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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Square Peg ~ Camp Widow 2010 ~ the rest of it

i am back. i am sorry for the pause. it became an afternoon and night of memories that swirled through my mind and i got swept up and lost. 18 months without him. i love him deeply and living without him is the hardest thing i have ever done.

i have written this out and read it and re-read it. i feel the fire being lit under my feet yet i am compelled to write it and post it. the things i overheard and the things that were said to me should be enough to allow me my own opinion on my own little thingy here. i hate the word blog. it sounds like flog and i do not want to flog or belabor any point. i simply want my perspective to be heard. *sigh* burned at the stake. i’ll try to tread carefully.

THE WORST OF TIMES ~ PART TWO

since i didn’t really get started it’s really part one, A. i know my tone of my writing has changed to a quieter one. it’s the aftermath of a night of restless snatches of dozing, then waking to sob. Bunny can still be funny, but it comes and goes. right now, i don't remember how.

picking up where i left off, i took Paris with me, but i didn’t find it there and i felt like a failure. to be honest, i broke down at Sunday brunch. this was from missing my Dragon and feeling like i got it all wrong. i misunderstood the meaning of Camp Widow. i brought my hopes of connecting with a great many people, but what i found was an intricate culture i realize i know nothing about, and the rules change from person to person, situation to situation. no matter how vehemently those who navigate these waters deny there are rules, believe me when i tell you, there were personalities there who carved their rules on my hand so i would have the crib sheet handy, so to speak.

1. i had hoped all the myriads of people who presented their lectures and ran the camp with see those of us who were fragile. i had hoped they remembered those days of coming out of the fog of loss only to now face the struggle of realizing we have to continue without them. i know my Dragon’s body is dead. i worked on him until the paramedics got there and relieved me to try, but his life force, my God, the man was legendary in his world, and in mine. for all these months i would fall into a daydream state and think, “he's so strong and survived so much out there in the world. surely he'll come back.” they don’t come back. i know my face bore the signs of all this suffering. i wanted people to reach out to me, but i failed to understand. i was supposed to do that work.

having said that, i think a lot of people did not seem as observably raw as i felt. i have done so much of my grieving alone so i guess i am behind the curve. i saw so much laughter, boisterousness. i saw a community with such pervasive awareness of the goings on within it that i felt like a foreign traveler in a place i was supposed to have been for 18 months. there were so many who were current on all the various bloggers and books that the staff, ambassadors, and speakers had written. so many walked up already knowing the faces of their favorite people. join the fun. it’s tears. it’s laughter. it’s Camp Widow.

but what about me? i'm reserved, not because i'm grieving, but by, i guess now having been to Camp Widow, by birth defect. it has never been as crippling as it was there though. i was told that the only word i said the whole first month of first grade was “here” and that was in deference to roll call. i am a more thoughtful person.

this is where the English language gets me in trouble. i said that i am more thoughtful. that sentence is meant to convey the 3rd definition of the word thoughtful: occupied with or given to thought; contemplative; meditative; reflective. i was not implying that no one was thoughtful. i was trying to convey that i do not have the confidence to strut over to a group of unknown people, introduce myself, and join the fun. i accept the blame for this. there is no requirement that they reach out to me simply because they have set up a weekend for widows.

i wanted to have fun, but i also wanted to meet people and talk to them. i wanted to listen to them and in turn be heard. i carefully selected the workshops but my first one fell so short. i sat there thinking, “they gave me a whole table. even though it will be a little early, i’ll go sit there and then i can really talk to people.” i also wanted to honor the gift of being given that spot. i need the commission work. i didn’t go to the other lectures and from the people who trickled in cutting their lectures i think it was the better choice for me.

i had wonderful conversations with women; one of who, with her mother, gave me the most valuable moment i have had since my Dragon died. they held my Full Moon and Dragons embroidered handkerchief and then asked, “who was your Dragon? tell us a little about him.” i got to tell two people about him. they now know a little bit about why i cry. i am a widow so a man obviously existed once but to talk about him, tell them a couple of stories and not see they glance at their watch, to have them encourage me to speak, to have here mother rub my arm and look at me with such understanding of the pain i am still swimming in, gave me hope that later in the day, i would connect with others. i got to help so many that way when i talked about making the quilts for them, but beyond that, that was the only time someone looked at me as an individual beyond being just a head count. i did have some crazy conversations that made me realize, no one has a clue. they just do and say anything to save themselves.

2. the keynote address used a rock climbing metaphor to inspire us to get out of our grief. we’ve fallen down into a canyon and we need to get out. there are people on the wall, others who have gone before us. there is no right way or wrong way to get to the top. we each have our own path. sometimes we have to go down to go up. it’s a struggle. seeing others on the wall is our blessing and our hope. we can do this. and when you get to the top, reach over and help someone up.

it was longer and more eloquent, but that’s basically it in a nutshell. it’s a really good speech. but i have this tendency to analyze what i’ve heard or read to see what, if anything, applies to me. i kept thinking about the sentence, “those who made it to the top reach over to help someone up.” it seemed off. the person they are helping is almost to the top as well. it’s physiology. no one’s arms are long enough to reach over from the position of having “made it out” to help those who could really use a hand, or a pat on the back, or a tissue. and that’s what hit me hard this weekend in San Diego and i saw play out over and over again in my small area that i existed in. i wasn’t everywhere at once so my view was limited, but what i experienced, no one reached for me. everyone seemed so much more alive, so much further along, and so ready to have a great time that i felt like a failure. unless you brought a friend with you, or are gregarious by nature, you are sidelined.

as i had said, i went to the first workshop i signed up for. it was about writing. the woman who ran it was a widow who now taught this new way to write. this is what i wrote to the prompt “the thing about it is…..”

the thing about it is i do not know why i am here. i am not ready to embrace being a widow when i still feel like a wife. i do not feel empowered. i feel okay laying here on the canyon floor. the world has stabilized a bit from the earthquake his death brought about. lying here, the ground is actually quite soft. dark green moss cushions me and smells lush and woodsy from all the rain that comes as my tears slide down my face even when i don’t realize i’m crying. i can see the sun. i can feel its warmth way down here and i bask in it at times. i can see the clouds float by. i can see the others climbing up on the wall and that’s good for them. i am happy for them. i just don’t feel the urge or have the strength to climb out yet like i’ve been told is supposed to happen. i’m content to lay here on my back looking at Heaven, to where my Dragon has flown. and who’s to say up is my way out.

i have a feeling that if i showed the woman what i wrote, she would have said something to the affect that this is my truth and that’s fine for you but you’ll get it soon and then she would turn away from me. the one question i did answer for her when she spoke to me as i was leaving Sunday didn’t make her happy. she asked if i had gotten some work. i said that if the ones who said they would did indeed contact me, i had work waiting for me. her bright smile said success. but then she asked if i had had lots and lots of fun. i said that i had had a nice long talk with a person that had made me feel okay about myself. her smiled faded and she looked at me blankly. then she turned away. very busy woman. i felt it wasn’t the answer she had wanted so she dismissed me. i went to join my friend to go to the airport. it wasn’t the last little uncomfortable feeling before leaving the hotel that day.

3.A. square peg and the popular group. i felt like i was back in high school. the room i sat in at my table of quilts also had a local bookstore representative with lots and lots of wonderful books plus the list of books on grief from all the authors present at the conference. lovely lady. she had quite the interesting perspective on grief books. a young woman came rushing in after some lecture wanting a book about getting her own grief story published. the bookseller asked, “oh, you’ve written your manuscript?” the young woman said, “no, but now that the insurance money has started coming in, i’m quitting work to write my story. everybody’s doing it here. i’ve talked to lots of women who are writing and getting published.” the bookseller smiled and said, “i guess that’s true. writing is a good way to help yourself through bad times. the grief market is saturated with books right now. i can only recommend that you get your title and start from there. it’s the hook. you have a hook, you have a book. all these books are essentially the same. they are about one person’s journey through their own grief. i’ve read them all. to sell them, i need to know content and they are fundamentally the same. Don’t get me wrong. They are all good books and the personal details are different, but they are really saying the same thing. it’s the title that guides you to your specific point. you have a hook, you have a book. title is everything.” the young woman thanked her profusely for this insight. it was an interesting perspective.

our eyes met across the room and she asked me, “you have a book, too?” i told her i was finishing my 4th manuscript and none of the books were about grief. all the manuscripts were simply sitting on a portable memory strip. they are all psychological horror and drama. for there to be 4 i obviously started them years ago when my husband was still alive. she smiled and gave me her personal email. she wanted to read a few pages of them. we had a lovely long conversation about books on topics other than grief and about each other’s live. lovely, lovely woman.

3.B. in the room were also six or seven authors with tables displaying their books, their good works, what they have created from their grief. but for one who was more casual, they were all made up for public appearances, which was a good thing since a television camera came in. i sat at a table covered with quilts and embroidered dragon handkerchiefs, sock animals, and a pillowcase wearing a giant star shirt that i thought was whimsical and heavily embroidered jeans. i don’t do public appearances. i feel privileged to appear at Wal-Mart once every two weeks and have money to spend on food. so i sat and they sat, sort of. they texted. they posted. they were bent over their little phones ~ very busy. i didn’t want to interrupt. they got up and walked out. i could hear them talking. “my editor says this.” “my editor says that.” they came back in and i looked up and smiled and nodded. none of them came up to me.

i sat there for over 7 hours and smiled and nodded like a little bobble head. they heard me talk to the men and women who came up to me. they heard me say, “his birthday was thursday.” “it’s my first time to go anywhere since he died.” “i work at home and do not have a support group.” when the people who talked to me left, i’d glance around. i’d smile a small smile at them. my eyes flicked up for eye contact, but then i'd look down when no one spoke to me. i’m shy. it’s hard for me. you’re famous, and busy. reach out. please, reach out to me. i tried

Schopenhauer but these people didn't pick it up.

nothing. not one word. oh, wait, one widowed author did walk over with her husband to ask if what i did was truly considered art. i didn’t engage her for two reasons. one, if i had i might have been tossed out. she has clout in this new widowed culture. she told me so. i can’t afford to alienate anyone with my differing opinion, but yes, what i do is considered art by some. secondly, i didn’t have to try because she ignored me anyway. she was busy. she had one of those phones and was incessantly texting/tweeting/twittering/emailing.

maybe it’s the new wall. my generation used political unrest and music to build a wall to keep out the people we knew wouldn’t understand us. maybe this time around it’s the unfathomable wall of being unable to hold a conversation without typing into a networked phone. how do you stand up for yourself to someone who has dismissed you as she stares into the little screen on her phone? she got a tweet or text or email or google alert {i know the lingo} that she was “in” somewhere and someone was going to “mention” her on television, anyway, off she went, husband in tow; which brings me to…..

4. some of the widows brought their husbands. the leader of the organization had her fiancée working it. he seemed like a lovely man. as i was being formally introduced, someone took him away. i never got to tell him my name. very busy people.

let me say that no one is happier than me that these men and women have found another love. i am happy for anyone who meets someone who brings them such joy and such peace that it can only be celebrated by another marriage. having said that, for those of us who are raw and vulnerable, who came to the conference to find relief, it is hard to see widows and their husbands, the new ones. for those of us still shattered who came to find solace at a widow’s conference, i am not sure if this was an oversight, or if it was purposely set up to prove to us that life goes on and goes on very well. i got an earful from one woman who i am sure speaks for herself, but, i don’t know. her tag said ambassador or board member or speaker. anyway, she was important to the conference.

she came over to me to look at my things on my table. then she asked how long had my husband been dead. she did it like this, “dead how long?” it was like answering survey questions, but i was glad someone with a fancy ribbon had come to talk to me. i thought maybe someone had sent her to check in to see if i was okay. no. she was just killing time. she asked if i was dating. when i told her i cannot conceive of it she vehemently launched into me that i had it all wrong. dating was part of the healing process. i had to date. i would find love and “only in finding love again will you honor your marriage to your husband who died. i’m not saying you have to get married. live with him. do whatever you want to do, but get out there. it’s the only way to honor what you had. it says to the world, you’re capable of love because you had it once. it means you’re over it.”

i wish i was kidding. i’m not. she said those words to me.

i didn’t say anything. i merely looked at my hands. i knew we would never reach an accord and she seemed more than willing to tell me how to correct all my mistakes so i said nothing. i don't believe i gave ground. i simply chose the obstacle of silence.

i had wanted to tell her about Widower Howe, the gentle man i had written about last fall but i didn’t want her calling him a wimp or telling me he had gotten it wrong. i think that if you don’t want to date, it does not lessen the marriage you had. you don’t have to be a remarried widow to prove you loved your dead husband. you can show how wonderful your marriage was by not dating or getting married again. there were no stone tablets of laws and rules at the Camp Widow registration desk so i’m thinking it’s okay for me to love my husband as i do even though he’s dead.

3.C. i know, sorry. the “stars” of the event. i didn’t get it. i have read lots of books on grief. i have not read any of theirs. i didn’t know about them. they didn’t come up in the card catalog at the library. the first book i went to was C.S. Lewis. you know the one. beyond his, they all were saying the same thing, so i stopped wearing out my library card on them and went back to the Jack Reacher novels, anything by Frederick Forsyth, and everything else. the stars didn’t have to reach out to anyone. it was never long before they were approached. they signed autographs. they had their photo taken. the women that needed this were so excited to see these stars of sorrow. i know. that doesn’t sound nice but, you know, it wasn’t meant to sound bad. these authors have joined what i overheard one woman refer to as the New Cult of Grief. when she saw i had overheard i smiled at her and she smiled. she rolled her eyes and bought a wonderfully hysterical little book called Porn for Women. look it up. i hate to give away an ending.

everyone had an opportunity to go meet the stars because on Saturday night they lined up for the chance for us little people to meet them. there was a crush. so many getting more photos and i just couldn’t do it. i just wasn't interested and there were so many women lined up. i was hurting. it was a party atmosphere and the some of the songs were sad. i could not hear anyone. reading lips is not easy when you cannot hear one word to put what you thought you saw in context. the bobble head was back. i nodded a sort of yes and kept my seat. i really tried joining in but my feet hurt and the empty place where my heart was hurt.

i got a younger woman, she got a grant from a foundation to help her, really nice young woman, to go for a walk outside. we had a nice talk and saw the fireworks. those few minutes were nice. but i stayed away from the stars and simply watched. i wasn’t comfortable joining people i didn’t know talking about a book i hadn’t read. they talked a lot about their editors and television appearances and web appearances. the ones i actually got to see are now married or have new relationships. what i didn’t ask, wanted to but didn't, was, when they are out, not at a widow’s convention, but just out at the grocery store and someone asks, “are you married?” what do they say? “i’m a remarried widow. my book is titled…..” i am trying to understand the concept of a widow who is married. i am not old, at least i don’t think i am, but i am trying to learn a new dialect and new culture and i am getting lost. if you marry again, weren’t you widowed, but now you’re married? you have to check married if you file joint income tax.

a man four rows behind me in the first lecture asked the woman in front of him to explain it, and she couldn’t. the man was close to my age but the woman was young so i do not think it’s a generational thing. i feel i must apologize for being confused. i was corrected on this when a woman said, “yes, i am married but i am actively a widow. i’ll always be a widow. it’s who i am and i am embracing it. i tell people i am a widow when asked my status even when my husband is standing there.” it just threw me. i don’t think they are all like that but i did see quite a few.

i do have to say that one of the stars did introduce themselves to me as i was outside the hotel waiting on the shuttle to the airport. this person was saying good-bye to my friend and so, well, i was standing there. “hi, my name is -----------.” yes. you saw me sitting next to your table for 7 hours on Saturday. and i sat in your line of sight Saturday night. “i’m (insert my first name here.)” that’s all i said.

what could i say? it was too late to reach out. the shuttle pulled up and i had to leave. i looked at my feet and left. this person finally acknowledged me because i was standing right there with someone they had talked to and hung out with. was it an awkward introduction forced by association? did this person feel pressured to speak because it finally would have been too obvious that they ignored me? i was told this person was so very nice. i guess it’s my fault for not bellying up and forcing myself into introducing myself. i guess that’s what they are used to and maybe i seemed strange. see what i mean about failing?

isn’t it weird when you feel ashamed when you aren’t sure what you did wrong?

5. i am not going to steal his thunder in case he ever blogs about it, and i hope he does, but Dan Cano had the most wonderful ideas he presented for a session. i love his ideas. they would have helped me and the other heartbroken people i saw, the ones who aren’t yet ready to party but wanted so much to be a part of this convention. sadly, Dan’s ideas they were rejected for this year. there has to be a light in the dark and for me, Dan was it at Camp Widow. i broke down and his words and gentleness reaching out to me comforted me and gave me the ability to calm myself. he did it by seeing me. he did it by knowing how i felt. he heard my breaths shuddering as deep sob. and he heard me say, “i miss him so much.” Dan reached out and that’s more than i can say about all the stars and important people who shine in the nightmare world of sorrow.

6. the Saturday night ball. A. the music was very loud. my tinnitus was excruciating. B. i felt the line up of the bloggers for publicity or fan photos was odd. C. after the music started, quite a few widows left to go back to their rooms. i leaned over to one woman at my table and i asked if she and her friend wanted to go outside for a walk with me. she smiled but turned me down. “we’re just going back to our room to talk. this isn’t for us. i’m sorry. it’s just, we came together and we don’t know you.” when a shy person builds up the courage to try once, and gets shot down, they do not try again for a long time.

and D. i really wish i could tell this story. it’s a doozy. but i cannot risk it. suffice to say it was so rude it is not to be believed. i was shocked into silence when this person said this to me and i left the ballroom immediately after. and as it is now, with all i’ve written, i will most likely be burned at the stake. i know. no more all caps. i’m spent, but i got it all out. almost all. enough that when i post this my heart will race and my palms will sweat. i’ll probably cry but, “to think own self be true.”

my Dragon would be proud i am being so honest. he’d want me to finish point D. but i think it’s best to leave it at: there are some outrageous people out there.

on the long plane flights home i had time to think. i did come to a realization that i am not wrong. i know myself. i know my limitations and i know what i am willing to risk. no one knows my whole story though poor Deb got a tip of the iceberg for which i again apologize. but when you meet someone you feel you can trust, and you’ve been as isolated as i’ve been, you want someone to understand a little of what makes you like you are. ah, well. Deb promised to never repeat what she heard.

i did get something else beyond my wonderful time with Dan, Boo, and Deb. i got it on my own. i know that i am a rule breaker. i’m not militant. i listen very obediently to those who get in my face, but i quietly defy them by going my own way anyway. maybe i will be the Amelia Earhart of grief. i will fly alone on my own path. i won’t be writing any books. releasing my demons here is enough for me. i will fly alone in search of a dragon, my Dragon. for however long it takes, i will wait for him, search for him, listen for him.

i think i will honor our love and marriage by allowing myself to feel like i’m married to him even if it rocks the widowed world. i’ll be like Widower Howe. both feet in this world but my heart has gone on ahead.

i’m glad i went even if the stars and the powers-that-be see me as a failure to write off. i’m glad i’m home. i love my three friends. i don’t think i’ll return to another Camp Widow. i’m not a party girl. i like what i had with the women who stopped at my table to talk to me. i like what i had with my friends on Sunday morning. i don’t think i’m wrong. i’m just different. i love the ocean. i love taking photos. i love sewing for people. i love my Dragon.



16 comments:

Anonymous said...

My Dear wNs,

I've been waiting for this final installment. I'm glad you had your friends to hang with. I wished you'd found more compassionate people but you did it your way and that's all that matters. Dragon always said that you're the sensitive soul that feels deeply and sees things others don't. I'm looking forward to the pictures you'll post. Thanks for talking to me last night, even if it was only for a short while. I could hear how tired you were. Rest a bit longer before getting back to work. It's been a rough ride lately.

You're always in my thoughts,
Brick

judemiller1 said...

I am confused by people calling themselves "widow" when they are married. I am confused that they would even attend a widow conference. But then, a lot of life confuses me.

I don't know if I ever told you, but my Grandmother was widowed at 48--she never "dated"--said she never would. Roy was her life--she always felt like he was just around the corner. She was a widow for 30 years and yet a happy person. She didn't need any other man then Roy in her life.

The day she died, she sat up in bed, looked at the door, smiled and said, "Roy has come for me", laid back and died. I know for a fact that my grandfather came to get her and walk home with her.

I don't think you're weird for the way you feel--perhaps because I grew up with a woman--a strong woman who felt the same way as you. He is just around the corner--out of sight, but waiting.

bev said...

I'm glad that you were able to find the words to write about your experience at CW. I'm also glad that you were able to meet Deb, Dan and Boo, and that there is the possibility of a few commissions from some of the people who showed interest. Beyond those good things, I can understand why you feel as you do about the experience. By nature, I'm a loner and don't think I would have fit into the CW format at all. About the closest thing that would have appealed to me might have been a week or two of wilderness canoe tripping with a few widowed people - men and women. Even that might not work for me as I prefer solitude so much. I guess the main thing to be said about CW and similar events is that they may be more helpful for one kind of person than another.
I also understand what you mean about "books" and the cult of grief. I was actually approached about writing a book - I've written other books in the past - instruction manuals mostly. I admit to having tossed the idea around, but my thoughts are along the same line as the book-seller's. Does the world really need another grief book? Also, my "story" is not over yet, and it is not really about grief - but about how I choose to live. Very few people could (or would care to) live the way I do, so it can't be written as an instruction manual, so then what's the point? Anyhow, I do worry a little about the way in which grief is becoming somewhat like an industry, in a the same way that, imho, cancer is also becoming that way - books, bracelets, websites,social groups, and so on. While all of that is "okay" at some level, it also moves the center away from the reality -- from the person who is actually at the center -- and takes it to a different space that hasn't got all that much to do with the that person. If you're not a *joiner* - wearing the "Cancer sucks" or "Let's kick some cancer ass" hat or t-shirt, or reading such-and-such book telling you how to be the empowered cancer person, then you're just not doing things right. Maybe this is all just a sign of our times - a combination of a consumerism and social-networking -- of people who are "friending" each other, giving the "like", sending virtual ribbons or flowers, buying books to become an expert at a disease or a stage of life. I don't know, but I suspect there is at least a little truth in the above.
In any case, the experience of going to CW was probably worth the time and effort, if only to know that you didn't miss out on something you would have enjoyed. In my own life, many things don't work out as hoped, but in each of them, regardless of how badly things turned out, I try to find some piece of good that made it all worthwhile -- a new friend, I saw some place I've never been, I tried something different, I learned something new about myself even if it was just that I do or don't like something, or in the worst case scenario, the experience was *so* bad, that it gave me something to tell stories and laugh about at a later date - sort of like one of my "on the road" disasters.
Anyhow, now you are back into your own environment. Sometimes, being away helps us to feel very good about coming home.

megan said...

"i think i will honor our love and marriage by allowing myself to feel like i’m married to him even if it rocks the widowed world. i’ll be like Widower Howe. both feet in this world but my heart has gone on ahead." - amen, sister.
You'd think people who have experienced this, and been on the receiving end of people-saying-stupid-prideful-I-know-what's-right-for-you things would be a wee more, - less in the saying stupid things way. And, I didn't like most grief books either, other than CS Lewis.

because I was a writer before this, so many people told me "well now you get to write about it all, and maybe it will help people." My very snotty response was - our life is not Subject Matter. I would never write another word if I could have this not have happened. Oh boy - instead of Living our life, I get to write about it.
Ah, I was very annoyed. I still have a twitch about writing anything. If it is true for someone to write, beautiful. If it true for someone to date or marry again, beautiful. If it true for someone to create some kind of crazy convent, stay in the realm of death and love, and make their own way, beautiful. bow to someone elses' truth and move on folks. Sheesh.

And, randomly, I love your Jack Reacher comment - Matt was totally into his series for several months. He had brought his latest book with him to the river that morning.

megan said...

and.. found this on the back of some note paper today: "I am not anxious to give you the truth. I am very anxious to have you understand that all truth and power are feeble to you except your own." - walt whitman

Abby said...

I was probably one of the popular crowd bloggers/writers who didn't talk to you, was rude, looked like I was having too much fun, drank too much. Maybe pretending a little too hard that everything was OK.

But I want to acknowledge your bravery for coming to Camp Widow, for writing your thoughts so honestly. I am sorry I didn't take you under my wing, comfort you, invite you to talk about the man that you lost.

I know how it feels to be an outsider, to feel excluded, to be shy in a crowd.

I just wanted you to know that I have heard your words and that I am sorry. You needed us and we let you down.

Dan, in real time. said...

I am so inspired by your honesty. Each experience I have had since Michael's death has seemed so much more intense than would have been prior to that dreadful day. I know that this is so because underneath this shroud of looking better than I feel, is raw pain. Some of us need this shroud to get through the day. I know that I do.

My youngest son has been reminding me alot lately that I used to say that real men don't use GPS. Yesterday I finally told him that maybe I'm not quite the same man that I used to be. I am finally learning that life can be easier if I ask, or look for help. I am learning how much strength there is in being honest about feeling vulnerable.

I would hope that anyone who reads about your experience will take all this into consideration. This is your experience, and likely, the experience of others as well. Take strength in acknowledging what a significant step you took in attending Camp Widow. Recognize that further strength is staying true to yourself.

I think that we all come into our widowhood already burdened with past wounds. Even if we were in our happiest of times with our spouses, our prior wounds would still there. Grief then just lifts up these scabs and exposes our vulnerability even further.

I personally think you are doing quite well. I have seen so much growth in your writing, and in our interaction. So what if it doesn't look similar to mine, or to anyone elses.

As for me, one of the best things about Camp, or since taking on this new "widower" role, has been meeting, and knowing you. You inspire me with the beauty of your words and art. I have benefited from our friendship in many ways.

You didn't fail at anything. You passed with flying colors.

womanNshadows said...

Brick, i know i am a little too sensitive and that it's wearing on people. my Dragon never minded though. he always told me he found it endearing.

Judy, i love what you wrote about your grandmother. you have no idea how comforting that is to me. i will think of it and re-read it tomorrow, Dragon's and my wedding anniversary.

Bev, thank you for making me feel less like a square peg. i fervently love the idea of a canoe trip. talking around a campfire, millions of stars above. there's something so much more true for me in that scenario. going was worth it to meet Deb, Dan, and Boo. all of it was worth being with them.

Megan, thank you for your words. my Dragon and i would sit together on the sofa, each of us with a different Jack Reacher novel. i think that the well intentioned "what you should be doing's" were just that. well intentioned, but it's a matter of what's good for one person is not right at all for another. i do not want to date. i do not think i ever will. i don't think it makes me wrong. and Whitman, i love it.

Abby, thank you for using the word brave when all my attempts to reach out were shut down by my own inability to interrupt a group to join in. i'm fragile right now; last week and through the end of the month. so many important dates,like tomorrow; our wedding anniversary and i am in such pain right now. overwhelming. i can't remember last year at all. i didn't "wake up" until Thanksgiving.
i am sorry if any of what i experienced makes anyone angry. i do not want anyone angry, but i can only be honest. i looked at your photo and do not remember seeing you at all. thank you for what you said though i know it is more my responsibility to join in rather than the veterans to reach out to me. to be frank, i was intimidated by some of the more powerful personalities. some of the interactions i had were the catalyst for me to shut down a little bit more. i am still very raw and maybe it was not my time to go, but i so wanted to meet Boo, and Deb, and Dan. i am sorry i let SSLF down by not being happier.

womanNshadows said...

Dan, "you didn't fail at anything. you passed with flying colors." i love your rose-tinted glasses. =0} but i am happy to think that somehow knowing me has been good for you. you have such a good heart. Michael couldn't help but fall in love with you. thank you for being my friend.

peace to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Stay true to yourself and the love you shared with your Dragon. We know we're all different and have different experiences, I don't know why we all have to grieve and pass through grief the same way. Like you, I'm pretty comfortable with being at the bottom of the canyon. People can be so insensitive and not even realize it. I had a long conversation with my doctor about my grief and in the next two minutes she asked if I needed birth control...Not unless I will need it when I get to heaven with my husband! If others want to remarry, I wish them all the best, but like you, it is not for me.

annie said...

I am sorry you felt out of place. I always felt out of place during my grief "journey" and I still feel that way looking back.

There is one thing you said that I wanted to comment on. You mention that you should have tried harder to reach out. I don't agree. It was up to the veterans to have done the reaching. They are in a better position than you think.

And I agree with Abby. You are very brave and I would add - strong - even though you might disagree.

Andrea Renee said...

I have to ditto Abby word for word. I feel guilty for letting you down, too. As one of the "veterans" of Camp Widow, I was reminded to keep my eye out for anyone who looked like they were having a difficult time and reach out to them. I think I failed with this, and I'm so sorry. I wish I would have known that you were there - I would have been so excited to meet you.

womanNshadows said...

Anonymous, since being without my Dragon is so hard, staying true to myself is the only course of action. i cannot add acting to my burdens. thank you for commenting and i am deeply sorry for your own loss.

Annie, i'm shy and still in mourning rather than grieving, but i wanted to meet Dan, Boo, and Deb so much. thank you for being so kind.

Andrea, the bookseller and all the authors were mentioned as being in the Del Mar room but not me. people were surprised i was there so, really, unless you came into that room on Saturday you would have had no idea i was at my table with all my things. and i wished i had known you were there, i would have liked to have met you and talked with you.

peace to all of you.

Mama_Bear_Sarah said...

you're not alone in your feelings, though my experience was quite different.
i'm not sure what i was expecting but the first day i felt very intimidated by my surroundings (and i rarely feel antimidated or backed down). but grief is such a personal and unique experience. and having it all very much in your face during a weekend like this is overwhelming. there were several times i just wanted to be alone (and again, this is unusual for me).
during one of the workshops they mentioned you were there with your memory quilts. and then they talked about cutting up our loved one's clothes to make into blankets. i lost it right then and there. i couldn't handle the thought of cutting up the tangible pieces i have left of him. and because of this, i couldn't go near your table because i couldn't deal with that thought. it had absolutely nothing to do with you. in fact, i think what you do is quite phenomenal. i wish i was strong enough to send you his favorite shirts and have you make a warm and snuggly blanket with them that i can wrap myself in. but i'm just not at that place right now.
i'm so, so sorry your time wasn't what you had hoped. mine wasn't either, but in a different way. i wasn't ready to face all the things that came to the surface from being there. i wasn't ready for the aftermath of loneliness when i came home.
i find solace in the connections i made ...with people i have come to know online and finally got to meet in person. and i found comfort in the small group conversations that took place outside of the events ...when we could share stories and experiencing and ask "how did you handle this?" or "did this happen to you too?"
Camp Widow should come with a warning label: It's not what you expect but be prepared to expect anything."
Trust me when i tell you that you were noticed. I just wasn't ready for you :)

Crash Course Widow said...

I found your posts through links posted on Supa Fresh's blog. First of all, I commend you for being brave and honest and sharing everything you did in these posts about Camp Widow. Giving the unpopular response is never easy, particularly when you're so raw and hurting in your grief and when so many others are giving the so-called "appropriate" cheerleader response about CW.

I'm so sorry you had a mostly negative, disappointing experience at CW. And you're absolutely right--its message and its design is, by its very nature, targeted toward certain types of people...and it inevitably leaves some people out and makes them feel alone and "wrong" somehow. Not everyone is ready for a party or quasi-celebrities. Not everyone can start starting with a complete stranger. I attended last year and loved the overall experience I had there. But this year didn't resonate with me as much as I'd thought it would...for a lot of the exact reasons you mentioned. And I know I was certainly guilty of not reaching out to other attendees as I thought I again would.

One of the hard things about a group of grieving people is that we're all still broken and bleeding in some way, even if the blood is mostly staunched and the wounds turned to pink scars. We're only capable of reaching out and helping so much. And it almost hurts worse when our peers in this crap club disappoint us. We should get it when other people can't...but we're limited too.

I'm so sorry, again. And I'm so sorry you've lost your precious Dragon too.

~Candice

womanNshadows said...

Mama Bear Sarah, i haven't known how to respond to the fact that you weren't ready for me due to my quilts. i could have, would have hidden the quilts to simply just talk to you.

Candace, i am glad i went to San Diego to see what it is like, to meet my friends who helped me get there, and to have the moments i had connecting on a very quiet level with some. i know everyone hurts, still hurts even when wounds have become scars. i think i live a little bit too much in a fantasy world where veterans of life's tragedies see their earlier selves in others who are still very raw and go over to sit with them for a spell. but you can't sit with someone if you're still using your arms and legs to tread water. thank you for allowing me my perspective and not becoming angry.

i wish you both peace. =0}

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