Why would you apologize for what you read for pleasure? Every book read for pleasure should be celebrated. And novels that celebrate love, commitment, relationships, making relationships work -- why isn't that something to be respected? - Nora Roberts
I Tweet not, neither do I Like. OK, so now I Tweet. So sue me.
Here we may criticize the book, but never the one who reads it.
Proud supporter of the Oxford comma, and any other comma I can wedge into a sentence.
Authors: You are welcome to comment here, on the review of your book or any other post.
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, which is to figure out how to go on without him, and to be very sad. I'm doing real well with the very sad part, but not so well with the figuring out how to go on part.
If you have someone in your life who is grieving, please stay in touch with them. I've been getting cards, emails, little gifts from people, phone calls. A lot of the time I don't have the energy to respond, except to let them know that the thing didn't get lost in the mail, but it does make me feel less isolated to get a text with a little joke, or when someone shows up with two cups of coffee and a cinnamon roll to split, or just anything. People who are sad feel so alone, and it really helps to have some little something to prove that you're not.
Also: take them some meals or things that can just be heated up, or even healthy snack foods like nuts or pre-cut fruit. On the phone (before you see their house, so that it isn't taken the wrong way) offer to vacuum or do some laundry. You wouldn't believe the amount of energy it takes to unload and load the dishwasher right now. Pick them up and take them somewhere so they don't have to drive. Take them to a movie or to a coffee shop. They'll say no to begin with, but you can persuade them. Part of them wants to live, it just may be a bit deep down. Understand that they may cry on the way home, even if they have been cheerful all afternoon, because they know that when they go home, the loved one will not be there. If you can, go in for a few minutes to help buffer that.
In some ways, it's good that I'm not employed, in that I am able to focus my attention and such energy as I have on working through this. In other ways, a job or volunteer position would at least give me a temporary break from the constant sadness and give me contact with other humans.
I'm getting counseling, which is very helpful, and I go to a support group, which is ... okay. It's really hard for me to step out of nurse mode, counseling mode, when I'm listening to 20 people be honest about their sadness and pain. I find myself listening to them as a nurse does, listening to what is said and closely to what is not said, and drawing up a care plan for each of them. So I come away from group exhausted and tearful. I don't know if I'll continue with the group, but I committed to going through March at least and I am true to my word.
On Sunday it will be two months since he died. It seems like years. Every hour seems like a day, every day like a month. Time crawls. As I am writing this, it is mid-afternoon and it feels as if I've been up for days. I can't sleep. I eat either too much or not at all. I seem to find a new spot on my body every day that hurts. All this, they assure me, is perfectly normal and expected.
I asked one of the helping people about the latest research and evidence in this area, since my education and experience are outdated. Well, actually, what I did was pretty much pin her to a wall and ask in an Exorcist voice "How long?!" I was surprised. Latest evidence is that I'll go on feeling this way for 6-12 months, with gradual slight improvement along that time. By June, or December, I should see some difference in more normal eating and sleeping, and islands of peace where I don't focus on him constantly. The ability to see a future without him. But true integration of this will take 3-5 years. Daunting when you're my age. Still, it was helpful to know. If I'm looking at a 12-month curve before I can eat without crying, then my present behavior at 2 months is ... well, yes, normal.
I put another tile in my grief bowl yesterday. Grief Bowl I ate a taco. That's the first time Since. Kept it down, too. There's still a lot more grief than life in that bowl (I should have selected a smaller bowl perhaps) but it is evidence of progress, progress I don't feel, but the evidence is there and I'm all about science. :)
Thank you for caring. Your support really does help. I am truly grateful.
Saturday, January 23, 2016
The reason for withdrawing from social media is two-fold:
1) I have nothing to say. All I do is cry and whine, and that's of no use to anyone. I'm sick of it myself. I can't seem to read to speak of, can't think in complete sentences, am thoroughly sick of politics (I live in Iowa, home of the early caucus, and I fill a banker's box every week for recycling the political ads I get in the mail or stuck in my door). Even I can watch only so many cat videos.
2) I am using social media, and indeed the entire internet, as a defense strategy to keep me glued to a keyboard so that I don't think about all the things I should be thinking about right now. I'm using it as a drug. I'm spending as much as 22 hours a day on the computer, fiddling around, looking up rescued pit bull stories, trying to find a local Chinese restaurant that will deliver where I live, and window shopping things that I hope will make me feel better.
When there are only two things that would make me feel better. One is to have Mr. Bat happy and healthy on the sofa, complete with guarantee that we will die on the same day at the same moment, the way we always promised one another. Well, that ain't gonna happen, so we move on to thing two:
To work through this. What I need to do in order to feel better is to feel very sad right now. I need to sleep, attend to hygiene, pay my bills, eat something that isn't pizza or cheese and crackers, and move my body, preferably out of this house for a goodish while every day, and feel very sad. This is possible.
I knew that grieving for him, mourning him, would be bad. I had no idea of the hell it is turning out to be. Purgatory is more accurate, because I am confident that this will end, and I will live fully and joyfully again in the third chapter of my life, but only if I tend to my knitting now, so to speak. I have to focus on grieving and moving through the grieving.
I've seen what happens to people who don't grieve fully, who for whatever reason, many times good reasons, such as dependent children, don't take the time to focus on resolving their grief. It takes a toll on their health. Gracious, I used to see people two years, five years, ten years down the road who were only then trying to face their grief because of the poor physical and mental health such neglect was causing them. When you have the grief plus five years of dysfunctional adaptive avoiding behavior piled on top, in counseling you hardly know where to start.
I'm not saying that there is a right way or wrong way to grieve. I'm saying that For Me, the thing to do is to focus on the path I've been plopped down on. I thought I had a knapsack full of things to help me, but my knife is rusty and there's no can opener for the food I brought along, and the matches got damp, so I'm making do, putting one foot in front of the other one, finding my way -- not back home, because home no longer exists -- but to a new place, one I've never been before, that will be my new home.
Let me leave you -- and I do sincerely hope that this will be the last personal post to this blog and that I will be able to start reviewing books again -- let me leave you with this. It's a combination of things said to me but in my own words, and it's helping me. Maybe it will help someone else:
You're in tremendous pain right now. Pain you could not have imagined in the Before life you lived. When the fire of your pain has burned away the worst of the grief, and the flood of your tears has washed away the debris, you will be able to see what remains. What will remain, what is there right now but you just can't see it, is the love you two shared, the gift of love you gave one another. The love will stand, burnished, but unchangeable, eternal, when all this has fallen away.
Friends, thank you for caring.
ETA: I check in every morning and most evenings with my nephew and his wife. They know if they don't hear from me by 8:00 a.m. that they should call, and if no answer, to come see me. They have a key to the place. Eventually I'll find some kind of service so I don't have to keep bugging them, but for now this is working. I'm being watched over. In lots of ways. I'm safe.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Tips for eating for new widows, especially those who don't have kids or close family and friends for support
ETA 15th January. Well, this is embarrassing. This wasn't supposed to go in this blog. This was supposed to go in my other blog, which is a private -- oh, mostly a howl of grief, a place to put all my unhappy raw emotion. But I got mixed up and published it here. I'm glad someone may get some good out of it. It's hardly all-inclusive and I left out water intake, but if someone can benefit, then I'm happy. Thank you!
Thursday, December 31, 2015
I am going to post one last personal post in a few minutes and then move my ruminations on grief and mourning to a different blog. This blog is for reviews and I've let my personal life take it over. Eventually my ability to read will return -- oh faithless friend, to desert me now! - and I'll get back to reviews here. But I'm going to stop cluttering up this review blog with my personal life - to the degree that this is possible, since books change depending on what's going on in a person's life.
I don't know when I'll post another review. I hope it won't be long. I miss reading. I just can't seem to concentrate and I have limited patience for imperfection or silliness just now.
Saturday, December 12, 2015
So this is the Grief Bowl. Except it's not.
A grief bowl is a bowl of whatever size and composed of whatever material you want. Theoretically it holds the tears you cry for the one you loved. Here's the idea, for which I'd give attribution if I knew who came up with the idea.
You get a glass bowl. You fill it with water. The water represents your grief, your tears. Then you get ceramic tile and some waterproof paint. On the tile, you write a small victory or a goal. For example, mine might say: I went alone to our favorite restaurant. I went alone to an open house and had a good time. I fixed the kitchen faucet. I fixed the curry I love and you hated and it was good. Someone else's might say: I signed up for a class in watercoloring. Or: I signed up for a martial arts class. Or: I'm volunteering at story time at the library. Or: I went back to work.
The ceramic tile represent life, your return to life. As you do a tile, you put it into the water, with or without some ceremony or ritual.
After a time, you notice that the tiles are starting to displace the water, as life begins to displace the grief.
The bowl will never be completely empty of water. There will always be some water surrounding the tile. But over time, it will be no longer a bowl full of grief, but a bowl of life. The life your loved one would want you to live, rich and full and varied.
So I have my bowl. And believe you me it is full to the brim with water. I'm going to the crafts store to get my tile and paint. I am trying, my love, I am trying to go on without you, and not just to go on, but to live.
Tuesday, December 8, 2015
But it's no more than others face. I am okay this morning. I have slept. I have eaten. I have remembered to brush my teeth and feed the cat. This morning I have to go sign all the official papers. I know which charity is going to get his clothing (most of it - I'm keeping a few things). I have arranged for his recliner chair, which is in good shape, to be given away. I have thrown away some partially-used food that was just for him, and the unopened food is in a box to go to the food bank today.
In other words, I'm keeping busy.
I don't kid myself by saying that I'm sane, because I'm not. The messages of caring and support you have sent me have kept me going, and I thank you. I'm kind of numb. We knew this was coming, but it was awfully fast at the end, and very fast at the very end.
I have a small family but they are being exceptionally supportive, especially the one nephew. I have a small circle of friends who have filled my calendar with lunches and visits and will come to get me if I don't feel up to driving and won't think it strange if I cry a lot or laugh inappropriately.
I am a lucky, blessed woman.
I'll be back with reviews when I can hold a thought in my head. Again, your support, your kindness, your caring have meant the world to us, and now to me.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
I may not be around for awhile.
Generally once kidneys shut down, it's 3-5 days until death. The death is usually quiet, they simply sleep more and more and more. There are some things that may be distressing for witnesses, but the patient himself is normally comfortable and just very sleepy.
I want to thank you for all the support, all the prayers, kind thoughts, good wishes --- and just sticking with us through all this. You have been the most faithful of friends.
I'll be back with a review or an update when I can. Where would we be if not for the refuge of books, after all?
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Harold Hughes was governor of Iowa in the middle 1960s. A, all-state football player, a former truck driver, an Army veteran of WWII, an alcoholic in recovery, a devout Christian (Methodist, I think), unapologetic liberal, he was popular here and ran for the US Senate, winning by a large margin. He was a helluva public speaker.
He came to speak at a local university, and I was privileged to be part of a small group of young people meeting with him afterwards for coffee and the kind of heavy conversation that young people love - and Hughes loved it, too, and loved being around young people, the energy, the optimism.
He could easily have risen to more power. He was making a difference in the Senate. We asked him if he was going to run for another Senate term or perhaps try for a VP spot. And this is what he said, paraphrased due to the mists of time. I'll never forget his face as he said it, though.
"I was governor for 5 years. Before that, I worked in the trucking industry. I thought I'd probably seen it all. People have tried to blackmail me over my addiction. My family has been threatened. I thought I was ready for Washington.
But let me tell you. I knew they would want to buy my vote, fair means or foul. I did not know that they would want my soul."
He looked haggard and haunted by what he was experiencing in DC. He did not run for re-election. He came home eventually and worked with the homeless and people with substance abuse and mental health problems.
"I did not know that they would want my soul."
And that was then.