Friday, December 11, 2015

I come from the land of the ice and snow, or in this case, rain and landslides

So here's the saga of my day yesterday, pulling together all the disparate threads I started on Facebook.

First, a little background: We've had a genuine fuck-ton of rain this week. Roads are washing out, sinkholes forming, land- and mudslides sliding. Roads are out all over the place.

Wednesday afternoon, a landslide covered the northbound lanes of I-5 near Woodland, WA, which is the town I see across the Columbia River out my back windows. No traffic was getting through.

The only viable alternate route is Highway 30 in Oregon, which is my main route between home and Portland. Highway 30 is a 4 lane road, with a suicide lane in the middle for most of it, especially north of the St. Johns Bridge.

So here goes the story:
I have a massage every Thursday in St. Johns, which is a neighborhood in North Portland. This week was going to be a special one: a 90-minute massage as a gift to myself for my birthday. I was really looking forward to it, and that enthusiasm led me way the hell astray, as you will soon see.

I left way ahead of schedule Thursday morning, not knowing what the road conditions were going to be as I traveled south. By the time I got to Scappoose, I noticed that the lanes traveling north had heavy traffic, a lot of it tractor-trailers, neither of which is usual for the time of day or for the road.

But I didn't put the pieces together until I got to St. Johns, where I realized that there was a line of solid traffic on the route from I-5 to the St. Johns Bridge.

If I'd had any sense, I would have turned around right then and gone home. But I really didn't want to miss this massage, and I also really had no clue how bad things would get.

Also keep in mind I grew up on the east coast, where there are always many multiple alternate routes to get anywhere. I haven't really come to grips with the reality that this isn't true here.

The massage was wonderful, and afterward I walked over to the McMenamin's for lunch, figuring I didn't want to hit the road without eating. That turned out to be smarter than I knew, as was my bathroom visit before I did hit the road.

I fiddled around trying to make my way into the solid line of traffic inching its way to the St. Johns Bridge, and having no luck getting in, I finally decided to head for I-5 south, with the idea that I would stop and get my mail (my PO box is in that southbound direction), and then figure out what to do  from there.  The traffic on I-5 south was slow enough that I changed my mind quickly, and bailed out onto the Fremont Bridge, which would take me back to Highway 30 and home.

I hit the road at 12:30.

At 4:15, I had just barely made it to Scappoose, which is usually about a half hour drive.

At 6:30, I finally made it to St. Helens, where I stopped for dinner. It's usually about a 20-minute drive from Scappoose to St. Helens.

At 8:30, I finally made it home, a full 8 hours after I left St. Johns, a drive that usually takes about 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

There were times during the drive where we would sit utterly still for anywhere from 2 minutes to 40 minutes. Then we would roll, usually at idling speed, until coming again to a dead stop. The times when we went far enough and fast enough to actually shift into 2nd were exciting beyond belief.

I called Roy at one point during this drive because I was going crazy and trying to decide whether it made sense to bail and drive south again and find a hotel room, even though at that point, I was nominally about 15 minutes from home.

The last time I did a drive like this it was in a blizzard in Maryland. At least this wasn't white-knuckle driving.

And I've learned my lesson: bail!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Struggling in the dark

I'm going through a dark time right now.

Some of that is a literal darkness - the late sunrises and the early sunsets are difficult for me. This is always true; I always struggle this time of year. When it feels like midnight at 5:30 pm, it's tough for me to keep any light in my heart.

Add to that the loss of my mother in November, and the 18-month anniversary of Jay's death today, and I am abjectly struggling. My heart is tender, and anger is often close to the surface.

I am exercising most days, and using my light box, and trying to eat better. But nothing will change until the light comes back.

This is not me looking for sympathy, and really not me looking for advice. This is just me speaking my truth and not trying to hide from my reality.

Friday, October 2, 2015

What is it going to take?

I never ever talk about politics on this blog, but in the wake of the shootings at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon yesterday, I have to speak up.

Last night I posted this meme on Facebook (shared from Left Coast Lucy):

Let's be clear here. I grew up in the gun culture. My father is a lifetime member of the NRA. I went to NRA conventions when I was a child. I know about guns. I respect them as the tools they are.

But what I'm seeing in the gun nuts is a pervasive belief that their right to their guns is higher or stronger than other people's right to their lives. If you truly believe that your right to your gun is a higher purpose than the right of all this year's mass shooting victims to their lives, you are insane and I will not engage with you.

If you don't truly believe that, and yet continue to defend your right to your gun, then I have this comparison for you.

In the rape culture debate, there is a thing called #notallmen - the idea that not all men are rapists, that men shouldn't be automatically assumed to be primed to attack women at any moment. The problem is - how can women tell which men are potential rapists and which are not?

It's the same with guns - #notallguns still leaves us with the question of which guns are going to be used in mass shootings and other homicidal crimes. You may say that your gun is not the problem. Fine, but how can we know that? How can we know that any particular gun or particular gun owner is not going to be a problem?

I don't know what the answer is. I have no magical solution to the problem of gun control that guarantees that no mass shootings will ever occur again.

What I do have is a certain knowledge that what we are doing is not working, and that something has to change.

If that requires prying your gun from your cold, dead hand, quite honestly, at this point any issue I might have had with that is shrinking rapidly.

If you can look at the continuing occurrence of mass shootings and not want to change access to the weapons that cause them, then you are either heartless or insane, and again, I will not engage with you. But I will question your humanity.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I woke this morning from a dream about Jay.

In this dream, there was some legal thing that needed to be done, and it could only be done if Jay were still alive. So some doctors figured out that if they put blood back into him, they could bring him back to life.

After the procedure, Jay, Mother of the Child, and I were sitting in a doctor's office, where MotC was berating Jay for not having his bursitis checked out.  Jay was sitting by the window and was desperate to see the outside, since he hadn't since his resurrection. He struggled with the vertical blinds, and said how he hated those things.  I thought he meant the blinds, but he was referring to some white flowers outside the window, which in the dream were my favorite flowers. They made music if you touched the flowers. It stung that he so strongly hated them.

What this means, beyond an obvious desire to have Jay back, is beyond me. It was quite a strange thing to wake up from, and my day is still slightly off because of it.

Combine this with someone else's dream about a resurrected Jay (link found on Twitter), and I think what we get is that it's really sinking in that he's gone, forever gone.

Another portal of grief we're passing through ...

Sunday, May 31, 2015

A year on

Tomorrow will mark a year since Jay died. That makes today the last day of my "official" year of mourning.

Of course, I know that doesn't mean that I'm done with grief. This month has shown me just how much grief work I have left to do. May has been a tough month, with my subconscious dragging me back through all the time in Maryland last year for the clinical trial and our time here in Portland after we came back from the trial. My dreams have been dark and weird, and I haven't had a good night's sleep in at least a month.

So a tough month to bookend a tough year, grief-wise.

I've spent this week reading my posts on his blog, finally having the time and emotional energy to read all the wonderful comments people left at the time.

I don't know where I go from here, except that every day I'm living my life and enjoying it. The act of moving out of Jay's house has freed something inside of me that was still locked down.

I will never stop missing Jay, and as I wander through his house packing my things, I constantly apologize to him for leaving him so completely.  I had a rare crying jag the other day when I discovered a necklace I'd forgotten I'd given him on my first visit to Portland, that he had tied to the side of his night table so it was near him always.

Tomorrow, the actual anniversary of Jay's death, I'll be heading to the coast for some time with a friend at Jay's favorite beach. It seems appropriate. Write the last chapter of that book, and move on.

Monday, May 25, 2015


We're rapidly coming up on the year anniversary of Jay's death, and I'm in the process of making one major change.

I'm moving out of Jay's house.

In retrospect, I've seen this change coming for a while. I'm been increasingly unhappy in that house, where he died and where I haven't quite been able to make a life for myself.  That space has just become the place I hide when I'm too tired to do anything else.

That's not healthy.

And I've never quite gotten over seeing Jay dead in what is now my living room.  That memory is not as fresh and painful as it was in the early days after his death, but even now it is difficult for me to walk through the door and not remember seeing him there dead.

I've wanted to move out almost since the day he died, but any number of things have kept me from fulfilling that desire. Now that my lease is almost up and I have a good place to land, I'm on my way out the door.

Friday, May 1, 2015

To hike through dangerous weather you need twilight eyes

So today it’s been eleven months since Jay died.

On the one hand, I’m far enough past the worst of the first of the grief that my life is mostly my own again. I’m deeply in love with a wonderful man. I’m taking a little time off before looking for a new job. I’m spending this weekend getting my addiction recovery program back on track, being re-inspired and renewed.

On the other hand, not a single day goes by that I don’t miss Jay. The grief isn’t sharp and new anymore, but it’s still present in my body, like a dull ache that simply will not go away. Every night in my dreams, I’m reliving the days of the clinical trial and the days after we brought him home. Needless to say, this means I’m not sleeping well.

The most concrete expression of this endless grief is that I’m consciously going through the house and removing the remaining bits of Jay’s life. 

Sometimes this activity ends in amusement and bemusement. I was cleaning out the bathroom a couple of weeks ago, and discovered that when I did the bathroom clean-out right after he died, I was apparently completely convinced that he was coming back. I saved his toothbrush and his shaver, along with a bunch of other things he would need when he came back.  That was something of a shock, to realize just how disconnected my thinking was from reality, in that time of strong grief.

Sometimes this activity ends in a room that simply works better than it did. I moved Jay’s work desk out of the boundary between the living and dining rooms and into what is now my creative space.  That took the last ghost of Jay out of those rooms and made them into much more livable space.

It’s a relief to be living in a physical expression of my emotionally moving on. The more it becomes my house, the less it hurts to live there. It’s still not a good place for me to be - nothing will change the fact that he died in my living room - but every change makes it more livable.

Now to get through the year anniversary. I have no expectations of that day - it may be exquisitely painful, or anticlimactic. Won’t know til we get there, like all the rest of life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Embracing the suck

I've been unemployed for two days. It's a profoundly weird experience.

One of my motivations in taking the buyout was the opportunity to start working out again.

I gained 30 pounds since the beginning of 2014, having spent the year+ since then eating my stress and then eating my grief.

I'm 53 years old and have never been in shape in my life. Whatever shape I started out with at the beginning of life, it's been downhill since then.  I've had a couple of times when I've worked out regularly and successfully for months at a time, as my Timehop app keeps reminding me, but I've always stopped way short of anything like being in shape.

I ache all the time. Sometimes the ache spills over into actual pain. I have a small frame, and my body wasn't built to handle the weight I'm carrying now. The discomfort in my knees and hips are constant reminders that I'm overweight and out of shape.

My nebulous public goals are to get strong and flexible. Yes, I have more specific goals than those, but they're for me.

One consequence of being unemployed is that I can't afford to eat out, so I'm using that to my advantage and starting to cook and eat like I used to before I met Jay.

One other consequence is that I have the time to do something about my body, to remake myself into someone who's not uncomfortable all the time.

It's going to suck, the heavy lift of daily exercise. But one thing I learned watching Jay die is how to embrace the suck.

So here I go, embracing the suck, knowing that as much as this process is going to suck for a long time, it'll be worse if I drop dead of a heart attack I could have prevented by simply getting my ever-widening ass in motion.

I'm using my Twitter feed to record my daily activities, so if you're curious what I'm doing, that's the place to see.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moving on

Today, I sent back the paperwork in which I accept the voluntary buyout that was offered at work.

This means that come the middle of April, I'll be unemployed for the first time since I was laid off in 2001, which led me to the job I'm leaving.

It's a big scary thing to walk away from a job with nothing lined up. But I know this is the right thing for me to do, even as scary as it is.

My life has been out of balance since the end of 2013, when we made the decision to try to find a clinical trial for Jay. I need to find my own balance now, without him and without this job that I long ago lost my joy for.

I'm still in the process of updating my resume and my LinkedIn, but very soon I'll be actively looking for local employment.

I'm hoping for a little bit of time off between leaving my current job and finding a new one, but not so much that I start to get panicky about money.

This change means I'm not going to get do to a lot of things I was hoping to do this year, like buying a convertible, and doing a lot of travel. I'm going to be in the position of having a lot of time and no spare money.

Let's see what I can do with all that time ...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Do you think I'm sort of alive?

Very slowly, I'm picking up some important threads of the life I had before Jay.

Mostly this revolves around my eating habits. While Jay and I were together, we ate out for almost all lunches and dinners. Food was one of his greatest pleasures, and it was one that he lost whenever he was in chemo, so we chose to indulge that pleasure as much as we could while he could enjoy it.

But given that my addiction recovery program is based in food, that led to a lot of not-so-good eating and meal timing choices for me. I made it through without doing too much damage to the progress I'd made, but all that pleasure eating sometimes made things difficult.

I've had a lot of trouble getting back in the habit of cooking since Jay died, not the least because I'm now two years out of practice and was never a particularly good cook to start with.

But a couple of things have conspired to help get me back on track. The biggest thing is that I've been spending about half the week at my boyfriend's house, and his idea of meal timing and mine are way different. So it's become important for me to bring food with me that I can reheat whenever I'm ready to eat, which has nicely forced me back into cooking. I always arrive with my bag of food and take over the fridge.

So slowly, I'm recovering my cooking skill and finding a certain comfort zone with other people eating what I cook. This has long been an emotional issue for me - I'm extremely uncomfortable cooking for other people. But so far, the BF has been kind enough to eat what I've brought to share with little complaint (well, except for that lasagna that really didn't work out well - can't blame him for that!). So that's another step in the right direction.

And I can feel the difference. There's joy in my heart again, for so many reasons.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A motorcade of 'meant to be's', parades of beauty queens

It's been a tough couple of weeks on my grief journey.

It's been a year since we took Jay to Maryland for the clinical trial at NIH, as my Timehop app is relentless in reminding me.  Seeing those daily reminders of that experience has sent me right back into a grief spiral that bottomed out (I hope) with me sobbing at a pair of scenes in the movie Transcendence.

I'm still in that place of grief where I can't remember the good times. All I can remember are the hard times, the bad times, the scary times.  All the joy, the frankly ecstatic times - all erased from my mind, bleached into faded sepia scenes printed on shredded paper, barely visible, unable to be seen and comprehended.

I still have hope that this will pass, and that all the wonderful memories will come back, whether in a flood or in drips and drops over the passing of time.

The thing that concerns me the most about this is that I have the sneaking feeling that regaining those good memories is also the key to recovering some piece of my old snappy, snarky, witty self. She's still missing in action, and I still miss her.

So for now, I continue to grieve both losses.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Don't write me no more letters, my mailbox is full of bombs

Back at the beginning of the month, I ended one of the final rituals connected to the last year or so of Jay's life.

For anyone who doesn't already know, Jay used to have waist-length blond hair. You can get the idea from this picture of him:

This was long before I knew him, but it made me angry at the universe that chemo took his beautiful hair.

So somewhere along the line in 2013, I decided I was going to stick a finger in the eye of the universe and let my hair grow until he was either dead or had his hair back. At its longest in May, a few days before he died, it looked like this:

I got a trim then, which took a little bit of length off, enough to make me less crazy.

I didn't get it cut again until January 2nd, when it looked like this:

It was long enough again to make me crazy, and the whole purpose in keeping it long was utterly over. So I got it cut much shorter:

So the last visible bit of my grief is gone, the last sign in the world of my fight against the wishes of the universe is finally gone.

I'm glad to have my hair shorter, but it makes me sad, too, that my bit of magical thinking had no effect on the world.