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.


Accept the bitter or turn them into a sweet delight.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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.