Making Space: Journey together the road to renewal

Eight years are a long time to live with and suffer from Cancer. I am on the outside of that time looking back on it. So too, my husband is on the other side of it, practicing and perfecting angel techniques whatever they might be, reveling in his spiritual release.

Four or five days after his funeral, after our family members had all gone home, and I woke up alone the first morning. I don’t mean just physically alone, being alone became a whole new experience after 13 years of family life.

I got out of bed that first morning feeling different but not in tears or distress. My routine differed in that I dressed for the day right off. No lounging around with my coffee, reading the Web, other things I routinely did each morning…that routine, that way of living…gone.

I pulled on my sweatpants that morning and reached into a drawer for a sweatshirt. With only a moment rummaging, my hands landed on a soft well-worn relic, a sweatshirt from my past, purple with the old version of the Central Vermont Humane Society logo; a sweatshirt my husband didn’t even know I owned. I never wore it in our life together, yet I wore it to threads for 10 years before I knew him. I put it on that morning, and it’s been my go-to sweatshirt since then.

Naturally, I see the connection now, psychologically, why I would choose this old thing from the past without even looking for it. It brought me comfort and even hope. It wasn’t a part of “us” only “me.”

Now, two months later, I have much to write about. More than ever before in my life, I think. When asked how I am doing, I give a standard of some reply, but in truth, I don’t know how I am doing. I am just doing. I have a temporary job in a new to me industry, maybe it will last a while or maybe just the holiday season, I don’t know.

What are my plans going forward? I don’t know. Just to move forward, since there is no going back. Maybe I will still be here, at my desk, in my home a year from now. Maybe I will move, or maybe something all together different will occur. I don’t know. For the first time in my life, I really, really, don’t know. Part of the pain in grief is the overwhelming nothingness that suddenly becomes the future. Bittersweet for the parting, liberating because I have a whole new beginning to create, again.

Right now, while I would give anything to banter with my late husband about things going on and options I may choose, I accept that he is here in spirit only. Like the wind, he is free. Some of my close friends recall that I wished at times for freedom too. I want to be free, I said. And so it goes.

Thank you for returning to my blog after such a long break. Don’t miss upcoming posts, subscribe to Making Space and together we will make it work. Like the late David Bowie said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

Peace, health and gratitude always ~ Karen

Oh, BTW shop my eBay store for name brand quality pre-owned and new items! If I don’t have what you want, ask me and I’ll get it! Supporting eBay supports capitalism and American workers. Shopping my store supports Me plus two demanding Tibetan Spaniels and a all-around-good-guy Shih tzu. More about them later.

 

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My time before marriage

MarriageThe refrigerator in my house always seemed to small to me. It was the to go to place for my stepson and husband, plus every dog we owned past and present. These days it’s more empty than full. It’s beginning to look like the refrigerator I owned before my marriage.

I took the trash out to the curb tonight as is the Thursday night ritual. It wasn’t my job until recently. The green recycling buckets are half full and not over flowing. The trash can too. Soon I will cut my plan to bi-weekly, or maybe I’ll just drive to the dump on weekends like so many others do. Again, that’s something I did before my marriage. It’s so strange now.

There is a tug at my heart in the grocery store. All the things he, they, used to like. Now I’m back to a basket, like the single girl I was before my marriage. There is a transition, bigger than life, when two become one. Likewise, transitioning back is an earthquake in itself. How does one go back? That’s not the natural flow. There is no backward. Or is there?

I am glad I have years to look back on before my marriage. Those years were important. Only now do I see how critical they will be in saving me from the riptide of grief. I feel comfort and discomfort at having to remind myself that I can do.

I can do anything. What I don’t know how to do, I will learn. That’s the gal I used to be. I need to find her once more.

I’m not saying that grief will spare me. Much of the last eight years I have suffered anticipatory grief, knowing that the therapies and medications and surgeries would only buy time, not a miracle. Grief and I know each other well by now. Grief knows what I long for and just when it’s most inappropriate, grief reminds me through some piercing sign, of what I miss.

I am realistic and practical. I know my weaknesses and strengths. I have readied myself as best I possibly can, and I know he did too.

All that we have now is time. Time stands in the shadow of grief now. Soon though, time will stand in my favor.

~Be well, my friends, till next time. Namasté

 

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Coming to terms with life and death

The prognosis is bad. The cancer is late stage. The doctor spoke in an optimistic tone in September of 2008, yet we knew what was in store. We had just celebrated our third wedding anniversary Labor Day weekend.

From where I sit at my home desk now, 8 years later, I see him lying on the hospital bed set up for his end of life hospice care. He is snoring lightly, not the way he snored beside me for the better part of 13 years. I needed earplugs. He adjusted to my elbow nudge signal to roll over so I can sleep. Come to find out that nudge really annoyed him. Hurt sometimes too. Earplugs are something I no longer need, and I’m glad to be free of them.

The confounding part is that here we are. Here he is, the pillar of my world, lays dying. Frail where strength was on his arms and torso. Gone is a genius, a professional, an author, entrepreneur. Left for the moment is father, husband, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend. All of these roles he held. I remember the diagnosis pointed at him about his body and soul, yet from the time of that first moment, it was ours. We were in it together.

Meeting new people is difficult. I do my best to cover my fears and sadness. Yet when I meet someone new, face to face, and discover this person and I share loss, I feel so relieved. It’s like I can exhale and be myself. Sure, I’ve held back. Me, the wannabe national writer. That was my dream. Cancer, I felt, stole it from me. Cancer ended our plans for a child. Cancer changed the track of my life. Early on after his diagnosis, I had to bring in a paycheck, keep our health insurance intact. I was a second shift nurses assistant in a rehabilitation facility. The pay was lousy but we had health insurance.

It was a crazy risk and a big leap of faith when I took the plunge in graduate school. Chemotherapy treatments, radiation,  and multiple surgeries subdued the cancer. So much poison into his body gave us a brief window of possibility that my dreams could occur.

For four years after grad school I aggressively pursued stable employment. By the second interview, when things looked promising time and again, I wasn’t chosen. Something was off about me. Perhaps it was all the uncertainty I was hiding.

Like all human beings who have been through a trial of such a duration, we feel for the pain of others more deeply. If you haven’t been there, you can’t know how horrible it is. We, I speak broadly to include my global sisters and brothers, who know loss will be there for others as others have been there for us. Quite often those others are strangers or acquaintances met on the health crisis escalator.

Grief is never-ending but changes with time and changes us in the process. Each day I struggle as the caregiver. I try to support our home, keep it neat if not clean. I struggle with his elderly mother who is the polar opposite of me. I wish I had more friends and family close by.

Eight years are a long time to live in anticipation. Well, we knew the end would come and we would go our separate ways. His soul will leave his body for the great unknown, and I will live. Somehow.

 

 

 

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Making Space for Making Time

PeaceI dedicate this post to caregivers, those who take care of a loved one slowly preparing to leave this life, also for readers at large who know someone with a terminal illness. Maybe you, yourself, are dealing with dying. This is for all of you.

When you remember someone in your life who died, what do you recall? I am not looking for any answers, simply that you hone in on the feeling, take note of where in your being the memory lives. If you feel discomfort, you need to make some space deep within you.

I do not personally have a great deal of experience with death of family or friends. I can count on one hand if I think about it, how many family members or friends I’ve lost in the last 20 years.

The numbers change as we all get older. Part of aging is that we gain personal experience with death in our close circles. Octogenarians will agree, the longer we live, the more friendships and loves we lose. It is the paradox of life though that when death looms near to a loved one, friends and family come together.

Why didn’t we do this more often? We really need to make the time. Let’s do better in keeping together… 

Caregivers and families take note: Time together is a must to make for a dying loved one. Book that vacation to see your family. Travel is hard on a healthy person so go see your kin before disease progression steals time. Go home for a while, wherever home is. Home is where you began, perhaps family is still there. Home is where your parents planted you and you grew, went to school, made friends, lived the sweetness of youth. Remember those people? Those places?

While I was a nursing assistant, one thing I learned first hand about dying is how crucial it is while dying to express love, gratitude, forgiveness.  While you are alive and well is the time to make your peace. To find that peace, you must make space within you. Be brave.

Whether you want to see those places or not, space is necessary within your being for your comfort—in your end. Be at peace with yourself, your past, and all that lies ahead for you.

There is a saying that you can’t go home again. Fuck that. You may live in a different place now, but don’t forget the places or the people who helped in getting you going. That group ought not only to include mentors, but your friends from early school years and high school. Consider how lucky you are if you can look at your Facebook friends and remember them when…

You can go home again if only for a time.

Mull this over. Consider where inside you exactly, is the need for comfort; for some down home time and make it happen.

Namasté, my friends, till next time.

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What is Making Space all about?

Preventing chronic illness such as adult onset diabetes, hypertension, and obesity are challenges for each of us. I have learned that one way of living in comfort is by being mindful of my body, understanding how stress begins within, unleashing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, pushing me in the fight or flight survival response.

Making space is a visual for handling stress, coping with hard circumstances, and a guide to help through transitions such as those related to a career change, marital change, a death of a loved one, even moving across country to a place where you don’t know anyone. In these, you are starting over.

Freedom

In 2015 I began my journey of starting over. It’s a process without overnight success. One day at a time, one step at a time. Take a few minutes to check your stressors as well as what exactly makes you react the way you do. For long term good health we need to control our physical response to stress.

One thing that is helpful to me in the ongoing process is Yoga. If you haven’t tried Yoga, I urge you to do so and not give up on it. Through consistent Yoga practice over time your body will adjust and your mind will come to know the peaceful state of being that is possible.

I encourage everyone to find this peaceful point within you by deep breathing and basic Yoga for beginners. Through my three years practice of Yoga, I found myself making space within me to control that which I can’t control. I can control how my body responds, and so can you. You will know when and if you want to take your practice to the next level.

For those who feel Yoga really isn’t in the stars, I hope following along with me on my journey will be a good experience for you and help you cope in a healthier way with change and transitions that life can give us without warning.

I hope you enjoy Making Space and share it with others who may also benefit.

Namaste, my readers and new friends.

Karen

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