how did i get here?

my husband, my beautiful Dragon, died suddenly at 12:03 AM on 9 February 2009. there was a cold, lovely full moon and 3 feet of snow on the ground. i "slept" for the following 10 months and "woke" to the physical and emotional pain and torments of deep grief. i "woke" to find i had moved the day of his funeral and that i am lost. i am looking for me while i figure out the abstract, unanswerable questions that follow behind any death. my art has evolved. his death changed that as well because i am forever changed and will forever bear the mark of losing the only man i can ever love.
there is alive and there is dead and there is a place in between. i am here wholly in my heart for my children, but i feel empty inside at this time. i miss him. i have not gotten very far in my grief journey. i make no apologies for this.
this is my place, my blog, where i write to tell the universe that i am still here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

stained glass

After a day of hurting deeply, avoiding life altogether, sewing without break, womanNshadows finally moves. She gets up to sit at the compter. She draws the keyboard closer:

“We are told that our bodies are our temples. Our eyes are the windows to our souls. I know how my Dragon saw me, but I try not to let myself wonder what he would think if he saw me now.

I built the temple inside me of ancient stones. It is one story but has lofty ceilings. It is filled with photographs and tapestries that I’ve made. The pews are covered with comfortably old, soft, and faded cushions of burgundy velvet and the kneelers are well worn. Crocheted throws and quilts are tossed here and there. Scarves cover tables and on them are old wine bottles with drippy candles, the wax built up all around, stones from beaches I will never get to see again are collected in bowls and pots, driftwood, and shells are everywhere.

Everywhere I lived was like that in reality. My apartment is like that now. It is in my mind and my heart to trust old things that have endured and to bring softness and respect to them with all the things I’ve made. It is in my heart and my mind to save the things I find like rocks, shells, and driftwood. Since my insides are like this, I bring it outside to the world my temple resides in. My temple was once warmed, first by my youthful dreams that life quickly taught me were unrealistic, then by my children whom I cherished and protected from the evils outside and the evil that lived inside our lives, and finally by my Dragon. I was safest and warmest during his reign. Light shone brightly through my eyes and I smiled and laughed.

I have stained glass. I’ve been designing and making it for years. I love that it is the opposite of everything soft that I also work with, fabrics, threads, and smooth, smelly oil paints. Glass is hard, brittle, colorful and has to be coaxed and cajoled into designs. You have to treat it with care and understanding of the elements that created it. I draw a design out on paper and then sharpen it. Glass can only be cut on a curve so far and then it has to stop. For example, you cannot draw a heart and cut it out of glass like you can on paper or fabric. It breaks. You’ll break your heart. The symbolism should not be lost in the simplicity. There is power there. There is a marriage of sorts when you choose to work with glass.

The walls of my temple are metaphorically lined with stained glass that tell the story of my life. Childhood. Teenage years. Young adult. Married and raising children. Divorce. My Dragon. His death. And my life now.

By the time my Dragon found me and married me, all my windows had cracks in them or had huge pieces broken out. It would be uninteresting to you for me to tell you how each one got broken. I patched and soldered as fast as I could but the stones kept being thrown at me. I could not dodge each blow that came. No one can. We all bear the scars of our lives. My scars came from flying glass. And now that my Dragon has died, I feel the rain of stones on the remaining shards of colored glass that somehow managed to hang on to the mortar of the window frame. My roof also is in need of repair. It has holes in it and I’ve placed buckets to catch the drips falling inside me, falling from my eyes, the windows to my soul. There is no break in the clouds outside though and I am tired of the rain.

I am leaving the shock of my Dragon’s death. I am on the edge of the fog that I’ve been living in. I wish I were further back in. I am getting hurt quite often now by careless remarks that are dismissed as coming from the unthinking grief of others, or I “am sensitive and took it the wrong way.”

“I wish I could find the time to be alone like you are. You are so quiet, such a good listener. You are the eye of the storm. My dear, you are positively stoic.” {Yes, word for word.} “I know that has to come from living such a solitary life. I need to be more like that, but I just hate being alone. I envy you being alone so much. My life is so busy with friends and family. I stress so much. I have so many friends that worry about me. I talk, talk, talk all the time and I never do the self-examining thing. Maybe if I did, I’d be further along with my grief. It’s been 3 years though, oh, I bet that scares the hell out of you. It hasn’t even been a year yet for you.” And then she laughed. “Oh, well, you can handle it. You’re strong enough to do everything they tell you not to do the first year you are grieving. You are alone for days on end.” {Yes, word for word.} “Well, thanks for listening. I’ll give you a call in a month or two, you know, check in and let you know how I’m doing. You’re always the last one I call since you don’t have a car but you’re my faithful friend. I always know you’re going to be there.”

One widow whom I’ve seen at the group only once but she calls periodically gifted me with the end of a piece of soap she cut off. She’d unwrapped a new bar for her shower and cut the end off for me. She also took three cookies out of a sack, wrapped them in wax paper and said, “Everyone likes chocolate chip.” One gifted me with a book and told me to ignore the inscription to her friend inside. “I bought it for her but she already has a copy and I know you read.” Another something happened that I find I am simply too hurt to describe. At first, when she stopped by, I was so humbled, grateful, and vulnerablely happy, but then she said something that hit me in the back of the knees. I was stunned and had no idea what to say. It was her tone and her expression. I wanted to go look in the mirror to try to see what it is about me that people feel almost compelled to say these things. I simply froze a smile so it wouldn’t slip and thanked her. I thank everyone. Every thing that is done “for” me, I say, “Thank you.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. I cannot thank you enough for these bits and pieces thrown my way. Smooth stones that supposedly have no sharp edges but hit me with the same pain as per their weight and velocity. {It’s science. I don’t make the rules. It is what it is.} Pieces of glass litter the floor inside me and in the yard just outside me. Thank you for thinking of me. I honestly don’t know what to make of it. Let me say that again. I honestly don’t know what to make of it.

I have decided that I can never go back to the group. I cannot go back and stress waiting to see if this widow or that widow will walk in and look at me. I do not want to look at their faces and wonder what they are thinking. I am too alone. I am too vulnerable. I am far too exhausted existing without the Dragon. I do not understand this inability to hear themselves say these things to me, give me these things, and not see that it is devastating.

For me, these gifts can be compared to someone building me a fire and then picking up the hottest, brightest coals with tongs and putting them in my bare hands to take back to the apartment. It burns, but what can I say to, “There, now you will be warm.” It appears that each and every one of them fully believe they have done me a great service.

In the 10 months since my Dragon died, November was my busiest month for human contact. Fifty-two hours. I got to be with another human being for fifty-two hours that month. Thirty days. Twenty-four hours in a day. Fifty-two hours out of seven hundred, twenty hours. It was nice. The least amount of time spent with another human being so far was October. Fifteen hours. I won’t do the math, but out of thirty-one days, the Lord of Social Behavior and Human Contact allotted me fifteen hours. There is nothing I can do about it. There is nothing anyone who reads this can do about it. You cannot throw a stone at it.

I have two windows left in my temple. A window that is the angel I posted in a previous writing that is my

Dragon’s favorite. It shows hope. The other one is this one.

The rough, anguished hands are mine. The rose is my life slowly dropping its petals. Beauty and the Beast redefined. My Dragon knew what it represented, and what it still represents.

My Dragon has died. He no longer prowls to protect my temple. The echoes of his snarls have long since faded. If he paces and snarls now, no one hears. I try but I don’t know if it’s hidden behind the anguished cries from my soul or the fact that he is no longer close to me, but off exploring his new domain, that keeps me cut off from his spiritual self. His life , his job, was one of secrets. He couldn’t even tell me all that he kept deep inside. If he is off in a body that no longer aches, if he has the freedom to be all over Heaven, then he trusts me to make my way without him. Besides, a year is but a moment in Heaven, a decade but a morning. He probably doesn’t know how much I hurt. He doesn’t know that I am more alone than I’ve ever been in my entire life. It is an existence that I speak to but there are no words to paint the picture of what it’s like hour after hour, day after day. Six days and then I get two, maybe three hours with someone. My daughter. Then another six days goes by. If I desperately need something she is there. But she is newly married, her work schedule has changed, and I will not burden her without some heavy cause. She needs her time, too.

“You are lucky that you are alone so much. You don’t have to put on the face.” “I wish I had some time alone.” “You’re lucky your kids are grown and you can be alone so much.” I have not suffered a catastrophic loss while raising children. I can only imagine. My first child died at 19 weeks. There was no one to put on “the face” for. Now my Dragon has died and again, there is no one to put on the face for. I am as alone as a person can be who has not committed herself to a cloister or taken a vow of silence.

But after experiencing this Christmas, this first one without my Dragon, I think that I will have to stop being so desperate for company that I let myself be treated like I have been. I will not even try to explain. I will simply fade from view. I know no one here will truly care. Well, maybe one. But the end of a bar of soap and three cookies wrapped in wax paper as a gift; that she thought I would be so grateful for that, that I will answer the phone when she has the time to call me again in a month or two? No, I will not always be there for her. There are only so many petals on a rose.

In my temple, the stones still stand. There are quilts and tapestries on the walls. Driftwood and stones,

drippy candles that I make and shells are littered about.

Afghans and pillows litter the chairs and sofa. Books are everywhere, and my sewing. I have two stained glass windows left. One is of an angel that symbolizes the hope for a life after this one when I can be reunited with my Dragon in a Heaven that recognizes the sacrament of marriage. The other is of hands that show a life of pain striving to protect its soul housed in a single rose. These are the last two stories of my life.

In my temple there is room for the few souls who come sincerely, reverently, and respectfully. I cannot take any more stones thrown at me. I will not tolerate it. I’d rather be alone.

If you approach my temple, if you look inside, you’ll see a solitary woman whose hands hurt. They are sewing. There is no one else there with her. Two little dogs lay quietly beside her, and there are dragons. Everyone you look, there are dragons. Pewter ones, one she carved from wood, painted dragons, and embroidered ones. Dragons in every medium you can imagine. Their shadows flicker in the candlelight, huge on the stone walls, towering over the woman. Looking down on her from the lofty ceilings. Sometimes they seem to be moving, but it’s only the flicker of the dancing candle flames. There is no real dragon in the temple any longer. And that’s why she sits and waits and sews to pass the time. She’s waiting for him to come back for her. She is waiting for her time to leave this temple for another one in another place, one she cannot imagine.

But right now, during this time in her life, her art is all she has. The art of grief.”

womanNshadows pushes back from the keyboard and goes back to her sewing.


Boo said...

I cannot express how proud I am of you for having the courage to speak out here. P.R.O.U.D.

What stupid things to say. S.T.U.P.I.D.

How right you are that it is preferable to be alone than in the company of people who treat you like that, so thoughtlessly. You, who is always thoughtful, deserve so much better.

I wish I could fast forward to August - none of us will be throwing any stones, smooth or rough, at you. We love you!

Thank you for sharing some images of around your home - I was captivated by them, because I feel as though I have known you for such a long time, yet I didn't know what you look like or what your home looks like, how you decorate it etc. I immediately saw the Husband Quilt, the seashells and driftwood, and smiled when I saw the Snoopy stuff and Lost DVDs (more we have in common), and the latest Dragon handkerchief is STUNNING ... I love the colours - he is majestic.

I was still, hardly breathing, when I saw the stained glass hands and rose, because I see such pain and battle in your artwork there - thank god the Dragon made headway in helping you heal some of those old scars, but I feel that he was taken from you before he was able to complete his final mission.

Or perhaps, that's now your final mission? I just don't know. How can we know? I guess in time, you will decide how to approach that, and how ... right now it seems like an indicipherable code to me, as it is to you too.

But I do believe that the Dragon would wish you to continue healing because he loves you so much. And you have just taken a huge step in that ... by what you have just said.

Again, I'm so damn proud of you. I was about to go to sleep, but it's actually woken me up from my sleepiness :-)

Your talent is amazing - I can't understand why you are not filthy rich because of it. But then thoughtful people are not greedy and therefore don't charge what they should for their work. Work that they put so much of themselves into, with their whole hearts.

I wish you were not so alone for so much of the time. I wish we lived closer. I wish lots of things.

It is so clear to me why the Dragon fell in love with you ... don't you let anyone else tell you different EVER, and remember how special you are to him, what he saw in you, what he loved.

Finally, I am going to leave you with what Kim posted earlier today because I actually thought of you immediately when I read it, you will understand why:

"It is strange to think, I haven't seen you since a month. I have seen the new moon, but not you. I have seen sunsets and sunrises, but nothing of your beautiful face. The pieces of my broken heart are so small that they could be passed through the eye of a needle. I miss you like the sun misses the flower; like the sun misses the flower in the depths of winter. Instead of beauty to direct its light to, the heart hardens like the frozen world your absence has banished me to. I next compete in the city of Paris, I will find it empty and in the winter if you are not there. Hope guides me, that is what gets me through the day and the night. The hope that after you're gone from my sight, it will not be the last time that I look upon you."

-a knights tale

Widow in the Middle said...

You write that there is not anything those of us reading can do about some of your experiences and situation. I know that is true from a physical sense of not being close enough to see you personally. But I know that we care very much for you emotionally and for your overall health and well being. We can be outraged and share in your disappointment and aggravation. It does hurt me to know that anyone would treat you in such an insensitive manner.

I cannot even imagine being able to cut off the end of a bar of soap. A bar of soap can be picked up at Walgreen's for $1.00, anyway. What a bizarre story. What an odd thing to do. My brother who is a millionaire gave me a defective Christmas ornament for my sole gift this year. Go figure. Sometimes maybe we aren't supposed to understand the whys of people's ignorance. Maybe the whole point is to focus on all that is good and all that matters - the people out here who have fallen in love with you and will end up meeting you in person and being a lifelong friend!

Your artwork is amazing and your home adorable (just as I imagined.) You are super-talented in so many ways and give to others in your postings and comments. You are important and serve as an inspiration.

I wish I could assemble a posse and we'd ride off to give some of these crazy ladies a piece of our minds (and I'd throw my thoughtless ex-husband into the group too). But I don't think people like this will ever understand their words or actions - they are probably too selfish and self-absorbed.

I am not as poetic as Boo or as profound as Dan. And I don't share the connection you all have with Debbie, having lost someone so recently. But I still want to reach out to you and to pass along compliments and whatever bits of care and concern my words can convey because you deserve them.

Boo said...

WITM - a posse is a wonderful idea. It would make us feel better, however ... people like those mentioned in this post, I fear and suspect, do not "hear" the words we would fantasize about saying to them - sadly. They are too self-possessed to listen or hear. Full of delusions of grandeur, so much so that they cannot see the magic in wNs ... the magic that the Dragon saw.

But, sigh, a posse is good day-dreaming material. We could add on the horrible people who I feel have hindered me more than others on this hard journey ... who I thought were friends. It haunts me - the betrayal, the sudden clarity and shock of it - to see them in their true light and realize they are self-serving, selfish, thoughtless and that they were never friends, that their word means nothing and that someone I thought was a man ... would not actually know what the definition of a man was!

Sorry to vent - but it is through this that I know what wNs feels and how it hurts. We CANNOT tolerate, we must protect our minds and hearts from further "abuse" of any kind because we simply don't have the capability to deal with it these days. We are wounded and vulnerable.

At what makes me sick is that they would never have acted this way if our husbands were still here. There is no limit to the contempt that I feel because of that.

Ah well, one day these stupid people will have to face the Dragon and then they will realize how dimly their own light shines, in comparison to his.

Superficial, fairweather, selfish people.

womanNshadows said...

i love rowdy women. thank you, Boo and WITM for being out there for me. i do wish we lived in closer proximity but at least we can meet here. at least i can write and wait for all of you to "tell it like it is."

judemiller1 said...

We weep hardest when cut with the shards of broken dreams.

Dan, in real time. said...

I read your post last night, but was at a loss for words at the time. Your difficult journey really weighs heavy on my mind and in my heart.

I don't always understand the realities of humanity. We all share so much in common, yet we can be so off when someone's difference threatens our own security. Perhaps that is why people say and do such stupid things. I don't really buy into whole 'ignorance' reasoning, because on some level people always know how their words and actions would feel if they were directed at their self.

I think it is good to get angry, and to stand up and say enough of this shit. You don't deserve the responses that you are getting. Nobody does.

I would hope this is the beginning of a renewed spirit in you. When I feel the makings of change I always find myself staring at my face in the mirror. I want to see the changes I might have missed along the way.

You should look into your own mirror and see the woman your Dragon fell in love with. You should see her beauty. You shoud see the amazingly talented person she is. You should see all the subtle changes in her face that this pain has caused. Get to know her and realize that the Dragon is part of every subtle change. In that face you will find the reflection of the Dragon. He is part of you, he is part of your beauty.

I love the images of all your creations in your home. There is history and beauty in each of them. I would love to sit in your home and hear the tales that each element possesses, and how they were brought together.

Like Boo said in her comment, you are slowly revealing who you are to us. Sharing your home, and your creations brings us each closer to you. When you are ready I would love for you to step out of the shadows for just one minute, and let us see you as well. When that day comes there will be the biggest smile known in San Francisco. The sun will shine brightly.

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