The Trials of A Broken Heart

Still. Sharing my writing from two years ago that resonates with me still. Touché FB, this is what I needed to be reminded of today. Don’t judge, don’t fix, just read. #grief #misshim #sharedamemory #facebook

Facebook post dated June 20, 2017

More writing, same request – no judgement, no fixing, just read. ~P.

The Trials of A Broken Heart

It is no secret that I have a broken heart. Death has taken my lover, partner, and best friend rolled into one. These dimensions of my life once overflowing are now bone dry, and dust is collecting on every surface. When I search for him in my mind, I can no longer see him, hear him, or feel his familiar warmth. His smell cannot be found on his clothing because his body has not been in his favorite sweatshirts and ripped jeans for almost a year. My brain contorts inside my skull, and the veins at my temples bulge because I have forgotten to breathe through the moments of trying, unsuccessfully, to remember these fading wisps of his soul. When I squeeze my eyes tight shut, behind my eyelids the colors of us have faded to pale, and are now barely-there blurry movements without defined shape. Lately, my cheeks have been tingling. I think it’s from the blood emptied from my heart that now runs cold through me and can’t find a place that is comfortable under my skin. Death is laughing at me because at the moment, he has all of the leverage, he has him, and I have nothing.

If I continue down this path, Death will have my heart. That single ember left in it will plucked by Death’s greedy claws, and I will completely shut down. I won’t go without a fight. I refuse to let Death win. After loving my partner so hard, and having been forced to release him, all that love is now buried inside of me. It is hidden from Death, but it is surrounded by Grief’s child, Agony. Agony whispers to my hidden love, teasing it to show itself, even just a peek. My love is not to be played with by this insolent child. Agony taunts and teases me with an unblinking stare that makes my body tremble, half out of anger, half out of exhaustion. Smiling, Agony has taken away my appetite for food, there is no plate that has what I want to eat. My mouth has become dry, and even though my voice wants to sing a song to him, words can only be mouthed and my breath cannot hold the right tune.

Stepping forward now is Compassion, but her gift is a cruel joke to me. She offers for me to see him in the opposite space: in feeling and seeing his absence, he is in fact here. The kids and I went out to breakfast for Father’s Day at the restaurant that we all used to go to, he usually ordered the same thing: ‘T D Special’ of 2 eggs basted, hash browns, whole wheat toast, and gyro meat. Next to my son opposite me is the empty place at our table for four, the table in the corner by the front window. The very same table we last ate all together in this place. I couldn’t help but look at the empty seat now, and I wanted to see him sitting there, healthy with that devilish grin, his eyes telling me he’s thinking about me being naked and wrapped around him. These unspoken thoughts, even in front of the kids, he and I shared. Compassion, is this all that remains? This is a seat that will never be filled, and my acknowledgement of that makes Death and Agony very happy.

So what am I to do with this void if “the seat cannot be filled?” I look inside myself, and I ask why this bothers me so much, and I want to see this problem in a different light. I am seeking Truth. I close my eyes and I am in Central Park, walking along a paved path. I see Truth is sitting next to the father of Grief, Existence, on a worn out but sturdy bench. There is a low humming murmur between them, and they keep glancing over at me, in a half inviting, other half ‘you stink’ face way. I approach to better understand what they’re saying, standing off to one side of the path. I’m really tempted to sit on this rock I see next to the bench, but standing feels good at the moment. I have nervous energy in my legs and sitting still for too long gives me a cramp in my left foot. Suddenly, Truth and Existence turn to me at the same time, and our eyes meet. It’s a good thing I’m writing down what was said now, I don’t want to forget it.

The most surprising part of our conversation was that they spoke as one voice, and even though they did not speak my language, I understood them. After our introductory “hellos”, this is what they told me: “Paula, know you are not done having love in your life, you deserve to be happy again. First, you must find a way to forgive yourself of thinking you did not love him enough, pushed him out, and that you did not deserve him. He loved you completely and you were meant for each other. Don’t be afraid of Death taking that spark in your heart, it can’t be taken from you, it is always yours to keep. Your heart is something that can be given again, to anyone you wish, and that spark will grow once again in time. We will be with you in the next part of your journey, and give you eyes to see what is hidden from others. The ember in your heart will not go out because we have sent the aura of Life to you. Life is with you now, bestowed upon you to give you strength and encouragement through this time. As you rediscover your purpose, Life will beckon those to you that need you, that want you. Your gifts to those worthy of you will be fragile, and need your trust and patience to grow. Please allow Life to help you with these new bonds, and to feel comfortable receiving praise. Listen to your own voice and when an answer comes to you after a long debate in your mind, know that we are all with you and you are never truly alone. Walk down the path now, do not look behind you for long, what is ahead needs your full attention.” I turned my head just for a split second, to look further down the path, and when I looked again toward Truth and Existence, they were no longer there on the bench.

Even though I am in Central Park, surrounded by so many people, I have that rush of aloneness come over me. My feet feel heavy, stuck to this spot where I’m standing. As I exhale, I feel the sun’s rays on my back, and realize it is quite warm today. Looking to the left of the bench where Truth and Existence were just moments ago, I see that rock again next to it, the sunlight revealing tiny glints of clear quartz shimmering in between layers of deep gray. I find myself sitting on the rock now, my fingers feel it’s gnarled texture. This rock is slightly warm, even though it is early in the day, half way between morning, half way to late afternoon. The sound of traffic from 5th Avenue seems a bit more quiet than usual today, the abrupt ring of a bicycle bell snaps me out of listening to it. Tears spill as I open my eyes, and a soft whimper escapes my lips, uncertainty of this all actually happening fuels more tears. As I continue to write, surprisingly I still feel the sun’s warmth on my back from my vision, this can’t be real I say to myself. Perhaps it could be the aura of Life giving me reassurance that she is here after all and I’m not really alone. Reality has a funny way of choosing to be noticed and better yet, felt. ~Paula

A Soap Story – Bar 2 of 3

Last year in June, as my then turned-pale, moss-green bar of my favorite soap was shrinking to a size smaller than a skipping stone, I began searching for the next bar in whichever grocery store I happened to be. They all carry it, albeit, depending on the store, found on a different shelf and order. With a couple months or so in between buying a bar, it usually requires a little exploration every time to find it, and when found, the obligatory “ah-ha” moment of “oh, it’s in that aisle here.” I never doubted and always relied on finding my soap when it was time for a new one, and like a reunion of old friends, it was always comforting to see, like no time had passed in between visits. By summer’s end though, it was clear it was not to be found.

You could say, “well, just order it online,” and resolve the problem, but that’s not my first, go-to choice or the point here. The point is, to answer questions like “where did it go?” and “is it coming back?” and “is it just me not finding it?” I needed answers to these questions, and sort out what’s real and not real. I can’t imagine this brand suddenly not being stocked by popular stores and definitely not a worst-case scenario of it no longer being made. Are other people, like me, wondering the same thoughts about not finding it? Even though valuable time and energy of every day is already divided into so many pieces, so often spread too thin, to me this is a mystery worth solving. I am compelled to add this one more thing to the to-do list: find my soap!

Before full-panic could set in, I turned my search to within my house. I found myself rummaging through bathroom drawers and closet shelves for some other acceptable substitute soap, and even hopeful for the possibility of finding a random surprise-bar of my favorite, somehow stashed away and deeply hidden under extra toothbrushes or behind a lineup of bottled toiletry tonics. No such luck. So, I chose from what I found: a gifted, handmade peppermint-herbal bar on to which I topped with a smallish, milled-lavender block from a hotel.

These bars stuck together with use, resembling a little, Zen stone stack neatly positioned at an angle on the built-in, shower corner-shelf. The creamy-white lavender bar sat atop the larger, chunky-beige peppermint bar on the bottom. Unexpectedly, the two distinctive bars combined fragrances and had taken on a cinnamon-red-hots, candy scent. The spicy smell mixes with steam and fills the shower, it’s pungent odor abruptly hits my nose and I try not to let it into my nostrils. I end up breathing through my mouth, but that, too, gives me a weird, candy-concoction taste on my tongue, and I don’t like that sensation either. It is not a smell that is appealing or wanted. I’d much rather be calmed by the non-aromatic bouquet smell of my simple, soothing olive soap bar. Without it, I feel like I am not getting clean, my comforting smell is not here, and I might as well be attempting to wash a body that is not mine. The one peaceful, important part of my day has become a time of hurriedly getting through it, avoidance, and it not being a time to relax.

One day in particular, my patience worn thin, I began a more direct investigation to find my soap by calling a couple stores, and unfortunately, received no straight answer of its expected arrival back in stock anytime soon. Those stores I called, were able to confirm that I’m not imagining it’s absence, and at least they were able to say, “no we don’t have it right now.” However, no one could say when it would definitely be back on the shelf. Humph.

My desperation masked behind hope finally came out in one shopping trip. I found myself interrogating an employee in an aisle where it should have been, explaining how there is no other soap quite like this one, how disappointed I am not to find it, and it is nowhere to be found. She agreed with me that she didn’t see it here on the shelf, and while glancing at the new, full arrangement of bar soaps, none-of-which-are-my-soap, she casually guessed, emphasized with a tilt of her head, that their store may have discontinued carrying it. What?!? No, no, no!

Meanwhile, this visual confirmation that no store has my soap, was compounded by the discovery that all of them have been quietly rearranging their soap product assortment as summer yielded to fall. In some cases, I observed the whole grouping of bar soaps having leaped to the other side of the “usual aisle” and placed down low. My sore legs from summer mountain biking accidents now creak and strain as I stoop down, cranking my neck and squinting my eyes to view the newly-sorted product lineup. Trying to read small type on colorful packaging, deciphering fragrance descriptions and ingredients lists, this only reminds me that I’m overdue for a new glasses prescription, and maybe I should be spending my time at the eye doctor, not chasing a rabbit that can’t be caught.

I was done with my exhaustive research on all of this, needing to save energy for other things that, quite frankly, are not getting done and require some attention, like the need to call my eye doctor for an appointment being just one “must-do” on a very long list. Then, a near-last resort of action came to mind, which probably should have been my near-first choice: go to the company website, and contact customer service and ask them directly what is going on. My long, soap-sob-story was finally put into an email. I was thankful to receive a reply back a couple days afterwards, with the reason that there was a “production problem,” but it is expected to be back in stores “by the end of October.” As fall began, my patience was somewhat restored with this reassurance, and as time passed, I chose to add, subtract, and mingle other soap bars to my substitute soap-stack, however not finding anything quite right. [This story continues in A Soap Story – Bar 3 of 3. Thank you, again, for reading.] ~Paula

A Soap Story – Bar 1 of 3

Potawatomi Trail, Pickney Recreation Area.

April 6, 2019, began the 30th month since my husband-partner, Jon, died from cancer. My life is so different now, beyond the “it’s not what I expected or hoped for” type of commentary or observation. What is different is magnified, conspicuous, and it is ongoing without end. I am different. Still no calm, and my attempt of adopting my one-word theme of “be” morphs and shifts in a continuous heavy haze of uncertainty. Brightness and relief remains infrequent, in between those blips on the radar is a lot of murky water.

I could be going along with every day things, and grief erupts and seeps out from inside. There is no washing it off, it is inside me, a part of me. It comes out as a low-hum vibration of sweat that beads at the back of my neck, then radiates to my face and tingles in my cheeks at various frequencies. This is not a mid-life hot-flash, but more like experiencing a sunburn that continues to evolve and fluctuate in it’s intensity, and there may not be enough aloe vera on the planet to soothe it. Today it is a hollow pain deep in the middle of my forehead and tears are welled up along the bottoms of my lower eye lids. I’m having a morning of wanting nothing, all these “things” around me are no substitute for “my person” who is no longer here. And so, even before breakfast, I give in to laying down for meditation and a short nap.

Time and pain only momentarily shifts and softens until a rush of ringing in my ears has me suddenly waking up. My eyes remain closed, I call his name into the empty room, sound reverberates inside my still aching head, and my hands instinctively reach to my forehead to press and smooth crinkled skin while my heart is racing in double-time, twisting, like I’m in the woods on my bike and needing to hold on tight through a double-switchback turn. Wishing I were on a bike ride right now, it would free me from this moment, but instead I am laying still, immersed in memories, missing, and full of anguish.

Since he died, I have been questioning “what is” and “what is not” real. With the passing of time, what is different is exponential, and nothing is the same. I’m just trying to keep up with it all on a daily basis. When I find slivers of things that resemble familiar comforts before loss and cancer became my world, I feel a mixture of nostalgia, missing, and a wanting to hold on to those fragments, no matter how small. Without warning, tears fill my eyes, and then, suspended seconds are counted in heartbeats until a blink and a deep sigh, and my temporary blindness and deafness to things around me lifts. I may see and hear clearly again, but if you were to ask me what was just said or what was going on around me, I would not be able to tell you. Like looking into a dense fog, to see what is both far away and right in front me, I’m concentrating and refocusing very hard to stay in the present moment. Focus yields to feeling out of sync, the gap between your “present” and mine feels like we’re riding on the same trail, but you are going much faster with less effort ahead of me, and I am way behind, pedaling harder, and just when I think I will make it up a steep climb, my tire abruptly gets caught on a root, all momentum is lost, and I need to walk my bike the rest of the way up to the top.

It’s not a struggle between distinguishing fantasy versus reality, I know damn-well that difference, but more of an expecting him to be where he should be, when, in fact, he is not here. I feel his not being here, that hole swallows me up sometimes, especially at night. The end of one more day without him, and then knowing another day will begin again without him feels so abnormal, so wrong. We are all going on with our lives, getting older, and he is not. The fact of his permanent absence collides with unexpected reminders that he is not where he used to be, where he should be. I still ask myself, “Is he really gone?” I come home with a surprise wave of anticipation expecting to find him cooking something wonderful in the kitchen, but all I see is empty space where he should be standing. No one else can, or will, fill this space.

What is normal now, what feels right? This life now feels so distorted and unrecognizable, like what the hell happened, where am I, who am I? I plod along, stumbling in to the future, so afraid of screwing up and making choices that could lead me to some ambiguous, irreversible place that has no emergency exit. Maybe I’m already there and don’t want to see or admit it to you or, worse yet, to myself? I’ve turned to simple human habits since he died to keep what’s real “in check.” From the basic act of methodology brushing my hair to eating toast with peanut butter and jelly, and making French-pressed coffee almost every day for breakfast, I rely on those little things to give me something to look forward to doing, to have an expectation fulfilled, and a tiny, but meaningful, accomplishment.

Bathing especially has become one of those things I do in order to feel “normal.” Inside my world that can feel so harsh, it’s the main anecdote for washing away my sweat, tears, and reminding my body that it exists and I should be taking care of it. While showering, it’s these precious minutes of kindness to myself in the day when I don’t have to respond to anyone or anything else, just concentrate on my own thoughts, or think of nothing. I pay close attention to feeling hot water soothe sore muscles, and, of course, get clean. Part of my showering routine has been using the same brand of olive oil soap since I moved to Michigan over seven years ago. It’s a large, half-brick-sized green block whose color reminds me of decaying grass clippings without the awful smell. It’s unscented, yet it does have a distinctive, soothing “olive” fragrance. It’s “my” fragrance. [This story continues in A Soap Story – Bar 2 of 3. Thank you for reading.] ~Paula

Eye of the Tiger

October 6, 2018

Today is in honor of my husband-partner Jon, who passed away 2 years ago on this day. Last night, I made a stop at a grocery store, and just after I had walked through the sliding doors and was passing by the check-out registers, I immediately heard the song, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, loudly playing through the store speakers. For just a moment, I wondered if maybe I would find him picking out ice cream or trying to find a box of taco shells. Then I thought of all of the people Jon loved, who would know this song is his song, about “just a man and his will to survive.” While Jon fought cancer, these lyrics gave us all hope and strength, and spoke to how determined of a person Jon was, to face any challenge or rival, his special grin and twinkling eyes always present. I had the urge to say out loud, “this is his song!” At that moment in the grocery store, I found myself not only thinking of Jon, but also of our families and friends, each of us having memories of him. We share that connection, and I’m so comforted to have each of you come to mind when reminders of Jon suddenly appear. Though miles may keep us apart, family and friends, please know you are in my thoughts and memories, and most of all, know you are in my heart and are loved. Thank you for thinking of Jon, especially today. ❤️ ~Paula

The Unfortunate Incident

Saturday Night

Just when I thought it was safe again to go through a fast-food drivethru with my teenaged children, tonight happened. The ‘Previous Incident’ was some time last year at a Taco Bell drivethru and only my daughter was in the passenger seat. We decided to pick up food for her, and also for my son who was at home. I should preface by saying, I know nothing about this food, I don’t eat it, I tried it once. Once. My kids know this menu well, or so I thought. I also thought my son asked for the Cheesy Core, so now stopped at the ordering screen, I said loudly, “I’ll have one Cheesy Core.” And when the drivethru-guy asked, “a what?” I thought he couldn’t hear me, so even louder now with leaning my head out of the window for added emphasis, “Cheesy! Core!” (Please take a moment to say those two words to yourself three-times-fast out loud.) After a pause from the ordering screen, a woman’s voice comes on and says, “uh, we don’t have Cheesy Cores,” said with a bit of ‘WTF-is-this-lady’s-problem’ and annoyance in her voice, it’s obvious drivethru-guy and this annoyed-woman voice think I’m joking. I’m not. I’m just a mom trying to buy cheap, quickie food for my daughter and my now over six-foot son and get his order right in his absence. Apparently though, the only thing I was ordering for him was a Cheesy Whore, when, in fact, it was called a Quesarito. My daughter and I were laughing so hard, “Oh, mom, I love you,” she said through our impossibility to stop laughing at the banter and reaction at the drivethru-guy who had to be saved by annoyed-woman and with my lack to keep a straight face once we pulled up to the pick-up window.

Well tonight, I found myself in the car again to pick up my son and a couple of his friends from the movie theater, and on the way to home, they decided a stop at a McDonald’s drivethru would be a good idea. This time, my son is in the passenger seat, and his two friends are in the backseat. Now would be a good time to say, I do eat this kind of fast food, but not often, my choice usually is the Egg McMuffin. We pull up to the ordering screen, and after my son tells me he would like two cheeseburgers and a small fry, I immediately turn from him to the screen and repeat with confidence. Turning back towards his friends now, I ask, “What would you guys like?” The friend sitting behind him says, “I want a Happy Meal, please,” the other says “I’d like nuggets with buffalo sauce.” From there, this drivethru Unfortunate Incident begins.

To me, being a mom of two teenagers means that you now know answers to potential questions before asked, and *snaps* all those years of motherly experience will now pay off in this moment, this time thinking I know a bit about ordering a Happy Meal for my kids from numerous times when they were growing up. So I turn back to the screen and lean towards my car window and say, “I’d like a Happy Meal, with a boy toy, not a girl toy, please.” Maybe it was because I was tired from exercising today, or having three below-driving-age teenaged boys in my car tonight all taller than me, or the fact that the drivethru-dude sounded on the younger side himself, but it suddenly hit me what I had said. Drivethru-dude asks through a chuckle, “A what? We only have one kind, but I’ll check.” I continue to finish ordering, also getting hung up on the buffalo sauce request, because at this point my son and his friends are all laughing and offering commentary and bantering, and oh my, an answer to “which drink do you want with that Happy Meal” seems irrelevant, because I’m laughing so loud and I think my son is beyond mortified of his mom saying crazy crap. Again.

After clarifying wanting a 10-piece nuggets, a chocolate milk with an extra fry and finishing the order, while driving around to the pay window, I found myself explaining to them what they already knew about what a ‘boy toy’ is and offer my excuse for asking like that because when my son was little there was always a choice and it was a big deal which type of toy you got in the box. I’m just digging myself deeper in on this one, aren’t I? Pay-lady at the window does not seem amused by our car-full of laughing loudness, as the other friend was now telling that there are only two shapes of chicken nuggets, and this seems to only add to the ridiculous, silly level of this drivethru event. My change and a little side-eye is dutifully given. Thank you, pay-lady. On to the pick-up window.

Drivethru-dude is tallish and lanky, and as I peer inside the brightly lit, bustling space, he seems to be surrounded by a crew of three women. He makes a point to say through his smile, “I checked, and we definitely don’t have any of those.” I find myself laughing all over again, this joke just got even worse, now it appears to be on both me and him. “Thank you very much,” I say through my laughing. As drinks and bags are handed through his window to mine, my carload of hungry guys are opening as they are receiving each one. As I slowly pull away from the window, I ask everyone if we have everything, and after a quick chorus of “yup,” the friend who ordered the Happy Meal asks, “What’s this, Peter Rabbit?” and I’m genuinely thinking how much more worse can this get? How did we go from just ordering cheap, quickie food to a boy toy to nuggets to Peter Rabbit? What planet am I on? What? Surprised me says, “I thought it was supposed to be The Incredibles!?!” I’ll have more laughter, please, with a small side of swearing. ~Paula

Introducing Peter Rabbit.

Wave

Dear Reader,

Who knew opening a desk drawer would flood a whole room? 21 months since my partner and husband died from cancer, this is a typical day. I don’t fight these tears, they are with me on this ride, salt-watered and wet, stinging with missing and memories. ~P.

“Meadow, Trees and Snow, Winter Afternoon, Yosemite National Park, c. 1965” Photograph by Ansel Adams, Courtesy of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All rights reserved. Museum Graphics, Menlo Park, California.

“Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico c. 1941” Photograph by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. All rights reserved. Museum Graphics, Menlo Park, California.

July 17, 2018

Life organization of After in progress. Tackling this daunting task, finding things tucked in desk drawers. It’s this type of stuff that brings on instant tears and a racing heartbeat. Shit. A moment’s pause, memories of this man and who he was wash over me, and suddenly in my mind I’m surfing again, paddling out, then having to hold on tightly to the board with both hands, tensing, as wave after wave takes my breath away, drenches and soaks my skin. Patiently waiting for the right wave, to be mine, to ride for my return to shore. Deep breath in, tears steam out. Come up for more air.

Ansel Adams was one of his favorite photographers. These small, 5” by 7” prints, holiday notecards by Museum Graphics, I can see through his eyes what he liked in each one, why he saved them in this drawer. He had a sense for knowing great design and loved looking at nature, better still, sought to be in places just like these. To be. ~Paula

#anseladams #photographbyanseladams #museumgraphics #yosemitenationalpark #newmexico #grief #widow #surfing #waves #nature #winter #moonrise #be

Storyboard – No. 04

July 6, 2018

Dear Reader,

It’s been just about three months since I’ve published something new. I’m calling this span of time a much needed brain-break, a rest-and-reset, or maybe just a falling off of the merry-go-round I am on with my-life-with-loss, a result of going a bit too fast and spinning in too many directions at once. My writing and the continuation of the telling of my story has now had this necessary, self-imposed pause, and as of today, this segment has gathered a lengthy, unexpected list of happenings involving people, possessions, and my evolving position on living this life. I keep thinking of my present life as one, big biking adventure, and when it veers off some perceived course and the brakes don’t seem to work, I’m shouting in my mind and sometimes out loud, “It’s my bike ride damnit!” which basically means “focus” to attempt taking control, “stop being distracted” to do what is needing the most attention, and most often “you have your own shit to do, stop doing everyone else’s shit.” This last thought may sound harsh, but for me, cancer and grief has put me on the defensive about the trajectory of time, and specifically the use of my emotional and physical energy in it, whether asleep or awake. It’s release comes at a high cost to me, and if I’m not careful with the speed and breadth of it, I fear I won’t have enough energy to make good decisions, or worse, really fuck something up or not be mentally-present when I’m needed most by my two teen-aged children. My fears and grief are intertwined, like tree roots and poison ivy on a mountain bike ride, no matter how I try avoid them, it seems like I steer directly at them regularly.

Today it has been 21 months since Jon died. At nearly a year and half without him, at that time, my own well-being and “just being” had hit a hard wall. It’s not easy to say, but I reached a total energy depletion. Days while my kids were at school, I found myself in the month of May sleeping extra hours, my brain felt utterly useless and my body refused to cooperate and felt weak. I think after putting on my “brave face” without real replenishment for so long both before and after Jon died, one day the whole of me literally expired with a capital “E” for Empty. Only very slowly, with giving in to all that extra sleep, crying about everything all over again well into June, and doing effectively what felt like a hiding-of-myself-away, had I finally begun to feel like I was able to function, think more clearly, and could exercise without needing a nap afterwards.

This pause had also, in-part, included and yielded some new writing, most is the kind that is too difficult to readily share, because the depths of my mind have been a messy place to be. There became my having more awareness and sharp delineations between what should be public versus private, those boundaries have resulted in some protective walls going up, needing time to reflect moreso in, than out. Sometimes, I chose to write only to myself, or privately to closest friends. I’m not a person who just spews out words to the public just for saying, so if ever those thoughts from that time end up here, it will be for good reason.

What needs saying now though, is that it has been a full year since our family trip to Canada, and the continuation of ‘Storyboard’ with more telling about that week, needs both a bringing forward to the present and a catching up from being one year ago in the past: like a boomerang, it’s gone a far ways-away, yet now it’s ready to come back to me. And just maybe, my current, evolved emotional state now will be able to handle where my mind was then, in what was in real-time, exactly one year ago. As I share with you now, and continue my story, I invite you read on and to be with me. Be. With. Me. ~P.

Storyboard – No. 04

Ontario, Canada – July 4, 2017

Valhalla

Being in Canada over the Independence Day holiday was a perfect excuse not to celebrate it. That matter of place in being outside of the U.S., or north of the wall as I think of it, and having no fireworks show or patriotic songs, easily put it all furthest from my mind. All of my family members and I are focused on just a few important activities here this week: fishing, family-time, and Jon’s ashes. Today we will be making preparations for his last official ashes celebration. We decided our event will be tomorrow, July 5th, fulfilling the last of his three requested locations. First on the agenda though, there will be fishing and a fantastic outing called a “shore lunch.” Afterwards, when we return to our island, event preparations will be in the form of making paper boats to be created by each family member. Then, tomorrow, there will be fire, and Valhalla will be welcoming him home. Will. Be.

Early morning at the dock, all on board for today’s fishing excursion. The lake is particularly smooth and glass-like. This calmness is what I seem to lack the most of in my mind today, so this picture will serve as a reminder for what I wish and wonder if ever I will be. Ever. Will. Be.

My kids and I bought large sheets of Canson paper, selected in colors of calming-blues, blood-red burgundy, and stone-greys. Mom taught us the paper boat folding method, and all together at the table we began to assemble a fine fleet in various sizes and designs, our own messages and symbols of love drawn on the sides and hulls. Our working together was mostly silent, but the sounds of paper-creasing, markers-squeaking, and the occasional musical melody of our voices, echoes in the sparsely furnished room. It blended all together to help us work along. I feel myself looking on, not so much in the middle of this process. I imagine making a boat will also make tears flow, and I don’t want more of that in front of everyone, so I look on and take pictures instead. This detachment I am feeling is not something I can snap out of, and I think I’m hiding it, but really, I’m that rabbit sitting perfectly still in a barren field, I hide nothing very well.

As we were going about our boat building business on this Tuesday evening, suddenly the light from outside seemed to darken, and looking out through the large, glass-sliding doors to the deck, we noticed a dramatic change in the weather. A storm was coming in fast, and reflective calm waters were now choppy and windswept. A dense, misty fog had descended on the water, shrouded our small island, and gusts of rain began dousing our cabin. Time seemed to stand still.

The storm and air pressure then shifted to a new phase. The fog cleared, and an odd-glow from gold-tinged, cloudy patches mixed with a steely-blue sky canvas revealed the most intense rainbow in the distance we had ever seen. We all took turns standing on our deck taking in what we were being shown: a full, high-arcing rainbow perfectly centered in the distance over the water outside of our cabin.

Ever since Jon died, I have chosen to show my face in pictures mostly with some form of smiling. It’s what I need people to see, an outer-image will be shared, and combined with my “natural instinct” to please others, dutifully I just do it, and in the process, reassure you and remind myself: I’m still alive, albeit grieving, but smiling anyway. However, there are other pictures I have taken of myself along this journey with no smiling. I’m talking about the crying ones, where at the moment I realize the need to document the sad state I feel, I take a picture of my distorted face to reflect later. It’s a way to privately acknowledge my range of emotions, despair to anger to fear, all of this, and I often look at these pictures as proof to myself that this loss is real and not imagined. To show you, the reader, my face with a sad expression, is to reveal how I’m feeling on the inside. Do you really want or need to see that? I don’t think so. Who chooses to see a sobbing mess, sagging skin, and a tear-streaked face? You or I can’t fix it, but I feel it, and my seeing it makes it real. So in that spirit, this sad picture, I choose to share now with you because one year after the fact, it’s okay for you to see, for you to know my reality. My whole being was lost in gazing at that rainbow. Looking at it from end-to-end, following its curved trail woven through the clouds, wishing I could reach out and touch it, I felt so certain he was there somewhere along its path. What I felt most at this moment was our separation, the time and distance between our souls. The pressing air and that surreal glow was connecting us now, and tiny raindrops where finding their way to my face like soft kisses. I now saw Jon as a part of the universe, in Valhalla, but I’m left behind in human form, standing in place and falling without him to catch me or hold me up. His life and his love for me are done and gone, so my life is effectively over without him here. In full disclosure, I felt that day, “I have nothing except a rainbow, and it too, will leave me.” While in Canada, even though I was in such close quarters with my family, at this moment especially, I feel so alone, so weighed down by thoughts that I will never be loved again. Will. Never. Be.

What came next that evening surprised everyone. In fact, the next day, we heard from others at the dock that they, too, never saw anything like it. Just as the rainbow faded, and the sky darkened to later evening, the wind had changed, and began blowing in from a completely opposite direction. It was another storm, this time with billowing, rolling silvery-clouds, a darkened, ash-grey sky, and bursts of lighting that flashed and popped. Again, our family watched in awe of what we were shown. And again, on the deck I stood, feeling alone, attempting to capture lightning in a picture, holding back tears.

Thank you for reading. The story will continue with ‘Storyboard – No. 05.’

~ Paula