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Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Last weekend was my once-yearly trek to the EMS conference in the boondocks. Last year I learned to birth a robotic baby, this year’s highlight was watching my good friend Jay, who 6 years ago was battling cancer, stand up strong and confident and present on professionalism in fire and EMS services.

Let me tell you a little bit about my friend Jay. He is my ex-husband’s best friend (they grew up together and have the war stories to prove it) and I met Jay and his family about 10 years ago. He is now a paid firefighter/paramedic in Fort Myers, Florida and teaches at the local fire academy and the high school votech program. He was diagnosed in October 2005 with Burkitt’s type non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a blood disease so rare that only about 100 people are diagnosed each year. Jay, his loving wife Rhonda, and their six wonderful children fought the disease for over a year.  I have learned a lot from Jay – how to deal with the hand that your dealt no matter how unfair it is, how your attitude can effect the way your battle goes, how important it is to be courageous, how good people will receive good support. Quiet dignity and courage are the two best ways I can think of to describe Jay – and I struggle every day to live up to that example.

Jay and Rhonda both have been wonderful to me through the course of our friendship and my divorce. Despite what could be expected in terms of loyalty, they have not walked away from being my friend – like so many others have. They are at the end of the phone line or the Facebook message when I need them. I am grateful for that.

This EMS conference is now one of the most difficult events for me in my post-marriage life. I have to gird my emotional loins [on a side note, what a greatly colorful phrase, just saying] to attend. This conference is one of the few things my ex-husband and I ever did together. The fire service (along with baseball) was one of the few shared interests we had – and so we did things like this as a couple. And this particular conference was and is always filled with our mutual friends and fellow fire/EMS providers. For those of you who aren’t in the fire service, it can tend to be a very tight knit, close community. Which, when the shit hits the fan, is the best thing in the world – you know that it is your friends and pseudo-family members who are going to come to your aid. But, when your life has fallen apart, it also means that they are ALL going to know about it – and when your ex is also a beloved member of that same pseudo-family, it creates an abondanza of awkard moments. None of your mutual friends want to refer to The Breakup, yet they all know (or think they know) what really happened.

The flashbacks are staggering, those moments when you time travel back to happier days, when you can forget that things have changed. When you run into an old friend who doesn’t know you’ve divorced or you come out of a class and want to share your new knowledge with your life partner. When you go through your skills evaluations and want to celebrate your successes with your husband like you used to. I know that I’m not the first to experience this – those moments of forgetfulness are probably pretty common for anyone who has suffered a loss – but they still twist the knife of grief. I am haunted by the ghosts of lost friends, sad memories, and a firm place in the support system of the local EMS community – no longer can I consider myself a full member of the team because I have lost half of who I was. And the ghost of the Ex lurks around every corner, waiting to slam into me – will he be there? Will he come to the conference and will he bring his new woman? Rationally, you ask yourself – why do you worry if he appears or what he does? Yet emotionally you worry at every moment about the ghosts of him will come out to haunt your present.

So this year’s conference, with Jay as one of the keynote speakers, was one of the most difficult yet. I adore Jay – see the above description – but I also can’t ignore the fact that he is one of my ex-husband’s best friends and has been for over 30 years. How to greet a good friend who, understandably, has loyalties to the man who destroyed my life? How to face a friend who has probably heard every bad thing that my ex can construct about me? How to look in that friend’s eyes and not beg for forgiveness for not having been good enough for his buddy?

The good news is that I learned a lot at the conference. Not just the practical skills-based knowledge on pharmacology and airway management or the new technology for battling ‘dirty war’, not just the steps for a good radio consult with the trauma center or about the protocol updates in Maryland EMS. I learned that I am truly a different person now than I was before. I am damaged goods, yes, but I am also able to stand straight and hold my head high. to ignore the whispers of gossip and to make jokes about the bumpy road I’ve travelled. I am not better for the experiences of the last 2 years – but at least I am stronger.

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Why should a woman who is healthy and strong
Blubber like a baby if her man’s goes away?
A weepin’ an’ a wailin’ that he’s done her wrong
That’s one thing you’ll never hear me say!
Never gonna think that the man I lose is the only man among men!
I’ll snap my fingers to show I don’t care
I’ll buy me a brand new dress to wear
I’ll scrub my neck and I’ll brush my hair
And start all over again!

Many a new face will please my eye
Many a new love will find me
Never have I once looked back to sigh
Over the romance behind me
Many a new day will dawn before I do!

Many a like lad may kiss and fly
A kiss gone by is bygone.
Never have I asked an August sky
“Where has last July gone?”
Never have I wandered through the rye
Wondering “where has some guy gone?”
Many a new day will dawn before I do.

Never have I chased the honeybee
Who carelessly cajoled me
Somebody jist as sweet as he
Cheered me and consoled me.
Never have I wept into my tea
Over the deal someone doled me

Many a red sun will set
Many a blue moon will shine
Before I do!

I know that I frequently highlight songs and lyrics – I can’t help it, I live in a musical universe. My dad is a professional musician now that he has retired from teaching and I was raised in a very music-inclined household. At one point, I enjoyed a life on the stage, just a’singin’ my heart out or tootling my flute. Music speaks to me in ways that only true musicians will understand. So, while I apologize for boring you with my songs, I also make no apologies that the cosmos speak to me through country ballads, rock anthems, and Broadway ditties.

Anyway, this song popped up on my iPod today while I was out walking the dog. Per my surgeon’s instructions, I have to walk daily for the next several months until all my incisions have healed – at which point I can graduate to running, aerobics, dancing or whatever else my heart desires. So the dog and I have a daily dose of iPod shuffling. This song came on and even the dog was cheering…

Any of you out there who have had your hearts broken or who have been wronged, who’ve been abandoned or treated like garbage? Am I the only one to feel that she does NOT need a man to complete her? Is there anyone else out there who is struggling to put on her big girl panties and get on with her life? I’m guessing I’m not alone….

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My good friend and coworker, Mandy, is leaving us tomorrow, off to spend 5 years in vet school in New Zealand. I am so happy for her – what a phenomenal opportunity – but I am also going to miss her terribly. She was the only other one of my coworkers that voluntarily worked the Sunday shift with me; she is a ray of sunshine when I walk into work; and I learned a lot from her on how to deal with feisty animals, worried owners, and errant toenails.

Her departure (along with my friend Steve’s recently) has gotten me to thinking – what am I staying here for? Why don’t I just go?

Truckin’, like the do-dah man / Once told me “You’ve got to play your hand” / Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a dime / If you don’t lay’em down.

I took a long drive around the county last week, to test the emotional waters to see if I would miss this area. While I do admit that it is a beautiful place with lots of history and interesting little spots, I also had to face the ghosts of a lot of painful memories and shared moments. There was almost no road I could turn onto that didn’t hold a shadow of some part of the last 10 years – and so many of them reminded me of things that I had lost. Not just my husband but some good friends, some interesting jobs, and yes even some parts of my self. I think that in some ways in might be better to just get away from those shadows that are haunting me, to leave and start fresh somewhere else.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, oh no.

But then, in the same breath, I realized that I would truly miss some of the people that have made this part of my life journey so enjoyable. I have a wonderful group of friends that watches out for me, cares for me, and treats me right. I have a fire department pseudo-family that is there for support when I need it (and frustration when I don’t) – just like a real family. These people are the treasures that I have found in Maryland – and I’m not sure I can leave them. How will I watch my godkids grow up? How will I keep the connection to my fire department brothers and sisters? How will my circle of friends stay intact if I’m somewhere else? How will I feel if I have no roots again?

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel / Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.

I am, in total honesty, lured by the thought of just running away from my problems. A new area with new people offers me the temptation of forgetting. Maybe I can escape those unpleasant memories if I just have a new location? Forget for a minute that the psychological and emotional damage of the last 10 years (both self-imposed and inflicted by others) will travel with me, like some really ugly Louis Vuitton baggage. Forget for a minute that it is damn hard to start over in a new place where you don’t know anyone and are trying to get used to a new job, a new home, and a new locale. Forget for a moment that there are days that I’m not sure I have the energy or courage to get out of bed, let alone move halfway across the country. The lure of a NEW PLACE beckons me like a kid to a candy store.

I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’ / Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

A NEW PLACE where no one knows anything about my personal life, where the sordid details of my marriage weren’t ground in the gossip grist mill for everyone’s enjoyment. Where I can live in a home that doesn’t mock me with its memories. Where I can go out to dinner with a man and no one gives a hoot – let alone have passed it on down the gossip chain with amusing little embellishments. Where I can live anonymously without worry that my ex will recognize my car in a parking lot and cause damage to it or me. Where I am just a nameless face in the crowd and not worried about running into any of my former in-laws. Where no one will remember that I used to be fat or married. Ahhh, the lure of that mythical NEW PLACE.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me / Other times I can barely see / Lately it occurres to me / What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Mandy is lucky – she isn’t running from anything. She doesn’t leave behind the bitter and sad memories that I do; she gets a fresh start without all the emotional baggage. Granted, that is mostly due to the fact that she has been smart enough NOT to get married. But, regardless, she isn’t running away from the past – she’s running to an exciting new future. She is truly off on a new adventure – and she better realize I’m going to come visit her Down Under! Good luck, Mandy, and safe and happy travels!

Truckin’, up to Buffalo / Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow / Takes time, you pick a place to go / and just keep truckin’ on.

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There are very few times any more that I truly miss being married. Let’s face it – I didn’t have the ideal marital situation. Neither of us was really in it with the right expectations and its a part of my history that I usually try to put aside, to forget as best I can. Yet there are times when, like brief flashes of lightning that jolt my world and cause an almost physical pain, that I realize what I am missing. I feel, more and more as time passes, that I have past my expiration date, that I had my one chance to be married and I screwed it up. And that makes me really sad. Not sad for the man that I lost (because, let’s face it, he has definitely turned into an A-1 dillweed!) but sad for the fact that I may never have a marriage, that lifelong connection to a loved one, again.

I was raised in a home with 2 happily married parents – an oddity even in my growing up years. More and more of my friends’ parents divorced as I got older and, by the time I was in high school, I began to realize how special a lasting marriage truly is. My mom and dad are partners in ever sense of the word. I’m sure they suffer through the rough times and the typical spousal frustrations of any marriage – but they have stuck together for over 40 years. If one forgets something, the other will remember – if one falls down, the other one picks them up and helps them keep going – if one has a tough time, the other one is there to hold their hand and promise to support them. I envy them their marriage, their partnership, their team.

There was a movie on tv today that I hadn’t seen in years – “Shall We Dance?” – with Richard Gere and J-Lo. This movie, which centers around a man frustrated with his humdrum life and looking for something to challenge him, has one of the best definitions of marriage I think I’ve ever heard:

”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.”

It’s funny, I liked this quote so much that I had it printed in our bulletins for our wedding way back in the day. We all know that I love my quotes – been stealing other peoples’ wisdom for years – and I really liked this one from the moment I heard it. Back then, I was so naively optimistic about being married and being in love. Now this quote seems to ring with a certain irony.

I’ve lost my witness, the only person that could testify to my life, so now I wonder if that was it for me, my one chance. I know that I have friends and family that love me – but they all have their own spouses and children whose lives need witnessing. Who will be a witness to my life, to love me unconditionally through good days and bad? Who will help me pass the time on this planet, into old age and into the grave? Why has God chosen for me to go through life without a partner? Who will be the witness to my life…?

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My pets are my family – I don’t have children so I am blessed to have four-legged babies to spoil and pamper 365 days of the year. But Christmas with the animals is a whole ‘nother special treat! The wonder in their eyes as they spy a tree growing right in the house or the intoxicating dazzle of twinkle lights – special moments indeed.

Not to say it isn’t without it’s challenges – retrieving ornaments from hiding places all over the house, trying to rescue the tree skirt from a certain death by kitten, placing all the breakables above wagging tail height, and avoiding certain dangerous items (tinsel, poinsettias, etc).

Now with my new job, I am around animals all day – and I am reminded once more how special the relationship between a human and their pet(s) can be. The best moments have been the new owners who have given a new animal their Christmas home; the worst moments have been the loving families having to make the tough decision to euthanize during the holidays.

It’s so tempting, I know, to add a new pet to your household at the holidays. For some of us, it’s a way to battle the loneliness; for others, it’s the thrill of watching a child discover his first puppy under the tree. I myself have been scouring PetFinder to see if there are any new animals that desperately need a Christmas home. Dogs and cats alike have drawn my attention – but practicality persists and I will have to forego the addition of a new family member until life is a little more settled.

So give your dogs and cats an extra pat and hug from me and be sure to cherish those furry friends – they are wonderful companions during this festive season!

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‘Tis the season for candles – scented delights to buy for grandma in the stores, twinkling electric bulbs beckoning from the windows, advent tapers lit every Sunday in church. It’s a time for candles and celebrations of family, friendship, and faith.

I am reminded, every time that I look at a candle, of a song I was taught a long time ago that reminded us all that “it is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark…if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.”

This is the time of year that always has made me want to make the world a better place – lighting my proverbial candle and shining bright.

For those of you who don’t know, my world fell apart a while back and I am having real trouble shining bright during the holidays.  I’ve watched my illusions shatter, my dreams get shredded, and my life derail. How then can a person find any hope or peace in this wonderful time of year? It would be so easy to get bogged down in the depression andthe fear and the bitterness – but I choose instead to light a new candle and shine bright and NOT curse the darkness!

The day that my separation papers were signed, I made an appointment for a new tattoo. And for the art, I chose a celtic cross (for my heritage) with a maltese cross inset (for my firefighting family) and the following words: “What is to give light must endure the burning.” This quote is from Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Almost everyone who has seen the tattoo gives me a blank stare or a puzzled look when they read the quote. I’m sure it seems strange for a firefighter to advocate the burning of anything. However, the reason I chose this quote is to remind myself that, in order to shine bright, I must get through bad moments and ended relationships. I have to survive the shattering in order to rebuild on my foundation.

I firmly believe that God has a plan for me and that He has not abandoned me. I have to believe that, to have faith in that simple fact or else I will no longer have any hope for the future. I will try to rest in God’s arms for a while to allow myself to heal, to hope, and to trust.

So this Christmas season, I am going to relight my candle and move on with my life. I don’t know what lies ahead for me – it’s so hard to be alone at this time of year. But I will not let the darkness defeat me; I will survive the burning and shine forth!

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Last year, the first Christmas I had spent as a non-married person, was a rough time for me. For the first time ever, I understood why the suicide rate climbs and depression medications sell as fast as Nintendo systems during the holidays. I needed something to cheer me up and remind me why I have always LOVED the holiday season! So I started a series of Facebook notes intended only to improve my own Christmas spirit – but it ended up being fairly popular with my friends (at least the ones that were willing to read my own self-indulgent ponderings). I liked that series so much that I have tweaked it a bit and am blogging it again this year. Hope you all enjoy!

It is a tradition in my family that I go home to western New York for my family Christmas. I have not missed a holiday on South Street ever in my life and, as of now, I don’t plan to. I had thought that, when I have children of my own, I might have to change the tradition – but we all know now that’s a very unlikely event and hence the tradition remains intact. I will go HOME this year for Christmas as always before.

I think it was easy for me, while I was in college, to make the trek for the holidays. Classes had ended, exams had been stressful, and I needed some good old-fashioned home cooking (oh, and the laundry machines were free at home). When I moved to Maryland, I thought it might be difficult and expensive to make that trip home – but it didn’t prove to be. If anything, I loved dragging my husband back to the snow-draped wonder of my hometown. I was thrilled to share our family traditions with a man who seemed to have none. And, to give credit where credit is due, my husband was very good about going – considering that he hated cold, was indifferent to the holidays, and really was overwhelmed by my loving family – he was a good sport about going every year.

And even now, knowing how much of a mess I have made of my life and how I have failed at all of the goals I set for myself so long ago, I still can’t wait to see the twinkling lights and candles aglow in the windows of my childhood home. I have trouble facing the disappointment I feel for the life I lost – and the heartbreaking loneliness – but someone those childhood ornaments on the tree and cookies in the oven will heal my soul. I am truly lucky to have somewhere like that to go!

I challenge all of my friends and family to look around at their homes this season and cherish what you have. Not only the roof over your heads and the warm blankets on your beds, not just the glittering Christmas tree and wrapped packages – I want you all to examine and appreciate your families, the people that share your lives!

Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives one of the definitions for “home” as a familiar or usual setting, a congenial environment. And, while the material trappings of the holidays do make our home comfortable and congenial, it is the people who live with us that make our homes.

You can’t really appreciate how special and wonderful and important a warm and happy home is until you no longer have one. Until you are lonely or uncomfortable or sad or distressed in your house, you will never be able to fully embrace how special a warm, loving environment can be.

I can tell you, here and now, how awful it is to be alone during the holidays, to have nothing happy left in your house to create a home. So I want my dear friends to be sure to enjoy THEIR happy homes for me this year! I will live through you and treasure your families as though they are my own. And I will be content in the knowledge that the people I love most have VERY happy homes!

Meanwhile, New York,  here I come…bring on the snow…

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