller pieces into the garage, and traded my former dining table (which had been in Nancy's house) for Jay's dining table (which is now in Nancy's house).

The sofa and the table swaps have me very tender-hearted at the moment. Both of them were good moves from a space and practicality angle, but were tough emotionally. Jay and I spent a lot of good quality time on that couch (no, not like that, you dirty-minded people), and many a lovely meal was had at that table.

But I spent Jay's last days sleeping on that couch and walking him to and from that table for his last meals.

So I have an Emotionally Complex Response (ECR) to both pieces of furniture. I'm both glad and sorry to see them go.

I'll go buy a new couch tomorrow and hopefully have it delivered sometime this week.

All of this will make the house more mine.

But that, of course, is another layer of ECR. Every step toward "house is mine" is a step that pushes Jay further out of the house.  I've never felt him in the house since he died, but I keep hoping to, and every change makes that feel less and less possible.

And all of this just emphasizes to me how lonely I feel. It's all a big circle, or spiral, or cycle, or something. Maybe it's just me standing here with one foot nailed to the ground, going round and round and round.

If I had a point for this post, I've lost it. And maybe that's the point - I feel lost and lonely again still.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Keeping on keeping on

Interesting day today. Had my usual Thursday therapy session, followed a little while later by a massage. Taking care of mind and body. If I'd actually gone to open meditation tonight, I could have taken care of soul, too.

* * *

I had the realization today that I am, in fact, getting to merge my household with Jay's, as I find places for my things among his things.  And I'm in the unusual position of getting to do that without any argument from the owner of the other things.  Truly, I would have gladly given that privilege up to keep Jay around longer.

* * *

We're having a heat wave, and I'm realizing just how soft I've gotten. It barely crawls into the 90s and I'm miserable and sweaty.  How did I ever survive in the Maryland heat?  Oregon heat is so much more civilized, but that doesn't make it any less hot.  I just hope the A/C holds up ...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

And down we go again

Feeling very lost and lonely tonight.

Coming out of a 4-day migraine, so that might account for some of it.  Starting to reply to some local OKCupid messages, too, so that might account for some more of it.

I'm having long passages of time where I almost feel normal, then I get hit with a wave of sadness that I can't turn to Jay and share that feeling.  I see a picture of him or read his words and miss him so terribly.

I keep moving forward, trying to make a life for myself, moment by moment, day by day. I know that all this effort will pay off in the long run, but right now it is painful and slow and halting.  I hate like crazy to learn how to do something new in the public eye, and even when I'm not writing about what I'm doing, that's what all of this feels like - new and awkward and off-putting and weird.

And as I was reading an advance reader copy of Last Plane to Heaven last night, I had the awful realization that when the book comes out, no one will ever have a signed copy of it.  That made me profoundly sad.

So just lost and lonely tonight, which will pass, as these things always do.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I fell into a burning ring of fire

Very rough week.

This was a week of anger. Anger at myself for letting myself get so wholly caught up in a relationship that was clearly not going to end well. Anger at Jay for leaving me. Anger at the universe for judging Jay's life of so little worth that it was cut so short. Anger at various people for breaking boundaries.

And I learned lessons about proper setting of boundaries, and the relief that can come from that. That was unexpected.

My energy has been low this week, but I got out and did a few things anyway. Lunch dates and other things. I stayed in and did a few things, too, like getting closer to being finished with organizing the kitchen.

I'm struggling with a profound sense of loneliness, and with being on the edge of some sort of satori about the meaning of forever.

But mostly I'm just angry and sad and uninspired.

Let's see what this week brings.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Up to no good

Had an appointment this past Thursday to finalize my application for TSA Pre status.  When they opened it up to everyone a while back, I signed up, but then couldn't make an appointment because I was caring for Jay.  The appointment was a breeze - they verified my information and fingerprinted me, then scanned my passport.  In 3 weeks, I'll know if I qualify.

While I can't do much, if any, travel this year due to budgetary and time constraints, it will be nice to be in the fast lane through security once I can travel again.

* * *

I spent the Fourth of July night over at former housemate Nancy's house, soothing the dog as the neighborhood exploded in fireworks, and watching season 1 of Castle.  It was a lovely evening.

* * *

Laying low again today. I have a beastly headache that has no apparent cause, so I've dosed myself up appropriately and will probably spend the day doing a little house cleaning and watching Harry Potter.  Or I may read some Philip K. Dick - I'm wrestling with a story idea that has a lot in common with some of his identity paranoia works, and I'm thinking a  little inspiration is in order.

Might be too heavy for today, though.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Having forgotten what time off feels like

Am busy enjoying one of the few true days off I've had in ages.

More blogging tomorrow.

Enjoy your Fourth!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A couple of thoughts about time

Yesterday was the day of missed appointments. My poor therapist missed our appointment completely, having missed moving my date in their book.  And a contractor coming to do some work was never alerted to be here, and so was over an hour late from what would have been their original appointment.

As I said to a friend, I don't even have to be dating to be stood up. Maybe I should view it as good practice.

* * *

I'm now fully in the realm of electronic calendars.  It's so nice to enter something on my computer and have it show up on my phone, and vice versa.  One place for everything, where even I can't forget it, assuming I remember to enter it in the first place.

But I have to confess that I miss turning the pages of an old-fashioned paper calendar, looking at the pictures for each month, writing in the little squares, x-ing out the days as they pass if I'm waiting for a particular day to arrive.

It's kind of how I feel about physical books versus e-books.  I miss the smell and feel of a physical book, but it's so much easier to carry a device that can have hundreds of books on it. With that device, my arms don't ache from carrying the load, and my hands don't hurt from holding the book.

And now we're living in the future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Exercising my intellect

Another change I'm going to make here - my habit of using lyrics for post titles is going to have to go, except for the big emotionally charged posts. I'm just too lazy to go hunting for lyrics every time I want to say something.

* * *

I finished reading a fascinating book over the weekend: Control of Nature by John McPhee. In it, he writes 3 essays on how man attempts extraordinary feats to make nature fit with the way humans live their lives: controlling the flow of the Mississippi, controlling lava flow of volcanoes in Iceland, and controlling rockfall and mudslides in Los Angeles.

What I found most amazing in this book was the naive belief that of course we can control nature. Nothing is out of our reach.  The sheer arrogance of this belief is staggering to me.  How we can think that we can control things we don't have the faintest understanding of is beyond me.

And when nature reclaims its own, won't we be surprised?

Currently I'm reading Blue Highways: A Journey Into America by William Least Heat-Moon.  It's a my-life's-not-working travelogue that reminds me of Neil Peart's Ghost Rider.  Of course, Blue Highways predates Peart's book by quite a bit, but I read Peart's book first, which is why the comparison works that way in my head.

It'll be interesting to see where this book goes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

And I'll be there to shine in your Japan

I'm sick of my own noise about grief. This is not to say that I'm going to stop writing about it, but it would be nice to have other parts of my life, and to talk about them here.  So my goal is to post something here every day, and get a better grip on where grief actually lives in my life.

So to that end - I went out after work yesterday to visit the Portland Japanese Garden.  The day was a little too warm and a little too bright, but the garden was lovely and not too terribly filled with tourists.

I was actually looking for a specific Japanese maple, one that I'd had a framed photo of on my walls in Baltimore, without ever realizing it was from Portland. I'm not sure I found that particular tree, but there were some lovely specimens.  Follow the link at the bottom to see my shots of them.

Mt. Hood was in full splendor:

Of course, there were koi - and they always make me think of the character Grandfather Trout in Little, Big, a character both Jay & I loved:

And there was zen:

A few more shots at the Flickr set.  I didn't take many pictures because the lighting really was all wrong.

Monday, June 30, 2014

It seems like only yesterday I gazed through the glass

Denial - or in my case, disbelief - is a very powerful thing.

It's been a month since Jay died, but it was only yesterday, on that anniversary, that I broke through the disbelief.  I don't even remember what triggered it, but the realization that he's gone and he's never coming back was like a bodyblow.  No matter what else I do in this life, whether I have a string of lovers spanning the country or go on one date and meet the next One, or both or neither, all the things I do in my life will be without Jay.

I can see all of you who have never been through this rolling your eyes. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? But the mind is a tricky thing. It protects itself from things that are too painful, and this is one of the ways.

So I rode that wave of grief last night, right into another lousy night's sleep.

On the upside, my creative brain and my inquisitive brain seem to be waking up. I've started reading non-fiction almost exclusively, and am enjoying both the vocabulary increase I'm gaining and the list of things I want to research further.  I've had more story ideas in the past week than in the past ten years.  Odd things are sparking ideas, and connecting with ideas I've had in storage for ages.

I have only three regrets about my relationship with Jay, two of which are creative-related and one of which is food-related.  The food one is almost trivial: I'm so deeply sorry I never got to make him my cornbread. He loved cornbread, and I make it really well.

The creative ones are less trivial and more emotionally charged. I truly regret not reading more of his writing while he was around to discuss it with. I'll never know the deeper motivations for writing that particular story, that particular line.

The other one is harder. I deeply regret not starting to write while he was still alive to help me. But that part of my brain started to come online after he was no longer able to write, and the guilt I felt at trying to create when he couldn't was huge.

So now I'm left to piece my life together, to find a New Normal, when the biggest piece of my life is missing.  What does the picture look like now, when the puzzle is missing its center?

I've been reading back in Jay's blog, to the days before he was a professional cancer patient. I realize now just how much of his over-the-top energy was gone before I ever met him.  We essentially had 3 weeks of something resembling that energy together before it was gone. I never knew til now just how much I miss it, and how much I would have loved to have known him when it was at its peak.

I said to a friend in email that my time with Jay was the only time in my life I've ever felt truly alive.  How do I recapture that feeling without his energy around to feed it?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Take me from this place I know, the ruined landscape that I once called home

One month After

This week started out OK, but went downhill, back into sorrow, back into grief.

On the plus side, I've started exercising - doing the same half-hour on Jay's exerbike that he used to do.  I'm hoping it will help.

On the downside, I'm falling back into old habits. I spent evenings this week in the house, not going out, not doing anything, just like I used to do before I met Jay.  I don't think this is the New (Old) Normal, but I also know that I have to watch myself so I don't fall into the habit of wasting my life sitting in the living room.

Slowly, slowly, the house is becoming less Jay's and more mine. His daughter and I weeded out the mugs and glasses in the kitchen, cleaned off the mantel, and went through his dresser.  Then later in the week her mother and I gathered some things for Jay's parents, things they said they would like to have.

A friend told me the story of how when her mother died, she had nightmares that she was giving away all her mother's things and her mother was still alive. I feel like that every time something leaves the house.

I've taken over his desk between the living room and dining room, and now work my days from there, just like he used to.  Work is hard but it's helping me focus, which is a godsend.

I've started cooking again. It's necessary both for financial and for emotional reasons - I need desperately to get back on steady ground with my recovery program, and that all starts with food. But it breaks my heart every time I make something that I think Jay would have liked, something he'll never get to enjoy or get to advise me on recipe changes for.

I'm still having trouble sleeping. I had one night's sleep this week that was what I would call normal, first normal night in I can't remember how long.  But it didn't last.

This just gets harder. I had no idea. It amazes me that people survive this. I sometimes think I'm not going to, that whatever's left of me is so truncated that it will simply fly away, like a leaky balloon giving up the last of its air.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Then it fell apart, it fell apart, like it always does, always does

Three weeks After

Rough week.

Reading back through Jay's blog was rewarding in some ways, but just made me sad. It made me realize how much of his life, his energy was already lost by the time I moved to Portland, and how it just kept draining away.  I had to stop reading once I got past his surgery this year. I couldn't bear to re-read recent events.

Hardest this week was the Genre car being taken away to be sold.  So much of the fun we had was related to that car, and having the garage empty is painful, knowing that we'll never take another trip in the car with the top down.

I'm still having trouble sleeping. The house is haunted for me, haunted more by a sense of loss than by Jay himself.

It was so painful for me to watch Jay and his dad purposefully taking his life apart before his death. Even harder on this side of things to be part of taking what remains of his life apart and substituting my life for it.

I am unbearably lonely, in ways that no amount of socializing with friends can touch.  I remember this loneliness from after my then-husband moved out of our house in Baltimore. No matter what else may be going on in my life, I crave the intimacy that comes from a core primary relationship. Without it, I am lost. Right now, I am lost, and fear that I'll never find that kind of connection again, not so much because it's not out there, but because I'm afraid of opening my heart again.

Finding Jay was such a stroke of luck, and losing him, while obviously not unexpected, was a dagger to the heart.

I will feel that pain forever.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Am I that strong to carry on?

I can't believe Jay's been gone for two weeks.

It seems like longer, and it seems fresh as two weeks ago.

The longer, I can understand. The bright, vivacious, loud, wonderful man he was has been gone for quite a while.  I've been grieving that loss for months.

And the fresh - well, that I can understand, too. My heart hasn't caught up with the reality. It will take a long time for that.

I woke up this morning briefly at 5:45, sighed, and went back to sleep.

It's been a melancholy day.  I spent some time this afternoon unpacking boxes and packing up some of his stuff to be donated.  My presence here is slowly overshadowing his, which is both natural and sad.

Just as Jay kept thinking one morning he would wake up and all the issues he developed while at NIH would be gone and he'd be fine, I keep thinking I'll wake up one morning and be through this grief process. Wishful thinking, that, this early in the process.

It was an intense two years. It will be a long and intense grief.

And all I can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I've been re-reading his blog since the day we met. His openness and honesty about his cancer makes me want to continue writing about my grief, in the hopes that it will help someone else, even one person, make sense of what's going on with them or know that they're not alone.

Friday, June 13, 2014

I wish I could eat the salt off of your lost faded lips

A week of impressions

There are so many conversations that are left unfinished, so many new things I want to share with Jay. I want him to say "I told you so" to my finally getting the squeaky belt fixed in my car, which turned out to have been installed incorrectly from the time the car was built. He would have laughed out loud about that. I want to take him to the new pizza place at Clackamas Mall. I tell him all the things, and take him along wherever I go, but it'll never be the same.

* * *

I have a little shrine to him on the dresser. Three pictures of him, along with the cloisonne jar with some of his ashes. I greet him every morning, and say good night every evening. I would have done this anyway, but it was also recommended by my therapist as a good focus for my loss.

* * *

I keep reaching for my phone to text him as funny things happen or as I see odd things, like the two Brewcycles that passed me as I was headed to therapy this week. If I didn't think his father (who has Jay's phone now) would think I was crazy, I would go ahead and text.

* * *

I'm going to the coast this weekend, to clear my head and to be out of the house for a longer stretch of time than I've been doing. I only hope it will *not* rain sideways while I'm there.

* * *

My google calendar used to be full of red blocks that were the things on Jay's calendar. I miss those red blocks. I even miss the green blocks that were the items on his medical calendar.

* * *

I miss the sense of purpose I felt while taking care of Jay. It's the most purpose I've ever felt in my life.

* * *

It sometimes feels like I've been taken completely apart and put back together wrong. I keep looking for the missing pieces of myself, but even if I find them, their shape is subtly wrong and they no longer fit me, or I them.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

I'll give this trumpet up Give it up to Gabriel

One week After

Got very little sleep last night. One week on, I was haunted by memories of the Saturday before. I turned on the lights every time I got up to use the bathroom.

Feeling very sad today, very empty.

I got up briefly right at 5:45, just to note the anniversary of Jay's passing, then slept some more.

Had a lovely brunch today with a friend, and have spent the rest of the day holed up in the house, laying low and watching video.

Tomorrow I go back to work - we'll see how well that goes.

I have some of his ashes on the dresser with some pictures of him. Seems unreal that I will never see him again.

Life goes on, and so does grieving. Disbelief and bargaining are going strong today. We'll see what tomorrow brings.