Sunday, March 11, 2018

I'm beginning to think that the angst I felt during January and February was as much due to getting older as it was to being widowed and alone. I've never been one to think much about my age. I was always 'young' when Vern was around because he was 10 years older. But 66 was a hard number for me, for some reason. Perhaps because it's closer to 70 than 60?  But then, what's wrong with 70? Nothing! I took Marianne Williamson's Aging Miraculously course and truly believe that we elders have much to offer this world and the age-shaming needs to stop. But .... still ....

Anyone who has lost their person becomes keenly aware of how very short life is. Our loves were snatched away before their time (no matter how old they were) and that is our new reality. I made a real effort to find my way through the grief and to add things in my life to fill those alone hours. The clock was ticking. I kept working for five years to keep busy and started volunteering for Soaring Spirits and exploring all that Brave Girls Club had to offer. Trips to new places and art retreats and Camp Widows filled up my calendar and I figured I was ok living like this for the next 30 years. I retired three years ago and became busier than ever. Certification training, holding Soul Restoration Retreats and SoulBook Gatherings. But in the midst of all of this I've found there comes a time when just filling your days is not enough.

I've had some time to do some deep thinking about all of those feelings that surfaced during the past couple of months and I do believe that it had nothing at all to do with the person who initially sparked those feelings. He was safe, unavailable, so it made it easier to think about it all. It wasn't real. It wasn't possible. But now I'm thinking those feelings actually surfaced because the years are flying by rather quickly and the harsh reality of being alone at the end of my life suddenly became a little too hard for me to accept. Not someone to take care of me in my old age, but someone who needed me, wanted me, cherished me ... would anyone ever choose me again, like Vern did so long ago? And, alas, I no longer believe that is an option. The risk to my heart and soul for putting myself out there is just not worth it. So, yes, I guess I've gone full circle in how I feel about dating or having a new person in my life.

One of the burdens I carry is this oh-so-tender heart of mine. It helps me do some really wonderful things for others, and I am very grateful for that. Those things I will continue to do as long as I'm able. However, this tender heart is not very kind to Dianne. I get hurt often and I hide those hurts with a smile and carry on. But they sure do take a toll. For instance, someone said some hurtful things about me on FB yesterday and no one spoke up on my behalf. I'm not willing or able to enter an online battle of sharing the truth about that situation, so instead I shut down the internet and headed straight to bed the moment I got home from my SoulBook Gathering. And, yes, that brought on a sleepless night of all sorts of not-so-good thoughts like I had in January ... not loved, not good enough, ugh. If I had had alcohol in the house, I'd be nursing a pretty awful hangover today.

Instead, I'm really trying hard to fight my way back. I have never been a depressed person, but this hole just keeps following me around and I need to face it and be done with it  Once and for all. All I really want to do right now is to run away to where no one knows who I am. Yeah, exactly like how I felt right after Vern died. Only now, I could actually do it. But could I? The way I feel right now ... yes, I could ... it actually sounds rather heavenly to me.

But I know me. And I know I can't just walk away from my responsibilities, as much as I really, really want to. And I do know that I have people in my life who care. Those lovely women I spent yesterday with showed me that with their words and actions. And dear Heather gave me one of those "not letting go hugs" that I said would be so lovely in a FB post this week. She sees me.

So, what to do? Well I'm just too fragile today to think any more about this. So the first thing on today's agenda is a nap. And it's also my day to handle Widowed Village intake and run the Pen Pal Program. And I've got to finish up the Tampa Camp volunteer schedule and get all of those emails on their way, and start running off all of the reports and papers I need to take to Camp. That should pretty much fill this day, I think. I can always think about this hard stuff tomorrow.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I feel good!

"I knew that I would now"  Cue James Brown ...

I really do feel good. I feel it in how I'm carrying myself. I feel it with each step I take, with how confident I feel about meeting the obstacles that are thrown my way.  Oh I still have plenty of things to work on. My house is still a mess. And my pretty new car is still parked in the driveway because the garage is full of too much stuff. And I still need that "Be Nice to Dianne" note on my mirror.  BUT I do feel really good.

Especially when I think back to how I was feeling through most of January.  Ugh.  All of those tears. Nearly every. single. day.  Those unexpected feelings of wanting someone else in my life. I just didn't know what to do with them ... they didn't make sense. They weren't realistic. Those days sure took a huge toll on me. 

But I'm thinking now that I really needed to go through all of that. To spend time thinking about it. Feeling it.  All of it. The good AND the bad AND the super scary.  I didn't deal with a lot of my feelings during those early days of my grief. Oh, I started to ... but it was far easier to just push them aside and spend my time trying to help others. I got pretty good at deflecting the conversations from me to others ... but I don't recommend that at all. All of those feelings remain, just covered up a bit for the time being, ready to spring forward at a moment's notice.

And that's what they did. Forcing me to kind of wallow in all of it, bringing out some of the things I never dealt with. Some of the things I had covered up.  Like loneliness. And I think it was a good thing. Even though it didn't feel so good at the time.  Some hard realizations. And some unanswered questions that I'm choosing to just sit with.  Sometimes the answers just aren't ready to come.

 But through it all I really did know that I would feel good again one day. I just needed to give it some time. And this week proved just that.  It's been a really, really, really good week.

So many wonderful things happened - some surprises, some long awaited, some wonderful friendships, some lovely conversations - and they just built upon each other to fill my heart to overflowing.

I feel so very blessed to be where I am right now. Who I am right now. With the people who are in my life.  I care about them a lot ... perhaps too much.  But I don't know how to do it any other way.  Do I have too many widow friends?  Not a chance.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

It's all in the Numbers

Numbers seem to be playing an important role for me during these first six weeks of the new year.

 "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do" - Three Dog Night

Loneliness paid an unexpected return visit. The deep missing of Vern. A concern about spending the next 30 years alone. Some feelings that surprised me.

I had become pretty happy with my alone life. Not the same happy as I would be if Vern were still by my side. But happy nonetheless.  I've added a lot of good things into my life, new friends, new experiences, new challenges that made me feel comfortable with where I was at.  And then - BAM! - none of that mattered any more and all I could see was me. alone. No one for me to care about. No one who cared about me. Forever. 

And that sent me for a loop as I dealt with the ups and downs of thinking my way through that whole 'do I want to date' thing. I'm still waffling on that and don't know that it will ever happen or whether it even should happen. But I've worked through the loneliness and I'm back to feeling good about my life right now. And as far as the dating thing ... well, I'm just going to sit with it at this point and listen for those whispers that will show me the way.

 "Three simple rules in life: If you do not go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you do not ask, the answer will always be no. If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place."  - Anonymous

- We were a family of three.
- Vern, Jer and I were each 33 years old when our fathers died.
- I often wake up at 3:33am.

There's that number 3.  I've written about it previously and feel those meanings really do make sense for me. 
  • I am seeking what I need to know at this time in my life.
  • I am feeling spiritual growth.
  • I feel protected and loved by the Divine.
  • I am working on living my life's mission.
Additional search on the number 333 said it was a reminder to welcome the abundance of love into my life - not just romantic love.  And I've sure felt that this week.  I've had new friends comment that they felt God put me on their path for a reason. Random strangers have made lovely comments to me. And when the gals who attended my SoulBook gathering on Saturday told me they'd come to my future events even if I move them over to my side of town ... well, that felt like love to me, too.

More on the number 333:
  • is a strong signal to add more spontaneity to your life and to get out of your comfort zone
  • body, mind and spirit must be balanced to reach your full potential
  • carries the energy of joy and inspiration
  • your prayers have been answered

9   "It's my life. It's now or never." - Bon Jovi

Well ... this particular number is more about you than me.  But it all came about because of the number 1.  Me.  Going to that hockey game Thursday night all by myself.

That may sound like a really easy thing to do for some of you, but it was very hard for me. I may act like an extrovert but I am not. And when you add in all of my personal insecurities, whoa ... doing that was HARD stuff. But oh what a reward I received!

I met Tommy, a wonderful young man who is working hard to promote his venue and he sure made my first visit to Hyde Lounge a memorable one. And then I got an even bigger reward. He offered a couple of invite only SRO (standing room only) seats in the Hyde Lounge for the Bon Jovi concert. What?! Wow!  So I jumped on that offer and posted something on my Facebook page about it. After seeing the responses, he then upped the offer to 5 pair of SRO tickets!!!  That deserves an OMG! 

And that's where the number 9 comes in.  Because I now have nine (9) tickets to give away to friends. I'll be doing the drawing on Sunday, February 18, at 3pm Pacific time.  You just need to post on my Facebook page (the post that has the Bon Jovi tour poster) that you're available to be here in Vegas on March 17 and your name will go into the drawing.  If you're not my Facebook friend and following me so you see all of my posts, I would suggest you might want to start. Because this may not be the only event I'll be able to get these SRO tickets to.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Happy Birthday My Love

Vern would have been 77 today. I'm finding that really hard to wrap my head around. But then I'm also finding it really hard to accept that I'm 66. I don't feel anywhere close to that number, and before he got sick Vern didn't look or act his age either.  In my mind's eye we're still that young couple so in love and grateful that we had found one another.

Since my hair is short (and his sideburns long) this must be around 1975.
But I'll admit it took me awhile to be able to remember the young us. That first year especially. I could only recall those hard 4+ cancer years and how he suffered. He had such a horribly hard cancer journey. So many crises. So many unexpected issues. So much time spent in hospitals, acute care facilities, rehabs, chemo rooms and dialysis centers. Did I make the right decisions? Did I advocate enough? Did he suffer far longer than he wanted because I wasn't ready to let him go?  The woulda, shoulda, coulda's can kill you if you let them. I thank God for my Caring Bridge journal which I go back and read on the hard days. And I know deep in my soul that I gave him everything he needed. Everything I had.

This was near the beginning of the cancer journey, after a couple of surgeries and starting chemo.
And then one day the fog cleared. And I was able to focus on the nearly 37 years we had together before cancer arrived. And those years were good. Really, really good. I was able to look through old photos and remember ... and cherish ... those wonderful years.  He was my best friend. My confidante. My cheerleader. My love. Such a good, good man.

So I put those oh so hard years in their own little box. A box I still open from time to time when I must, but contained most of the time these days.

So here I am ... 7 years, 4 months, 15 days ... since Vern left.  And I am grateful. So very grateful he chose me. So very grateful that I was able to care for him when he needed me most. So very grateful we were such a strong team that his docs and nurses mentioned it every single time we were in the hospital. So very grateful he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt how very much I loved him. And so very grateful that I was able to hold him in my arms as he took his last breath.

I usually hunker down at home on these special days. Tonight, however, I will be at Frankie Moreno's show at Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center. Vern saw Frankie at a private VIP event that he worked on the roof of the Barbary Coast before he got sick and he came home raving about this fabulously talented kid. We never got to see him perform together, but I recognized his name in a Smith Center newsletter and decided I needed to see him ... for Vern.  This will be my sixth time attending one of his shows. Vern was right. He is fabulously talented and his shows are great fun. And it seems like this will be the perfect place to celebrate my guy's birthday. I do think that Vern will be sitting at the table with me tonight ... oh heck, I'm sure he'll be standing up dancing with me, too!  Happy Birthday, my love.

His birthday in 2007; first outing since diagnosis 9 months earlier. His former Orleans Arena staff honored him
at a Wranglers game and the team gave him a Wrangers jersey with his name on it.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Destiny ... How I Soar

The magical way Vern and I found one another has always made me believe it was divine guidance that brought us together. He chose me. Me? Yes, me! That just turned 18 year old kid who knew deep down inside her that life had more in store than what she could see. But she was too afraid to take a chance and came so very, very close to settling for something that would have been such a huge mistake.

Oh, the summer of ’69. One little change of course. Not so little actually.

That senior trip to NYC and an important conversation with my friend Kenny changed the path of my future. I arrived home, broke up with my fiancé (yeah, I was engaged during my senior year), applied to college and thought I knew where I was headed.

Two weeks later Vern and I were both at a graduation party and there was a spark. Just a tiny little, very unexpected, one. He was my teacher. But I was no longer his student. A first date and that spark burst into flames. And 11 weeks later we married. It was destiny. I knew that without a doubt we were meant to be together.

Vern’s cancer years were hard. So very hard. On him. And on me. But it was during those oh so difficult years that I realized just how important my “little change of course” had been. I was meant to be the one to care for him, to love him, until his very last breath.

Destiny. Purpose.

I thought my life ended when Vern died. I could not see a future without him. And then Soaring Spirits came along.  It has filled my lonely days with hope, friendship, laughter, love, gratefulness, connections, a sense of worth, a yearning to live this life and find my purpose. 

Widowed Village:  When I was seeking an online community those first weeks after Vern died - and was turned away by the first group I approached because I was over their 55 year age limit - "Supa Dupa Fresh Widow" Robin Moore Lasky reached out and brought me into the Village during beta testing. This online community became my lifeline, and many of the people I met there became lifelong friends.  I entered the Village on January 31, 2011 and have never left. I started volunteering early on with intake and as a group greeter and now serve as the site administrator. I love my Village.  

Camp Widow:  I attended my first Camp Widow in San Diego in August 2011, ten days before my first wedding anniversary without Vern and six weeks before the first anniversary of his death. The keynote, the workshops, meeting many of my online friends in person ... what an amazing gift. Those few days allowed me to express my grief and meet it head on instead of hiding it away. I've attended each Camp Widow since that first one as a volunteer, starting off as a room monitor, then helping with registration, and now serving as National Volunteer Coordinator and a member of the Camp Widow Leadership Team.

Regional Social Groups:  I got involved with the new Regional Group program as the behind the scenes volunteer when it began in 2013 and became the Regional Group Coordinator in 2014, managing our now 40+ regional groups across the US and Canada. These groups bring a little bit of Camp to our local communities by connecting people in person. And they actually save lives. I know that for sure. I started a Las Vegas group in October 2014 and the blessings I have received from those friendships and connections cannot even be measured. They are cherished. 

So, to answer Michele’s question of how Soaring Spirits has impacted my life?

Soaring Spirits’ programs helped me to find my purpose during this ‘second season’ of my life.

I learned that I have a servant’s heart. I need to help others. I need to make a difference. And I need to honor the life I had with Vern.

My involvement with these important Soaring Spirits programs has allowed me to do just that. And I am so very grateful. And if I should happen to find that a new love awaits me in this final season, then I will have Soaring Spirits to thank for that, too.

Love Sonnet LXXXIX by Pablo Neruda

How I Soar

Michele Neff Hernandez, my friend and the amazing woman who created Soaring Spirits International, has asked us to contribute to a project to celebrate the ten year anniversary of Soaring Spirits. Using #howisoar, she is soliciting paragraphs about how Soaring Spirits has impacted our life.

How could I possibly answer that question in just a ten sentence paragraph?  But this one experience kept popping into my head, so I decided that was what I would write about.  Here's the paragraph and photo I submitted:
My husband’s death left me living on my own for the very first time in my life at age 59.  Joining Widowed Village and attending Camp Widow during that first year gave me a community that has provided inspiration and supported my growth. They gave me hope that I could find a way to live this new life in a way that would honor Vern. I am volunteering. I am doing daily acts of kindness. I am teaching soul work and holding retreats. And since hiking in a rain forest had been on our bucket list, I decided to head to Costa Rica on my own. I snorkeled for the first time and hiked through the Monte Verde cloud forest, crossing eight hanging bridges high up in the canopy. I even held a red-eyed green tree frog in my hands on my 64th birthday surrounded by new friends I had just met. Thank you, Soaring Spirits, for giving me my wings. #howisoar

This trip was truly monumental.

  • I had just retired and knew I had to force myself to schedule activities so I wouldn't just spend all of my days 'cocooning' inside my house.
  • I learned I could travel alone ... even to a foreign country! 
  • It's ok to go someplace where you don't know anyone. There are wonderfully kind people everywhere.
  • Snorkeling?  I don't even know how to swim!  But I did it!
  • I have a fear of bridges ... and here I was standing several hundred feet in the air on a bridge strung between trees.
  • Vern loved the movie 'Avatar' and some of his last words to me in hospice were "I see you". Being high up in the forest canopy made me feel Vern was standing there right alongside me.

Yes, Soaring Spirits definitely gave me my wings. And I am so very grateful.