Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Waving Fields


In some ways I've been given a unique opportunity in this life. I've been forced to face mortality on two fronts. First my own when doctors were completely baffled by my symptoms and my health slowly declined over a 3-year period. Death was a very real possibility. Secondly, the sudden passing of my husband earlier this year in a traffic accident. The range of emotions I've experienced and my need to understand them have given me great insight into myself. Facing my own mortality went a long way in preparing me emotionally before losing my husband. I honestly don't think I would have survived it with my sanity intact if I hadn't already learned that I had emotional strength (I had previously thought myself weak). I had hope. I had a belief that not only did a future exist, but a future where I could be happy again.

I initially thought that my lesson was to appreciate the NOW. To take each day as it came and make the minutes count. I still think this is valid, but for me personally, I need more. I could drive myself crazy worrying about time wasted and only succeed in making myself sicker in the process. Time where I could be doing something more important. Time where I could be making a difference. What I need is to continue to believe in a future. To work toward long-term goals. This is where I have always excelled and I believe it was my saving grace. It will also allow me be less obsessive about the day-to-day. I can relinquish control over each second of each minute. Though precious, those seconds can be grasped so tightly and infused with such importance that they lose their joy.

I've watched other people pass in and out of my life, floundering. Not knowing what they were meant to do. Not knowing what makes them happy or where their passion lies. I've always known and realized how fortunate I was to know. I was an artist. From a small child I worked to perfect my ability and made it my life's passion.

It was simple for me.
I am an artist.

When I was sick, I kept painting even when my hands shook so bad that the brush skipped over the board. It was a needed escape from the pain and worry. After Tom died, I kept painting. It brought joy back in the midst of loss.

A few years ago, I painted Tom standing on a tower of rocks looking across a vast, nearly barren plain. I called it "Looking to His Past." I believe you need to understand the past before facing the future. I'm glad Tom nor I knew the limited scope of his future. I am thankful for the time we had together. I will never forget it, but now I'm moving toward a new future, not the one that I had planned. I've been forced to adapt, but I CHOOSE to be happy.

In looking to my future, I'm assigning myself a task. I've decided to undertake a year-long project and focus on a single subject. This is an idea I've entertained before, but it seems to have more urgency now. I know I NEED to do this even if I can't explain the why in any sort of rational manner.

If you know my work, you might suspect that I get bored with a subject easily. I do. I bounce from landscapes, to florals, to animals to interiors and more, but there is once I keep coming back to...the grasses. They exemplify quiet and peace to me. Nothing is so soothing as standing before a field of endless wild grasses watching them sway in slightest breeze. Mesmerizing. They allow you to glimpse the wind. The patterns ever changing across their expanse. An ocean in their own right. I will paint the grasses and let their calm wash over me.

"Texas Textures"
-Granbury Area, Texas
Acrylic on Board
16" x 12"
note: dimensions are unframed size
price includes frame
$595

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hope on the Horizon


I haven't written in a while. Mostly because I find myself in an odd situation. I've been dating for a little while now and men I've dated or are dating had requested to be Facebook friends. I don't want to inadvertently write something that hurts another's feelings, but at the same time, I don't want to censor myself either. Here's a first foray into unknown waters.


I gave the prospect of dating a great amount of thought. Am I ready? What do I want to gain from this? What kind of person am I looking for? How do you meet someone in today's world? Beyond that, I realize that I have several strikes against me from the other person's point of view. Dating at 40 plus is very different than dating at 20. By this age, we all are carrying around some sort of emotional damage, plus health issues have begun to surface for many. On the upside, we hopefully have established careers, children are in their teens and soon out of the house and we know what we are looking for in a mate. For me, at the top of the list was intelligence, followed by sense of humor. Looks have never really been a factor in choosing a mate for myself. Income level is not a big factor either. I can support myself. I want someone that can bring joy into my life.


The internet has proven to be both a positive and a negative in the dating arena. For a wall flower like me, online dating seemed to be the best option to meet new people. I heard horror stories from others about nut jobs or jerks that they met online. Friends were worried for my safety, but if you have realistic expectations, it's not as bad as they say. I believe it all comes down to being honest. Honest about yourself and about what you are looking for. It's the best way to weed out those not suited for you.


I saw my hematologist today. He had been unaware of Tom's death. After telling him what happened, he was concerned whether I had cut myself off from the world and said maybe I should start thinking about dating and was pleased when I said I was seeing someone. He asked how we met and the response of online dating brought a story about his wife. Right before they met, she had gone on a date where the other person, within minutes, started explaining how they were bipolar and on Lithium. Maybe not the best way to start out a date. Unfortunately I have a similar issue. I live with a chronic illness that requires lifelong plasma infusion treatments. At what point do you bring that up? To make matters more complicated, I've been very open about my illness and a Google search for me quickly leads to the discovery of it…the negative side of our lives on the internet. If I haven't mentioned it beforehand, the date feels deceived, but I don't want to be pre-judged or defined by my illness either. For someone without medical knowledge, it sounds pretty scary and not something they want to have to deal with. This is strike one against me.


Strike two is my widowed status which seems to fall under scary though I don't entirely understand this. Usually this is broached on the first date when I'm eventually asked if I've ever been married or how long have I been divorced. The initial reaction is akin to pity. In subsequent dates this is followed by a feeling that they are somehow being compared to a mythical figure they can never measure up against. Though I avoid bringing him up, they start asking questions, which I answer honestly. I feel that being able to say I had successfully navigated the potentially stormy waters of marriage successfully rather than been sunk in divorce was a bonus. I guess not. Also, as you well know, I blogged extensively about Tom's death and my emotions which helped me tremendously, but it's out there for any date to read. In some respects, I view it as another way to weed out the ones that can't handle it. None of the men I've dated have been widowed. Some were divorced and some never married. I hate stereotyping, but one thing seems to hold true. By the time you are in your forties, if you've never married, there is likely some reason why. Emotional immaturity seems to be at the top of the list. One the flip side though, those divorced are gun shy and approach a relationship like they are walking on glass. Always trying to avoid getting cut. One pattern holds true for both categories…the pullback. I mentioned this to a male work friend who burst out laughing and admitted the truth in it. It goes like this. Everything seems to be going fine and suddenly the e-mails/texts/phone calls stop. They get evasive, cancel dates and provide lame explanations. There is nothing to be done at this point. They either reestablish contact and admit they were suddenly unsure of what they wanted or are gone for good. To think men claim that women are the wishy-washy emotional ones.


As for my personal strike three, it's readily apparent as soon as you pull into my driveway. Five large barking dogs greet you, then you notice various cats dash by and then realize that through all that you also hear the sound of squawking from 3 parrots. Tom and I each had pets when we met and took in several more abandoned and/or abused creatures along the way. For the first time in my life I found myself having to be the bad guy saying, "no we just can't take in another one." They all function as one large pack or flock regardless of species with me as alpha (Turbo dog would disagree with my alpha status). The apparent chaos is certainly something to get used to and many people are barely tolerant of 2 pets let alone 16 total. A match for me has to be an animal lover. That is non-negotiable. After a few dates, one person said the he couldn't help feeling like he was another lost stray I had taken in. That he didn't have as much to offer as I had to give. I was oddly offended by this even though on the surface he was putting himself down not me. Then I gave it some serious thought. He had a point. In my past there was certainly a pattern of connecting to other damaged people, but in regards to my animals, you'd never know their past by their actions now. I've always been able to build trust with them, see past their pain and love them dearly and they return the love in kind. Is it any different with a person? As long as I'm not damaging myself in the process, I don't think it is.


My life so far has not gone according to any kind of normal plan. Thankfully, I never really had a long term plan in mind. Mostly, my planning is based on prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. The key is when the worst does come along, to hang onto the hope.


Sand Dune Crow"
-Oregon Coast
Acrylic on Board
10.5" x 8"
note: dimensions are unframed size
comes framed
$275

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Wisdom of Age


Have you ever gone back and watched a movie that you loved as a teenager…10 to 15 years later only to wonder, "That was terrible. What was I thinking?" It's only natural that our tastes would change as we mature and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Then there are the movies that are truly timeless, but your perspective has changed. You relate to the characters and themes on a completely different level each time you see the movie.


I ran across one of those movies this past weekend…The Big Chill. This is the third time I've seen this movie. Once in my 20's, then 30's and now at the age of 43. If you have somehow managed to go through life without seeing this film, the plot is as follows. A group of close college friends who have drifted apart reunite after 15 years due to the suicide of one of them. Virtually the entire movie takes place in the home of one couple where everyone is staying. The characters themselves are in their mid to late 30s.


Various conversations take place over the course of several days. Discussions of how idealistic they were and how they were going to change the world versus what they've actually become. Marriages, affairs, one woman desperate to have a child with no prospects on the horizon and of course the suicide…the topic they dance around and finally all confront as a group.


The first time I saw this movie, I did appreciate and like it, but really couldn't relate to the experiences of the characters. They were so much older. I was in my 20s. Very much still in the idealistic phase. My life an open book before me waiting for the pages to be filled. Living on dreams of what the future would hold. I thought, "how could people get so far off track and compromise their ideals?" "How could things get so bad that one would even contemplate suicide?" I was naive and didn't know it.


The second time I saw this movie, I had already compromised myself. Allowing another person to tell me what to think, how to act and who I should be rather than who I actually was. All of this in the guise of love. Feeling I wasn't good enough for anyone else and lucky that I at least found this person willing to be with me, though I didn't deserve him. I had given up my art and almost everything else that brought me pleasure in life. Why? I don't have a great answer. Low self-esteem, a belief I was weak and couldn't make decisions on my own. Constantly criticizing myself with that infernal internal voice. I wasn't that naive anymore. I knew intellectually what was going on. That it was wrong. That what he was doing was not love, yet it was still difficult to leave to reach out for help; admit I needed the help.


Now not only do I have the same perspective as the characters, but also of one other I hadn't yet mentioned…the widow. She was not part of the college group, was quite a bit younger and compared to the rest, unsophisticated. She sits quiet for most of the movie listening to what is being said around her about her late husband. Learning things she never knew. This was the one way I related to her. Listening to people talk about their past with Tom. The past that took place before me. I could easily see myself in her eyes. I felt like I had been dropped into the movie. She didn't find the stories sad. Neither did I. I could now understand the regrets of the others. Time passed that can't be retrieved or altered. Paths seemingly so deeply rutted that one could never climb out to change direction. I could understand them, but do not share them. I believe you must learn from the past, but not dwell in it. I choose to move forward.


I find myself coming full circle. My life an open book before me once again. All directions open, but this time I have the wisdom that comes with age, an understanding of the mistakes of the past, the knowledge that I am not weak as I had believed for so long and finally that I am deserving of a love that doesn't compromise my true self but instead embraces it.



The painting:

"Can't See the River for the Trees"

-Brazos River, Texas

Water-Soluble Oils on Canvas Board

24" x 18"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fate's Lesson



It's been a while since I've written. I've been busy with both the day job, painting and volunteer projects, but perhaps I just needed a break from my relentless self psychoanalysis and needed to attempt to enjoy life again by just feeling instead of thinking. A new friend was discussing his personal situation and my husband's death with me over lunch and it seems we have in common the need to research and read extensively to educate ourselves when confronted with something unfamiliar.


He commented that I must have had to overcome anger toward Tom for dying. Except I never did. I wasn't angry. It wasn't purposeful. I also found that I couldn't relate to what I was reading about how to deal with a death. It didn't really apply to me or what I was feeling. I had already survived more than most people had to deal with in their entire lives even before Tom's death. My perspective was very different. I was left with my own thoughts on the situation. I wanted to move forward with my life. Fate has made a point of beating one single lesson into my head and it is this, "life is fragile–we are only guaranteed this very moment–make it count." I made a decision recently to do so and start dating. For the friends that I have talked to about it, you are pretty evenly split. Some of you are all for it and others think I'm making a rash decision and am opening myself up for more pain or to be taken advantage of. Let me assure you that the logical rational side of me is still firmly intact and in control. Okay, there has admittedly been a little heart denting in this process, but I've got a pretty good handle on it now. I won't settle just to be with someone instead of alone.


I had already gone out with a couple people when I'm informed that my company wished to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Tom at our National Sales Meeting. I was asked to design it, accept it and speak. Upon hearing this, I am simultaneously honored, terrified and angry. It was truly a wonderful gesture and I do appreciate it greatly, but I am terrified of public speaking, though I apparently do a good job of disguising that as I'm actually speaking. Mainly though, I was a little angry that almost no one seemed to realize the potential to reopen wounds. To me this was essentially another memorial service...people speaking about his life, showing the video compilation of our life together...I didn't really want to go through this again, not now that I was moving forward. I knew everyone's heart was in the right place and I felt compelled to go through with it. If not for me, then for Tom's brother, Paul, who was flying in to attend.


I didn't sleep the night before, rewrote my speech 4 times and tweaked wording right up until a few hours before the presentation. I stood in front of the mirror in the hotel room and read it over and over out loud until I no longer stumbled over the words. When the video began playing, I could see the tears in those around me. I was determined to hold it together. I had planned to watch the video about 20 times beforehand to make myself somewhat immune to the content, but I hadn't. I tapped my foot nervously, staring down periodically at my piece of paper just wishing it was over, but my favorite picture came up. You know, the one that makes everyone laugh, Tom eating surrounded by the fur-kids evenly spaced in a semi-circle around him staring at the plate...cat, dog, cat, dog, dog...I can't help but smile at that.


It was finally time for me. I walked up to the podium and was nearly overcome by the thunderous applause. Though I felt I didn't deserve it. This was Tom's award. I do know it was to show support for me, for my loss. It was appreciated. I even made you laugh. You don't know how I agonized about putting Tom's joke about us working together in there. I wondered if it was appropriate, but in the end it felt right to me, so I left it in. Once I began talking, the anxiety diminished greatly. I was determined to do the best job I could for Paul, for Tom...and for me. I don't regret it. My fear was that if I didn't speak, that I would regret.


I felt solemn the next day, not sad so much as introspective. Was it the right decision to move on with my life? I will always love him, but my heart still has room. Fate's lesson has not fallen on deaf ears. So I take control of the reins and ride forward into the unknown.


----

About the Painting:

"Sky Waves"
4 feet wide by 16" high
Acrylic on Masonite board

$1,495


When my sister and I were driving home from seeing the building where we had Tom's service, this was the scene before us as we turned into my development.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Divorce or Death.


It not like anyone chooses to live through either one of these scenarios, but I've been thinking a lot about the differences between them since my neighbor is trying to muddle his way through the aftermath of a recent divorce and had a particularly difficult time with father's day yesterday. It may surprise you, but I think divorce would be the harder of the two.


When Tom left the world, I knew I had been loved. My neighbor had his love, his family, disintegrate around him and in many ways it invalidated their previous years together. She cheated and she did the leaving. I was left also, but it wasn't purposeful. Wasn't his choice. I was still loved. My memories still intact.


My neighbor is surprised that he isn't further along emotionally. He still thinks about her being with someone else and can't seem to move on. I think about how Tom doesn't have to suffer with depression anymore. I couldn't fix it, only be there for him and it is a tough thing to watch someone go through that repeatedly.


I wonder if people reading my blog have the impression that our marriage was an effortless, perfect meshing of two people. It was not. We went through struggles and at times were nearly torn apart. It recently occurred to me that I had married a thunderstorm. From a distance a thunderstorm was beautiful and exciting, but if caught in the middle unprepared it was nerve-racking. It took years for me to not take his mood swings personally. To come to a real understanding of what he could and couldn't control. What was just the depression talking. I never doubted the love, though or failed to value his complete honesty or fierce loyalty. I could count on him in the long run and our love evolved to a very deep level.


My neighbor says he's not looking to date, though I saw reference to a dating site on his Facebook. When someone goes through a break-up or divorce their friends and family seem to encourage them to get right back out there. To look for someone new. This is not the case with death. Initially people looked at me and marveled at how well I was dealing with this and were happy. I believed in facing it directly. Not hiding my head in the sand. No living in denial. Analyzing why I was feeling what I'm feeling. I am much farther along in healing and moving forward than my neighbor. I believe this is because I was loved. I felt valued by another human being. I made a difference in someone's life. I still can.


Why is death treated differently? I'd like to date again. I'm not looking for a replacement or someone to take care of me. I can take care of me. I know this. I am doing things on my own and not asking for much help because I don't want to be reliant on someone else. Yet I feel that there is an unwritten assumption of a proper amount of time for grieving, like I'm supposed to put my life on hold indefinitely until others approve of my reentering the world. Six months, a year, tell me please what do you think is appropriate for my life? Would it mean that I loved Tom any less to date again? Do you want me to shave off my eyebrows (did you know that the ancient Egyptians did this to mourn their cats)? In Hinduism death is seen as just a turning point in an endless journey and excessive mourning would hinder the soul from moving to the next level. Mourners cannot help the dead. A period of 13-days of rituals starting at the completion of cremation is observed. I went through the rituals. The modern day versions. I threw myself into them.


I've seen it over and over, though.

The whispers.

"Can you believe he married again? It was only 6 months after her death."

"Dating? Really! What's wrong with her? Has she no shame?"


So what do I want?


Friendship. To connect. To feel alive. I don't know that I'm entirely sure. What I have learned repeatedly in my life is that we are guaranteed nothing except this very moment. We have to make ourselves happy first and not rely on others to do so. It is only then that we can give love freely without reservation and without conditions. I plan to be happy. Judge me if you must. It wouldn' t be the first time I've been the subject of rumor. I married the boss, remember…and that became a love story for the ages.



"Lemons"

Accept the bitter or turn them into a sweet delight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pronouns


I...we...my..ours...


Pronouns. Some of the simplest and most basic words in our language. It's how we relate information about ourselves to the world and likely some of the first words ever grunted by humans. They've gained a disproportionate power over me in the past few weeks. I'm stumbling over them. I find myself answering a question about something in my personal life and by default use the plural form and realize that, technically, it's incorrect. I am no longer a plural. It stopped me in mid-sentence and I felt compelled to explain why while standing in the middle of a public restroom. I knew the person I was speaking to would understand the distinction.


How many of you remember diagramming sentences in school? I was (still am) a geek. I enjoyed it and perhaps it was the first inclination of a love for written words. Yes, it is and perhaps I am, a bit neurotic in my quest for accuracy, but it's more than that. I frequently have a secondary dialog running in my head as I am speaking to others. It's like I am hearing what what I'm saying from their point of view or sometimes just critiquing myself unnecessarily and harshly. I realize that my word choice could remind them of my widowed status when I refer to we and our. It changes the way the other person relates to me at that moment. It is occasionally nice to have a conversation in which Tom is never mentioned. Where I can forget, even if it's just temporary.


The other day I was enjoying lunch with a friend and the subject of dogs came up. I was asked, "you guys have how many dogs?" I was suddenly ripped from my upbeat mood with the mention of the plural, but also having it used in the present tense' "you guys have." There is only me now. Only I have. There was no intention to hurt, but at that moment, I wanted to be seen as an I, not a we. I considered saying, "I have 5 dogs" with a little too much emphasis on "I," but that would have been mean and again, I realized that the person meant no harm. I have a hard enough time myself knowing which to use. I know that for a split second my facial expression changed. I tried to hide it and just answered the question, but am unsure if I was successful. I truly did not want them to feel badly.


I changed the message on my answering machine Sunday. I decided it was cruel to others to keep his voice on it. Perhaps I was torturing myself unnecessarily too. "This is Tom and Rebecca. If you'd like to, please leave a message." He sounded so upbeat, but I am no longer a plural.


I just giggled out loud. It occurred to me that two of the parrots say 'hello.' Perhaps I need to change the message again...


-----------------------

The painting just finished tonight is "High Tide Morning on Fripp Island"

36" x 24" acrylic on board

The first morning in South Carolina at the beach house I rented for our vacation in November

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Telling


I think I have nearly run out of places Tom and I ate regularly at where I will be confronted with questions about him. Last week the regular guy was back at the McDonald's drive-thru and was almost in tears when I drove up. I assume a co-worker of mine told them, since he said he heard and offered his condolences and asked if I was okay. Tuesday I went into Subway for a salad. The girl behind the counter asks, "where is your better half?" I'm not alone in line and don't want to broadcast it, so I lean in and tell her while I fight back tears and then stare at the sliced tomatoes. I hold it together until I get to the car then completely lose it and try to reason out why telling new people bothers me so much. I don't really know anything about her or her life. I don't have a tangible connection with her. I can talk about him just fine with people who I've already told. Once it's out there, I'm okay. I still haven't quite figured this out.


Wednesday I'd asked a co-worker to lunch and Tortilla Flats in Roanoke was suggested. I started to balk thinking, oh God, it's going to happen again, as we had gotten to know the owner, Brenda, quite well. Tom had even snuck her burritos to me while I was in the hospital, so she had been well aware of how sick I'd been. Over the years, though, she had been at the restaurant less and less as she let the employees take over the day-to-day. I figured I was okay. We ordered food, sat in the open-air patio and enjoyed a nice conversation. Upon leaving we went back inside for more tea, but the tea was missing. Brenda turns around holding the tea container and exclaims, "Rebecca, where have you been? How are you?" She gets bonus points for recognizing me. So many people that didn't see me very often have actually not realized who I was when they saw me as my body went from 95 pounds to 88 pounds to 130 pounds and now back down to 105 due the effects of disease, throwing high dose steroids at it, stabilization on the correct treatment and then recent additional weight loss from stress of the death have had complete control over my body. I say, "Oh, around," and "My health is much much better." Here it comes. "How's Tom?" My poor friend is standing a few paces back knowing about the 2 previous instances and is probably afraid he's about to witness me dissolve into a quivering puddle. Brenda grabs my hand as I tell her and hugs me several times. She had actually been afraid that I had passed, since she hadn't seen us in a while. We both realized the irony of the entire situation. It should have been me.


I didn't dissolve, though. It was easier than it had been. Though I did walk past the driver's side of my car when I went to leave, so I may have been a little flustered. I promised her I'd come for lunch more often. My friend says that he can't imagine what I must be going through. There really isn't any way to explain it and I think it's different for everyone. I really have no desire to dwell in the past and I think that has gone a long way toward allowing me to move forward. I'm still painting. I decided to go ahead and enter a few of the shows whose deadlines are fast approaching. I was initially going to just forgo the rest of the year as far as juried shows went, but it's best to keep my work out there. You never know when it's going to lead to a new opportunity. So one foot in front of the other. Even with the occasional stumble, it's still moving forward.



The painting is "The Old Power Plant"

Each October during Harvest Moon Festival, they fire up the machines in the Old Power Plant near the Historic Square in Granbury. It's not something to be missed. Admist the roaring machines, this quiet corner by the window was calling out to me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kilroy Was Here



We all know what they say about "best laid plans." I left work a little early to be sure I had time to get home, feed the dogs and get cleaned up before heading out to a gallery to do a segment for the local television cable channel on my art. 'Shelbie' Miata had been making some noise that I suspected was the lifters (sounds like I know what I'm talking about, huh). Usually, it would quiet down after the car warmed up, but the last couple of days it was continuous. Getting worried, I looked online to see what the proper oil pressure was at idle and a few different rpm levels. When I left work, I compared numbers. Hmm, definitely low. A really bad feeling came over me. I decide to stop at a gas station immediately and check the oil level. Now, I can't remember the last time I looked under the hood of a car. Tom used to tell me that I was a little spoiled. Now I'm realizing that perhaps I was. He always pumped the gas and took care of any mechanical or maintenance issues with the vehicles.


I find myself at a loss. I stand there holding the hood up wondering where the dang metal rod is to hold it in place. I finally find it and then the search for the dipstick is on. That wasn't difficult to locate, but when I put my finger through the metal loop and pulled up, it broke off in my hand leaving the stick right where it was. I guess a 17-year old car is going to have a few issues. I pry out the stick and I can't tell the oil level. Something in the back of my mind reminds me that one is supposed to wipe off the stick, put it back in and pull it back out to get an accurate reading. I do. I'm still not seeing any oil. I stand bent over the hood worried and puzzled trying to remember what weight of oil I should use. All I remembered was that we had been using a synthetic.


By this time, the male genetic predisposition to rescue a damsel in distress had taken effect and 3 men about to walk into the gas station ask if I had a problem. I did. One took the lead and confirmed the lack of oil, went inside and picked a couple bottles for me. I bought them and his fountain drink, which he insisted wasn't necessary. I insisted that it was. I appreciated the help. He pours a bottle into Shelbie and checks again. It registered and then he poured part of the second bottle in. She's at full. He points out that it looks like oil has been leaking around the intake. I start the car and the same noises kick in. He makes a worried face. I ask if it will get me 90 miles and he suggests taking is very easy on the drive home. I drove at 60 miles an hour or under the entire way which is a major accomplishment for me on its own. The lifter noise improved, but the oil pressure readings didn't. Made it home, parked her and she'll have to wait patiently until I have the time and money deal with her.


Now I was running behind. Wednesday evening I had watched the first set of 'interviews' that were done for the April Last Saturday Gallery Night and realized I was dealing more with a monologue than an interview, so I sat down and wrote something. My plan was to create cue cards to read from a distance. I had wanted to get there a little early and practice, since I referenced specific paintings and weren't sure where each was hanging. Didn't matter, the gallery door was locked when I arrived. We finally all get there and are set up. The gallery owner says she's nervous too, but you never would have known once she got on camera to do an introduction and talk about the other artists they represent. My turn. It became obvious I didn't get the text large enough on my cue cards. The biggest size I could print was on 11x17 paper. The assistant got as close as he could without getting in the shot. I'm reading along when I notice that I can just see his eyes peeking over the top of the cards and with his hands holding it by the top, I start cracking up. He looked just like Kilroy! (confused? …look up "Kilroy was here.") I start over…again. I find myself apologizing repeatedly. She is very easy-going, but all I'm thinking about is the amount of work I'm creating for her. We have a videographer on staff where I work, so I'm seeing it from his point of view. Television is definitely not my forté, but it was an interesting experience and I'm looking forward to seeing if she can salvage it. I really could have used someone to direct me and I told her that I was far more comfortable on her side of the camera.


The plan is for her to come back Saturday evening during the 'meet the artist' portion when people are actually in the gallery for some additional footage. Each gallery will have its own segment in the episode and the final video won't be ready for a couple weeks.


I'll be at "Your Private Collection" gallery on the Granbury Historic Square Saturday, May 28th from 6-9pm. There will also be vendors set up around the courthouse for a Memorial celebration. Stop in if you can.


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The painting is "Sea Oats." I talk a little in the video about how my painting helps me cope with my illness. I painted this piece while in Harris Methodist hospital in downtown Ft. Worth.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Ghost in the Fog



"Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog where no one notices the contrast of white on white."


I made a ridiculous deal with myself. By sheer will I was not going to be sad any more. I'm not good at it. I'm tired of it. Back when I was sick and still without a diagnosis, I even started telling doctors that I thought I should be more depressed and maybe that was an actual symptom...a lack of depression. I'm just not wired for it I suppose. Now I can't imagine a person on this planet that would call me outwardly happy either. I'm more of an even keeled kind of person or perhaps someone who had a good degree of control over her emotions. These sporadically-triggered bouts of intense sadness are throwing me for a loop and I want it to stop. I want the control back. Crying doesn't make me feel any better.



"And I walk in the air between the rain, through myself and back again. Where? I don't know."



I've always believed that knowledge and objective introspective thought were the key to understanding and peace. Now in some ways I'm wandering in the dark among my thoughts without a flashlight, compass or map. This is all new and I believe it's altered me on a fundamental level. We've all heard stories of people 'changing' due to some tragic event or hitting bottom in some fashion. Frankly, I never believed this. People don't change. Now I'm telling you that for me it's almost like a veil was lifted and I see life clearer. The here and now. What's important and what really isn't. It's the future I can no longer see and this scares me.



"And she walks along the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like she's walking on a wire in the circus."



I don't want to be unhappy and at the same time I feel guilty when I am happy. It's as if I'm doing some kind of disservice to Tom's memory by being happy. I know it's not rational and I know for a fact he wouldn't want me falling into a depressive state. Yet the thought won't leave.



"But the girl in the car in the parking lot says, Man you should try to take a shot. Can't you see my walls are crumbling?"



I don't like being alone. I miss having someone to share in my thoughts, my successes and to offer me emotional support when my illness is causing me pain, physically or emotionally. I miss my best friend. I need to make sure that vulnerability doesn't lead me somewhere or to someone that would in the end cause more harm. Then I wonder, really, what do I have to offer anyway. I have a treatable, but incurable illness with varying levels of symptoms. Tom was stuck with it, we didn't know this going into our relationship. I often felt bad for him that he had to deal with this added hardship. I'm not 'normal' on pretty much any level. That should be apparent by now. Tom wasn't either. It took us a long time to find each other and it's terribly unfair that our time was this limited. A short story instead of a novel.



"Will you catch me if I'm falling. Will you catch me cause I'm falling down on you."




Song lyrics from 'Round Here' by Counting Crows

Painting "Sand Dune Crow"


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wisdom and Youth


This morning I got caught a few cars back behind the school bus on Highway 51. I usually find this annoying since there aren't too many passing zones and if you are more than a couple cars back, you are completely out-of-luck. Perhaps, it's because I don't have human children, but I never really paid much attention to the kids waiting for the bus. This morning at the second stop, a girl that I'd guess was 13 or 14 was waiting by herself sitting on the ground She was quite thin and had very long brown hair that she had to brush out of her face as she stood up. She was in no real hurry to get on the bus and paused a second before stepping on. Was she afraid? She reminded me of me.


I thought about being that age and what it would be like to go back and relive my life over. I thought about the love and the heartbreak that she had yet to know. What path would her life take? When I think about myself in the present, I never really assign an age. I just am. Today, I felt how much of my life has gone by as I watched her. I felt old. Just a little over a month ago, I never would have said that. I was happy in my relationship and my fine art paintings had been receiving increasing recognition. I marveled at how well my life was going. I certainly didn't picture myself a widow. Not at this age.


I don't really want to live my life over. There are many, many things that I would not want to revisit. The fear is one. I spent so much of my life fearful of what others thought of me only to have that fear perceived as arrogance, when in fact people scared me to death most of the time. I just wanted to fade into the background. I wasn't good at thinking on my feet when it came to talking to people and at times would even stutter from nervousness. It was best to stay silent. I still am absolutely terrible at small talk and I dread parties with a lot of people I don't know. I even hated having to call strangers on the phone. Now my hearing loss and need to lip read compounds all those issues.


I find now that a lot of the fear is gone. That I was able to speak at Tom's memorial was nothing short of a miracle. I needed to do that to honor him. I practiced out loud probably 50 times at home and went to the building by myself, turned the microphone on and spoke it another 5 times that morning. When it came time, I wasn't nervous. I was already seated at the front as people filed in. I had no idea of the turnout until I stood up and turned to face everyone. I was absolutely amazed and awed by it. Tom had no idea how many people's lives he had impacted with his own. People we hadn't seen for years and people that I only knew through Tom's stories came. Instead of being terrified, the numbers gave me strength.


I find I speak more openly with more people now. I don't necessarily care what they think of me. I finally know who I am and that I deserve to be happy. I will be happy again. The only real choice is to move forward. I don't envy the girl. I'd never go back. Without the trials I've been through, I wouldn't be the person I have become and I think I turned out okay.


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The painting is "Calm Grasses" and is a lot just up from our house. You don't necessarily have to go far to find beauty. What was it that Dorothy learned..."If ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard." ...one of Tom's favorite movies and Janice didn't even know that when she suggested singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the service. This painting depicts how I want to feel.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"You never know, maybe they have cancer."



I walked into the post office early Saturday morning and one clerk was on duty. He was already helping someone and one lady stood in line with a little girl maybe 4 years-old. The woman turned to look at me as I walked up. Then she turned back two more times and it seemed like she scanned me head to toe. It wasn't one of those, hmm, I think I might know this person looks. It was much more judgmental. She was forming an opinion of who and what I was solely by my looks. Maybe she would be more forgiving if she knew why I was there. Maybe not. I couldn't imagine what was wrong with the way I was dressed anyway.


Tom's ashes arrived at my house, not during the 3 weeks I was off. No, all the important stuff arrived this week when I was back at work. They required a signature, so instead I found the "sorry, we missed you" beige card in the mailbox. I set this card in a prominent place on the counter so I could find it to claim the package. It had vanished by Saturday morning when I went to leave. I started panicking. Would they give me the package with just my I.D.? I searched every counter, searched my tote bag, dumped out the contents of my overstuffed purse and since I had taken out the trash also that morning, I went outside and searched there too. Just when I had given up, I found it by the cats' food bowls.


Tom had a bad habit of getting really angry at other drivers when they made mistakes on the road. One day I said, "you never know, maybe they have cancer." My point being, cut them some slack, they may be dealing with some tragic event that had them preoccupied. I am now one of those people. I walk around in public, watch the people around me with their families or couples laughing and I feel very alone. I'm like some tragic heroine in a book and I keep wanting to skip to the end to see I ever find lasting happiness or peace or does life keep ripping it away.


You never know what others are burdened with emotionally. I'm giving you a window into myself, but most don't. I'm crying right now. Not for myself but for a friend who went to see a very ill sibling in a hospital undergoing a serious surgery. The sibling lived, but their father died suddenly while he was there. Talk about a cruel 'cosmic joke.' This was over a year ago, but my friend created an entry for a video competition on this tragic event. He and his daughter as the actors. I hope creating and sharing this brings him some comfort as my blog does me. Another friend is walking around trying to go through the every day motions of life knowing that her husband has terminal cancer. If this had to happen, I am glad that Tom's death was so sudden. I don't know that I would have the kind of strength to face what she is.


The woman was finally called. She also was picking up a package. I wondered what was in hers. I hand the clerk my postcard and he disappears in the back for a very long time. I start to wonder if the packaging is missing. What would happen then? It's not replaceable. I'm left standing alone at the counter scanning my surroundings. Oh yeah, I need paperwork to mail a box to Canada. I need to remember to ask for that. He comes back in apologizing for the long wait. I ask for the paperwork and sign for the package. I'm still certain that the ashes will have no real impact on me. The few times I have seen a dead body. It was just a shell to me. The consciousness, the soul, whatever term you wish to use, was obviously gone. I didn't feel them any more. There was no connection.


I got the box home and it was taped every which way and I wasn't sure where to start to try to open it. I had no idea what the interior container was made of and I didn't want pieces of Tom spilling out onto the counter if I cut too deep. I thought that perhaps that was the reason every bit of the box was taped up. Carefully and slowly I managed to get the box open. It contained another box made of thick plastic. Inside that was a clear bag tied at the top and a round metal tag with the name of the crematorium etched in it. Inside it was Tom's body. I looked closely at the remains. I don't know what I expected, but they were fairly coarse. Little bits of material that were, to me anyway, obvious bone chips, were easily discernible. I placed my hands on the top of the bag and I guess it was the bone chips, but I started weeping uncontrollably. I didn't expect this response. I guess it was another step in making things feel real. I started to reach for a Kleenex, but it was as if my hands were glued to the bag. I just stood there for a while until I calmed down.


That evening everything reminded me of Tom. That he was gone. It was a tough night. I am better this morning.


If there is any bit of knowledge to be gained in this entry, I guess what I'd like to remind people is to be nice to others even if they aren't to you. You can never know what is going on inside their minds and hearts. What pain is lodged there that just needs to be released. Every act of kindness may help.


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The painting is "The Christina Leigh." Tom and I went of vacation in November of last year. I rented us a beach house for a week on Fripp Island in South Carolina. We spent a lot of time photographing. When we did this, Tom was so much bolder than me. He would hop a fence or walk into an area that I felt was likely off limits while I stood back saying, "you sure that's a good idea?" I'm such a scaredy cat. In this case I had desperately wanted to shoot some shrimp boats. We spotted this one docked and explored roads trying to get as close to it as we could. We found it, but the dock area was questionable to me. No one seemed to be there, though. While we explored, the owner and crew arrived. I'm thinking now we're in real trouble and we were asked to leave until Tom explained what we were doing. At that point, they told us to wait and take some photos as they launched. The guy gave Tom his address, so we could send him a print. Without Tom, I never would have painted this piece. I wouldn't have been brave enough to have even stopped here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In the Middle of Something


You would think that living on a waterway, I would spend a lot of time by the water. I thought that I would. Water to me has always been calming and serene. At first, in the evenings, I'd sit on the dock and watch the fish jump and turtles swim by. There are a myriad of water fowl but my favorite animal was a nutria that swam down the bank and under our dock (if I was very still right under me) at nearly the same time every day. Slowly, I began to take for granted what we had here. We both did. The house, which sat empty for 2 years prior to our purchase, turned out to have significant issues that weren't apparent upon inspection. Many of them still exist and so began a love hate affair. We both saw our home's potential and dreamed of how we would renovate it. Every time something new went wrong it was tempting to bash in things with a sledgehammer. In the past couple of years, we accomplished quite a bit toward our goal. Tom was in love mode. I hope to continue the dream. I also got caught up in my art. Between painting and marketing my work in what little 'spare' time I had, I didn't have any time left to do much else.


Lately, the only time I went out to the dock was to photograph. When a fog rolled in or there were dramatic thunderstorms in the distance, I raced out the door to capture these fleeting moments. Never just to sit and meditate. Just be. I decided to "just be" Monday night after work. The day was a little emotional and I needed an escape. Within minutes the quiet filled me. I thought about Tom. When I've heard most people talk about losing someone close, they usually describe it as a hole or void in themselves. This is not what I am experiencing. I used to have a hole, a wound in myself. A very deep one, but I didn't fill it with Tom. Instead Tom helped me heal the wound. I don't feel any less than whole now. This doesn't mean that I don't miss him terribly or didn't love him deeply. I've lost my companion in life. The person I shared everything with.


Tonight a rainbow lured me outside. It became a double. Sometimes Tom would be in the loft or workshop and I'd drag him outside to see the rainbow with him protesting the entire time because he "was in the middle of something" until he actually laid eyes on it. Then he succumbed to its magic too. I was equally guilty and too often in the middle of painting when he wanted to share something. I'm relearning to "just be." Searching for a peace that is closer now. The water is a gateway.


I think we frequently go through life "in the middle of something" and fail to see the beauty around us. Fail to appreciate our friends. Fail to value what we do have and we need to be dragged kicking and screaming from our self-made prisons into the light to wonder at rainbows.


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The painting is "Storm Clouds Over Bee Creek" and is our view from the back deck.

New Beginning


It didn't start well.


Screwy the Border Collie had injured her eye somehow on Saturday evening. I suspected a sting and gave her Benadryl and decided to wait it out. By Monday morning it was nearly swollen shut and obviously bothered her, so I e-mailed work that I would be a little late and loaded her into the car. She was extremely excited about the ride until she realized where we were going. The vet's office. We had to wait until someone arrived and I looked over at her. She was trembling. She is still sleeping in the shower which is her 'safe' place when there are thunderstorms. Until Tom's death, Screwy had never slept there otherwise. I worried about leaving her at the vet's in her traumatised state and explained the situation to the assistant. She offered to put Screwy in a more open area. An enclosed horse stall, I think, rather than the smaller kennel cages, but given Screwy's Houdini-like ability to escape, I decided she was better off in the kennel. The assistant then asked if I wanted the name on our account changed from Taber-Zook. I said yes. It will simplify things in the long run.


Then I headed to work. Everything was going okay on the drive or so I thought until I realized that I missed the exit to 820. Completely zoned out. Lost in thought. A U-turn later and I was back on track. Get the Coke. Don't get the Coke. Get the Coke. Don't get the Coke. Okay, I'll get it. There is a huge line in the McDonald's drive-thru. This isn't worth the wait. No. No. I am going to do this and face the employees when they ask me where Tom is. I finally get to the window and the regular people aren't there.


I get to work. I am getting teary. Suck it up. You can do this. I put on my sunglasses to feel more invisible. It's funny that they make me feel that way, but they always have. If you can't see my eyes, you can't read me. Windows to the soul so they say. I walk into the department and immediately ask our production manager for something to do. I had e-mailed ahead of time to have work ready for me. There's nothing immediate. This is the worst possible scenario for me. I sit down at my desk to wait for the 10am Monday morning status meeting. Something will likely come up then. It's 90 minutes away. I can't do this. I can't sit here at my desk doing nothing mind running amok. I'm coming close to losing it. Production manager comes over to talk to me about nesting birds and flowers, presumably to distract me. I am grateful. It works temporarily. Okay. Okay. I will find something to do. I e-mail two of the product line managers who I generally design for. Please, can I do something for you? Can we set up a meeting? One responds back with a web change, he has been waiting on. Okay, that took 5 minutes tops. He responds with "that was fast" and comes up with a few more things. I'm feeling better now. I start to settle in.


Damn this Coke. I need to pee. I was feeling safe in my little cube decorated with photos of my animals, my art, my work, my Tom. I really don't want to get up and risk running into people in the bathroom. Bathroom is empty. Good. 10am arrives. I make it through that meeting and an 11am meeting that I scheduled for a brand catalog. It went well. Immediately followed by another website meeting. This is good. It's forcing me to deal with people. Forcing me to concentrate on the work. This is getting easier. No one has mentioned Tom. Though I did get an arm squeeze after meeting number two ended. I knew what it meant. I appreciate it.


Most of the rest of the day is spent at my desk looking at motorcycle rides and photography from across the country to possibly include in a motorcycle apparel catalog. There is one that includes Tom's last ride in the Hill Country. I'd like to use that. I already have a photo...



Note:

Screwy is fine. No damage to the eye itself and no obvious wound. It was quite possibly a sting of some sort. Steroid and antibiotic eye drops for a couple weeks. It already looked much better when I picked her up. They said she was a very good girl. She was excellent when I put more drops in that evening. I think she knows it's the drops that are making her feel better.


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Painting:

"Silver & Brass" Tom and I loved to go antique shopping. In fact, our first date was antique shopping in Forney, Texas. The objects in this painting are from various outings and now live on the fireplace mantle that he built for me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mind's Eye


The death certificates arrived on Saturday. Another standard form to neatly and orderly sum up the most tragic event in my life to date. Every time I closed my eyes or just thought about Tom, all I could see in my mind's eye was him trapped under a pick-up. My visual subconscious had constructed an elaborate scene with a multitude of details and each actual factual detail I learned altered the image slightly more toward the truth. Frequently, the image I see is focused on his helmeted head and eyes with a bit of a truck tire in the scene. He is perfectly still. Already gone. In a decidedly morbid way, I want to see the accident scene photos. Some were taken by Highway Patrol. I want to see what David saw. I want to see the reality rather than made up images in my mind. I wonder if the truth will set me free.


I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night. I had dreamed of Tom and it was rapidly fading. All I could remember is showing him the photos I had found to use for his service and I had to hurry. I was going through them rapidly. There wasn't enough time. I don't know why, but I couldn't stay. Time was short.


The sadness seems to be hitting randomly now. Before, it was some specific thought or external trigger. Now I'll be thinking of nothing and will suddenly be overcome with sadness. I miss him. I miss his voice. I miss his scent. I miss his touch. There are so many furry feet here and yet the house is empty.


I noticed something else different today, though. A few minutes ago and what prompted me to write tonight, was that I saw him in my mind again, but he wasn't in the accident scene. He was standing in front of me wearing a stained sage colored T-shirt and jeans. Barefoot and smiling. This is my Tom. I realized that I had seen him that way all day. I was so happy. I feared that I would never get the accident scene out of my head. This Tom is the reality. The truth. It is remembering him like this that will eventually set me free.


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This is the first painting I have done since the death. It's a step into the future for me. Living in the past is not what he wants for me.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Large Coke $1.08



I said I was going to wade through this and not go around. I think I took a detour.


Tonight was the awards reception for my local art club's spring members show. I won something. I have no idea what. I couldn't bring myself to face all those people who would tell me how sorry they were, ask if I'm okay and hug me. I've also had several recent phone calls from people wanting talk to me about Tom. I've ignored them too. Yes, I'm fortunate to have people who care, but I'm at a point where I don't want to keep talking about it over and over again. Not to every casual acquaintance that crosses my path.


There is a McDonald's in the large truck stop near work. Nearly every morning on the way in I go through the drive-through and get a large coke and only a large coke. This totals $1.08. Pretty soon a couple of the employees that regularly work the drive-through started to recognize the car and would announce my order to me right as I pulled up to the screen to give it. Sometimes they would make up a random price like $10.39 to tease me. Frequently they wouldn't ring up the sale and just gave me a coke for free. I felt guilty about this and didn't want anyone to get in trouble, so I told them precisely that. Not long after, I handed over my credit card and Tom said something so I turned to him. I turn back and the employee hands me my card a little too quickly. I look at him and say, "you didn't swipe it did you?" He just smiled. On the rare occasions Tom drove, they would ask if I was okay and when Tom wasn't with me they always asked about him. The mind is a funny thing. When I think about going back to work, this is what crosses my mind first, the McDonald's and that they are going to ask.


Each time I come to a situation where I have to notify another group of people about Tom's death it is hard. Tuesday was such a day. I had my regular IVIG infusion at the cancer center. Tom's sister suggested that I bring a program from the service and hand it to them in order to limit what I had to say, which I did, but I knew they would ask questions. I've been coming here every 3 or 4 weeks since late 2008. I see them more often than most of my friends. I talked with a couple of the nurses for awhile. Just getting out the first sentence, that he died is the toughest. After that, I seemed to be okay to speak of it to them.


Walking into Tucker Rocky is going to be hard. For most people grieving, going back to work would be a welcome distraction, some sense of normalcy, but Tom and I worked together and in the same department. Every project I had involved him on some level. His office will still be there but stripped of personal belongings, an empty shell. I really think that will be what bothers me the most. People will be worried and will look at me with a mixture of concern, sadness and pity that will be hard to face. I also realize that I will be a constant reminder to them of Tom, making it harder for them to move on too.


Last night I was sitting on the floor framing and turned the TV on for background noise. It was an episode of Monk. Who would have thought I would find wisdom in it. Someone asks Monk, who lost his wife years before, how he can stay focused and keep working. His answer was, and I'm paraphrasing, "I need to stay the person she fell in love with for her." This really resonated with me. In my case, Tom is so much of who I have become. I won't let his death be the end of me as well.


I've been told I could take a leave of absence if I'm not ready, but I believe that the longer I wait to come back, the harder it will be to do so. It is time. Time to rejoin the world. My Tucker family and I will have to face the mutual pain. Hopefully by working together. I know I have their support.


Will I stop at the McDonald's? I don't have the answer. We will see.



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This painting is called "Against the Stream" and to me represents Tom. He was someone who didn't feel the need to go along with the group. He swam against the current and yet always got to his intended destination.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ashes


The funeral home called me today. They are shipping Tom's ashes and wanted to make sure that I knew. That I was prepared to receive them. I assumed she meant mentally. I will have to go to the post office and sign for them. They didn't want it to be a shock for me. The entire time she is talking the conversation is peppered with 'honey,' 'hon,' and 'sweetie.' I'm finding that this is annoying me greatly. Now I live in a small..ish town. It was small enough recently enough that having a stranger call me by pet names is not that uncommon, but the familiarity here felt so misplaced. It was so casual. There is nothing casual about what was taking place. What had taken place. Death and honey don't pair well.


I'm actually ambivalent about the ashes themselves. This isn't Tom for me. We had discussed with each other what we wanted done with our bodies. Organ donation was number one. This unfortunately was not to be. Second was cremation. I could never nail him down on exactly where he wanted his ashes to be spread. Just out in the wilderness somewhere. Right now our cat Quatro sits in a cedar box on the mantle. I have no intention of placing Tom next to him. Brother Paul had a spur-of-the-moment thought while speaking at the service. A memorial ride on the anniversary of Tom's death. I think I'd like to spread some of his ashes then. I think some should be taken 'home' to Kentucky. I know Red River Gorge was a favorite spot for him. He took me there to hike when we visited and talked of it often. He liked the thought of becoming one with the land. The ground, the plants absorbing part of himself. A way to live on in another form. I like this thought too.


Though the ashes aren't an emotional issue for me, the answering machine is. If you've gotten its recording, you understand. "This is Tom and Rebecca, please leave a message" in Tom's voice. I have always loved his voice. I found it very lyrical and when we first started dating, he would read "The Wind in the Willows" to me. I'd close my eyes and get lost in the lilting harmonies of his voice. I haven't been able to will myself into changing it, but I'm also afraid that it is painful for friends and family to hear. I apologize if it is. I just need a little more time.


Time.


In these past 3 weeks I have run through more emotions, more quickly that I thought humanly possible. Shock to despair to numbness to an uneasy acceptance. It is what it is and I can't do anything to change it. I have to adapt and move forward. I am glad I have my art to focus me as well as my writing. Friend David told me that he would never be able to express his feelings so publicly. I admit that given how private I am that this is something that might seem out of character. For me this sharing is like when you can't solve a problem and you begin to explain it to someone else. As soon as you do, you gain a new insight or find a solution without the other person having uttered a sound. This serves as a way to look at myself from both the inside and the outside and so many people have told me that it helps them too. I am glad for this.


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Painting is "The Swing." We found it in a cemetery just outside of Sedona. We walked all around the plots that were adorned with personal gifts. Some had statues, pinwheels, beads, a trophy even. Things that meant something to the inhabitants or those left behind. I liked this. Much better than even rows of evenly spaced plaques with only flowers allowed. Some objects looked as if they had been there a long time. Nothing touched or stolen. Chaotic, yet respected.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fast Car



I felt a nearly overwhelming need to drive fast. Really fast. There wasn't a single car on the highway in either direction within sight. No one would see. No one would know. I wouldn't get caught. I'm settling into a kind of acceptance of the situation, a numbness really. I've driven fast before. Fast for me anyway. Enough to get a rush from it, but in a safer environment. On a track. I've done hot laps in the Miata on several road courses, just for fun. I did take one official SCCA driving course. Though highly competitive, I'm too cautious, too safe, not a risk taker to have been any good at racing.


Still, driving home from my infusion treatment with the top down and radio blaring I think I was seeking some kind of sensory input to push away the numbness, even the pain was better than this. Smells in the air, vibration of the road, thumping of the music trying to awaken my spirit, but adrenaline would only be an empty temporary fix and would demand repeat performances for any lasting effect. In reality, it's not what I need. I know this. I don't floor it.


Don't get me wrong, without risk there is no gain. Sometimes risks are necessary, but I am one to make a list of positives and negatives and assign them values and weigh them on a mental scale and even then to have a plan A, B or even C in case something goes horribly wrong.


The one time I didn't do this was with Tom. If I had, I would have lost out on the love of my life because the cards were stacked very much against it. People told me he was damaged. He was also essentially my boss and I risked and did alienate my department co-workers. I had never worked in a job before where I wasn't good friends with my fellow employees, but I understood it. Kept my distance. What if it didn't work out? I'd have to leave my job which I really liked. Objectively, dating Tom wasn't a rational decision, it wasn't a 'good' decision, but every fiber of my being knew it was right. A risk worth taking. I didn't believe in regrets and this time the risk paid off in more ways than I could have ever fathomed.


Even now, with him gone, if I had known our time together had this limit, I still would have done it. No regrets. This numbness will pass. It will pass.


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This painting is called "Old Friends"

Though I wish we would have been able to grow old together, I'm glad Tom didn't have to face a failing body and memory. He occasionally expressed fears about getting older. I'm starting the understand them now as I age toward the mid 40s.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dreaming

I'm watching dogs sleep. The German Shepherd curling his lip and making little yips. The older Aussie's legs twitching and paws moving like she's running. Occasionally there's a snore. I wonder, of course, what they are dreaming. Is it the dream I wait for? A dream that has not come. At least I don't remember if it has.



"On my own, pretending he's beside me. All alone I walk with him 'til morning. Without him I feel his arms around me, and when I lose my way, I close my eyes and he has found me."

-Les Miserables


I want to dream of Tom. Instead I dream of nothing.


I have had a series of dreams throughout my life of a place that seems so absolutely real that it must exist in this world. Time breathes here in this place of dreaming. The dream never repeating. Every few years I visit again. A bridge over a river surrounded by tall trees and a little natural history museum by it. I am at total peace here. At first it is alive. I stand on the bridge and watch people rafting in the river below. Others look around the museum. Each time, fewer people are here. I age in the dream also. The normal passage of time. I arrive again to find it abandoned and derelict and I am heartbroken. In the final dream that I remember there is hope. No one is here, but the museum looks to be under construction. I wander inside to find it being renovated and I can't wait to return. I haven't been back. Not for many years and truly I long to see it again.


I've told Tom of these dreams and I don't believe anyone else. This is a place he would go I think. Every interesting rock, leaf, twisted piece of wood or seed pod he found, he would bring to show me its beauty. Even now there is dried gourd he found in the yard sitting on the dash of our car. There is a shell there too, likely in the glove box. A ceramic art bowl upstairs with a collection of some large marble-size as yet undefined objects he found in the yard that seem to have originated from the trees. There is so much of him around me. He was a collector and not of a single object or category. His interests varied and often overlapped with my own or if not, I could usually see the appeal in it. Sometimes its beauty was in the outside and sometimes it was a less tangible but equally real scientific beauty, a perfection of design. You might think that going through these collections will be painful, but I in fact look forward to it. What objects I found when searching for pictures for his memorial were intriguing and heartening. I will get to know him all over again.


I hope I dream of the river soon. I believe he is there waiting. Walking along the waters. Picking up pinecones or other assorted natural objects and slipping them into his pocket to show me later.


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The Painting

"River Rocks"

Amazingly, to me anyway, this river is just a few minutes outside of Sedona, Arizona. Incredibly lush and you could see the dry, craggy, red rock over the tree tops. Tom and I wandered through the water with our cameras for quite some time. It was cloudy when we first found the spot, so we came back later in the day when the sun peeked out. I loved the way the roots of these trees crawled their way over any obstacle to reach the water.