The Door is Open

I feel like I’m standing at the door… Or a huge glass window…

Looking at all the things my life could be. I feel like there’s so much there and I’m just looking at it all, not putting the pieces together. Not fully engaged.

Clearly, there is so much possibility. I just need to figure out how to engage with it better.

My Dearest Cowboy,

Sometimes I dream about watching a meteor shower until the desert sky. I feel the warmth of your body laying on the blanket next to mine, but when I turn my head, you’re not there. Emptiness.

One promise I managed to keep: I have never forgotten you.

Apparently I saved several of our conversations. While searching a hard drive for something else, I came across them. I remember. My dearest cowboy, you reached into my soul.

Each time I think of you, I picture you on a horse in the desert, surrounded by a starry night sky. The last light of sunset barely visibe on the horizon. I desperately hope you are one of those miracle stories ou there somewhere living live to its fullest. The alternative is hard to bare.

If you’re out there, we’re going to meet someday. Our time will come. Our paths will cross again. The signs will lead us to the same place.

15 years

“It’s just like a gummy candy. CBD. It’ll do the same thing as that muscle relaxer prescription, ” she explained.

I never would have thought I’d live 15 years without you. If I could reach back in time and do things differently, I would reach back to you.

I thought about visiting the cemetery this year. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather meet you in my dreams.

Loss

You can never be prepared; never be ready for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a total shocking, unexpected evet or a slow reality that develops over several years.

Heard it on a TV show tonight. Man, I needed to hear it. “There is not right way to grieve.” So true. There’s no prescription. No time frame. Those neat little stages about denial, anger, and reget… yeah, not so much a reality. Not saying people don’t feel those things. Just saying people don’t necessarily experience them all and we certainly don’t experience them in that linear fasion as they were taught to us.

I suppose someone needed it quantified in a sense. Needed it put into words in order to make comprehensible something truly incomprehensible. Grief is a deeply personal, individual experience as unique as our DNA. No two losses display the same grief.

I’ve been trying to quantify my own struggles this last week or so. I kept coming back to Lent. Easter is on its way and I don’t get to spend that weekend at my Grandma’s. Someone thought it would be a good idea to read Healing a Shattered Soul by Mindy Corporon this month because it is, after all, the anniversary month of the Jewish Community Center Shooting. Additionally, this TV show also has a rather deep loss and the theme at the moment seems to be around healing. Clearly the world is telling me it is time to process whatever grief I’m still clinging to. Find my new normal.

It turns out the end of April and early May also bring the anniversaries of deaths of 3 close friends. It amazes me that after all these years, such things can still have the impact they have. It seems fresh wounds seem to open up old ones.

I have been mostly away from my WordPress. I have been writing, but I went back to spiral notebook and pen. I may considering publishing that or some of it some day… well, I guess the act of saying that means I am already considering it. Haven’t come to that conclusion, yet, though. I’ve also been writing (on the computer) in extremes for work. Grant applicaion, articles, web pages… I think that’s the summary. Anyways, all I want to do is get away from the computer at the end of the day. Hoping to spend a little bit of time at client sites this summer. Mix it up a bit. Of course, finding balance between the two extremes would be ideal. But my crystal ball seems a bit cloudy. There’s just no telling what the future holds.

Reward: Lost Mind

I have lost my mind. Completely gone mad. If you find it, please kindly send it to the return address. The address is stored inside of it. If you send your name, address, and a receipt for shipping, I’ll mail you a check for the shipping costs after I receive it.

Oh? And the reward you ask? A high five plus the satisfaction of knowing you helped a crazy person find sanity.

But on a more serious note, I can’t stop thinking about him. This is totally insane. Not only can’t I stop thinking about him, but the world keeps giving me things that remind me of him. First, I get an email from an airline offering “Low Airfare to ____!” Yep, you got it. The state he lives in. Then, I had emailed a support email for something, and the guy that responds – same name as him. Yes. His name popped in my email inbox. Next, I get into the car to run a few basic errands, and they’re talking about an event on the news that happened where? Where he lives, of course. So even if I were capable of actively not thinking about him, the world keeps throwing reminders in my face.

I’m too old for this… aren’t I? There are no fairy tale happy endings in this world. He left me once. Left. His ex wife said it was because he cared about me too much. Said he needed to leave for a while and that he wouldn’t have left if he had to face me. The other day I asked him why he left. I didn’t tell him what she said. I didn’t offer any thoughts or opinions. Just asked. He said he was having trouble balancing all of the emotions. Saying good-bye was too hard. He asked me what I had thought. I told him the obvious – I thought he left because I was just sex. He said, “More the opposite, really.”

WHAT? You mean to tell me he left without a single word because he actually did care about me?!? There it is. The cause of my wandering mind. That one sentence, “More the opposite, really.”

Now we are about 1000 miles apart. No need to lie to me. No matter what lines he uses, if pants come off from 1000 miles away, he can’t benefit from it. He’s always been pretty blunt anyways. Not really the BSing kind of type.

I remember that feeling. I remember what it felt like the moment I realized he was gone. It was like all the air was sucked from the room. I wouldn’t have asked him to stay. That wasn’t my forever home town. I knew that clear as day. The question was, “How do we work this out? How do we stay together? When do I get to see you again?”

At any rate, my mind is out there running around with him in some future that I don’t believe can exist. If you find it – please ship it back to me. See instructions above. If you find him, would you kindly ask him to return my heart as well?

Thank you for your assistance.

More Digging

I still have several boxes of stuff that accumlated over 15 years of my previous career. I’m going through it making TRASH, GOODWILL, and SCRAPS piles and it appears. Sandwiched between an Accredidation binder and lesson plans regarding perimeter, area, and surface area was the scrapbook I had made of my first love. The world told me it was time to dig up the roots… and here it is. Doing it one example at a time.

Nobody forgets their first love. Do we forget the way it felt the first time we fell in love? I’m really not certain. He was the first kiss that stopped the world from turning. I remember standing on the street corner. He started to tickle me – poke my side. I tried to pull away, but he anticipated my move. His hands were already behind me, catching me, pulling me closer to him. Then he was kissing me. Our friends left us there.

Two years later I cheated on him and broke up with him before I went to college. He told me he loved me. Over the next 4 years, I saw him twice. He’d call every now and again though and say, “I love you. When are you coming home?” When I graduated, I got a job, moved home, and moved in with him. My mother told me I was making a mistake. I looked at her and said, “If it is a mistake, then it is one I have to make and learn for mysel.” He then became the first man to stop time in the bedroom.

As quickly as we fell in love, he destroyed it. He took the brand new car (that was in my name) and ran off with some other girl. He called me and said I had 24 hours to get out of the apartment I was the one paying rent on. I was the only one who had a full time job (out of 6 adults) living in that apartment. I got a Uhaul and went home to my mother.

I was physically ill regarding the situation and what happened. It wasn’t long before things weren’t working in his new relationship, they lost the apartment, he moved in with his own parents, and he was cheating on her with me. As much as he hurt me… all the damage he did… I don’t really reget it. I had experiences and I learned a lot.

I talked to his dad and his youngest sister on New Year’s day. His other sister texted me yesterday. They are roots I don’t want to dig up. In fact, I appreciate they are still connected to my life. They were very important people – they were family during the decade I loved him. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to let go of that. I don’t talk to him. Haven’t in about 8 years or so. HIs dad says he hasn’t really grown up. He doesn’t take responsibility for his life. It seems to me that I got the best end of the deal. I have a few good memories. I think I can even say I learned how to love someone by being with him. But we were – we ARE two different people with different paths and different lives. That doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t linger. It doesn’t fester. It just a part of how I became the person I am today. I have no desire to repeat those mistakes, contact him, spend time with him, etc. I’m quite okay living my version of life without his participation. Might be kinda odd I keep his family in my life. But his sister was my friend before I dated him and that was well over 20 years ago, now. Not many people have been in my life that long and I don’t believe in throwing people away just to throw them away. I think I’ll keep their roots.

No Fairy Tales Here

“…diggin all the roots up…”

I didn’t know him. Not sure I ever got a full, coherent story from her, either. But what can you expect? We were in our 20’s, drunkenly staggering from one day to the next. Staving off the harsh reality of living in the middle of nowhere by drowning our unhappiness. We clung to our childhoods by occasionally drawing with sidewalk chalk, playing Candyland, or putting faerie makeup on each other. We engaged in imaginative play, taking elaborative camping trips almost every weekend; fighting tigers and rowing across the lake on a twin sized air mattress. He was in Iraq, fighting for our freedom to safely play childish games while finding the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

(I make it sound like we drank every night. We weren’t entirely alcoholics. I worked full time and a part time job. We watched movies, ate food, went to the store, volunteered, played with our pets. Remember that best friend you had in middle school/high school/college? The one you were always with. When people talked about you, your name was automatically paired with that other person’s like Lone Ranger and Tonto? She was my last friend like that.)

I saw a few picture of him. Heard his name. Heard his voice on speaker phone. Honestly, he was her husband. It never even occurred to me that he might be something special. He was a… no word for it really. When a soldier is gone, their essence still exists. There’s a space for him, but he isn’t physically there. He was there, but not. But I couldn’t hear him, touch him, see him. I didn’t know him… yet. Everyone else did. So he existed through them, I guess. Either way, I wasn’t attached. Wasn’t planning anything.

But then one day he was there. He was real. Then another day, I couldn’t help myself. I wanted him. I had no control. They lived together, but we’re getting ready for divorce. In fact, she was in another man’s bed. I’m certain there has never been any situation with any other people in my life where I would take my friend’s husband to my bed. But it was her. It was him. The circumstances were all the right pieces.

I think it was the day he ate my cooking. He was the pickiest eater I ever met. But he ate my food and genuinely liked it. Something happened in that kitchen that broke the boundary we had fought to hold. She didn’t matter anymore. Everyone knew she was sleeping with someone else anyway.

Fairly certain we tried to be discrete, but it was written all over our faces. People figured it out and accepted it. We kept playing games, having BBQs, watching TV shows, etc. They lived together. She was sleeping with one of our friends and he was sleeping with me. There really was no drama about it. Nobody cared. We were grown children.

Then he left me.

He left me.

He had decided not to re-up. Then he decided to move home. I made plans with him before he left. I wanted so bad to see him. Touch him. Hear his voice. See? I had loved a soldier before. This was different, but not. He was moving away permanently. Not going on tour. But the leaving part was the same. My need to feel his arms around me was insatiable.

But he left early. He left without saying good-bye. Put his things and his dog in the car and disappeared.

I never forgave him for that. It was a minute before I talked about it. But when I needed to talk, she was the friend I had. We had never talked about it before. Never said the words. Never acknowledged it at all. “Hey. I’m your friend and it’s my bed your husband has been in.”

It wasn’t quite like that, but it felt like that. Anyways… what she said to me was, “Awe. He really liked you. Had totally fallen for you else he wouldnta left without saying bye. You guys would have been good together.”

I didn’t speak to him for years. At first I waited for him to say something to me. But he didn’t. I didn’t want to be that person who wanted someone that didn’t want her. Didn’t want to chase something that wasn’t real. Years passed. About 8 to be exact… give or take.

She’s gone now. I looked at his Facebook page 5 or 6 times before finally sending a simple message, “How are you doing?”

I couldn’t let it go. Couldn’t risk never talking to him again. I wanted to know. I wanted to know he is okay.

Digging all the roots up. This one runs 8 years into the fiber of my being.

I can’t stop thinking about him. Want to keep talking. Want his messages. I want to laugh with him. Want to hear his highs and lows. Want to tell him mine. Want to flirt with him.

Somehow, through 947 miles and 8 years, I still want to feel his arms around me. I’m too old for games. Too old for risks that lead to a broken heart. I want to ask him why he left, but I’m not ready. I don’t want that to be the only reason I’m talking to him. I crave his friendship. That is a powerful thing.

I miss the playfulness of our friendship. All of those friendships. It’s crazy how time pulls us away from each other. Apparently it makes us play less, too. I haven’t battled tigers or covered and entire block worth of sidewalk in positive chalk messages since I lived only a few blocks away from them.

I’ve only had one relationship that… I don’t have a word for it. Since him, I’ve only dated one person that I felt actually liked me and accepted me as who I am.

And there it is, folks. The thing I needed to work out. I had to get through my thoughts to find it. Why are men always so rigid and judgmental of me? What about me is so harsh and off-putting that they need to fix me or they don’t even want to try?

I guess he left, too. I suppose it wasn’t real. Just that childhood fantasy. Living in a fairy tale where he rides the sea on a majestic boat. Jumps off and battles tigers and lions and werewolves just to sweep me off my feet and kiss me couldn’t have ever been real.

“…Healing all my wounds up…”

I suppose one of these days I’ll ask him. The worst he can say is, that he didn’t love me and I would never be his type. And that’s a truth I already know.

Processing Deaths

“I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up”

I need to process through some things. I need to heal so I can become a better me. I’m starting with death. I know that’s dark, especially for the Christmas season. I didn’t ask for death this week… this year… but I don’t have control over that. Every person has a finite amount of time and there is nothing we can do about that. I feel like I’ve experienced more deaths in my life than the average 37 year old. I don’t really know, but I do know for certain that it doesn’t get better with time. There’s always at least one that says it will get better with time. But it doesn’t. You just learn to live with the pain. The pain becomes the new normal. I’m going to start with the most recent and work backwards.

Amanda. 32 years young. I haven’t seen her for about 5 years. Why? I moved away. She moved further away. But she did come visit me once after I moved. She is the only friend who ever visited me – the only person who ever made the effort to continue a friendship by coming to hang out with me. We lived in the middle of nowhere in a town that only existed due to a military base built in the middle of the country. She was 22 and I was 27. We drew with sidewalk chalk, camped, had seep-overs, took turns putting fairy make-up on each other just because, went for walks, built a haunted house, hung out with strangers, played games, watched movies and TV shows, and drank more than we should have. After I moved, I visited her, we went on a long drive searching for ghost towns and abandoned places, she came to visit me, we went to a Rocky Horror Picture Show event, and she gave me one of my cats (the crazy one, of course). Amanda was larger than life. She laughed and smiled. She made jokes. She never totally grew up. They don’t even know. They don’t know why she was sick. She just was. I wish I could write more elegant words. But the pain is raw. The regret – not seeing her in the last few years – is deep. She fought. Being sick never stopped her from being a friend, a mother, a siste, a daughter. I can’t possibly process this and fully accept the reality of it tonight, but I hope to find acceptance at some point.

Manny. 53. Younger than my parents. I wasn’t super close with him, but I guarantee he knew my name when I was a teenager shooting pool in his pool hall. He knew all the regulars, even those who didn’t talk to him much. He was that adult that truly cared about kids. He let us spend endless hours shooting pool, running around, and playing out the drama of our teen years. Some of my friends got close with him. They considered him an uncle, a friend. He passed away on the 7th. 4 days before Amanda. How effed up is it that I’m worried there’s a third? Life seems to throw crappy things at me in threes.

Grandma. 94 years. I spent my entire life making sure I spent time with her. Making sure I talked to her. I knew I couldn’t keep her forever. But she was my rock. She was my biggest supporter. She left a gaping hole. I miss her constantly. I want to talk to her. I want her advice. When she moved in with my uncle, I didn’t see her as much because of the distance. When Covid hit, I didn’t see her at all. When her health declined, I talked with her less. I regret all of that. I spent so much time making her a priority and I feel like I failed in the end… like I didn’t keep up my mission. My house is full of her things. Her sewing machine. Christmas decorations I gave her, but she gave back to me right before she moved in with my uncle. The dresser her grandfather made for her. A quilt she made. Letters and cards I have stashed between random books and things. A piece of jewelry, that sweater I neve wear, and her Halloween PJ pants she wore when she gave trick-or-treaters candy (that I do wear). I think about her often. What would she say? Would she be proud of me? But I also struggle to really grasp the reality. She made this blanket. She used this blanket. Her hands did tnis. If she hadn’t existed, then this blanket would not exist, either. But now she’s gone. She doesn’t need it. She can’t make things anymore. She doesn’t need to stay warm. It’s just so hard to really understand. How people are here one moment and gone the next. Their body is still here, but it’s not working and they aren’t here. Just gone.

Howard. 35. They found him at the bottom of a flight of stairs. No real explanation for what happened. No clear-cut medical explanation, but some generic cause or another. He struggled for many years. He was with one of the first Marine groups that went over after 9/11. He never was the same. Some people don’t believe in PTSD. But let me tell you, Howard never was quite the same. I’ve written about him before. He was strong in his faith before he passed. I always felt a strange secutiry about this. For some reason I felt like I understood what happened and accepted it. I always thought he was praying for relief, praying to be set free from the pain and the craziness in his head and that God answered. It wasn’t quite the answer he expected or the one we wanted. But God took him to Heaven where he could be free of the pain. For some reason, Howard’s death was sad, but I felt closure about it.

Joyce. 55. Joyce was my boyfriend’s sister’s mother-in-law. But she was another larger than life person. She had so much love and she freely gave it. She embraced so many people and treated us all like family. Our friend had a baby out of wedlock, but Joyce treated that baby just like all her other grandchildren. if you saw them together out in public, you’d just assume grandmother and granddaughter. Joyce was a glue between people. Cancer. Seems like it always takes the best. She found her Christian faith and was baptized before she lost her battle. She is missed.

Dusty. 29 short years. Dusty had a smile that could melt any girl’s heart. I keep a picture of him riding his Harley. This one never settled with me, either. They said it was suicide, but it never made sense to me. There was no much missing from the story. And the way he was found… it just didn’t add up. Maybe it’s just me not being able to accept he was gone. Maybe I never accepted any of the situation. I just searched… never found it. He left behind a good girl and their son. It didn’t seem right. He loved his son so much. I still don’t understand. But I suppose once it’s done, it’s done.

Jared. 26. IED in Afghanistan. We had also drifted out of touch, but he was a person I could count on. He left a wife and four children. The oldest was 7. That was something that tore me up. He was a friend that talked to me in class, helped me study, and helped me prepare for ROTC things. He was just this genuine, nice guy who had a family.

Billy. 29. Explosion at work. We kept in touch, but weren’t super close. Billy was the first boyfriend I ever had. I still have the frogs he left in my locker. I loved frogs and smiley faces. I have notes he wrote to me as well. I was one of those people that kep things. After he passed, I couldn’t get rid of them. I have them in a small tin in one of those huge rubbermaid type containers. It’s one of those things I don’t need, but I can’t let go of. I guess I was never really ready to completely get go of his friendship.

Tim. 25. Car vs. Tree. Tim was one of my best friends. I texted and talked to him about a lot of things. Sometimes we partied hard with our high school friends. Sometimes we were two sober people lost in a deep conversation among a see of slurred speech and stumbling patrons. I wondered on several occasions why he was dating that girl. It’s not that I didn’t like her. I’m not judging her. I didn’t know her. I just thought we had a connection and I didn’t know why he didn’t take me out on a date. A few years later, I found out why. Apparently his best friend since childhood (a friend of mine, too) had held a flame for me for years. I was blind and had no idea. Tim knew. I don’t know if he ever would have taken me out on an official date if it weren’t for his best friend. I’m not sure it matters. But his friendship. His support. I’ve actually dreamed about trying to reach him since his death. Trying to get to him to ask his advice about something. His death came just a few weeks after a huge loss.

Billy. 24. I still struggle to catch my breath when I feel this loss. Rocket propelled grenade in Iraq. This man is responsible for the most romantic night of my life. This one that continues to boil over. It’s rare to live a day without thinking about him. I don’t want to forget him. But I worry that after all this time, I haven’t processed it appropriately. I need to let go. My grief needs to change. I don’t want to forget. I just need to find a different way to remember. Sometimes I swear I can feel the brush of his fingertips. I don’t believe there is only one person for each of us. I don’t believe in one perfect match, but if there was, I often wonder if he was mine. I don’t talk about him. I don’t tell people (i.e. men I date) about him. I don’t tell friends, either. This is truly a loss that rocked me to my core.

Clay. 16. Cancer. The daughter of my grandmother’s best friend. I can remember getting ready for prom and thinking, “She will never get to do this. I get to do this. But she doesn’t. Why?”

Justin. 19. This was a kid that was making a difference. He would have changed the world. He worked with Jaycees and Relay for Life and… other things. I couldn’t keep up with his things. I was just as busy doing my own. But this man… this one was going places. Sunglasses on forehead, smile on the face. That fire and water tattoo. In my mind, I can still touch him, still smell him. I will never forget when I found out. A friend was out the window of my classroom door and I knew something was wrong. I went out, she said the words, and I hit the floor with tears pouring down my face. The man who I barely knew at the time, but who would become one of the most influential teachers I ever had, stepped into the hall and said, “I’m here if you need anything.” Justin and I share a secret. Not sure why. We had sworn to take it to our grave – it wasn’t anything consequential. We hadn’t done anything bad. By all accounts, we were really good kids who volunteered all over town. To my knowledge, he never told anyone. He was lying in a coffin not long after. I never told anyone. I never even told anyone there was a secret until now. I saw him at a volunteer meeting just a few days before he departed this world. He was talking, busy. I brushed his shoulder and waved, running out the door to do something-or-other with friends. Normally, good-bye would have been a little bit more personal. That was when I learned to tell people when I care about them. Losing Justin was something that still impacts me to this day. But, unfortunately, I might have failed. There are too many people I haven’t spent enough time with, enough time talking to, too many people I haven’t told I loved.

CiCi. 16. Car accident. This was the first friend. We went to private school together and she was a year ahead of me, but we did sports together. The finality of death hit me at her passing. I will never forget what our paster said at the funeral, “Everyone upset. Everyone is hurting except one person. CiCi. CiCi is in Heaven right now with no pain, no fear, no sadness. She is rejoicing with the angels. She is okay.” I tried to embrace that thought. I tried to think it through other losses, but considering that I don’t feel like I’ve let go of all the pain, I probably need to think about it a little harder.

Grandpa. My Grandfather died right before my 11th birthday. Aside from my Grandma, he was the most influential person in my life. I loved my grandparents so much that I slept with a picture of the three of us when I was little.

Both of my grandparents died within days of my birthday. Two people I loved more than words can describe left this world around a time that should be for celebration. Now that I think about it, Dusy died then, too. No wonder I’m not much for celebrating my birthday. It’s surrounded by loss and funeral memories.

These are all roots. Roots of pain, regret, sadness. Roots that need to be torn up. Tended to. This post is the start of healing. I’m not sure how the healing will unfold or become evident in my life, but I am letting go of these things I can’t change. These things I can’t control. I am in the process of accepting the finality of death.

“The lies I believed
They got some roots that run deep
I let ’em take a hold of my life
I let ’em take control of my lifeStanding in Your presence, Lord
I can feel You diggin’ all the roots up
I feel Ya healin’ all my wounds up
All I can say is, “Hallelujah””

All the things…

There are so many thoughts and words filling up inside me this season, yet I lack the strength to organize them and write them down. I can’t really grasp on to one thought or emotion. It’s just if flooded cage where everything is dissolving; coalescing into one. Each idea never fully formed, almost indistinguishable from the next.