Saturday, July 5, 2014

What Love Is

When I was little my mom used to tell me that I wore my heart on my sleeve. Quick to fall in love, easily hurt and if I loved you, you knew it; if I hated you the disdain dripped off me like sweat. When I fell in love with your father, though, at 18, it was different. It was gradual. He wasn’t my usual type of person – he was good. We got married and did all the things you’re supposed to do, we fought about money, cleaning, and whose turn it was to take out the garbage. We were spontaneous and carefree. We worked and saved and slowly became each others world as we found 'friends & family' in each other. When we had babies I began to understand love in a different way. Love had always been temporary. Something I was doing in this moment and subject to change. But, having kids changes you. I began to understand it was deeper, timeless, and unconditional. And my love for your Dad grew into that kind of love then, too, as I watched him care for you and love you with that same timeless love I now understood. We did the things you’re supposed to do, we fought about money, sex, and whose turn it was to change the poopey diaper. We also evolved into an unstoppable force and conquered everything. We made plans for the future and talked about distant milestones.
When he got sick we faced it head-on with that timeless understanding that we could overcome anything, together. When he got sicker still we did all the things you’re supposed to do. We didn’t fight anymore. We talked about God, and the past, and words that lovers whisper in a moment like that. And I sat there, day after day, night after night. I watched cancer steal everything I loved piece by piece. And I was there in that room the moments that were his last. I did all the things you’re supposed to do. I held his hand and told him it was okay, that we would be okay. But, it wasn’t ok. I watched him until the very last second. The very last breathe. I didn’t look away. There’s a lyric in song that says, “Love is Watching Someone Die”, and I think that is exactly what it is. Being there, even then, and not looking away. (Death Cab for Cutie, "What Sarah Said")

Saturday, June 21, 2014

the allegory of the field

as much as i’d like to go
to places i’ve never known,
scared shitless to leave home,
and i don’t want to go alone.
i miss the rewarding gaze
of a friend from my younger days,
didn’t mind ‘bout my selfish ways
 -  “So Much For Everyone”, Dan Mangan

My head is full with thoughts of endless grief
It threatens to swallow me whole unchewed
And sadness consumes comfort like a thief
A solid wall of torture I can’t break through
Contemplation of that which has long past
Struggles with what demand my attention now
I can’t look foreword without looking back
I cannot look back without standing still
With every new day comes change bittersweet
The passing of time helps memories fade
Yet somehow things still just seem incomplete
Because all those thoughts I would not soon trade
I have no choice but to move on from here
Or to stay motionless and disappear

   So there I stood, on the edge of this big, wide-open field trying to pull this enormous cart full of heavy fragments.  
No path apparent to follow, no tracks to help guide the wheels. 
Just me. 
Just a heavy wagon to haul.  In unchartered territory. 
For a long time I was stuck there in the mud, the wheels would not budge. 
I could only stand there. 
Unwilling to let go of the wagon-handle.  Can’t go back.  Can’t go forward. 
I don’t remember how long it took me to realize that there was no way to continue forward with all I was trying to bring.  There was no gluing back the pieces to try and make it less cumbersome; the things that were shattered were beyond repair.  I was going to have to leave some pieces behind. 
But with every bit I laid in the grass, no matter how small, was an internal struggle.   Because, for me, taking something out and leaving it behind was saying that I was okay with what broke it in the first place. 
Sometimes I would lie something down only to pick it right back up again. 
When I did let something go I would have to stand there and watch it, almost until the grass grew over it.  
Eventually, and with painstaking effort, my cart was a little lighter and I began to venture a little further into this field. Every step was an enormous effort.  It was so hard to pull, so occasionally I would allow someone to lend a hand for a very small length,
but they could only pull.  No one could take things out of my cart except for me. 
It was my burden. 
Soon, the tall grass gave way to a rocky, barely-visible path.  Again, I was stuck there for a long while, because to get up onto the path I was going to have to take more broken pieces out of the cart.  I would also have to have some help pushing it onto the path.  I didn’t want that help, and though I knew the pieces could not be repaired I wasn’t willing to let any more of them go.  Accepting that the help or being glad to have found the path was, again, (to me) like saying I was happy the pieces were shattered, that I was okay with what had smashed them. 
I vehemently defended my cart against imaginary foes. 
When I became so exhausted that I was sure to lose myself there, buried in the shards, I allowed it to be pushed up onto the path and for some things to be taken out of the cart.  I set out to traverse the narrow path full of potholes and puddles. 
  It is easier to progress with a lighter load, though there are many obstacles.
The path is becoming more defined with every day I stay the course. 
Sometimes a shard will fall out of the cart and I’ll let it go. 
Sometimes I don’t even notice when a small piece goes missing.  
Sometimes I feel okay about it. 
Sometimes I let people walk with me for a bit. 
Sometimes I still want to run back and find all the missing pieces because I’m not okay with what broke things. 
Sometimes a flower or a pretty scene will undo a whole days progress because in being glad to see them I feel guilty.  My joy came at a price and I am afraid that continuing on this path makes it seem like I am okay with the loss that made my journey possible. 
*I hear that up ahead there might be tracks for my wheels and then I might even be able to add some unbroken things to my haul.  By that time I might have even gotten rid of enough to make room. 
Since I haven’t posted in quite some time, and I don’t know when I will be able to find time to post again, I am also going to share some shots I took for my digital photography presentation entitled “the empty chair”. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

just because i'm losing doesn't mean i'm lost

“It's the skin and bones that keep me on the road
The shoulder blades of a beast that haunts my soul
Wandering lonely and scared
I live the tragedy I shared

It's quick to drag you in but hard to shake
It gives but doesn't match how much it takes
Growing stronger and loud
I lived it, but now I'm wanting out

I built the fence, I hung the sign
Wine red letters said 'Keep in mind
Where I been so don't come in'
But how long can you live in shame
And drop a life long curse on your own last name?
The trouble is, I'm used to it”
(Avett Bros., “Skin and Bones”)

So, bear with me because this one’s got a few song quotes – they’re all relevant, I promise.  And there really should have been a Nine Inch Nails one, too – but then it just got too long…..
            I’ve been nothing but honest on this blog.   Especially from the very beginning of this particular journey.  When he was first diagnosed, when we knew, and the aftermath.  I’ve taken you with me – on every step.  I talked about being diagnosed with PTSD (maybe talked around it and never actually used the acronym, but it was there). I think it’s also no secret that things haven’t been fun, and not getting better.   Right after Thanksgiving, though, is when I think I can pinpoint a true downhill path that I started to take.  I cannot tell you all the things that were worse, because I didn’t recognize them as such.  I thought it was coping.  It wasn’t.  I WASN’T. I don’t mean drugs or alcohol – there are other things that aren’t healthy that can be equal or greater to the damage of substance abuse.  *Eating.  *Gaining weight.  *Obsessing over things I could control – mainly, my kids.  *I wasn’t sleeping.  *I kept getting sick.  I was so *irritable or *sad or *despondent.  All the time.  All the time.  And I didn’t recognize it for what it was.  I thought this is what should be.   I gave myself excuses to be this way because of what I’d been through.  Almost giving myself permission to not care at all, or to act this way.   I’m not going to write about the weeks leading up into the next paragraph.  They were ugly and dark.  But they served their purpose - because I knew.  I knew that this wasn’t working. 

“Just because I'm losing
Doesn't mean I'm lost
Doesn't mean I'll stop
Doesn't mean I’m across

Just because I'm hurting
Doesn't mean I'm hurt
Doesn't mean I didn't get
What I deserved
No better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river that I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Ohhh and I'm...
Just waiting 'til the shine wears off “
(Coldplay, “Lost?”)

            So I started therapy.  I found a psychologist that I like and I’ve been going for almost 6 weeks now.  It is good.  Things aren’t better, but I kind of feel like I have hope that they will be.  I think I was missing that before. 
The first thing we did was work on ways to help me sleep (without medication).  I worked on learning to breath (I’m not kidding, there’s technique!  And, ASLO, not kidding – it really works!) Calming my mind so I didn’t obsess and worry and drive myself crazy lying awake most of the night.   I’ve been sleeping a little better.  I think I will sleep even better once my ankle is healed and I can go on my normal walk/run again.  (side tangent – I sprained my ankle March 14th and I’m still not able to do more than slowly walk, and only a mile or two) 
Next we worked on setting goals.  Which is an ongoing thing.  These are things like journaling, expanding my LOCAL social support network (with people other than my kids), setting limits to comfort eating, etc. – and that seems a little overwhelming when I write it down like that, but they’re small steps and the homework is not a burden. 
   This approach to therapy is work, though, and it’s not a lot of fun.  But it’s better than the alternative of staying where I was or being on medication.  I’m still sad.  Still overcoming the urge to obsess over things.  And we’re not going to talk about the number of cookies consumed this week.  But some things have gotten better.  I’m praying again.  Sarah and I are laughing together again.  I’m willing to do the work.  I want to be happy again.  I want to find some kind of balance between holding on to some of who I was, and Rob’s memory, and what the future looks like for me now. 
Which brings me to what I actually wanted to talk about in this blog post. 
   One of my homework assignments for this week was to try and quiet my mind, close my eyes, and visualize where I see myself in 5 years.  NOT where I see my kids, or what I see myself doing with/for my kids – but where I see myself.  When I mentioned this to a friend she said that she found digging deep  - or the “who are you” questions - impossible for her because outside of being a wife and mother was a black hole in her own thoughts.  Which is exactly how I RIGHTLY felt – because I was perfectly content in that role. Now I have to explore that black hole, because things are very different for me; my identity can no longer be wrapped up in who I was.    I have been struggling with this assignment.   
  But, finally, I think I have come up with an answer that’s good enough for right now.  In TRUE ‘Krissie’ fashion: it’s a song.  Because I think in song lyrics,( sometimes I even dream in song lyrics).
  I cannot really visualize what I see myself doing in 5 years.  But, I think that those scenes will come.  For right now, I have decided in 5 years I want this to be my theme song – I want to be able to sing this song at the top of my lungs and have every word be true.  Just thinking that this could be true is enough.  It’s enough for now. 

“Don't look back
A new day is breakin'
It's been too long since I felt this way
I don't mind where I get taken
The road is callin'
Today is the day

I can see
It took so long just to realize
I'm much too strong
Not to compromise
Now I see what I am is holding me down
I'll turn it around, oh yes I will

I finally see the dawn arrivin'
I see beyond the road I'm drivin'

It's a bright horizon and I'm awake now
Oh I see myself in a brand new way
The sun is shinin'
The clouds are breakin'
'Cause I can't lose now, there's no game to play

I can tell
There's no more time left to criticize
I've seen what I could not recognize
Everything in my life was leading me on
But I can be strong, oh yes I can…”

(Boston, “Don’t Look Back”)

Friday, March 21, 2014

because it's March 21st

thinking of Rob, who today would have been 42.
I would love to do his favorite thing and go for a run on the trail today, but my messed up ankle and knee are keeping me indoors.  
     We'll have a Mt. Dew, some dark chocolate, and perhaps try to grill out, though.  Maybe watch some Star Wars or old Godzilla movies.  
   For Rob, go for a run, drink a Mt. Dew, grill some meat, spend time with your family, remember your faith, wear something purple, and break out your converse.  These simple things were all Rob needed, and he was at his happiest in his recliner, with his dog on his lap, and a beer in his hand.  He never needed the grand gesture and wasn't big on making them, but we KNEW how very much he loved us.  I thank God every day that my kids, that I, know how well loved we were.  
     How I wish I could hear your voice, smell your skin.  I close my eyes and I can picture you - young, skinny, long-haired - coming to pick me up from work when we were 19.  When I am out on the trail I can hear your footfalls beside me - healthy, fit - training for your next run.  And I can't help but remember your frail, ravaged body struggling in the hospital bed.  
It's everyday.
For me, it's every day.
How very, very loved you are.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


I am tired all the time. 
I am tired of dwelling
I am tired of trusting,
 trying, or pretending
tired of succeeding.
And, dear God – I am so tired of failing.

In psychology class we recently finished a chapter on human development.  As the authors described the latter part of the life span there was a paragraph on the stresses older adults face.  Death of a spouse has been found to be the most significant, stressful event in a person’s lifetime.   Most never recover and it’s not uncommon for couples who have been married a long time to die within 2 years of one-another. A broken heart.
But what if you’re 40? 
I saw a table where life events were given a rating (a stress factor) of 1 – 100.  (The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale
Death of a Spouse sat at the top with a solid 100, 
followed twenty-seven points later by divorce at 73.  
Death of a child ranked at 63. 
What do you do with that?  
I’m one-hundred tired. 
and I can't go back

I moved out of my parents house and lived with Rob at 19.  We were so young.  Stupid.   
 Neither of us had ever lived on our own.  We grew up together and figured things out. We became parents at a young age and, for the most part, we figured that out together, too.  Neither of us were attending church when we started dating – but through God’s grace we made God the center of our lives and learned that part together as well.  We didn’t know a whole lot about anything, but the little things that each of us brought to the relationship complimented the others lacking knowledge and so we made our way. 
We messed up - A LOT.  but, we laughed a whole lot, too.

 A friend recently pointed me to a blog called a lovely frame, and asked me if I felt like this woman in one of her posts titled “a girl named wild” (if you chose to read it, be warned, it’s explicit). 
this. every day.  

I don’t want you to tell me how great you think I’m doing or that you’re praying for me.
I just want you to know that it doesn't get easier. 
I don't want to figure anything else out by myself today   
I miss him. 

And I’m so fucking tired.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

on this day

I don't expect that this day is especially significant to most.  
it doesn't mark anything particularly extraordinary 
but this was the moment everything changed.  
Two years ago, today,  in a hospital room with ugly yellow walls and cold tile floors
We'd already had weeks of ups, downs, scares, tests, and waiting.   
and today, as that doctor entered the room, we knew we were done waiting to find out.  
now we knew what we were up against.
This is when the real fight began.
Though his fight was short, it was fierce.  
and his story was so much more than the cancer.
He lived out his faith in every moment of his battle.  
He fought so hard to stay, but he was not scared.
We are forever changed for having shared in that. 
and today we remember
cancer is viscous and our loss tremendous 
but God is good.

Psalm 121 (ESV)
I lift up my eyes to the hills
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
  who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
  he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
  will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
  the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
  nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
  he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep 
  your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.