All for you, for it is only for you, to whom I write today. ~P.

Looking into your bubble-shaped jar of keepsakes you had collected as a child.

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.” ~Anne Frank

Mom and Dad saved this spherical-glass, time-capsule all these years, and it has been given to our home not more than a couple years ago. This basketball-sized globe is now softly illuminated by north-eastern light, residing centered, on top of a dark-stained, oak table, in my living room. I wonder how and where you found each of these special items, and think about your eyes and hands knowing intimately every one, then after placing each in your pocket for safe-keeping, until later, dropping with a flourished “plunk” into this time-terrarium.

I’m content with not touching and sorting through them, just looking through the glass will do, mostly from the top, as shown here in this little objects portraiture. With my own eyes now finding the colors, shapes, and textures that may have intrigued you, looking at these things often, always brings a smile to my face and a warm-knowing in my heart: you are connected to every story for each of these items, your young, hunter-brain thought these were special enough to collect and add to the lot, now captured and preserved, dust-free, inside glass-encased space.

It’s a welcomed treasure-trove to me of memories from decades ago, “pre-Paula.” In your absence now, this is a form of you, your beauty and character, still here with us. I am so thankful to be the caretaker of these precious objects. ~P.

October 6, 2020

Dear Jon,

4 years. I’m speechless. You were my one-true ally on this earth, my best friend, my protector, my soulmate, and you have been gone now for 4 years.

When you died, I died, too. I have been grieving your death, and I have been grieving my own death. All of my attempts to “move forward” in After, to live a life without you in it, have brought more pain, heartache, and sadness. I’m tired of “moving.” Moving, in any direction, gets me nowhere.

Where to now? I ask myself this question, meaning: what have I not yet tried, to find peace and some form of joy? Most may say, lemonade needs to be made out of these life-lemons in my basket, “so start squeezing, missy.”

Is it wrong of me to be not wanting “just” lemonade? There are endless treats that can be made with this sour, zingy fruit. I want my palette to say “wow!” with something new and not ordinary, and my stomach to be so satisfied with meaningful, filling comfort-food. And, funny, for the past 4 years, I’ve been eating a never-ending “shit” sandwich, so you’d think lemonade would be a welcomed upgrade and compliment to my diet. Maybe lemonade is what I need to wash down that sandwich I’ve been served. “Fuck, no” to all of it. I know you can appreciate my stubbornness on this matter.

I’m missing so much those delicious, rich meals you created from the recipe book in your imagination made-real or learned from special people you knew and places you’d been in your lifetime. You always knew what to prepare, and watching you cook and expertly bustling in the kitchen and “shooing-away” everyone from “the triangle” area in front of the stove domain is still something the kids and I often recall. We shout, “Out of the triangle!” in your honor, thinking of you and now knowing, it’s so true!

I have something important to share with you. Your death has brought me to a critical, difficult determination: if I’m going to live life without you, well, damnit, it better be fucking good. That’s been my inner-challenge I’ve been honing for the last 4 years and counting. I have resolved that life of After will be about fulfilling those dreams we once shared of Before and adding new ones of my own, finishing projects beginning-to-end, never being in a box of any kind, and everything will be done with gusto and full-ass-never-half-ass.

All our years together: I told you in the hospital, before your last surgery, that we had so many lifetimes together, always on an endless rollercoaster, and I would not have lived any other way with you. This was my “no regrets” stance on the raw deal we faced of your cancer and it’s interrupting the point in our lives where we thought we were finally due for having a quieter, happier family life. Instead, for all we achieved, cancer did not give a crap and gave all of us the middle finger.

Now, in After, I want more from “this” life. For all the extra effort it now takes as solo-me, I don’t want a life that is “just enough” to call it lived and mission complete. I want to “be more than enough” as a whole person when I look in the mirror. I don’t want to make choices from what is right in front of me or for granted. I want to make choices from what was never offered or thought possible, and I need to form a future never before imagined.

How can that happen when each day, I feel defeated even before I get out of bed? I wake up to the fact that you are not here with me to share this limited time I have left on earth. It would be easy for me to insert clichés of feeling as if I am a failure, to say that I wallow in failure, or that failure is the only constant. Failure sneers directly at me and wags a bony finger my way, scolding, “I told you that wouldn’t work out!”

After 4 years, I have learned I am not a failure. Failure itself can finger-point at me all it wants to, and I’m not deterred by it. Who I am, is a human being who brazenly attempts to get somewhere, bumbling and tumbling along, in my solo state. Many of my ideas and actions are seemingly poo-poo’d or questioned, and I’ve developed a thicker-skin and have come to expect doubting forces. Some of which, you know, are just expressions of legitimate concern, and I appreciate that, but please understand, only I fit into the shoes I wear. Sometimes, I’ll admit, I am thankful you are not here to witness these acts of random-doing or impulsive-spontaneity. You may be added as one more person to the list who just doesn’t “get me.” I don’t need your finger wagging at me, too.

You were my comforting “check and balance” and my “order” of Before. I don’t have order in my life now, and my conspicuous life on display makes little sense to those who know we would have made different decisions, if together. More so, I don’t look or behave like that person I was with you. I’ve disembarked off of our Jon-and Paula rollercoaster, and have now entered a brand new theme park. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was exactly 4 years ago.

All that said, means without you, most people don’t understand me, whether previously known to me or new. The cheese stands alone, and I am the cheese. Is that a cliché, too, or a metaphor? Perhaps both? I’m sounding awfully sarcastic, but the truth is, I’m alone and hurting, and I’m also beyond worrying if I offend you or anyone else. You know, if you were here, what I need most is to be soothed by your arms wrapped around me, and you would instantly calm my mind and heart. These days, sarcasm with chided, passive-aggressive anger is my response to life situations and how I get on with it.

In these 4 years, that’s a long enough time to have earned an undergraduate degree of something. Maybe I’ve only earned the knowledge to know there will never be another you. I’ve discontinued hoping there may be someone who resembles you. Most importantly, there will not be any more trust of people as if they were you. That’s a lot of pressure off of me now, but creates a wider circumference hole of nothingness I face, which feels like such a waste of my willingness to give.

Since you died, nearly every moment, I’ve spent openly giving my emotional and physical energies to others. Giving became compulsory to make my hurting stop, wanting all pain to abate and let up from a constant forcing of me downward by grief and all its unrelenting anguish. Unfortunately, there have been many results and instances of an unequal, larger-portion amount of taking from me as responses to my acts of giving, by some who were either aloof, intentionally disruptive, or more dissociated from being in reality than I am. Giving is just what I do, it is both my blunder and my blessing. I guess there is truth to “if you give, do not expect to receive in return.” Let’s add, “if you giveth, they shall taketh.” More effing clichés along with my poor grammar and pitiful rephrasing.

Oh, Jon, I know you never wanted all this for me. It was unthinkable of your not being here with the kids and me and all your family and friends you loved. One of our last conversations, you said, “I’m really gonna miss you.” I miss me, I miss you, I miss us together. I love you, so, so deeply, and if you entered the door at this very moment, I would be grateful to wake up from this endless grief nightmare and greet you with the biggest, longest hug!

And I know you’re wondering, why all this giving talk, again? I’m ready to get to the point. Well, I finally made the abrupt discovery that giving to other people first, had drained me of everything, and I had nothing left to give to myself. Announcement: The Age of Perpetual Giving has officially ended! And, of course, as my knowing partner, you understood so clearly that it was never going to be sustainable for long and when you were alive, had always protected me from becoming so depleted.

Without you, my love, I forgot to value myself enough and to pay myself first. And it needs said how I felt about those with their hands held out to receive what I had offered to give without understanding or acknowleding the actual cost to me: I view those times as my having paid in full, “Paula was here,” and I owe them nothing more.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” ~Anne Frank

Starting now, I will remember my self-worth and pay myself first, regularly in kindness, patience, and love. And as a first payment to me, I am giving myself time to be away from social media, virtual everything, and anything routine. No excuses need be given, I’m just having time to myself, a brain and body break. Those kind of investments no one else can give to me, except me.

In that same spirit, I have also chosen to be in a supportive relationship with myself. I would not say this is me being antisocial, but rather, if I don’t prioritize the act of self-replenishment, then I will have nothing to give in future. Furthermore, the additional difference now will also be “giving as I choose to” not “giving because I have to.” No doing or giving anything out of obligation. Obligation is a very bad word.

My amazing, twinkle-eyed, apple-cheeked, rock-star-haired husband, I want to see you and feel you again. I want to hear your laughter, smell your intoxicating cologne, and see your hands on my body. In my dreams, I suddenly discover you are gazing intensely at me from across the room we are in together, our eyes meet and we read each other’s thoughts. You know all the things I miss the most.

Your stalwart unwillingness to let death have you, is what guides me now. I am unwilling to make “just lemonade” and I am more determined than ever to make this life of After be exactly what I want it to be, damnit. “Just be” will never be enough, and there is no “becoming” someone I was “meant to be” out of loss. Loss of you, equates to no gain in any form. Loss of you, was also the loss of me, as I once lived.

This lifetime now, somehow I need you to find a way to be here with me, even if only in a glass bubble full of baubles. I still need you. Please help me hold the confidence to go on and make this life without you be “my best life” I can give to myself and our kids. You’re the only one who understood me, who “got me.” I love you, I miss you, I wish you were here. Yours Always ❤️ ~Puskie xoxox

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