autumn days

Sunday, April 30, 2017

New Love

Each Wednesday I have a beloved friend, whom I call "my favorite wife", love on my children while I go play with other adults.  This is a way for me to see a different friend each week, investing in relationships that feed my soul.  I've been on thai-curry-and-ice-cream dates with a friend whose husband has just died.  I've been on watching-ducks-on-flood-plains-in-the-park dates with a single dad friend in Washington.  I've been on Goodwill-bins-and-Irish-car-bomb-drink dates with my attorney's legal secretary, my smoking hot friend who wears all black and gifts me mixed CDs.  I've been on bibimbap dates with groups of laughing and crying homeschooling girlfriends.  I've been on talk-about-everything-in-our-hearts dates with my beloved cousin-in-law's wife.  I've gotten to go on dates with my cross-country-motorcycling-line-dancing-farmer friend.  Other dates too.  There are wild plans for many more dates without children.  What an adventure!  I look forward to and cherish these playful Wednesday night dates!

Six weeks ago, with a last minute cancellation, I couldn't find a Wednesday night date.  I sat in my car outside the accountant's office, crying over the intensity of assembling all my family's financial information for the last year.  This is one of the zillion responsibilities my partner used to manage that I know get to tackle and embrace.  The many firsts as a widow can be surprisingly hard.  In planning my evening, I dried my eyes for a moment to look at movie listings.  With a good movie, attending a show alone can be awesome.  My choices that day were children's movies, war films, and horror flicks.  I would rather sit alone in my car than choose one of these.  And I was going to... until my friend J said he could step out of his son's class for a walk.  This stepping out of class shifted more than either of us expected.  I had met this friend in my Dougy Center Pathways Program group in July.  My partner died last autumn and my family transitioned out of the Pathway Program.  J and I somehow forgot to exchange phone numbers, though I kept in touch with others from the group.

Four months later, my son wanted to go to a specific arcade, and we couldn't go until Monday after errands.  When we were a block from the arcade, I spotted two familiar people.  I didn't know in that moment who they were, but I knew I needed to stop to talk with them.  My family got out of the car and we visited with J and his son for 45 minutes.  We greeted each other with hugs and were so happy to see each other again.  J held my wee babe as our big kids played in the trees.  We all endlessly talked and laughed.  I noticed how much I was laughing with J, knew it had been a long time since I'd laughed that much, and thought of how I'd like to spend more time laughing with J.  When it was time to go our separate ways, J buckled my wee one into her carseat and we worked through our busy schedules to plan a play date for six weeks later.  So it was J who agreed to a spontaneous walk on that date night when no other friend was available.

For that first walk, we strolled into the sunset, holding hands, and laughing.  We went on a hike the next day.  Sitting atop Rocky Butte, holding hands, we shared more details of our personal stories with one another.  J said he didn't think he was ready for a romantic relationship.  I said, "Me neither,... but doesn't this feel nice?"  The next day we went to the library and snuggled into a corner with windows and books with my wee babe.  Since then, we have had a "hot date" with each other every night via text or telephone.  And our connection and love for one another continues to grow.  We are so grateful for each other, feeling like our partners have hand-selected us for one another.  We feed and support and heal each other in ways others cannot.  J loves my children so gently, playfully, and lovingly.  As his only son grows more independent, he treasures this connection with my younger children who still want to hear bedtime stories, talk about their day, and hold hands.  My children and I are discovering new depth within ourselves, feeling more grounded, excited, supported, and playful than we have in a long while.  With our new loves in our lives, my children are laughing their way to greater independence, resilience, perseverance, and joy.

Just a few days ago we opened up our schedules and got to play with J's son again.  We greeted each other with hugs and then spent an hour slamming each other with dodge balls in a room of trampolines.  Pizza, puns, and chocolates were the sweet ending to our first family date.  It is such a surprising experience for my children and me to fall slowly and fully in love with J and his son.  We are thankful for these extraordinary people every day as our connections grow stronger.  I hold no specific destination in my heart for where this new love will lead.  I trust we are following our hearts and moving in the right direction.  I trust myself in these choices, in leading my children to more loving connections with each other, in finding more patience and grace within my parenting toolbox, in moving more completely into my own strength and color, and in following our hearts to create space for those that love us back so fully.  I am so grateful every day for this new love that reflects for me my own strength and beauty, for this love that brings new light into our lives, and for this love that brings my children and me closer to our true selves.

Manifesting overflowing hearts everywhere...

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Falling in Love

Ten months ago, my beloved partner was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  Losing him six months ago has been an intense and devastating experience for our three children, our family, friends-who-are-family, and me.

I am feeling especially grateful for my gratitude practice right now, as redundant as that seems.  I've spent years focusing daily upon what I appreciate in my life.  And now I am seeing more side effects from this practice of shifting and shaping my own thoughts.  With an intentional turn of perspective, I get to see the many blessings that have come about as a result of this journey in the last ten months.  I believe there are silver linings or helpers in any situation.  Sometimes they are harder to find, yet they are still present.  Most people in our world are well-intentioned, helpful, and want to show up for one another.  To move forward in this world, this is what I believe.

Our biggest silver lining was, upon diagnosis, the family and friends-who-are-family who showed up for us in every way imaginable.  We were and are surrounded by incredible love and never alone, even though sometimes we felt alone.  They were there to hold me while I sobbed in the grocery store.  They were there to drive my partner to appointments.  They were there to talk with my partner while I ran errands.  They were there to be with our children so I could sit at my partner's side and attend appointments.  

We were able to join the Dougy Center support groups right after my partner's diagnosis, both the transitional pathways program and later the bereavement groups.  Through Dougy, my wee family has found so many loving families in similar situations.  We see these friends at least twice a week to play and connect, along with our twice-monthly support group.  These families are our primary support network when it comes to brutal honesty in our raw moments, our surprising and intense feelings, watching the flow of storms through our core, and knowing we are not alone in searching for the light through painful experiences of losing a loved one.

As I experience the privilege of turning 40, knowing many others won't have this same privilege, I step more fully into myself, into knowing myself, trusting myself, discovering myself.  As a single parent, I get to explore and play and create in ways I couldn't as part of my wonderful co-parenting co-habitating relationship.  Now I get to choose what I want to bring into my life, what I choose to leave behind, and how I choose to move forward with my children at the forefront.  My children benefit from getting to watch me explore and expand.

I am writing from a little room in a small house in Waldport, Oregon.  My children are here with me in this room and on this adventure.  My son is now driving a car across bumpy terrain on an electronic screen, my oldest daughter is asleep on the couch, and my youngest wee one is on my lap drawing pictures in this morning's window condensation.  I hear and see the ocean.  I don't have telephone service, so all the world of talking and texting others falls away.  There is a calm and quiet within myself that I haven't known in this way before.

I am growing in trusting my instincts, in trusting my connections with others, in trusting the resiliency of myself and my children.  I trust my children are growing in beneficial ways by watching me grow into myself more fully, in their growing independence.  I get to fall in love with this life in all its intensities: full time parenting, taking over every aspect of home care and choices, life with tears and laughter and melancholy and beauty, learning as I go, leaning on my people in ways I haven't before.  I get to learn more about my own strengths, weaknesses, interests, perspective.  I get to dig deep in the quiet moments, fewer quiet moments than ever before.  I get to connect with others in ways I haven't before.  I get to be responsible for my own (oh-so-early) bedtime.  I get to fall in love with the details of this moment, in my relationships with my children, in how my child grates slowly upon every carrot in the communal bowl, in how long it takes me to finish a sentence, in how I slowly grow stronger in who I am so I can more lovingly support my wee folk.  What a privilege to get to fall in love with my own life, again and again, and then share that with my people.

Living at the heart of it all


In my new life as the single mother of three young children, everything is simultaneously new and unknown.  It is as if I am reborn into a different reality that I get to create.  Along with this newness is the beginning of spring after a very long winter and the approach of my fortieth birthday.  When others feel anxiety and nervousness, I intentionally call these flutters in my gut butterflies.  I intentionally try to find the delight and play in new experiences, even as awful as removing my partner's name from utility bills.  I have worn my wedding ring nearly every day for the last 11 years, aside from the days when I was super angry with my partner.  Those were tiny bumps held by a big love.  I was completely committed and faithful and devoted as a wife and mother.  I still am, though the rules of the game have changed.

I have now been a widow for five months.  In leaning upon those in our support groups, I cherish deep connections with those who really understand my experiences.  I lean in and hug these friends, needing that physical touch with safe adults.  Last week I was able to take an hour walk with a friend.  We walked on the sunny side of the street into the sunset.  When his arm was sore from the way I held it, he asked if I minded holding hands.  I told him that was uncomfortable for me, but I'd like to try it.  Hand holding is very intimate for me.  Like kissing.  I was wearing my late partner's wedding ring and my own ring on that sacred ring finger.  The very act of holding hands with a man produced the butterfly effect in my gut.  Along with that familiar flutter came a deep grounding from the balance of feminine and masculine energies.  This was an incredibly nice, grounding feeling.

The next morning, my finger was sore from the bulky tight rings.  I struggled to get the rings off to rest my hand.  My fingers tend to be cold now, as I am not eating all that my body needs, a painful thing to admit.  My wedding ring then would not go back onto my finger.  So here I type with butterflies in my gut and no ring on my finger.  In tears.  With children at my sides searching for their layers of nourishment and comfort.  There are so many emotions on this part of the journey.  This lovely man and I aren't really ready for a new romantic relationship, though we take comfort in each other's company.  In holding hands and talking.  We have full, busy lives as single parents that center on raising our children and putting one foot in front of the other.  We have created beautiful lives we love, aside from the devastation of being without our most beloved partners.  We collect hearts and relationships and look for the light in our world.  What an interesting place to find myself.  Everything is new and uncomfortable and somehow there is so much beauty in the melancholy.  I am so thankful for these experiences that torture and expand me, that comfort and connect me.  I am so thankful for this pickle I am now in and the butterflies that accompany it.

Searching for hearts