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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Counting and breathing, disappearing in the fade

Day 6 After

The memorial service was today. It was a lot harder than I anticipated.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with activity and waiting, and this week was filled with all sorts of motion that had been delayed because I was spending all my energy and time taking care of Jay.

But the service felt like the end of all that, like all the relationships and bonding that happened over Jay's illness is just going to go away.  And I don't want that.

You would think that seeing Jay being cremated would have been the feeling of the end, but it was this memorial that brought that feeling to me. It was incredibly hard to sit on the memorial bench, the one I will eventually be inurned under, and to know that I was going home to an empty house, that Jay is truly gone, that for certain values of alone, I am alone.

The family and some close friends went out for dinner later in the day, and that was lovely. But it made me miss Jay just that much more, because he would have loved to be there for that, to see himself being the center of attention, to feel the love of those present.

I am consoled by knowing that he knew exactly how loved he was, and that he never missed an opportunity to give that love back many-fold.

In all my planning and thinking about coming to be with Jay at the beginning of our relationship, I never until recently gave the After any thought. And even knowing it was coming, I find myself woefully unprepared. This will be the third time since 2011 that I've started over completely. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

You can't hide from the truth Because the truth is all there is

Day 5 After

Rough day. Slept badly, but it was the first night since Jay passed that I slept without drugs, so I suppose that was to be expected.

Had a massage this morning, which was good.

Felt out of balance the rest of the day.  Even time spent with friends this evening felt off to me. Nobody's fault, just where I am.

Feeling at a loss, feeling sad, feeling lonely, feeling bereft. Feeling like anything like a normal life is impossible.

I know these feelings will come and go, and will diminish even if they never completely go away.

Rough day.

Falling farther from just what we are

Today would have been Jay's 50th birthday.  I'm sorry he missed it - I know it was a milestone he hoped to see. But as miserable as he was toward the end, I'm just as glad he didn't make it.

Two years ago today, Jay & I met in person for the first time and started the relationship that brought me to where I am today. I don't regret a minute of it. I just wish there had been more.

So happy birthday, my love, and happy anniversary. I love you so very much.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I am on your side, and we're always right. It’s perfect

Day 4 After

The cremation was today. It was hard to witness, but it was also good closure.

I went to therapy after the cremation. I remain surprised at how calm I seem. I said to my therapist that I truly can't tell if I'm just utterly numb or coping really well, or both.

Spent two hours after therapy getting a new cell phone. It was hard to let go of all the texts Jay & I had made to each other, but honestly, my phone only held the last 200 messages, and most of those were prosaic.  What I wish I had back were the ones we made 2 years ago, as we were getting to know each other. Those are the ones I truly miss. But I have all his emails to me. Those fill an empty place in my heart.

I talk to him all the time. I'm just waiting to be the crazy not-so-old lady walking down the street apparently talking to herself.

I miss him so much that I can feel the weight of that loss on me always, every minute. Even in the midst of something joyous, I can feel it. I will carry that weight always.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I wish I could live free I hope it's not beyond me

Day 3 After

Not much today.

Started with day with a little self-care, in the form of a pedicure.

Then sofa shopping, to replace the poor broken-down sofa of Jay's young adulthood. Nothing bought, but first steps taken.

Walked a labyrinth with friend E. It was by far the largest/longest labyrinth I've walked, and I found myself getting impatient as it unfurled. The lesson here is that things take as long to unfold as they do - a valuable lesson for me right now. By the time I was done walking it, I could feel that some burden had been left behind.

Love is to be found everywhere, if we just have the right eyes to see. Same with joy.

Feeling like this life may actually be possible to live. Also feeling like that feeling won't last, but at least I've had a glimpse of it, and my mind and heart will remember it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Our love is like water pinned down and abused for being strange

Thoughts from two Days After

I had to change my text notification ring tone.  When Jay & I were first getting to know each other, just before we met and just after, he was the only person I texted with, so any time that text notification chimed, I knew it was him. Even though I now text with many people, my heart still thinks that sound means a text from Jay.  I almost burst into tears this morning at an incoming text, and promptly changed the sound.

* * *

I rewatched the first episode of season 3 of Sherlock, and wished with all my heart that I could believe that Jay is still alive somewhere and will turn up when he's done with what he's doing.

* * *

In an act of ultimate irony, Jay's AARP card showed up in the mail today. As I said on Facebook, this is a spectacular combination of jumping the gun and missing the boat.

* * *

The numb of the shock is wearing off a little, and the weight of the grief to come is beginning to hit me.

* * *

I'm having trouble getting to sleep. I am so afraid of thinking I'm hearing Jay calling for me in the night.  But mornings are the hardest. When he was healthy, Jay would always get up ahead of me, and even though I'm now sleeping on his side of the bed, when I get up I feel like I'm going to see him on his exercise bike or working on his computer. There's that moment of hope in the haze of not quite being awake, like a dagger to the heart.

* * *

I'm also struggling with feelings about having moved into this house. I'm not sorry I did, but I was looking forward to coming back from Maryland to move into a house I shared with Jay.  As it turned out, I am just now starting to unpack again (I started in February, before we went back to Maryland), and now I'm just moving into the house I'm renting.

* * *

I tried sitting in the chair that Jay spent his last days in, and wow, was that creepy. I only sat for a few moments before I felt overwhelmed. I don't know whether it's his energy still there or just my mind playing tricks on me, but it will surely be a while before I'm comfortable on that piece of furniture.

* * *

Jay's cremation is later this week, and I get to go from there straight to therapy. That should be a treat for my therapist. I should probably bring a spare box of tissues along - I will undoubtedly need them.

* * *

I doubt I'll continue doing these daily updates for long, but for now, it's good for me to stay in connection and to sum up what my day's been like.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I've seen the future, baby It is murder.

Thoughts from the Day After

Jay's been gone for a little over a day, and I'm still in shock.  The living room has been set back into order, and all the medical equipment is gone. And life goes on.

* * *
Yesterday was spent with all sorts of procedural details - getting the hospice nurse to pronounce him dead, hours after the fact, having the funeral home come and take his body away, getting the equipment people to take it all away.

I was never alone in the house for more than a few minutes, right through the night.

* * *

I'm firmly in denial.

Intellectually, I know Jay is gone. But my heart just can't wrap itself around the reality of the hole he has left in the world. I keep waiting for him to come through the door.

It doesn't feel at all real.

* * *

For hours yesterday, I watched the stillness of his body, waiting for his feet to twitch as they always did, whether he was awake or asleep. I kept waiting, long hours after his death, for him to jump up and yell GOTCHA!

* * *

My friends have been taking fantastic care of me, but I need to remember that they're hurting, too, and that they need support just as much as I do.

* * *

I am so incredibly angry at the universe for showing me the face of love and snatching it away.

Friday would have been Jay's 50th birthday, and our second anniversary.  I'll be celebrating the latter of those on my own in a couple of weeks, when this is either less raw or so raw that I need to do something to soothe the pain.

* * *

I promised Jay I would go and have a life after he was gone, and I will.  But right now, I am so weighed down by grief that I can barely move.

Right now, I can have anything I want in life.

Anything except for Jay.